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Did You Know?

Help Your Employees Avoid Unnecessary Tests, Care
NBCH and the Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH) recently released the "Choosing Wisely" Employer Toolkit, which is designed to help employers get their workers more involved in thinking and talking about their health care. The toolkit includes dozens of articles, videos, tip sheets, and other ready-to-distribute resources that will help educate employees about topics ranging from how to communicate with physicians to common tests and procedures that they may not need. The toolkit will be available free through 15 consumer-focused organizations including NBCH, PBGH, the Midwest Business Group on Health and the Minnesota Health Action Group.

Massachusetts' Mandate Prompts Employers to Expand Coverage
Expect the White House to be even more eager to talk about Massachusetts' experience with health care reform. In 2006, the state passed the nation's first individual and employer mandate. Now, a new study shows the proportion of employers in the state offering health care coverage has increased. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, tax implications created by the mandate have made it advantageous for employers to continue and even increase their health care offerings.

Hospital Pricing Data Now Available, Still Inexplicable
Not afraid of a little data, are you? Consider spending an afternoon (or longer) at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' website, where you'll find Medicare pricing data covering the 100 most popular in-patient procedures from the 3,000 or so hospitals that participate in Medicare. As we've known for a long time, the data show huge variations in costs, often even within the same city. In Denver, for instance, charges to treat heart failure range from $21,000 to $46,000.

The New Health Care Landscape Made Simple
Sometime in the next year, many of your employees will be expected to navigate within a new health care universe filled with unfamiliar organizations called "patient-centered medical homes" or "accountable care organizations." Many won't know what they are, but they should, and you can help them. The Commonwealth Fund is developing a series of helpful, jargon-free publications that explain various aspects of reform. The first, Primary Care: Our First Line of Defense, will be available soon. Several coalitions will be distributing the brochure and yours should, too.

The Affordable Care Act Chips Away at the Still-Enormous Ranks of the Uninsured
The Affordable Care Act's individual mandate doesn't kick in until 2014, but already provisions in the new law have dramatically increased the percentage of young adults who have health coverage—59 percent in 2012 vs. 52 percent in 2010. That's the good news. On the other hand, a new survey by The Commonwealth Fund finds that 84 million people did not have insurance for the full year or were underinsured. Further, 75 million people reported having problems paying their medical bills or were paying off medical debt, and more than 80 million people reported cost-related problems getting needed health care.

Could Retirees Save Their Employers $90 Billion?
If you're worried about the cost of retirees' health care, you're not alone. They're worried, too. Most retirees on Medicare spend hundreds of dollars a month on supplemental insurance policies to help with the cost of copayments, deductibles, and prescription drugs. The system is complex and expensive. But a new proposed "Medicare Essential" plan would dramatically simplify the system by rolling hospital, physician, prescription drug, and supplemental coverage into one plan. The proposed plan would also encourage beneficiaries to use high-value providers and require providers to adopt payment methods designed to promote high-quality, efficient care. The potential net savings to employers: $90 billion over the next 10 years. Beneficiaries would get broader coverage and lower out-of-pocket costs as well.

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