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Here's where you can find out about what CHS is up to, what's coming in the future and events. Keep up to date with CHS happenings and find out what's on our calendar.

RBS (REGULATORY BUDGET SENTINEL)

POLARIZED HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY FEELS REGULATON BURDEN

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

As the health industry continues to adjust to regulations that are being implemented, it is apparent that all entities have been affected in some way or another. At the very least, the healthcare industry, as a whole, has felt the financial burden of preparing and implementing new standards and policies in order to be compliant.

Although compliance is a necessity, it is not a guarantee that all health care professionals agree with the reform that is occurring throughout the country. When discussing specific aspects of the new laws, it is not uncommon to discover that views are somewhat polarized when it comes to health care.

Dan Danner, the president of the National Federation of Independent Business, is one individual, in particular, that views new standards as financially damaging, especially when it comes to small businesses. The NFIB has been at the forefront of the reform debate, and has been able to take their argument all the way to the Supreme Court.

The provision in question states that all individuals are required to have purchase health insurance; however, the NFIB feels that this is an unconstitutional requirement.

“It’s easier if the whole law falls, because then, essentially, you have a clean slate and we’re back in overall healthcare reform, ground zero, to start over,” Danner said in an Associated Press article.

As this provision is considered by the Supreme Court, the reform continues to be implemented one regulation at a time. In fact, on April 17, yet another financial obligation was executed by the Internal Revenue Service.

In compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the IRS released a regulatory proposal that is intent on charging a fee to self-insured plans and health insurance policy issuers. According to an article in Corporate & Financial Weekly Digest, the fee would be applied to plans that provide coverage for accident or health costs. The only plans that would be exempt from the fee would be stop-loss and indemnity reinsurance policies.

The PPACA mandates these fees, which will be in effect from October 2012 to October 2019. The cost to insurers or the suppliers of the health benefits would be $1 per covered person for the first year. However, the fee per person will double in cost after the first year.

The IRS will allow the fee to be paid annually. There will be an additional return that will be submitted during tax time, which allows for the company to pay the fee after the calendar year is over. The first due date for insurers would be on July 31, 2013.

With the date being pushed out, it will allow for companies to budget for this additional fee that will be paid next year. This IRS’ fee is yet another financial obligation that companies are required to comply with. It remains to be seen how companies will react; however, as the year progresses, it can be anticipated that discussion of the healthcare reform will only increase in intensity, especially with the upcoming Presidential elections.  

EMPLOYERS SEEK FINANCIAL UPSIDE TO WELLNESS PROGRAMS

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

As the cost of health care in America continues to grow, it may seem as though everyone continues to look for ways to cut back on spending. Employers, in particular, are faced with tough decisions and challenges to overcome. In an effort to avoid cutting benefits, companies look at alternate ways to reduce costs.

The president and CEO of Greater Detroit Area Health Council Kate Kohn-Parrott stated that employees' poor health decisions have contributed to increasing health cost for employers.

"We recognized very quickly that the lifestyles our employees led were driving a lot of our costs and that we had a variety of controllable lifestyle conditions," Kohn-Parrot said in a LifeHealthPro article.

One initiative, which has gained significant popularity, is implementing a company-wide wellness program in an effort to promote a healthier way of living.

The thought process behind this strategy is that educating and encouraging healthy living among employees will ultimately result in lower health costs. Healthy employees not only take away a company’s medical burden, but it can also increase productivity of workers, which is more profitable to any business.

When looking to promote behavior changes within a company’s culture, it can be a hard task to accomplish. Getting people to believe in the program’s goal and get on board with adjusting their lifestyle is one of the biggest challenges that face any employer who is looking to implement such a program.

With the month of May being Global Employee Health and Fitness Month, Healthyroads, Inc., outlines what steps are necessary when creating a wellness program for a company. Since these programs are not typically “one size fits all”, it is important for employers to take a look at their community and determine what employees need to get out of a health based program.

Healthyroads, Inc. provides a nine-step process to creating a personalized wellness program. Below are some of the major points that they emphasis.

  1. Tailor the Program: Every corporate environment and culture varies from one to another. By examining health costs and visible habits within the office, organizers must develop an understanding of what the program should focus on. Ensuring that the message and goals fit the employees’ needs is essential to success.

  2. Communication & Motivation: In order for employees to discover the benefit of the program, they must understand what the overall goal is. By regularly communicating with employees, the company can continue to demonstrate their commitment to the program, in addition to reminding employees about the bigger picture.

  3. Increase Knowledge: Many individuals are in the dark when it comes to living a more health conscious lifestyle. Educating employees and providing them with options that may work better within their personal life is crucial to the program being successful. In order to promote change, employees need avenues on how to accomplish goals.

  4. Company Involvement: Wellness programs are not just for lower level employees. Every individual in the company should be committed tithe program. Also, having program representatives in various departments throughout the company allows for there to be wellness advocates at every level within the office.

When the company spends money and supports the wellness program, the return on their investment is often substantial.
In fact, GlobalNewsWire.com discussed a study done in 2010 that was originally reported in Health Affairs. The results of the study stated that for every dollar spent on a wellness program, the company saw a drop of $3.27 in medical costs. Additionally, absenteeism costs declined by $2.73 for every dollar spent.

This study demonstrates the value that wellness programs can have in the workplace. The key to success, however, is getting employees to buy into the program while keeping a realistic view on what short-term and long-term goals to expect.

For Healthyroads, Inc. full nine points, visit here.

Wellness Article

THERE ARE SOME BEHAVIORS YOU JUST CAN'T REGULATE.

By: Chacko Kurian

Regulations depend on carrots and sticks. If you don’t pay your taxes, there will be serious consequences – the stick. If you buy a home with a home loan, we’ll let you take the interest payment deduction on your taxes – the carrot. The HITECH Act has a number of sticks associated with the security of Protected Health Information (PHI). We at CHS will be addressing the issue of security of PHI in forthcoming articles. There is, under some circumstances, one link in the security chain that no regulation can affect -the uninformed behavior of the user. This article addresses one method where cyber criminals make unwitting users partners in a security breach.

Prior to founding Apple Computers, the Steves (Wozniak and Jobs) could be found ripping off Ma Bell using a blue box to make long distance phone calls (domestic and international) for free. The subculture that reveled in this activity called “phreaking” was probably the progenitor of the subculture of hackers who, today, like to hack computer systems just because they’re there. There is the story of Steve Woz(niak) actually making a “phreak” phone call to the Vatican and asking to speak to the Pope while pretending to be Henry Kissinger with a think German accent. These are the guys who later found legal ways to take your money.

Before the age of digital telephone switching systems, telephone switches reset trunk (long distance) lines with a tone at a specific frequency – 2600Hz. This meant that the trunk line was disconnected at one end and available for dialing at the other end. The dialing was also accomplished by tones at preset multiple frequencies. How did one get those frequencies? Legend has it that the 2600Hz frequency was discovered by accident by Joe Engressia, known among phreakers as ‘Joybubbles’, at the age of 7! He was apparently able to whistle at that frequency and so attach himself to the dialing end of an available long distance line.

But how does one progress from knowing that you could get a trunk line to using it to make free long distance calls. In 1954, the then undivided Bell System published an article in the Bell System Technical Journal about the basics of signaling using multi-frequency tones. This piece of information by itself was of little use. The second and final piece of the puzzle was published, again courtesy of Ma Bell, in the November 1960. Bell System Technical Journal in an article called “Signaling systems for control of telephone switching”. This article published the actual multi-frequency tones used to control the switches. From that information to the creation of the reputed “Blue Box” that became a clandestine product was a short step. With one of these boxes, anybody was able pick up a phone and make free long distance calls.

To be able to win this questionable prize, the phreaker required two pieces of information and they were found in two locations, but once they were combined, the information became quite powerful. Today – cybercriminals put two pieces of information discovered from different locations together to achieve their nefarious goals..

Spear Phishing is the technique by which pieces of information stolen from different locations are put together, by cybercriminals, to steal your identity, your money and anything of value. How does this work? Unlike the shot gun approach taken by those Nigerian scam artists who send out millions of emails, the Spear Phisher is looking for prey with a small email blast to very targeted prospects. All they need to start the process is one piece of information – your email address and sometimes your name. They don’t need anything like a credit card number, the password to your on-line bank account or your social security number– well, not yet. The attack is quick and over in less than a day, before security and software companies have an opportunity to react.

A typical Spear Phishing attack starts with an email that comes to you and looks something like this, courtesy of the Microsoft Safety and Security center

Remember they already have your email address and sometimes your name so the “Hello” salutation is not so innocuous. It looks very familiar but the highlighted items should make you suspicious. If you examine the links you will find that they link to unsecured and unfamiliar sites as shown below:

Once you click on the link and enter the information they’re asking for, they’ve got you.

Another variation of this technique is to send you an email making you an offer that sounds reasonable on the surface, but requires you to open an attachment with the details of the offer. Again, once you open that attachment, they’ve got you. What happens behind the scenes is that the attachment has a robot program that can do almost anything that they want it to do. It can install a keystroke logger and send your internet banking or credit card passwords to the cybercriminal. It can give control of your computer over to the cybercriminal and so enable more of these schemes to be run from your computer. The possibilities are endless.

Sometimes the Spear Phisher makes the email look like its coming from your boss – again remember he has email addresses and names. The email may require you to give up password and other authentication information in order to perform a “security audit” or an “account verification”.

Key to making this criminal endeavor work is that it requires your participation to either provide the missing information or open the attachment. So the best defense it to verify the email by contacting the sender by phone or alternate method if the email looks suspicious. A good antivirus program installed on your computer can help too.Remember for the scheme to work it requires your participation.

We might as well brace for a number of these email attacks. Recently Epsilon, a division of Alliance Data suffered an illegal entry on its client’s email databases. This is the company that processes marketing communications for loyalty programs like Marriott Rewards, Citibank Advantage and many other large organizations. Imagine the rich information for cybercriminals that email addresses, names and loyalty program associations can provide. If you belong to the Marriott Rewards program like I do, expect an incredibly valuable offer to come to you via email. Do not open the attachment even though the logo looks almost right and the text has only one or two spelling mistakes.

There’s lots of regulations coming from Washington DC these days, but I don’t think they can think one up for this.

CHS SOFTWARE UPDATE

CHS Software you may want to use

Often, we at CHS, are guilty of not informing you of products or features that we have implemented over the past year that you may want to use. This year we have rounded out our individual enrollment, billing and administration offering with a full cycle product. If you sell individual policies or sell voluntary products in addition to your regular employer sponsored group health offerings, this may interest you.

"Full Cycle" in this context means the following:
i) taking the application for enrollment of the individual/family on the web, after getting their responses to qualifying/underwriting questions,
ii) enrolling them in the plan of choice,,
iii) billing their credit card or bank account at the appropriate frequency, i.e. monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually,
iv) applying the payments received against the appropriate invoices
v) disbursing premium/commission and other payments to carriers, brokers/agents and other suppliers
vi) updates to Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and General Ledger without manual intervention after set-up.

We would like to say that all of the above happens "automatically" (a grossly over-used word) but it doesn't. It happens with minimal, but appropriate, human intervention. For example, there are checks and balances in place to make sure that premium billing adjustments owing to changes in family composition or product choices are made accurately. The web enrollment product, CHS iCoverNow, has to be customized with your logo, color palette, questions and response logic. Users of our product like it. It has allowed them to grow into areas where they couldn't before. We believe that this will interest administrators of individual health plans who sell to the public at large and may become a valuable tool in the context of health care reform.