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News

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.

SIIA TRADE SHOW

Thank you to everyone who visited our booth at the SIIA Educational Conference in Phoenix this past October. CHS was pleased to see the positive response from those of you who participated in our drawing this year. Even if you may not have been chosen as a winner, take comfort in knowing that as promised four charities have reaped the benefits of the drawings.

We, at CHS, are pleased that we will be contributing, on behalf of our winners, the following amounts to these selected charities:

  • $100 donated to the Children's Miracle Network on behalf of Cardoda Deckad
  • $100 donated to the Wounded Warriors Project on behalf of Rick Kelley
  • $50 donated to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on behalf of Arthur G. Kortzinsky
  • $50 donated to the Los Angeles Firemen's Relief Association Widows, Orphans and Disabled Fireman's Fund on behalf of David Peters

Every year, Complete Health Systems has drawings for gift cards or other valuable prizes at the SIIA Educational Conference. As a company, we made a conscious decision to do something different in light of the current state of the economy due to the fact that the needs these charities address tend to increase, while the normal contribution rate slows down in difficult economic times.

We announced that we would give the winners of the drawing the prize of a $50 Visa debit card and CHS would donate an additional $50 to a charity of their choice in the winner's name. If they chose any of the following three charities, CHS made a commitment to double the donation to $100.

  • The Wounded Warrior Project

War is a terrible option, but sometimes necessary. The least those of us, non-military folks, can do is honor the dead and help the wounded. Those who serve in the military put themselves in harm's way on our behalf. We, at CHS, are proud to support this charity.

  • The Salvation Army

As the economy falters, contributions to charities decrease and the need for help increases. CHS helps support this fine organization so that they can help those in need.

  • The Children's Miracle Network

This organization is a favorite of a member of the CHS team and our first drawing winner thought so too.
Again, CHS is pleased to make a contribution in a time when every little bit counts.
Thank you for making this project such a success!

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RBS (REGULATORY BUDGET SENTINEL)

NEW YEAR BRINGS NEW REGULATIONS
By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

As the New Year begins, with it comes the continued evolution of health reform, which means new standards and regulations to adapt to. Since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, changes have been taking place in increments to work up to the act's ultimate goal, which is to create an environment where quality of patient care is the concern.

Although the act will undoubtedly affect each entity of the healthcare industry differently, there are general parts of PPACA that can be expected to be implemented in the next year. So what can be anticipated for 2012?

Reducing the number of disparities within the health care system is the first action that will be taken in March of 2012. HealthCare.gov reports that not all individuals have equal access to medical treatment options. The primary objective of this aspect of the PPACA is to encourage insurers to collect data in order to first identify inconsistencies in care that is provided to patients. By uncovering gaps in coverage, it will aid in developing a more succinct system.

A new formula will be enacted in June that will essentially require insurers to reimburse policyholders if they do not meet a specific standard that will be implemented in June. According to an article published by FOX business, if insurance companies fail to spend 80 percent of their premium on medical care or 85 percent on large group plans a rebate must be provided to policyholders.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners anticipates that this will provide significant amount of relief to insurance consumers. In fact, the association reports that if this was enacted sooner, approximately $2 billon would have been refunded since 2010.

Another entity that will be directly affected by regulations in 2012 is the health care providers. In an effort to continue to raise the standard of care in America, the government has enacted Value-Based Purchasing, which will connect provider payments to cost and quality of care the patient received.

According to HealthCare.gov, the general idea of VBP is that payers will spend money on quality providers with a proven track record. Since hospitals will now be required to publicize their performance ratings, it will be make them accountable for how successfully patients are being cared for.

The push to bring the health care industry up to speed and into the age of electronic record keeping has been one that has taken time to catch on. Although this industry may be lagging behind others, by October 2012, health care, in its entirety, will be forced to transition from the current paper recording system to electronic documentation in order to effectively report and track patient care.

According to HealthCare.gov, the new law will require health plans to not only adopt a standard electronic billing method, but to also ensure that their systems are secure and confidential. In the long term, reducing paperwork should result in lower administrative costs, in addition to an improvement in health care.

Beginning this transition now is vital to a successful implementation of ICD-10, which will take place in October 2013.
In the realm of health care reform, there is a lot of work to be done in this upcoming year. With the new regulations being implemented and health care beginning to transition, it is evident that every aspect of the health care industry will feel the effects of PPACA to some degree.

As this year unravels, CHS will continue to keep our customers up-to-date on the latest regulatory news.

EMPLOYERS LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVE WAYS TO CURB HEALTH COSTS

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

The implementation of wellness programs in a corporate environment have become a common way in which employers look at reducing health care costs. Ideally, the program aims at assessing participants’ health and developing methods of how potential risks can be overcome by adjusting behaviors.

Companies have tailored wellness programs to meet the needs of employees. Whether it is providing access to a free gym or hosting monthly health seminars, employers are looking for a variety of ways to combat the expense of having unhealthy employees.

In order to promote participation in the program, incentives, primarily monetary, have also been a necessary aspect, which companies have used as a motivation tool. Buck Consultants reported that in 2010, approximately 62 percent of employers offered monetary incentives if employees become proactive in their health by quitting smoking or losing weight.

Even with all the efforts on behalf of employers, the question remains as to how effective wellness programs are at reducing health costs.

According to a survey done by ShapeUp, a social network-based employee wellness company, 50 percent of employers believe that health assessments are a waste of money. Although assessments are done when participants first enter the wellness program, employers generally do not believe that they provoke enough of a behavioral change to reduce health costs.

Ultimately, the survey demonstrates that although people may become aware of their personal health risks, having that knowledge does not provide enough incentive to take further action. This has forced companies to look at their efforts to reduce coverage expenses in a new light.

Many companies are taking a new approach that involves essentially raising costs for employees that demonstrate a higher risk, such as those that are obese and smoke cigarettes, which can lead to health problems.

An article in Rueters reports that there are an increasing number of companies charging higher premiums to employees who have behaviors that lead to health complications and additional expenses. Additionally, Tim Watson and the National Business Group on Health, a consulting firm, reported that in 2012, there will be a 40 percent jump in the number of companies who plan to charge penalties to employees.

The article goes on to discuss Walmart, who has made it public that in 2012 they will begin charging employees that use tobacco a higher premium then non-users. The purpose is to offset the additional cost that tobacco users typically cost. In addition, Walmart is also offering an opportunity for employees to enroll in a free program that helps to curb tobacco use.
Walmart may be one of the first companies to take a new approach to lower health costs; however, other companies are following closely in their footsteps. In fact, they even have government support for this strategy.

One aspect of President Obama’s health care reform is the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Beginning in 2014, this act will allow employers to increase the difference in premiums up to 50 percent. Although employers may just be beginning to look at higher premiums as an option to ultimately lower costs, it is inevitable that this trend will only continue to grow.

Wellness programs were developed as a way to ease the burden of unhealthy employees on companies by providing them with tools to essentially get healthier. When the programs were not proving successful, employers began looking for other alternatives. Although companies have the new health reforms in their favor for such a strategy, it still remains to be seen whether or not charging higher premiums to employees that have an increased health risk will save money.

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.