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ARCHIVED NEWSLETTERS

2012

January | February | March | April | May | June | July | August

SIIA TRADE SHOW

Complete Health Systems has been long time supporters of the Self-Insurance Institute of America, Inc., or SIIA. This month we attended their 32nd Annual National Educational Conference and Expo, which was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The organization recognized our 20-year commitment as an exhibiting company by awarding us a plaque demonstrating their appreciation for our continued support. 

As in year's past, we had the opportunity to meet with fellow professionals within the healthcare industry.  Thank you to everyone who stopped by and visited our booth.  

Complete Health Systems 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, three charities have reaped the benefits of the drawings.

Every year, CHS conducts a raffle for gift cards or other valuable prizes at the SIIA Educational Conference. Last year, we gave our winners an opportunity to give back to worthy cause by donating their prize to a charitable organization. The U.S. continues to face a sluggish economy, and CHS felt giving back in hard times is important.

Similar to last year, we announced that we would give the winners of the drawing the prize of a $50 American Express gift card and they would have the opportunity to donate the funds to a charity. If they chose any of the following three charities, CHS made a commitment to match the donation for a total of $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 fights to recover, 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. This network works to increase awareness of healthcare for both sick and health children, in addition to raising funds in order to improve healthcare facilities.

winner1 winner2
Winner: Sarah Wilcox
Charity: Children's Miracle Network
Winner: Sherri Knoll
Charity: Children's Miracle Network
winner3 winner4
Winner: Steven Bentley
Charity: Christian Foundation
Winner: Jeff Circuitt
Charity: The Devine Intervention Foundation

RBS (REGULATORY BUDGET SENTINEL)

OPEN ENROLLMENT SEASON IMPORTANT IN PREPARATION FOR 2013 CHANGES
By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

In the world of healthcare, this fall has become a pivotal turning point in U.S. history. Within the span of approximately two months, this country will face a presidential election, the activation of new healthcare reform laws and open enrollment for health insurance for 2013. As the future remains somewhat unclear, employers continue to prepare for what some consider to be the new-normal.

“This year’s fall enrollment seasons is really the calm before the storm of health-plan reforms that will come in 2014,” said Tom Richards, Cigna’s president, in an article published in The Wall Street Journal. “There is some uncertainty among employers because of the political dynamics they are watching, nevertheless they continue to move ahead to implement the changes that were part of the reform.”

Although GOP candidate Mitt Romney plans to get rid of Obamacare if elected, it is inevitable that the road to repeal will likely be a lengthy process, ensuring that the healthcare reform provisions will go forward as planned. Companies have developed benefit packages based off guidelines set forth by the new law’s provisions.

Approximately 55 percent of U.S. employees will resort to accepting their current health care plan for next year, according to Home Channel News, but that is not necessarily in their best interest. As majority of businesses conduct their open enrollment season, experts suggest that employees take a look at their current coverage and become more aware of the changes that they will face in 2013.

“It is easy to fall back on the status quo and assume that your 2012 benefits choices will continue to meet your needs in 2013,” Craig Rosenberg, executive at Aon Hewitt stated in a press release. “But changes to family health care needs, employer plan offerings and costs make it important for workers to reevaluate their selections every year.”

Although healthcare costs are expected to rise less than the past year, employers expenses will still go up approximately 5.3 percent, according to a survey reported by Towers Watson. Many businesses have adjusted their insurance packages in order to account for the rise in cost.

So what have employers had to prepare for? The Wall Street Journal highlighted the major components of the 2013 provisions.

  • Premium Hike: In order to account for the increase in cost put on employers, it has been imperative for many to require employees to share the burden by paying higher premiums.
  • Summary of Benefits and Coverage Required by Insurance Providers: All Americans will be provided with a summary that dictates a description of their coverage. This is in an attempt to eliminate confusion over what those covered are entitled to.
  • FSA Cap: In the past, companies have had the ability to limit what individuals saved for their flexible spending account. In 2013, this fund will be capped at $2,500 nationwide.
  • Coverage of Adults Under 26: With insurance coverage being extended to individuals under 26, families can now consider adding more dependents to their health insurance during this open enrollment period. Businesses have attempted to account for the financial aspect of this popular provision by planning to reduce coverage of dependents in the future.

These changes to the American healthcare system are inevitable, and while companies prepare for the impact, employees are forced to take a look at their coverage, in order to determine what the best options available to them are. The industry of health insurance is certainly changing; however, experts do not believe that businesses would ever revoke benefits in their entirety. 

"Employers still believe that health benefits are vital to attract talented employees and maintain a productive workforce," said Scott Thompson, President of Healthcare Practice for The Benfield Group in an article published in The Sacramento Bee. "Employers will continue to be active purchasers of health care."

While there are many factors contributing to this historic time in the U.S., the end result at this time appears to be certain. Come 2013, many provisions will take effect and the landscape of healthcare will enter a new era.

GOVERNMENT SEEKS REGULATION TO LIMIT OVERCONSUMPTION

By: Nicola Crean, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Individuals and various other entities look for ways to cap healthcare expenses to eliminate the financial burden as costs continue to rise. Creating a healthier atmosphere within the workplace and the country, as a whole, is a significant step to take towards reducing medical spending.

While there are multiple factors that contribute to the general health status of the US, obesity is one that is a major health concern affecting approximately 68 percent of the American population, according to the Food Research and Action Center’s website. The site defines obesity as individuals that have a body-mass index of 30 and up.

While obesity itself is a health risk, it often escalates and develops into other diseases, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. The complications caused by obesity inevitably continue to cost companies, employees and the government in the long run. An article published in The Atlantic states that approximately $190 billion is spent annually on health care and lost productivity because of obesity and other related problems.

Many of the diseases attributed to obesity can often lead to high medical expenses caring for the individual, in addition to the threat of early mortality. Both employers and the government have created various initiatives and programs to motivate the public about the importance of creating a more health-conscious country.

Recently, both the federal and local governments have developed numerous plans to control the level of unhealthy food choices that are readily accessible to the public. Eliminating the use of artificial trans-fat in New York restaurants to enacting a soda pop tax have all been considered by cities to make it more difficult for people to consume potentially damaging food.

"Food companies understand how customers respond to their products and marketing better than anyone and could make many changes that would promote health,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, M.D., M.P.H, Commissioner of New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in an article published in JAMA.

With calorie consumption almost-triple what it was in 1970s, Dr. Farley suggests that individuals have grown accustom to the increase in serving size. Instead of consuming a food or beverage till they are satisfied, they unknowingly finish larger portions simply because that’s how they received it.

Limiting large serving sizes, as New York recently did with the sale of sugary drinks, has allowed the government to regulate how food is being served to the public. With various reports being released indicating that there will be a dramatic increase in obesity in the next twenty years, it is evident that this is a growing concern for the U.S. that needs to be addressed.

The government’s ability to regulate food intake is a political issue that is faced with many opinions. However, the trends prove that obesity among the American population is quickly becoming a public health issue. Reducing super size portions have the ability to reduce calorie consumption and in turn, create awareness that there may not be a need to over consume. This is one step in the direction of halting the spread of obesity among Americans.

Chacko's Insights

"Just like prohibition didn't work in the 1920's, attempting to modify behavior using government edict is unlikely to work. The desire to modify one's behavior towards improved health should come from within. The person should make a conscious decision to avoid unhealthy behavior. No democratic government can do that."

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.