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Live Free 09-08-2014 03:06 PM

Tired of company butting into our healthcare...
 
This is not meant to be a political rant about the US health care system.

Maybe I'm just cranky today, but I am sick to death of the tie of health insurance to employment. Unless we change jobs (not so easy in this day and age), we are trapped.

Two years ago, my DH's company started charging an extra $1K/yr for working spouses that could obtain insurance at their own firm. I understand why my DH's company (a Fortune 50 company) does this, but personally, I feel like we are being penalized for me being a working spouse. His co-workers have stay-at-home wives and they are paying less than we are. My own corporate insurance is VERY expensive, so even with the $1K premium it is far cheaper for our family to go with his insurance.

Also, two years ago, they went to an HSA/high deductible plan and premiums went up significantly. For a young family with no health issues, this might be a great option, as the HSA can build up over time. For us, however, we have a child with significant health care needs and we pretty much hit our max out of pocket pretty quickly and drain the HSA each year. We are paying nearly $13K/yr between premiums and hitting max out of pocket.

To help offset the large increase in premiums, etc. DH's company "contributed" $500 to our HSA each year.

Now, this week in the mail, we get the news that the company's "contribution" is contingent on both the employee and the employee's spouse having a "biometric screening" and "health risk assessment". These are not to be done under our health insurance company, but with some other company (at a subcontracted lab or you can have your own doctor complete the form, but the exam is on our own dime). Based on the results of the screenings, this company will contact the employee and employee's spouse with a health action plan and will offer up smoking cessation, weight management programs, fitness programs, walk challenges, nutrition education, etc. I am certain his company views this as a "benefit". I view it as a hassle and yet another invasion of privacy.

Does my DH's company really need to get involved in his health care? With my (a non-employee) health care? Isn't that why I see my own DOCTOR? Why are we providing our private medical information to some company that is not our health insurance carrier or our doctor? What kind of security do they have with this info? Are the health action plans medically appropriate?

Of course we do not have to participate in this "voluntary" program. But with the usual significant increases in our health insurance premiums, we need to do this to help offset the never ending rate increases and continue to get the company contribution.

I feel like DH's company could have mailed out a post card each quarter with offerings for free health programs (smoking cessation, etc.) and not tied it to money. They don't need to incentivize me. I have my own health action plan, doctor-approved, and I'm happy with it. I don't need some unknown "health incentive" company monitoring my blood work, my health, my life.

Given that DH's company is a large employer, I'm guessing this is where health care is heading in corporate America. Your employer is also now your health babysitter. >:(

OK. Rant over.

foxfirev5 09-08-2014 03:24 PM

I feel your pain. Big brother is all over us. Today DW and I completed the first phase of our enrollment in the company wellness program. If we do not comply it will cost us a couple thousand more per year. Since I am only 1 1/2 years from ER I was tempted to skip it and take my lumps. But I am a cheapskate.

The next step is to get counseling regarding my BMI and BP. My plan is to drastically reduce my travel and work hours to reduce stress and allow for more healthy activities. We'll see how that goes.

youbet 09-08-2014 03:32 PM

Clearly, your DH's company should not offer company subsidized health insurance, period. They should remove it from the offered compensation package and simply pay whatever cash it takes to recruit and retain qualified employees without health insurance. Employees can purchase health insurance on the open market using the ACA.

Separating employment from health insurance is what I see as the main benefit of the ACA and I hope to see employers, especially government employers, stop offering health insurance in the future.

mpeirce 09-08-2014 03:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Live Free (Post 1491212)
Maybe I'm just cranky today, but I am sick to death of the tie of health insurance to employment. Unless we change jobs (not so easy in this day and age), we are trapped.

I agree it would be best to decouple health insurance from employment.

But in a similar vein, this is also my fear about the government getting involved in health care - mandating coverage, poking their nose into my business since he who pays the piper calls the tunes.

And it'll be a lot harder to change "providers" - leaving the country rather than just changing jobs.

JakeBrake 09-08-2014 03:47 PM

My MegaCorp (a Fortune 50 company) is getting out of retiree health insurance for Medicare eligible retirees as of 2015.

We do get a MegaCorp furnished HSA account. The retiree gets a set $ amount and the non-working spouse gets about half the $. We now have the opportunity to find and pay for our own insurance.

Live Free 09-08-2014 05:13 PM

Just read the signature line on the form provided by the firm that will be running this program for DH's company.

"By signing below I give permission for my healthcare provider to send my results to [firm running program]. This information may be shared with a third party, such as another wellness vendor, health consultant or health insurer for the sole purpose of offering me or completing for me other wellness programming or incentive administration."

Great! I'm not just sharing all my personal info (name, address, DOB, blood work results, other health information) with one company - but also with other third parties. And those third parties may want to offer me other wellness programming.

You know, it used to be we only had to compromise our SSN, credit card numbers, mortgage information, and a google street view of our property. Now we get to compromise our personal health information, too. I wonder if I'll start getting phone solicitations for wellness programs.

iac1003 09-08-2014 05:41 PM

Tired of company butting into our healthcare...
 
I feel your pain.

Two years ago my company (small, but the largest in its field) asked us to do biometric screening and if we didn't do so our premiums would be higher. My lab values are none of my company's business. I chose not to participate. It's not the government, it's unintelligent HR people making medical decisions in order to keep health premium costs down.

Last year they offered a choice of the regular PPO plan or an HD with HSA plan.

Next year it will probably be the HD HSA plan alone. I was planning to ER in 4/2015 and go on to COBRA in the PPO. But since our benefit year starts in July, and one can't contribute to an HSA if on COBRA, I am out of luck. Not that many MDs here in Austin are taking ACA or new Medicare patients so it will be hard to find physicians who will treat me. I might be able to sneak into someone's primary care practice because I am an MD and would choose someone I know. Otherwise I and probably others will be out of luck.


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pb4uski 09-08-2014 05:49 PM

So just forgo the $500 company contribution.

Bestwifeever 09-08-2014 05:53 PM

DH's company tried this maybe ten years ago (he left six years ago and it was well before that) and backed off really quickly.

I imagine in ten more years you might be wishing you could participate in something like this in a megacorp cheap health insurance plan....

Lcountz 09-08-2014 06:01 PM

I am SO GLAD I'm retired and GONE from Megacorp.

photoguy 09-08-2014 06:17 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Live Free (Post 1491212)
Two years ago, my DH's company started charging an extra $1K/yr for working spouses that could obtain insurance at their own firm. I understand why my DH's company (a Fortune 50 company) does this, but personally, I feel like we are being penalized for me being a working spouse. His co-workers have stay-at-home wives and they are paying less than we are. My own corporate insurance is VERY expensive, so even with the $1K premium it is far cheaper for our family to go with his insurance.

There are always people who come out better or worse under company benefits. Economically I think it is sub-optimal (and somewhat unfair) and in my dreams, I envision a world where companies would just give all workers cash-value of benefits.

For me, my pet peeve around this was maternity leave/education benefits. At a former company mothers would get 6 months paid leave. As a couple with no-kids we get nothing. At my wife's company they would pay up to $20k/year/child for college (with no limit on kids). So compared to if we had two children we are out probably close to $400k in benefits. However there's no point getting mad or angry about this -- it's just not productive and will only leave you bitter.

Quote:

Also, two years ago, they went to an HSA/high deductible plan and premiums went up significantly. For a young family with no health issues, this might be a great option, as the HSA can build up over time. For us, however, we have a child with significant health care needs and we pretty much hit our max out of pocket pretty quickly and drain the HSA each year. We are paying nearly $13K/yr between premiums and hitting max out of pocket.
If you are hitting max out of pocket every year, I imagine that your net cost is far higher to the company than for other workers who don't have family members with chronic conditions. So you can still consider yourself a benefits winner.



Quote:

Now, this week in the mail, we get the news that the company's "contribution" is contingent on both the employee and the employee's spouse having a "biometric screening" and "health risk assessment". These are not to be done under our health insurance company, but with some other company (at a subcontracted lab or you can have your own doctor complete the form, but the exam is on our own dime). Based on the results of the screenings, this company will contact the employee and employee's spouse with a health action plan and will offer up smoking cessation, weight management programs, fitness programs, walk challenges, nutrition education, etc. I am certain his company views this as a "benefit". I view it as a hassle and yet another invasion of privacy.
I wouldn't like this either. But at the same time, we want to reduce healthcare costs and this could be a step in the right direction. Consider the alternative: if the company doesn't do this, overall healthcare costs will increase and they will foist more of that on the employees.

Quote:

Of course we do not have to participate in this "voluntary" program. But with the usual significant increases in our health insurance premiums, we need to do this to help offset the never ending rate increases and continue to get the company contribution.
Just like you, the company is trying to control their own costs (and also limit what gets passed to their employees).

Quote:

I feel like DH's company could have mailed out a post card each quarter with offerings for free health programs (smoking cessation, etc.) and not tied it to money. They don't need to incentivize me. I have my own health action plan, doctor-approved, and I'm happy with it. I don't need some unknown "health incentive" company monitoring my blood work, my health, my life.
Perhaps you don't need this incentive but I bet many of your co-workers would do nothing without this incentive money.

Quote:

Given that DH's company is a large employer, I'm guessing this is where health care is heading in corporate America. Your employer is also now your health babysitter. >:(
Yeah I think tying healthcare to employment is terrible.

rodi 09-08-2014 06:28 PM

I worked for a very large megacorp. They started this about 8 or 9 years ago. At first it was discounts on the health plans managed by Blue Cross... if you had Kaiser Permanente HMO you didn't need to comply. The tests included weight, lipid panel, etc. Then they added a questionaire that everyone had to do - even the HMO folks... You had to fill in your height and weight - but everything else was optional.... It reported whether you were fat or not at the end of the questionaire. So... yeah, I had my employer telling my I was fat. (I knew this - but hey, salt in the wound.)

This kept getting more and more invasive... more required questions, shared with more people.

It went away when my division was sold to another mini-corp. (Much smaller than megacorp)... But our insurance premiums went up significantly, for less coverage.

I've always had issue with companies that have that requirement about spousal coverage. My husband has *never* worked for a company with decent premiums... so he's been on my coverage since we got married. I'd be pissed if they charged more because we declined paying 3x as much for worse coverage, through his company.

Senator 09-08-2014 07:05 PM

My company started charging an extra $25 per person that smokes, per paycheck (2x a month). It's on the honor system at this point.

ProspectiveBum 09-08-2014 08:05 PM

My employers (started a new job this year) have done this for the last 3 years. I personally consider it something of a benefit, since the health screening is done at my employer's office, and it saves me having to visit my PCP for a physical and bloodwork. I know that many co-workers REALLY didn't like what they viewed as an invasion of privacy, but it didn't bother me.

W2R 09-08-2014 08:08 PM

Live Free, that is awful. I don't know what to say. You have every reason to be upset. :(

ERhoosier 09-08-2014 09:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by youbet (Post 1491218)
Clearly, your DH's company should not offer company subsidized health insurance, period. They should remove it from the offered compensation package and simply pay whatever cash it takes to recruit and retain qualified employees without health insurance. Employees can purchase health insurance on the open market using the ACA.

Separating employment from health insurance is what I see as the main benefit of the ACA and I hope to see employers, especially government employers, stop offering health insurance in the future.


Agree, HOWEVER the individual should have the same tax advantaged status for HI that is currently offered to employers (i.e. paying with pre-tax vs after-tax $$). Then HI could be truly untied from employment. Of course, as the latest issue of Barron's pointed out, one could currently untie their HI from employment by simply remaining unemployed and get their HI from ACA with subsidies.

Lancelot 09-08-2014 10:08 PM

^ +1

I agree that health insurance needs to be decoupled from employment. I further agree that individuals purchasing their health insurance should receive the same tax advantages that companies do.

I can see both sides of the argument, companies are seeking to control costs and employees protest against intrusive testing and ever changing copayment and premium sharing.

As consumers of auto and home owners/renters insurance -where we pay the premiums- we accept higher deductibles and other restrictions to reduce cost. Isn't it rational for employers to act the same way?

foxfirev5 09-09-2014 04:03 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ProspectiveBum (Post 1491339)
My employers (started a new job this year) have done this for the last 3 years. I personally consider it something of a benefit, since the health screening is done at my employer's office, and it saves me having to visit my PCP for a physical and bloodwork. I know that many co-workers REALLY didn't like what they viewed as an invasion of privacy, but it didn't bother me.

I really don't think the company screening is a substitute for an annual physical at your Dr's office.

Midpack 09-09-2014 05:49 AM

Decoupling does seem to be an essential first step.

I can understand the frustration, but you can't complain about the cost of health care and at the same time complain about the company's efforts to fight cost increases. While working I was exposed first hand to employee complaints/expectations AND to managing cases/costs/regulations - there are two valid sides to the debate. Most (not all) company's that offer health care benefits (a legacy for most) absorb a far greater portion of health care expenses than do employees themselves. Too many employees are mindfully ignorant of health care costs and what a maddening system we have in the US (it's not a system at all, it's an antiquated hodgepodge with regulations that only make it more difficult for patients and providers).

The root of the problem is the cost of health care in the US, about double that of every other country in the world. When we (consumers, voters) attack the causes for the high cost of health care in the US (discussed at length in many other threads), company's won't be caught in the middle trying to deal with health care.

"We" shouldn't be surprised when a company's efforts to rein in health care costs, to the benefit of employees, are sometimes misguided. I can assure you your company would rather not deal with health care, something way outside their core competency for most companies.

GalaxyBoy 09-09-2014 07:14 AM

The MegaCorp I w*rk for started this a few years ago. The first year, the benefit of participating was minimal. The next year, the benefit was more significant (lower co-pays, etc.), and they've hinted that next year if you don't participate you'll be totally screwed.

But the thing is, the first year participation was a more significant effort, such as mandatory participation in a weight loss program, etc. This year, to qualify for next year's benefit, it was totally BS. Sure, you had to have a biometric screening either at work by a third-party provider, or by your own doctor (I got mine as part of my yearly, free, physical). Then you had to either watch a short video or sign up for an account on a website that provides access to an MD 24/7. Finally, you had to either participate in a wellness program or simply participate in any number of community programs (blood donation, food bank volunteering, running a marathon, etc.). Actually, you didn't have to really do that you just had to say you did.

I'm not sure how those actions improve my health or lower MegaCorp's premiums, but I did it. A new fact of life, it seems.

Regarding premiums for family members, that's just not right. I worked for a couple of firms who simply paid 100% of the premium for the employee, but 0% for any family members. One could purchase the family coverage but at the full price. Only fair, IMHO, as otherwise a company pays employees with dependents more than those without, who do the exact same work.


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