Tag Archives: changes

health,informatics

PCH helps patients understand health care coverage

In an effort to stem widespread confusion about changes in health care coverage, Phoenix Children’s Hospital has introduced Family Financial Services, a team within the Hospital dedicated to helping parents understand their health care coverage options. The Hospital created the team in response to rapid changes in insurance coverage that are often overlooked or misunderstood by parents.

Family Financial Services coordinates with parents and the Hospital care team to ensure that families have a full understanding of what services are covered under their health care plan, in addition to providing guidance on options for obtaining coverage.

“Phoenix Children’s Hospital has been an advocate for children’s health for more than three decades,” said Laura Handy-Oldham, Director, Patient Access at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. “Family Financial Services is the next step in ensuring Arizona children have access to the care they need.”

Each member of the Family Financial Services team is a certified application counselor for the health care Marketplace. They are able to aid families in the complicated process of researching health care coverage on the Marketplace and can demystify coverage, whether it comes from the Marketplace, an employer, or the government.

“Coverage networks are getting smaller – especially for children,” said Handy-Oldham. “Phoenix Children’s was seeing a growing number of families seeking care who weren’t aware that their coverage no longer included the Hospital. We wanted to eliminate any surprises so parents know what their insurance covers and the options we provide to help parents with financial concerns.”

With nearly a dozen team members and a collective 85 years of experience in health care, Family Financial Services is uniquely poised to demystify health care coverage and help Valley parents understand what they’re purchasing and how to make the best health care decisions for their family. This is increasingly important as “narrow network” products become more common.

Parents of children with health care needs who are interested in learning more can contact Phoenix Children’s Hospital at (602) 933-2000 or familyfinancialservices@phoenixchildrens.com.

social.media

Social Media Changes Driving Some Marketers Buggy

Social media is the most rapidly changing aspect of communications to begin with. Throw in an IPO (Facebook) and a major overhaul (LinkedIn) and modifications are barreling ahead so fast, even the techies seem unable to keep up.

“I’m a big believer in social media marketing for my business, so when I started having a lot of problems with LinkedIn, I didn’t wait – I sent an email to the Help Center,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, (www.emsincorporated.com), in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

“Last week, a ‘customer experience advocate’ finally emailed me back. He wrote, ‘I apologize taking so long to get back to you. We are currently experiencing an unusual high volume of requests due to our recent site enhancements.’ “

Many of the changes were implemented Oct. 16 and, as EMSI’s social media specialist, Jeni Hinojosa, observes, “It’s a great overhaul.”

But, she adds, “It must not have gotten much of a test run because the site has been very buggy.”

Over on Facebook, Friedman says she’s noticed advertisements popping up everywhere – even in her news feed.

“Now that the site has gone public, it’s trying all sorts of new tricks to make money for shareholders, but it’s creating some problems,” she says.

One of her employees got this error message while trying to post to her wall: “The server found your request confusing and isn’t sure how to proceed.”

Hinojosa offered a brief overview of some of the changes and a solution people are turning to – at least in the case of Facebook.

LinkedIn: “One of the new features I like is that you can check for comments and other activity without getting notices sent to your email,” Hinojosa says. “Just go to your LinkedIn page and you’ll see the notifications at the top, just like on Facebook.”

“The bugs I and others have encountered include being unable to check private messages; sporadically unable to get into groups; and being notified that invitations to join others’ networks are waiting – but when I look, I don’t see any,” Hinojosa says. “When we report the problems, the responses we’re getting sound like they’re working on them but they’re overwhelmed.

“Hopefully, they’ll get them worked out soon. The good news is, they’re aware.”

Facebook: “Sadly, I’ve been down this road before – and it didn’t lead to a good place,” Hinojosa says. “Remember MySpace?”

Since its initial public offering in May, Facebook has been making a lot of changes designed to add revenue. The newest of these are a $7 fee for “promoted posts” from your personal page and a $5 to $15 fee to promote posts from your fan page. They’re not yet available to all 166 million U.S. Facebook users, according to tech bloggers, because it’s still experimental.

Now, those with the option will see a “promote” button next to the “like,” “comment” and “share” buttons. Click “promote,” put the appropriate fee on your charge card, and that post will go to the top of your followers’ news feeds a few times in the days ahead. (It will also wear the Scarlet S label of “sponsored post.”) The promise is that more of your followers will see it.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when applied to personal pages,” Hinojosa says. “How many people will pay to show off their vacation photos? But people using Facebook as a marketing tool may be motivated to pay for more reach.

“Soon, everyone will be scrolling through a bunch of ‘sponsored’ posts before they get to the ‘free’ ones. If you want someone to actually see your post, you’ll have to pay.”

That’s why, she says, people are jumping to …

Google+: “If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, it would be Google+,” Hinojosa says.

This toddler network, which launched in June 2011, combines Facebook’s capabilities for sharing news and photos and Twitter’s searchability.

“It allows you to designate one or more “circles” for your friends,” Hinojosa says. “One co-worker might be ‘business’ and ‘close friends’ while another could be just ‘business.’ So everyone sees what’s appropriate for them based on your relationship.”

“Like Twitter, Google+ uses hashtags to help sort information and allow people to search for posts on particular topics,” she says. “For instance, if you type #cutecats into the search box at the top of your page, you’ll see everything with that hashtag – including comments that incorporate the label.

“What makes me happiest is, Google had its IPO way back in 2004,” Hinojosa says. “So we shouldn’t have to worry about this company suddenly drumming up ways to make us pay for what we previously got for free.”

140007839

Save money with smart open enrollment changes

Employers will soon be offering workers their yearly opportunity to make changes to their health care benefits. All too often this open-enrollment period has required combing through pages and pages of confusing insurance terms, according to an Associated Press report.

But this year workers will receive help translating that jargon thanks to a new requirement that insurers provide a user-friendly coverage summary of all health plans. Combined with innovative wellness plans that reward employees for staying health, experts say millions of workers should be able to make smarter benefit decision and save money in the process.

“There’s a $5 or $10 bill just sitting there,” says Jody Dietel, chief compliance officer with WageWorks. “They have to do a little bit of homework, but that $5 or $10 is theirs for the taking.”

More than 55 percent of insured workers estimate they waste up to $750 each year because of mistakes during open enrollment, according to a recent survey by insurance provider Aflac. Those wasted dollars are more crucial than ever. Even three years after the recession ended, 62 percent of middle class Americans tell the Pew Research Center they have been forced to cut back on spending in the past year.

Here are ways to make sure you’re getting every dollar’s worth from your health benefits:

MAKE TIME

“I think people spend less than an hour on (open enrollment) — not because they don’t want to — but because they feel it’s overwhelming and complicated,” says Rebecca Madsen, a senior vice president with UnitedHealth Group. Open enrollment generally starts in October or November for plans that begin Jan. 1.

Many insurers are trying to present benefit information in interesting, more user-friendly ways. UnitedHealth runs the website www.healthcarelane.com , which lets visitors explore a virtual town, where each person they encounter offers information and advice about a different health plan offering. The Department of Health and Human Services offers a more straightforward website designed to demystify health care topics: www.healthcare.gov .

This year’s open enrollment should be easier to navigate even for those who get their information from paper and ink sources. Starting this month insurers are required to provide standardized 8-page summaries that explain key terms and cost details of their plans. The rule was passed as part of the Obama administration’s health care overhaul and is intended to make it easier to compare policies and the costs and benefits of various plans.

STAY FIT, SAVE MONEY

Most large employers now offer wellness programs designed to keep employees healthy and, ultimately, cut medical expenses. These programs often come with financial perks to increase participation. More than 81 percent of businesses with 50 or more employees offer at least one wellness benefit, such as gym memberships, quit-smoking programs and stress management classes, according to the Wellness Council of America, an insurance industry group.

These companies are trying to curb health insurance costs that have climbed more than 25 percent over the last five years, outpacing inflation.

For several years now, many companies have offered cash or gift certificates to encourage employees to participate in their programs. Some still do, but low participation rates have prompted an increasing number to offer insurance cost breaks instead.

For instance, employees enrolled in UnitedHealth’s personal rewards program can cut their premiums by $1,000 per year for meeting basic health benchmarks for cholesterol, blood pressure and other measures.

“The two-pronged trend here is that there is more money on the table, but at the same time you have to do more to get it,” says Ian Duncan, actuary and professor of Actuarial Statistics at University of California, Santa Barbara.

In some cases employees must provide evidence they are filling important prescriptions, or attending exercise classes before they can claim the financial reward.

Meanwhile, other employers are trying an opposite strategy by assessing penalties on those who have health risk factors. Eleven percent of large employers require employees with unhealthy habits like smoking to complete classes to avoid higher premiums, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Experts say such carrot and stick approaches will likely increase in the years ahead. Under President Obama’s health care overhaul, employers can increase the value of such penalties to as much as 30 percent of workers’ total premiums.

TAKE A HEALTH CARE TAX BREAK

Employers continue to give workers a chance to save money by setting aside pre-tax money for medical expenses. These flexible spending accounts can help employees save 20 to 40 percent on medical expenses not covered by insurance, such as braces, glasses and contact lenses.

Employees should estimate their out-of-pocket health care expenses and have that amount withdrawn from their paychecks over the course of the year. The money contributed to an FSA is not subject to payroll tax, which effectively lowers participants’ taxable income, but with the condition that they must spend the money before the end of the year. Money left in the account on Dec. 31 is forfeited.

Wageworks estimates about 75 percent of U.S. employees have access to a flexible savings account, though just 20 to 25 percent participate, mainly because of concerns about the “use it or lose it” rule.

The health overhaul makes one major change to flexible spending accounts beginning in 2013: Health care flexible spending accounts will be capped at $2,500, which could limit tax savings for people with large families or expensive medical conditions. The government previously didn’t limit how much workers could set aside, but most companies capped contributions at around $5,000.