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Benefits Solutions to Health Insurance Dilemma December 24, 2008

Posted by Austin Baker in employee benefits.
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Rapidly rising health care costs and the plight of the uninsured have reached the status of nearly daily mention in most news media. As health care costs continue to increase, many businesses are moving toward high-deductible major medical plans in an effort to better manage benefits program costs. Yet this approach can put employees at greater financial risk, forcing them to pay the expanding difference between what their health insurance covers and what their medical care costs. In addition, premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance have been rising four times faster on average than workers’ earnings since 2000.1
While that’s bad enough news for workers with health insurance, it’s a potential disaster for those who don’t have health coverage to help buffer these costs. A recent Census Bureau report estimated 47 million Americans have no health coverage.2 Still more worrisome is the fact that most uninsureds belong to a family with at least one working member. 3
The good news is employers have access to two solutions to meet this health coverage dilemma:
 A voluntary supplemental health insurance plan can help fill gaps in coverage under a high-deductible major medical plan, such as increased deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.
 A group limited benefit hospital confinement indemnity insurance plan for employees who don’t have access to major medical insurance through their workplace or their spouse’s workplace.

Voluntary Supplemental Health Insurance
With voluntary supplemental health insurance, businesses can offer their employees a solution to help fill coverage gaps and protect employees against increasing out-of-pocket expenses. These products typically pay lump-sum benefits for medical expenses resulting from inpatient hospitalization and rehabilitation unit or outpatient services, diagnostic testing, doctor’s office visits and wellness checkups. For example, an employee who has to go into the hospital may have to pay a $1,500 deductible before health insurance kicks in — money the employee has to pay up front. With voluntary supplemental health insurance, the employee would receive a lump-sum benefit payment for the inpatient confinement and could use it to help pay for the deductible.

Group Limited Benefit Hospital Confinement Indemnity Insurance
This type of insurance is a group product that provides benefits to help insureds pay many routine, noncatastrophic health care expenses. It’s not major medical coverage, and it isn’t a replacement for major medical coverage. Offered through the workplace at group rates, this plan can meet the need for affordable, limited and clearly defined health benefits for full-time and part-time workers who don’t have access to major medical insurance and need some coverage for basic, routine medical expenses. Coverage is available for:
• Doctor’s office visits
• Outpatient diagnostic and lab tests
• Inpatient hospital stays
• Surgery
• Prescription drugs

With either plan, benefits communication plays a critical role in successful implementation. Consistent, clear communication through group and one-on-one meetings with employees helps ensure they understand what their plan covers and what it doesn’t. This leads to much greater satisfaction with the benefits plan. A quality voluntary benefits provider can deliver this service at no direct charge to the employer.
Rising health care costs and the resulting plight of the working uninsured are not likely to go away anytime soon. But innovative products like voluntary supplemental health insurance and group limited benefit hospital confinement indemnity insurance provide workable solutions for the health care cost issue.

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