Daily Insurance Report  
Walt Bernard Podgurski,  Editor,  440-773-1108, 
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com

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Editorial Mission Statement: The goal of this publication is to provide readers a broad selection of what is being written about the insurance industry and related issues. Some articles may have a “tilt” towards a particular perspective one way or another. Inclusion in this newsletter is not an endorsement of any views or content; but report the various and differing views appearing in media.
  Monday, 09/10/18 - www.DailyInsuranceReport.com

The "Daily Insurance Report" is now subscribed to by almost 25,000 insurance industry influencers who receive it Monday - Friday at 5:05 am EDT, and have a quick overview of what is appearing in the media regarding the insurance industry; with an emphasis on life, health, and employee benefits.


Pharma association blames hospitals for high healthcare costs
Amy Baxter / Healthcare Economics & Policy
In a new report, an association for the pharmaceutical industry has blamed rising healthcare costs on hospitals jacking up prices for prescription drugs. The report comes as price transparency has become a bigger issue in Washington, D.C., with policymakers and the Trump administration undertaking initiatives to lower prescription drug costs.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which represents the nation’s largest biopharmaceutical research companies, asserted hospitals mark up charges for 20 drugs by nearly 500 percent.
"Hospitals receive billions of dollars every year in negotiated and mandatory discounts from biopharmaceutical companies while simultaneously increasing the price of these medicines to insurers and patients," Stephen J. Ubl, president and CEO of PhRMA, said in a statement. "In order to make medicines more affordable for patients, we must address the role hospital markups play in driving up medicine costs."
Most hospitals–83 percent–charge patients and insurers more than double their acquisition costs for medicines, increasing prices 200 percent or more, according to the report, which was prepared by consulting firm The Moran Company. More than half of hospitals–53 percent–charged between 200 percent and 400 percent more for medicines on average.


Did Soaring Health Care Costs Consume Americans’ Pay Raises?
By Michael Rainey / The Fiscal Times
A hard-hitting report released this week from analysts at the insurance firm Willis Towers Watson claims that the health care system is responsible in large part for the lack of income growth experienced by millions of American workers.
Sylvester J. Schieber, an independent consultant retired from Willis Towers Watson, and Steven A. Nyce, director of the research and innovation center at the firm, say that their analysis “shows how since the 1980s, the cost growth of employer-provided health benefits has been shrinking workers’ wage growth, eroding their retirement benefits and becoming an increasingly important factor in growing income inequality.”
Where the pay raises went: “U.S. employers’ health care costs started small—in 1950, healthcare amounted to only 0.5 percent of total compensation,” the authors write. “But premiums rose 3.1 times faster than total compensation in the 1950s and over twice as fast in the 1960s. Over the next 40 years, health plan costs grew 3.4 times faster than compensation in the 1970s, 2.1 times faster in the 1980s and 1.2 times faster in the 1990s. By the first decade of the new millennium, health care costs were again increasing 3.4 times faster than compensation.


No immediate ruling in GOP’s latest ‘Obamacare’ lawsuit
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The latest push to scrap the Affordable Care Act once and for all pressed ahead Wednesday as Republican-controlled states asked a federal judge to finish what Congress started last year and bring the law that insures 20 million Americans to a halt.
At issue are core principles of the law, including protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and limits on how much older customers can be charged.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor made no immediate ruling following a four-hour hearing. Twenty GOP-led states brought the lawsuit, arguing that the entire health care law was rendered unconstitutional after Congress repealed the “individual mandate” that required most Americans to buy insurance or risk a tax penalty.
“Texans and other Americans should be free again to make their own health care choices,” said Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the court challenge.
The case is the most high-profile legal challenge to “Obamacare” under President Donald Trump, whose administration is not defending the law in court. But the Justice Department doesn’t want an immediate injunction suspending enforcement of the law, even as Republicans press for one.
Justice Department attorney Brett Shumate told the judge that any immediate injunction could create “a potential for chaos,” The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.


Stop Making 401(k) Contributions -- Fill Up Your HSA First
Robert C. Lawton, Contributor / Forbes
With health care open enrollment season approaching, individuals electing a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) will soon have an opportunity to decide how much to contribute to their Health Savings Account (HSA) for next year.
My advice?
Contribute as much as you possibly can. And prioritize your HSA contributions ahead of your 401(k) contributions. I believe that employees eligible to contribute to an HSA should max out their HSA contributions each year. Here’s why.
HSAs are triple tax-free
HSA payroll contributions are made pre-tax. When balances are used to pay qualified health care expenses, the money comes out of HSA accounts tax-free. Earnings on HSA balances also accumulate tax-free. There are no other employee benefits that work this way.


Amazon-Berkshire-Chase health care nonprofit hires chief operating officer
By Steve Jordon / World-Herald staff writer
Jack Stoddard was general manager of digital health at Comcast Corp. until, CNBC reported, he was hired last week as chief operating officer of the new nonprofit health care company formed by Berkshire Hathaway, Amazon and JPMorgan Chase.
At the new Amazon-Berkshire-Chase venture (nicknamed ABC, because it doesn’t have a formal name yet), Stoddard will work for CEO Atul Gawande, a Harvard surgeon and writer, to find ways to make U.S. health care better and less costly.
They’re starting with the 1.2 million employees of the three companies but plan to make their methods available to other employers, too.


Poll: Majority want to keep ObamaCare protections for pre-existing conditions
BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL / THE HILL
A majority in a new poll want ObamaCare’s protections for pre-existing conditions to remain the law.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s latest tracking poll, 72 percent of those surveyed said it is “very important” to them that insurance companies remain prohibited from charging sick people more.
They also said it was “very important” that the law continues to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history.
Even among those living in households without anyone with pre-existing conditions — meaning they are unlikely to be affected negatively by a change in policy — a majority said it is “very important” the protections remain.


Robots Can Manage Your Money. But Even They Need Humans.
By Tara Siegel Bernard / New York Times
The rise of so-called roboadvisers has been among the most significant changes to how consumers obtain financial planning advice in the past several years. With low minimum investment requirements and reasonable fees, the automated services have popularized a new way of getting professional help. Customers answer simple questions online, creating investment portfolios that are set on autopilot — all without much interaction with a person.
But a growing number of these online services are adding warm-blooded financial planners to the mix, often at less than half the cost of what a traditional adviser charges.
Betterment, with $15 billion under management, is one of the more established firms in the category. (Others include Wealthfront and SigFig.) It began as digital only, then added human advisers last year. Now it is driving the cost of its inexpensive advice even lower with a set of financial-planning packages that range from the price of a pair of fancy jeans to the monthly payment on a modest new car.


The health care jobs boom is still going
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Chris Canipe / Axios
The health care industry has added more than 300,000 jobs in the past year, including 33,200 in August, and now employs almost 16.1 million people.
The big picture: Health care continues to hire thousands of people per week as more Americans age into Medicare and as demand for home health grows. The catch is that the country's health care spending also will continue to rise to pay for those jobs.


Insured losses from Carr and Mendocino Complex fires top $845 million
By LAURA NEWBERRY / Los Angeles Times
The catastrophic wildfires that ripped through Northern California this summer have so far caused $845 million in insured losses, according to state officials.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the figure Thursday, warning that the total is likely to grow as companies continue to process claims for homes burned in the Mendocino Complex and Carr fires.
The fires destroyed or damaged more than 8,800 homes and 329 businesses, Jones said. An estimated 800 vehicles were also damaged in the fires, which killed nine people.
So far, this year’s insurance losses pale in comparison to those seen in 2017, which the California Department of Insurance now estimates at $12.8 billion — up from the $12-billion figure the agency previously reported.
   
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Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor
440-773-1108
Walt@DailyInsuranceReport.com