Monday, January 10, 2011

The Benefits Package: New Year's Edition

Welcome to the first Benefits Package of the new year (and, indeed, of the new decade). We're grateful to Evan for the opportunity to be the first "non-Evan" hosts, and to this week's participants for sharing their insights and ideas.

I'm also pleased to help launch a new "niche carnival;" that is, one with a more narrowly defined focus. It seems to me that these smaller versions are less intimidating for hosts and readers alike. Certainly, it's a lot easier to edit and post a carnival with 8 or 10 (or a dozen!) entries than some of the "big boys." So if you're even remotely interested in hosting a future edition, please drop Evan a note: I guarantee you you'll find it a simple, yet rewarding, experience.

And now, on with the show:

■ David Kerrigan looks under the hood at what, exactly, drives the decision to keep or change group insurance carriers. You may be surprised at the role played by network size.

■ The Cato Institute's Michael Cannon wonders if the administration is perhaps playing fast and lose with their numbers-crunching, at least regarding how it deals with expenditures and the private sector. Great food for thought.

■ Anne Freedman combines some (scary) statistics with good old-fashioned common sense as she explores the growing problem of an aging work-force. Specifically, older workers may be playing an outsized role in keeping out "new blood." This doesn't bode well for our current unemployment situation.

■ Only David Williams could combine coupons, bullets and FuzzBusters and come up with an intriguing post on why it's bad policy for drug companies to make your co-payment for you.

■ Benefits Package founder (and uber-wonk blogger) Evan Falchuk shares some important lessons he learned from a group of Longhorn business folks. He's careful to point out that it's less prediction than recognition.

■ Another great health policy wonk, David Harlow, takes aim at Jeff Goldsmith's recent article on Accountable Care Organizations (ACO's). While acknowledging that Mr G makes some valid points, David's convinced that the basic ACO model is still salvageable.

■ Jennifer Benz and Ed Bray provide us with a handy two-minute overview of PPACA (known around these parts as ObamaCare
©); just the ticket when the boss asks "what's this all about?" It's handy, brief and timely.

■ There's no question that prescription drug prices play a key role in how much we pay for health benefits. George Van Antwerp lays out the case for efficient innovation in how PBM's (Pharmacy Benefits Managers) market themselves to demonstrate the value they bring to the table.

■ Just as pharmacy benefits impact the cost of health care, so may improved utilization of Information Technology (IT). Blogging at Action for Better Healthcare, Kester Freeman reports on a new IT initiative currently underway by IBM and Premier Health Alliance that hopes to effectively address the issue.

■ As Keith McMurdy explains, pension benefits are also affected by the current economic downturn, and could lead to a "withdrawal liability" problem.

■ In our own contribution, we discuss how some employers are going mental over mandates.

And that wraps up the Benefits Package, Third Edition. Be sure to stop by Jennifer Benz's place on the 24th for the next exciting installment!
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