Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Controlling Medical Costs

Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) Controlling Medical Costs

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In a world where the healthcare system is changing on a daily basis due to sweeping federal changes under the Affordable Healthcare Act, constantly changing technology and an increasingly sick and aging population, most employers are faced with cutting benefits, eliminating benefits, or seeing astronomically high renewal rates.  Bucking this trend is the Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) which was a founding member of Valley Schools over a quarter century ago, which established a purchasing cooperative for school districts to pool their purchasing power to reduce costs.  Starting first with liability insurance, then workers’ compensation, PVUSD moved its healthcare and other employee benefits under the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) nearly ten years ago now, and it has paid dividends.

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Under the trust, PVUSD is able to choose its providers, plans and benefits as an individual district as it always has, while in returning receiving more choices, lower rates and expert consulting from the staff of VSEBT, Aon/Hewitt and Hays Consulting at no additional costs.  This year, starting fiscal year July 1, 2014, PVUSD elected to break out their plan tiering into four tiers from the traditional two tiers which have been in place for several years.  In simpler terms, they went from just single and family, to four levels determining how many are covered under the plan.

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This represented a premium savings for employees who have a spouse or child(ren) only on their plan and only a slight increase for those with more family members.  The district costs are expected to now be a 2.1% reduction from the prior 2013-14 plan year.

Not only are costs going down, but PVUSD was able to expand their preventive drug list for health savings account plan members which means more preventive drugs at a copay prior to meeting their deductible for those on the HDHP plan.  That will provide additional savings to those employees and encourage better health in the long run by making preventive and maintenance drugs more affordable.

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PVUSD also continues to focus on efforts to encourage good consumerism and physician quality, and cost and efficiency.  They implemented the UHC Premium Provider Advantage Plan.  Doctors who are rated both for high quality, satisfaction and efficiency receive two stars in the UHC network directory.  If members choose a Premium Physician, they will have even lower co-pays. This allows the employee to remain in charge of their doctor choices while providing additional options for savings.

Congratulations to PVUSD for its ongoing cutting-edge vision for providing the best quality benefits to its staff and their families while utilizing innovative tools to reduce costs!

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VSEBT Quarterly Benefits Meeting to Explore Health Issues

The April Quarterly Benefits Meeting conducted by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) will include a number of recognized health and benefit experts briefing human resources and benefits staff on how better to serve their staff and their family members.  Aflac’s expert on benefits will start out the session, followed by presentations on HIPAA regulations regarding patient privacy, and COBRA administration and legal issues from Eiverness Consulting Group, Ltd.

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The program will conclude with presentations by Andrea Billings of Aon/Hewitt on the latest changes to the Affordable Health Care Act regulations regarding variable hour employees and a report by Hays Consulting on renewal trends and medical cost factors.

Andrea Billings, Aon/Hewitt

Andrea Billings, Aon/Hewitt

Congratulations to VSEBT for maintaining such a vigorous program of information and updates for their participating members.  With healthcare changing every moment, it is good to know some organizations are staying ahead of the changes.

 

HIPAA Training and Compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA was enacted in 1996 and has been amended several times.  In addition, thousands of pages of rules have been issued.  HIPAA’s major purpose was to allow Americans to port coverage when they leave an employer to go to another employer, so they would not lose benefits.  It also enacted some of the strictest privacy rules in the world about who can access your medical information and how it must be safeguarded.

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In an era where NSA intelligence gathering, drones and other concerns exist about privacy, it is more imperative than ever that people be fully informed on medical records privacy.  Compliance means that only people who directly have a reason to see your information for billing or treatment are allowed to, and only for that portion they need.  It does not allow for non-encrypted emailing of the information, sending it to an unsecured fax, or even sharing it with family members unless you specifically authorize it in writing.

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You can imagine the impact of a spouse being treated for an STD from an extra-marital affair being told to the other spouse.  Or the effect on co-workers or employment if they know you have an infectious or terminal disease.  It is none of their business unless you and no one else thinks it is.  That is why organizations owe it to their patients to train anyone who comes into contact or potential contact with this information.

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The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) offers annual HIPAA training seminars to staff and members that may come into contact with personal health information (PHI).  This year they are including information from Aon/Hewitt on how such information and compliance tools can be found on the new benefits dashboard provided to VSEBT members.  The class can be taken both in person and by webinar.  They are conducting their next seminar on the morning of August 21, 2013.

If you are a member of VSEBT, or are interested in participating, contact Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.  Only current and prospective members of VSEBT will be able to attend.

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Planning the Key to Healthcare Savings

Planning is one of the keys to long term healthcare savings.  Each year, the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) hosts a planning session in which all of its member organizations participate and are briefed on various issues.  The organization is a professionally managed trust that allows group purchasing options for its members.  This commitment to providing information, a look back, and a look forward, followed by effective planning has consistently reduced costs and saved millions per year for their members.

Tom Boone, VSMG

Tom Boone, VSMG

This year, the following items were briefed on their agenda:

Opening Comments – Tom Boone, Chairman, CEO, Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG)

1.2013/14 and Beyond – Long Range Planning – Lisa Rafferty, Aon/Hewitt

2.Benchmark Data – Dave Petta, Aon/Hewitt
3.Financial Statements and Claims Experience Reports, Andrea Billings, VSEBT
4.Valley Schools Update – Patrick Dittman, (VSMG)
5.Procurement Versus Trust Participation – Options in Insurance Buying, Bill Munch (VSMG) and Andrea Billings (VSEBT)
6.Healthcare Reform – Lisa Rafferty, Aon/Hewitt
Open Discussion
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More organizations should regularly discuss their current performance, upcoming changes, and plan for the future.  Too often organizations do not pay attention to their healthcare or other employee benefits except at renewal time, and then it is a rush to make stop gap decisions to get rising costs under budget.  This may lead to poor choices and pushing more costs onto burdened employees.  Careful planning and discussion and lead to long term strategies, well thought through and explored, that yield much more manageable increase curves over time.
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Health-Care-Reform

VSEBT Keeping Healthcare Increases Down

Over the past many years, employers have been facing double digit increases in healthcare costs.  A recent study, conducted by Aon/Hewitt, the largest employee benefits company in the world, compared the four year base increases on an apples-to-apples basis and showed the remarkable results achieved by Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) over the last four years.  These results are a combination of professional management, wellness programs, comprehensive information and planning, and the benefit of group purchasing by groups of employers.

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Here is one of the key charts that shows overall trend, or medical inflation for the trust.

 

–Aon Hewitt’s trend survey illustrates expected cost increases for the average employer before  any changes in plan design
–Trends are as reported by carriers and have a conservative bias
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Local Governments Win Healthcare Awards

Three major awards were given out by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to major employers in Arizona for their outstanding efforts in providing healthcare and other employee benefits to their employees.  During the same event, gifts were donated by employees at their expense for the Toys for Tots Drive:

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The three major awards earned were:

Outstanding Achievements in Wellness 2012BALSZ School District.  This award goes to employers who focus on wellness programs for their employees and show marked improvement in costs and positive life outcomes as a result.

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Laurie Colter & Lisa Apley

Best Business Practices 2012The Town of Queen Creek .  This award is achieved by following all proscribed laws, accounting, financial practices and HIPAA requirements and having the most timely payments, documentation and fewest errors.

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Deb Davis and Nina Waters

Lowest Per Member Per Month Costs – Tolleson Elementary School District (TESD) – This award goes to the employer with the lowest claims costs on a per member per month basis.  This is usually do to a well-structured plan with a focus on wellness initiatives.  Much of this particular award is due to the last few years of conversion by TESD over to health savings accounts plans which allow their employees and families to keep unused funds each year in their account.

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Lisa Rafferty of Aon/Hewitt, Andrea Billings of VSEBT, and Darlene Kracht of VSEBT

 

Congratulations to these three employers for their outstanding achievements!

Healthcare Planning

In today’s healthcare market, with so many changes and the impacts of National Healthcare Reform unclear, it is important for every organization to have proper healthcare planning.  Unfortunately, for most employers, even larger ones, healthcare is something looked at only during renewal time.  Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) in conjunction with their consultant, Aon/Hewitt, provide annual healthcare planning sessions with the leaders of all their employer organizations.  These include the top executives and the human resource officials so that they can be informed at all times of where healthcare is going, and how to plan for it.  VSMG plans and implements for change on a regular basis for its members, but does not view that as enough.  “We need to make sure all our members stay informed of our efforts, understand the reason for staying ahead of the curve, and approve of the direction we are leading,” said Tom Boone, Chairman and CEO of VSMG.

Tom Boone, VSMG

Tom Boone, VSMG

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Attached here is one such document provided to their members to keep them informed of the ongoing processes at VSMG: