The Wall Street Journal recently checked in with the CFO of Genesis Healthcare to see […]
Doug Shulman's shop is getting $500 million of the $1 billion set aside for implementing […]
I know of only one small business owner who has confidently added staff throughout the recession and that’s only because A) he’s really cocky (in the best way, of course) and B) he absolutely needed to in order to survive. Lucky for him he ended up in a fairly recession-proof business and in fact, the recession has been kind as it has driven all sorts of new business to him as the unemployed and jaded look for new career options. But he’s a fluke success and not all small business owners can say they’ve weathered the last two years as well as he has.
Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher and former St Louis Fed President William Poole both feel the hiring problem is based not on the fact that businesses can’t afford it but because business owners are too unsure of the regulatory environment to confidently add staff. I am going to have to agree with them on this one.
Said Fisher in a recent speech:
For some time now in internal discussions with my colleagues at the Fed, I have ascribed the economy’s slow growth pathology to what I call “random refereeing”—the current predilection of government to rewrite the rules in the middle of the game of recovery. Businesses and consumers are being confronted with so many potential changes in the taxes and regulations that govern their behavior that they are uncertain about how to proceed downfield. Awaiting clearer signals from the referees that are the nation’s fiscal authorities and regulators, they have gone into a defensive crouch.
Case in point, Obamacare’s insidious 1099 requirement that we’ve covered plenty up to this point and will continue to cover so long as it threatens to cripple businesses with unnecessary busywork. The House had a chance to kick the requirement in the balls last with with the Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Act (H.R.5141) but failed to pass it, leaving us right back where we were*.
Business owners – and small business owners in particular as they tend to have less capital and fewer chances to “warehouse” out their employee insurance needs in bulk – are understandably reluctant to plug more money into the economy if they are unsure as to how much it’s going to cost just to hire on new staff. Many businesses could hire at this point but have chosen not to simply because they have no idea what sort of financial impact hiring will have on them in the future once new rules are fully written out and implemented.
Seems a bit counterproductive when we’re trying to claw our way out a recession, doesn’t it?
*Full Disclosure: JDA is long Caterpillar at this point in anticipation of the number of bulldozers that will be required just to keep up with the 1099 goodness. How is this helping the economy heal again?
If you live or work in New York City you know how the subway can be both a blessing (when it runs on time) and a curse (when it doesn’t) or for reasons that on Wednesday became clear: fare hikes.
If you don’t live in New York you can appreciate why the agency responsible for public transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is having such a difficult time making ends meet. At the top of the list is compensation and benefits costs, which account for two-thirds of the MTA’s $12 billion operating budget for 2011.
The MTA says its health care costs are going up about 9 percent annually-which is actually in line with national increases. The challenge for a public agency of course is that it is locked into contracts with its heavily unionized workforce. Making changes is not easy.
The plan the MTA put forward Wednesday was to enter in what it called “net zero” contracts with its unions-contracts in which any raise would be “paid” for by givebacks in productivity, changes in work rules or increased contributions to health care benefits. The unions took exception to this proposal but no one doubts that the compensation structure of government employees needs to come in-line with their private sector counterparts. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, has made reforming this imbalance part of his platform.
Debt service aside (and the MTA’s debt service totals $1.8 billion this year, growing to $2.5 billion by 2014), the MTA, like so many government entities throughout the country, has long term health care challenges ahead. Its health care retirement obligation totals $1.4 billion growing to $1.7 billion by 2014. While the MTA continues to pay enough into its retiree health care fund to pay for its current retirees’ health care, the authority, citing this year’s cash-flow problems, will not pay $57 million this year into a fund for future obligations.
The Great Recession has helped bring the issue of government post-retirement obligations to light. As government revenues shrink and obligations grow, taxpayers sense an inherent injustice between their own grim retirement prospects and the assurances given to public sector workers. Subway service cuts and fare hikes are only meaningful if they address the long-term problems rather than enable government to deal with short term crisis.
Cuomo is banking on this public displeasure, as is the MTA. Next year the MTA’s contract with its largest union is up for renewal. The transit authority will be able to test whether it has public support for changing the way the state entity does business with unions. Bringing government into the 21st century by reducing health care and other post-retirement obligations will be good for taxpayers and for businesses, including those with heavily unionized workforces.
The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.
The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven’t received anything but believe your company may qualify, here’s what you should know:
The credit is available to companies with fewer than 25 employees with average wages of $50,000 or less. The full credit goes to companies with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000 or less. It is not available to self-employed individuals.
The credit covers 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employee health premiums, so long as that doesn’t exceed 35 percent of the average cost of a health plan in the small group market. For a tax-exempt organization, the credit is 25 percent. Once the health exchanges are set up, the credit increases to 50 percent for businesses and 35 percent for nonprofits. At that time, the credit will only be available to companies purchasing insurance through the exchange.
A company can use the credit to reduce income tax owed and can carry the credit forward 20 years or back one year after 2010. Nonprofits can use the credit against withholding and Medicare taxes owed on behalf of their employees.
A key caveat is that employers must pay for half of the premium. For most workers, especially low-wage employees, a company that does not pay for at least half the premium is offering insurance that is essentially unaffordable. Even 50 percent is most likely not enough to do low-wage workers much good, especially at small companies where health care premiums are more expensive.
The amount of the credit is based on the premiums an employer pays for, so the more generous the coverage, the greater the credit. While premiums paid for owners and their families cannot be counted, those paid for seasonal workers can be. And the IRS has defined “premiums” broadly: not only does it cover premiums for standard medical insurance but it also applies to dental, long-term care and vision insurance-though again, an employer must pay 50 percent of each premium to count it toward the credit.
Calculating the credit probably requires any small employer to consult an accountant to see if the benefits are worth the cost of providing insurance. The tax credit is in effect, allowing employers who are already thinking about health insurance for their employees to factor in the savings as they plan ahead.
As an observer, I think the key issue is whether the credit is enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance. Those costs have hit small employers the hardest. We’ll see if the tax credit makes a difference in reversing the trend among small employers of dropping health insurance for their employees altogether.
The employer-sponsored health care system provides health insurance to more than 60 million people–but it does not exist in a vacuum. Employers are often reminded of this fact when their health care costs go up each year. Factored into that cost increase are premiums employers pay to hospitals to help those institutions provide care to the uninsured.
Two years ago the actuarial firm Milliman put a price tag on this cost-shifting: employers pay an additional $1,115 more for a family of four’s health insurance to make up for this loss. That totals about $88 billion annually.
This cost-shifting is once again becoming an issue as the federal government looks to provide insurance to people who cannot otherwise get it because they are considered high-risk.
States have for years created high-risk pools to separate the people with especially high health care costs from the rest of the population. Normally these folks can’t get insurance. The high risk pool absorbs some of the cost to insurers.
Now the federal government is getting in on the action, in large part to address the issue that insurers regularly refuse to issue insurance to some people or they do so at rates that are prohibitively high.
A new analysis on so-called high risk insurance pools that the federal government will set up as soon as July as a result of health reform makes the point that the money allotted will run out much sooner than originally thought. Instead of covering as many as 7 million people who could qualify there will likely be enough money to cover about 200,000 annually. This is not surprising. The need is always greater; the funds always inadequate.
So what does this all mean for employers?
It appears one step removed. But, as employers know, the health care system is fragmented yet, in the end, someone – either the federal government or employers – ends up paying the cost. In the analysis, published by the Center for Studying Health System Change, the authors point out that states with high risk pools currently do not assess self-insured employer plans.
Under the federal law this will change. Employers will face an assessment. One possibility is that the assessment will have to go up in order to increase the amount of money in the pot. The other of course is to limit who can get access to the high risk pools.
It remains to be seen what kind of conflict this issue will provoke. Like many other aspects of the new health care reform, it has the potential to fade away or to metastasize into something problematic.
But one thing remains likely: costs will continue to go up. The question is who will pay for these costs? If these assessments are any sign, it will be insurers and self-insured employers.
Bill O’Reilly and Anthony Weiner Attempt to Have a Discussion About the IRS’ Role in Healthcare Enforcement
The whole thing is worth watching but 4:17 is where it starts getting awesome.
Did you count? Congressman Weiner was rendered silent for approximately 13 seconds!
Weiner: I’ll say that again – that are just lies.
Weiner: I’m answering the question, you’re making stuff up.
O’Reilly: Ask Wesley Snipes
Weiner gives the loudest SIGH we’ve ever heard around 4:30
Weiner: Watch this Bill, watch this.
O’Reilly: I asked you five times.
Best look given by each:
In dubious CFO news, Vincent Rubio, the former financial chief at Tustin Hospital and Medical Center, agreed to plead guilty yesterday for paying kickbacks to “marketers” who recruited homeless people from the Skid Row area of Los Angeles.
Rubio pleaded guilty to health care fraud and tax evasion; he was the fifth person to charged in the investigation that is still ongoing. He faces fifteen years in prison After the homeless people were treated, the hospital billed Medicare and Medi-Cal for unnecessary treatments.
The AP piece doesn’t have much to it so we’re got to wondering all sorts of things like: A) Who discovered this fraud? Was it — gasp — the auditors? B) what were these unnecessary treatments? We’re these displaced individuals getting checked for hernias or less intrusive procedures? C) how much was Medicare and Medi-Cal charged? Are we talking Madoff-esque numbers? D) When the homeless were finished up at the hospital did they strap them to a rickshaw and send them back out in the streets or did they try to help them for real?
We called the hospital to find out more and we were connected to a spokesperson, who told us that she could not comment on the matter. She informed us that our message would be relayed to the hospital’s President, James Young. At the time of posting, we had not heard back from him. We’ll update this post with any comment or further information.
Ex-hospital CFO pleads guilty in homeless scam [AP via SF Chronicle]
UPDATE Friday, February 12th: We received the press release from Pacific Health, the owner of the Hospital:
February 11, 2010
Pacific Health Corporation learned of the allegation that a third party made improper payments to Vince Rubio on November 30, 2006. Upon receipt of the allegation, Pacific Health Corporation contacted its outside counsel to investigate the allegation.
Within one day of the allegation being received, Pacific Health Corporation took employment action in the matter, placing Mr. Rubio on leave. Within one week, Pacific Health Corporation terminated the employment of Mr. Rubio.
After the completion of the its internal review and taking the employment action, Pacific Health reported the matter to law enforcement officials. That took place in early 2007.
A source at Deloitte let us know that at least one partner thought it was pretty kick ass that Uncle Dangle was providing healthcare coverage that basically amounts to an HMO:
I got off a call where a partner seemed pretty pleased w/ himself (read: the partnership). “100% Free Preventative Healthcare” was how it was termed. I’m not sure how it affects others, but frankly under my plan, there wasn’t a difference. Just thought it was funny that a big-deal was made of it when the difference was non-existent.
More, after the jump
Text from Deloittenet:
Deloitte’s Total Rewards team worked with our national medical plans to offer 100 percent coverage of in-network preventive care to all of our program participants as of January 1, 2009. This care applies to well-man, woman, and child visits, including lab tests and other preventive screenings. With such a generous preventive care benefit in place, there is no longer a need for the Physical Exam Reimbursement Policies (Administrative Policy Release 465 for partners, principals and directors and Administrative Policy Release 266 for senior managers and managers).
By using an in-network provider through one of Deloitte’s national medical plans, you are able to receive important preventive health care benefits at no cost. A detailed description of the preventive care benefits available through each of the plans is available on DeloitteNet.
Thanks for the notification D. Save us all the trouble and just call it an HMO. It’s certainly arguable that HMOs have been shown to increase wellness but why the hell didn’t they just claim to have invented the Internet?