Emergency Room vs. Urgent Care

Overview

One of the most consistent goals we see among our clients is to save their employees money when it comes to healthcare. Although premiums are the most obvious place to look at controlling cost, there are others. We’ve posted a quick guide to saving on costs before. But now, we thought it was time to take a more in-depth look at strategies. The first of these important strategies is to choose your provider wisely. Often, when choosing where to go, people choose the emergency room over urgent care clinics. There are many reasons for this. One of the major reasons people choose the ER over urgent care is because they aren’t familiar with the difference between the two. This can result in large medical bills for non-life-threatening conditions. Making the right decision about where to go can not only save you time, it can save you money too.

The Emergency Room

When choosing between the ER and Urgent Care, severity of the illness or injury is the most important factor. If experiencing a potentially life-threatening event (severe chest pains, spinal injuries, severe burns, seizures, etc) the ER is right place to go. ER doctors treat patients according to the severity of their injuries. This means that those with less severe injuries tend to wait longer as patients with more critical injuries or illnesses are treated first. A visit to the ER typically costs around $1,400, given the tests and care provided.

Urgent Care

In contrast, Urgent Care clinics exist to provide care for injuries and illnesses that are not life-threatening (such as sprains, fever, infection, dehydration, etc). These clinics take patients as they come. A trip to Urgent Care is also usually much cheaper than a trip to the ER. A visit to Urgent Care tends to cost around $200. Like most ER’s, Urgent Care clinics are usually open seven days a week. They are also usually open longer than normal business hours. Urgent Care exists for those times when your doctor’s office is closed, or you can’t wait for an appointment. They’re a great resource that are significantly cheaper than an ER visit.

Conclusion: When to Go Where

When your primary doctor isn’t available or you’re experiencing life-threatening symptoms, it’s important to know where to go. If your illness or injury is non-life threatening, an Urgent Care clinic is probably your best option. These areas are staffed with doctors and nurses who can treat and diagnose your injury or illness. Urgent Care clinics are cheaper, faster, and provide quality care. For times when you experience a life threatening injury, the ER is the best option. ER’s are staffed 24/7, and have access to the best specialized care. In cases where treatment means the difference between life and death, the ER is best option.

The next time you experience an injury or illness and need care, make sure you make the right choice. You know you body. If you think your injury or illness is life-threatening, don’t hesitate to dial 911 and get to the emergency room. In other cases, when you need care urgently for a non-life threatening injury or illness, try and head to an Urgent Care clinic. It’ll save you money over and ER visit, and if the doctor’s there decide you need emergency care, they can get you there fast.

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Changes to Overtime Laws

Overview: Overtime Changes

Earlier this month, Congress passed a law that will change how employers handle overtime. The Working Families Flexibility Act makes changes to overtime compensation. Although not yet passed by the Senate, we know the details of the bill, and how it could impact you. The new law focuses on private employers. It amends the legal requirements for compensating employees. Now, rather than allowing for overtime pay only, the new bill allows employers to provide compensation  in the form of paid time off. If the bill becomes law, it will mean employers will have new options for handling their employees’ overtime.

What are the details?

Currently, the law requires employers to compensate employees who work overtime in the form of overtime wages. The new bill would change the requirements, allowing employers the option to give overtime compensation either as wages or as paid time off. The new bill sets the ratio for paid time off as 1.5 hours of paid time off for every 1 hour worked. Further restrictions for this new compensation exist. An employee would have to have worked a total of over 1,000 hours, and been employed for at least 12 months to be eligible. Both employees and the employer would also have to agree to this compensation. Employers also can’t coerce employees into such an agreement. Finally, employees must use any time off accrued by the end of the year. At the end of the year, the employer must pay the employee for the balance of time.

What do you need to do?

Currently, the Working Families Flexibility Act is not law. It still needs to go to the Senate for debate and approval. If the bill does become law, it means that private employers may need to rethink their current policies. Benefits packages are an important way to attract and maintain employees. Your overtime policy is another part of your benefit package. If you have questions about how the new bill, or other questions regarding you benefits package, please reach out to us. We can be reached by phone at 612-492-9320, or by email at info@morganplan.com.

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HSA Limits for 2018 Announced

HSA Limits: Overview

On May 5th, the IRS released its new inflation adjusted contribution limits for HSA’s. HSA limits are the total amount an individual or family can contribute to their HSA’s. Both individuals and families are eligible for HSA’s, but the contribution limits differ. Every year, the IRS releases new limits based on inflation calculations. Because of the nature of the HSA’s, these new limits are an attempt to make sure that HSA’s remain viable and keep pace with inflation. Because of the tax-deferred nature of the HSA’s, these limits exist so that individuals do not abuse the HSA. As always, HSA funds must be used to cover qualified medical expenses. Further, alongside the increase to HSA contribution limits are increases to minimum deductibles on high-deductible health plans and out-pocket-maximums.

2018 HSA Limits

For 2018, the new contribution limits are as follows. Those who are enrolled in individual plan are able to contribute up to $3,450 to their HSA, while those who are enrolled in family plans can contribute up to $6,900. Those who are over the age of 55 are still able to make catch-up contributions of up to $1,000 per year. There is no inflation adjustment for these catch-up contributions. They have not changed since the first HSA’s.

HDHP Adjustments

Starting in 2018, HDHP plans have new guidelines. The minimum deductible for an HDHP is now $1,350 for individual plans and $2,700 for family plans. The deductible on the HSA is the amount of money that a covered individual must pay out of pocket before the insurance covers the costs. Along with this increase, out-of-pocket maximums for HDHP plans have increased. For 2018, the individual out of pocket maximum is now $6,650. For families, it is $13,300. This is the maximum amount of money that the covered individual can pay for medical expenses per year. These adjustments are effective on all plans starting January 1st, 2018.

Conclusion

New HSA limits are a regular aspect of the changing health care industry. If the ACA stays in place, we can expect new limits yearly. Because of this, we recommend keeping on eye on current legislation that may change this. We have written about the new health care bill here. As always, if you have questions please shoot us a message at info@morganplan.com, or call us at 612-492-9320.

 

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How to Manage Health Care Costs: A Quick Guide

Overview: Health Care Costs

Rising health care costs have become an increasingly important concern for many Americans. Although Congress has tried to address these concerns with recent legislation (see our recent post about it here), premiums are unlikely to fall soon. Further, other associated costs can drive bills even higher. For the average American, a health crisis has become an expensive prospect. There are ways to take charge of your health care costs, however. We’ve compiled some of our easiest and best tips to help you manage your health care costs so that a crisis doesn’t hit your bank account too hard.

1: Use in Network Providers

One of the ways in which health insurance companies try to keep costs down is the creation of provider networks. These networks are a group of providers who agree to contract with the carrier, and charge set costs for procedures. This way, the carrier is able to ensure that high cost claims are regularly made. By visiting doctors and specialists who are in network, your costs will be lower than if you see an out of network provider. Health insurance plans also offer lower out-of-pocket maximums when visiting an in-network provider. Thus, a little research as to which providers are in-network can save you a lot of money.

2: Keep your Prescription Costs Low

Prescription medications can be one of the most expensive aspects of an individual’s health care costs. However, there are ways to make sure that your prescriptions don’t break the bank. First, it is important to ask your doctor when they write you a prescription if there are generic alternatives. Many doctors will write a prescription for name brand medications. Pharmacies will often have generics available, but the doctor must prescribe it. Next, it is important to shop for pharmacies. The closest pharmacy may not be the best. Others in the area may have different prescriptions at a lower price. Before you fill a prescription, make sure you’re getting the best price you can. Finally, there are many discount programs available. By taking advantage of these, you can see savings of over 10%. Make sure you check with your carrier, provider, and pharmacy to see if such programs exist.

3: Keep up on Preventative Care

One of the easiest ways to keep your health care costs low is to actively practice prevention. Eating healthier, getting regular exercise, and leading a healthy lifestyle can be great contributors in driving health care costs down. Having your doctor run preventive screenings can also be an easy way to catch problems before they become expensive. Many health plans cover preventive services at 100%. Many insurance carriers also incentivize their clients practicing preventive lifestyles. For example, most carriers provide a discount on health insurance premiums if the client works out a gym more than 8 times a month.

4: Don’t be afraid to negotiate

Many people simply take the bills that they have and pay them without question. However, it is often worthwhile to see if you can negotiate a lower price for the services provided. Although not a guarantee, it cannot hurt to try. Further, if you are referred to a specialist that you find out is out of network, contact your insurance carrier and explain the situation. If there are no other options and the specialist is necessary, insurance carriers are often willing to work with you to pay in-network rates. It also helps to have an idea of how much most standard procedures cost. Doing a little research on the websites of major carriers can give you leverage if you need to negotiate.

Conclusion

Hopefully, with these tips in hand, you’ll be able to begin the process of cutting down your medical expenses. It’s not always easy, but as always, we’re here to help. If you have any questions about the health care market, or if you’d like some assistance selecting plans, answering questions, or establishing group or individual coverage, please reach out to us. We can be reached by email at info@morganplan.com or by phone at 612-492-9320.

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