July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month

July 23rd, 2014

Juvenile arthritis buttonIf you are like many people in the United States, you’re probably unaware that arthritis does not just affect older people. July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month. Juvenile arthritis affects more children than juvenile diabetes and cystic fibrosis combined. Nearly 300,000 children nationwide have been diagnosed.

What is Juvenile Arthritis?

Juvenile arthritis is a disease in which there is inflammation of the synovium (tissue that lines the inside of the joints) in children aged 16 or younger. Juvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system attacks the body.

Researchers believe juvenile arthritis may be related to genetics, certain infections and environmental triggers. There are five types of juvenile arthritis:

  1. Systemic arthritis: This type can affect the entire body or involve many systems of the body. Systemic juvenile arthritis usually causes high fever and a rash. It can also affect internal organs, such as the heart, liver, spleen, and lymph nodes. Boys and girls are equally affected.
  2. Oligoarthritis: This type of arthritis affects fewer than five joints during the first six months that the child has the disease. The joints most commonly affected are the knee, ankle and wrist. Oligoarthritis can affect the eye, most often the iris. This type of arthritis is more common in girls than in boys, and typically children will outgrow the disease by the time they are adults.
  3. Polyarthritis: Involves five or more joints in the first six months of the disease, often the same joints on each side of the body. This type of arthritis can affect the joints in the jaw and neck as well as those in the hands and feet. Polyarthritis is also more common in girls than boys.
  4. Psoriatic arthritis: Affects children who have both arthritis and the skin disorder psoriasis. The child might get either psoriasis or arthritis years before he or she develops the other part of the disease.
  5. Enthesitis-related-arthritis: A type of arthritis that often affects the spine, hips, eyes, and enthuses (the place where tendons attach to the bones). This type of arthritis occurs mainly in boys older than eight years old.

Arthritis typically affects joints, but juvenile arthritis can involve the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal track as well.

Signs and Symptoms of Juvenile Arthritis

Juvenile arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses affecting children, yet it is often undetected or misdiagnosed when symptoms first appear. Symptoms of juvenile arthritis may include:

  • Altered growth of bone and joints leading to short stature
  • Damage to joint cartilage and bone leading to joint deformity and impaired use of the joint
  • Eye redness, eye pain and/or lost or blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Limping
  • Pain, swelling and tenderness in the joints
  • Persistent fever
  • Rash
  • Weight loss

Common signs of juvenile arthritis are:

  • Fevers: Frequent fevers accompanied by malaise or fatigue. Fevers may come on suddenly, even at the same time of day, and then dissipate after a short time. 
  • Pain: A child with juvenile arthritis may complain of pain right after he or she wakes up in the morning or after a nap. Knees, hands, feet, neck, or jaw joints may be painful. Pain may lessen as the child starts moving for the day.
  • Rashes: Faint pink rashes develop over the knuckles, across the cheeks and bridge of the nose, or on the trunk, arms, and legs.
  • Stiffness: A child with juvenile arthritis may have stiff joints, particularly in the morning. He or she may hold their arm or leg in the same position or limp.
  • Swelling: Swelling or redness on the skin around painful joints is a sign of inflammation. A child may complain that a joint feels hot or it may even be warm to the touch. A child’s swelling may persist for several days or come and go, and may affect the knees, hands, and feet. 

While there is no cure, medication can help to ease the child’s symptoms.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be aware of juvenile arthritis. While this disease may affect the lives of those who have it, it does not have to control them. IAA is happy to bring you health information. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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Health in the News: Diet Pills and Supplements May Hurt Your Kidneys

July 16th, 2014

PillsThe safest and most effective way to lose weight permanently is to eat less and exercise more, but Americans seem to crave rapid results. As a consequence, diet pills are a big business for drug manufacturers. Some however, are very unsafe and have been linked to kidney problems.

The Problem With Diet Pills and Supplements

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their manufacturers do not have to prove that they are safe to use, and ingredients can vary from one brand to the next.

Ephedra was once a common ingredient in diet pills because it increases your metabolic rate and causes you to burn more calories than you otherwise would. According to the National Institute of Health, among the side effects, ephedra is known to cause kidney stones.

Since ephedra has been shown to be dangerous, it's banned in the United States. However, diet pill manufacturers work hard to find ways to modify molecules like ephedra, producing similar--but not yet banned--molecules with similar effects and similar side effects.

There's a public perception that herbs and other alternative remedies to lose weight are safer than pharmaceutical drugs. Just because a substance is natural doesn't mean it's safe--some of the most toxic substances are known to occur naturally.

Some common concerns about herbal supplements are:

  • The FDA does not regulate supplements for dose, content or pureness
  • Some supplements have aristolochic acid, which is harmful to kidneys
  • Herbal supplements made in other countries may contain heavy metals
  • There are few studies to show if herbal supplements have real benefits and even less information in patients with kidney disease
  • Herbal supplements may interact with prescription medicines to either decrease or increase how the medicine works

If you are looking to lose weight, the best idea is to talk to your doctor for guidelines on how to do so in a healthy manner. You should always check with your doctor before taking any diet pills, regardless of whether it's prescription, over-the-counter or herbal.

Kidney Patients and Supplements

Not only are diet pills harmful to your kidneys, vitamins and other supplements can be harmful to kidney patients as well. Even a simple multivitamin can cause serious problems. The following substances which can be found in supplements, can be harmful to kidney patients:

  • Mineral risks-phosphorus: If phosphorus levels get too high, as they often do in kidney patients, the phosphorus starts to pull calcium from the bones. This reduces density and weakens bones. Dietary supplements that contain phosphorus can aggravate this problem.
  • Mineral risks-potassium: Healthy kidneys filter out excess potassium levels within a healthy range. As renal failure approaches, kidneys are less able to perform this critical function, so potassium levels can become elevated. Dietary supplements that contain potassium can aggravate this problem.
  • Vitamin risks: As renal function declines, the kidneys are less able to clear substances from the blood. Levels of A, E and K can become unnaturally high in patients with chronic kidney disease. Consequently, doctors do not recommend supplements with these vitamins.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to lose weight in a healthy way. A great way to lose weight is to start a wellness program at work. IAA's wellness programs are designed to keep employers and their employees in good health. If you are interested in learning more about IAA's wellness programs, please feel free to reach out! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more about your kidneys? Click here.

Supreme Court Overturns Contraceptive Mandate

July 9th, 2014

On Monday, June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that requiring family owned corporations to pay for contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) violated a federal law protecting religious freedom.  

 The Ruling

The contraceptive coverage requirement which was created under the ACA was challenged by two corporations whose owners say they run their businesses on Christian principles. The businesses are: Hobby Lobby, a chain of craft stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties, which makes wood cabinets.

The companies objected to covering certain forms of birth control, specifically drugs or procedures that aid in a termination of an unwanted pregnancy, such as intrauterine devices and Plan B, as to them it goes against their religious morals. The companies said they had no objection to some forms of contraception such as condoms, diaphragms, sponges, several types of birth control pills, and sterilization surgery.

The ruling was 5-4, with the court stating that the federal religious freedom law applied to "closely held" for-profit corporations run on religious principles. Closely held for-profit businesses are those with at least 50% of stock held by five or fewer people, such as family owned businesses.

According to the justices who voted in favor of Hobby Lobby, the ruling does not mean that employers can now say that they have religious objections to vaccines, blood transfusions or even paying taxes. The dissenting justices say this may not be the case. They are concerned that this ruling has opened the door to many challenges from corporations over laws that they claim violate their religious liberty. Many worry giving corporations religious freedom rights could affect laws on employment, safety and civil rights. 

What the Future Holds

This decision has set off a frenzied partisan debate over religious and reproductive rights that will continue through the November congressional elections and beyond. The ruling does not prevent affected individuals from purchasing the contraceptives at issue; it only gives the employer the ability to exclude the items from their employer sponsored insurance or self-insured plan.

The practical result of this ruling will likely be an administrative fix by the Obama administration that subsidizes the contraceptives at issue. A White House spokesman said the administration will work with Congress to ensure women affected by the ruling will continue to have contraceptive coverage.

It is important to note, even before the mandate under the ACA kicked in, nearly 90% of U.S. employers large and small, covered contraception. Only 12% had some type of limit on contraceptive coverage, according to a 2011 survey.

What IAA has to Say

The ACA has brought many changes and it is clear that things will continue to change as employers find these mandates do not work for their businesses. Insurance Administrator of America is here to help guide you on any changes that might occur due to the ACA. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more about this topic? Click here and here.

IAA Offers Affordable Care Solution Plans

July 2nd, 2014

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues to fluctuate with changes and delays. Within the current guidelines of the ACA, Insurance Administrator of America has developed multiple plan options to help employers meet the requirements of the law based on their particular employee needs and corporate budget. Many of the options below can stand-alone or be written together to provide more options for your employees' specific needs.


IAA's ACS Plans

IAA is now offering a myriad of Affordable Care Solution (ACS) plans that saves employers 25% to 50% of premium costs. These plans can help meet the needs of employees and fulfill employer obligations under the ACA:

  1. Platinum (IAA ACS National Network Plan): This plan option meets the minimum value requirement of the ACA.It also provides a greater level of reimbursement to the provider that,consequently, costs more to fund.This style of coverage can be tailored to meet an employer's need for more robust coverage and benefits.
  2. Gold (IAA ACS National EPO Network Plan): This plan option will meet the minimum value requirement of the ACA. This program option provides members with a robust provider network, but with a higher level of cost sharing and limits coverage to network participating providers. This plan, if priced properly for employees (no higher than 9.5% of an eligible employee's W-2, Box 1 income for single coverage) can meet the "affordability" requirement of the ACA.
  3. Silver (IAA ACS Regulated Payment Plan): This option will meet the ACA minimum value requirements. It provides the employer with a very affordable plan for employees on a limited budget. This program mitigates the employer's risk and cost by limiting provider payments to 100% of the Medicare payment levels. This plan, if priced properly, for employees, can meet the "affordability" requirement of the ACA.
  4. Bronze (IAA ACS Minimum Essential Coverage Plan):This preventative only coverage plan does not meet the ACA minimum value requirement. It can be offered with one of the above options as it meets the "minimum essential coverage" requirement of the ACA.

It is important to note that the above options do not preclude an employee from buying coverage on the federal or state healthcare exchanges.

Defining ACS Plan Options

Each ACS plan has its own specific coverage details:

  • ACS Platinum Plan provides:
  1. Employee and employer "Safe Harbor" for minimum value coverage
  2. In-network and out-of-network benefits
  3. Full prescription formulary
  4. PPO network
  5. Health Savings Account (HSA) eligible
  • ACS Gold EPO Plan provides:
  1. Employee and employer "Safe Harbor" for minimum value coverage
  2. In-network benefits
  3. Limited ACS prescription formulary
  4. PPO network
  • ACS Silver Plan provides:
  1. Employee and employer "Safe Harbor" for minimum value coverage and affordability
  2. In-network benefits
  3. Limited ACS prescription formulary
  4. No deductible, no copayments and no coinsurance
  5. Preventative services covered at 100%
  6. All other services paid at 100% of the Medicare Allowable
  • ACS Bronze Plan provides:
  1. Minimum Essential Coverage-in-network preventative care services only
  • ACS Guardian Accident and Critical Illness Gap Plan is an optional benefit that can be layered with any plan to fill in the coverage and comfort gap and provides:
  1. Accident and critical illness coverage
  2. Benefits that are paid directly to the employee to help offset any out-of-pocket expenses.

With the many changes that the ACA has brought about, it might be beneficial to the life of your business to learn more about the above options.

How IAA can Help

IAA is proud to bring you plan options that will benefit both employer and employee, as well as meet the ACA regulations. If you would like to learn more about the options you have read about or are interested in seeing which plan might suit the needs of your business, please do not hesitate to reach out. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in learning more about what IAA can do for you? Click here and here.

How Self-Funding can Help the Life of Your Business

June 25th, 2014

Insurance FolderAs a broker or employer, you may have heard the term "self-funded health plan" before, but were not exactly sure if it was something that would work for your business or broker client. The truth is, about 75% to 80% of people in employee benefit health plans are using self-funding. Insurance Administrator of America is here to let you in on why self-funding is working for a large majority of companies.

Why Employers Choose to Self-Fund

A self-funded plan is one in which the employer pays for each out-of-pocket claim as they are incurred instead of paying a fixed premium to an insurance carrier. There are numerous reasons why employers self-fund:

  1. The employer can customize the plan to meet the specific healthcare needs of their workforce, opposed to a "one-size-fits-all" insurance policy.
  2. The employer maintains control over the health plan reserves, enabling maximization of interest income, income that would otherwise be generated by an insurance carrier through the investment of premium dollars.
  3. The employer does not have to pre-pay for coverage, thereby providing improved cash flow.
  4. The employer is not subject to conflicting state health insurance regulations/benefit mandates, as self-funded plans are regulated under federal law.
  5. The employer is not subject to state health insurance premium taxes, which are generally two to three percent of the premium's dollar value.
  6. The employer is free to contract with the providers or provider network best suited to meet the needs of their employees.

Self-funding allows employers the broad flexibility to steer their money and coverage to things that will be the most beneficial to their workforce.

Self-Funded Plans Protect the Employer's Money

Self-funding allows for level funding--meaning any unspent money remains as plan assets to help pay for future costs. For instance, if the estimated plan costs for a business were $2,000 per month, but the plan only spent $1,000 in one particular month, the additional $1,000 would be transferred over to the following month, saving you from additional expenses. Wouldn't your broker client want to keep 100% of their savings?

Some business owners and brokers might be nervous about self-funding because claims costs are coming straight from the employer's pocket. What if something catastrophic should happen to an employee, how can the employer afford that? That is where stop-loss insurance comes in.

Stop-loss insurance is a secondary coverage system purchased to protect against unpredictable, excess or catastrophic claims. When stop-loss is present, the employer is liable for losses up to a certain limit. Any losses that exceed this limit or deductible are covered by stop-loss. There are two types of stop-loss coverage:

  1. Specific: Also known as individual stop-loss, this is a limit that protects the employer from a high claim on any one employee and/or dependent.
  2. Aggregate: This is the stop-loss sub-type that protects against abnormal frequency of claims, providing a ceiling on the dollar amount of expenses an employer is responsible for during the contract period.

When choosing a self-funded plan, business owners can protect their savings and create the best health plans for their employees.

Self-Funded Plans and Government Compliance

Just because a health plan is self-funded, it does not circumvent certain government mandates. In order to comply with government mandates, the majority of self-funded employee benefit plans use a professional third party administrator (TPA). TPAs are on the cutting edge of government compliance. TPAs spend about 40% of their time on government compliance for client plans.

As state exchanges and federal rules about plan requirements evolve over the coming years, insurance plans are expected to become more and more dictated and standardized. This means self-funding becomes one of the last options for custom designed, most bang for your buck, employee benefits.

How IAA can Help

IAA is here to help you create a customized self-funded employee benefit plan that will help the life of your business. For over 20 years IAA has been providing businesses with tailored health plans that save companies an average of 20% in healthcare costs annually. IAA's Level Funded Plans along with our Affordable Care Solution programs combat the high cost of the Affordable Care Act, thus providing our employer clients with flexibility and savings necessary to be competitive in today's market.

Please reach out to IAA to learn if self-funding is right for you or your broker client. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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