Monday, October 3, 2022

Compliance and Benefit News, October 3, 2022

Compliance Updates

CA Legislature Expands Pay Transparency and Data Reporting Requirements; Extends COVID Supplemental Paid Sick Leave - "If signed into law by Governor Newsom, the current amended version of SB 1162 would increase employers’ pay transparency obligations as follows: 1) upon request, all employers will be required to provide the pay scale (i.e., hourly rate or salary range) for the position in which the employee is currently employed; 2) employers will be required to maintain records of job title and wage rate history for all employees for the duration of employment plus three years; and 3) all employers with 15 or more employees will be required to disclose pay scales in all job postings.

SB 1162 also expands California employers’ current pay data reporting requirements, which were initially passed into law in 2020 as part of the nation’s first such state-imposed obligations. The current requirements mandate that private employers with 100 or more employees report annually the number of their employees by race, ethnicity, and sex in specified job categories to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (recently renamed the Civil Rights Department (CRD))."

California Slated to Usher in New Era of Pay Transparency in 2023: What California Employers Need to Know - "The Act expands pay data reporting to all California employers with 100 or more employees regardless of whether or not they are exempted from the EEO-1 filing requirement. The Act also significantly expands the types of pay information employers must report each year. The first deadline to report is the second Wednesday of May 2023 (May 10, 2023). Covered employers must now also provide the “median and mean hourly rate” within each job category (discussed above), for each combination of race, ethnicity, and sex."

Benefit News

The Cost Of Long COVID To Employers Is Skyrocketing -"two types of claims were sorted out: those labeled long COVID, and those attributed to diabetes. When the numbers were crunched, here’s what came up: Per-member employer spend on long COVID was on average $2,654.67, more than 26% higher than the average diabetic spend....The study also finds that long COVID patients reported a 3.6 times greater likelihood of missing work for medical reasons than plan members without the symptoms. ... [T]he average predicted cost of long COVID to patients is nearly $9,500 within the first six months following a diagnosis."

Segal Trend Survey, 7.4% Plan Increases in 2023 - "The projected annual cost trend for outpatient prescription drugs is expected to be approaching double-digit levels, the highest rate observed since 2015. Double-digit specialty Rx cost trend, mostly driven by price increases and new-to-market specialty drugs, continues to be a major driver of Rx cost trends. Survey respondents project per-person cost trends for open-access PPO/POS plans to be 7.4 percent."

Yet Another Reason to Look at Reference-Based-Pricing (another hidden cost shift against employers) - Employer plans pay an average of 224% of what Medicare pays for the same hospitalizations. This cost shift away from Medicare and onto employers has led to growth in employers moving away from traditional insurance and reverence-base-pricing their plans. I spoke about it with Armstrong and Getty in September here. And I wrote about it becoming a growing trend in the 2020s hereA new study now shows that the same hidden tax/cost shift is happing with Obamacare Exchange plans.

‘Gaming’ Of U.S. Patent System Is Keeping Drug Prices Sky High, Report Says - Four pharmaceutical companies have filed hundreds of patents to keep their drugs out of the hands of generic competition and prolong their “unprecedented profits,” according to a report published Thursday. The excessive use of the patent system — by drugmakers Bristol-Myers Squibb, AbbVie, Regeneron and Bayer — keeps the prices of the medications at exorbitant levels, often at the expense of American consumers, according to the report from the Initiative for Medicines, Access & Knowledge, or I-MAK, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug patent reform. ... The U.S. patent system is meant to reward innovation by permitting drug companies to sell new medications on the market and barring other manufacturers from making generic versions for a set period of time — usually 20 years. Once the patent expires, generics are allowed on the market, often at a lower list price than the brand-name drug. But drugmakers often extend their patents by making small tweaks to the drugs, sustaining their monopolies for several years. Legal experts refer to this tactic as “evergreening...”

Health care spending for mental health disorders increases between 2013 and 2020 -

  • Overall spending on mental health services increased from 6.8% to 8.2% between 2013 and 2020, according to a new study published by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).
  • The percentage of the population under the age of 65 with employment-based health coverage diagnosed with a mental health disorder increased from 14.2% in 2013 to 18.5% in 2020.
  • Among enrollees with a mental health diagnosis, average annual spending on mental health care services increased from $1,987 to $2,380 between 2013 and 2020 — an average of 3% per year.

Physician Burnout Has Reached Distressing Levels, New Research Finds - "Results released this month and published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, a peer-reviewed journal, show that 63 percent of physicians surveyed reported at least one symptom of burnout at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, an increase from 44 percent in 2017 and 46 percent in 2011. Only 30 percent felt satisfied with their work-life balance, compared with 43 percent five years earlier."

The perks that work to retain employees now - "Among employed adults, 56% say that the work schedule attracts them most in their current role ­— a factor valued more by women (61%) than men (51%). Almost half of the workers surveyed say that colleagues (48%), fair pay (46%), and work-life balance (43%) are most appealing, with 34% also appreciating their health benefits. In fact, 58% of Gen Z are attracted to their job because of colleagues and work friends, while men (52%) are more likely than women (39%) to be drawn to their job because they are paid fairly."

Health and Wellness

Antidepressants Work Better Than Sugar Pills Only 15 Percent of the Time - "Five years ago Mark Horowitz seemed an unlikely skeptic of psycho-pharmaceuticals. He had been taking the popular antidepressant Lexapro virtually every day for 15 years. He was so fascinated by the drugs that he spent three years hunched over a dish of human brain cells in a laboratory at King's College London, measuring the effect of human stress hormones and drugs like Prozac and Zoloft. Then, when he tried to wean himself off the medication, he suffered panic attacks, sleep disruptions, and depression so debilitating that he had to move back to his parents' house in Australia—symptoms that he says were far worse than anything he experienced prior to going on the drugs. He went online and found thousands of others in a similar pickle. They had been unable to kick one of the psychiatric drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, which include Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac, among others. Since withdrawal symptoms were thought to be mild and temporary, many of them, like him, had been told by doctors that they were experiencing a relapse of their depression. ..."

How to maintain peak brain health: Scientists say it comes down to these 3 factors - "The three identified keys to strong brain health are:

  1. Physical exercise
  2. Social activity
  3. Strong, passionate interests and hobbies

Simple, right? Let’s break down each factor a bit further. ..."

CDC no longer recommends universal masking in health facilities - "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer recommends universal masking in health care settings, unless the facilities are in areas of high COVID-19 transmission. The agency quietly issued the updates as part of an overhaul to its infection control guidance for health workers published late Friday afternoon [Sept. 23rd]. It marks a major departure from the agency’s previous recommendation for universal masking."

Being unhappy or lonely speeds up aging — even more than smoking - "Being unhappy or experiencing loneliness accelerates the aging process more than smoking, according to new research. An international team says unhappiness damages the body’s biological clock, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. The team reports that they detected aging acceleration among people with a history of stroke, liver and lung diseases, smoking, and in people with a vulnerable mental state. Interestingly, feeling hopeless, unhappy, and lonely displayed a connection to increasing a patient’s biological age more than the harmful impact of smoking."