Daily Insurance Report - July, 21 2023

Your summary of the Voluntary and Healthcare Industry’s most relevant and breaking news; brought to you by the Voluntary Benefits Association®

3 talent acquisition and retention strategies to address evolving employee expectations

By Dave Barnett - Organizations nationwide have been racing to attract and retain top talent in a highly competitive labor market. Many employers have replaced legacy talent acquisition and retention strategies with approaches that reflect the evolved needs and heightened expectations of employees. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Strengthen teams through diverse hiring practices: In today's labor market, diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial factors that impact job candidates' decisions. Recent research indicates that the majority of candidates actively seek careers in companies with diverse workforces. Employers can prioritize diversity by incorporating and communicating DEI practices during the recruitment process. By doing so, organizations can benefit from a greater diversity of thought, leading to improved performance, enhanced recruitment potential, and increased employee retention.

    An example of this approach is demonstrated at DeVry University, where talent acquisition professionals are required to be certified in diverse recruitment practices. They use specific methodologies to ensure that they attract and consider a diverse pool of candidates to reflect the diverse student population.

  2. Create strong alignment in values to beget retention: Employee values play a significant role in job satisfaction and retention. Employers can attract talent that aligns with the organization's mission by making their values known upfront. One effective method is equipping interviewers with questions directly related to specific values to assess a candidate's fit for the role and cultural compatibility.

    When company values align with employee values, it fosters a shared sense of purpose and collective focus. This alignment becomes a strong differentiator, enhancing retention by fostering personal connections and providing a clear pathway to achieving objectives.

  3. Value employees as whole people: To thrive in the modern labor market, organizations should treat employees as individuals with complex lives and needs. Offering opportunities for work/life integration and providing holistic well-being benefits can help attract and retain talent. Employees increasingly seek to be supported and valued for the complexity they manage both at work and in their personal lives. Traditional HR approaches that demand strict separation between work and personal life are being replaced with more comprehensive and empathetic strategies.

    DeVry University's focused strategy to recognize the complexity of each individual has resulted in 94% of colleagues feeling treated as whole people, not just employees.

    By implementing these three foundational strategies - prioritizing diversity, aligning employee and organizational values, and valuing employees as whole people - employers can navigate the new labor market and positively impact their talent pipeline, fostering a diverse, engaged, and loyal workforce.

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It’s mark-up day for health care bills in the House

By Ben Leonard and Daniel Payne - The House Energy and Commerce Committee is set to mark up 15 health care bills today. The bills include legislation that would permanently allow telehealth to be a standalone benefit, a sweeping pandemic preparedness package and the reauthorization of the SUPPORT Act, which tackles the opioid epidemic. Lawmakers will also consider a measure that would require the CDC director to be Senate confirmed sooner than is currently required — lawmakers passed legislation last year requiring confirmation in 2025. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Reauthorization of the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA): Senate HELP Chair Bernie Sanders and ranking member Bill Cassidy reached a deal to reauthorize PAHPA ahead of a Thursday markup. The agreement includes provisions aimed at preventing drug shortages and a five-year reauthorization of the FDA's priority review voucher program for drugs developed to combat specific biological, chemical, radiologic, or nuclear threats.

  2. Controversy over Drug Shortages: E&C Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers has argued that PAHPA is not the appropriate legislation to address drug shortages, but Democrats are adamant about including such provisions. Rodgers has requested information on how to tackle the shortages while Democrats have accused Republicans of moving the bill in a partisan manner.

  3. Other Key Legislation and Expectations: The article highlights other key legislation, including one related to telehealth, which would permanently allow employers to offer telehealth as a tax-free benefit. The bill has faced some opposition from Democrats who fear it may undermine comprehensive coverage. Additionally, the article mentions the CDC director's appointment and funding for opioid recovery programs, with Democrats expressing disappointment over the exclusion of legislation to expand Medicaid access for those recently released from prison.

Estée Lauder hit by cyberattack, some business operations affected

The MAC Cosmetics owner was working to restore the affected systems and had implemented measures to secure its operations, including taking down some of its systems to mitigate the incident, the company said in a statement. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Estée Lauder's Data Breach: Estée Lauder, the renowned cosmetics company that also owns brands like Bobbi Brown and Tom Ford Beauty, has suffered a data breach. While the company did not disclose specific details about the breach's impact on its operations, it has expressed its commitment to understanding the nature and scope of the compromised data.

  2. Challenging Sales Forecast: The data breach incident comes at a critical juncture for Estée Lauder as the company had recently projected weaker sales and profit figures for the year than previously anticipated. The company attributed this to a slow recovery in duty-free and travel destinations, particularly in Asia.

  3. Increasing Incidence of Data Breaches: The data breach at Estée Lauder is part of a larger trend of data breaches affecting U.S.-listed companies in recent times. Several well-known companies, including Take-Two Interactive Software, Uber, and T-Mobile, have faced cyber attacks, leading to the exposure of sensitive data and other cybersecurity incidents. This highlights the growing importance of robust cybersecurity measures for businesses across various industries.

Employers play important role in enhancing health span of workers, report finds

By Alan Goforth - The lifespan of the average American is nearly 78 years. However, most live just 66 of those years in good health, according to research from Deloitte’s Health and Life Actuarial teams. “All Americans could potentially live up to 95% of their years in good health and live to be nearly 90 years old,” the study found. “Not only can people of all ages gain more years and more healthy years, but we could spend less on health care in the process.” Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Understanding the Difference: The report highlights the distinction between lifespan and health span. Life span refers to the average expected number of years between birth and death, while health span represents the average number of healthy years within that lifespan. By recognizing and emphasizing the importance of health span, individuals and organizations can focus on promoting overall well-being and quality of life, rather than solely extending life expectancy.

  2. The Role of Employers in Promoting Health: The report suggests that employers can play a pivotal role in driving positive change towards living healthier years and spending less on healthcare. By taking a proactive approach, employers can contribute to improved worker health through various means. This includes providing improved access, benefits, and support for physical and mental health care services through digital tools and expanded networks, as well as investing in prevention, screenings, and care at home as fundamental and integrated parts of the care delivery system.

  3. Business Case for Leading a Health-Span Movement: Beyond the health benefits, the report emphasizes a competitive advantage and business case for employers to lead the health-span movement. Employers should think beyond their traditional role of offering health insurance and consider broader health needs, extending to the communities where their employees live. This involves investing in workforce initiatives, such as mental health support, improving health literacy, encouraging financial literacy and wealth management, and promoting healthy habits through preventive and wellness programs. Creating a healthy and positive work environment leads to increased employee productivity, retention, and overall business success.

The potential impact of employer-driven efforts is substantial, with projections indicating that lifespan in the United States could increase by an average of 12 years and health span by an average of 19.4 years by 2040, leading to longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives for individuals and communities.

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The Kraft Heinz Lawsuit Against Aetna Is the ‘Tip of the Iceberg’

By Marissa Plescia - Kraft Heinz recently sued Aetna, claiming that the insurer is not providing all of Kraft Heinz's medical claims data. More lawsuits of this sort are likely to come, experts warned. Kraft Heinz’s recent lawsuit against Aetna is just an indication of what’s to come in the relationship between self-funded employers and their third-party administrators. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 and Employer Responsibilities: The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 has empowered self-funded employers with better access to claims data, emphasizing their fiduciary responsibility to provide the best medical benefits to their employees at the best price. The law prohibits employers from entering agreements with third-party service providers or network carriers that limit access to their own de-identified claims data. Employers are now obligated to ensure they are not party to such agreements and must prudently manage their plan assets based on the claims data they possess.

  2. Allegations Against Aetna and Other Payers: Kraft Heinz, among other organizations like Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 1 Fund and Sheet Metal Workers Local 40 Fund, has filed a lawsuit against Aetna for alleged noncompliance with the law. The lawsuit claims that Aetna withheld crucial medical claims data, preventing Kraft Heinz from assessing Aetna's handling of their plan funds and payment integrity. The dispute isn't just about access to data; Kraft Heinz also accuses Aetna of making erroneous payments to providers, retaining undisclosed fees, and engaging in claims-processing misconduct detrimental to Kraft Heinz.

  3. Employer Action to Ensure Compliance and Avoid Lawsuits: To mitigate the risk of being sued by their employees for failing to fulfill their fiduciary responsibilities, employers must take specific actions. First, they should conduct a thorough review of their advisors, including consultants, brokers, third-party administrators (TPAs), and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), to identify any potential conflicts of interest. Employers should then establish a fiduciary committee to scrutinize health plan spending and contracts, enabling them to make informed decisions based on accurate data. Ignoring these steps could expose employers to legal repercussions and lawsuits from employees dissatisfied with their health plan management.

Big "I" apologizes for remarks during CEO's talk with Fox News host

By Gia Snape - The Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (The Big “I”) has issued an apology for what it calls an “unfortunate interview segment” between its president and CEO Bob Rusbuldt and Fox News host Jesse Watters in April. The interview was held during the legislative conference. According to a CNN report, Watters, who has a history of making offensive jokes, made a crude comment questioning the gender of Vice President Kamala Harris. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Incident at the Annual Conference: During a diversity-focused luncheon at The Big "I" (Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America) annual conference, a controversial remark made by the organization's CEO, Mr. Rusbuldt, prompted backlash and walkouts from some audience members. The specific content of his remarks wasn't reported, but it was highlighted that The Big "I" does not support racist, sexist, or homophobic behavior.

  2. Fallout and Action Taken: In response to the negative reaction and public criticism, The Big "I" quickly addressed the situation by relieving Mr. Rusbuldt of his operational duties immediately, ahead of his scheduled retirement in September. The association made it clear that they do not condone his statements and took full responsibility for the hurt and discomfort experienced by members, partners, and staff.

  3. Apologies and Denials: Following the incident, Mr. Rusbuldt issued an apology to those present at the diversity-focused luncheon. On the other hand, Fox News' commentator, Mr. Watters, who participated in an unscripted Q&A session at the event, had no recollection of the events and claimed that the session was well received, with executives thanking him and presenting him with an award. However, the organization clarified that Watters did not receive any further communication from them or his speaking agent after the event.

FDA Approves BioMarin Pharma’s Gene Therapy, the First for Hemophilia A

By Frank Vinluan - A one-time BioMarin Pharmaceutical treatment that fixes the problem at the root of hemophilia A has finally won FDA approval, making it the first gene therapy authorized for the inherited bleeding disorder. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. FDA Approval of Roctavian: The gene therapy, Roctavian, developed by BioMarin, has received regulatory approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of severe hemophilia A in adults. This therapy offers an innovative approach to address the inherited deficiency of factor VIII, a clotting protein, in patients with hemophilia A, making them more susceptible to painful and spontaneous bleeding episodes.

  2. Unique Offering and Pricing: BioMarin has set the wholesale price for Roctavian at $2.9 million. However, the company is going beyond conventional pricing strategies by introducing a warranty program. Under this program, BioMarin assures the hemophilia community and insurance companies that they will reimburse the full price of the therapy if a patient's disease does not respond to the treatment. This warranty covers a period of four years after the initial administration of Roctavian, and it will be available to all U.S. insurers, both public and private.

  3. Clinical Efficacy and Safety: The approval of Roctavian is based on a Phase 3 study that demonstrated significant positive results. Following dosing with Roctavian, patients experienced a 52% decline in the annualized bleeding rate compared to baseline, indicating a substantial reduction in bleeding episodes. Furthermore, the gene therapy led to a 96.8% reduction in overall factor VIII usage compared to baseline, showcasing its potential to significantly improve patients' quality of life. However, some common adverse reactions were observed, such as nausea, fatigue, and headache. Additionally, laboratory testing showed higher levels of liver enzymes, which can be addressed with corticosteroids, prompting the need for regular monitoring and management of any associated adverse effects.

In summary, Roctavian's FDA approval marks a significant milestone in gene therapy for hemophilia A and provides hope for improved outcomes for patients with this rare bleeding disorder. The innovative warranty program and competitive pricing approach demonstrate BioMarin's commitment to ensuring the therapy's effectiveness and accessibility to the hemophilia community. However, patients and healthcare providers should be vigilant in monitoring for potential adverse effects and managing liver enzyme levels during the treatment.