Daily Insurance Report - June 28, 2023

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

Auto Insurance Customers Want to Hear about Life Insurance From Their Agents

By LIMRA - Auto insurance is legally required for almost every U.S. driver. Yet many auto insurance customers aren’t aware that the same companies that provide their auto insurance also offer life insurance. New LIMRA research highlights the untapped potential for multi-line carriers to cross-sell life insurance to both prospective and existing customers. Where available, less than half of auto insurance policyholders (45%) are aware that their auto insurer offers life insurance, and even fewer (31%) recall discussing it with the company or an agent. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Customer Expectations: A significant percentage of car insurance customers (43%) believe that their auto insurance company should discuss their life insurance needs with them. This expectation increases among multi-line customers (those with auto, home, and life insurance) to nearly 7 in 10. Multi-line customers are more convinced of auto agents' knowledge and competency regarding life insurance compared to customers who haven't discussed the product (64% vs. 24%).

  2. Loyalty and Relationship Expansion: Multi-line customers, who have a broader insurance relationship with a company, tend to exhibit higher levels of loyalty. They are more likely to stay with the same auto insurer for more than five years compared to customers with only an auto insurance policy. The study suggests that multi-line customers have a "stickier" nature and value the expertise and convenience of interacting with financial professionals.

  3. Overcoming Obstacles: The perceived cost of life insurance is the primary obstacle preventing consumers from purchasing coverage. However, multi-line customers are more likely to value a company's reputation, product offerings, and agent accessibility, indicating that they may be more receptive to the idea of cross-selling life insurance. By opening up conversations about life insurance, agents and insurers can not only drive business growth but also help more consumers obtain the coverage they need for their loved ones' financial security.

    Overall, the article highlights the potential benefits of cross-selling life insurance to auto insurance customers, especially multi-line customers, who have higher expectations, exhibit loyalty, and may be more open to purchasing life insurance.

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Biden’s drug price controls are disastrous — are they also unconstitutional?

By Joe Grogan - As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prepare to implement the Inflation Reduction Act’s price controls for prescription drugs, the agency has been hit with lawsuits from both Merck and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce alleging violation of their constitutional rights. While we cannot know whether these challenges will prevail, the effects of this law on patients are easily predictable: higher launch prices, fewer cures and worse health. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are facing lawsuits from both Merck and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as they prepare to implement the Inflation Reduction Act's price controls for prescription drugs. The effects of this law are expected to lead to higher launch prices, fewer cures, and poorer health outcomes for patients​1​.

  2. The lawsuits argue that the law violates the Fifth Amendment's "Takings Clause" and the First Amendment's "Free Speech Clause." Merck, for instance, claims that the law forces them to certify they have negotiated a "fair price" (thus echoing the government's preferred message) while preventing them from revealing the details of their negotiations with CMS. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce echoes these arguments and adds that the law violates the principle of separation of powers due to its lack of clarity on how CMS should set prices and how much weight should be given to the information it collects. The Chamber also argues that the law's penalties for noncompliance, which can reach up to 1,900 percent of the drug's total revenues per day, violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on excessive fines​1​.

  3. Regardless of the outcomes of these lawsuits, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) has already proven to be disastrous. Companies are terminating research programs to develop new treatments even before CMS has announced which drugs will be the first to be negotiated under the law. For instance, Novartis cited the IRA as the reason for discontinuing some early-stage cancer research programs. As more drugs are added to the negotiation list each year, the pace of such cancellations is expected to increase. Tom Phillipson, an economist from the University of Chicago, suggests that as many as 135 potential cures for diseases may be lost due to the law. The economic calculations, particularly for small molecule drugs that will enter negotiation more rapidly than biologics, simply do not make sense​1​. The lawsuits ultimately expose the law's significant failure: its unconstitutionality​1​.

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First International Opioid Deprescribing Guidelines Published

By Cindy Perlin, LCSW - The University of Sydney in Australia recently worked with international experts and consumers to develop the first ever guidelines for opioid deprescribing which aim to minimize harm from inappropriate and abrupt discontinuation while maximizing benefits of reducing opioids for appropriate patients. The guidelines emphasize individualized treatment planning and shared decision-making. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Australian and international experts have released 11 recommendations to guide clinicians on when, how, and in what situation it may be appropriate to reduce opioid use. They recommend placing the patient at the center of the treatment plan and developing personalized deprescribing plans from the start for any patient being prescribed opioids. The guidelines advise against abruptly stopping opioid treatment without gradually reducing the dose or transitioning to different treatments, as this could increase the risk of withdrawal symptoms and overdose-related harms​1​.

  2. The guidelines also advise clinicians not to deprescribe opioids for people nearing the end of their life unless there are side effects. These guidelines, titled "Evidence-based Guidelines for Deprescribing Opioid Analgesics," are the first international guidelines focused on helping general practitioners to safely reduce opioid use for adults with pain, aiming to improve the quality of care for patients. The guidelines were led by a diverse team of experts, including general practitioners, pain specialists, addiction specialists, pharmacists, registered nurses, consumers, and physiotherapists​1​.

  3. The guidelines emphasize the importance of shared decision-making and ensuring that patients have ways to manage their pain when a deprescribing plan is being discussed. There's a recognition of the complexity involved in reducing the dose or discontinuing opioids, especially for specific communities, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. The guidelines advocate for the need for specific resources for these communities to seek advice from healthcare professionals and be actively involved in decisions. The overall goal is to reduce the number of individuals at risk of harm from long-term opioid use, which is expected to have broad societal benefits​1​.

Insomnia linked to up to 51 percent higher risk of strokes

By Linda Searing - People suffering from insomnia may have as much as a 51 percent greater chance of having a stroke than those who do not have trouble sleeping, according to a study published in the journal Neurology. For nearly a decade, the study tracked 31,126 people, age 61 on average and with no history of stroke at the start of the study. In that time, 2,101 strokes were recorded. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Increased Risk of Stroke: People suffering from insomnia may have a 51 percent higher chance of experiencing a stroke compared to those without sleep difficulties. The study, which tracked over 31,000 individuals for nearly a decade, found a significant correlation between insomnia symptoms and stroke occurrence.

  2. Symptom Severity and Risk: The degree of risk for stroke was found to be directly related to the number of insomnia symptoms experienced. Participants with one to four symptoms had a 16 percent higher likelihood of having a stroke, while those with five to eight symptoms had a 51 percent increased risk. This connection was particularly pronounced among participants under the age of 50.

  3. Implications for Prevention: While the study did not establish a causal relationship between insomnia and stroke, it identified insomnia symptoms as a risk factor for stroke. The researchers suggest that increased awareness and management of insomnia symptoms could contribute to preventing strokes. Treating insomnia typically involves lifestyle changes to address underlying causes, along with therapy or medication when necessary.

Georgetown University Survey Finds 65% of Young Adults Highlight Paid Time Off as the Top Benefit for Choosing an Employer

By Georgetown University McDonough School of Business - A survey conducted by Georgetown University, in partnership with Bank of America, found that young adults looking to change job/fields cite paid time off (65%) and a flexible work schedule (58%) among the top benefits impacting their choice of an employer. In addition, 73% of young adults want benefits that can travel with them if they change jobs. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. A survey conducted by Georgetown University and Bank of America found that 65% of young adults looking to change jobs or fields prioritized paid time off as a top benefit impacting their choice of an employer. This was closely followed by a desire for a flexible work schedule, which was highlighted by 58% of the respondents. Importantly, 73% of young adults expressed a preference for benefits that would remain with them even if they were to change jobs​1​.

  2. The survey, known as the Young Adults and Workplace Wellness Survey, examined the attitudes and priorities of 1,032 Gen Z and younger millennials (ages 24-35) as they return to the office. The study revealed that a flexible work schedule and a greater work-life balance were critical to workplace wellness for young adults. However, it also highlighted several challenges, including financial struggles with 44% of young adults indicating they have outstanding student loans or consumer debt. The survey further noted that young adults' ties to their work are not strong, with 68% viewing their work mainly as a way to make a living but not as a significant part of their identity or personal fulfillment​1​.

  3. The study uncovered differences in workplace benefit participation and priorities among different young adult demographic groups. For instance, participation in employer-offered retirement plans and health insurance varied among white, Hispanic/Latino, and Black/African American young adults. The survey also found gender differences, with 54% of female young adults indicating that a more flexible work schedule or environment is a significant factor in considering a new employer, compared to 44% of male young adults. These findings emphasize the importance of employers considering the diverse needs and priorities of different demographic groups within the same generation when designing their workplace policies and benefits​1

ArmadaCare in the News: How to make the business case for employee well-being programs

By ArmadaCare - Are your employees stressed? They’re not alone. Eighty-four percent of employees have experienced at least one mental health challenge this year. Stress is normal, whether it’s related to work, life or balancing both. But ongoing high stress can have serious consequences that underscore the business case for effective well-being support. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Employee well-being is not just a people priority, but also a business one. With 59% of employees saying their struggles affect them at work, 71% of employers saying worsening employee mental health is affecting company financial performance, and 75% of employees admitting to suffering from burnout, it's clear that employees who are struggling are twice as likely to leave their jobs​1​.

  2. To effectively support whole-person health, organizations can take several steps. These include focusing on education to reduce the stigma around seeking care, creating a company culture that prioritizes employee well-being, and removing barriers to care by providing employees with the benefits they need. An understanding of mental health's ups and downs and the provision of confidential, effective resources tailored to individual needs can aid in boosting well-being and stress management, thereby creating a healthier, happier, and more productive workforce​1​.

  3. Overcoming barriers to seeking care, particularly financial ones, is critical. Many primary healthcare insurance plans do not include mental health coverage, leading to financial strain. HR leaders should evaluate the primary healthcare plan to identify coverage gaps and potential barriers to effective care. Moreover, aligning the benefits offered with the company's narrative, including comprehensive mental health and well-being benefits, and providing guidance, access to resources, and proactive ways to deal with stress are necessary measures. The goal should be to find an all-in-one solution that combines coverage and access to support, protecting both employees and the business​1​.

AI can accurately diagnose mpox using photos of rash, researchers say

By Mary Van Beusekom, MS - Researchers in India say they used artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose mpox using photos of skin lesions with an accuracy up to 99.5%. Their study, published last week in Medicine in Novel Technology and Devices, tested the ability of the trained deep-learning networks GoogLeNet, Places365-GoogLeNet, SqueezeNet, AlexNet, and ResNet-18 to diagnose mpox using photos of patients' skin lesions (mpox, chickenpox, and other viruses) and computer models designed to mimic human vision. Read Full Article… 

VBA Article Summary

  1. Researchers in India have successfully used artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose mpox using photos of skin lesions with an accuracy up to 99.5%. Currently, mpox is diagnosed using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing, but the results are not always accurate and the necessary resources are not always available in remote areas​1​.

  2. All the deep neural networks used in the study achieved an accuracy higher than 95%, with ResNet-18 reaching an accuracy of 99.49%. The superior performance of ResNet-18 is likely due to its straightforward architecture that allows it to learn more complex features with fewer inputs. Other AI techniques like LIME and GradCAM help health professionals interpret the results to accurately diagnose or rule out mpox​1​.

  3. There has been a global outbreak of mpox since May 2022, primarily affecting men who have sex with men. The virus, which can cause fever, muscle aches, headache, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms, is transmitted through close contact or contaminated objects. As of April 2023, there have been approximately 87,000 global cases and 112 deaths​1​.

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Walgreens sells remaining stake in Option Care Health for $330M in latest divestiture move

By Heather Landi - Walgreens Boots Alliance sold its remaining stake in post-acute care and infusion services company Option Care Health for $330 million. The drugstore chain announced Thursday it sold 10.8 million shares of Option Care Health and plans to use the proceeds primarily for debt paydown, continued support of the company's strategic priorities and to help fund its healthcare-focused business initiatives, according to a press release. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Walgreens' strategic shift: Walgreens, the pharmacy retail giant, has been actively reducing its stake in various companies to focus on providing healthcare services. The company aims to simplify its portfolio and unlock value through strategic transactions.

  2. Acquisitions for healthcare expansion: Walgreens has made significant acquisitions to expand its presence in the healthcare industry. It acquired urgent and primary care chain Summit Health-CityMD for approximately $9 billion, creating one of the largest independent provider groups in the U.S. Walgreens has also closed its acquisition of post-acute and home care company CareCentrix and specialty pharmacy Shields Health Solutions.

  3. Competitive landscape and bidding wars: Major retailers like CVS, Walgreens, and Amazon are intensifying their focus on medical services, leading to a frenzy of mergers and acquisitions. CVS acquired Signify Health and Oak Street Health, while Amazon bought One Medical. Insurers, such as UnitedHealth Group's Optum unit, are also actively acquiring physician practices. The home health sector is experiencing bidding wars, with Option Care Health and Optum vying for the acquisition of Amedisys.

Pickleball Injuries Cost Americans Nearly $400 Million This Year—And Seniors Are Hit The Hardest

By Molly Bohannon - Pickleball could be a major culprit in injuries leading to an increase in people using healthcare services—news that caused big health insurance companies’ shares to fall earlier this month—according to UBS analysts, who released a note Monday estimating Americans will spend between $250 million and $500 million in costs tied to pickle injuries this year. Read Full Article…

VBA Article Summary

  1. Pickleball, a sport that has been rapidly increasing in popularity, especially among seniors, has been identified as a significant factor contributing to the rise in healthcare costs. UBS analysts estimate that Americans will spend between $250 million and $500 million this year on medical costs related to pickleball injuries. Interestingly, the surge in healthcare utilization due to these injuries led to a drop in the shares of major health insurance companies​1​.

  2. The demographic breakdown of pickleball players is notable. Seniors comprise about one-third of the estimated 22.3 million people who are expected to play the sport this year. Injuries tied to pickleball among players aged 60 and over have been rapidly increasing for years, making it an increasingly important cause of injury for this age group. As a result, it is projected that pickleball will lead to 67,000 emergency department trips, 366,000 outpatient visits, 8,800 outpatient surgeries, 4,700 hospitalizations, and 20,000 post-acute episodes​1​.

  3. The rise in pickleball injuries reflects a broader trend among the senior population, who are living longer and becoming more active. The "can-do" attitude of modern seniors may pose a greater risk of sports injuries, leading to an increase in orthopedic procedures. The popularity of pickleball among seniors has skyrocketed in recent years, with a 113.1% increase in participation from 2020 to 2022. While UBS seems to be the first to link pickleball to the increase in people undergoing nonurgent surgeries, the sport's propensity for causing injuries is not new. A 2019 report estimated about 19,000 pickleball injuries per year, with 90% affecting people aged 50 or older​1​.