Carrier megamerger now in doubt

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Eleven months ago four of the country’s largest health insurance companies announced two merger plans to consolidate in what would be among the largest transactions in U.S. history. In early July 2015, Aetna agreed to purchase Humana for more than $37 billion. Later that month, Anthem agreed to purchase Cigna for more than $54 billion.

The merger agreements must be approved by state insurance officials and federal anti-trust regulators. ...

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Drug Costs Continue To Rise

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Although the rate at which overall health costs are rising is historically low, employers, experts, and politicians are expressing alarm at the rising cost of prescription drugs. According to a recent Aon analysis, the average health care rate increase for mid-size and large companies in 2015 was 3.2%. Prescription drug costs, however, jumped by 10% last year according to a report by Truveris that was publicized by the Business Health Care Group.

In general, hospital expenses account ...

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ACA Reporting Deadlines Delayed

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Yesterday the IRS released Notice 2016-4, which delays the ACA reporting due dates for both furnishing forms to individuals and filing forms with the IRS. This is welcome news to many employers who are scrambling to complete their first effort at reporting, which must cover the 2015 plan year.

The delay gives employers an extra two months to furnish forms to individuals by changing the deadline from February 1, 2016 to March 31, 2016. Employers have an extra three months ...

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PACE Act Passage Elicits Praise and Frustration

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Earlier this month, President Obama signed the bipartisan PACE Act to stop the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from changing rules that apply to employers with between 51 and 99 employees. This is important both as a rare example of bipartisan cooperation to reform Obamacare, as well as a preservation of the status quo for employers in this mid-market segment. The Act has been praised by insurance brokers and business groups, but has ...

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Focus on Specialty Drug Costs

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The price of prescription drugs has been a well-known issue for decades. In recent months, however, the price of specialty drugs in particular has received increased attention on social media and from the mainstream media and candidates for President. Much of this attention focused on Turing Pharmaceuticals’ 5,000% price increase for Daraprim last month, but the cost of specialty drugs has been trending upwards for years.

According to Business Insurance magazine, group health plans’ specialty drug costs ...

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ACA Reporting Forms Released

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Last week the IRS published the final versions of the forms and instructions that applicable large employers (ALEs) will need to use to report on employees’ 2015 health coverage. Draft versions of the forms were released in June and the final versions do not include any major changes. With the final versions now available, ALEs can begin working to complete the forms in advance of their February 2016 deadline.

Reporting under ACA Sections 6055 and 6056 was originally scheduled ...

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Big Changes at Assurant

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Last week, Assurant, Inc. announced an agreement to sell its employee benefits business to Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, a subsidiary of Sun Life Financial, Inc., for $940 million. This transaction comes just three months after Assurant shut down operations at Milwaukee-based Assurant Health. It also coincides with the announcement of increased dividends to shareholders and a rise in the company’s stock price.

The employee benefits business purchased by Sun Life includes Assurant’s voluntary and employer paid dental, ...

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Republicans Unveil ACA Alternatives

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As the Republican presidential primary race is heating up, the candidates’ plans to repeal and replace Obamacare are receiving increased attention.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, “The Day One Patient Freedom Plan,” at a factory in Minnesota on Tuesday. His plan includes a number of policy proposals that have long been popular among conservatives, including tort reform, selling health insurance across state lines, and Medicaid block grants for the states. One of ...

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“Top Cancer Doctors 2015” Includes 31 in Wisconsin

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The publisher of “America’s Top Doctors,” Castle Connolly Medical, Ltd. recently released its 2015 list of the top cancer doctors in the U.S. The list is available in a 63 page supplement to the special health issue of Newsweek magazine published for the week of July 31 – August 7 and on the magazine’s website. Thirty-one Wisconsin-based physicians made the list, including specialists at UW Hospital, Froedtert Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Castle Connolly compiled the ...

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Willis Looks to Lift Consulting Business With Acquisitions

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Large insurance companies like Aetna and Humana are not the only goliaths that are joining forces these days. A number of insurance brokers and consulting firms have been actively pursuing mergers and acquisitions to create synergies and growth opportunities. Willis Group Holdings plc, the London-based parent of Willis North America, has been particularly active this year.

Willis announced plans in January to combine its wholesale insurance brokerage units with Miller Insurance Services LLP. At the time, Willis CEO Dominic Casserly said ...

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