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Health Insurance Trends

healthcare_trendsIt seems like as soon as Americans become accustomed to healthcare reform laws, a new one is introduced. Ever since The Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law in 2010, and continued to charge forward amid partisan controversy, the health insurance industry has been dealing with widespread change. And now that President Obama has started his second term in office, the prospect of overturning the law has become a thing of the past

How has the phase-in of Obamacare affected the health insurance industry?In just the past few years, we’ve witnessed the rise of payer-provider mergers, private health exchanges, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and more; but in this final year we should expect to see even more landmark changes occur. According to an article on hcentive.com, “Top 4 Health Insurance Trends to Watch Out for.”

Four trends to watch for before January 2014:

1. Many new state health insurance exchanges – Although the ACA has declared January 1, 2014 as the official “go-live” date for state health insurance exchanges, both state and federal exchanges are expected to open for public enrollment in the last quarter of 2013. However, controversies and conflicts surrounding health insurance exchanges continue with no sign of them ending before 2014. Expect these exchanges to remain a hot topic of debate throughout the course of this year.

2. Growth of private health insurance exchanges – As people start to consider their choices in the private healthcare market, they are looking for plans that provide the most flexibility. Private health insurance exchanges are increasingly popular in group markets because they provide more options in health coverage along with more predictable costs. Compared to the ACA-mandated public health insurance exchanges, which are shrouded in uncertainty, private exchanges are often preferred. This trend is expected to grow stronger by the end of the year.

3. More programs designed to curb healthcare costs – Federal programs are emerging, such as Medicare’s “Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program” and “Pay-for-Performance.” Both are designed to reduce healthcare costs through improved efficiencies and better quality of administered care. The ACA has received a fair share of negative publicity for its overall impact on healthcare costs, and this remains one of the industry’s primary challenges. As a result, 2013 is likely to yield plenty of new measures aimed at restraining healthcare costs.

4. Rapid increase in employer-sponsored wellness programs – As employers see the cost of healthcare skyrocketing quickly, employee wellness programs have gained a spot at the forefront of the health benefits industry. At the same time, employee engagement is on the rise and many insurance providers are adapting their group benefits portfolios to encourage the healthy lifestyle of employees. In addition to improving worker productivity and quality of life, one of the main goals of workplace wellness programs is a healthier workforce, which ultimately reduces the cost of health insurance.

Despite its escalation to the U.S. Supreme Court over the “individual mandate, President Obama’s healthcare law survived, relatively unscathed. As we move through the remainder of this year, the U.S. healthcare industry is poised to become increasingly active. Federal and state exchanges are gradually emerging on the landscape in the United States, and several private exchanges are gaining ground among group benefits providers. Meanwhile, Medicaid and Medicare are both undergoing an overhaul.

As consumers gradually become acquainted with digital health records they may be starting to see the benefits of healthcare reform. To help answer the most frequently asked questions, the federal government has launched a website, healthcare.gov, the help people understand all the fine print. This state-by-state guide offers an overview of each state’s progress with healthcare exchanges, as well as links to state-based consumer resources.