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Boiron notes illness levels continue to rise

BY Michael Johnsen

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — Nearly 39 million people, or 12.5% of the U.S. population, are feeling the effects of cold and flu as high illness levels continued across the nation, Boiron stated Friday, citing SDI Health data.

Some of the most prevalent indications are fever and influenza-like symptoms, such as chills, body aches and headache.

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HSAs address rising healthcare costs

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Give a man a doctor’s co-pay, and he is healthy for a day. Give him a health savings account, and that man becomes so much more vested in ensuring positive health outcomes that he may be healthy for a lifetime. Because in the long run, it’s cheaper.

(THE NEWS: HSAs saw dramatic growth in 2010, study finds. For the full story, click here)

The increased adoption and utilization of health savings accounts by consumers speaks to the important role a consumer with a leg in the race will play in helping to manage escalating healthcare costs. It creates an infrastructure whereby HSA holders, or flexible spending accounts holders for that matter, become educated healthcare consumers and correspondingly spend their dollars more wisely.

That’s why placing any kind of disincentive into this kind of consumer-directed health plan, such as requiring a prescription for reimbursement on nonprescription items under HSA or FSA plans, does not make intuitive sense. An analysis conducted by the Foundation for Healthsmart Consumers found that between doctor visits and retail pharmacies, healthcare costs associated a prescription requirement on the purchase of over-the-counter medicines could reach as high as $4.5 billion in one year if even 10% of the population begins making additional appointments with their practitioners. So rather than drive down costs of health care, that significantly increases healthcare costs.

According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, the average premiums for HSA-eligible plans are approximately 15% to 20% lower than average premiums in the overall employer market. Consumers with HSA-eligible coverage appear to be more aware of healthcare costs than consumers with non-consumer-driven health plan coverage — 63% of HSA-eligible enrollees tracked their healthcare expenses, compared with 43% of non-CDHP enrollees; 38% of HSA-eligible enrollees estimated their future health expenses, compared with 19% of non-CDHP enrollees; and 47% of HSA-eligible enrollees were saving for future health expenses, compared with 18% of non-CDHP enrollees.

And recently, Congress introduced a bill to restore FSA eligibility for OTC purchases. Do you think it should become a law? Sound off by voting in our latest online poll.

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Sticking with what works

BY DSN STAFF

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Walmart is convinced its sales woes can be solved by a renewed emphasis on everyday low prices and breadth of assortment. As Walmart looks to execute those strategies, the health-and-wellness category will continue to be impacted as it is a key area where favorable trends exist and it is easier to demonstrate price separation.

(THE NEWS: Walmart to refocus on U.S. unit as sales decline. For the full story, click here)

“First, our new Humana drug program enrolled more people that we expected. This provided some tailwind toward the end of the fourth quarter and will continue to do so this fiscal year. Second, the cold-and-cough season is picking up traction and we’re well prepared,” said Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon.

As for Sam’s Club, it relying on enhancements to the pharmacy component of a loyalty program known as eValues to promoted upgrades to its $100 Plus membership level. Sam’s Club president and CEO, Brian Cornell, said Sam’s simplified the pharmacy component so that those who participate in the eValues program by upgrading to the $100 Plus membership level are able to receive an across the board 8% discount on branded pharmaceuticals and a 40% discount on generic product that are not part of the $4 or $10 formulary.

“Our members understand it clearly and it is paying off with upgrades,” Cornell said.

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