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The Government Shutdown's Impact on the Texas v. U.S. Case

By: Erin M. Hussey, Esq.

By now, most Americans, especially those in the healthcare industry and proponents of the ACA, are aware of the December 14, 2018 decision in Texas v. United States by Judge O’Connor of the Northern District Court of Texas. This decision shook the healthcare industry as it ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and not severable from the rest of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), thus concluding that the ACA itself is unconstitutional.

More recently on January 3, 2019, the House filed a motion to intervene, and detailed that they have a “unique institutional interest in participating in this litigation to defend the ACA.” This motion was to intervene in separate claims that were made by the plaintiff states which were not ruled on in the December 14th decision. However, on January 7, 2019, the House filed a second motion to intervene which, if granted, would allow the House to defend the ACA alongside the intervenor states. The House argues that they have the right to defend the constitutionality of federal laws when the Attorney General or the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) do not.

However, this process will be slowed down as the government shutdown continues. The shutdown, which began on December 22, 2018, is interfering with the DOJ’s ability to meet the deadline to file their opposition to the House's motion. As a result, the DOJ asked the Fifth Circuit to pause all briefings since they will be unable to prepare their motion as Justice attorneys cannot work during the shutdown. On January 11, 2019, the Fifth Circuit issued an order, signed by Judge Leslie Southwick, granting the DOJ’s request to temporarily pause the case. While this shouldn't have a deep impact on the case, it presents just one example of many of how the government shutdown is impacting the country.


Empowering Plans: P62 - Obamacare is Still the Law, Right?

Ron and Brady dissect the Texas decision that challenges the legality of the ACA, what it actually means, and what is next – as well as what you could (should?) be doing now.

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Faces of Phia: Episode 4 – Dishing with Delaney

Take a moment to meet Katie Delaney, Phia's Senior Training & Development Specialist who has been with the company since 2007.  Responsible for training employees, you can thank Katie anytime a team member succeeds.  Really?  Listen to learn how we got to this point!

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What to Expect in 2019 – Part 2

To build on last month’s webinar (Part 1), join The Phia Group’s legal team for an hour on December 12, 2018, as they present the second part of this two-part series on What to Expect in 2019. Touching on topics such as appeals, stop-loss trends, reference-based pricing, and much more, this webinar will highlight current industry happenings and our predictions to help you look forward to the coming year. Just like last month: miss this one, and you’ll be left behind.

Click Here to View Our Full Webinar on YouTube

Click Here to Download Webinar Slides Only


Faces of Phia: Episode 3 – Flying High with Judy

In this episode, Ron and Adam sit down with Judith McNeil. Judith is the most recent winner of our “Employee of the Quarter” award, as well as our second Face of Phia. Judith’s story goes from inspiring to hilarious, and is one you certainly won’t want to miss. Expect to see things differently by the time you’re done with this episode.

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Empowering Plans: P60 - Politics With Brady

This Podcast is HUUUUGE – Brady and Ron will dig deep, analyze the recent election results, and determine how they will impact the health benefits and health care industries.  Bottom line?  If you listen to this episode, you will definitely impress everyone at the Thanksgiving dinner table. You’re Welcome.

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Empowering Plans: P59 - Talkin’ with TPAC

In this “Partners in Empowerment” episode, Ron and Brady enjoy chatting with Michael Meloch, President of TPAC Underwriters and valued member of The Phia Group’s own advisory board.  Michael isn’t shy when it comes to diagnosing the issues, boiling healthcare cost containment down to simple basics we can all appreciate, and telling it like it is.  His employer based perspective and focus on the bottom line (a/k/a “risk”) is as refreshing as it is informative.  Don’t miss this one!

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Faces of Phia: Episode 2 – Not Your “Norma-l” Employee

In today’s episode, our hosts chat with Norma Phillips… our first official “Face of Phia;” (sorry Matt). Norma explains what makes her different (and special) as well as what makes The Phia Group so unique. From Friday night films, to saving the American workers’ job… Norma and the team touch all the bases.

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Healthcare on the Ballot, and a Free Side of Fries

By: Ron E. Peck

If you are looking for a blog post listing specific healthcare related questions appearing on ballots, and a technical assessment of each, look elsewhere.  If you were hoping for a dissection of candidates advertising heavily their support or opposition to the Affordable Care Act, and how that position will likely effect their likelihood of being elected (and what they says about the population’s attitude regarding healthcare and “Obamacare”), you can find a million articles on that topic somewhere else.  My goal is to step back and assess the big picture.

I’ve read that “healthcare” is the biggest topic on most voters’ minds.  That makes me laugh, because “healthcare” is such a broad topic, it captures everything.  Further, it is something about which most people are painfully misled or ignorant.

In many other areas, some politicians basically say: “I want more of this.  If I do what I want, these great things will happen…” and the opponent says, “Yes… but that thing will cost this much, and we will need to pay for it with higher taxes.  It’s a nice idea, but not worth the money.  We have more important things to do with that money.”  Voters then decide whether that “thing” is worth the cost.

When I was in the 6th grade, we held a mock election.  I was one of two presidential candidates, and was up against Zach.  In the primaries, we all had discussed things that were important to us, and realistic goals we had for our classmates in the coming year, and apparently the majority of kids agreed with me and Zach.  So we get to the election, and during our debate, Zach unleashes a barrage of questions about topics I’m sure he didn’t understand (that his parents fed him)… I mean… what 6th grader is asking another about their position on abortion; am I right?  Regardless, when faced with this ridiculous assault, me and my team resorted to the age old strategy of smearing the other candidate.  My team and I brought up every nasty thing Zach had ever done to someone else.  I won, though I’m not proud of it.  That year I learned that smear campaigns work.

The next year was my first year of junior high school.  We promptly began elections for student council, and given the previous year’s success, I was sure I had it in the bag.  That’s when another candidate did something I’d never seen, and will not soon forget.  He made promises.  He promised better food in the cafeteria; longer recreation periods between classes; and more.  By the time he was done, I was ready to vote for him too!  The issue?  After he won, nothing happened.  Why?  Because no one could realistically pay the cost of delivering on those promises.

Fast forward only a few years (yeah right), and here I sit.  I witness before me politicians promising to maintain (or – gasp – expand) health benefits and coverage, without addressing the cost of doing so.  The opposition, meanwhile, can’t whip out the old reliable “anti-promises” stick (also known as the “we don’t want higher taxes” campaign), because – unlike almost all other issues politicians debate – we have privatized a huge portion of healthcare taxes.  Make no mistake.  When we force people to either pay a penalty or buy insurance, and the money that we all contribute is used to pay for “things” that benefit society… and when we increase the size and scope of those “things” and the resultant payments we all make to purchase insurance increases … that is the same as an increase in taxes.  The problem is that by privatizing this tax as “insurance,” we dumbfound politicians and confuse the public.

No one will look at an image of a sick child, and argue they should not receive care.  No one is “pro-illness” or “pro-death” and “anti-healthcare.”  Yet, anytime anyone argues that buying more healthcare without assessing what we’re buying, or more importantly, the price of what we’re buying, they are labeled as those things… and worse.

Meanwhile, the voting public is blissfully unaware of how increasing coverage on the one hand, will cost them more on the other hand.  Our healthcare payment system is so convoluted, people don’t see how an action today will cost them down the line.  For most, mandating coverage for this condition or expanding coverage to that person is – in their mind – free.  The only one who suffers is the “greedy insurance companies.”  Bottom line?  If you order a cheeseburger, and I ask if you want fries with it… and I tell you the fries are free… YOU AREN’T GOING TO SAY NO TO THE FREE FRIES!

Sadly, many insurance carriers and benefit plans do suffer from inefficiencies and other issues that result in them receiving too much, and handing out too little.  It is true that for some payers, they could “tighten the belt” a little, to ensure more is covered without passing the cost onto everyone else.  But, for the most part, what people don’t understand, is that along with the people working for the carrier, they too – the policy holders – are also part of the so-called “insurance company.”  The money used to pay for healthcare comes from the pockets of the patients and policyholders.  Whether it be through contributions to a self-funded plan or premiums paid to a carrier, we – as the people paying the bills – deserve to know that our plan or policy is being managed prudently and effectively.  We have a right to demand that the carrier or plan is not wasteful or too focused on profits at our expense, and that they are coordinating with providers of healthcare to ensure we have access to care at an affordable price.  As the ones “footing the bill” we should rest assured that everyone involved has the information they need to achieve an exchange of consideration that doesn’t overly favor one party or abuse another.

I have no issue with making efforts, legally or otherwise, to expand healthcare and improve the overall health and wellbeing of my fellow Americans.  My concern is that until people truly understand the cost of healthcare, and who’s ultimately paying for the fries (in the form of an upcharge on the burger), people won’t make educated decisions or first assess our current spending to identify and eliminate inefficiencies BEFORE we throw more money at the problem.

But then again… what do I know?  I couldn’t even win my student council election.


Faces of Phia: Episode 1 – A Chat With Matt

In this episode we sit down with The Phia Group’s Marketing & Accounts Manager, Matthew Painten. Matt tells about how his time with the organization has changed him, and educated him regarding healthcare and what everyone can do to reduce their expense. Matt will give us insight into his transformation as well as how he accomplishes his work for the betterment of all.

Click here to check out the podcast!  (Make sure you subscribe to our YouTube and iTunes Channels!)