The COBRA Blog

Can a Good Census Help Control Health Care Premiums?

Posted by Robert Meyers on Wed, Nov 14, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

With open enrollment underway, many employers are once again feeling the strain of rising health care premiums. Some are exploring cost-shifting opportunities, others are looking at employee-directed options and wellness education and the rest are just tightening their belts.

Regardless of your company’s health care strategy, there’s one simple element that can make a difference in premiums: The quality and accuracy of your census.

The census is something that you probably don’t get much thought to, but you should. After all, it serves as the basis for underwriting decisions about your company. Every year, companies are overcharged due to overlooked census mistakes. They also may receive group quotes that seem low at first, but later increase when true plan participation numbers are known.

If you’re a health insurance broker and you submit an inaccurate census on behalf of your client, it could be considered an errors and omissions issue. Take the time to get good data and hold your employer clients accountable.

One obvious COBRA mistake is forgetting to include complete information about COBRA participants. Some underwriters rate companies with high COBRA participation more aggressively. The thought is that those who are willing to pay for COBRA are those who really need benefits and may have trouble securing an individual plan. To preempt adverse underwriting, provide complete information about your COBRA participants, including the coverage tier they selected and accurate dependent information. It can be helpful to add a bit more information than your census form requires. For example:

  • Where is the COBRA participant at in the COBRA lifecycle?
  • How much COBRA eligibility remains?
  • Is the participant in the 17th month of the 18 months of coverage available?
  • Are some dependents approaching age 26?
  • Is COBRA participation higher than usual right now due to a layoff event?

As you can see, when it comes to COBRA, census details matter. Don’t make the underwriter blindly rate your company and make costly assumptions about your COBRA participants.

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Tags: cobra administration, COBRA software, COBRA participants, cobra eligibility, Health care premiums, census, health care strategy, COBRA mistake, COBRA participation

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