Premium Incentives

July 3, 2007
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Studies show that 95 percent of people who lose weight put the pounds back on, but that's not stopping West Michigan's two biggest health insurers from selling competing products that marry costs to health management and wellness programs.

Blue Cross Blue Shield last week crowed about the 7,000 people in West Michigan — 46,000 statewide — who have enrolled since last fall in the Blue Care Network HMO's Healthy Blue Living. Dave Nelson, senior vice president, said the numbers are about half new business and half rollover accounts.

"It's ground-breaking," Nelson said. "We're getting calls from other Blue Cross plans from across the country. People are excited about the success we've had. It's really struck a nerve."

That nerve might belong to Priority Health, which created a similar plan called HealthbyChoice Incentives, launched in April only in West Michigan. Scott Woods, Priority Health's director of product development, said 2,000 people are enrolled. "There's lots of interest in the program. We're at one-third of our goal before we hit the first effective date," Woods said.

HealthbyChoice Incentives, available in both HMO and PPO flavors, launches in Southeastern Michigan this fall, he said. BCBSM will start selling a PPO version called Healthy Blue Incentives in July to the small group self-insured market.

Priority Health projects that employers could save as much as 13 percent on premium costs with its product, while BCBSM puts savings at up to 10 percent. Last week Humana Inc., which is strong in serving the Medicare population but lags competitors in group sales, announced a new plan that limits annual premium hikes to 6 percent or less if the employer signs up for three years.

Could businesses be about to see real relief on the ever-increasing cost of health insurance premiums?

  • Coopersville still is playing the waiting game as it continues to field inquiries about its empty Delphi Inc. manufacturing plant, City Manager Steve Patrick reported last week. Just a few weeks ago, an out-of-state company called with an interest in the plant, he said, one of several to pop up after the shutdown was announced last year.

Realizing this most recent deal could bring a significant number of jobs to the OttawaCounty city, Patrick got on the horn to Delphi and to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. But the glacial pace of the GM spin-off's Chapter 11 bankruptcy court proceedings stopped him cold.

"They were very emphatic: They could not consider any unsolicited offer," Patrick said. He said September is the earliest the bankruptcy issue could be resolved enough to release the plant for showing, and December is more likely.

Will the latest suitor wait that long? "That's a big question," said Patrick, who added that he is frustrated, but the city is standing by to provide whatever help it can to fill the plant. He added that the University of Michigan has contacted Coopersville with an offer to join an assistance program for cities that have lost large plants.

  • A crop of new faces joined The Wisinski Group this month, the prolific commercial real estate brokerage firm formerly known as S.J. Wisinski & Co., including a new president and COO, Aaron Young, and a new director of retail services, Mark Finkelstein.

Meanwhile, one high-profile broker has left the fold. Unrelated to the realignment, the agency has officially cut ties with Brice Bossardet, principal of local development firm Virgin Soil, which is currently developing a new Monroe Center condominium project with Rockford Construction and the Harbor's Edge condominium project in Grand Haven. Bossardet is also known as the husband of WOOD TV-8 anchor Rachel Ruiz

  • The Van Andel Global Trade Center at GrandValleyStateUniversity is hosting a 10-week U.S. Customs brokerage license exam preparation course beginning July 12. The course, available for members at $1,200, includes a three-house session each week culminating two weeks ahead of the October 2007 test date.

The offering builds on a successful preparation course held at GrandValley this past winter, the college's first.

For anyone interested in receiving the accreditation, the test is no joke. Compared endearingly to the CPA exam administered by the American Institute of Public Accountants, the customs exam knocked out 83 percent of test takers last year. The October exam is historically the better of the two dates to take the test. Last year, 21 percent passed in the fall, while only 13 percent passed in the spring.

"The rumor is that customs has a quota on how many new brokers they want licensed each year," said Sonja Johnson, the trade center's interim executive director. "You can't get them to comment on it, but they typically make one or the other more challenging each year."

  • This year's Business Journal coverage of the annual NeoCon contract furnishings trade show neglected to mention IDa Design, Mitch Bakker's Holland-based design shop, which won a Gold Best of NeoCon award for the Converge conference table designed for the Gunlocke Co. and a Silver award for the Converge conference room case goods.
  • Speaking of awards, the Business Journal took home two from the Alliance of Area Business Publications last week in Denver, including the Silver Editorial Excellence Award in the Best Scoop-Large Tabloids category for Daniel Schoonmaker's Feb. 20, 2006, story "Massive Riverfront Project Afoot." The Large Tabloids division is reserved for large-market publications such as the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Crain's publications.

The Gold winner was The Hampton Roads (Virginia) Business Journal's story of a Dubai company purchasing 21 strategic U.S. ports, "Arab Deal Concerns Lawmakers," which subsequently became a topic of partisan political debate.

Business Journal editorial assistant/researcher Evelyn Diskoaccepted the award for Most Creative List, presented by business journalism software firm Data Joe, for assembling the Top Area Business Government Contracts list that appeared in the Business Journal's Sept. 25, 2006, Government Procurement Focus section.     

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