Heath Care: The Road Ahead
Premiums represent a top-of-mind cost for every employer with regard to the new healthcare legislation. But don’t overlook a hidden, and thus more insidious, expense associated with the new law: the administrative overhead required to understand and comply with the law’s provisions.
“People might not think about it, but there is a hidden cost in terms of labor and time required to manage all the changes required by the legislation,” explained Cynthia A. Van Bogaert, partner and employee benefits attorney at the law firm of Boardman, Suhr, Curry & Field, Madison, Wis. “Employers will have to learn about the requirements of the legislation and monitor additional guidance from agencies such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”
It can all seem like an unneeded headache at a time when business owners are already reeling from the effects of the severe recession.
“Employers are all groaning at the thought of administering health insurance under this new legislation,” said Joan Smyth, partner at the New York City-based Mercer consulting firm. “Some are saying, ‘Maybe it’s easier to just pay the penalty [required of larger employers who do not provide insurance] and let employees buy whatever they want.’ That’s scary, because we do not know what the state exchanges will look like and how they will be priced.”
Concerns that higher carrier costs would trickle down to the real world of monthly premiums seem to ring alarm bells.
“One area where Congress will come back to the table in future years is that of the overall issue of healthcare inflation,” said Terry Gardiner, national policy director for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Small Business Majority. “Some $2.4 trillion flows into the healthcare industry each year. Every part of the industry has a lobby group that says, ‘Don’t tweak my part of the budget too much.’ So reforms to control costs have not gone far enough. Congress will have to come back and finish the job on cost containment.”
Nevertheless, the legislation in its current form was a crucial first step, Gardiner said.
“Yes, it will cost more to cover people,” she said. “But we cannot keep going down the road where we have 47 million people uninsured who are utilizing the emergency rooms. We are paying for that now, because each of our policies now pays $1,100 on average each year for uncompensated care.”
Phillip M. Perry is a New York City-based freelance business writer.
Tiffany’s Q1 profit sparkles
New York City Tiffany & Co.’s net income more than doubled in the first quarter as its revenue rose in the United States and soared 50% in Asia, the company said Thursday.
The jeweler said it earned $64.4 million in the three months ended April 30. That compares with $24.3 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 22% to $633.6 million.
Revenue in the Americas increased 22% to $315.3 million, versus a 31% drop in the year-ago period. Adjusted for currency fluctuations, revenue rose 20%, and same-store sales rose 15%, led by the flagship on New York’s Fifth Avenue, where the figure rose 26%.
In the Asia-Pacific region, which doesn’t include Japan, Tiffany’s revenue soared 50% to $122.3 million. During the first quarter, the company opened its third store in Shanghai; by the end of the period, it operated 11 stores in China. Company officials said that they plan to have a total of 30 stores in China within the next five years.
In Japan, revenue slipped 2% to $115 million. Business in Europe rose 25% to $68.6 million.
Best Buy Mobile enhances Web site
MINNEAPOLIS Best Buy Mobile has annouced the re-launch of BestBuy.com/Mobile. According to the company, the new Web site will include such new features as online purchasing and Instant Ship, the new online hub offers convenient, customer-focused solutions for on-the-go gadget shoppers.
Through the new Web site, customers can now purchase a mobile phone online and have it shipped to their home or they can pick it up in-store. For customers needing assistance while choosing their phone online, Best Buy Mobile has a dedicated call center to respond.
“The capabilities within the enhanced site in combination with our in-store experience give Best Buy something completely and totally unique in the mobile phone marketplace,” said Shawn Score, president of Best Buy Mobile. “Now, we are truly a multi-channel mobile phone retailer supporting customers when and where they choose to engage us.”
Best Buy’s Mobile Web site provides customers with a larger range of functions, which include:
* Online purchases: Customers can purchase a mobile phone with a contract using online channels. Customers place their order, and can then choose to pick up in store or have their new phone shipped directly to their home. * Instant Ship: With Instant Ship, if a customer comes in and is qualified for a device that is not available in-store, the device can be ordered and shipped directly from the Web site. Instant Ship online improves the options of phones and colors for customers, and allows customers to have their new handset delivered right to their home.