How the Healthcare Industry is Responding to the U.S. Opioid Crisis

The U.S. Opioid Crisis is massively impacting this country. The reach of this problem is extending well beyond health policy with greater and greater increases in opioid addiction and abuse related deaths. The issue is widespread and every corner of the nation has been impacted. The healthcare industry is reeling as a barrage of political responses rush to resolve the crisis. We previously covered the impact of the Opioid Crisis, now read on to learn more about how the nation is responding and how it may impact healthcare.

Despite a political landscape that currently has Republicans and Democrats locking horns, addressing the U.S. Opioid Crisis seems to be the issue that is uniting Congress in action. Four committees in the House and the Senate held hearings on numerous bills that were all seeking a means of battling the opioid epidemic with an ultimate goal of passing a large opioids bill by Memorial Day. A top contender for this large-and-in-charge bill was a proposal meant to improve the ability of various organizations in addressing the opioid crisis. Some of the provisions of this bill include:

  • Prioritizing the development of non-addictive painkillers
  • Clarify FDA authority to require packaging options for certain drugs that encourage responsible use
  • Authorize CDC research through grants
  • Allow hospice programs to safely and properly dispose of unnecessary controlled substances to reduce the risk of misuse and distribution

This proposal would gain traction and in October 2018 the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act was signed into law, a joint effort from parties on both sides of the aisle. While senators recognize that the opioid crisis is far from over, under this legislation there is hope for providing help to families and communities impacted by the crisis.

In his address at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April 2017, Secretary Price detailed the strategy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources in addressing the opioid crisis. In particular, HHS has prioritized these five strategies:

  1. Improving access to treatment and recovery services
  2. Promoting use of overdose-reversing drugs
  3. Strengthening understanding of the epidemic through public health surveillance
  4. Providing support for research on pain and addiction
  5. Advancing better practices for pain management

Aspects of this strategy have already been implemented with $485 million in grants being sent to state governors for use in treatment and prevention facilities.

The U.S. opioid crisis is just as hotly debated at the state level. In Minnesota, a signature but controversial effort to fight back against opioids suggests a “penny-a-pill” fee. This is the latest in a string of legislation. In 2014, Steve’s Law granted immunity to persons who called 911 to help someone who was overdosing on opioids, even if they themselves were users. From this have stemmed numerous other proposals in Minnesota: funneling money into preventative measures, equipping law enforcement with an overdose-reversing drug, and more. The issue arises from the fact that the state hopes to accomplish this via fees placed on every opioid sold by a drug company; an action greatly opposed by Big Pharma.

Other states, like New York, have moved forward with measures that slap a fee on opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Whether or not such measures catch on, pharmaceutical companies are being taken to task for their role in the opioid crisis. Executives with pharmaceutical distributors accused of flooding communities with powerful prescription painkillers were summoned to testify before Congress at a hearing held on May 8, 2018. This marks a watershed moment in the healthcare industry as these companies were questioned on their practice of pushing such a high volume of highly addictive pain pills into several states. The case at hand is especially austere as disclosed data from this hearing committee showed that millions of pills were shipped to small communities in states exhibiting the highest rate of drug overdose deaths.

During that May hearing, one pharmaceutical company admitted that it had distributed  about 151 million doses  of oxycodone and hydrocodone in West Virginia between 2007 and 2012, which is a mere fraction of the totals from other companies that were distributing in the area during that time period. However, four of the five executives testified that their companies did not have a role in fueling a public health crisis, despite a committee report revealing the massive amounts of painkillers sent to the area.

The major takeaway? The efforts of the committee will continue to strive to enact new laws and new programs to combat the crisis and will continue the yearlong investigation.

Massive changes are on the horizon and The Boon Group is just as dedicated to keeping you informed as we are to keeping you competitive and compliant! Follow the Boon Blog for updates on the U.S. Opioid Crisis and other industry news.

You can also keep up with Boon on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Everything You Need to Know about Health Savings Accounts

Healthcare can be clunky and difficult to understand because there are so many options available and regulations are constantly in flux, changing from year to year. Today we’re breaking down the Health Savings Account (HSA) for you!

What is an HSA? 

A health savings account, or HSA, is an account used in conjunction with a high-deductible health insurance policy. It allows users to save money, tax-free, against medical expenses. Individuals may decide how much they would like to contribute to an HSA within certain government-mandated limits. An HSA account is employee owned and can be funded by employer dollars. The balance in an HSA can roll over from year-to-year making it portable, so employees can take the account with them from one employer to another. This is a significant value to employees.

Why choose an HSA?

Health savings accounts offer multiple tax advantages: contributions are pre-tax/tax deductible; the money is able to grow tax-free; and the money can be used for benefits tax-free. Additionally, health savings accounts can be invested in mutual funds, stocks, and other investment tools.

Why should an employer offer an HSA?

A healthy 65-year-old male retiree may require $144,000 to cover healthcare expenses throughout retirement. The estimated cost for a 65-year-old female is $156,000.

It’s also true that one-third of Americans report that they have no retirement savings. Of those that do, 23 percent have less than $10,000 saved.

Employers have the opportunity to help their valued employees combat this issue head-on!

HSAs in 2019

The Internal Revenue Service announced that the HSA limit would be increased to account for inflation. These changes are set to go into effect on January 1, 2019.

For the HSA contribution limit, self-only contributions have increased from $3,450 to $3,500; the family limit increased from $6,900 to $7,000.

Due to these changes, employers that sponsor HSA plans may adjust their plan design for 2019. Any plan changes, including the new limits, must also be communicated to employees.

The Boon Blog is your source for the latest in industry news. You can keep up with the world of healthcare, industry updates, and all things Boon on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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The Impact of the Opioid Crisis on the Healthcare Industry

The opioid crisis in the United States has reached a fever pitch. More than 115 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids like prescription pain killers and fentanyl. Opioids are a class of drugs comprised of both illegal drugs (like heroin) and common pain relief drugs prescribed by doctors, such as hydrocodone, morphine, and codeine. These drugs have great capabilities in treating pain, but are extremely addictive.

The CDC has estimated the total cost of prescription opioid misuse alone in the U.S. to be $78.5 billion yearly, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, and treatment. Roughly 29% of patients that are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them and eventually develop an opioid use disorder. 5% of those who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin and there is substantial evidence to show that the majority of heroin use stems from misused prescription drugs.

This goes beyond a simple drug problem, this is a healthcare problem. The number of opioid prescriptions dispensed by doctors reached an all-time peak in 2012, topping at 282 million. This number has since declined to 236 million. Nevertheless, Americans represent about 99.7% of the world’s hydrocodone consumption; hydrocodone being a commonly prescribed opioid.

By extension, the opioid crisis has grown into an issue that is greatly impacting government contractors. Construction workers, in particular, are falling victim to the opioid crisis. In 2015, 92 Wisconsin construction workers died of opioid overdoses. Those deaths cost the state economy $524 million and the epidemic is hitting the construction industry in more states, as it spreads. Construction is one of the most dangerous and physically demanding professions out there and, as a result, construction workers are seeking relief for pain that results from worksite injuries, as well as day-to-day wear and tear on the body.

The reach of the opioid crisis goes well beyond targeting industries in which many government contractors participate. Opioid prescription use and spending has increased for several years among people with large employer coverage. While this number has tapered off following its peak in 2009, the cost of treating opioid addiction among people with large employer coverage has increased to $2.6 billion as of 2016. This trend shows that the cost of treating opioid addiction has risen even though opioid prescription use has fallen.

This comprehensive survey, from April 2018, of the trends of opioid use amongst those under employer coverage yields interesting results. For example, 53% of spending by people with large employer coverage went towards treating opioid addiction and overdose for employees’ children . Until the opioid crisis, as a whole, is resolved it will continue to have major impact on the healthcare industry and employees.

What has the response been to the U.S. Opioid Crisis? How will it impact the healthcare industry? Follow The Boon Blog for a follow-up on this topic and current discussion on all the latest industry news.

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The Boon Group Announces Mr. Taylor Boon as New President

AUSTIN, TX – October 24, 2018

The Boon Group, Inc. is happy to announce Mr. Taylor Boon as the company’s new President.

Mr. Boon has been with The Boon Group for 12 years. Recently, Mr. Boon served the company as Chief Strategy Officer. His responsibilities in that role included overseeing sales, implementation, business development, proposals and pricing, and marketing. Before that, Taylor set the highest standard as a top sales representative for numerous years.  Taylor Boon has dedicated his career in health insurance by working with the government contracting community as well as the adjacent brokerage community.

“Taylor has earned his place as President of The Boon Group, Inc. with hard work and a genuine love for this company” says, CEO Sterling Boon. “His vision for our future coupled with his fantastic work ethic makes him a perfect fit for the job.”

Mr. Boon is excited to ascend to this position during a time of great growth for The Boon Group. Taylor Boon steps into the role of President as The Boon Group moves toward our vision of increased sales and marketing focus, as well as providing an enhanced client experience.

“The government contract and limited medical markets that we service deserve an innovative and cost-conscious provider,” says Mr. Boon. “My immediate goal is to ensure we are that provider.”

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Top Four Headlines in Healthcare

Who says that the healthcare industry is boring?! 2018 has brought about many questions, changes, and updates. We’re going into four of the big ones that everyone should know about.

Read on to learn more!

1. Model Exchange Notice Expiration Date Extension

The Department of Labor (DOL) extended the expiration date on its Model Exchange Notice through May 31, 2020. The Model Notice is used to ensure compliance with the Exchange Notice requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The expiration date of the Model Notice is included as an administrative function of the DOL and has nothing to do with how applicable the Notices are. The content of this Model Notice does not change substantively, so the expiration date does not affect an employer’s ability to use it.

It’s advised that employers provide new hires with an exchange notice. However, according to guidance from the DOL, there is no fine or penalty under the ACA for failing to provide the Notice.

2. IRS and DOL Guidance on AHPs

The Department of Labor (DOL) published a final rule in June 2018 that expands the ability of employers to join together to form association health plans (AHPs).

An AHP is covered under ERISA and is a type of group health plan sponsored by a group of employers. We go into deeper detail on the final rule, what AHPs are, and how they work in this blog post.

If you are a small employer that is considering joining an AHP, it is important to understand the compliance obligations associated with these sorts of plans. While it’s true that AHPs do avoid some Affordable Care Act reforms for the small group market, they are still subject to many other legal requirements and regulations.

3. Limits for HSAs and HDHPs Increase for 2019

In May 2018, the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2018-30 to announce the new 2019 limits for health savings accounts (HSA) and high deductible health plans (HDHP). These limits detail the maximum HSA contribution, the minimum deductible amount for HDHPs, and the maximum out-of-pocket expense limit for HDHPs. These limits vary based on whether an individual elects self-only or family coverage under an HDHP.

The HSA contribution limit increase will go into effect on January 1, 2019, and the HDHP limits will increase for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2019.

Learn more about these limits and the specific costs and requirements here.

4. Final Rule Expands Short-term, Limited-duration Insurance

Short-term, limited-duration insurance is designed to fill any temporary gaps in coverage when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another. Short-term, limited duration insurance is exempt from the definition of individual health coverage and, therefore, not subject to the market reform requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Originally, in 2016, the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance was revised so that it would be excluded from the definition of individual health insurance coverage. This led to concerns that limiting the length of short-term, limited-duration insurance would reduce consumer options for affordable coverage. So in 2018, the 2018 final regulations lengthened the maximum period of short-term, limited-duration insurance, with the hope of providing more consumer choices for affordable healthcare.

As it stands, short-term, limited-duration insurance may offer a maximum coverage period of less than 12 months after the original effective date of the contract. This approach takes into account any extensions that may be elected by the policyholder without the issuer’s consent provided that the duration is less than 3 years in total.

Follow the Boon Blog for the latest in industry news and happenings at The Boon Group! You can also keep up with Boon on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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The 3 Cs of Government Contracting

There’s no manual for being a successful and competitive government contractor. But, there are three important principles to remember; we call them “The 3 Cs.”

Compliance. Cost Savings. Competitiveness. 

What are the 3 Cs? How do they help you win contracts? How do you master them?

Read on to learn more!


SCA. DBA. ACA. There are a lot of intimidating acronyms floating around out there.

What’s worse? Failure to comply with all those rules, requirements, and regulations can result in withheld contractor funds, liability for the contractor, termination of crucial contracts, and (worst of all!) potentially being debarred from future government contracts. It is even possible for a contractor to be debarred for years!

Compliance can be tricky once you start to factor in health and welfare requirements, fringe obligations, responsibility over sub-contractors, and other concerns.

Boon’s in-house compliance department is here to provide support for any compliance issues that may arise, handling each situation with the utmost discretion and efficiency. Our team is here, adjusting to each new executive order and change in legislation and offering full support in the constantly evolving field of compliance and government contract standards.

Cost Savings

There are two options for hour government contractors can fulfill the fringe obligation:

  1. Paying those fringe dollars to their employees in cash.
  2. Putting those fringe dollars towards bona fide benefits (health and welfare benefits, in particular).

We recommend going with the benefits. Why?

Click here to learn more!

Investing the fringe obligation into health and welfare benefits has been reported to result in higher workforce productivity, less absenteeism, and significantly reducing healthcare expenditure overall.

Still need convincing? Did you know that employers spend two to three dollars on medical related productivity costs for every dollar they spend on pharmacy and healthcare costs? Did you also know that, in 2017, healthcare costs increased in 79 percent of organizations with an average yearly increase of 11 percent?

Employers that don’t offer solid healthcare options are at a huge disadvantage and the costs are just as large.


When it comes to providing health and welfare benefits to employees, government contractors have a choice. Maximizing those fringe dollars by developing a benefits plan that meets the unique needs of an employer keeps contractors compliant and allows ample opportunity to save money. The Boon Group can help contractors by offering bona fide benefits, which creates a tax cost savings by reducing additional expenses in the form of payroll burden.

In the arena of government contracting, projects are won or lost on mere dollars and cents. Being able to offer a low bid and quality service through your healthy, productive workforce makes you top competitor material.

Compliance and cost savings are the factors that add up to more competitive bids. You can have the full 3 Cs and start winning even more contracts.

Boon’s Mission

At Boon, our mission is to offer competitive rates and comprehensive care, with affordability and flexibility in mind. A little goes a long way and Boon recognizes that lowering costs on a contract today means bigger savings tomorrow.

Not only is The Boon Group competitive in our industry, but we want to help you be competitive in yours by offering you benefit plans that facilitate the savings that lead to lower contractor bids and more opportunity. At Boon, we understand that benefits are more than just solutions; when it comes to employee care, they are a boon to contractors themselves.

Follow the Boon Blog for the latest in industry news and happenings at The Boon Group! You can also keep up with Boon on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

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The Top 5 Reasons that Cybercriminals Target the Healthcare Industry

You’d be hard-pressed to find something that is of higher priority than your health and, subsequently, your healthcare. The information provided to your healthcare providers is just about as personal as it gets and it must be fiercely protected. The healthcare industry has seen a significant increase in cyberattacks and cybersecurity is becoming a huge part of the industry conversation. Why do cybercriminals target the healthcare industry and what do they want with your information? Read on to find out more:

1. Healthcare is the Perfect Target

Did you know that medical records are a hot ticket item on the black market? An electronic health record (EHR) goes for anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars versus the low price of $1 for a stolen social security number. WHOA! Why are medical records so valuable among criminals?

Because your medical records create more opportunities for crime. Cybercriminals get all the personal information they need for garden variety identity theft, while also gaining access to purchasing drugs, creating a fake ID, and opening up claims with your insurer.

Additionally, because healthcare organizations hold the valuable data of thousands of people, cybercriminals can possibly obtain a huge stolen data haul all in one concentrated cyberattack.

2. Insufficient Updates and Awareness

Let’s be honest. Technology often moves way faster than the rest of us and there are several industries that are trailing behind the trends in technology. The healthcare industry is notorious for underspending, when it comes to cybersecurity. The industry often places more of an emphasis on hiring better doctors or having more customer service on hand to help answer your coverage questions. This is a noble and very human pursuit, and we’re not discounting it. But, for many, this emphasis on the human aspects of healthcare means that the technology aspects get neglected. At Boon, we’re continually working to keep healthcare flexible and accessible … just not at the expense of dotting our “I”s and crossing our “T”s when it comes to IT (Information Technology).

3. Bigger Organization, Bigger Target

Healthcare is a giant industry. Not just in impact but in literal numbers. Hospitals and insurers and various other healthcare providers serve thousands of people and all those names and other personally identifiable information are stored in electronic data. The more people in the system, the more chances to steal and exploit that information. Thankfully, standards for the protection of that information are exceptionally high and there is training available on HIPAA compliance. At Boon, for example, every single one of our employees is rigorously trained in HIPAA protocol so that your information is protected at every level.

Another issue created by the sheer size of entities in the healthcare industry is that many operations require multiple shared networks. There are simply too many people and too much information that must be accommodated. Problems happen when, across these networks, there is no consistency in the security standards and processes. With so many devices moving between networks, all it takes is one weak spot and one more (unwanted) device sneaking into a system to create a major problem.

4. Good “Ole Fashioned” Ransomware and Scams

Remember those scam emails where some ousted foreign prince promises you riches beyond your wildest dreams if you will just fork over your bank information? Almost laughable to think about now, right? Well, cybercriminals have gotten smarter and online scams and cyberattacks are becoming more and more difficult to spot. In the healthcare industry, many employees (for all their HIPAA training) have not had much of an education on cybersecurity.

Sometimes, cybercriminals don’t even have to hope for a human error, they’ll go straight for the source. Ransomware goes directly into a healthcare organization’s IT system and prevents company access to valuable files and information. The cybercriminal holds the file hostage and demands a ransom, hence the name. In an industry like healthcare, where access to patient information can be urgent and a matter of life and death, these entities are more likely to pay out and this makes them more attractive targets.

5. Pitfalls of Bringing Your Own Device

The healthcare industry is all about streamlining the process and making healthcare more efficient and affordable. Great, so what’s the issue? There is an increasing trend in healthcare to allow employees to work off of their own personal devices. While this may seem like an appealing way to cut costs on equipment, the reality is that personal devices do not have the same level of security and are subject to all the risks that may come up while that employee is not at work (theft, viruses, you name it).

The Boon Advantage

Boon strives to keep your healthcare close to home. Because your health is important to us, when you’re under our roof, we’re taking all known precautions to keep your information safe. The Boon Group runs a tight operation at our Austin headquarters under the watchful eye of our in-house professional teams. Every single one of our employees has designated devices and systems with the highest standard of protections in place. The personalized experience isn’t limited to our members, it’s keeping our employees guarded too!

Follow the Boon Blog for the latest in industry news and happenings at The Boon Group! You can also keep up with Boon on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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