Tag Archives: Corporate Wellness

Wellness Efforts Need to Address Five Important Risk Factors

Employer-sponsored health plans cover more than half of the country’s nonelderly population, which is approximately 147 million people. Half to 70 percent of employers now offer high-deductible health plans, which encourage employees to take an active role in deciding the type of care they need. This requires employers to educate employees to become smarter healthcare consumers and to become motivated to take action.

Workplace wellness programs have the ability to help employees take action in the right direction toward healthy living. They have the potential to keep employees healthy and productive, avoid illness and absenteeism, and save them money by consuming fewer healthcare resources. Workplace health promotion programs that can do all that will provide value to employees and now just need to be cost-effective at the same time.

Many small and mid-size companies are unsure if they have resources to support a comprehensive program. However, more and more experts suggest looking to scientific evidence to gain a best practices approach to developing company-wide wellness initiatives. By focusing on five major risk factors, it is believed that employers of all sizes can positively impact overall health and productivity at work.

Five Wellness Initiatives to Target in 2017

According to the 2015 From Evidence to Practice: Workplace Wellness that Works Study an effective wellness program needs to address the following five basic health concerns through creative and empowering strategies: exercise, nutrition, tobacco cessation, stress management and sleep.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

Work. Walk 5 Minutes. Work.

Stuck at your work desk? Standing up and walking around for five minutes every hour during the workday could lift your mood, combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention, and even dull hunger pangs, according to an instructive new study.

The study, which also found that frequent, brief walking breaks were more effective at improving well-being than a single, longer walk before work, could provide the basis for a simple, realistic New Year’s exercise resolution for those of us bound to our desks all day.

There is growing evidence, of course, that long bouts of uninterrupted sitting can have undesirable physical and emotional consequences. Studies have shown that sitting motionless reduces blood flow to the legs, increasing the risk for atherosclerosis, the buildup of plaques in the arteries.

People who sit for more than eight or nine hours daily, which for many of us describes a typical workday, also are at heightened risk for diabetes, depression and obesity compared with people who move more often.

In response, researchers and some bosses have proposed a variety of methods for helping people reduce their sitting time at work, including standing workstations and treadmill desks.

But such options are cumbersome and costly, making them impractical for many work situations.

Some experts have worried, too, that if people are physically active at the office, they might subsequently become more tired, grumpy, distracted or hungry, any of which could have an undesirable effect on work performance and long-term health.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Poll finds growing GOP support for paid family leave

Paid family leave is well known to be a popular idea among New York City Democrats, but an increasing number of Republicans here also support it, with a significant number “strongly” in favor of such a policy, according to a new poll.

Democrats saying they “strongly support” paid family leave increased to 81% in 2015 from 74% in 2014, according to the Community Service Society‘s annual “Unheard Third” survey. But the gain was far greater among Republicans, with the portion who “strongly” support it rising to 58% in 2015 from 45% in 2014. Folding in less enthusiastic backers, support among Republicans went from 65% to 74%.

To be sure, the number of Republicans surveyed this year was minuscule, just 229, indicative of New York’s small number of GOP members, so random fluctuation could account for some of the increase. But the rise in support among non-GOP voters shows it probably was not a fluke. The survey of 1,705 city residents was conducted July 19 through Aug. 17 and has a margin of error of +/-2.75%. The policy would require employers to allow their workers time off to care for a newborn or sick loved one.

To read the full story, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

 

Employers Urge Repeal of Small Group Expansion

The Affordable Care Act’s mandated expansion of the definition of the small group market would limit employers’ health plan options, according to employer groups who are urging the repeal of the mandate before it takes effect in 2016.

Expanding the small group market to include groups up to 100 would not only reduce choice for this segment of the market, it means some employers would be unable to keep the insurer they currently have, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and the National Association of Health Underwriters. The industry groups and more than a dozen other employer organizations are applauding efforts to repeal the ACA mandate through legislation called the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE).

The expansion is intended to make insurance more affordable for the smallest employers by expanding the risk pool to include larger companies. It also aims to increase the number of participants in the ACA’s Small Business Health Options Program, also known as the SHOP exchanges.

The PACE bill would maintain the current definition of a small group market as 1-50 employees and give states the flexibility to expand the group size if they feel the market conditions in their state necessitate the change.

“It is in the best interest of employers and their employees that states determine the definition of their small group market,” the groups argue in a recent letter to the bill’s sponsors, Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO).

“Repealing the ACA-mandated expansion and returning to the historical role of state determination would allow flexibility and ensure a broad array of coverage options and mitigate dramatic premium increases,” they add.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Health Care Spending Down, Cost Sharing Up

The growth in health care spending is slowing down, and one reason might be that cost sharing is rising.

The proportion of insured workers with at least a $1,000 deductible was 41 percent in 2014, quadruple that in 2006. Hidden in the numbers is the fact that increasing cost sharing for patients with chronic illnesses can backfire, causing their health care spending to go up, not down.

When patients face higher cost sharing for prescription drugs, they tend to cut back on them. That’s a finding from a recent study from the National Bureau of Economic Research by Peter Huckfeldt and colleagues, who examined employer-based health plan enrollees who use drugs to treat high cholesterol, hypertension and diabetes. They even found that patients cut their drug use when drugs were exempt from the deductible. Perhaps they did so because they did not understand the drugs had no deductible. They may also have cut back on visiting the doctor to get a prescription because the visits were subject to the deductible.

These kinds of cuts in care can be especially problematic for patients with more severe illnesses. A number of studies document the adverse effects of cost sharing on sicker patients. When applied indiscriminately, cost sharing can hurt the sicker patients by prompting them to delay or avoid the preventive care they need. A 2012 study showed that higher cost sharing reduces spending on physician visits and drugs, but can increase hospital spending. When Medicare beneficiaries face higher cost sharing, hospitalizations go up, not down, especially for those with chronic illnesses.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

What Don Draper taught us about the Modern Man

Don Draper is the ultimate 1960s ad man from AMC’s Mad Men, which came to end today.  Don is a man with perfect style. He is supremely confident, cool under pressure, and admired by everyone for his creative genius and ability to close a deal.

Don’s ambition and drive overcame a traumatic childhood and a less than honorable tour of Korea with the US Army. At the height of Don’s success he had everything – a beautiful wife and children, a Manhattan apartment and the ultimate job, a successful leader of his own agency and a legend of his industry.  Don was a perfectionist, which seemed to be driven more by what he thought other people expected of him than his own priorities. With that, people came to expect perfection from Don. He was “the man.”

Don, however, was also a man whose emotions were in lockdown, as he obsessed with being successful and in control. As seen in the show’s opening credits, after his success came his spiraling downfall, triggered by a series of events: the loss of his second marriage to Megan, a daughter who disowned him, the decline of his agency, and eventually, the loss of his job.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

OSHA Releases New ‘It’s The Law’ Poster

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has released a new version of its “Job Safety and Health – It’s The Law!” poster.

Background
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), employers have certain responsibilities, including the obligation to:

  • Provide their employees with a safe workplace;
  • Follow all relevant safety and health standards;
  • Find and correct safety and health problems in the workplace; and
  • Inform employees about workplace hazards.

Content of New Poster
The newly designed poster informs employers of their legal obligation to provide a safe workplace. It also informs workers of their right to request an OSHA inspection of their workplaces, receive information and training on job hazards, report a work-related injury or illness, and raise safety and health concerns with their employer or OSHA without being retaliated against.

Additionally, the poster has been updated to include the new reporting obligations for employers, who must now report every fatality and every hospitalization, amputation and loss of an eye. It also informs employers of their responsibilities to train all workers in a language and vocabulary they can understand, comply with OSHA standards, and post citations at or near the place of an alleged violation.

Posting and Size Requirements
Employers must display the poster in a conspicuous place where workers can see it. Reproductions or facsimiles of the poster must be at least 8 1/2 by 14 inches with 10 point type. According to OSHA,previous versions of the poster do not need to be replaced.

Note: Employers in states operating OSHA-approved state plans should obtain and post the state’s equivalent poster.

The poster is available by clicking here. Multiple languages and resolutions are available for download.

To learn about other federal notices required to be displayed in the workplace, please visit our section on Federal Poster Requirements.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

ACA Rules for Foster Children

Nathan Cox-Reed has a toothache.

He thinks he needs a root canal, but the full-time student, 22, is uninsured. He can’t afford a trip to the dentist.

“I’m only working 30 hours a week. I wouldn’t have enough money to do something like that,” said Cox-Reed, a film and video student at Columbia College in Chicago.

While many young adults are now covered by the Affordable Care Act, able to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26, the rules are different for those like Cox-Reed, who grew up in the foster care system.

There are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services said last year. All are provided with health care coverage as long as they are wards of the state.

When foster kids turn 18, they age out of the system and instantly lose their coverage.

That’s about to change, when another part of Obamacare takes effect on January 1, 2014. Medicaid coverage will be extended for former foster youth until they reach 26, as long as the individual was in foster care and enrolled in Medicaid until the age of 18.

“I definitely think it would be a big relief, and I would definitely feel more secure as far as my health goes,” Cox-Reed said.

But there’s a catch. Cox-Reed has dreams of traveling across the nation and becoming a filmmaker. A future relocation could jeopardize his medical coverage.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

IRS Releases 2016 Health Savings Account Limits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the 2016 inflation-adjusted amounts for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) as determined under the Internal Revenue Code.

Annual Contribution Limitation
For calendar year 2016, the annual limitation on deductions for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,350. The annual limitation on HSA deductions for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $6,750.

High Deductible Health Plan
For calendar year 2016, a “high deductible health plan” is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for self-only coverage or $2,600 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage or $13,100 for family coverage.

You may view the IRS Revenue Procedure announcing the 2016 amounts by clicking here.

Be sure to check out our section on Health Savings Accounts for more on HSAs.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

IRS Fact Sheet: Determining Large Employer Status

Fact Sheet Includes Examples and Additional Resources

A fact sheet from the IRS helps employers determine, based on their size, whether the ACA’s employer shared responsibility (“pay or play”) and information reporting provisions apply to their company.

The fact sheet includes basic information on determining large employer status, along with information on:

  • Determining the number of full-time and full-time equivalent employees
  • Large employer determination examples
  • Employer aggregation rules
  • The exception for seasonal workers
  • New employers
  • 2015 transition relief for determining workforce size

More information about determining large employer status can be found here.

Visit our Pay or Play section for additional details.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary