Why sitting is the new office health epidemic

The article below is from Benefitnews.com, written by Betsey Banker

ebso-healthIn the continuing conversation about employee health, there’s a workplace component that isn’t getting the attention it should— and it’s something that workers do the majority of every workday.

Sitting has become the most common posture in today’s workplace, and computer workers spend more than 12 hours doing it each day. Science tells us that the consequences are great, but our shared cultural bias toward sitting has stifled change. Many employees and company leaders struggle to balance well-being and doing their work. And it’s time for employers to do something about it.

Rather than accept the consequences that come as a result of the sedentary jobs employees (hopefully) love, it’s time to elevate the office experience to one that embraces movement as a natural part of the culture. Such a program will address multiple priorities at once: satisfaction, engagement, health and productivity. Organizations of every size and structure should embrace a “Movement Mindset” and say goodbye to stale, sedentary work environments.

There are many benefits to incorporating the Movement Mindset:

· Encourages face time. As millennials and Generation Z take over the office, attracting and retaining top talent is a key initiative for companies. Especially in light of the Society for Human Resource Management findings that 45% of employees are likely to look for jobs outside their current organization within the next year. Research has shown that Gen Z and millennials crave in-person collaboration, and users of movement-friendly workstations (particularly those ages 20 to 30) report being more likely to engage in face time with coworkers than those using traditional sit-only workstations.

Standing meetings tend to stay on task and move more quickly. Their informal nature means they can also be impromptu. Face time has the added benefit of building culture and social relationships, increasing brainstorming and collaboration, and creating a more inclusive work environment.

· Keeps you focused. For those who sit behind a desk day in and day out — which, according to our research, about 68% of workers do — it can be a feat to remain focused and productive. More than half of those employees admit to taking two to five breaks a day, and another 25% take more than six breaks per day to relieve the discomfort and restlessness caused by prolonged sitting. It may not seem like much, but considering that studies have shown it can take a worker up to 20 minutes to re-focus once interrupted, this could significantly impact the productivity of today’s office workers.

It’s time to connect the dots between extended sitting, the ability to remain focused and the corresponding effect these things have on the overall health of an organization. Standing up increases blood flow and heart rate, burns more calories and improves insulin effectiveness. Individuals who use sit-stand workstations report improved mood states and reduced stress. Offering options for employees to alternate between sitting and standing during the day could be the key to effectively addressing restlessness while improving focus and productivity.

· Addresses sitting disease. The average worker spends more than 12 hours in a given day sitting down. In the last few years, the health implications surrounding a sedentary lifestyle are starting to come to light (like the increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and early mortality). It’s a vicious cycle where work is negatively affecting health, and poor health is negatively impacting engagement and productivity. Not to mention, the benefits span long and short term, with impacts on employee absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as health and healthcare costs. Offering sit-stand options to incorporate movement back into a worker’s daily regimen is a great way to offset those implications, while showing employees that their health, comfort and satisfaction are important to the company. Plus, a recent study found that if a person stood for just an extra three hours a day, they could burn up to 30,000 calories over the course of a year — that’s the same as running 10 marathons or burning off eight pounds of fat.

Our sit-biased lifestyles are beginning to be seen as an epidemic; it’s the new smoking, and office workers who spend their days behind a desk are at great risk. Providing a sit-stand workstation is more than just a wellness initiative. It offers significant opportunities for companies to retain and attract talent, improve a company’s bottom line, and offer employees a workspace that gives them the ability to move in a way that can actually improve productivity.

Embracing the Movement Mindset can turn the tables on the trends, going beyond satisfaction to create a cycle where work can positively impact health and good health can improve engagement and productivity.

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Plans to Repeal and Replace the Affordable Care Act

hcaa-aca-postSeveral proposals have recently circulated regarding alternatives to the ACA. But, last week the House of Republicans proposed legislation intended to repeal and replace certain elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare or the ACA. Their proposal has been named the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

The Health Care Administrators Association (HCAA) released an in-depth update late last week that details the changes the AHCA would impose as well as the aspects of the ACA that would remain unchanged. This overview was provided by the law firm of Quarrels & Brady LLP.


The American Health Care Act:
What It Means for Employers and Health Insurers

Employee Benefits Law Update | 03/09/17 | John L. Barlament, William J. Toman, Cristina M. Choi

After months – or maybe years – of speculation, on March 6 the House Republicans released proposed legislation intended to repeal and replace certain aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known affectionately as Obamacare or the ACA. The proposal, somewhat generically named the American Health Care Act (AHCA), is trimmed down to fit into the Congressional reconciliation process to avoid a Senate filibuster. As the President tweeted the next day, there is more to come “in phase 2 & 3 of healthcare rollout.”

The AHCA proposes some major changes for the individual market and Medicaid, substantial changes in the employer market, and some minor changes to Medicare. Most prominently, the AHCA does away with the most controversial aspects of Obamacare, the individual and employer mandate. It also repeals the cost sharing and income-based premium subsidies available on the Obamacare exchanges, and replaces them with age-based tax credits designed to help individuals pay for coverage.

Almost more notable is what the AHCA does not repeal, presumably due at least in part to use of the reconciliation process. The AHCA does not repeal many of the more popular patient protections, such as the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions. It also doesn’t repeal many of the market reforms: the guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewal requirements, community rating rules (although there is a loosening of the age rating limitation), essential health benefit rules (other than for Medicaid), or the health insurance exchanges….

Click the image below to read the full article, which explains how this proposed legislation would impact employers, plan sponsors and health insurers.

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Soccer Injuries Grow

soccerThe number of U.S. kids being sent to ERs with soccer injuries has soared as of late, a trend driven in part by young players seeking urgent medical care for concussions, a study found. The increase can be attributed to soccer’s growing popularity and greater awareness of concussions and their potential risks. Coaches and parents might be seeking treatment for symptoms often downplayed in the past. The trend emphasizes a need for safety education, injury prevention and proper techniques in youth soccer.

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Heart Deaths Increase

healthThe death rate from heart disease rose 0.9% last year, per U.S. mortality data released by the CDC. Researchers link the increase to obesity and diabetes. Death rates from heart disease were declining due to anti-smoking campaigns and medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol. The findings signal a reversal of a trend that has been improving for decades.
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ACA Changes You Should Note

Even though 2016 was considered the year of full implementation for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate, changes keep coming. Here are a few points you will want to stay ahead of.

medical-moneySmall Employer Group Changes

The Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employers (PACE) Act, passed last fall, defines the small employer as having one to 50 employees. States, however, are permitted to elect to extend the definition of a small employer as up to 100 employees.

Even though the way businesses are categorized will now be a state-by-state decision, most are using the PACE Act definition. A few, including California and New York, have chosen to use 100.

Health Plan Transition Relief to Expire

Transition relief for the Employer Shared Responsibility payments for large employers with fully insured plans during the prior year will expire January 1, 2017. Depending on a plan’s eligibility and start date, applicable large employers (ALEs) must be compliant at some point this year or face penalties. Starting January 1, the non-calendar year transition relief expires and all ALEs will be required to offer compliant coverage. This does not apply to self-funded plans.

Grandfathered plans are also expiring in January 1, 2017. Fifteen states required the end of remaining grandfathered, non-ACA compliant plans this year, while the other 35 states will do so in 2017.

IRS Reporting Penalties

This year when employers completed Forms 1094-C and 1095-C, they were not assessed penalties for incorrect or missing data. Employers need to identify any issues with their reporting and plan ahead since that good faith effort has not been extended. They must set aside time for testing to correct any coding or processing errors. Employers should also consider avoiding the cost of printing and mailing by enabling employees to access Form 1095-Cs online.

Cadillac Tax Delayed to 2020

The 40% excise tax on the cost of health coverage exceeding pre-determined threshold amounts, which was initially intended to take hold in 2013, was delayed to 2018. Now it has been delayed to 2020 and while some think it will eventually become law because the revenue is needed to fund the Affordable Care Act, the IRS has again issued a request for comments.

Employers have several regulations to address and implement in order to remain compliant and avoid future penalties. As always, we are prepared to help our clients remain ACA compliant as regulatory changes continue to come our way.

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ACA Fee Moratorium and Self-Funding

acaWhen Congress delayed the Cadillac Tax until 2020, the same law placed a one-year moratorium on the annual fee the ACA imposes on health insurance carriers. While the fee does not have a direct impact on TPAs or self-funded plans, it does sometimes impact stop loss premiums.

Since this fee applied to insurance carriers and not the majority of self-funded plan costs claims, some small group plans that moved to level funding may experience a slight cost increase in 2017. When the tax returns in 2018, the revenue targets are expected to increase. If the tax increases from its previous levels of 3% to 4%, the potential savings available to self-funded and level-funded plans will increase as well.

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Raising Health Awareness

healthA 20-foot long inflatable colon with pink walls, red arteries and bright round polyps painted on the inside became part of a 50-city summer tour designed to emphasize that colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. While many who walked through the tunnel at health fairs and festivals described it as “gross”, physicians applaud it as a powerful way to entertain while illustrating what’s going on inside our bodies. A transplant physician at the University of Minnesota loved the idea so much that he ordered a 10’ x 12’ custom made bone marrow tunnel to promote a bone marrow transplant program.

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Digital Marketing Delivers Results for EBSO and Other TPAs

The article below is featured in Ernie Clevenger’s 2/6/17 MyHealthGuide Newsletter, News for the Self-Funded Community. MyHealthGuide Source: Barcelona Creative Group, 1/30/2017

While personal relationships have long been the foundation for Third Party Administrator business strategies, many TPAs are now discovering the proven benefits of  adding a strong digital marketing program such as those developed and supported by Barcelona Creative Group.

ebso-mobile-marketing-blogWith a business model based on creating and nurturing strong personal relationships, most TPAs have been somewhat hesitant about pursuing digital marketing strategies.

The influx of “millennials” now populating the TPA market as decision makers, employees and plan members has altered this dynamic. TPAs are discovering that this younger, 25-34-year-old audience prefers to utilize digital and social media channels for information on health plans and benefits coverage. They also prefer useful content over promotional ads and want to access their information via mobile devices – with content delivered in easily digestible chunks and formatted for viewing on smaller screens.

For years, Barcelona Creative Group (BCG) has been working with its TPA clients to incorporate advanced digital strategies into their existing marketing programs. Interactive websites, blogs, online videos, email marketing, mobile applications, paid search and social media postings on sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are generating increased  interest from this younger demographic. These digital strategies have also significantly enhanced TPA brand awareness and are delivering quantifiable results.

Establishing an Online Presence

“In 2016, every one of our TPA clients saw a major increase in mobile traffic to their websites of from 28 to 46 percent. To maintain this growth and expand our capabilities in this key area, we’ve added new team members who bring a wide range of digital and social media expertise to our creative endeavors,” said Juli Barcelona, president and COO of Barcelona Creative Group. “When combined with our 20+ years of experience serving the TPA industry, these added resources allow us to maximize our clients’ online presence and build awareness and interest in the services they provide.

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Further, digital marketing can be less costly than more traditional advertising and captures valuable viewer data including contact information, business profiles and areas of interest. Outgoing digital media and social postings can also be targeted to reach a specific demographic, such as agents or brokers in a defined state or region.

According to Tom Barcelona, founder and CEO, program success is about more than just utilizing digital media. “It’s about building a cohesive brand with a common look, feel and message that runs throughout each web page, white paper, blog/social media post, sell sheet and proposal,” he states. “We work to ensure that all of these media are used in concert to position the TPA as an authority and make them easily recognizable, no matter the digital vehicle. No longer are big carriers the only online presence for health benefits information.

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Brooks Goodison, president of Diversified Group in Marlborough, CT, had a specific goal in mind when working with BCG on their digital strategy. “We want to be widely known as self-funding experts and trusted benefit advisors,” he states. “The branding and digital marketing initiatives developed and implemented for us by Barcelona Creative Group have helped us  establish a strong and far more visible presence in the marketplace. In fact, brokers have told us that they’re seeing us everywhere.”

“We consistently get positive feedback from employers and brokers about our website and recently signed a stop loss carrier who was able to find us through an online search,” says Bruce Flunker, president of EBSO, Inc., a national TPA with sites across the U.S.

“The digital strategy we’ve developed with Barcelona Creative Group has enabled us to keep our widespread internal staff informed, while delivering qualified leads for our organization,” added Cindy Sheffield, CEO of EBSO, Inc.

About Barcelona Creative Group

Barcelona Creative Group has been supporting some of the most successful members of the TPA community for over 25 years by unleashing the power of creativity to build brand awareness and deliver proven results. Barcelona Creative Group – Driven by the belief that creative is not a department, that all media is social and that passion never punches a clock.

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