Protecting Member’s Health Data

The sensitive nature of information shared with payers and providers makes health plan members prime targets for identify theft. While no legislation is currently moving through Congress, a number of senators are taking steps to learn more about recent breaches of healthcare data involving collection agencies and diagnostics firms.

While some employers are taking very costly measures to protect their business and their employees, there are a few steps employers can implement at little or no cost:

  • Encourage everyone to use strong passwords and change them often.
  • Consider adding an Identify Theft protection service to your benefits package. Lifelock and Identity Guard are two common options.
  • Offer educational sessions or webinars to build awareness to the cyber threats that exist today.

On-going education is critically important because the constant use of technology has made too many of us numb to the serious nature of cyber threats. As prevention measures have evolved over time, so have the ways hackers and cyber criminals go about attacking organizations and individuals.

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Water and Weight Loss

A study based on several years of data, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics,showed that increasing water consumption by one to three cups a day decreased total calorie intake by between 68 and 205 calories. Intake of sugar and cholesterol were also reduced as a result of drinking more water.

Some physicians believe that drinking more water before sitting down for breakfast, lunch or dinner will curb the appetite. With other benefits such as better brain function, improved digestion and the ability to maintain energy levels, the old adage of drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day just may be more appropriate then ever.

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More Large Employers Offer On-Site Clinics

Some mega-employers manage clinics on their own while others outsource to clinic vendors or healthcare systems. Many provide clinics within their own facilities, but some offer near-site locations and even share a near-site clinic with other companies. Regardless of which model is preferred, more organizations with 5,000 or more employees are deciding that on-site or near-site clinics can make primary care more convenient and affordable for everyone.

Some of these clinics offer pharmacy services and many have expanded to offer services such as physical therapy, telehealth and even behavioral health. One benefit that clinic operators often emphasize is that by making primary care convenient to employees, and in many cases their family members, fewer employees will neglect primary care because of cost or the inability to take time off to see a doctor.

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Financial Literacy Required

A recent article described a high school student who was inspired to attend a local community college for two years before transferring to a 4-year state university rather than attending the state university immediately after graduation. His decision resulted from taking a financial literacy class at his high school, which made him realize that his original plan would leave him with significant student loans and a much tougher road ahead. The Council for Economic Education reports that 19 states currently require that high school students study financial literacy in order to graduate. A growing number of companies are also offering these classes in order to help workers get a handle on their finances.

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Walmart Woos High-Schoolers

student-loansA recent announcement stated that by year end, Walmart will triple the number of employees taking advantage of company-provided tuition benefits. With 25,000 high school students among their 1.3 million U.S. employees, the company expects to help many avoid the hefty cost of higher education. Disney, Discover and MGM Resorts International are just a few large employers offering free tuition for college or certificate programs in order to attract talented young people.

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Support for Caregivers

caregivingAccording to a new Harvard University study, 73% of employees surveyed are caring for a child, parent or friend. More importantly, 80% of those admit that caregiving has had a negative impact on their productivity at work and kept them from doing their best work. Employers are beginning to take a more proactive role in helping employees balance these priorities by shaping their benefit programs to accommodate their needs. We’ll take a closer look at some of the steps being taken in our next newsletter.

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Is Your Plan Examining the Value of Investment?

While many employemedical-moneyrs use health screenings and health risk assessments to detect medical conditions early on, some have a difficult time determining the value of these wellness-related measures. Some compare the costs of testing to an estimated cost of medical claims, but in an effort to determine a more accurate return on investment, others are taking factors such as reduced absenteeism and increased overall productivity into consideration. It makes sense since improving overall health and productivity really is the objective of wellness programs.

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Federal Judge Derails New Association Health Plans

As reported by The Phia Group on March 29, 2019, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. ruled that the new Department of Labor rules expanding the marketing of Association Health Plans (AHPs) violate existing law. TPAs, brokers and employers see this as a significant blow to AHPs, especially new self-funded AHPs that have been preparing to launch on April 1, 2019.

Federal Judge John Bates sided with several states that took issue with the DOL’s final rules several months ago, arguing that a broad availability of AHPs is not within the scope of ERISA, which defines an employer as having at least two or more employees. The final rules were going to allow small employers, including working business owners (employers of one), to join with others based on either common geography or industry affiliation to form an AHP. It appears that the Judge’s ruling means that both criteria, geography and industry affiliation, must be met and that qualifying employers must have a minimum of two employees.

Thus far, we are not aware of any response filed by the DOL. We will continue to monitor reactions to the ruling and other developments regarding Association Health Plans.

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Are You Washing Your Water Bottle?

Water may be the beverage of choice for health and wellness lovers, but using your reusable water bottle multiple days in a row without washing it and allowing it to dry completely can lead to bacterial growth and sickness. Infectious disease specialists recommend that, at a minimum, pouring water out of your reusable bottle at the end of each day will eliminate some germs. Getting rid of the bulk of bacteria and decreasing the likelihood of a stomach bug requires scrubbing the entire bottle, including the lid and straw and letting it air dry completely after each use. A bottle brush is good for tall bottles with thin necks and dish soap or a bleach-based cleanser labeled safe for drinkware is best.

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More Choose Veganuary

veganuaryWorldwide, 226,000 people have signed up with the British charity Veganuary, agreeing to try a vegan diet free of all animal products. While some try vegan for one or two meals per day, others have gone full scale. Some are doing it for environmental reasons while others are concerned about animal welfare and, of course, their health.

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