Well-Being

It's The Great Health Insurance Renewal, Charlie Brown!

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It’s you and your health insurance broker.  You’re thinking, this year I’m really going to get tough with this insurance company and I’m gonna ‘em them who’s boss.  I’m gonna be a tough negotiator and this is the year I’m gonna to get a better deal for my employees.  Seriously, you might as well be Charlie Brown saying to himself, “This year I’m really gonna kick that football” and like every other time, Lucy swipes the football away from you at the last second—just like she always does.  There you are, lying flat on your back wondering what just happened.

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Don’t be that guy this year, when your BUCA (Blue Cross, United, Cigna, Aetna) plan sends you this year’s increase—you need to fight back. When you hear your broker tell you that healthcare costs “just go up”, or when they bring you this year’s gimmicky product that’s supposed to make everything better—you need to fight back. Find that broker who is more like Snoopy, the Flying Ace, shooting fake reasons for increasing costs out of the sky. You can find one at www.healthrosetta.org. Or just call me. I’ll fight for you.

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Your employees are counting on you to look for a plan that provides transparency and lowers costs.  They’re hoping you’re going to come up with a plan that reduces out-of-pocket and gives them better access to high-quality healthcare.  I know what you’re thinking, “Better care, lower out-of-pocket? But I’m already paying more than I can afford.  Better care is going to cost even more!”  All I can tell you is that you’re wrong.  You’re not listening to the right advice.  Stop being a blockhead!

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Let me give you an example of what happened at one of my clients this week.  We uncovered that an employee is taking a high cost brand name drug.  After some research, we determined that the brand name is just a quirky dosage of the generic ingredient.  The drug was costing the employer $733.00 per month.  I know that’s not much, but when we found out a local, independent compounding pharmacy could make the same dosage of the generic that the brand had for only $75.00 per month, we rejoiced like we’d won the lottery!  Transparent Advisor = 1, Big Bad PBM = 0.  And that was only one prescription! Imagine what we’ll find when we analyze every drug in their claims report.

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Don’t let your employees be the one kid who looks in their treat bag and all they have is a rock.  That’s no good for anyone. Be the employer everyone wants to work for because your health plan is the best around. It IS possible! You CAN do it! And it’s NOT scary! #letsfixhealthcare

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Need help designing the best health plan in town? You can count on us. Message us at cristy@custombenefits.work. We can help.

How Running a High-Performing Health Plan is Like Driving a Toyota Prius--and that's a good thing!

I finally got myself a Prius which I’ve been wanting for a long time.  Watching the technology “do it’s thing” in the background while I drive really got my "wheels turning” (pardon the pun) about how health plans with great design and technology behind the scenes are similar.

I finally got myself a Prius which I’ve been wanting for a long time. Watching the technology “do it’s thing” in the background while I drive really got my "wheels turning” (pardon the pun) about how health plans with great design and technology behind the scenes are similar.

For about a decade my Mom had a Toyota Prius.  She absolutely loved it and I got to drive it from time to time.  Sometimes I’d meet up with her midway between my NC home and her SC home and I’d swap my GMC Yukon loaded down with my kids and our clothes for the weekend.  Then I’d get to drive the Prius around visiting a few clients on the way to reunite with them in SC.  I loved scooting around in that little thing and set my sights on owning one someday.

Well, it finally happened.  This week I became the proud owner of a cute pearl white Prius and I couldn’t be happier.  There were 9 miles on it when I drove it off the lot and today (2 days later) there are 400 miles on it.  Funny thing is, half of the “free” tank of gas the dealership put in still remains.  I’m in love.

I’m sure I know what you’re thinking…”but you’re supposed to be a successful benefits broker.  Can’t you afford anything better than a Prius?”  Trust me, with the abuse I put my work car through, I can’t be trusted with a car worth any more than this.  It’s just not a good idea.  After all, I’m not Contorno with his big, fancy car and his personal driver.

Yesterday, as I was driving, I began to pay close attention to the monitors and displays that light up with every touch of the gas pedal.  It shows me when the battery is providing all the power, when the power is coming from a mix of battery and gas and when the car is using 100% gas.  This really got my “wheels turning” (pardon the pun).

I was reminded of how a transparent, high performing health plan works and how a successfully run plan only spends about half as much as a traditionally funded plan that has no view into the actual unit cost of healthcare.  What I’ve told clients and prospects is that because of the technology operating behind a transparent, high-performing plan, it allows the plan to save money even when you’re using the high cost sources of funding like hospitals and facilities.  On the other end of the spectrum, you completely level out your exposure to claims costs (why don’t we call this renewable energy) by embedding Direct Primary Care into your plan design.  That’s just like when your Prius is only using the battery to get you from point A to point B.  Everything in between is a mix of great technology and a smarter use of your plan’s resources.  Just like the gas in your car.

Why is this so important?  Well, we all know that the Kaiser Family Foundation just reported that American families and employers are spending around 67% more on healthcare than they were 10 years ago.  Healthcare has exponentially outpaced inflation and it’s killing our economy, causing wage stagnation and keeping workers from being able to retire on time.

Why do we tolerate this?  Because big insurers are marketing geniuses.  And we bought it hook, line and sinker.  Even though the net promoter score of the major insurers is in the single digits, many American employers are too afraid to design a plan that isn’t run by one of them.  Until now.

At a very grassroots level, employers of all sizes and makeups are seeing the Direct Primary Care practices build a presence in their communities.  Many seek out that care and then decide they want to try it out for themselves.  They’re hooked instantly.  They want to provide it as an option to the rest of their workforce.  They ask their current broker to help them implement it and that’s where the difficulties start.  They hear things like, “this is just an added expense” or “your employees already have all of the doctors in the network” or “this won’t work with your health savings account”. 

As a Health Rosetta Advisor that’s music to my ears.  My most recent client acquisition told me just before I was hired that it was refreshing to hear someone say “yes you can” when cost containment solutions like DPC, transparent pharmacy benefits and bundled surgical agreements were inserted into the conversation.  They told me all they heard from their incumbent broker was how the status quo was the best they could do. 

But not all employers are so bold.  Many are too afraid that their employees are going to revolt at the mere mention of a different insurer.  Well, I’ll just describe the open enrollment meeting at this new client.  The changes were explained, the booklets were passed out, heads knodded, frowns turned to smiles and several employees were giving high fives to the CFO as they walked out of the conference room.  I’d say those employees were pretty happy with those changes.  Here’s the difference.  Instead of employees being given bad news, they were told the following:  “your primary care visits are free” and “your generic prescriptions can likely be dispensed right in your DPC provider’s office, no need for a separate trip to the pharmacy” and “if you follow the surgical advocate’s recommendation of the high-quality provider for your procedure, it’ll be no cost to you.”  I’m no genius, but that sounds a whole lot better than “copays, deductibles, co-insurance and premiums are going up again.”

What’s my point?  As an employer you have options.  More importantly, so do your employees.  Someday you may have to come to the sad reality that your outdated benefits package just cost you the great new hire you were recruiting.  When that day comes you know where to reach me.  I’ll show up in my cute, pearl white Toyota Prius that got me there at a rate of about 60 miles per gallon.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

One in five adults (43.8 million people) will experience a mental illness in any given year. The consequences of living with a mental illness or substance use disorder affect all areas of a person’s life, including work. And that affects every employer’s bottom line: Serious mental illness costs America $193.2 billion in lost earnings per year.

However, more than half of people who need mental health treatment do not receive it. In addition to stigma, a major deterrent to treatment is a lack of understanding and support from employers. For example, a survey by Mental Health America found that more than three-quarters of respondents are afraid of getting punished for taking a day off to attend to their mental health.

Investing in a mentally healthy workforce is good for business, says the Center for Workplace Mental Health. It estimates that 80 percent of employees treated for mental illness report improved productivity and satisfaction. Lower healthcare costs, decreased absenteeism, and reduced disability costs also result when employees feel it’s safe to seek the mental health care they need thanks to awareness and a supportive culture.

Take the First Step

Creating a mental-health friendly workplace starts with understanding the issue.

Check out these resources to learn more about how you can foster a mental-health friendly workplace:


By Rachel Sobel
Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

Easy Ways to Increase Workplace Wellness | North Carolina Employee Benefits

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Picture this: You’re sitting at your desk at 3 pm and realize you haven’t gotten up from your chair for hours. You realize you’ve been snacking instead of eating a lunch. You have read the same sentence four times and still can’t figure out what it means. Your back hurts, your eyes feel dry, and you feel totally blah. You, my friend, are a victim of a sedentary lifestyle. How can we combat this lack of energy and inattentiveness in our workplace? By adopting healthy workplace initiatives, you will reap the benefits of a more engaged workforce and a healthier environment.  

What’s the problem?

  • The average worker sits 7.5 hours at a desk every day

  • Add in couch time, sitting to eat meals, commute, and sleeping, and it could mean that the average adult is only active for 3 hours in a 24-hour period

  • Prolonged sitting is directly related to higher risk of heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes

  • Poor posture can lead to chronic health issues such as arthritis and bursitis

  • Staring at computer screens for long amounts of time lead to higher instances of headaches and migraines

What’s the solution?

  • Healthy snack options in vending machines—SnackNation and Nature Box have healthy snack delivery services for offices of all kinds and sizes. 

  • Fitness challenges—Encourage different office-wide challenges to promote a more active lifestyle. 

  • Standing desks—Companies such as Varidesk make standing desks or sit/stand desks that lower and raise so that you vary your position during the day

    • Reduces back pain

    • Burns more calories during the day

    • Increases energy

    • Some insurance companies will cover all or portion of the cost if they deem it “medically necessary.”

  • Practice gratitude—keep a daily log of things to be thankful for that day

    • Shown to ease depression, curb appetite, and enhance sleep

    • Spirit of gratefulness leads to more sustainable happiness because it’s not based on immediate gratification, it’s more of a state of mind

  • Get moving during the day—if your office doesn’t have sit/stand desks, schedule time to move each day.

    • Stretch time/desk yoga

    • Computer programs to remind you to move such as “Move” for iOS and “Big Stretch Reminder” for Windows

  • Extra happiness in the office—

    • Add a plant

    • Aromatherapy

    • Host a cooking class to encourage healthy meal plans

    • Pet-friendly office days

 

By showing your employees that you care about their physical and mental health you are showing that you care about them as people and not just employees. This results in higher motivated staff who are healthier. The Harvard Business Review even says that “employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw $6 in healthcare savings for every $1 invested.” You cannot always measure ROI on personnel investment, but it looks like for workplace wellness, you can! Now get moving and get your office moving!

Back to School Time Off Tips | North Carolina Benefit Advisors

The coals from the Labor Day barbecues have cooled, the beach chairs have been returned to their sheds, the ice cream shops have scaled back their hours, and the white shoes have been set aside for the next nine months. Whatever the end of summer means to you, for millions of families, it signals the return to school for children in preschool through college.

This means your employees will likely need to take a few hours out of their workday occasionally to participate in their children’s education. Parents’ fall calendars are often packed with school events, parent-teacher conferences, and/or parent meetings – some of which will inevitably occur during their usual working hours – and any flexibility you give them to attend these events, or even volunteer in the classroom or chaperone a field trip, will be greatly appreciated.

Where it’s the law

Nine states and the District of Columbia have passed laws protecting parents’ rights to take small increments of time away from work to attend to school matters. They vary widely in their specifics regarding eligibility for leave, whether the time is paid or unpaid, and the amount of time available for use. (ThinkHR customers can get details about each state’s provisions by clicking the act titles listed below after logging into to your ThinkHR account.)

Even if it’s not the law

It’s a best practice to offer flexibility to all employees so that they can meet the obligations of daily life while still performing at their peak at work. It goes a long way toward making an employee feel good about where they work when they can see their child perform in a school play, take their dog to the vet, or accept an appliance delivery without worrying about missing a couple hours of work or needing to take a full day off.

The beginning of fall is a great time to review your established time off policies to see how you can accommodate parents and guardians who need to meet school obligations as well as giving all employees the flexibility to attend to the other small necessities of life.

In many cases, your established policies may not need to change. Depending on the needs of your workplace, your state laws, and the employee’s position, this could mean allowing employees to make up a few hours of work, take an extended lunch period, shift their schedule to start earlier or later to still get a full day in, or use personal, vacation, or PTO time in small increments.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

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Wearable Technology | North Carolina Employee Benefits

Don’t lie--we ALL love gadgets. From the obscure (but hilariously reviewed on Amazon) Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer to the latest iteration of the Apple empire. Gadgets and technology can make our lives easier, make processes faster, and even help us get healthier. Businesses are now using the popularity of wearable technology to encourage employee wellness and increase productivity and morale.

According to a survey cited on Huffington Post, “82% of wearable technology users in American said it enhanced their lives in one way or another.” How so? Well, in the instance of health and wellness, tech wearers are much more aware of how much, or how little, they are moving throughout the day. We know that our sedentary lifestyles aren’t healthy and can lead to bigger health risks long term. Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes are all side effects of this non-active lifestyle. But, these are all side effects that can be reversed with physically getting moving. Being aware of the cause of these problems helps us get motivated to work towards a solution.

Fitbit, Apple Watch, Pebble, and Jawbone UP all have activity tracking devices.  Many companies are offering incentives for employees who work on staying fit and healthy by using this wearable technology. For example, BP Oil gave employees a free Fitbit in exchange for them tracking their annual steps. Those BP employees who logged 1 million steps in a year were given lower insurance premiums. These benefits for the employee are monetary but there are other pros to consider as well. The data collected with wearable technology is very accurate and can help the user when she goes to her physician for an ailment. The doctor can look at this data and it can help connect the dots with symptoms and then assist the provider with a diagnosis.

So, what are the advantages to the company who creates wellness programs utilizing wearable technology?

·      Job seekers have said that employee wellness programs like this are very attractive to them when looking for a job.

·      Millennials are already wearing these devices and say that employers who invest in their well-being increases employee morale.

·      Employee healthcare costs are reduced.

·     Improved productivity including fewer disruptions from sick days.

The overall health and fitness of the company can be the driving force behind introducing wearable technology in a business but the benefits are so much more than that. Morale and productivity are intangible benefits but very important ones to consider. All in all, wearable technology is a great incentive for adopting healthy lifestyles and that benefits everyone—employee AND employer. 

 

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6 Ways to Keep the Flu from Sidelining Your Workplace North Carolina Benefit Advisors

This year’s flu season is a rough one. Although the predominant strains of this year’s influenza viruses were represented in the vaccine, they mutated, which decreased the effectiveness of the immunization. The flu then spread widely and quickly, and in addition, the symptoms were severe and deadly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the 2017 – 2018 flu season established new records for the percentage of outpatient visits related to flu symptoms and number of flu hospitalizations.

Younger, healthy adults were hit harder than is typical, which had impacts on the workplace. In fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. recently revised its estimates on the impact of this flu season on employers, raising the cost of lost productivity to over $21 billion, with roughly 25 million workers falling ill.

Fortunately, the CDC is reporting that it looks like this season is starting to peak, and while rates of infection are still high in most of the country, they are no longer rising and should start to drop. What can you do as an employer to keep your business running smoothly for the rest of this flu season and throughout the next one?

  1. Help sick employees stay home. Consider that sick employees worried about their pay, unfinished projects and deadlines, or compliance with the company attendance policy may feel they need to come to work even if they are sick. Do what you can to be compassionate and encourage them to stay home so they can get better as well as protect their co-workers from infection. In addition, make sure your sick leave policies are compliant with all local and state laws, and communicate them to your employees. Be clear with the expectation that sick employees not to report to work. For employees who feel well enough to work but may still be contagious, encourage them to work remotely if their job duties will allow. Be consistent in your application of your attendance and remote work rules.
  2. Know the law. Although the flu is generally not serious enough to require leaves of absence beyond what sick leave or PTO allow for, in a severe season, employees may need additional time off. Consider how the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state leave laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may come into play for employees who have severe cases of the flu, complications, or family members who need care.
  3. Be flexible. During acute flu outbreaks, schools or daycare facilities may close, leaving parents without childcare. Employees may also need to be away from the workplace to provide care to sick children, partners, or parents. Examine your policies to see where you can provide flexibility. Look for opportunities to cross-train employees on each other’s essential duties so their work can continue while they are out.
  4. Keep it clean. Direct cleaning crews to thoroughly disinfect high-touch areas such as doorknobs, kitchen areas, and bathrooms nightly. Provide hand sanitizer in common areas and encourage frequent handwashing. Keep disinfecting wipes handy for staff to clean their personal work areas with.
  5. Limit exposure. Avoid non-essential in-person meetings and travel that can expose employees to the flu virus. Rely on technology such as video conferencing, Slack, Skype, or other platforms to bring people together virtually. Consider staggering work shifts if possible to limit the number of people in the workplace at one time.
  6. Focus on wellness. Offer free or low-cost flu shots in the workplace. If your company provides snacks or meals for employees, offer healthier options packed with nutrients.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

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Fitness Incentive Program Ideas

Corporate fitness programs not only build camaraderie and morale, they can improve company bottom lines considerably. Improved worker health results in lower absenteeism, improved productivity, decreased health care costs and fewer lawsuits, according to the Wellness Council of America. Incentives and contests can help your company increase employee participation in wellness programs.

Benefits

A corporate fitness program improves employee health in several ways. Workers lose weight, reduce stress, lower blood pressure and sleep better. All of these can reduce sick days, doctor visit and workplace injuries. For example, lower-back injuries cause employees to miss 100 million work days annually, according to the Wellness Council of America. The DuPont corporation decreased disability days at its Tennessee plant by 14 percent after instituting a wellness program, saving almost $120,000 annually.

Motivation

While employee education is an important part of any corporate wellness program, a fitness incentive program motivates employees to participate. Holding a team competition or offering cash or other prizes can create a buzz throughout your workplace and get more employees participating.

Team Competitions

One way to increase fitness program participation is to create a team contest. You can draw names at random to create teams, pit management against staff, place workers from different departments on teams to create more interaction or have different offices face off against each other.

Weight-loss Challenge

Weight loss is one aspect of fitness that concerns or interests many people. Create a weight-loss challenge as either an individual contest or team competition. You can award a prize or prizes based on total number of pounds lost or percentage of individual or team weight lost.

Fitness Challenge

If you don't want to focus on weight loss only, have a broader fitness competition. Track total number of verifiable hours participants exercised during the competition period, how much each person or team lowered their cholesterol or a fitness challenge, with participants or teams competing in tests such as number of sit-ups and push-ups, minutes on a treadmill or jumping rope, timed laps swum or other measurements. Work with a fitness professional and your insurance company to create a test that is safe for all participants.

Incentives

You can use a variety of incentives to motivate employees to participate in a fitness program. You can award cash prizes, trips, gift certificates, extra vacation days or other tangible rewards. You can add prestige with winners names on plaques displayed at headquarters, a mention in the company newsletter and press releases sent to local papers. With team events, the winning team might get to name the charity that receives a donation from the company. Whenever you award prizes, make sure the rules are clear, the judging criteria are objective and that all employees are eligible -- if you set up a contest for one department or employees with more than one year's service, you may create ill will among other employees.

Originally published by www.livestrong.com

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The New War on Drugs: Opioid Outliers Detectable in Health Plans

Opioid addiction is a growing epidemic in the United States, with opioid overdoses killing 91 Americans every day. In 2015 alone, more than 33,000 people died from an opioid overdose. Read on to learn more about opioids and to learn how to recognize the signs of opioid addiction.

Avoid Costly Mistakes with FMLA

Avoid Costly Mistakes with FMLA

Having a paid family leave policy reinforces an organization's commitment to a family-friendly culture.  More importantly, there is more competition these days for talent and with more millennials entering the workforce they are seeking family-friendly policies that will allow them to have more work/life balance. 

Custom Benefits Solutions Expands Services

Custom Benefits Solutions Expands Services

With the desperate need to control healthcare costs, employers are eager to have a solution that allows them the advantage of large numbers but the autonomy to create their own destiny.  The current constraints and opaque pricing models of the provider-payer relationship as well as “secret” PPO contracts have yielded a healthcare system that is confusing, hard to navigate and, in some situations, bankrupting to healthcare consumers. These days it takes an employee benefits consultant who understands how to think around problems before they ever really become problems.

Winning the War on Diabetes

Winning the War on Diabetes

Diabetes is affecting over 29 million people in the United States.  That's 10% of every man, woman and child and according to the Centers for Disease Control, another 86 million have pre-diabetes and some don't even know it.  Of the $245 Billion being spent annually on the treatment of diabetes and its complications you can bet some of that money is coming out of your health plan.  At Custom Benefits Solutions, we work with our employer clients to develop a wellness strategy that helps employees with diabetes to better manage that disease and reduce their employer's financial burden associated with it.  #custombenefitswork

Stress Comes from Many Sources

Stress Comes from Many Sources

Research has shown that employee engagement is clearly linked to an employee's well-being, so it makes sense that companies are focusing on wellness initiatives. But a person's well-being is impacted by much more than their physical health. What about mental and emotional health? Many employees experience near-constant stress because of financial, medical and legal issues that can eat away at their overall well-being and even cause physical issues like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.