HealthNews January 2015

Get Back to Your Healthy Habits In 2015

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Happy 2015! After balancing holiday events and parties, dinners, work stress, lack of sleep and possibly the flu – it’s time to get back on track. If you forgot your healthy habits during the holidays, you are not alone. Here are a few simple tips to help you get back on track:

  • Choose physical activities you enjoy. Try signing up for a class that you find interesting like dance or martial arts.
  • Ask a friend to get active with you. Teaming up can help motivate you both.
  • Remember…it’s not all or nothing. Even 10 minutes of physical activity is better than no activity at all.
  • Keep a food diary. See what you are eating now in order to figure out what needs to be changed.
  • Shop smart at the grocery store. Buy a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors.
  • Eat healthy when you go out. Choose steamed, broiled, or grilled dishes instead of fried foods.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water a day. it is good for your body (hair, skin, nails, etc.), has zero calories and can aid in eating less.
  • Get plenty of sleep. Lack of sleep can actually make you hungrier and can make you more prone to getting sick.

Getting off your routine during the holidays is easy to do, and getting back on track can take some time. The sooner you get back to healthy habits, the better you will feel.

Employers Applaud Employer Mandate Bill

28bf6b4f-3b89-494c-b24f-ebb08c973c61 The Republican-led House of Representatives recently approved a bill that would redefine a full work week for purposes of triggering a requirement of Patient protection and Affordable Care Act. When the Affordable Care Act first took effect, it defined a full work week for the purposes of health care coverage as 30 hours a week. It was one of the most highly debated elements of the law and even created an organization, “More Time for Full Time,” which is a collection of organizations opposed to this part of the law.

Members of MTFFT, (including U.S. Chamber of Commerce, SHRM, and the National Retail Federation), were celebrating the bills approval to change the work week to 40 hours a week. “The National Restaurant Association applauds the House passage of the ‘Save American Workers Act.’ We have long supported this bipartisan effort to set the definition of full-time under the ACA to 40 hours per week, reflecting more traditional workforce patterns – an issue critical to our industry,” they said in a statement. “We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Young and Lipinski in pushing this bill forward on both sides of the aisle.” The NRA noted that the bill’s supporters firmly believed the 30-hour week wasn’t helping anyone get health coverage. Instead, the NRA and others argued, the 30-hour cutoff led many employers to cut back the hours of people they considered to be part-timers to less than 30 hours in order to avoid triggering the PPACA requirements.

“Retailers have voluntarily offered health care coverage to their employees and their families for decades and restoring the historic 40-hour work week threshold is critical to allowing them to continue to offer this coverage,” said Christine Pollack, the Retail Industry Leaders Association Vice President of government affairs.

“The health care law’s existing – and arbitrary – 30 hour definition severely restricts the scheduling flexibility so valuable to our industry’s workforce. In many instances, these employees may end up taking a second job in order to make up the income shortfall caused by fewer working hours,” AH&LA president and CEO Katherine Lugar said.

Even with all of the business support and even with the passing of the bill, it was mainly symbolic. The House version alone won’t change anything. Last year the House passed the same legislation but it was ignored by the Senate. Under the new Republican-controlled Senate, however, it is much more likely that this legislation will see consideration in that chamber as well. Even if the Senate follows up as expected though, the White House may force the legislation back down the lines. President Obama has said he will consider vetoing this first major attack on PPACA, thus setting the stage for another round of sparring over how many hours makes for full work week in America. Stay Tuned…

HR Challenges and Trends for 2015

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Understanding and preparing the HR trends for the new year is essential for any business. This year will have its share of surprises, but industry experts have identified a few main areas that will get a lot of attention from HR departments.

Employer Mandate

Insurance changes associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will need to be reviewed closely. The employer mandate, which goes into effect for companies with employees of 100 or more, it is still clouded in uncertainty with another Supreme Court case threatening to undermine major parts of the ACA. As businesses work with their insurance carriers to meet PPACA requirements over the next few years, experts are advising employers to make good faith efforts to comply with all of the regulations no matter how confusing it all may be now or become in the future.

High Deductible Health Plans

According to media accounts, high deductible health plans have 2 distinct sides: they free consumers from high premiums and give them more input into their health plans however, they can be detrimental to consumers’ finances if illness or injury strikes. HDHP’s are popular for a reason since many people who are relatively healthy and can afford higher deductibles for their rare health care visits. For employees with chronic medical conditions, HDHP’s are probably not the best choice. The popularity of the model is growing. A survey by Bankrate.com found that more than 40 percent of Americans say they prefer HDHP’s and the low monthly premiums were the main draw.

Wellness Programs Evolve

Offering wellness programs to employees has become very common with large employers, and the growth of these programs should continue into 2015. While it is difficult to measure how much wellness efforts are at holding down health care costs, employers still see them as a path to a healthier, more productive workforce. In a recently conducted health benefits survey put out by Employee Benefit Research Institute, it was found that nearly 36 percent of employers expected to add wellness programs in 2015.

The Continuous Job Hunting Picks Up

Companies are going to have to deal with retention issues this year as unsettled employees continue to search for other employment opportunities. Technology has now made it easier for people to find new jobs and for recruiters to steal talent. Studies have found that, unfortunately, 86% of employees are already looking for work outside their current occupations. Increasing retention rate is key to preventing losing employees. Creating a superior work culture where employees are excited and engaged in their work, feel respected and compensated fairly, and enjoy the people they work with is essential.

Generational Changes

As baby boomers continue to retire in increasing numbers, institutional knowledge is being lost along the way. Since more than 100,000 Americans retire every month, it is imperative that industry wisdom is passed along to the newly hired employees.

Flextime, Telecommuting Are Growing More Popular

Flexible work arrangements are becoming more popular. In recent years, the attitudes toward flextime work and telecommuting have been changing based on the type of work needed. With more emphasis being placed on work/life balance and the increasing ease of doing work via mobile devices or computers, it’s not surprising that many workers are taking advantage of flextime or telecommuting options. Research done by Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute found that the number of employers offering work-from-home opportunities rose from 34 percent in 2005 to 63 percent in 2012. Also, a recent Stanford University study found that overall, 10 percent of the U.S. workforce can now be classified as remote workers although there will always be jobs/ careers that don’t lend themselves to remote work.

2015 PPACA Compliance Checklist

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Group health provisions for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will begin taking affect in 2015. The current schedule calls for a transitional version of “play or pay” employer coverage mandate which will apply to employers with 100 or more full time employees.

Employers will have to keep track of which employees were offered health coverage in any given month, and large employers will have to put the employee count data they collected in 2014 into Internal Revenue code Section 4980H “employer shared” responsibility reports. Below is a compliance checklist for PPACA for 2015.

  • Review existing measurement systems – make sure you are equipped to determine employee status, while considering measurement and stability periods, to provide coverage as soon as an employee becomes eligible
  • Determine excise tax penalty risk by entity – identify potential full-time employees not offered coverage
  • Assess reporting systems – reporting systems should be capable of gathering and aggregating the required information for IRS reporting: by employee, on a by-month and by-entity basis. Reports are due to the IRS in 2016, but data collections begin January 1, 2015. Companies with multiple locations need a managing system to compile data from all locations and this can be difficult for employers with a contingent or variable workforce.
  • Prepare for marketplace/exchange notices – In November open enrollment begins for the 2016 plan year and even businesses offering affordable care to employees are likely to receive Marketplace notices. Notices must be analyzed for accuracy and any erroneously issued notices must be appealed within the designated timeframe – which can vary by state but is typically 90 days.
  • Develop a plan for IRS assessments – Will you be able to provide supporting analysis and documentation to defend against erroneous assessments? Only proper reporting and managing of data will assure your company’s readiness.

Hitting the Gym Tops 2015 Resolutions

14d741d1-3ef7-4572-b9fe-da029856f762As the economy improves, people are beginning to pay more attention to their physical health. A New Year’s resolution survey found an increasing focus on fitness this year compared to last year. Almost half of the respondents said they would make health and wellness their top personal priority for 2015, ahead of managing money better and spending more time with family/friends.

If you have decided to begin the new year with a new list of resolutions, and have already decided to give up (36% give up after one month), remember the best way to keep your focus is to set attainable goals, write them down, set a time to reach those goals and enlist a friend to help. Studies have found having accountability is the number one reason people achieve their goals. Why make a resolution? Some argue about not making resolutions at all, and it is their choice. However, for the majority of the population, the beginning of a new year signals a time to begin new habits and a fresh start. Keep in mind that the reason you made a resolution was to make a positive change in your life. You will be the one to benefit and others around you may benefit as well. The top 2015 resolutions are noted below and it is interesting how they are related to overall better health and wellness:

1. Lose weight
2. Quit Smoking
3. Eat healthier
4. Learn something new
5. Spend less and save more
6. Drink less alcohol
7.Travel and see something new
8. Give back to the community
9. Spend more time with family
10. Relax more

With great respect,

Douglas-McCarty Insurance Services

We are dedicated to the highest standards of business ethics with a commitment to excellence in the health insurance industry – Douglas-McCarty Insurance Services