Gender-Affirming Care

fsaMany states have adopted laws or regulations prohibiting health insurers from discriminating against people based on gender identity, but Colorado is the first state to build the requirements into its essential health benefits (EHB) package. Colorado defines gender-affirming care to include a minimum of 12 covered services related to medically necessary treatment for gender dysphoria, such as hormone therapy and genital and non-genital surgical procedures.


Strength or Cardio?

healthIf you included exercise in your New Years resolutions, you may be conflicted as to how to begin and what will really promote weight loss. Educational resources at Mayo Clinic remind us that while it is good to include 20 to 30 minutes of cardio training in your workout routine, strength training is equally important. Strength training builds muscle and enhances your cardio routine. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn. Another healthy reminder is to take it slow when it comes to weight training. Again, starting slow and adding weight will help build muscle and burn calories.


Taking Stress Seriously


The American Psychological Association’s (APA) 2021 Work and Wellbeing Survey showed that 44% of Americans plan to change jobs in the coming year because of stress. The APA advises employers that offering more flexible hours, helping employees take better care of their health and encouraging workers to use their paid time off will better position organizations to recruit and retain quality staff.


Will New Healthcare Laws Help?

healthcareWhile price transparency rules have taken effect, the provision intended to make hospitals and health plans display healthcare costs in an easy-to-compare web based format has been delayed in order to allow hospitals to focus on the demands of the pandemic. Nonetheless, experts see some benefits in the ongoing quest to identify the cost of patient care.

The No Surprises Act, also in effect this month, continues to be challenged as several provider-based associations have filed lawsuits to change the way arbitrators will decide how much insurers will pay toward out-of-network bills. Regardless of how these suits play out, health plans and consumers are expected to benefit.


Making 3 Minutes Count

diabetesA new study led by researchers in Stockholm involved 16 middle-aged, white-collar workers at high risk for Type 2 diabetes. Half of the group continued doing their desk jobs for 3 weeks, with no change in their daily routines. The other half took a 3-minute break every half hour to get up and do something physical. Some walked around the office while others marched in place, hopped or otherwise moved around the office.

While the control group continued to show problems with insulin resistance, blood sugar control and cholesterol levels, those who had moved around showed lower fasting blood sugar levels in the morning and more stable levels during the day. Those who achieved 75 or more steps in 3 minutes improved their metabolisms most, but everyone in the mobile group showed some improvement in their metabolic health.


Lower Blood Pressure and Lower Costs

286785548HRThe CDC reports that compared to heart healthy workers, those with heart disease cost health plans a week of absences plus $1,100 in lost productivity per year. Controlling high blood pressure is a huge part of maintaining heart health. It can reduce health risks associated with conditions such as sleep apnea, diabetes, cardiac arrhythmias, elevated blood cholesterol, obesity, heart failure, kidney disease and other related conditions.

Confirming that heart disease is still the number one cause of death in the U.S., the CDC states that nearly half of all adults have high blood pressure. Sadly, less than one in four has their blood pressure under control. With February being American Heart Month, take time to educate employees on the risk of heart disease and the need to get their blood pressure under control. It can make a huge difference in their quality of life and everyone’s cost of healthcare.


Why Are HSAs So Under Utilized?

hsaThe trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, reports that of the 22 million Americans who own Health Savings Accounts, more than half have not contributed in over a year. More discouraging is that while about a third say they can’t afford to contribute, even more say they haven’t even considered it. This would cause one to believe that the majority of people who have this tool at their disposal simply do not understand its many benefits.

Unlike Section 125 accounts, unspent HSA balances carry over from year to year. Offering a triple tax advantage, qualifying contributions are made pre-tax, earnings accumulate tax-free and withdrawals are made tax-free as long as funds are used to cover qualified medical expenses. The ability to carry unspent balances forward makes an HSA a great retirement planning tool since funds can be used to pay for more than healthcare once the member reaches retirement age.

At a time when financial wellness offerings are in demand, it would seem that Health Savings Accounts are a gift that keeps on giving. Rather than positioning your HDHP/HSA option in the back of your enrollment kit, promote it as a valuable benefit that can help cover healthcare costs to and through retirement.


High Praise for Telemedicine

telemedicineAccording to the Employee Benefits Research Institute and Greenwald Research, the percentage of adults saying that telemedicine has become extremely important to them increased from 7 to 17% in the last four years. Even more impressive, nearly 75% who used telemedicine said they were satisfied or very satisfied. One caveat – 62% of respondents reported that their telemedicine visit was with a provider they knew from an existing relationship or a prior visit.

Throughout the pandemic, telehealth has offered a safe, effective way to deliver highly personalized, quality medical care. With a lower cost than in-person visits and the potential to satisfy the public’s need for speed and convenience, there is little doubt that employer sponsored health plans will continue to embrace telehealth beyond the pandemic.


Go Easy on Screens

screensAs winter weather keeps more young people indoors, pediatricians recommend limiting the time children spend staring at tablets, smart phones, game consoles and television. One suggestion is for parents to designate technology-free times such as family dinners and overnight in their bedrooms.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children age 18 months to 5 years have an hour of quality programming a day with parents involved. Older children should have consistent limits on the types of media and time spent, making sure that screen time doesn’t infringe on physical activity or sleep. Board games, cards games, arts and crafts are great options when its simply too cold to spend some time outdoors.


What Gen Z Wants at Work

genz-workIf you’re not shaping your benefits around the needs and wants of Generation Z, you’d better broaden your thinking. Statistics tell us that by 2025, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 will make up 27% of our nation’s workforce. What interests Z’ers? Here are a few observations from generational experts.

Fair pay and benefits are extremely important, but no substitute for integrity. Gen Z is the first generation to put purpose above pay and will leave if they believe the organization is hiding bad business practices, promoting toxic workplace culture or ignoring their social or environmental responsibilities.

Most prefer a hybrid work model, but after being forced to settle for virtual internships most want to get out and meet other young professionals. They want to establish a routine and experience a sense of community by interacting with peers and mentors face to face.

Gen Z’ers are focused on mental health and wellness. As such, they value paid time off to care for their mental health and health benefits that include therapy and a commitment to work/life balance.

Finally, as our nation’s most diverse generation to date, Gen Z’ers want to be part of an organization that works to improve diversity across all levels. While they want to be treated fairly as an individual, they are even more concerned about what their organization does to serve the greater good.