Quarantine Periods Shortened

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On December 27th, the CDC lowered its recommended isolation period from 10 days to 5 days for asymptomatic individuals who test positive regardless of vaccination status. Following the 5-day isolation period, the individual no longer needs to quarantine but should wear a mask for the next 5 days when in contact with others. If symptoms appear, the individual should remain in isolation for 10 days, mirroring the previous CDC recommendation.

Other recommendations apply to those who are either unvaccinated or have completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines more than 6 months ago without having received the booster. While not discussed in the CDC’s announcement, the shortened periods seem to be aimed at helping businesses overcome short staffing issues that have arisen since the rapid spread of the Omicron variant. Finally, unless prohibited by applicable law, employers may adopt stricter isolation and quarantine requirements, including testing before an exposed or infected individual may return to the workplace.

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High Quality Health Plans Solve Problems

high-quality-health-plansAt a time when so many businesses are struggling to find and retain workers, it’s important to remind ourselves that health benefits are far more than a line item on your profit and loss statement. Recruiters consistently point out that most job seekers will accept a lower salary if a company offers a great benefits package. When it comes to engagement, few things drive loyalty and performance like a company culture based on caring for employees. Higher productivity and lower absenteeism typically follow.

When stress levels are elevated as they have been for quite some time, your health plan can be both a motivator and a cost saver – especially when your plan is self-funded. Strategies such as reference based pricing and direct contracting provide opportunities for significant cost savings while plan designs can be adjusted to address the needs of your employee population. This is especially important coming out of a period when many people have delayed or skipped care due to Covid-19 lockdowns or out of pocket costs they simply couldn’t afford.

Information and Communication are Key

By consistently analyzing claims data, we keep clients informed not only on large claims and challenges like specialty drugs but on steps they can take to control the costs associated with chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Accenture’s Healthcare System Literacy index shows that the number of employees unable to make informed choices about their care continues to rise. When people don’t understand their benefits, they lack the confidence needed to navigate a complex healthcare system and inappropriate treatment and higher costs often result. Even though tools to monitor certain health conditions and compare providers based on cost and quality keep coming, not everyone has the tech savvy needed to benefit from them.

As a result of the pandemic, much has been done to help employees through the enrollment process, however the plan they select needs to help them all year long. Whether ongoing support is provided by a nurse navigator program or an expert customer support team, there must be a greater emphasis on customer service and communication. When designed and administered with your business objectives and employees in mind, a high quality self-funded plan will contribute as much to the health of your business as it does the wellbeing of your employees.

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Penalizing the Unvaccinated

boosterWhile some employers are considering surcharging employees who remain unvaccinated for Covid-19, Nevada recently became the first state to act when it said a $55 monthly penalty would take effect in July of 2022. The penalty will apply to state workers and adult dependents to offset the cost of weekly testing. Consultants caution that adding a premium penalty could cause employees to seek coverage on the exchange, exposing employers to costly penalties under the ACA.

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Is Your Health Plan Delivering Value?

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The American Benefits Council reports that employer-sponsored healthcare plans deliver a healthy return on investment for U.S. taxpayers. In fact, the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Joint Committee on Taxation say in 2019, every dollar U.S. companies saved due to tax exemptions resulted in $5.34 spent on employee healthcare.

For plan sponsors, there is no question that their plan members receive value. Virtually all health plans provide much stronger benefits than members could afford on their own. What about your plan? Are there steps you can take to achieve greater value for your organization and your people?

Time for Examination

While COVID is still concerning, this is a good time for close examination. One strategy yielding cost savings and quality outcomes for many self-funded plans is the use of Centers of Excellence (COE). These programs, often focused on specialized care such as joint replacement surgeries, cardiovascular procedures and maternity care, may prove very valuable as people pursue screenings and treatments that were delayed during the pandemic. You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to pursue a COE program. Knowledge of the local provider land- scape and value-based claims expertise enable your TPA to pursue these and other opportunities on your behalf.

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More Resignations

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With Covid-19 having changed the way millions of people work and a huge number of job openings still unfilled, many workers are weighing their options. In a June survey by search company Monster, 32% of respondents said they would consider a change to escape the burnout experienced in the past year. Burnout was an even greater concern in research by employee experience software company Limeade. Monster Worldwide lists flexibility, remote work options and mental health as keys to retaining people in an over- heated job market.

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Nothing Like Home

eat-earlierResearchers at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health found that adults who reported never watching television or videos during family meals had significantly lower odds of obesity. Home cooking also makes a positive difference according to Dr. Allen Mikhail of Advocate Aurora Health. The bariatric surgeon says that cooking meals at home enables us to control what we’re eating by using less fat, sugar and salt. Over time, this will translate to fewer calories consumed and ultimately a lower risk of obesity. Dr. Mikhail also believes that conversation adds structure and social interaction to meals and helps us enjoy eating more.

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Work Less, Live More

familyA study reviewed by the Cleveland Clinic reports that more than 40 percent of Americans work more than 50 hours a week. The study showed that in addition to diminishing levels of productivity, working long hours has been shown to increase risk of health problems including heavy drinking, depression and heart disease.

On the flipside, putting boundaries on your work hours and keeping a balance between work and the rest of your life can benefit your heart. Spending time with family and friends, exercising and relaxing will keep you refreshed, more energetic and ready to be productive in the morning.

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Keep Moving. Be Happy.

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A survey by the Business Group on health reveals that more than 124 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from muskuloskeletal medical conditions. Unfortunately, common causes such as prolonged sitting and a lack of physical activity have become even a bigger problem during the recent shift to remote work. To help, more than two-thirds of responding employers say they plan to offer a corporate program in the next year or two.

Rather than intense workouts or weightlifting, many programs are expected to focus on the basic movements people make in their daily lives, such as standing up from an office chair or lifting small children at home. The great thing is that so many simple movements like stretching can be done right in the workspace, requiring little more than a 10 to 15 minute guided break. Cleveland Clinic reminds us that moving regu- larly can improve heart health, build stronger muscles and bones, help manage our weight, lower the risks of diabetes, insulin resistance and cancer and make us happier. That’s right. Research shows that those who are even slightly active are more than 20 percent more likely to be happy!

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