How to prepare your workforce for flu season
By Reed Erickson
The flu doesn’t discriminate as to who it will infect, which is why it’s important to make sure your workforce is prepared for flu season — which is now in full force. While there are simple personal health practices everyone can adopt to help stay germ-free, getting an annual flu shot is the most effective way to protect against the virus.
Employees miss an average of five workdays per year due to the flu, at a cost of about $200 per person for each lost day. That means for a workforce of 250 employees, flu season could cost $250,000 in missed workdays every year. And, with between 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations from the flu each year, adopting preventative steps to cut your company’s exposure is vitally important for your employees’ health and your bottom line.
One of the most convenient options employers have in preventing the flu is on-site clinics. Some healthcare companies offer this option as part of a worksite wellness program in which they administer flu shots and provide educational materials. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on-site vaccines increase productivity and decrease absenteeism in the workplace.
Business leaders also can help increase employee participation in on-site flu shot clinics by educating their workplace on the importance of the flu shot and helping to dispel common misconceptions associated with the shot.
As a physician, here are some of the most common “myths” I’ve come across:
The flu shot will make me sick. This is probably the most common flu shot misconception employees have. While a flu shot can sometimes produce minor side effects, like headache or low-grade fever, the vaccine contains inactive flu viruses that cannot cause illness.
Statistically speaking, some people will come down with the flu shortly after getting the flu shot — but, again, the illness isn’t caused by the vaccine itself. The most logical explanation for this is that the person was already exposed to flu viruses shortly before, or within two weeks after, getting vaccinated. It typically takes two weeks for the body’s immune system to fully protect itself after getting vaccinated, so it’s possible to come down with the flu in that period of time.
It’s too late to get vaccinated. It’s never too late to get a shot. Because flu season typically peaks between December and February and could last until late May, you still have time to schedule an on-site flu clinic. However, don’t wait too long. Even if employees receive the vaccination very early on in flu season (September or October), they will still benefit from protection lasting well into 2018. As always, the earlier the better.
I don’t really need a flu shot. While the vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from year to year depending on what strain is going around, research continues to support the recommendation that working adults should get vaccinated every fall. The CDC agrees, stating that a flu shot can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by between 40% and 60% if the dominant flu strain matches the vaccine.
For a healthy person, the flu often just means using a couple sick days to recover. But receiving a vaccine also prevents the spread of germs to other people, keeping the virus out of the workplace completely. Getting a flu shot protects not only the person getting vaccinated, but also his or her coworkers.
Of course, there’s always room for simple, yet effective prevention practices for the entire workforce. Wiping down surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes kills many different viruses, including the flu. Hand sanitizer also limits the spread of flu, especially if it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol. This percentage ensures the product will have maximum effectiveness in killing germs.
There’s no better time than now to start preparing for flu season. On-site clinics go a long way in making sure employees are healthier and happier this fall and winter. And that’s a win-win for both worker and employer.
Reed Erickson is a family physician and area medical director at urgent care clinic MedExpress.
Published December 27, 2017 – http://bit.ly/2DzJeAd
Republicans may try to repeal the ACA insurance mandate as part of their new tax bill
A tweet from Trump reads “Wouldn’t it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class. The House and Senate should consider ASAP…”
However, the individual mandate is a key provision of the ACA and would definitely cause instability in the health insurance marketplace–shifting costs to employers and other stable health insurance customers.
The elimination of the cost-sharing reduction payments by Trump is already projected to have driven up premiums 12-15% on average. The loss of revenue from healthier people not required to buy insurance or pay into the system could be even larger.
See article for speculation on chances of passing…
Group Health Insurance vs. Individual plans
Should your company offer a group health insurance plan, or have employees enroll in individual plans? Does a group plan offer advantages over an individual plan?
In short, YES!
Top benefits for Employers with group plans:
- Reduced payroll taxes—the amounts used to pay for health coverage are not subject to these taxes.
- Tax deduction for amounts paid for health care
- Net cost of contributing to coverage is LESS than the dollar amount of the actual contribution.
- Valuable recruiting/retention/employee satisfaction tool
Top benefits for Employees:
- Employer contributes to the cost of the plan.
- Employer contribution is not taxable to the employee.
- Employee portion can be paid PRE-TAX.
Major cost benefit: Lock in a group health plan by December and avoid the steep premium increases scheduled for all dependents beginning January 2018!
Call or email NeuBenefits Insurance solutions for more information and to discuss your options.
Obamacare subsidy fight goes before a California judge
The Trump Administration earlier this month announced it would immediately stop funding the cost-sharing subsidies that reimburse insurers for reducing the deductible and co-pays of lower-income Obamacare enrollees. Nearly 6 million people receive the subsidies.
Lawyers representing 18 states and the District of Columbia will ask a federal judge in California to block the Trump Administration from terminating the subsidy.
If the government payments do not resume, insurance companies are likely to raise their premiums significantly.
California legislature presses forward with reforms as efforts stall out in D.C.
While GOP Affordable Care Act replacement efforts have stalled out at the federal level, state and local government are pressing ahead with their own legislation. Here is a brief synopsis of what is being proposed in California:
Single-payer health care
This passed the State Senate but Governor Jerry Brown promised to veto it–it will be back, if not in the legislature then as a proposition. Single-payer would in part take advantage of Section 1332 state innovation waivers (just implemented this year) that allows states to apply for waivers from certain ACA requirements to support a state system that ensures health coverage is as comprehensive and affordable and covers as many residents as under ACA. A waiver could give states access to pass-through funds–monies otherwise spent by the federal government.
Individual state retirement programs
U.S. retirement savings are at crisis levels. California is among several states implementing legislation to create individual state retirement programs. Our state passed a Roth IRA program with specific contribution and enrollment criteria, set to take effect in the next two years.
Paid leave laws
Federal legislation regarding paid sick leave and paid family leave have stalled. California has passed paid family leave laws that permit employee payroll deductions and in some cases require complex coordination with FMLA or other paid time off.
Equal pay laws and salary history restrictions
Employers must comply with the Equal Pay Act, which requires men and women to be paid the same for equal work. California has recently passed legislation to more aggressively address the gender pay gap, increasing employer obligations and penalties and changing the way claims of pay discrimination are analyzed under the law. California has also proposed bills to limit salary history inquiries until a certain stage of the recruiting process and prohibit the use of salary information in employment decisions.
Trump broadsided the insurance industry Thursday
While most press coverage was focused on an Executive Order that simply put in motion efforts to craft proposals, hours after the EO press conference, he “dropped a bomb”* on the insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act.
Trump announced he was ending critical payments to health insurers that are intended to help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. The cut off of the subsidies (which have totaled about $7 billion this year) could occur as soon as November. Ending the payments is grounds for any insurer to back out of its federal contract to sell health plans for 2018.
Health insurers and state regulators have been in a state of “high anxiety” over the possibility of the marketplaces cratering because of this White House action.
Insurers have long said stopping the cost-sharing payments would be the single greatest step the Trump Administration could take to harm the marketplace.
Get ready for a media coverage explosion on this dramatic move.
*This story was first reported by Politico. Or see the Washington Post story dated 10/12/17 by Amy Goldstein.
Renew your group insurance policy by December 1 to avoid costly regulation changes in 2018! Contact NeuBenefits and save!
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