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R&R Insurance Blog

Taylor Almonte-Hahn

Recent Posts

Employees Wellness Trends for 2021

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

2021 trendsIt is hard to believe we are already four months into the New Year! Employers are still adapting and elevating their wellness programs for the remainder of the year.

So, what are the employee wellness trends to still consider for 2021?

We know that COVID turned everyone’s world upside down and an emphasis is now being placed on holistic wellbeing and mental health. The Business Group on Health reported from their 2021 large employer plan design survey that:

45% of employees consider health care strategy to be a critical component in overall workplace strategy which was at 36% in 2019.”

Therefore, a greater focus on holistic wellbeing is needed instead of only focusing on physical activity. This, in turn, creates the need for programs to be more than just a step challenge, walking club, etc. They must incorporate the eight dimensions of wellness to round out a holistic wellbeing strategy for employees.

Companies that are switching to this mentality are focused on employee satisfaction and retention. In addition, by expanding mental health resources, it will help employee’s account for suffering that has occurred from the pandemic. The Standard says, “80% of employees report feeling highly distressed due to the pandemic.” Moreover, there is also an increase in employee assistance programs (EAP’s).

Those who do not have an EAP are researching one and those that have an EAP in place are updating the number of free sessions employees have to utilize. Employers are wanting to provide access online for convenience, as well as recognizing mental health issues are occurring and conducting anti-stigma campaigns around it.

Lastly, expanding financial wellness resources is among another trend for 2021. MetLife says, “81% of employees report feeling major financial stress since COVID.” The value to recognize here is that it’s not only your soon-to-be retirees who can benefit from financial wellness but all of your employees.

Overall, if you are still wondering how to enhance your wellness program for 2021, start with considering one of the three-wellness trends employees are searching for and interested about.

Topics: Employee Benefits, Wellness

National Nutrition Month - the Value of Food Labels

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

food labels

March is National Nutrition Month; the purpose of this theme is to help the public remember the importance of good nutrition and a healthy eating plan. Understanding food labels is the key to leading a healthy lifestyle. It is good to keep the following aspects in mind when shopping and consuming to have the most beneficial impact on your lifestyle:

  • Food labels provide key information such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrates, and vitamin content.
  • Food labels also contain the list of essential ingredients that may be crucial to utilize if you follow a diet or have food restrictions.
  • They can help you cut back on a certain component such as knowing the acceptable amount of sodium or sugar to not exceed for a day.
  • They can also help keep you safe with the storage and cooking instructions they provide and detect ingredients that could cause a harmful reaction.
  • Food labels can also aid in helping support local food producers based on the food’s origin.

For more information about serving size, calories, percent daily values, and nutrients as well as how to get the most out of your food labels, click here. Feel free to share this infographic with anyone else who would value the information.

Topics: Wellness

American Heart Health Month | February

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

heart monthFebruary is recognized as American Heart Health Month. Your heart is one of the hardest-working muscles in your body and all of that work can take a toll. Not treating your body right can escalate your risk for serious health issues, like heart disease.

Heart Disease is one of the leading killers in the United States for both men and women, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths annually. That is about 647,000 deaths a year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Key ways you can help prevent heart disease:

  • Eat foods that are low saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium
  • Get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week. Click here for three suggested workouts to improve heart health
  • Keep an eye on your cholesterol
  • Reduce your stress levels
  • Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption

While in many cases heart disease can be prevented, there are certain uncontrollable factors that increase your risk, including age, as well as sex and family history. For more in-depth information on heart disease and prevention, read more here, and always consult with your doctor.

To learn more about how you can help spread awareness within your community, click here.

Top three ingredients for a Healthy Heart:

  1. Olive oil - “4 or more tablespoons per day can lower your risk of heart disease”. Always make sure your extra virgin olive oil is labeled (EVOOs) and check out your local farmer’s market for the best bargain.
  2. Whole grains - Always check for the whole grain stamp of approval. There are specific guidelines for a product to produce that label. Whole grains include items such as quinoa, oats, barley, ect. Try replacing one of your refried grains, such as white rice, with a whole grain.
  3. Seasonings - Stop using excess salt, pre-packaged seasoning, and pre-packaged dressing. Instead, consider other options such as dry mustard, hot peppers, or citrus juice.

For a more in depth look on how to help keep your heart healthy, read here.

 

Source: https://engagementsource.go365.com/en/health-and-wellness-library/nutrition-and-weight-management/three-best-ingredients-for-a-healthy-heart

 

Topics: Wellness

What You Need to Know About the EEOC’s Latest Proposed Wellness Rules

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

EE wellbeing

On January 7, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released two long-awaited proposed rules on wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non- Discrimination Act (GINA). These Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) have been cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the Federal Register for publication and public comment.

Back in October of 2016, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sued the EEOC on the grounds that the EEOC’s wellness rules incentive at the time of 30% was too high a penalty for nonparticipating workers – and therefore could not be considered as “voluntary”. In December of 2018, a federal judge ruled that the EEOC failed to justify its 30% cap on cost incentives for participating in a wellness program and as a result, effective January 1, 2019, vacated the incentive limit. Employers have been waiting ever since for further guidance as to permissible incentive limits.

The EEOC’s Latest Proposed Wellness Rules

What Has Been Proposed?

The proposed ADA wellness rule imposes a “de minimis” incentive limit for most wellness programs that include disability-related inquiries (e.g. a health risk questionnaire) and/or medical examinations (e.g. a biometric screening).
  • An employer may not offer more than a “de minimis” incentive (such as a water bottle or gift card of modest value) in exchange for an employee participating in the wellness program.
  • There is an exception if the program is a “health-contingent wellness program”(subject to HIPAA’s rules and incentive limits).
    • Example: If the wellness incentive is conditioned on biometric screening results meeting health-contingent outcomes (such as having cholesterol or BMI within a certain range or improving a certain percentage compared to the prior year’s screening), then it must still comply with the ADA as a medical exam but can offer more than a “de minimis” incentive due (subject to HIPAA’s rules and incentive limits).

While health contingent programs have fallen out of popularity throughout the years, these proposed rules, if approved, suggest that wellness vendors would need to make changes to guarantee EEOC compliance to their wellness programming.

The proposed GINA wellness rule likewise “would limit wellness programs to offer a “de minimis” incentive to all family members, not just spouses, in exchange for family members providing information about their manifestation of diseases or disorders.

The proposed rule also continues to prohibit any incentive tied to employees answering questions about their own genetic information. However, there is a small exception allowing a “de minimis” incentive in exchange for family members (including spouses) responding to inquiries about their own manifestation of diseases or disorders.

What is de minimis?

The proposed rules are significantly different from the previous rules regarding wellness incentive limits. The guidance provides that a “de minimis” limit permits only nominal incentives such as a water bottle or a gift card of modest value. The proposed rules also state that a $50/month medical premium surcharge, reimbursement of annual gym membership fees, or free airline tickets would not be considered “de minimis.” Hopefully, further clarification on what will meet the definition of “de minimis” for these purposes will be provided in the final rule.

What’s Next?

These Notices of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) have been cleared by the Office of Management and Budget and sent to the Federal Register for publication and public comment. It is important to note that these NPRMs have not been finalized and may not be relied upon.

Comments on the NPRMs are due 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register – which as of the date of this article has not yet occurred. Once the NPRMs have been published on the Federal Register, employers having concerns about how these rules may impact their wellness programs are encouraged to take advantage of the 60-day public comment period. Members of the public will be able to submit electronic comments about the proposed rules at www.regulations.gov in the rulemaking dockets RIN 3046-AB10 and RIN 3046-AB11.

With a new Presidential Administration upon us, it is unclear what impact that may have on these proposed rules. Currently, Republican appointees hold a 3-2 edge at the EEOC until at least July 2022. There is some speculation that the new Administration may put these new rules on hold until post July 2022 or that they may change certain aspects of the final rule when issued, depending on the comments the EEOC receives. At this point, we do not know what impact this may have on moving this forward.

R&R will continue to monitor regulatory guidance and offer meaningful, practical, timely information to you. We welcome the opportunity to eventually discuss what type of wellness program and incentives will best promote good health for your employees and comply with ADA and GINA requirements once finalized.

Resources:
EEOC Proposed Rule for ADA - Proposed Rule - Amendments to Regulations Under the Americans With Disabilities Act | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)

EEOC Proposed Rule for GINA - Proposed Rule - Amendments to Regulations Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov)

Topics: Wellness

Virtual Meeting Considerations for 2021

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

zoom

While many are still facing remote employment, it is important to begin and/or continue executing effective virtual meetings. One item employers are struggling with is the interaction component within virtual meetings.

Employees are reporting feeling isolated and neglected. Most of us are social creatures and rely on interaction throughout the day. It is easy to make Zoom presentations very one sided. The manager acknowledges the group, addresses the key points and the meeting concludes. Well, employees may be multi-tasking in the background and not really even paying attention. Content is getting lost in translation. However, there are several virtual meeting considerations in order to successfully engage staff in order to adopt a learning and sharing mentality.

Below are some ways you can open the meeting:

  • An ice breaker
  • Share a win or polling question
  • Play a round of trivia
  • Start with a stretch break
  • Complete a show and tell by getting a household item

There are plenty of non-traditional openers you could start a meeting with—by not going straight to business employees will begin to feel more inclusive and with any luck reduce the feelings of being neglected and isolated. Other ways to combat Zoom fatigue are by scheduling shorter meetings, having a simple screen layout, walk and talk when acceptable, rotate meeting leaders and create a theme.

Topics: Wellness

The Holiday Season During a Pandemic

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

holiday pandemic

This year has been far from normal, so we couldn’t expect the holidays to be anything less. Despite how much we want to return to pre-pandemic times, there are some additional considerations to help protect our physical and emotional health this year.

In terms of COVID, in-person holiday celebrations could pose higher risk levels. So, before committing to a celebration, please consider these risks:

  • Where is the location of the gathering? We know that indoor gatherings will increase the risk of contraction and our winter temperatures don’t exactly allow for outdoors.
  • Celebrations that are longer in length and have a higher amount of people also could increase exposure risk. It is important to remember, you do not necessarily know where your guests have been or are traveling from, so guests who are taking proper preventative measures would be a smarter choice.
  • Lastly, those who have been exposed to COVID, diagnosed, have symptoms, or are at increased risk for illness should avoid in-person gatherings this year. Consider video chatting into the party you can’t physically be at.

Times are strange but your physical health and the health of those around you is much more important than attending a celebration.

Emotional health is equally important during the holidays. It is encouraged to acknowledge your feelings this season and reach out if you feel lonely or isolated. Be realistic about what your holiday celebration will look like this year and understand if other’s feel differently than you.

Stick to a budget. The holidays are much more than gift giving, so don’t try to purchase beyond your means. Take a breather, find time to relax and plan out any grocery shopping or gifting lists you need. Having a clear plan will help avoid panic later. In addition, don’t forget to seek appropriate professional help if you need it.

Don’t dread this COVID holiday season, instead take proper precautions around your physical and emotional health.

Happy holidays!

Topics: Wellness

Diabetes Awareness Month

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

november is diabetes awareness monthNovember is Diabetes Awareness Month in hopes to bring awareness to the rise of diabetes and the risks associated with it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes costs the USA $327 billion in medical expenses and lost productivity.

In addition, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has ranked diabetes as the seventh leading cause of death for the states.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 cannot be prevented, but type 2 can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle and age increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Employers should consider a few programs in order to monitor employee health regarding diabetes:

  1. Make sure your health risk assessment covers a blood glucose section in order to identify those already diagnosed and sets a baseline.
  2. Implementing effective nutritional and physical activity programs should be included in wellbeing offerings.
  3. Covering diabetes screenings, coaching and management can help employees get the access they need and prevent large costs down the road.
  4. Those with diabetes are more likely to contract the flu or pneumonia, so make sure vaccinations are accessible and education is on the forefront.

Overall, taking a step towards encouraging employees to get screened regularly, educating and encouraging a healthy lifestyle can help lower health care costs and show employees you care about their wellbeing.

Do you know your diabetes risk?  Click here to find out.

Topics: Wellness

October is Dedicated to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

October Breast Cancer Awareness

The American Cancer Society states, “1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime”. Breast cancer, like other cancers, occur when cells grow abnormally. It is the most common cancer in women next to skin cancer. It is important to note that even though it is rare, men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too. Any breast lump or noticeable difference should be checked out by a health care professional as some lumps can be benign, but it is important to confirm rather than ignore.

So, when is it appropriate to begin preventive mammogram screenings?

According to the American Cancer Society, women age 40-44 should have the choice to start an annual breast screening. If you have a family history of breast cancer you may want to begin to consider getting screenings. Women age 45-54 should receive a mammogram every year. Women 55 and older can continue a yearly screening or begin to get a screening once every two years. Some signs and symptoms to look out for are swelling, breast pain, discharge, swollen lymph nodes, red scaly skin and nipple retraction.

Take charge of your breast health. You can also perform self-exams in between your mammogram appointments. To perform a self-exam lie down with one arm behind your head, use your opposite hand to check your breast tissue in a circular motion. Feel for changes in your underarm all the way to the middle of your breast bone. In addition, stand in front of a mirror to look for visible changes in shape, size or contour.*

Early detection is key and can help avoid or diminish problems in the future. You should continue to visit your health care provider for annual screenings even if you are healthy.

Source: BreastCancer.org

 

*The self-examination content is not intended for medical advice and should be used for informational purpose only. Please seek and establish proper medical attention for exact methodology.

Topics: Wellness

Protect Yourself Against The Flu

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

Get a flu shot

This is your friendly reminder that flu season is right around the corner! If you are an employer, consider scheduling a flu shot clinic for your employees before dates fill up. If you are an employee, consider visiting a pharmacy or clinic covered by your medical plan or ask HR if an event will be held at your workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends those 6 months of age and older should receive the vaccine annually.

There are many myths when it comes to the flu shot, such as those listed below:

  • Getting the flu doesn’t make you that sick
  • The flu vaccine itself will make you sick
  • The pain of the shot isn’t worth it
  • If you received the vaccine last year, you don’t need another one
  • The flu vaccine isn’t safe

Given the chain of events that have already occurred this year, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. The flu can still lead to serious illness which will keep you out of work. Side effects of the shot are generally short-term and mild.

In addition, flu vaccines are monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the Drug Administration. The vaccine has been around for many years and since your body’s immunity declines throughout the year - you should get the vaccine each flu shot season.

If despite the vaccination, you still are sick with the flu please seek virtual medical care if possible, take antiviral drugs if prescribed, and stay home! Continue to avoid contact with those who are sick, wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth area.

Lastly, remember the benefits of staying active, eating well and what getting good quality sleep can do for your body and mind.

Topics: Wellness

Battling the “COVID-15”

Posted by Taylor Almonte-Hahn

Donuts at workMajority of people have most likely heard of the Freshman 15. Young adults go off to college and the new environment change causes stress and unhealthy habits to develop which contributes to weight gain. A new trend during quarantine has been labeled the COVID-15; with a lack of socialization, food directly in sight and boredom on the mind, many have found themselves gaining a few extra pounds.

 

“In a poll of more than 1,000 U.S. readers of WebMD, half of women and almost one-quarter of men have reported weight gain since COVID.”

 

Even social media has been trending with taglines of weight gain, over-consumption of alcohol and poor nutritional choices. Unfortunately, those who struggled with weight issues, eating habits and socialization before now possess extra risk. So what can you do to take action against the COVID-15?

  • Change your focus from frustration to optimism
  • Adjust your environment by creating an office setting away from the couch and kitchen
  • Try a new health meal or snack such as apples and almond butter or pretzels and hummus
  • Skip the alcohol or soda and try sparkling water
  • Shop smarter by making a detailed list, limit impulse buys, plan a week of meals ahead of time
  • Get active outside by walking, hiking, running, etc.
  • Seek help from a dietician, counselor or family when necessary

Look for the silver lining during these times and take healthy action in your life. Starting with the steps above will help you get right back on track.