Health Management

North Carolina Flunks Population Health 101


Prevention Partners, in conjunction with the NC State Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, has released their 2015 North Carolina Prevention Report Card. Let’s be frank – this isn’t a report card you would be proud to hang on the fridge. In addition to a C in tobacco and a D in physical activity, North Carolina was given a big, fat F in both nutrition and obesity. These grades have not changed much since the 2012 report, except that our tobacco score has actually declined. According to Prevention Partners, tobacco use, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and obesity add up to $5711 per employee in lost work time and health care treatment. Curious to see how we stack up to national data? While North Carolinians have a slightly lower asthma rate and are less likely to die due to heart disease, virtually all other statistics are worse than the United States as a whole. 35.5% of residents have high blood pressure (US: 31.4%), 9.8% have diabetes (US: 8.7%) and a whopping 66.1% are overweight or obese (US: 64.8%). Key contributors to these dismal numbers include poor nutrition – only 12.3% of NC […]

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Are We Beginning To See Price Transparency In Healthcare?

magnifying glass

As pricing in the healthcare market continues to rise, we, as consumers of this healthcare, will begin seeking more cost-efficient ways to pay for this. Many experts agree that one way to begin to slow this rise is to become smarter with our healthcare buying decisions. A ‘smart healthcare consumer’ is one who seeks out the highest quality of care at the lowest price and understands the impact of their healthcare buying decisions. One of the major hurdles to this is the lack of understanding on where to find information. In areas where there is a lot of competition for healthcare, costs can vary for the same procedure at different facilities. However, based on one’s medical plan, the cost to the patient may be the same by the time the deductible and coinsurance limits are met. The patient doesn’t realize there is a cost difference because his or her out-of-pocket expenses remain the same. It is the insurance company that is ultimately paying the difference, which causes potential increases to premiums at the next renewal. This disconnect of the user of the healthcare (the patient) and the payer of the healthcare (the insurance company) is beginning to shrink as we […]

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Can Every Little Step You Take Improve Your Health?


Have you noticed all the black bracelets people are wearing these days, or have you seen a small gadget connected to a waistband? Chances are you have. Wearable electronic activity monitors are growing in popularity and are holding out great promise they will help people reach their fitness and health goals. Some employers fear that sitting is becoming the new smoking problem for their employees. While more time is needed for in depth studies, it comes as no surprise that these devices are achieving one vital goal, they do make people aware of how much – or how little – they are moving. Research in the past has focused on physical activity as an important part of one’s overall health. These devices allow us to not only track physical activity, but the more sophisticated models can track heart rates, sleep habits and various levels of physical activity. All of these play an important part in an individual’s overall health. Some health professionals are even considering using these devices to monitor patients after they are released from the hospital as a measure of recovery and quality of life. Employers are also being attracted to these new little objects as a great […]

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New Specialty Medications Expected To Cost Billions

specialty medication

Drug costs are expected to rise in the next few years primarily due to the high costs associated with specialty medications. While less than 1% of a typical employer group population utilizes specialty medications, they can account for up to 25% of a group’s overall drug spend, and sometimes more. Historically, specialty medications were produced to treat rare diseases or specific health problems that impacted relatively few individuals. This trend has been reversed in the most recent years, with many of these high cost medications being developed to cover more common problems. The drug Solvaldi recently received a great deal of attention in the media due to it’s very high cost in treating Hepatitis C even causing some health policy experts to cite the need for cost controls. More concerning is a warning CVS released last week regarding the pending approval of two new specialty medications that fight cholesterol.  These cholesterol medications called PCSKG inhibitors have been developed to treat patients who are intolerant to normal statin protocol. They come with a big price tag as these drugs are expected to cost $7,000-$12,000 per year. Herein lies the problem, a patient could be on these medications for a lifetime, unlike […]

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Top Tips To Gain Executive Support For Health Management

health management

According to the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), gaining executive support for your work site health management initiatives is a crucial first step to a successful program. Leadership support is a significant driver in getting employees to pay attention to and engage in the program. An executive champion serves to communicate the program to the masses, and sets a positive example of the desired healthy behaviors. However, this is often easier said than done. If you are struggling to get your C-Suite on board with your plans for a health management program, try following these key steps: 1. Establish Common Ground. How does the program tie in with your overall business strategy? How can you relate it to the company’s mission and vision statements? The CDC breaks down the reasoning for having a health management program into three key arguments: the Health Care Cost Argument, the Productivity Argument and the Great Please to Work Argument. Consider, for example, that you are part of a small company, thus your medical insurance is community rated. The Health Care Cost Argument may not be as important, but your field may be highly competitive, and being considered a “Best Place to Work” could be […]

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Is Legally Required Telemedicine In Our Future?


Wouldn’t it be nice to just “phone in” your swimmers ear symptoms and get a prescription for the drops? How can a physician possibly diagnose accurately with only a phone call? According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is “the use of medical information exchanged from one site to another via electronic communications to improve a patient’s clinical health status. Telemedicine includes a growing variety of applications and services using two-way video, email, smart phones, wireless tools and other forms of telecommunications technology.” On one hand, there are a growing number of telemedicine practices expanding their businesses. While on the other hand, there is still a considerable difference of opinion in the medical community around the ethics and effectiveness of telemedicine. Against this back drop, the state of New York now requires that telemedicine benefits be covered the same as other physician visits siting access and improvement of care and significant cost savings for the state Medicaid program.  Ultimately, this type of state requirement is a significant expansion of the expansion of telemedicine. A recent Deloitte business report estimates that this year there will be 100 million telemedicine visits globally, with a potential cost savings of over $5 billion compared […]

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What The Triangle’s Healthiest Employers Have In Common

tbj healthiest employers

In December, the Triangle Business Journal awarded the title of Healthiest Employer to 35 companies across the Triangle at their annual luncheon. Hill, Chesson & Woody would like to congratulate all of the winners on their hard work, including eight of our clients who were awarded this honor. The organizations varied across industries, from manufacturing to municipalities and technology firms to law firms. The employers also covered a wide range of sizes, from less than 30 to over 4,000 employees locally. These companies didn’t seem to have much in common besides being the healthiest in the region. As I sat listening to synopses of their programs, though, two themes were apparent across the organizations. First, there was a clear focus on developing and maintaining a culture of health in the work environment. This was realized through a variety of facets, but the most successful companies included the health of their employees in their company values and their overall business strategy. Once a healthy culture became a priority for the company, these employers looked at what other characteristics needed to fall into place to make this a reality. This is not a one person job – they developed wellness committees that […]

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FSA Balances – Time to Spend Down or Roll Over


Flexible Spending Accounts allow employees to set aside a portion of their income on a pre-tax basis to use for qualified expenses.  For 2015, the maximum amount that can be put in an FSA is $2,550.  Participation in an FSA and/or the amount elected, has historically been low due to the use-it-or-lose-it rule.  If the money was not spent by the end of the plan year (or during the next 2.5 months for employers that elected a grace period), the balance was forfeited. Beginning late last year, employers have the ability to offer a $500 rollover on their FSA.  Due to this change, participation in an FSA is expected to increase at employers that adopt the rollover feature.  If an employee makes a $500 FSA election, they can roll over the entire amount if they don’t spend any of the money.  For employees who make a higher election, as long as they have $500 or less at the end of the year, they can roll over the remaining balance.  The employee can still make full election for the next year, regardless of the rollover amount.  Employees need to be reminded that if an employer elects to have the $500 rollover feature, […]

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Controlling Pharmacy Costs – What Is It Worth?

pharm cost

As I contemplate employer concerns for 2015, I came across an article from Forbes about the 5 trends employees will see as options for plan design adjustments. One of the key elements employees will see is a more concerted effort to control pharmacy costs as we continue to see new specialty medications hit the market. The most recent and most expensive being Sovaldi, the Hepatitis C treatment that cures over  90% of its users. However, this medication costs around $84,000 for a 6 month treatment. This is causing a lot of angst for employers, insurance carriers and even the federal government, where nearly 30% of the users are receiving treatment through Medicaid as referenced in this article. The major question being asked about this medication is: is it worth it? At $1,000 a pill and nearly 4 million Americans that could seek treatment for Hepatitis C, Sovaldi comes with a steep price tag. This will, inevitably, place a great burden on health plans. To answer this question, I would look two recent articles, one from VeriskHealth and a second from Forbes. Both discuss the benefit of such a high priced medication and how it outweighs the cost. While Sovaldi and […]

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How Do E-Cigarettes Fit Into Your Workplace And Wellness Policies?


More employers are beginning to review the use of e-cigarettes in their workplace.  Currently, no states have completely banned e-cigarettes.  However, several states are prohibiting the sale of these items to minors and have included them in their indoor smoking bans.  Now employers have some tough decision to make.  Should these devices be banned or could they be seen as a tobacco cessation device – helping employees to kick their tobacco habit? As with everything, there are two sides to this issue. Some will argue these devices eliminate the harmful carcinogens found in most tobacco related products, and therefore are not a health hazard.  Others claim that e-cigarettes are designed to still deliver the nicotine punch, which is addictive in any form.  It is also just as confusing when it comes to how e-cigarettes will fit into a wellness program.  There is no mention of e-cigarettes in the regulations of the Affordable Care Act, but the terms “not smoking” and “smoking cessation” are seen in reference to an employer’s wellness programs and possible incentives to qualify for a program reward.  The FDA currently does not regulate or recognize this as a smoking cessation device.  Most employers are not recognizing this […]

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