High blood pressure — A hidden danger for your truck drivers

Doctor with patientIf you’re running a logistics business or division, you know how important it is to have reliable and healthy truck drivers. Although most health conditions are easy to diagnose and treat, there’s one in particular that’s tricky to spot — High blood pressure. That’s because high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) often doesn’t show any symptoms, and that’s a real problem.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to significant problems for your truck drivers including:

  • An enlarged heart, a big risk for heart failure.
  • Aneurysms in blood vessels, which can be fatal.
  • Kidney failure.
  • Vision problems and blindness.

It’s estimated that over 65 million Americans (around a third of the adult population) have high blood pressure, and one in three of those people aren’t aware they’re affected.

Why high blood pressure is a real issue for truck drivers
Truck drivers have a greater risk of high blood pressure than others, mainly due to the nature of their work. Some of the causes of high blood pressure include:

  • A poor diet with too much salt — Eating healthily on the road is a real challenge, and many truck drivers will opt for fast food. Unfortunately, the high proportion of salt and lack of other nutrients is a risk factor.
  • Too much alcohol – We hope you already have drug and alcohol testing policy and procedures in place to ensure no drinking on the job, but you can’t control what happens after hours.
  • Lack of exercise — Spending almost all of their working life behind the wheel of a truck leaves little time for exercise. Being overweight or obese significantly increases the chances of high blood pressure.
  • Stress and anxiety — Dealing with other road users can create significant stress for long-haul truck drivers.

Dealing with high blood pressure issues for your drivers
As with most health issues, prevention is much better than cure. That’s why taking a few simple steps could reduce the risk of high blood pressure in your drivers, help them stay healthy, and reduce downtime due to sickness. Some of the steps you can take include:

  • Education and training — Let your truck drivers know about the risks of high blood pressure including why and how they could be impacted. Encourage them to get tested and provide clear, simple ways for them to get training on how to avoid the issue.
  • Policy changes — Introduce policies that encourage healthier behavior. Give truck drivers a 30 or 45 minute break each day that they can use to exercise. Incentivize them to eat more healthily by providing discounts for particular types of restaurants or meals.
  • Support and resources — Get some help in place. Arrange for a nurse to come on site to provide blood pressure testing and personalized advice on what your truck drivers can do. Provide maps of where to find restaurants with healthy eating options on the popular trucking routes. Introduce a formal wellness program into your workplace.
  • Health insurance and medication — Even with all these preventative measures, you will still have some drivers who develop high blood pressure problems. In those cases, you’ll want to ensure they have the right health insurance and get access to the doctors and medications they need to control their medical conditions.

If you want to keep your truck drivers healthy and happy, you can start right now. Just using one or two of these suggestions could significantly reduce the frequency and impact of high blood pressure problems. That means healthier employees, less time off sick, and a more efficient trucking operation.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant

blood pressure trucking

Health Insurance and Large Groups — Understand How Your Premiums Are Calculated

?????????????????????????????????As an employer, one of the most valuable benefits you can offer to your employees is health insurance. For larger groups of 51 employees or more, you’ll likely have group health insurance coverage. This is a policy you’ll typically purchase from a broker (so you get the best deal) that you can then offer to all of your eligible employees. Around 98% of large employers (businesses with more than 200 employees) provide health coverage to some or all of their people.

These types of health insurance policies are great for your employees

Large group policies have several advantages over small group or individual health insurance plans:

  • The employer typically pays half or more of an employee’s premiums.
  • Premium only plans (POP) mean employees can pay premiums out of their pre-tax incomes.
  • This results in significantly subsidized premiums, meaning happier employees.
  • You get a healthier, better motivated workforce.

The health insurance cost is calculated slightly differently for large groups

The cost of large group policies is typically worked out when the employer decides to purchase, rather than being a fixed rate. The premiums, coverage, deductibles, and benefits are normally based on several factors:

  • The number of employees participating.
  • The type of coverage needed.
  • The amount of payments, deductibles, and benefits desired.
  • An employer’s prior claims history.

Individual employees don’t normally have to fill out health questionnaires, although employers may need to answer general questions on the health of their employees.

Other factors that can impact your health insurance premiums for large groups

Some insurers will also take the following into account:

  • The average age of the workforce.
  • Large claims that have been made by the employer previously.
  • The employer’s location — New York City is going to be more expensive than rural Wisconsin.
  • The gender makeup of the workforce.
  • The sector an employer works in — Premiums for constructions workers are going to be higher than for a retail shoe store.

All of these factors will feed into the calculations, coverage, benefits, and premiums.

Differences in health insurance premiums between small and large groups

If we look at a typical health insurance plan for a family, an employee will generally contribute:

  • In small groups — Around 35% of the premium.
  • In large groups — Around 25% of the premium.

There’s less of a burden on employees in large group health insurance plans.

If you’re a large employer, you must offer health insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers of more than 50 people must offer affordable health plans to their ‘Full Time Equivalent” employees. The penalties for not providing this type of cover are:

  • Mandate Penalty — This comes into effect if an employer does not offer group health coverage. It’s calculated at $2,000 per employee, after the first 30 employees.
  • Qualification Penalty — This applies if an employer does not offer a “qualifying plan.” Qualifying plans must offer a certain minimum standard of coverage, and must be affordable to employees. The penalty is $3,000 per employee that does not get qualifying coverage and purchases a policy through the health insurance Marketplace.

The best way to make sure you get an affordable policy, and your employees get the coverage they need, is to use a specialist health insurance broker. They can help you navigate the complicated areas of health insurance and make sure you get the support you need to make the right choice.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Making Healthcare Hit Home — How to Explain Group Benefits to Your Employees

group benefitsGroup Benefits are both the most important and the most valued benefit provided by employers. American workers regularly cite healthcare as one of the main factors affecting their employment decisions – good or bad. A good group plan provides your people with peace of mind and helps them be happier and more confident in life and work.  In the end, it’s a game changer on many levels when it comes to employee retention and satisfaction.

It’s a shame then that so many people find health plans confusing — whether it’s benefits, coverage, deductibles, premiums, or copays, the bewildering number of choices makes it difficult for employees to make the right decision. Let’s face it – insurance is complicated.

Why is choosing health insurance difficult for employees?

There are many reasons for this including:

  • The sheer number of plans available.
  • The difference in benefits and coverage between plans.
  • Not understanding how premiums and out-of-pocket costs will affect finances.
  • Differences between in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • And many more areas…

 How to make the decision easier

There are several things you can do to make things easier for your team, they include:

Get your employees involved in choosing and educating about group benefits:

Get your managers and team leaders involved so they have a good understanding of all group benefit options and are comfortable discussing it with their direct reports. A great idea would be to create a Benefits Team within your organization. Here’s how: take one employee from each department and create a team. Involve them in the process of decision making when it comes to all areas of group benefit insurance. This way, if a change in benefits is necessary, employees are armed with the reasons why. They can educate others on their team and throughout the company. This helps ward off any negative discussions around changes that are going to happen with your company’s group benefit structure, whether it’s dental, medical, short term disability (STD), long term disability (LTD), etc. Ensure that group benefit insurance is presented both team or company meetings and via one-on-ones if needed.

 Provide a more limited number of health insurance plans

Research shows the more choice consumers are given, the more difficult it is to make the right choice. Think about providing five or six plans as “core” choices, but give employees the option to choose other types of plan if they need them.

Centralize all health insurance information in one place

Link to or create a good comparison of healthcare plans, that show benefits, co-pays, premiums, coverage, and other key elements side-by-side, so people can contrast and compare. Provide supporting material, examples, and context that discusses what the plans cover and how they would work in real life. Your health insurance provider or broker can help with this.

 Get your insurance broker to talk to your team

Your health insurance broker is an expert. Invite them to talk to your employees about the importance of making the right decision. Have them clearly explain the various options open to them and let your employees ask questions and share concerns.

Keep health insurance simple

Explain health coverage in simple terms. Have a person available – ideally your broker, who can answer questions from your team on the options open to them. Provide follow up information people can download and use to understand their coverage.

If you’re changing carriers, explain the reasons why

Sometimes you might need to change your insurance carrier. If you need to do this, provide very clear, simple explanations of how benefits and coverage are changing. Let people know exactly what benefits are being removed, what’s being gained, and any changes to existing benefits. If necessary, provide the reasoning behind changing insurers.

Above all, remember that health insurance is confusing to most people. Be completely transparent, provide simple, useful information, answer questions and ensure employees understand their responsibilities. Rely on your broker to help with the hard tasks – that’s what they are there for!

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Is CT Long-Term Care Part of Your Retirement Plan?

Is CT Long-Term Care Part of Your Retirement Plan?
Do You Need CT Long-Term Care Insurance?

Connecticut long-term care, like life insurance, is a sensitive subject for many Connecticut residents. While no one wants to think about the onset of a severe disease or ailment, there is a strong likelihood that Connecticut residents will face some kind of health complication, which could result in the need for long term care. Statistics show that 70 percent of those who reach 65 will need long-term care, and with the average price of such care costing at least $250 a day, the bills often start piling up quickly. It is important that Connecticut residents understand their financial situation and the limits of their primary health insurance policy when preparing for their future.

Traditional health insurance coverage, including Medicare, is not designed to provide financial support for long-term healthcare treatment, procedures or other services.  CT long-term care insurance is designed to cover long-term services and supports, including personal and custodial care. These policies will reimburse policyholders a specified daily limit to help policyholders pay for services to assist them with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or eating.

There is a wide range of care options and benefits that allow policyholders to get the services they need whether they are at home or in a care facility. These policies can be secured for individuals as well as couples who wish to share joint coverage. In many situations, purchasing a CT long-term-care insurance policy, and implementing strategic retirement planning, can be a way of making sure the future needs of you and your loved ones are met, by ensuring that no financial hardship befalls you or them as a result of a medical complication.

At Sinclair Risk and Financial Management we specialize in helping our clients manage their assets and funds. We offer comprehensive CT retirement planning services paired with comprehensive personal insurance products to provide our clients with the best solutions to protect themselves, their loved ones, and all their assets. Give our CT long-term-care insurance specialists a call today at (877) 602-2305 to learn more about all our services.

Employee Benefits: Health Perception Vs. Reality

Employee Benefits Health Perception Vs. RealityEmployee Benefits Health Perception Vs. Reality

A new survey indicates that many American workers and their families have inaccurate perceptions about their weight, health condition, and how much their healthcare actually costs, according to Employee Benefit News.

Over 2,800 employees and their dependents were asked question about their thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors regarding health and wellness. Eighty-seven percent of respondents reported being in good health. However, half of those who reported being in good health (53%) had a body mass index that would fall in the overweight or obese categories. Only 23 percent believed they were overweight, compared to an actual value of 34 percent.

This staggering gap between reality and perception can have a significant impact on a company’s healthcare costs. It has long been agreed that preventative methods, such as regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet, can lower an individual’s risk of disease and improve their overall well-being. They are less likely to miss work due to illness, and their overall health costs are likely to be lower.

In the survey’s analysis, the total healthcare costs per employee were $10,522 last year, according to the survey. Employers paid approximately $8,318 of that. However, when asked how much of the bill their employer assumed, employees guess about half the amount.

This is where employers come in. Part of the challenge in offering healthcare and wellness services is engaging employees to ensure they utilize the resources available. Offering tools and resources to employees to give them a realistic picture of their health has benefits both for themselves and the company.

At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we’ve developed a comprehensive risk management platform that integrates different approaches to property and casualty and employee benefits. We understand that an effective employee benefits plan is key to retention. We’ll help you find the right balance in offering an attractive plan with multiple choices, flexibility, and customization for your employees while still maintaining a price point that works for your budget. Contact us today for more information. (877) 602-2305

Employee Benefits: Benefits of a Healthy Workplace

employee-beenfits-Benefits-of-a-Healthy-WorkforceEmployee Benefits: Benefits of a Healthy Workplace

There is a flurry of activity regarding our health. Between the healthcare reforms, obesity crisis, fast food availability, there are thousands of articles, experts, and institutions all discussing healthcare, our health, and what can be done to improve it. But what exactly are the benefits of maintaining a healthy workplace?

The cost of employee health benefits has grown by double-digit percentages. As a workforce, we are expensive to hire, train, and retain. A healthy workforce holds huge benefits for employers and employees. Healthy employees reduce absenteeism, are more productive, and enjoy a better quality of life overall.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention almost 75% of our health-care spending is for control of chronic diseases. Of those chronic diseases, four health risks- tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity- are responsible for much of that disease.

The heavy costs put pressure on both the public and private sector to rein in health costs and help keep a healthier workplace. For example, several states are implanting wellness incentive programs- in Rhode Island, 65% of employees chose to work to reduce their health insurance costs, according to Governing. They are costing the state less than half of what those who chose not to participate have.

The incentive program relies on employee participation to reduce their risk of chronic disease. It involves not only health treatments, but encourages overall lifestyle changes. Other approaches include offering fitness classes to workers, or nutritional education courses.

At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we can help provide you with a proprietary Wellness Program designed to promote health employee lifestyle choices along with a strategy to create and sustain these behaviors. Our program also augments consumer-directed health plans, such as HSAs, which reward participants for making more consumer-oriented health decisions. Contact us today for more information employee benefits & the benefits of a Healthy Workplace.

Source: MSN Money

Health Insurance Exchange Becomes Federal Responsibility

Health Insurance Exchange Becomes Federal ResponsibilityHealth Insurance Exchange Becomes Federal Responsibility

Health insurance exchanges were originally meant to be set up by each individual state. However with many states resisting the creation of exchanges, the job has fallen to federal officials.

“We realize that not all states will be ready to establish these exchanges by 2014, so we are setting up a federally facilitated exchange in those states,” Michael Hash, the top federal insurance regulator, told the New York Times.

Governors of 13 states have sent letters to the federal administration saying they intend to set up exchanges. Health policy experts expect that the federal government will run exchanges in about half of the 50 states.

The implementation of the health insurance exchanges is navigating murky waters. Running the health insurance exchanges is a huge undertaking that federal officials did not expect to have any part of. The original responsibility was relegated to each state, however many have come out in opposition of the healthcare reform and are resisting creating the exchanges.

The health insurance exchanges will be marketplaces of sorts, designed to create a more organized and competitive market for buying health insurance, according to Kaiser Family Foundation. They are designed to serve primarily individuals buying insurance and small businesses.

As a business owner, you want to make sure you protect your business and your employees. Many employers are looking for health insurance alternatives to help with skyrocketing medical costs and the regulatory changes that have impacted their expenditures. Sinclair Risk & Financial Management works with companies of all sizes to design and implement Group Medical options that rethink the traditional way of offering benefits and meet the financial needs of employers while also addressing the choices and flexibility employees want. Contact us today for more information.

Employee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies

Employee Wellness A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies 241x300 Employee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and VeggiesEmployee Wellness: A Prescription for Fruits and Veggies

With bad cholesterol, depression, high blood pressure, and obesity all steadily threatening America’s well-being, some healthcare professionals are trying a new, simpler prescription- eat your fruits and vegetables by starting Employee Wellness Programs.

In a partnership between health care providers and farmers market partners, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) provides daily $1 subsidies to buy produce at local farmers markets. Each family member gets the $1 prescription, so for example a family of five would get $35 per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.

A primary care physician and nutritionist meet with each participant monthly to discuss and reinforce the importance of healthy eating. The patient’s progress is tracked over the period of the description, monitoring their weight, blood pressure, and Body Mass Index at each visit.

The program is designed specifically to assist overweight children and pregnant women who are at risk of developing preventable diseases. In the 2011 pilot program, FVRx participants reported a 38.1% decreased BMI over a four month intervention period. The program yielded economic benefits for local farmers as well- participating farmers markets saw an average increase in revenue of 8,129, as well as an influx of new and repeat customers.

The FVRx is one component of an increasing trend in health care that take a preventative approach to healthcare. The cost of medical care is rising, and preventable diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity rates only place additional burdens on medical costs. Initiatives such as the FVRx, wellness programs and education target lifestyle changes, including improved diet and exercise, that improve an individual’s well-being and can stave off preventable diseases.

The growing importance of employee wellness programs in the workplace reflects this same dynamic. Employers are helping employees work harder at staying healthy and manage chronic diseases more effectively, so that they and the company benefit from lower health costs and reduced absences. Sinclair Risk & Financial Management is at the forefront of this approach, providing employers with a proprietary Wellness Program designed to promote healthy employee lifestyle choices along with a strategy to create and sustain these behaviors. Contact us today for more information about our employee wellness programs.

Health & Wellness: Dangers of Sitting at Your Desk

Health & Wellness: Dangers of Sitting at Your Desk12 hour workdays behind the desk can do more than strain your eyesight and heighten stress levels. Multiple studies, from the American Cancer Society and others all found that a sedentary desk job (i.e. what a growing portion of American workers have) is linked to back pain, repetitive stress injuries, obesity, and even increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics evaluated the relationship between physical activity and obesity in the workplace, according to MSN Health. In 1960, nearly half the jobs in the private sector required at least moderate physical activity. In 2010, less than 20% demanded this much physical work. Part of this phenomenon can be explained by advances in manufacturing and agriculture, and the rise of technology industries which require much less human physical labor. This change in energy expenditures has led to a decrease in the number of calories burned as well.

Mashable recently created an infographic detailing the dangers of your desk job. When you’re sitting down at your computer, immobile muscles gradually lose the ability to metabolize fats and sugar as efficiently as they should. The electrical activity in your legs shuts off, and fat-reducing enzymes drop by 90%. Calorie burning slows to 1 calorie per minute and people who sit down all day have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease than people who stand.

Some companies are combating this head on with walking treadmill desks and switching out desk chairs with exercise balls. The point? Get moving. Step away from your desk for a moment. Stand and stretch a few times a day, or go for a walk around the block. Stay active after work. Avoid the TV and take a walk with friends, or join a sports league. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up to refill your water bottle. If you have to talk to a coworker, walk down the hall instead of shooting them an email.

The growing importance of wellness programs reflects this dynamic. Employers are helping employees work harder at staying healthy and manage chronic diseases more effectively, so that they and the company benefit from lower health costs and reduced absences. Sinclair Risk & Financial Management is at the forefront of this approach, providing employers with a proprietary Wellness Program designed to promote healthy employee lifestyle choices along with a strategy to create and sustain these behaviors. Contact us today for more information.

Additional sources: CNN.com