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05/01/18

  03:51:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 328 words,  
Categories: Wellness, Diabetes

Diagnosing Diabetes

blood testing

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the body’s ability to use the energy found in food. The American Diabetes Association reports that 30.3 million Americans have diabetes. Shockingly, nearly 7.2 million Americans don’t even know that they have it.

Normally, the body is able to break down sugars and carbohydrates and turn them into glucose, fueling the body. However, insulin is needed to turn the glucose into energy. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly treats the cells in your pancreas that make insulin as invaders and destroys them. Type 2 diabetes is when your body does not or can not use insulin properly or is insulin-resistant.

Diagnosis of diabetes is imperative to your future health because if left untreated, it can lead to problems with the heart, blood vessels, eyes, and kidneys. Risk factors of developing the condition include family history, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and an unhealthy diet.

Since symptoms of diabetes can take months or sometimes years to be detected, WellLiving recommends an annual visit to your family physician, who will decide if you need a blood sugar level screening. Common treatments for diabetes include insulin injections to manage type 1 diabetes, diet and lifestyle changes to treat type 2 diabetes, or sometimes, a combination of both.

The Screenings and the Numbers
Here are screenings your physician may use to measure your blood glucose levels.

  • The A1C test measures your average blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months. Your doctor may administer this test more than once per year. Those testing 6.5% or more are considered diabetic.
  • Fasting Plasma Glucose (FPG) is a test that checks fasting (not eating for at least 8 hours) blood glucose levels. Those with fasting blood glucose levels of 126 mg/dl or higher, are considered diabetic.
  • An Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) checks blood glucose levels before and after drinking a sweetened drink. Diabetes is diagnosed at 2 hour blood glucose of greater than or equal to 200 mg/dl.

SOURCES: American Diabetes Association (1,2), WebMD

04/22/18

  10:40:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 295 words,  
Categories: Prescription, Cost savings, MedBen University, Transparency

Rx Rebate Guarantees? Beware!

Brian Fargus

At a recent MedBen University event, MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus warned attendees against drug rebate guarantees that promise a lot but deliver little… and end up costing the employer more.

“Some of the larger health care companies focus on getting as many rebates as possible and selling you on a guarantee of ‘per employee per month’ rebate savings,” Fargus said. But the only way to meet that guarantee is to encourage the use of the most expensive drugs, by placing them in your formulary’s preferred drug category. Meanwhile, lower cost equivalents that don’t offer rebates are considered “non-preferred” drugs, even when they cost less than a so-called “discounted” drug.

Fargus likened guaranteed rebates to a drugstore’s toothpaste aisle, in which Brand A offers a coupon and Brand B doesn’t… but even after the discount is applied, Brand A still costs more than Brand B. “The savings look good, but you still end up paying more,” he observed.

“Bottom line, you can go broke chasing rebates,” Fargus added.

MedBen opts for a different approach to pharmacy plan savings. While we return 100% of all paid rebates to the client, we don’t go looking for the rebate. Rather, we find the lowest net cost in every drug class, and help you point your plan members to those drugs.

And rebate transparency is just one way MedBen reduces your pharmacy costs. Our new MedBen Rx Advocate program eschews the standard industry practice of using a drug’s average wholesale price (AWP) as the starting price point in favor of the acquisition cost index (ACI)… the true price the pharmacy pays with no inflated mark-ups.

MedBen offers real savings on your pharmacy costs, with no gimmicks or artificial guarantees. To learn more, contact Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

  09:58:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 257 words,  
Categories: Wellness, Research

Lack of Sleep Increases Risk of Health Problems, Early Mortality, Study Finds

sleeping

Sure, work is important and sometimes burning the midnight oil is necessary for getting projects done on time. But making a habit of late nights and less sleep can have long-term health consequences, new research suggests.

The study of over 400,000 British adults found that people who regularly deprive themselves of sufficient sleep have a 10% higher risk of early mortality compared to those who follow the "early to bed, early to rise" adage. Stayer-uppers also fared worse with diabetes (25% higher risk) and respiratory diseases such as asthma (22% higher risk), in addition to other health problems.

"It is important for people who are night owls to learn there may be health consequences, but there may be things they can do to help overcome those problems," said lead researcher Kristin Knutson, an associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. "There's hope, but it may take some effort."

So how much sleep is enough? It varies from person to person, but 7-9 hours is a generally accepted target. Of course, some people can get by fine with less, while others do better with an extra hour or two. A good rule of thumb: If you rely on your alarm clock to wake you up, then chances are you need to hit the hay earlier.

Finally, if a lack of slumber is due not to personal choice but because of insomnia or another sleep disorder, don’t just rely on pills to solve the problem. Talk to your family doctor to help you determine potential causes and solutions.

04/20/18

  10:59:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 231 words,  
Categories: Cost savings, MedBen University, Claims management

“The Case of the Painful Pinkie”

Kurt Harden

Clinical reviews are an essential component of MedBen claim management, as our team of medical specialists ensures that your plan’s claims are paid accurately and in line with prevailing regional costs. At our recent MedBen University roundtables, MedBen President and COO Kurt Harden has highlighted several examples of actual clinical reviews … including an incident involving, of all things, an unfortunate pinkie finger.

As Harden tells the story, a police officer smashed his pinkie, causing its fingernail to grow in improperly. “The deformed pinkie nail interfered with the officer’s job performance, as he was unable to grip his service revolver properly,” Harden noted. The decision was made to have the nail removed via a laser procedure at an outpatient surgery center.

In its claim to MedBen, the surgery center charged $35,500, its standard rate for a nail removal. Our contracted discount brought the claim charge down to a more reasonable $28,000… but before the claim was paid, our claims surveillance system flagged it for clinical review.

After studying the claim, a medical specialist noted that Medicare pays no more than $500 for nail removal, and recommended that $2,000 was a fair cost for the procedure. So MedBen worked with the surgery center until they agreed to the lower cost.

For more examples of how MedBen’s cost containment solutions help employers reduce their health care spending, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

04/19/18

  10:33:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 212 words,  
Categories: Announcements, Mental Health Parity (Federal), Health Care Reform, Compliance, MedBen Employees, HIPAA

MedBen Compliance Director McNair Retiring

Annette McNair

It is with warm wishes – and yes, understandable sadness – that MedBen announces the retirement of Director of Compliance Annette McNair on April 30, 2018.

In a way, Annette’s retirement marks the end of an era at MedBen. Annette was part of the first generation of our dedicated Compliance Department, and with her expertise in the law and background as a IRS agent, she brought a unique perspective to her work.

Annette has seen MedBen and its clients through the implementation and application of HIPAA, CHIPRA, Mental Health Parity and the Affordable Care Act, to name a few noteworthy regulations. She has been instrumental in finding viable compliance solutions for our clients for the past 23 years.

Because of Annette’s influence and hard work, MedBen’s Compliance Department is better than ever. Now six employees strong, the team serves our clients with insight and commitment.

“While Annette’s departure leaves a void, her unwavering professionalism will continue to inspire us,” said Caroline Fraker, MedBen’s Vice President of Compliance. “We are dedicated to bringing regulatory information and plan solutions to our clients, and will continue to provide the in-depth compliance services that have become a MedBen hallmark.”

Annette plans on spending time with her family, friends and pets. We wish her well in this new chapter of her life!

04/08/18

  09:25:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 227 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Cost savings, Transparency

MedBen Rx Advocate Closes the Price Gap

pills

Newly appointed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says he wants to see greater transparency in drug pricing. In an address to the Federation of American Hospitals last month, Azar noted that “in both healthcare services and pharmaceuticals, the huge gaps between the list price and the actual price are notorious.”

MedBen clients are already well familiar with pharmacy benefit transparency, by a pass-through pricing approach that delivers 100% of paid rebates back to the plan, and reporting that shows exactly how their prescription drug dollars are being spent. And with the recent introduction of MedBen Rx Advocate, we have taken price transparency to another level.

MedBen Rx Advocate lowers the pharmaceutical price gap considerably. Instead of taking a “list-less” approach (average wholesale price (AWP) minus a discount), MedBen takes the acquisition cost, and adds a reasonable dispensing fee that fairly compensates the pharmacy's services. This "cost plus" method eliminates the potential for margin manipulation that is common with the traditional AWP “list-less” approach.

By using a drug's acquisition cost as a baseline, you reduce your prescription costs in turn... and we work with your team to ensure that you get maximum value from your pharmacy plan, through innovative plan designs. If you're interested in hearing more about MedBen Rx Advocate and the "cost plus" difference, contact Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

  09:14:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 241 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Walk it Out!

woman walking

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, per week. That number may seem high, but don’t fret: AHA goes on to say that even short 10-minute activity session, such as a brisk walk, can add up to help to achieve this goal.

If you’re not used to frequently walking, begin with short distances. Though it is most commonly recommended to walk at least 10,000 steps per day, if you are below that, try adding just 1,000 steps each day, one week at a time, until you reach 10,000. So, if you walk 5,000 steps per day, try walking 6,000 steps per day for one week, then moving up to 7,000 steps per day the following week.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get in a walk during the day, but there are other creative ways to gain those extra steps. These include taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to your lunch location, walking to talk to someone you would normally call or send an email to, and even parking your vehicle further out in the parking lot so that you must take more steps to get to your destination.

The benefits of walking go well beyond a number on your pedometer. The Mayo Clinic suggests that a daily brisk walk can help you to live a healthier life by improving your balance and coordination, maintaining weight and blood pressure, and even strengthening your bones and muscles.

  09:02:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 259 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Preventive care, Primary care

Primary Care Best Bet for Back Pain Treatment

drinking water

We frequently note the critical role primary care physicians (PCPs) play in preventing and detecting chronic conditions As the name infers, a PCP also serves as the "go to" source for treating many common ailments, including one of the most pervasive in today's deskbound society: low back pain.

In a new series of papers published in The Lancet, researchers concluded that low back pain should be managed by a PCP, who can provide the patient with guidance and encouragement to stay active and working. Instead, many people seek emergency care, take time off from work, receive unnecessary surgery, or are prescribed opioids or other painkillers.

"The majority of cases of low back pain respond to simple physical and psychological therapies that keep people active and enable them to stay at work," said series co-author Rachelle Buchbinder, professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine at Monash University. "Often, however, it is more aggressive treatments of dubious benefit that are promoted and reimbursed."

Approximately 31 million Americans experience low back pain at any given time, spending an average of $50 billion a year on treatment. Various estimates have placed the annual cost of the condition to U.S. businesses at $300 billion or more, considering lost productivity and missed workdays.

A successful doctor-patient relationship begins with preventive care, but also allows for better management of back pain and other everyday patient ailments… and helps to keep medical and absenteeism costs in check as well. Learn more about the advantages of “family doctor first” by contacting MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

04/06/18

  07:42:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 218 words,  
Categories: News, Preventive care, Health savings accounts (HSAs)

IRS Ruling Affects Male Sterilization Coverage in HDHP/HSA Plans

IRS Building

A recent IRS notice will no longer allow first-dollar coverage of male sterilization and other forms of male contraception under high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) paired with health savings accounts (HSAs)... a decision that effectively overrules current laws in several states.

According to IRS Notice 2018-12, vasectomies and male contraception do not meet the definition of preventive care, and therefore individuals in a qualified HDHP paired with an HSA will not receive coverage until the annual deductible is met. With the introduction of this rule, a participant who receives male contraception benefits before meeting the HDHP deductible will not be eligible for HSA contributions. (The ruling does not affect female contraceptive coverage, which is still considered preventive care.)

Prior to this IRS guidance, multiple states, including Illinois, Vermont, and Maryland, required that health insurance policies issued in those states must cover vasectomies or male contraceptives without a deductible or with a deductible below the minimum deductible for an HSA-qualifying HDHP. The IRS is allowing these states until 2020 to transition to the federal rule, so individuals covered by HDHPs that paid for male contraception expenses below the deductible will still be able to make contributions to their HSA.

MedBen clients with questions regarding the IRS Notice are welcome to contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at (800) 423-3151, Ext. 438 or smills@medben.com.

03/29/18

  10:48:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 337 words,  
Categories: Wellness, Cancer

Cervical Screenings for Women

doctor consultation

The American Cancer Society projects that in 2018, about 13,240 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed. The good news is that death rates from cervical cancer have dropped significantly with the increased use of the Pap test.

Pap tests don’t diagnose cancer, but they detect 95% of cervical cancers at a stage when they cannot be seen with the naked eye. And we know that the earlier a chronic condition is detected, the better the prognosis and the lower the incurred costs. So, it’s easy to see why women ages 21 and older are recommended to receive a pap test every three years.

This pelvic exam performed by either a gynecologist or family doctor, will collect tissues from a woman’s cervix. The tissues will then be sent to a lab to be evaluated to determine if there is a presence of abnormal cells. Your physician may also recommend that tissues be tested for HPV (human papillomavirus), a virus that can cause cell change in the cervix.

Though one in ten tests come back with abnormalities, most of those abnormalities are not serious. Your physician will discuss with you in detail your results. In the case that you do receive a positive test (meaning abnormal cells are present) your physician may ask to conduct additional tests.

Full story »

03/25/18

  11:37:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 371 words,  
Categories: Prescription, Cost savings

Zaenger Outlines Benefits of “Cost Plus” Difference, Offers Rx Plan Suggestions

Allan Zaenger

A featured speaker at several of this year's MedBen University sessions is pharmaceutical consultant Allan Zaenger, President of Pharmaceutical Horizons. At recent roundtables, Zaenger outlined plan design options employers should consider to reduce prescription costs – among them, the "Cost Plus" pricing approach now available through MedBen Rx Advocate.

Unlike traditional prescription plans that take an inflated average wholesale price (AWP) and take discounts from there to get to the allowed prescription drug price, MedBen Rx Advocate pays the pharmacy based on the acquisition cost index (ACI) plus a set dispensing fee that fairly compensates the pharmacy's services for filling a prescription.

"The ACI takes the prices network pharmacies pay to acquire a medicine and collects these drug prices into an index that is refreshed every 24 hours," Zaenger said. "On average, the 'cost plus' difference will save the employer 4-6% across all plan prescriptions."

Zaenger also cautioned employers against the practice allowing plan members to buy 90-day supplies of high-cost specialty medicines. To demonstrate his point, he passed around an actual unused portion of a 90-day supply of the multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera, which cost the employer $30,000... but because the prescription changed and the patient no longer used this drug, the unopened bottles of this medicine cannot be reused under state law, so "this $30,000 drug will get put in a paint can and destroyed," Zaenger noted. "That's an expensive lesson in why specialty drugs should only be bought in 30-day supplies."

Many expensive brand prescription medicines can also be defined as discretionary or elective drugs. Because of the high costs of the brand name medicines in certain drug classes and the general availability of lower-cost alternatives, Zaenger recommended that the plan member be responsible for 100% of the claim charge after the discount is applied.

"Additionally, brand name medicines in the discretionary classes would not count toward the accumulation of the out-of-pocket maximum," Zaenger said. MedBen can provide discretionary drug class lists to clients interested in promoting more cost-effective drug usage.

Zaenger will be among the featured speakers at the MedBen Annual Employer Benefits Roundtable to be held in April. For additional information about MedBen Rx Advocate and the "cost plus" difference, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com

  09:34:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 320 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Reporting, Cost savings, MedBen University, Self-funding, Trend

MedBen Hospital, Municipality Roundtables Spotlight Client Cost Trends

Brian Fargus

At two recent industry-specific MedBen University (MBU) roundtables, MedBen Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus highlighted how the company's claims management solutions are keeping plan costs in check.

From 2013 through 2017, the 5-year net cost trend for MedBen's block of hospital clients was just 3.1%. Municipality clients also fared well during the same period, seeing average net cost trend of only 2.7%.

Hospitals are unique among the industries that MedBen serves in that they can help themselves keep health care spending down by incentivizing plan members to use their own facilities for medical care and prescription drugs. Through these and other cost containment tools, MedBen's hospital clients have managed to keep average cost increases below national trends.

Conversely, municipalities traditionally have higher costs per employee than private sector health plans, due to contractual obligations that usually produce more benefit-rich health plans that than those offered by other businesses. But through strategic use of cost controls, the 17% plan cost difference in 2013 between MedBen's municipality block and its overall block shrunk to just 7% in 2017.

Like other industries, hospital and municipality employers alike have experienced an increasing prevalence of higher medical and pharmacy claims in the past several years. Since health plans were required to drop lifetime maximums under Affordable Care Act rules in 2014, medical claims over $100,000 and pharmacy claims over $25,000 have become more commonplace.

"The challenge in controlling costs has only become more difficult since the ACA," Fargus said. "But through our clinical review and reporting systems, plus strategic use of plan language to reduce the financial risk of specific conditions, we can still manage large claims to keep overall cost increases in line with our current trend."

MedBen will be conducting additional MBU sessions in 2018 that examine claims and utilization trends, including our Annual Employer Benefits Roundtable in Newark, Ohio. Invitations for this event, which focuses on self-funded private sector businesses, have been mailed out, so keep an eye out for yours!

  07:18:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 285 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Research, Diabetes, Preventive care

Reversing Diabetes Growth Takes Focused Wellness Effort

diabetes

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other sources paint a grim picture of the growing prevalence of diabetes, as well as its attendant physical effects:

But the physical toll of diabetes tells only half the story. A recent Gallup report found that diabetes in the workplace results in an extra 5.5 days of missed work per person per year, costing employers more than $20 billion annually. A company with 1,000 full-time employees would incur $1.5 million in wage replacement and lost productivity costs every year... and that doesn't even factor in the expense of treatment for medical conditions linked to the disease.

The best way to bring these numbers down? Stop diabetes from developing in the first place... and the MedBen WellLiving program assists employers in achieving this critical goal.

By putting the family doctor first and stressing the importance of regular exams and screenings, WellLiving promotes prevention of diabetes and similarly costly chronic conditions. And should an employee be identified as at high risk for diabetes, a member of our specialty care team will connect with them for one-on-one nurse coaching and customized education on a scheduled basis.

A focus on prevention and early detection helps to lowering the risk of developing diabetes and other critical conditions, while also reducing absenteeism and employer health care costs. Find out more about the benefits of MedBen WellLiving by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

03/23/18

  02:17:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 247 words,  
Categories: Announcements, News, Quality, ISO, MedBen Employees

MedBen Employees Show Adherence to Quality Standards in Latest ISO Audit

ISO Certified

For MedBen, maintaining companywide quality is an ongoing process. To ensure that we are meeting established ISO 9001 quality standards, we undergo twice-yearly audits of our work procedures... and once again, MedBen has passed its latest audit with no findings.

"Based on the evidence verified and findings of this audit, the management system is being managed and utilized by all employees interviewed," reads the report summary by independent auditor SAI Global. The report also notes that MedBen provides "appropriate input and support from top management."

During the audit, which was conducted on March 15, the auditor visited various departments at MedBen, including the internal claims auditing area, parts of accounting, the COBRA administration unit, and our group service units. Special attention was paid to the interactions between these processes and how they affected external and internal customers.

In addition to speaking with department heads, the auditor often conducts impromptu interviews with MedBen employees to observe first-hand how their work processes are followed... so to successfully pass an audit, it's critical that our team can show adherence to ISO standards as well as a knowledge of our corporate objectives. And as has been the case in every audit since our initial ISO certification in 2005, we once again demonstrated that our commitment to quality continues unabated.

"The recommendation from this audit is that your [ISO 9001] certification continues," the auditor concluded.

SAI Global provides organizations around the world with information services and solutions for managing risk, achieving compliance and driving business improvement.

03/11/18

  10:53:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 336 words,  
Categories: Wellness, Health Plan Management, Health Care Reform, Third party administration

While Federal Government Wavers, MedBen Helps You Control Costs

/capitol-caduceus-bills

In a recent Modern Healthcare editorial, writer Merrill Goozner poses the question, "Is the era of healthcare cost control ending?" With the individual mandate dead, the Independent Payment Advisory Board shuttered, and Congress in no apparent hurry to address rising drug prices, Goosner wonders whether the federal government has abandoned efforts to control health care costs.

One of the primary advantages of self-funding your health care plan is that you're not beholden on the whims of federal bureaucracy to help you control costs. Rather, the power is in your hands... and MedBen has proven strategies to assist you in your cost reduction goals.

Right from the start, the self-funded employer can put in place a plan design that best addresses the specific needs of their employee population (as opposed to government marketplace plans that are at once too broad and too restrictive). Along the same lines, we can review a group's claims activity and provide suggestions for shaping plan language in ways that promote more cost-effective care.

A self-funded plan also has the latitude to manage claim costs by customizing the review of particular types of claims. Through a combination of plan benefits, experienced processors, and sophisticated software, we can conduct a detailed analysis to find claims that may not meet medical necessity or billing standards. When a claim gets flagged for further review, we recommend certified medical specialists to look for possible solutions.

Another key to self-funded cost control is the ability to promote better health in the workplace. The MedBen WellLiving program aids employer in encouraging physician-driven preventive care that can prevent the onset of chronic conditions or detect them before they reach to potential to cause physical and financial strain.

And the cost control strategies don’t stop there. With 80 years of benefits management expertise, MedBen can work with you one-on-one to build and maintain a health care plan that reduce costs while still providing high levels of coverage. Find out more by contacting Vice President of Sales & Marketing Brian Fargus at bfargus@medben.com.

  10:45:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 249 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Research

Study Reveals Opioids No More Effective Than Safer Alternatives

pill bottles

Opioid painkillers usually make the headlines because of their addictive dangers, rather than their therapeutic advantages. But now, new research has raised questions as to whether such benefits have been overstated.

A year-long study of individuals suffering from chronic pain revealed that regular use of ibuprofen and other nonopioids proved equally as effective for relieving pain – and in some cases, even more so – than opioids. The 240 participants, all patients who had pain in their backs, hips or knees for at least six months, were randomly assigned to either the opioid or nonopioid group.

"Overall, opioids did not demonstrate any advantage over nonopioid medications that could potentially outweigh their greater risk of harms," wrote the team led by Dr. Erin Krebs of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System's Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research.

Krebs observed that based on the study results, there's no reason to use opioids given "their really nasty side effects — death and addiction." He added that other studies show that physical therapy, exercise or rehabilitation therapy work best for chronic pain.

"This is a very important study," said Dr. David Reuben, geriatrics chief at UCLA's medical school. "It will likely change the approach to managing long-term back, hip and knee pain."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that opioids should be prescribed only after other therapies have failed, and if prescribed, should be used for no more than seven days.

Read more about the study at the Los Angeles Times and ABC News.

  10:24:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 318 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Colorful Food, Colorful Life

healthy eating

Birthdays… we love them when we’re younger, then slowly start to dread them as the numbers get higher and higher. As we age, so does our body and our organs – so it’s important to keep them in great condition as the years pass.

To do that, people are always searching for the latest and greatest miracle pill or cosmetic procedure to help prevent signs of aging. But rather than hoping for an artificial “fix,” MedBen recommends going back to the basics and looking at diet.

Diet plays a key role in how our body and organs age, and what you put in it is what you get out of it. If you want to live a colorful life, with radiant skin and good organs, you should eat colorful foods such as leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, and fish. If you want a dull life, eat bland foods such as chocolates, lots of red meats, and dark pop.

For example: Lutein, found in dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and collards, as well as in peas and corn, is an important natural antioxidant that helps maintain healthy eyes and supports brain health as we age. It’s also shown that people who at least three servings of vegetables a day reduce yearly their brain deterioration by nearly 40%.

Antioxidant-rich foods seem to have a protective effect for the skin. These foods include items such as carrots, tomatoes, berries, and salmon. And for the heart, in addition to the foods listed above, oatmeal or a handful of nuts every day are good at preventing heart disease over the years. Oh, and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, a small amount of dark chocolate (at long as it is at least 70% cocoa) is also considered “heart-healthy”.

Bottom line… to keep young and healthy, add some color to your life!

Read more about healthy foods at the Cleveland Clinic and the Mayo Clinic.

03/09/18

2018 Family HSA Contribution Maximum Reduced

IRS building

Due to a change in cost-of-living increases as calculated under last year's tax reform bill, the IRS has released new recalculated maximums for family health savings account (HSA) contributions for 2018. This year's previously announced family HSA limit of $6,900 has been reduced to $6,850.

For plans that offer an HSA option in conjunction with a high-deductible health plan, this announcement means that family HSAs with a stated $6,900 limit will need to be lowered to the new $6,850 maximum -- and by extension, that member election changes may be required. Additionally, excess contributions may need to be returned to those members who have already contributed the full family amount.

Please note that the 2018 individual HSA maximum contribution remains unchanged at $3,450. Also, benefit maximums for flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) were not affected by the IRS recalculations.

MedBen clients with questions regarding this change may contact Director of Administrative Services Sharon A. Mills at (800) 423-3151, Ext. 438 or smills@medben.com.

03/05/18

  08:57:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 205 words,  
Categories: News, Compliance, ERISA

MedBen ERISA Disability Claims Document Available for Download

Department of Labor logo

The MedBen Compliance team has created a document outlining the final regulations relating to disability claims under the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act (ERISA), which will become effective on April 1, 2018. You can download this document from the MedBen.com website.

ERISA employers sponsoring disability plans should familiarize themselves with the provisions of these new rules, which are intended to protect workers and disability plan participants who make claims under their employer-sponsored disability plans. Much like the Department of Labor's revision of health care claims procedures prior to and through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), these Final Rules ensure that disability claimants receive a full and fair review of their disability claims as required under ERISA Section 503, by requiring that plan sponsors comply with additional procedural requirements.

Employers should note that the Final Rules may affect more than just disability insurance and self-funded health plans; any ERISA-governed plans which include disability benefits, including certain defined benefit plans, 401(k)s, ERISA-covered 403(b)s, and top hat plans, are subject to the Final Rules. Only non-ERISA plans or arrangements are exempt from the new rules.

MedBen clients with questions regarding the final disability claims rules are welcome to contact Vice President of Compliance Caroline Compliance Caroline Fraker at 800-851-0907 or cfraker@medben.com.

02/25/18

  06:14:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 264 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Flu Shot Still Worth It? Absolutely

flu shot

The current flu season has been one of the worst in recent memory, and this year's flu vaccine has offered less help than usual. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the vaccine is only about 25% effective against H3N2, the influenza strain behind more cases. Such a low success rate invariably raises the question: Is getting a flu shot really worth it?

Absolutely, says both the CDC and numerous family physicians. Because while the flu vaccine has been ineffective against H3H2, it has worked against other types of flu. People who do get the vaccine cut their risk of getting the flu by one-third -- certainly nothing to, uh, sneeze at.

Since the flu season doesn't look to be winding down anytime soon, the agency recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu shot. If you haven't already got one, chances are your family doctor can assist you. And if you're overdue for your annual wellness exam, it's a perfect excuse to take care of that as well!

If you do develop a fever, headache, cough, or other flu-like symptoms, don't just wait it out with the expectation it will go away... instead, fight back. Your best defense is to see your doctor, who can prescribe an antiviral medication to help ease the effects of the virus.

Finally, should you get the flu, as much as your coworkers will no doubt admire your dedication by coming into work, you're better off staying home. In addition to recovering faster, staying home will ensure your very contagious symptoms do not spread.

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