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06/20/12

  10:11:14 am, by MedBen5   , 145 words,  
Categories: Wellness

Stay Sun-Safe This Summer

Happy first day of summer! Here in the Midwest, the season has come in full force, with temperatures expect to exceed 90 degrees.

Chances are, you’ll want to spend some time outside enjoying the warm weather. But when you do, remember to apply sunscreen in order to avoid the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these guidelines (via HealthDay News):

  • Lather your skin with sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outside, and always reapply after you swim or sweat heavily.
  • If you spend a lot of time outdoors, reapply sunscreen several times throughout the day.
  • Thoroughly shake the bottle before applying.
  • Apply a thick, thorough layer of sunscreen, and don’t scrimp.
  • Don’t forget to use sunscreen on your ears, shoulders, back and the backs of your knees and legs.
  • Don’t get sunscreen in your eyes.

06/19/12

  01:07:41 pm, by MedBen5   , 184 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Painkiller Restrictions Dropped From Congressional Bill

The New York Times reports that pharmacy and drugstore representatives have successfully lobbied against efforts to impose stricter controls on painkillers and other commonly abused prescription drugs.

The new restrictions, had they been passed by Congress, would have required patients to seek new prescriptions for refills of Vicodin and other hydrocone products, required a higher level of security for the storage and transportation of the drugs, and increased penalties for misuse.

Though the Senate approved the controls as part of a bill reauthorizing user fees for the Food and Drug Administration, the House of Representatives didn’t include a similar provision in their legislation. Negotiators from both houses reached a bipartisian agreement on the overall bill, omitting the restrictions.

Senator Joe Manchin III (D.-WV), who led the push for new controls, said in an interview that chain pharmacies and drugstores should rethink their business model in regard to painkillers. “These are legal drugs needed by some people. But they can also be addictive. They are so readily accessible, so easy to obtain, that they are ravaging society and ending many young lives,” he said.

  12:18:42 pm, by MedBen5   , 178 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Obesity Exhausting Global Resources, Researchers Caution

Here’s a rather unsettling fact: Scientists have deduced that that global effect of overweight and obese people is like adding half a billion to the 7 billion humans on the Earth.

Using data from the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), British researchers estimated that the cumulative weight of every adult human on this planet is 287 million tons – 15 million of which is due to overweight, and 3.5 million to obesity.

A Medical News Today article on the study notes that “[a]round half the food a human being eats is burned up in physical activity. But the more mass a person has, the more energy he or she needs for the same amount of physical activity, because it takes more energy to move a heavier body. Even when not moving, a heavier body burns more energy.”

The additional resources required to generate this additional energy threatens food security and ecological sustainability, the researchers warned.

The study also determined that North America is responsible for 34% of global obesity, even though it holds only 6% of the world’s population.

06/18/12

  10:51:26 am, by MedBen5   , 231 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

CDC Says Health Reform Will Increase Preventive Care Use

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the Affordable Care Act has increased accessibility to preventive care, HealthDay reports (via Medical Xpress).

Prior to the passage of the health care reform law, CDC says that only about half of U.S. adults received screenings, consultations, prescriptions and other preventive health services, based on an analysis of national data from 2007 to 2010.

Because the agency only reviewed information through the first year the law was in effect, it didn’t offer evidence that more people were taking advantage of great preventive care availability. But it estimated that increased use could save tens of thousands of lives.

Among the findings:

  • Only 47% of patients with heart disease primarily affecting the blood vessels were prescribed the recommended daily use of aspirin.
  • Only 44% of patients with high blood pressure had it under control.
  • About 33% of men and 25% of women didn’t get a cholesterol screening during the previous five years, and only 32% of men and women with high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol had it under control.

“Clinical preventive services prevent heart attack, stroke, cancer and other diseases and save lives,” CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in an agency news release. “This report provides a snapshot of preventive services for U.S. adults before 2010. As we look to the future, we can track how our nation’s health is progressing through better prevention in health care.”

  10:27:25 am, by MedBen5   , 143 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Older People More Likely To Ignore Rx Warning Labels, Study Says

The older a person is, the less likely he or she is to read the warning labels on pill bottles, researchers have found.

MedPage Today reports that a study of medication vial reading tendencies determined that only 54% of older participants (ages 51 to 77) concentrated on the prescription warning labels, compared with 91.8% of the younger group (ages 20 to 29).

Laura Bix, PhD, of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and colleagues say that based on the results, many older patients fail to grasp the information on the warning label and act on it – an even greater danger considering that it’s common for that group to take multiple medications. By paying less attention, they put themselves at higher risk for adverse drug events.

The researchers also observed that the color of the warning label had no effect on the probability that participants would notice it.

  10:08:54 am, by MedBen5   , 203 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Daily Breakfast Helps Weight, Reduces Diabetes Risk

A new study demonstrates once again that breakfast may be the most important meal of the day. WebMD reports that researchers found that people who start each day with a healthy meal are less likely to have weight issues or develop diabetes.

The multi-decade study monitored the health of over 5,000 men and women, none of whom had type 2 diabetes at the start of the study. The researchers noted that, compared to people who ate breakfast three or fewer times a week, people who ate breakfast daily were:

  • 34% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes
  • 43% less likely to become obese
  • 40% less likely to develop fat around the tummy (abdominal obesity)

The chief scientific and medical officer of the American Diabetes Association agrees a sensible breakfast is good advice, but not to read too much into the findings. “Having regular eating habits with three balanced meals is probably better than random eating, which may lead to weight gain and dangerously high or low blood sugar,” Ratner told WebMD. “But scientifically, the study does not offer proof.”

Ratner, who was not involved with the study, suggested that people who eat three meals a day may make healthier lifestyle choices to begin with, which could explain the association.

06/15/12

  11:25:52 am, by MedBen5   , 642 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Event Timeline for SBC Distribution Requirements

We have previously discussed on this blog the new Summary of Coverage and Benefits (SBC) that are required to be furnished by all health plans after September 21, 2012, either in time for distribution with their materials for their next open enrollment, or 30 days prior to the beginning of their next plan year, whichever is first. What you may not be aware of is that there are additional distribution requirements for these SBCs that could affect how you handle future plan changes.

In addition to the initial distribution requirement listed above, a plan is also required to distribute new SBCs to their eligible plan members in accordance with the following chart:

SBC Timeline

The SBC must be provided to all persons covered under the plan, but one copy sent to the employee’s address is sufficient for all family members residing at that address.

Full story »

  11:03:57 am, by MedBen5   , 255 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Fish Oil Research Roundup

With all the fish oil studies popping up on Internet news sites, one can’t help but wonder if researchers are purposely working 24/7 until every last bit of information about its effects has been gleaned. In the past couple days alone, we’ve stumbled across these articles – none of them particularly positive about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (the type found in fish oil):

Fish oil supplements may not prevent mental decline (Reuters): Taking daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements doesn’t seem to provide any protection against declines in thinking and memory skills in older adults, a new review of medical evidence suggests. Researchers theorized that because the brain is rich in the type of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in fish oil, adding more could boost memory – but trials have been disappointing.

Fish oil won’t save diabetics’ hearts, research suggests (HealthDay): People with type 2 diabetes who take omega-3 fatty acid supplements are neither helping nor harming their heart, a new study finds. Researcher Dr. Hertzel Gerstein speculated that diabetics may react differently to these supplements, or their risk of cardiovascular disease is so severe that a higher dose of the supplement would be needed to see an effect.

Fish oil no help for heart patients’ depression (Reuters): A new clinical trial has found that fish oil pills and B vitamins don’t appear to help ward off depression symptoms in people with a history of heart attack or stroke. In fact, men who were randomly assigned to take fish oil actually displayed increased signs of depression.

  10:38:09 am, by MedBen5   , 213 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

Employers Concerned About Behavioral Health Costs

The unpredictable – and often prolonged – aspects of depression, stress and other types of behavioral health make insuring patients a unique challenge. Add the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act to the mix, and employers are understandly concerned about its affect on health plan costs.

The Disability Management Employer Coalition recently surveyed small, mid-sized and large companies about behavioral health coverage in the workplace. Employee Benefit News reports on the group’s findings:

“The survey found that direct costs of mental health care represent around 6% of overall health care costs and nearly 30% of young adults (those aged 18 to 25) were estimated to have had a diagnosable disorder, which is more than any other age group. The estimates for adults between the ages of 26 and 49, and those 50 and over, were 22.1% and 14.3%, respectively.

“Overall, 11.4 million U.S. adults – about 5% of the adult population – have a disorder that greatly impairs their ability to function in daily life. According to the DMEC survey, 47.7% of respondents believe behavioral risk is an important emerging area of concern. Forty percent include a behavioral component in their integrated or coordinated disability/absence management program.”

The majority of respondents also expressed reluctance to add or develop behavioral health programs given rising costs and the undetermined fate of health care reform.

  09:59:30 am, by MedBen5   , 302 words,  
Categories: News

Celebrate Men's Health Week In Style

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. And Happy Men’s Health Week, too.

Haven’t heard of the latter? Created by Congress in 1994 to promote male health, it occurs every year on the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. So while you dads are taking well-deserved kudos, also take some time to think about your diet, exercise and overall health. (Non-dads are welcome to do this, too.)

Harvard Health Blog offers five tips for celebrating Men’s Health Week, which we summarize below:

  1. Get moving. Can you walk at a brisk pace for two miles? If so, you have a level of fitness sufficient to lower your chances of having a heart attack or dying from heart disease. If not, you can get there by putting one foot in front of the other, and going a bit further each day.
  2. Get checked for colorectal cancer. If you are age 50 or older and have not been screened for colorectal cancer, you should. Of the various cancer screenings available to men, this one is the best deal because it can prevent, not just diagnose, cancer.
  3. Know your blood pressure. If you don’t know your blood pressure, get it checked — and do whatever you have to do to keep it in a healthy range (less than 120 over 80).
  4. Cut back on sodium in your diet. The average American man can easily take in six grams of sodium a day – more than twice the recommended level. To reduce sodium intake, cut down on processed and pre-packaged food, and cook some fresh meals during the week that include a vegetable.
  5. Don’t ignore the warning signs. If you experience an unusual pain, ache, or other possible warning sign or symptom, don’t brush it off—as men are prone to do—as “probably nothing.”

06/14/12

  12:49:09 pm, by MedBen5   , 203 words,  
Categories: Announcements

Health Care Spending Will Jump In 2014, Fed Forecast Says

If federal projections are to be believed, the slowdown in the growth of health care spending won’t last too much longer.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has forecasted that growth will stay low for two more years, but would increase if most of the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014. After that, the rate would drop, but remain at a higher level than that of the past several years.

From the WSJ article: “National health-care spending growth was 3.8% in 2009, the smallest increase on record, and was followed by a similar 3.9% in 2010. Economists in the new report projected similar rises averaging 4% annually for 2011, 2012 and 2013. (Actual 2011 spending hasn’t yet been calculated.)

“Spending would jump 7.4% in 2014 when the health-care law is scheduled to be fully implemented […] Spending growth would slow again starting in 2015 and average 6.2% each year through 2021, the analysts said.”

With the future of health care so uncertain, more than ever it pays to have a knowledgeable benefits management partner. MedBen uses a variety of plan design and cost containment methods to help your business save money, regardless of national spending trends. To learn more, contact Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  12:01:14 pm, by MedBen5   , 186 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Childhood Obesity Epidemic Has Led To Increase In Diabetes

Among the many disturbing aspects of the rising obesity crisis in this country is that more children suffer from weight issues, and the health problems that result from them. Now, researchers say that the number of kids with diabetes has jumped over 20% for both type 1 and type 2 diseases.

According to HealthDay News, the more common type 2 diabetes is linked to excessive weight and sedentary lifestyles – so it’s not surprising that with 17% of U.S. children and teens obese, disease numbers have spiked 21%. But the reasons for the 23% growth of type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease not linked to lifestyle factors, are less clear.

“For type 2, we have some clues as to why it’s increasing, but for type 1, we still need to better understand the triggers of this disease,” said study co-author Dr. Dana Dabelea, associate dean for faculty affairs at the University of Colorado School of Public Health in Aurora.

To reduce the risk of developing diabetes and other chronic conditions, Dabelea recommended a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables, and an active lifestyle, not just for the children, but for the whole family.

  11:08:11 am, by MedBen5   , 334 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Romney's Health Care Reforms Would Focus On State Measures

Republican presidental candidate Mitt Romney has vowed repeatedly to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act… but has been pretty sketchy so far on what the “replace” part would entail. At a stump speech earlier this week, however, he outlined some of the measures he would take to reform health care if he were elected president:

“Number one: The uninsured. Right now the uninsured are cared for at the state level. Each state has its own program for dealing with those that are uninsured. Some send uninsured people to clinics for care, others send them to emergency rooms.

“What I would do is keep – as we have today – state responsibility for those that are uninsured. You see I believe in the 10th Amendment. I believe the states have responsibility to care for their people in the way they feel best. But to help states care for their own uninsured, I would take the Medicaid dollars that comes with all sorts of strings attached today, send them back to the states along with something known as the DSH money, and let states care for their own people in the way they think best. […]

“I also want to make sure that people can’t get dropped if they have a preexisting condition… So, we’re going to have to make sure that the law we replace Obamacare with assures that people who have a preexisting condition – who’ve been insured in the past are able to get insurance in the future – don’t have to worry about that condition keeping them from getting the kind of health care they deserve.

“And I want these individuals and businesses to be able to buy insurance across state lines to get the best deal they can get anywhere in the country. And I wanted to be able to join associations of like types of organizations so they can get bargaining power, purchasing power, and get insurance at a reasonable rate.”

Read more of Romney’s remarks at Kaiser Health News.

  09:29:53 am, by MedBen5   , 189 words,  
Categories: News, Prescription, Wellness

Low Supplement Doses Of Vitamin D, Calcium More Risk Than Reward

Taking low doses of vitamin D and calcium supplements do little to prevent broken bones in postmenopausal women, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).

Reuters reports that the government-backed panel determined that while daily doses lower than 400 IU of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium contribute only minimally to bone health, they do carry a slightly increased risk of side effects, such as kidney stones.

Note, however, that the recommendation applies specifically to low doses of supplements, and only to postmenopausal women. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men and women get at least 600 IU of vitamin D and at least 1,000 mg of calcium every day, depending on age and sex. The thinking, apparently, is that the benefits of larger doses outweigh the potential risks.

“We know vitamin D is very important for the body and it’s important for everyone to eat a healthy diet that includes vitamin D and calcium,” said Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a member of the panel and a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

USA Today features a Q&A with endocrinologist Bess Dawson-Hughes regarding the USPSTF recommendations.

06/12/12

  05:02:42 pm, by MedBen5   , 189 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

A Healthy Benefits Package Offers A Competitive Edge

A new survey finds that employees who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits package are nine times more likely to stick with their employer, compared to those workers who are dissatisfied with their package.

According to Employee Benefit News, the 2012 Aflac WorkForces report also says that when workers were asked what their current employer could do to keep them in their jobs, 49% responded, “improve my benefits package.” And more than 75% of respondents believe they’d be at least somewhat likely to take a job with lower pay if the benefits offered were an improvement on their current package.

This report demonstrates the power of a robust benefits program – and health benefits play a particularly crucial role in retaining employees as well as attracting new ones. That’s why when MedBen works with employers to develop a group health plan, we consider its appeal to current and prospective team members alike.

To get the best talent, it pays to have a competitive edge. To learn how MedBen can help give you that advantage, we invite you to call Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  12:55:11 pm, by MedBen5   , 304 words,  
Categories: News, Health Plan Management

Whatever The Supreme Court Ruling Is, Political Fallout Awaits

For nearly three months, Washington has held its collective breath as the Obama administration, legislators and lobbyists await the Supreme Court’s verdict on the future of health care reform law. Politico recently examined the three main scenarios the President faces when the decision is finally made known:

Chaos: Mandate struck down, other parts preserved
“Many SCOTUS watchers think one of the most likely scenarios is that the court will toss out the individual mandate and keep the rest of the law. That would leave a lot of the popular pieces alone, like covering pre-existing conditions, eliminating the ‘donut hole’ gap for senior prescription benefits and letting young adults stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26 […]

“One small problem: It’s lousy policy, one that Democrats say is a recipe for political confusion and flawed policy that virtually guarantees that the popular stuff in the law won’t work.”

Clarity: The whole law goes down
“It may seem paradoxical but losing the entire law is probably a more palatable political alternative for the White House than killing it in agonizing pieces […]

“[The] threat that [the pre-existing conditions provision and other] protections would disappear would likely become a major part of Obama’s case against [Mitt] Romney and the Republicans.”

Miracle: Law is upheld
“The notion that Chief Justice John Roberts will suddenly discover his inner Earl Warren isn’t outside the realm of possibility. It’s more likely swing-vote Justice Anthony Kennedy could join court liberals in upholding the law, despite his pointed, almost hostile questioning of government lawyers […]

“It’s still a net political loser for Democrats, especially in blue-collar battlegrounds such as Ohio, Democrats say. The Obama team’s failure to sell the bill for the past two years simply can’t be overcome by one miraculous day at the high court.”

  11:58:42 am, by MedBen5   , 227 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Even Late In Life, Quitting Smoking Reduces Death Risk

The fact that non-smokers typically live longer that smokers hardly qualifies as news. And it’s fairly well-established that kicking the habit improves life expectancy. But a new study has confirmed that quitting even late in life reduces the risk of early death.

According to HealthDay News, researchers reviewed data from from 17 studies from seven countries (Australia, China, England, Japan, France, Spain and the United States) published between 1987 and 2011. People in the study were followed for between three and 50 years.

As expected, smokers 60 and over had a much higher risk of death – 83% – from cancer, heart disease and all other causes compared to nonsmokers in the same age group. But former smokers 60 and over reduced the risk to 34% higher than of those who never smoked.

“In my experience, individuals who have smoked for several decades are less interested in quitting and are less likely to be encouraged to quit by their health-care providers,” said Patricia Folan, director of the Center for Tobacco Control at the North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y. She hopes the findings “may provide incentive for older smokers to quit and encourage providers to target this group of smokers for cessation efforts,” Folan said.

By the way, if you’re one of those people who are trying to quit: Another new study suggests that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help.

06/11/12

  11:07:47 am, by MedBen5   , 242 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Health Plan Management

How's Wellness Working Across The Pond?

German wellness programs have, for the most part, been around longer than their American equivalents. So to get some idea of the long-term prospects here, the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund turned its gaze to Europe. And the results are encouraging, MedCity News reports:

“In Germany, public insurers offer members bonuses for participating in health screening, promotion and checkup programs. Participants are rewarded for achieving goals, such as receiving an influenza vaccination, meeting body mass index targets, or exercising in a gym for a certain number of times per week, similar to how U.S. plans are structured.

“The researchers examined the results from a wellness program run by one of Germany’s largest insurers and found that participants in the program had ’significantly’ lower costs than those who didn’t participate. The average difference between the two groups was $251 per year, but that number drops to $143 when wellness program costs are factored in.”

Here in America, private wellness programs are also finding ways to promote healthier lifestyles while reducing health care costs. And at MedBen, we believe wellness begins by putting the family doctor first.

MedBen Worksite Wellness emphasizes physician office testing, which keeps the primary care provider involved and eliminates the logistical headaches and potential redundancy of on-site screenings. Plus, employers get greater productivity at a lower cost.

For addtional information about starting a wellness program for your business, contact MedBen Vice President of Sales and Marketing Brian Fargus at 888-627-8683.

  10:28:51 am, by MedBen5   , 150 words,  
Categories: Prescription, Wellness

Be Careful Of Negative Interactions With OTC Drugs

When you pick up a prescription medication from your local pharmacy, you also receive a reminder from the pharmacist – written, verbal or both – of potential negative interactions with food, beverages and other drugs. But when you buy over-the-counter drugs, it’s easier to overlook the warnings.

The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests how to reduce the risk of adverse effects from OTC drugs (via HealthDay News):

  • Read the drug label carefully and only take the medication as recommended by your doctor or as instructed on the label.
  • Never take a medication with alcohol.
  • Never mix the medication with food or drink, unless your doctor says it’s ok.
    Ask your doctor or pharmacist any questions.
  • Be mindful of any drug reactions you’ve had before, and read the label on the current drug to look for any ingredient to which you’re sensitive.
  • Don’t take any OTC medication along with vitamins.
  10:08:23 am, by MedBen5   , 176 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness

Coffee May Slow Onset of Alzheimer's, Study Suggests

Not only does coffee provide a much-needed “get-it-in-gear” on a Monday morning, it may offer long-term benefits to your brain power as well. According to a new study, drinking three cups of coffee a day could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease among older adults who are already showing signs of memory problems.

WebMD reports that the study found that people older than 65 who had higher blood levels of caffeine developed Alzheimer’s disease two to four years later than their counterparts with lower caffeine levels.

“Continue to drink coffee,” says researcher Chuanhai Cao, PhD, a Tampa, Florida neuroscientist. “There is no reason to stop if you are experiencing memory problems.”

Exactly how coffee helps delay the development of Alzheimer’s is not known, but Cao theorizes that caffeine inhibits the production of beta-amyloid, a protein that accumulates in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

The study included 124 people aged 65 to 88 who had mild cognitive impairment, which is the medical term for mild memory loss. About 15% of people with MCI develop full-blown Alzheimer’s disease each year.

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