The Lower Health Care Costs Act, a bipartisan bill proposed by the Senate Health Committee, was introduced on May 23, 2019. This bill sets out to address surprise medical billing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs and the overall cost of delivering health care, and improve transparency. The proposed legislation also includes a provision that would require benefits brokers to disclose their fees and any incentives they may receive from insurers.
This provision was included in the proposed legislation after a February 2019 investigation by ProPublica revealed that the insurance industry often offers undisclosed incentives to influence brokers’ plan choices.
Dave Chase, co-founder of broker certification group Health Rosetta, says that, “By requiring advisers to disclose all of their sources of compensation, we can level the playing field for employers who are trying to lower their health costs. Instead of regularly accepting 5% to 20% annual cost increases, they can be more selective to ensure their adviser is actually serving their best interests.”
This proposed legislation would create a new level of transparency between employers and their benefits brokers, as many employers aren’t aware of the inner workings of health plan agreements or renewals.
The Lower Health Care Costs Act is just proposed legislation at the moment, meaning that there are no compliance obligations to meet. However, Sen. Lamar Alexander, bill co-sponsor, hopes that the bill will be on the Senate floor for a vote by July of this year. To view the proposal, click here.
Many hardware and software developers have started to integrate digital assistants into their products, such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Assistant and Apple’s Siri. These assistants offer a number of services and benefits, and can even be activated remotely using voice commands. However, because these platforms rely on connecting to a remote server, they run the risk of sending your recorded conversations or even personal information to others without your knowledge.
How digital assistants work
Every digital assistant uses the same underlying technology to answer questions and fulfill requests. Here’s an overview of how assistants record audio, send data to remote servers and analyze requests in order to respond:
Protecting your information
No technology is perfect, and it’s possible for smart devices to take unintended recordings for a number of reasons, such as a misinterpreted phrase, background noise, a damaged microphone or tampering. And, because the process of sending recordings to servers happens in seconds, you may not have a chance to prevent your information from being sent elsewhere.
Here are some tips you can use to control when your devices take recordings and protect your data:
According to a study published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday, May 6, 2019, the active ingredients found in sunscreens can end up in the bloodstream at higher than recommended levels. The FDA says that this small study, which involved 23 volunteers, warrants conducting further safety studies.
The study evaluated one sunscreen cream, one lotion and two sprays. The 23 volunteers applied the specified sunscreen to 75% of their body four times a day for four days. Over the course of seven days, blood tests were conducted to determine the levels of certain chemicals absorbed into the bloodstream.
The study found the maximum plasma levels of avobenzone, oxybenzone and octocrylene (in one sunscreen, they also tested for ecamsule)—the active ingredients in sunscreen—to be above the level of 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). For example, the study found the avobenzone concentration to be 4 ng/mL and 3.4 ng/mL in the sprays, 1.8 ng/mL in the cream and 4.3 ng/mL in the lotion.
The 0.5 ng/mL level is significant because it’s the level at which FDA guidelines call for further safety testing.
What Does This Mean?
The effects of plasma concentration exceeding the FDA’s limit isn’t currently known. As such, the study’s research team called for further safety testing to be conducted. However, the research team stated that the results of this small study do not suggest that people should stop using sunscreen. Failing to use sunscreen can leave you vulnerable to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.
It’s likely that further safety testing on sunscreen and its active ingredients will be conducted. Until told otherwise, continue to use sunscreen as directed when you’re out in the sun to protect your skin.
More than 50 people, mostly children, have been infected by the measles in the United States this year. This particular outbreak concerns southwest Washington and northwest Oregon. Nationwide, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that eight other states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas) have reported cases of measles in 2019, bringing the total of reported cases to 79.
What is measles?
Measles is a highly contagious illness caused by a virus called rubeola. People are most susceptible to contracting this illness in early childhood. In the current outbreak in Washington and Oregon, the majority of the cases involve children between 1 to 10 years old. Measles usually causes fatigue, runny nose, cough, slight fever, and head and back pains. In later stages, it can cause a high fever, Koplik’s spots (small white dots) inside the mouth and a rash that starts around the hairline and spreads downward.
Measles has a 25 percent hospitalization rate, is not treatable and has no cure. The virus can lead to serious complications, such as encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain. In some extremely severe cases, measles and its complications can be fatal.
How can the measles be prevented?
Measles can be prevented with the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. This vaccine is typically given in two different doses, the first being administered between 12 to 15 months of age and the second being administered between 4 to 6 years of age. The CDC reports that the two doses together are 97 percent effective at preventing the disease, while just getting one dose is 93 percent effective at preventing the disease.
Without being vaccinated, you’re at risk of contracting measles, especially because it is a highly contagious illness. If you live in an area that’s experiencing a measles outbreak, call your doctor for recommendations on what to do. Your doctor may recommend staying in your house until the outbreak subsides.
In addition to boosting your social well-being, volunteering can make you feel physically stronger, increase mental sharpness, aid in reducing stress and even help you live longer. Despite these proven positive effects, only 1 in 4 Americans regularly volunteer, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you’re curious about the specific benefits of volunteering or how to get started, read on.
Health Benefits of Volunteering
As previously mentioned, volunteering has proven health benefits. Here are just a few of those benefits:
How to Get Started
Many organizations can benefit from your volunteer time. A good place to start looking is within your community. Pick one that complements your talents, interests, schedule and physical abilities. When you’re thinking about what you’d like to do as a volunteer, it may be helpful to think about what’s motivating you. Some volunteers are motivated by the following:
You can browse online listings or a newspaper to identify volunteer programs. To ensure a successful outcome for both you and the volunteer program, ask yourself the following questions:
Did You Know?
If your home becomes uninhabitable for reasons covered in your renters insurance policy, the insurance company will reimburse you for your temporary living expenses until you are able to find a new place to live. Renters insurance is there to not only protect the belongings in your home, but so much more.
There are so many misconceptions when it comes to what renters insurance is and what it covers. Here are some common myths about renters insurance:
I don’t have enough stuff to get renters insurance.
My landlord’s insurance will cover the damages to my belongings.
Personal belongings are the only things covered under renters insurance.
I can’t afford renters insurance.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to start thinking about renters insurance.
We spend a lot of time and energy filling our living spaces with items that make it feel like home—it only takes one unexpected event to have it all stripped away. Renters insurance can give you peace of mind knowing that you and all of your belongings are covered.
Call TWFG Insurance Tony Voiron for a quote on Renters Insurance in Metairie and New Orleans La.
Manufactured homes, also commonly referred to as mobile homes, are built in a factory and moved to a chosen location, they aren't much different than a site-built single-family home — even when it comes to insurance. Obtaining coverage specific to your mobile home is essential. A standard homeowners insurance policy will not cover your liabilities in the same way this specific policy will.
A mobile home insurance policy will provide coverage for your home and property such as the following:
For added protection, consider purchasing these endorsements:
Top Ways to Save:
Call TWFG Insurance Tony Voiron for your quote today 504-322-7299.
The internet, smartphones and other online technologies have helped businesses streamline their supply chains and inventories. However, human error, software incompatibilities between vendors and a lack of transparency can cause even the most efficient operations to experience time-consuming and costly errors.
Online cryptocurrencies like bitcoin depend on a technology called blockchain that can instantly share, secure, verify and store records simultaneously. As a result, many businesses are using blockchain systems to implement efficient and secure recordkeeping systems.
What is blockchain and how does it work?
Blockchain is a new type of shared, encrypted recordkeeping system that can be seen in real time by everyone involved in a supply chain or other business operation. These systems work by recording a separate record, or “block,” every time a process is updated.
Essentially, each block in the system serves as a digital puzzle piece that verifies the next record, creating a digital chain. Each block is encrypted and can’t be changed, since altering any information in the record would be like taking a piece out of a finished puzzle and trying to change its shape.
Advantages of blockchain
Because each stakeholder in an operation keeps a separate copy of blockchain records, the systems allows for a large amount of transparency and communication. Businesses can also customize how users see information in a blockchain system. For example, an online retailer could let a customer view their orders and shipping statuses, but not their full inventory system.
Blockchain technology can give businesses an instant picture of both large and small-scale operations, such as a single product’s location or real-time sales figures. And since records can’t be altered or viewed without permission, they’re extremely safe from cyber attacks and data breaches.
Here are some of the potential benefits of a blockchain management system:
Heavy rain, storm surge, hurricanes and other severe weather events can lead to devastating floods that cause extensive damage. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), flood damage totaled over $8 billion in 2017 and many of the affected areas are still recovering from the impact.
After a flood hits your business, you’ll still have expenses such as building leases, employee payrolls and cleanup costs. And because any business interruption means that your revenue will be lowered or gone altogether, you’ll need a source of income quickly.
Although flood insurance is there to help you recover and rebuild your business, you need to know how to make a claim so that you can get all of the coverage you can as soon as possible.
Starting the Claims Process
You can start the claims process immediately after a flood. However, before you call us at (504) 322-7299 you should make sure you have the following information:
When the insurer that issued the flood policy gets notice of your loss, you may be able to qualify for an advance payment before the inspection. However, these payments are at the discretion of the insurer and shouldn’t be relied on when you’re planning your recovery process.
After the claims process has started and local officials have determined that it’s safe, you should return to your property to prepare for an inspection to assess the damage.
Here are some steps to take before an inspection:
Once a claims adjuster arrives to inspect your business, make sure to record their contact information. After walking through the National Flood Insurance Program’s claims process, the adjuster will inspect your property and take measurements and pictures of the damage.
If an adjuster finds that your business has extensive damage, you may qualify for an accelerated claims process to help you begin repairs immediately. Your adjuster may also have advice for you based on your specific policy.
Making Repairs and Other Resources
When working with contractors, vendors and third parties after a flood, it’s important to keep copies of all receipts, bank statements, invoices and other documents that show how you paid for repairs. These items may be used as permanent records in case your business floods in the future, and they could affect how much you’re compensated.
Getting your insurance coverage after a flood is key, but you have other resources at your disposal. FEMA’s website has a number of resources and programs you can use to recover. You can also contact TWFG Insurance - Tony Voiron for any questions on your flood policy or for resources to help you reduce your damage with pre-incident plans.
A new year brings new issues for HR professionals to contend with. Some challenges are similar to previous years (overtime uncertainty), while others are more unique and complicated (legal marijuana and employment). Despite inherent difficulties, staying tuned in to these six trends can keep you ahead of the game in 2019. Ignoring them will only put you behind.
Below are the top trends to monitor in the coming months.
1. Opioids, Marijuana and the Workplace
Opioids have been concerning employers for the last few years, and quietly ravaging the country for even longer. In 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a national emergency due to tens of thousands dying each year from prescription painkillers. Many of these tragedies started with a legal prescription after a common medical procedure.
Beyond their deadly risks, opioids also cause absenteeism and performance issues in the workplace. Opioids are difficult to detect in a drug test and even harder to perceive without one. Knowing this, it’s critical to modernize your drug policy to address opioids and offer resources for alternative pain management strategies.
Legal marijuana is also complicating drug policies. Similar to opioids, marijuana is increasingly difficult to detect, with the growing popularity of oils and edibles. Moreover, the drug is legal for medical use in 30 states, making testing legally tricky.
You may find it easiest to adjust your drug policy to focus on workplace performance. For instance, clearly prohibiting impairment at work or the promotion of drug use through paraphernalia. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy may backfire with state laws, so be sure to have legal counsel review your policy before enforcing it.
2. Leave-related Issues
Did you know that 47 percent of employers were very challenged by cross-state leave laws and 43 percent found it extremely difficult administrating leaves in general, according to a recent XpertHR survey? With ever-expanding legislation, it’s not too surprising.
Multistate businesses must contend with different state laws, but even smaller employers can find themselves juggling laws between localities. Without proper guidance, handling common requests like family leave, sick time and reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act can be a nightmare.
The first thing employers must do is determine which leave laws apply to them, remembering that certain localities might have different rules. Other aspects, like which leaves can be used concurrently and proper leave documentation should come next. And, of course, proper employee communication is a must—not just putting policies in a handbook, but posting leave notices as well.
3. Soaring Health Care Costs
Paying over $15,000 annually for each employee’s health care in 2019 sounds like a bad dream, but it’s the real cost trend. With rates surpassing $680 and $20,000 for single and family coverage, respectively, employers are scrambling to cut costs wherever they can. Yet, that can be easier said than done.
Some organizations are encouraging workers to utilize telemedicine or virtual care as a way to trim costs. By “visiting” a doctor online for minor health issues, patients can save a trip to the hospital. And, since it’s virtual, everyone saves money.
Another cost-saving strategy is the consumer driven health plan (CDHP) model. This strategy empowers employees to control their health care decisions and choose care that best suits them. Since employees use a savings account to help offset costs from their high deductible health plans, they are incentivized to pick more affordable options.
4. Wage and Hour Concerns
Hire more workers or pay overtime? That’s the question growing businesses must ask themselves. With overtime changes looming in the first quarter of 2019, you may think it’s easier to hire more workers at lower salaries. But, depending on your situation, that may not be true.
Many states are primed to raise their respective minimum wages in 2019. What’s more, the majority of those rates are already higher than the federal minimum. If you’re considering hiring more workers, check to make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay them in your state. The same goes for federal contractors.
As for salaried employees, it looks like we won’t know anything about the overtime rule until at least March 2019. This leaves the current overtime threshold at $23,660. Experts expect that number to increase to between $32,000 and $35,000—far lower than the $47,476 rate initially proposed in 2016. This means you should keep watching for regulatory updates in the coming months.
5. New Technologies
HR is always looking for new ways to streamline and improve its processes. In 2019, it appears that people analytics and recruiting technologies will be at the forefront of the trend, according to professional HR organization Toolbox.
People analytics is a way of tracking things like employee engagement data, training program effectiveness or ad placement success. The practice examines human data and crunches the numbers so you have a better idea of the return on investment. Need to know if your employees feel appreciated?
Want to discover which methods employees are using to communicate with each other? This is where people analytics can help.
TWFG Insurance Tony Voiron - Business Insurance, Metairie, LA - 504-322-7299
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