3 simple ways to get motivated

Getting and staying motivated can be tough, whether you are coming back from vacation, dealing with something you’d rather avoid or getting focused on a Monday. Not every day will be super productive, and there is no sense in punishing yourself because of it, but there are three great ways to get back on track.

One way is to take the simplest task and make it even simpler. For example, if you have to write an email, then focus on doing the first sentence. Make writing the first sentence your goal. It may feel ridiculously easy, which is the point: Once you write that first sentence, then you will likely have the confidence to begin on the second sentence, and so on.

Another approach is to think about being in bed, tonight, right before you go to sleep. What did you accomplish today? Did you feel good about what got done? What do you wish you had gotten done so you wouldn’t be worried about doing it tomorrow? Now you can stop imagining: It’s wonderful that you still have the day ahead of you and you can get things done now.

Lastly, work on your next task for only five minutes. It will be a focused five minutes, which means no multitasking. Set an alarm as necessary. Chances are that the five minutes will go by quickly and, if you like, you can set the alarm for another five minutes.

Our motivation is usually hampered by either inertia, like when we have taken a break, or by timidity, like when we are intimidated by a major goal. By using these three methods, you can move towards success and focus on the next small step towards your big successful goal.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (21 February 2018). "3 simple ways to get motivated" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/02/3-simple-ways-to-get-motivated/


DOL cracks down on efforts to find missing retirement plan participants

In this article from Benefits Pro, the DOL auditors are taking action on missing participants in retirement plans.


The Department of Labor’s auditors are pushing harder on plan sponsors to make better efforts to find missing terminated vested participants in retirement plans. In return, there’s a call for more guidance on just how far sponsors have to go to do so.

According to a report in Pensions & Investments, the matter has become more urgent in the wake of MetLife’s experience. After the company had “lost track” of some 13,500 participants, the DOL entered the picture. The company’s earlier efforts to find those lost participants were deemed unacceptable, and then state and federal inquiries began.

But DOL auditors, according to a letter from the American Benefits Council to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Timothy Hauser last fall requesting formal rulemaking on comprehensive guidance for plan fiduciaries, have been “inconsistent and alarming” in routine examinations.

The report says, “Some auditors said that failure to find a missing participant was a breach of fiduciary duty, or forfeiting funds back into a plan until participants are found is a prohibited transaction, and plan sponsors could be penalized. Auditors also have insisted that sponsors try different search methods every year or reach out to friends and former colleagues of the missing participant or through social media. Some plan sponsors have been told they must do ‘whatever it takes’ to find participants who are missing or not responding to communications.”

Large defined benefit plans are creating the loudest outcry, according to members reaching out to the ERISA Industry Committee in Washington on the issue. “It’s frustrating for them because there is just a lack of guidance on what activities they have to engage in, and how long they have to be engaged in it,” Will Hansen, senior vice president of retirement and compensation policy, is quoted saying in the report.

DOL officials are aware of the lack of guidance. A DOL spokesman says in the report that “the agency places a priority on consistent actions across our compliance assistance and enforcement activities, and will continue to work with plans and plan sponsors to connect retirees and beneficiaries with their pensions.”

Still, given the agency’s focus on employers’ responsibilities, experts say that employers should try to get ahead of the issue, guidance or not. The report cites David Rogers, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP in Washington, saying, “Given the potential penalties involved and the need for a coordinated response, it is a good practice to have a missing participants policy and designated persons within the organization who make regular efforts to keep participant information current.”

In addition, it quotes Norma Sharara, a principal with Mercer’s Washington resource group, saying, “The rational plan sponsor would be well advised to up their game. At least revisit the issue so when someone comes knocking your door, you are prepared. All along you need to be in constant contact with anybody you are holding money for. Somebody has to be responsible and the Labor Department is placing the burden on the shoulders of the employer.”

On March 1, Senators. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, and Steve Daines, R-MT, reintroduced the Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act, bipartisan legislation that would create a national online lost-and-found for retirement accounts. The bill is supposed to make it easier for participants to find accounts, as well as for employers to connect with former employees. Employers could also invest abandoned accounts in target-date funds more easily, the report said.

Read the article.

Source:
Satter M. (5 March 2018). "DOL cracks down on efforts to find missing retirement plan participants" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/05/dol-cracks-down-on-efforts-to-find-missing-retirem/


Trump urges legal action against opioid manufacturers

Where does Trump stand on the Opioid Crisis? Find out in this article from Benefits Pro.


President Trump says he wants his administration to take legal action against opioid manufacturers.

“Hopefully we can do some litigation against the opioid companies,” Trump said at an event organized at the White House on the opioid epidemic.

Earlier in the week, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Justice Department would be filing a statement of interest in support of a lawsuit launched by more than 400 local governments around the country against pharmaceutical manufacturers. The suit accuses drug-makers of using deceptive advertising to sell powerful, addictive pain medication and for covering up the dangers associated with their use.

It’s not clear whether Trump’s remarks were a reference to the action Sessions has already taken or whether the president is envisioning additional legal action, since he said during the event that he would ask the attorney general to sue.

 

Trump also promised during his presidential campaign to take on pharmaceutical companies over rising drug prices, accusing them of “getting away with murder.” Since his election, however, he has done very little to translate those tough words into policy. A meeting between Trump and pharmaceutical companies early in his administration was described in positive terms by both sides.

The president also has suggested stiffer sentences for drug dealers, even reflecting positively on countries that execute them.

“Some countries have a very, very tough penalty – the ultimate penalty,” he said. “And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”

In recent years, public opinion on criminal justice in general and the drug war specifically has shifted in favor of an approach that favors treatment over incarceration. Reducing the prison population has been a goal that has increasingly earned bipartisan support, both at the federal level and in state legislatures around the country. However, Trump and Sessions have both stuck to the “tough-on-crime” mantra that dominated in the 1990’s.

The administration has signaled that it will not support legislation to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. And although the Justice Department has not yet gone after marijuana distributors in states that have legalized the drug, such as Colorado and California, Sessions has rescinded an Obama-era policy that stated that the DOJ would take a hands off approach to pot in those states.

Read the article.

Source:
Craver J. (2 March 2018). "Trump urges legal action against opioid manufacturers" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/02/trump-urges-legal-action-against-opioid-manufactur/


CenterStage: February is American Heart Month - Are Your Loved Ones Knowledgeable?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Talking with your loved ones about heart disease can be awkward, but it’s important. In fact, it could save a life. At the dinner table, in the car, or even via text, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you care about in conversations about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.

Source: Wellness Layers (27 June 2017). Retrieved from http://www.wellnesslayers.com/june-2017-american-heart-association-launched-its-new-heart-and-stroke-patient-support-network-and-patients-registry-powered-by-rmdy/

Here are three reasons to talk to the people in your life about heart health and three ways to get the conversation started.

Three Reasons You Should Talk to Your Loved Ones About Heart Health

#1. More than physical health is at risk

Millions of people in the US don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can lead to dementia later in life. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.

 

#2. Feel Younger Longer

Just as bad living habits can age you prematurely and shorten your lifespan, practicing good heart healthy habits can help you feel younger longer. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are 7 years older than they should be, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just beginning the conversation with the people in your life that you care about can begin to make changes in their heart health.

 

#3. You Are What You Eat

Even small changes can make a big difference. Prepare healthier versions of your favorite family recipes by making simple ingredient swaps, simply searching the internet is all it usually takes to find an easy ingredient alternative. Find a new
recipe to cook for your family members, or get in the kitchen together and you’ll finish with something delicious and possibly making some new favorite memories as well. When grocery shopping, choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats, and be sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Three Ways to Start the Conversation

  1. Encourage family members to make small changes, like using spices to season food instead of salt.
  2. Motivate your loved ones to incorporate physical activity into every day. Consider a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can achieve the best results.
  3. Avoid bad habits together. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system. This applies to practicing healthier practices as well. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes, chances are they may have a big difference.

The key to heart health is a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to try to let go of bad habits that increase your risk of heart disease. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can possibly extend your life expectancy a little bit each day.

Heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and consciously monitoring health conditions. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.

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5 things to know about this year’s flu

The nation is having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad flu season.

Flu is widespread in 46 states, according to reports to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Nationally, as of mid-December, at least 106 people had died from the infectious disease.

In addition, states across the country are reporting higher-than-average flu-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Hospitalization rates are highest among people older than 50 and children younger than 5.

In California, which is among the hardest-hit states, the virus struck surprisingly early this season. The state’s warmer temperatures typically mean people are less confined indoors during the winter months. As a result, flu season usually strikes later than in other regions.

Health experts aren’t sure why this season is different.

“We’re seeing the worst of it right now,” said Dr. Randy Bergen, a pediatrician who is leading Kaiser Permanente-Northern California’s anti-flu effort. “We’re really in historic territory, and I just don’t know when it’s going to stop.” (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

Here are five things you should know about this flu season:

1. It’s shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.

The H3N2 influenza A subtype that appears to be most prevalent this year is particularly nasty, with more severe symptoms including fever and body aches. Australia, which U.S. public health officials follow closely in their flu forecasting — in part because their winter is our summer — reported a record-high number of confirmed flu cases in 2017. Another influenza B virus subtype also is circulating, “and that’s no fun, either,” Bergen said.

Flu season in the U.S. typically starts in October and ends in May, peaking between December and February.

2. This season’s flu vaccine is likely to be less effective than in previous years.

U.S. flu experts say they won’t fully know how effective this season’s vaccine is until the it’s over. But Australia’s experience suggests effectiveness was only about 10 percent. In the U.S., it is 40 to 60 percent effective in an average season. Vaccines are less protective if strains are different than predicted and unexpected mutations occur.

3. You should get the flu shot anyway.

Even if it is not a good match to the virus now circulating, the vaccine helps to ease the severity and duration of symptoms if you come down with the flu.

Children are considered highly vulnerable to the disease. Studies show that for children a shot can significantly reduce the risk of dying.

High-dose vaccines are recommended for older people, who also are exceptionally vulnerable to illness, hospitalization and death related to the flu, according to the CDC.

“Some protection is better than no protection,” Bergen said, “but it’s certainly disappointing to have a vaccine that’s just not as effective as we’d like it to be.

Shots may still be available from your doctor or local health clinic, as well as at some chain drugstores. Check the Vaccine Finder website for a location near you.

4. Basic precautions may spare you and your family from days in bed.

As much as possible, avoid people who are sick. Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes.

Masks aren’t particularly effective in keeping you from catching the flu, although they may help keep sick people who wear them from spreading their germs further.

If you are sick, cover your cough and stay home from work if you can, Bergen said. Remaining hydrated, eating nutritious foods and exercising can also help strengthen your immune system.

Because elderly people are so vulnerable to the flu, some nursing homes and assisted living facilities may limit visitors and resident activities, depending on the level of illness.

 

5. Don’t mistake flu symptoms for those of a common cold.

The hallmarks of flu are fever and body aches that accompany cough and congestion, Bergen said.

If you feel as if you’re having trouble breathing, or if your fever can’t be controlled with medication like Tylenol, check with your doctor. It’s even more important for patients to see a doctor if they have a chronic medical condition like diabetes or heart disease, or if they are young or elderly.

Kaiser Permanente doctors now are being advised to prescribe antiviral drugs like Tamiflu — given as a pill or, for kids, an oral suspension — even without a lab test for influenza, Bergen said. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, however, Tamiflu supplies are running low.

And Bergen cautioned that these medications are only partly effective, reducing the time of illness by just a day or two.

Read the original article.

Source:
Kaiser Health News (22 January 2018). "5 things to know about this year’s flu" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/01/5-things-know-years-flu/

Tax Bill Provision Designed To Spur Paid Family Leave To Lower-Wage Workers

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., arrives in the Capitol for a vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. She recently proposed a tax credit to companies that offer at least two weeks of paid family or medical leave annually to workers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Tucked into the new tax law is a provision that offers companies a tax credit if they provide paid family and medical leave for lower-wage workers.

Many people support a national strategy for paid parental and family leave, especially for workers who are not in management and are less likely to get that benefit on the job. But consultants, scholars and consumer advocates alike say the new tax credit will encourage few companies to take the plunge.

The tax credit, proposed by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), is available to companies that offer at least two weeks of paid family or medical leave annually to workers, but two key criteria must be met. The workers must earn less than $72,000 a year and the leave must cover at least 50 percent of their wages.

If contributing at the half-wage level, a company receives a tax credit equal to 12.5 percent of the amount it pays to the worker. The tax credit will increase on a sliding scale if the company pays more than 50 percent of wages. It could go up to a maximum credit of 25 percent of the amount the employer paid for up to 12 weeks of leave.

Payments to full- and part-time workers taking family leave who’ve been employed for at least a year would be eligible for the employer’s tax break. But the program, which is designed to test whether this approach works well, is set to last just two years, ending after 2019.

Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar in economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, says the new tax credit sidesteps a pitfall for Republicans. They are wary of any legislation mandating that employers provide paid leave. The tax credit also is appropriately aimed at lower-wage workers who are most likely to lack access to paid leave, said Mathur, who co-authored a recent report on paid family leave.

But it’s not a big enticement.

“Providing this benefit is a huge cost for employers,” Mathur said. “It’s unlikely that any new companies will jump on board just because they have a 12.5 to 25 percent offset.”

That view is shared by Vicki Shabo, vice president for workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership for Women & Families, an advocacy group, who said it will primarily benefit workers at companies already offering paid family leave. The new tax credit “just perpetuates the boss lottery,” she added.

Heather Whaling said her 22-person public relations company probably qualifies for the new tax credit, but she doesn’t think it’s the right approach. Whaling, the president of Geben Communication in Columbus, Ohio, already offers paid leave. The company provides up to 10 weeks of paid leave at full pay for new parents. Four employees have taken leave, and by divvying up their work to other team members and hiring freelancers they’ve been able to get by.

“It is an expense, but if you plan and budget carefully it’s not cost-prohibitive,” she said.

The tax credit isn’t big enough to provide a strong incentive to provide paid leave, said Whaling, 37. Besides, “having access to paid family leave shouldn’t be luck of the draw, it should be available to every employee in the country.”

Still, the tax credit may be appealing to companies that have been considering adding a paid family and medical leave benefit, said Rich Fuerstenberg, a senior partner at benefits consultant Mercer.

By defraying some of the cost, the tax credit could help “tip them over” into offering paid leave, he said. But  “I’m not even sure I’d call it the icing on the cake,” Fuerstenberg said. “It’s like the cherry on the icing.”

Only 15 percent of private-sector and state and local government workers had access to paid family and medical leave in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Compensation Survey. Eighty-eight percent had access to unpaid leave, however.

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, employers with 50 or more workers generally must allow eligible employees to take unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks annually for specified reasons. These include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for your own or a family member’s serious health condition, or leave for military caregiving or deployment. An individual’s job is protected during such leaves.

A tax credit that can be claimed at the end of the year is unlikely to encourage small businesses to offer paid family and medical leave, said Erik Rettig, an expert on family leave policies at the Small Business Majority, which advocates for those firms on national policy.

“It isn’t going to help the family business that has to absorb the costs of this employee while they’re gone,” Rettig said.

A better solution, according to Shabo and others, is to provide a paid family leave benefit that’s funded by employer and/or employee payroll contributions. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) last year reintroduced such legislation. Their bill would guarantee workers, including those who are self-employed, up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave with as much as two-thirds of their pay.

A handful of mostly Democratic states — including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New York — have similar laws in place, and a program in the District of Columbia and Washington state will begin in 2020.

“We know from states that this approach works for both employees and their bosses,” Shabo said.

Read the original article.

Source:
Andrews M. (23 January 2018). "Tax Bill Provision Designed To Spur Paid Family Leave To Lower-Wage Workers" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/tax-bill-provision-designed-to-spur-paid-family-leave-to-lower-wage-workers/

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Top 10 Corporate Wellness Habits to Adopt During 2018

With the New Year in full swing, you may be considering how to turn your life around for the better -  drop pounds, kill unhealthy chocolate addictions, quit binging every Netflix season ever, etc... But what about making lasting habits within the workplace?

 

Too often, we make a list of resolutions, and we forget where we spend most our time. Work is work, but that doesn’t mean we can’t implement some of the changes we make in our personal lives in the workplace, as well.

 

Today, we thought we’d offer up 10 different ideas for employers (or for employees to offer to their boss) to try and implement within the workplace – from wellness challenges to recess. Try one, combine a few, or do them all! The best part about making resolutions is making them unique to yourself and your company. So, don’t be afraid to get creative!

  1. Offer healthy alternatives to traditional junk food items

 

Just a simple switch of snack foods in the office can cut unnecessary calories! Snacking on healthy items can make mindless snacking not so bad.

  1. Offer standing desks

 

This easy switch will be one of the new year’s trendiest wellness tactics. Select desk options that allow users to easily switch between standing and sitting while working to allow for better blood flow throughout the day.

PIXNIO - Image usage: Image is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for any use.

  1. Try a wellness challenge

 

There’s nothing like some healthy interoffice competition to get people motivated. Select a wellness challenge that is easy and effortless to incorporate into your workplace. This could be a monthly or a weekly challenge, switch it up each month/week to keep things interesting!

 

  1. On-site yoga classes

 

Another wellness trend that will continue into 2018 is managing stress through yoga. Mindfulness and meditation offer a slew of benefits to help employees relieve stress. Invite an instructor to your office every couple of weeks to guide the team through a yoga class.

  1. Celebrate “Wellness Wednesday”

 

Make hump day something to celebrate and begin to tackle wellness in the office in a manageable way. One day a week can be a gateway to a much healthier lifestyle.

  1. Listen to your employees

Survey employees to find out what is working and what isn’t instead of wasting time and energy on things that aren’t engaging your employee population. Use a site like Survey Monkey or Google Forms to create a survey to collect feedback from employees.

  1. Participate in a 5K or other group fitness activities

Find a 5K in your community or choose another group fitness activity and cover the entry fee for anyone choosing to participate.

 

  1. Post signs near elevators and escalators encouraging employees to take the stairs instead

Sometimes just seeing this reminder is all the motivation needed to be a little more active!

  1. Schedule recess

Pick a 15-minute time of the afternoon for everyone to get away from his or her desk. Go outside, socialize with each other and enjoy some fresh air! Taking walks has also been shown to increase creativity.

  1. Reward volunteers

 

Pay your employees for any volunteer hours up to a certain amount or allot a certain amount of time each month for employees to get away from their desk and get active in the community. Ideas include volunteering at a local food bank or cleaning up a local park, beach, or trail. You’ll benefits from both team building and group physical exercise!

 

Give one or more of these ideas a try and if they work out for you, let us know! The important lesson here is to remember your work-life is just as important to better as your personal life. When it comes to New Year Resolutions, make sure they encompass every aspect of your life and definitely don’t forget to include your employees in your thoughts.

Stay healthy, have fun, and Happy New Year!

No mat needed: Yoga at your desk

A sticky mat seems de rigueur for modern-day yogis, but that doesn’t mean a long piece of rubber is required to take part in the ancient practice.

Yoga first and foremost is about being present, and it starts with attentive breathing. You can do that anywhere and without props.

Once you’ve got the hang of steady breathing, matching inhales and exhales to movements helps your body relieve tension and your muscles wake up. In fact, the key to the physical practice of yoga is matching conscious breath to movement. It’s also a big part of what makes yoga feel great. Without it, you’d be doing calisthenics.

We’ve rounded up a few yoga exercises you can do easily and safely at work. All require standing – good news, given sitting is pretty bad for us. It’s best to do them with your feet flat on the ground.

 

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Inhale as you bring your arms overhead. Keep your chin level with the ground. Exhale as you soften your knees and twist your torso to the right, letting your head follow and dropping your arms to shoulder-height. Inhale as you turn back to center, lifting your arms overhead. Do the twist to the left. Repeat this pattern several times.

Benefits: Strengthens abdominal muscles, shoulders and upper arms. Stretches back and chest. Lubricates joints of the spine, including in the neck, and shoulders.

Chair

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, arms at your sides. Inhale as you lift the crown of your head. Exhale as you bend your knees (typically you want to track each knee over the middle of its corresponding foot), like you’re sitting back in a chair. Hinge at your hips, tilting your torso forward up to 45 degrees. Lift your arms to a comfortable height. Inhale as you return to standing, crown lifted, arms lengthening down. Repeat several times.

Benefits: Strengthens front thighs, buttocks, core, upper back and upper arms. Stretches calves and side torso. Lengthens spine. Lubricates joints of the ankles, knees, hips and shoulders.

Triangle

Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart, toes pointing same direction as your chest, then turn your right foot 90 degrees to the right, and your left foot about 15 degrees to the right, making sure your left toes point the same direction as your left knee. Inhale as you extend your arms out from the shoulders and lengthen your spine. Exhale as you tilt your torso to the right, releasing your right arm toward your right leg and your left arm up to a comfortable height. Don’t turn your chest toward your right leg. Drop your gaze to the ground if you feel tension in your neck. Hold for several breaths, and repeat with the left leg.

Benefits: Strengthens front thighs, buttocks, side torso and neck. Stretches calves, back thighs and side torso. Lubricates joints of the hips and shoulders.

 

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:
Malek M. (2 May 2017). "No mat needed: Yoga at your desk" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://worklife.coloniallife.com/2017/05/no-mat-needed-yoga-desk/?utm_sq=flegx3i374&utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=WorkLifeTweets&utm_content=Articles


Some States Roll Back ‘Retroactive Medicaid,’ A Buffer For The Poor — And For Hospitals

From Kaiser Health News, let's take a look at the latest regarding Medicaid.


If you’re poor, uninsured and fall seriously ill, in most states if you qualify for Medicaid — but weren’t enrolled at the time — the program will pay your medical bills going back three months. It protects hospitals, too, from having to absorb the costs of caring for these patients.

But a growing number of states are rescinding this benefit known as “retroactive eligibility.” On Nov. 1, Iowa joined three states that have eliminated retroactive coverage for some groups of Medicaid patients since the Affordable Care Act passed. Each state had to secure approval by the federal government.

Retroactive eligibility has been a feature of Medicaid for decades, reflecting the program’s emphasis on providing a safety net for poor, disabled and other vulnerable people. In contrast to private insurance, determining Medicaid eligibility can be complex and the application process daunting, advocates say. A patient’s medical condition also may keep families from applying promptly for coverage.

All four states — Arkansas, Indiana and New Hampshire, in addition to Iowa — have expanded Medicaid under the health law, which allowed states to include adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,000 for one person. So, in theory, most adults are required to have insurance under the ACA. In practice, each state still has a significant number of uninsured, ranging from 5 to 8 percent of the population.

The retroactive coverage “can compensate for the sorts of errors and lapses that can so easily occur on the part of both the applicant and the government bureaucracy” that delay applications, said Gordon Bonnyman, staff attorney at the Tennessee Justice Center, a public interest law firm that represents low-income and uninsured residents.

State and federal officials say eliminating the retroactive coverage helps encourage people to sign up for and maintain coverage when they’re healthy rather than waiting until they’re sick to enroll. It also fits into federal officials’ efforts to make Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care for low-income adults and children, more like private insurance.

But consumer advocates and health care providers say the shift will saddle patients with hefty medical bills and leave hospitals to absorb more uncompensated care when patients can’t pay. Some worry this could be the start of a trend.

In Iowa, the change applies to just about anyone coming into Medicaid — except for pregnant women and children under age 1. The change will affect up to 40,000 residents annually and save the program more than $36 million a year.

“We’re making it a lot more likely that Medicaid-eligible members are going to incur significant medical debt,” said Mary Nelle Trefz, health policy associate at the Child & Family Policy Center in Des Moines, whose organization opposed the change.

When someone has a traumatic health event, the initial focus is to get them stabilized, not figure out how to pay for it, said MaryBeth Musumeci, associate director of the Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Patients may neglect to apply immediately for Medicaid, leaving them financially responsible for days or months of care they received before they got in their application, even though they may have been eligible for Medicaid all along.

That’s not the only issue, advocates say. Unlike the commercial insurance market where re-enrollment through someone’s employer is routine, Medicaid requires that beneficiaries’ eligibility be reassesed every year.

“People fall through the cracks,” said Andrea Callow, associate director of Medicaid initiatives at Families USA, a consumer advocacy group.

In addition, complications can arise for people who might need Medicaid coverage for long-term care services. “The criteria are complicated. For a layperson to find those criteria and figure out if they’re eligible” is challenging and they may need extra time, said Musumeci. Once patients have secured coverage, they may already have accrued hefty expenses.

Maybe so, but some people argue that a 90-day retroactive eligibility guarantee is counterproductive.

“We’re trying to get people to behave more responsibly, not less responsibly,” said Gail Wilensky, an economist who oversaw the Medicaid and Medicare programs in the early 1990s under President George H.W. Bush. “That is not the signal you’re sending” with three months of retroactive eligibility. A 30-day time frame is more reasonable, Wilensky said.

In contrast to Iowa, the waivers in Arkansas, Indiana and New Hamsphire generally apply only to adults who gained coverage under the law’s Medicaid expansion. (Indiana’s waiver also applies to other groups.)

Kentucky has a request pending that, like Iowa, would eliminate retroactive Medicaid eligibility except for pregnant women and children under 1, according to KFF.

Under federal law, officials can waive some Medicaid coverage rules to give states flexibility to experiment with different approaches to providing services. And retroactive eligibility waivers in Medicaid are hardly new. A few states like Tennessee have had them in place for years. Tennessee officials eliminated retroactive eligibility for all Medicaid beneficiaries in 1994 when the state significantly expanded coverage under TennCare, as Medicaid is known there. At the time, the state even allowed uninsured people to buy into the program who wouldn’t otherwise qualify based on income, said Bonnyman.

“There was no reason for anybody to be uninsured except undocumented immigrants,” said Bonnyman. “It didn’t seem to have the potential for harm.”

But state officials revamped that program after serious financial problems. Eligibility for TennCare has become more restrictive again.

Other states that waived retroactive coverage for at least some Medicaid groups include Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts and Utah, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Bonnyman said his group frequently works with Medicaid beneficiaries who have medical bills they can’t afford that accumulated during the months before they applied for Medicaid.

“If you’re a moderate- to low-income working family, one or two days in the hospital is enough to ruin you financially,” he said.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:
Andrews M. (14 November 2017). "Some States Roll Back ‘Retroactive Medicaid,’ A Buffer For The Poor — And For Hospitals" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/some-states-roll-back-retroactive-medicaid-a-buffer-for-the-poor-and-for-hospitals/


hand in the sun

10 surprisingly great places to retire in the U.S.

At Saxon, we care about retirement and offering you the best plans. In this article, we take a look at Forbes's list of the top 10 places to retire. Do any of these places sound peaceful to you?


Probably the biggest retirement decision you’ll face (after: Can I ever?) is: Where should I retire? To help, U.S. News has just come out with its first Best Places to Retire in the United States ranking of the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Some of its Top 10 spots will surely surprise you and you may also wonder why certain parts of the country failed to make the cut.

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“This is a much more comprehensive analysis than we’ve done in the past,” said Emily Brandon, U.S. News senior editor for retirement. “Before, we’ve done themed lists like 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone and 10 Retirement Spots With Year-Round Nice Weather.”

How U.S. News Ranked the Best Places to Retire

This time, U.S. News first asked people 45 and older to indicate the “attributes of a retirement destination that are most important to them” and collected responses from 841 of them. “What people told us was most important to them in a place to retire was 'being affordable' but also, they wanted to feel happy there,” said Brandon.

Based on the survey responses, the researchers then assigned weightings in indices of six broad categories — happiness living in particular metro areas; housing affordability for homeowners and renters; health care quality, based on the U.S. News Best Hospitals rankings; retiree taxes (sales and income); the strength of local job markets and what U.S. News calls “Desirability,” which means how strongly Americans said they’re interested in living in a given metro area. After all that number crunching, a Best Places ranking emerged.

The Top 10

The Top 10 best places to retire in America, according to U.S. News:

  1. Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Lancaster, Pa.
  3. San Antonio, Texas
  4. Grand Rapids, Mich.
  5. El Paso, Texas
  6. McAllen, Texas
  7. Daytona Beach, Fla.
  8. Pittsburgh, Pa.
  9. Austin, Texas
  10. Washington, D.C.

“Most of the places scored well on some measures, but not on others,” said Brandon.

That’s a fact. Sarasota had high scores for Happiness, Desirability and Retiree Taxes and decent ones in the other categories. McAllen didn’t fare well in the Job Market category and Washington, D.C. got a low ranking for Housing Affordability. El Paso and Grand Rapids were weak in the Desirability category.

Why Places Scored Well and Didn't

The reason four Texas metro areas made it into the Top 10? “Affordable housing, low taxes and above-average levels of happiness,” said Brandon.

The three winners in the Middle Atlantic states (Lancaster, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.) had high rankings because of happy residents and access to high quality health care, Brandon noted.

You may have noticed that the Top 10 largely consists of small- and mid-size cities and no California or New York City-area metros. “I think a lot of that has to do with housing prices,” said Brandon. “Almost no California places scored high in the list largely because housing prices are out of reach for many people with low- or even mid-range incomes.” California home prices are 150% above the U..S. average, overall. The highest-ranked California metro area in the U.S. News list is San Diego, which came in at No. 21.

What About the Weather?

Somewhat strangely, the U.S. News ranking didn’t factor in weather at all.

“We had some discussion about whether to include weather,” said Brandon. “It’s tricky because not everyone has the same preferences when it comes to weather. Some people want four seasons. Some find snowy winters terrible.” The upshot: the rankers left out this variable.

How the U.S. News List Compares With Other Rankings

The U.S. News list is markedly different from other recent Best Places to Retire rankings from Forbes and WalletHub.

The 25 places Forbes chose, after looking at 550 communities, were in big and small cities and skewed toward warm and moderate climates; its top places included Clemson, S.C., Port Charlotte, Fla. and Green Valley, Ariz. None of its 25 were in the U.S. News Top 10.

WalletHub looked at the retiree-friendliness of the 150 largest U.S. cities across 40 metrics and its top picks were mostly large ones. Three cities in Florida topped the list: Orlando, Tampa and Miami. Austin was the only one in both WalletHub’s Top 10 and U.S. News’.

What the Rankings Can't Rank

You won’t want to move to any place in retirement just because it’s on a Best Places list, of course. And no ranking can account for a key retirement location criteria for many people: proximity to family members.

Still, Best Places to Retire rankings can be a useful part of your research as long as you closely read their methodology, so you understand what the raters were rating.

“These types of surveys can be a great starting point in deciding where to retire,” said Brandon. “It all comes down to your personal preferences. Your criteria for what makes a best place to retire may be different than for others.”

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Eisenberg R. (2 October 2017). "U.S. News Offers A New Take On The Best Places In The U.S. To Retire" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2017/10/02/u-s-news-offers-a-new-take-on-the-best-places-in-the-u-s-to-retire/#4d26f87c60ec

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