Keeping It Real: From the Board Room to the Weight Room


This is the time of year when your employees are contemplating whether or not to eat that remaining peanut brittle or move on with 2012.   For employers considering investing more in corporate wellness programs, we wanted to pass along   a quick story and some rules for your folks who head to the gym. We recently visited with a prospective client who shared with us their meticulously overcooked wellness program where participants could receive points and olympic levels of achievement for enrolling online, taking tests, watching videos, and reaching out to coaches as "engaged" members.   These "valuable" points could then be used to purchase a lot of left over things that retailers failed to sell over the holidays.

After listening intently how the employer was told the wellness plan would save the company a lost of money, we politely explained that this program was in reality money that could have been invested in a different way.   Our Health Risk Solutions team will be doing more of these interventions throughout the year.   For those who are not afraid of the truth ... our gift to you is Jason Gay's 27 Rules (as printed in today's WSJ) to share with your people:

1.  A gym is not designed to make you feel instantly better about yourself. If a gym wanted to make you feel instantly better about yourself, it would be a bar.

2.  Give yourself a goal. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds. Maybe you want to quarterback the New York Jets into the playoffs. But be warned: Losing 10 pounds is hard.

3.  Develop a gym routine. Try to go at least three times a week. Do a mix of strength training and cardiovascular conditioning. After the third week, stop carrying around that satchel of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies.

4.  No one in the history of gyms has ever lost a pound while reading "The New Yorker" and slowly pedaling a recumbent bicycle. No one.

5.  Bring your iPod. Don't borrow the disgusting gym headphones, or use the sad plastic radio attachment on the treadmill, which always sounds like it's playing Kenny Loggins from a sewer.

6.  Don't fall for gimmicks. The only tried-and-true method to lose 10 pounds in 48 hours is food poisoning.

7.  Yes, every gym has an overenthusiastic spinning instructor who hasn't bought a record since "Walking on Sunshine."

8.  There's also the Strange Guy Who is Always at the Gym. Just when you think he isn't here today...there he is, lurking by the barbells.

9.  "Great job!" is trainer-speak for "It's not polite for me to laugh at you."

10.  Beware a hip gym with a Wilco step class.

11.  Gyms have two types of members: Members who wipe down the machines after using them, and the worst people in the universe.

12.  Nope, that's not a "recovery energy bar with antioxidant dark chocolate." That's a chocolate bar.

13.  Avoid Unsolicited Advice Guy, who, for the small fee of boring you to death, will explain the proper method for any exercise in 45 minutes or longer.

14.  You can take 10 Minute Abs, 20 Minute Abs, and 30 Minute Abs. There is also Stop Eating Pizza and Eating Sheet Cake Abs–but that's super tough!

15.  If you're motivated to buy an expensive home exercise machine, consider a "wooden coat rack." It costs $40, uses no electricity and does the exact same thing.

16.  There's the yoga instructor everyone loves, and the yoga instructor everyone hates. Memorize who they are.

17.  If you see an indoor rock climbing wall, you're either in a really cool gym or a romantic comedy starring Kate Hudson.

18.  Be cautious about any class with the words "sunrise," "hell," or "Moby."

19.  If a gym class is going to be effective, it's hard. If you're relaxed and enjoying yourself, you're at brunch.

20.  If you need to bring your children, just let them loose in the silent meditation class. Nobody minds, and kids love candles.

21.  Don't buy $150 sneakers, $100 yoga pants, and $4 water. Muscle shirts are for people with muscles, and rhythm guitarists.

22.  Fancy gyms can be seductive, but once you get past the modern couches and fresh flowers and the water with lemon slices, you're basically paying for a boutique hotel with B.O.

23.  Everyone sees you secretly racing the old people in the pool.

24.  If you're at the point where you've bought biking shoes for the spinning class, you may as well go ahead and buy an actual bike. It's way more fun and it doesn't make you listen to C+C Music Factory.

25.  Fact: Thinking about going to the gym burns between 0 and 0 calories.

26.  A successful gym membership is like a marriage: If it's good, you show up committed and ready for hard work. If it's not good, you show up in sweatpants and watch a lot of bad TV.

27.  There is no secret. Exercise and lay off the fries.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Jason Gay, The 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym  


The "Tsunami Effect" Makes Waves in Group Health

In March 2011, the coast of Japan experienced one of the most devastating tsunamis to ever hit a populated industrialized economy of this magnitude.   But the forces that drive a tsunami come as a result of shifts that occur beneath the surface of the water, not visible when the cause triggers the effect above the sea line.   This event became one of the most documented natural disasters in history due to two things.   The first is the advancements in meteorology that signaled the massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake along a huge stretch of Japan's north-east coast and personal technology that allowed real-time media capture for anyone with a modern day smart phone.     

This real life tsunami is really a metaphor for what occurs beneath the "sight line" of our health plans everyday.   It's also why pouring through outdated historical experience to project future costs is as outdated as the "old midpoint trend method we all learned in underwriting boot camp.   To have a more accurate line of sight into your health plan, you will want to collect three primary components: 1) first is to leverage a firm that can gather your firm's claims in a longitudinal data analytics warehouse.   This helps identify key drivers of health costs and gaps in care 2) second is to get a baseline of biometric measures on the greatest number of engaged participants.   This helps identify certain health risks factors of an individual, and 3) the final ingredient comes about by gathering self-reported health assessment responses to gauge lifestyle related factors missed by the other two components.

When you have all three, Dee Edington's (PhD, Health Management Research Center, University of Michigan) research confirms an accuracy rating of between 70-85% predictability in identifying low, medium and high risk individuals three years before they manifest.   Our  firm utilizes the InfoLock system comprised of 1.3 million individual's claim records over a multi-year look back period that helps our health risk management and clinical staff identify cost drivers and gaps in care.

Once your HIPAA compliant business associates can identify these individuals, your organization can begin aligning the health of your people with the health of your business.   Health management programs must be data-driven and evidence-based, otherwise you could find the waves crashing over your head with escalating trend.

  If your interested in learning which health carriers our InfoLock system automatically interfaces with please submit your question through our "Contact" section to learn more.

The Medicare Part D Accelerated Annual Enrollment Period


Health plan sponsors are required to supply, at least annually, a special notice to their enrollees who are also covered by Medicare. The special notice indicates whether the plan's prescription drug coverage is "creditable" - that is, at least as good as Medicare Part D, on an actuarial basis. The "Medicare Part D notice" helps enrollees who are covered by Medicare make informed and timely decisions about whether and when to enroll in Medicare Part D, and avoid a Medicare late enrollment penalty. Although a plan sponsor's obligation to supply a notice extends only to enrollees who are covered by Medicare, plans sometimes do not know which enrollees actually have Medicare coverage. As a result, plans often simply distribute the Part D notice to all participants. As a part of my firm's services, we furnish our clients with the actuarial attestation of Medicare Part D creditable coverage along with the sample notice. What should be important to plan sponsors is an impending distribution notice due this year as early as October 15th.   If you are interested in receiving our firm's analysis of the rules impacting this notice distribution deadline, a complimentary copy is being made available to members of our BenefitU group in LinkedIn.   

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