Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Improve Your Health Care Experience with Health Advocate

Three years ago, I went to the SHRM conference looking for a company that could help our staff get the most out of our health insurance. We were paying for our staff to have great coverage, but I was hearing about situations where our staff weren't getting the care they needed or they were hassling with resolving claims issues they didn't fully understand. The HR team was also spending a considerable amount of time helping people resolve issues related to our health and dental insurance and receiving questions about Medicare that were outside our area of expertise. Health Advocate had a booth at the conference. I chatted with them, picked up some literature, and followed-up when I got back to the office. We decided they would fill a need and added the benefit November 1, 2008. 

Health Advocate can help people address a whole host of healthcare and insurance-related issues that include. 
  • Finding the best providers or hospitals
  • Untangling medical bills
  • Locating eldercare and support services
  • Securing second opinions
  • Navigating insurance coverage
  • Explaining conditions and treatment options
We cover all our staff (regardless of whether or not they have our health insurance coverage) and all of our retirees. Coverage also extends to our spouses, dependent children, parents and parents-in-laws. We seem to be averaging around 40 interactions per month. About half of the calls are people looking for assistance with a claim. Other popular reasons to call relate to locating care, seeking health information, and dealing with Medicare. 

I've used the service myself a number of times. Health Advocate once wrote a successful appeal letter for me when I had lab charges denied that were provided through a participating doctor, a couple of years ago they helped me find a physical therapist near the office with available appointments, and I just called them again to help me find a doctor with a particular speciality and to get information about treatment options for a specific condition. 

The service is reasonably priced at $2.10 per covered employee/retiree per month. The current utilization report suggests that they saved us $20,838 from 12/1/2010 through 9/30/2011. (That's mostly an estimate of productivity savings.) During that period, our coverage cost about $6,400. Not a bad ROI. 

If you're covered under the ASHA plan, you can call Health Advocate at 866-695-8622

Friday, October 21, 2011

It's Open Enrollment Time

It's open enrollment time again and we just posted this information for staff on our Intranet and sent individual letters out to all of our retirees. I believe in making benefits information easily accessible to our families, so I'm posting it here too.

Open Enrollment 2012

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Loretta's Trip to St. Thomas

Loretta is back from St. Thomas and she has a big smile on her face. She shared this about her trip. (If you haven't already done so, be sure to read about her journey to wellness.)

Hi all,

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to St. Thomas this past week. The weather was beautiful and the views were amazing! We enjoyed the beaches, great food, shopping and site seeing. The condo was very nice with fantastic views from all rooms of Bolongo Bay and the Caribbean Sea. We took the ferry to St. John and enjoyed the beautiful beaches and national park there as well. It was all so relaxing and enjoyable and all that we hoped it would be.

On a health and fitness note, thought you would be pleased to know that I incorporated healthy eating (lots of grilled or steamed seafood and vegetables) and fitness (walking, swimming and use of exercise equipment in the condo) every day. I set a goal for myself to neither lose nor gain any weight during the week and am pleased that I achieved this small goal! I stayed on course with making good choices 90% of the time and limiting treats to 10% of food and drink choices. Among our splurges we sampled the local meat pate and enjoyed a yummy rum infused chocolate shake (Fodor’s choice recommendation) at Udder Delight, an ice cream concession associated with the St. Thomas Dairies near Maegen’s Bay.

Ralph and I truly enjoyed the trip and are so grateful to have had this opportunity. Thanks so much for planning such a wonderful health and fitness program and for offering this journey to wellness and to St. Thomas! It was a memorable time. We took lots of great pictures!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Celebrate the Athletes

It was a big weekend for some of our fittest staff -- Becky Venediktov completed the Baltimore marathon in 3:52:52 crushing her four hour goal. Diane Paul completed the The Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure® 60-mile walk in Philadelphia to celebrate her birthday. Mike Guerrieri completed yet another century ride, the Seagull Century, in 6.25 hours. Even our spouses got into the spirit -- Paul Seesman, Paula's husband, completed his first century ride.

We talk a lot about helping people make healthy changes as part of workplace wellness initiatives, but it's important to support active people like Becky, Diane, Mike and Paul too. It's easy for life to get in the way of exercising and eating well even when we're dedicated. Offering staff flexible work options helps people fit training into busy schedules. We've also targeted some of our educational opportunities to our active staff e.g., Eat Like an Athlete and a Myofascial Release Clinic. 

Diane is on the right.

Mike is in the yellow. Paul is second from the right.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Weight Loss Program Update

We're three weeks into our new weight loss program. The twelve participants have met twice with their nutritionist, Ellen Slotkin from LifeWork Strategies. Week 1 they were given a copy of Volumetrics and they implemented an "add-more" philosophy. That's adding more foods low in energy density to their meals so that the portions will be more satisfying while reducing calorie intake. 

Week 3 they met again with Ellen and they focused on eating speed and strategies to slow down when they eat -- listening to relaxing music at dinner, counting the number of times they chew, putting the fork or spoon down between bites, etc... 

Today I'm distributing copies of Mindless Eating to the participants. I'm also setting up a group potluck luncheon and a weight loss community group on our intranet for them to share recipe recommendations and other thoughts. The weight loss community group is actually open to all staff. 

We had a number of people express great disappointment when they didn't get into the program. (We had 32 applications for 12 slots.) In response, we have asked Ellen to come in and do a group session on Volumetrics. This will be held Friday, October 21, at noon. We've suggested that these individuals contact LifeWork Strageties (877-252-8550) and take advantage of the wellness coaching that we've made available at no cost to our staff and their families. We've also offered to purchase a copy of Volumnmetrics for people that want to try the program. We're placing a few copies of Mindless Eating in our HR Library for anyone who wants to read it. We'll be looking for other ways to support this group too. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

How to Green Your Grocery Shopping & enter to win a copy of Forks Over Knives

Foraging for a Healthy & Sustainable Meal

Last week we had Gina Cawly from Conscious Corner talk with ASHA staff about greening their shopping as a lead in to our biannual green living event on October 5. Conscious Corner is a group of stores committed to healthy and mindful living, supporting small organic farms, individual artisans, socially responsible companies, the environment, animals and the community. They own Roots Market, Bark Pawsitive Petfood, Great Sage Organic Green Cuisine and Nest Earth-friendly Clothing and Gifts which are all in Clarksville or Olney, Maryland.

Pesticides in Produce

Gina suggested using foodnews.org as a source for information on the dirty dozen and clean 15. Most experts recommend that you eat the Dirty Dozen only when you can get them organic and that you're safe in purchasing the Clean 15 in conventional form. You can sign up to "Get the Guide" on the Food News site and then download a pdf or an iPhone or Droid app.

Can you name the top three items on the Dirty Dozen list? List them in a comment below and I'll randomly chose someone to win a copy of Forks Over Knives. Include your email address or Twitter handle so I can contact you if you win. I'll select the winner on October 14. (You must be within the Continental US to win.)

Meat and Dairy

I won't repeat what I've shared about meat. If you're interested, you can read my post on Meatless Mondays. Gina talked a bit about eggs and the practice of killing the male chicks. I'm not going to go into it too much here because we eat five dozen eggs a week in our house and I don't want to think about it. We do order them from South Mountain Creamery and I believe their practices are more humane, but I should check into it more thoroughly.

Gina shared this trailer of Forks Over Knives with us. I didn't get the imagery at first. I was picturing a salad fork and a steak knife until I read a review I'll share in a bit. It's really fork -- food -- and knife -- scalpel. The message being you control your health with what you eat. They advocate eating a "plant-based diet." They clearly mean vegan, but wisely steer clear of using this label. All or nothing propositions are hard to embrace, but most of us can probably imagine eating less meat, fewer processed foods and more plants.

The scientific claims in the movie are very compelling. I found myself enthusiastically describing a number of them to my husband. I decided to look some of them up and came across this review -- "Forks Over Knives": Is the Science Legit? Health Blogger Denise Minger painstakingly analyzes each scientific claim made in the movie. I like that she supports the message, but chooses to question the claims. This is a long, but fascinating review. You'll learn that many of the claims in the movie aren't so sound, but like Denise, I still like the message.

I think other staff might be interested in this documentary, so I'm looking into hosting a screening or discussion. Please let me know if you'd be interested in participating. 

The movie is available on Netflix for instant viewing. 

Fair Trade

What does Fair Trade represent?
  • Fair Price for Producers
  • Empowerment and Self-Sufficiency
  • Investment in Communities and Cultural Heritage
  • Women's Participation
  • Enviromental Sustainability 
Look for these labels: 
Label Reading

What else should you look for when reading labels?
  • GMO Free
  • No cotton seed oil
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No dyes
  • No artificial flavors