Helping Your Employees Protect Against Identity Theft

Are you doing enough to help your employees protect themselves from identity theft? Make sure to take a look at this article by Irene Saccoccio from SHRM on what employers can do to protect their employees from identity theft.

Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for you and your employees. Protecting your identity and information is important to us. Security is part of our name and we take that seriously.

Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and pretends to be you. It happens to millions of Americans every year. Once identity thieves have your personal information they can open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name. You can help prevent identity theft by:

  • Securing your Social Security card and not carrying it in your wallet;
  • Not responding to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online;
  • Shredding mail containing PII instead of throwing it in the trash; and
  • Reviewing your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

It is important that your employees take the necessary steps to protect their Social Security number. Usually, just knowing the number is enough, so it is important not to carry your Social Security card or other documents unless they are needed for a specific purpose. If someone asks for your employees’ number, they should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if they refuse. When hired, your employees should provide you with the correct Social Security number to ensure their records and tax information are accurate.

If your employees suspect someone else is using their Social Security number, they should visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov guides them through every step of the recovery process. It’s a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your employee should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Don’t let your employees fall victim to identity theft. Advise them to read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number or read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you or an employee suspects that they’re a victim of identity theft, don’t wait, report it right away!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 May ). Helping your employees protect against identity theft [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/helping-your-employees-protect-against-identity-theft


U.S Aftermath of WannaCry Ransomware Yet to be Seen

The WannaCry ransomware that has spread across 150 countries since Friday has appeared to slow down, but employees starting the workweek should be careful, as the effects in the United States are yet to be determined.

WannaCry locks users out of their computers by exploiting a vulnerability in outdated versions of Mircosoft Windows. It then demands money from users who want to regain control of their data. The ransomware initially requests around $300, and if no payment is made, threatens to double the amount after three days and delete files within seven days. Once it infects one computer, it can spread to every computer in that network within seconds.

According to Elliptic- a London startup that helps law enforcement agencies track criminals-around $50,000 worth of bitcoin payments have been made to the hackers as of Monday morning.

Countries Affected in First Few Hours of Cyber Attack

  • United States- Fedex
  • United Kingdom- The National Health Service
  • Russia- The Ministry of Internal Affairs
  • France- Renault
  • Spain- Telefonica
  • China- Universities and gas stations
  • Japan- Hitachi

Nobody knows who is behind the attack, but Europol is working on a decrypting tool. Many firms hired experts over the weekend to prevent new infections, which seems to have worked in Europe, so far.

After the initial discovery of the WannaCry ransomware, Mircosoft issued a warning to the U.S. government concerning its data-storing practices. Mircosoft claimed that the tool used in the WannaCry cyber attack was developed by the U.S. National Security Agency and was stolen by hackers. Microsoft released a Windows security update in March to tackle the problem exposed by the latest attack, but many users haven't run the update yet.

Precautions

Some experts recommend that you should not pay the ransomware if you've been hacked. Even if there is a way to determine if you've paid the ransom, there is no guarantee that the hackers will return the files to you unharmed, if returned at all. Experts also recommend you take the following precautions:

  • Update your network if you haven't yet.
  • Turn on auto-updaters, if available.
  • Don't click on links that you do not recognize.
  • Don't download files from people you don't know.
  • Back up your documents regularly.

Hierl Insurance Inc. will continue to monitor the situation. Contact us if you have any further questions regarding how you can avoid disruptive business interruptions from cyber attacks.


Half of Mature Workers Delaying or Giving Up on Retirement

Did you know that now more than ever Americans are giving up on their dreams of retirement? Find out about the somber facts facing the older generation of workers in the great article from Benefits Pro by Marlene Y. Satter.

It’s a grim picture for older workers: half either plan to postpone retirement till at least age 70, or else to forego retirement altogether.

That’s the depressing conclusion of a recent CareerBuilder survey, which finds that 30 percent of U.S. workers aged 60 or older don’t plan to retire until at least age 70—and possibly not then, either.

Another 20 percent don’t believe they will ever be able to retire.

Why? Well, money—or, rather, the lack of it—is the main reason for all these delays and postponements.

But that doesn’t mean that workers actually have a set financial goal in mind; they just have this sinking feeling that there’s not enough set aside to support them.

Thirty-four percent of survey respondents aged 60 and older say they aren’t sure how much they’ll need to save in order to retire.

And a stunning 24 percent think they’ll be able to get through retirement (and the potential for high medical expenses) on less than $500,000.

Others are estimating higher—some a lot higher—but that probably makes the goal of retirement seem even farther out of reach, with 25 percent believing that the magic number lies somewhere between $500,000–$1,000,000, 13 percent shooting for a figure between $1–2 million, 3 percent looking at $2 million to less than $3 million and (the) 1 percent aiming at $3 million or more.

And if that’s not bad enough, 26 percent of workers 55 and older say they don’t even participate in a 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan.

With 74 percent of respondents 55 and older saying they aren’t making their desired salary, that could play a pretty big part in lack of participation—but that doesn’t mean they’re standing still. Eight percent took on a second job in 2016, and 12 percent plan to change jobs this year.

Predictably, the situation is worse for women. While 54.8 percent of male respondents aged 60+ say they’re postponing retirement, 58.7 percent of women say so.

Asked at which age they think they can retire, the largest groups of both men and women say 65–69, but while 44.9 percent of men say so, just 39.6 percent of women say so.

In addition, 24.4 percent of women peg the 70–74 age range, compared with 21.1 percent of men, and 23.2 percent of women agree with the gloomy statement, “I don’t think I’ll be able to retire”—compared with 18 percent of men.

And no wonder, since while 21.7 percent of men say they’re “not sure” how much they’ll need to retire, 49.3 percent of women are in that category.

Women also don’t participate in retirement plans at the rate that men do, either; 28.3 percent of male respondents say they don’t participate in a 401(k), IRA or other retirement plan, but 35.4 percent of female respondents say they aren’t participating.

For workers in the Midwest, a shocking percentage say they’re delaying retirement: 61.6 percent overall, both men and women, of 60+ workers saying they’re doing so.

Those in the fields of transportation, retail, sales, leisure and hospitality make up the largest percentages of those putting off retirement, at 70.4 percent, 62.5 percent, 62.8 percent and 61.3 percent, respectively. And 46.7 percent overall agree with the statement, “I don’t think I’ll be able to retire.”

Incidentally, 53.2 percent of those in financial services—the largest professional industry group to say so—are not postponing retirement.

They’re followed closely by those in health care, at 50.9 percent—the only other field in which more than half of its workers are planning on retiring on schedule.

And when it comes to participating in retirement plans, some industries see some really outsized participation rates that other industries could only dream of. Among those who work in financial services, for instance, 96.5 percent of respondents say they participate in a 401(k), IRA or comparable retirement plan.

That’s followed by information technology (88.2 percent), energy (87.5 percent), large health care institutions (85.8 percent—smaller health care institutions participate at a rate of 51 percent, while overall in the industry the rate comes to 75.5 percent), government employees (83.6 percent) and manufacturing (80.2 percent).

After that it drops off pretty sharply, and the industry with the lowest participation rate is the leisure and hospitality industry, at just 43.4 percent.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 March 31). Half of mature workers delaying or giving up on retirement [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/31/half-of-mature-workers-delaying-or-giving-up-on-re?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


3 wise cybersecurity solutions for 2017

Is your company properly protected from cybersecurity threats? Find out how to protect yourself from online threats thanks to this great article from Prperty & Casualty 360 by Christopher Roach.

As businesses are spending millions of dollars on technology and software to protect themselves from cybercrimes, they may be missing a leading cause of cybercrime by not investing their money in training their own employees.

Human error is the leading cause of cybercrimes, according to BakerHostetler’s 2016 Data Security Incident Response Report. Some of the most prominent companies learned that all too well in the last calendar year, as costly mistakes by their employees left their business vulnerable to hacks.

In the spring of 2016, Snapchat was the victim of a phishing scam, where hackers posing as the CEO convinced an employee to email them the personal information — IRS Form W-2 data — of about 700 current and former employees of the organization. This included employee names, Social Security numbers, wages, stock-option gains and benefits. Shortly after the information was released, the employee realized that the original request was not legitimate. Everyone affected by the scam was quickly notified and offered free credit monitoring and identity theft insurance.

A human mistake was also the leading cause of a recent breach of Premier Healthcare, a multispecialty healthcare provider. After the billing department failed to secure its computers, a laptop computer was stolen from its headquarters. The electronic protected health information (ePHI) that could have been accessed from the single laptop could affect roughly 200,000 patients. The laptop was password-protected but not encrypted.

Employees reported the stolen laptop as soon as they realized it was missing, and the company took a number of steps to locate the laptop and identify the thief, including notifying patients and filing a police report. Fortunately, the laptop was returned and a comprehensive forensic analysis revealed the laptop had not been powered on since it went missing.

This year, Snapchat, Premier Healthcare and every other business big, medium or small, must invest in cybersecurity protection. They have to prepare their employees for the worst.

Here are three cybersecurity resolutions that offices need to make going forward:

1. Train employees with gamification.

In addition to sending around a list of dos and don’ts on how to prevent cyberattacks to employees, companies could get more creative when it comes to training their staff. Businesses should consider using gamification for training exercises to present real-life scenarios to employees.

One way to do this is by having “pretend” hackers try to obtain proprietary information from employees.  If an office doesn’t properly react, it could provide as a great lesson for everyone. If they react correctly they could win a prize. Every employee poses a risk, so training each individual is a critical element of cybersecurity.

2. Testing your response time.

Hackers are always going to be one step ahead due to the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. In preparation, companies must have a cyber response plan in place and need to be ready to respond to multiple scenarios.

Employees need to understand how to identify risks and the appropriate individuals or departments where they should report findings. In addition, every employee should be taught best practices, like how to create stronger passwords or how to spot suspicious emails, so that they can use good judgement when online. If you suspect something, report it.

3. Protect your crown jewels.

The most important thing that business can do is identify their “crown jewels,” which are their data assets that are most critical to their organization and customers. Once the crown jewels have been identified, a company’s security team can establish targeted cybersecurity controls to insure this data is secure and recoverable.

While doing this, companies should make sure to conduct a penetration test to find out if their most important assets are vulnerable to hackers. This approach will save time and money. It’s not practical or cost effective to put the same level of protection on all data, so target the data that’s most important to the business.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Roach C. (2017 March 24). 3 wise cybersecurity solutions for 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/03/24/3-wise-cybersecurity-solutions-for-2017?slreturn=1491841086&page_all=1


Stay Safe With Society

Check out this free upcoming webinar from Society Insurance about " Reducing Outdoor Slip, Trip and Falls"

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Reducing Outdoor Slip, Trip and Falls
Friday, April 28, 1 p.m. - 2 p.m. CDT
Click here to register.

  • Slips, trips and falls are the second-leading cause of employee injuries nationally, with an increase of 41 percent since 1998.
  • Slips, trips and falls are also a leading cause of customer injuries.
  • Slips, trips and falls are not just a winter concern!

Doing everything possible to prevent slip, trip and falls is not just a priority – it's a necessity!

This live webinar focuses on identifying hazards that could cause outdoor slip, trip and falls. Society's risk management experts will also discuss corrective actions that can help to reduce the occurrence of these incidents and injury losses.

Register now and pass it on! All are welcome and every business can benefit from the information in this webinar.


3 things managers can’t say after FMLA requests

Do you know which question you can ask any employee requesting FMLA leave?  Look at this great article from HR Morning about what employers can and cannot say to an employee on FMLA leave Christian Schappel

You know when employees request FMLA leave, those conversations have to stick to the facts about what the workers need and why. The problem is, a lot of managers don’t know that — and here’s proof some of their stray comments can cost you dearly in court. 

Three employers are currently fighting expensive FMLA interference lawsuits because their managers didn’t stick to the facts when subordinates requested leave.

Don’t say it!

The real kick in the pants: Two of the lawsuits were filed by employees who’d received all of the FMLA leave they requested — and the courts said the interference claims were still valid. How’s that even possible? Keep reading to learn about the latest litigation trend in the FMLA world.

Here’s what happened in each case (don’t worry, we’ve cut to the chase in all of them) — beginning with the words/phrases managers must avoid when a worker requests leave:

No. 1: ‘We expect you to be here’

James Hefti, a tool designer, was in hot water with his company, Brunk Industries, a metal stamping company.

Reason: Let’s just say he called a lot of people at work “my b____.”

After he ignored multiple warnings from management to stop using obscenities at work, the company planned to fire him. But it didn’t pull the trigger immediately.

Then, just prior to his termination, Hefti requested FMLA leave to care for his son, who was suffering from various mental health problems.

His manager, upon hearing of Hefti’s request, told him Brunk paid for his insurance and thus expected him to be at work.

When Hefti was fired a few days later, he sued for FMLA interference.

The company tried to get the suit thrown out, claiming his conduct and ignorance of repeated warnings gave it grounds to terminate him. But it didn’t win.

The court said the manager’s interactions with Hefti did raise the question of whether he was fired for requesting FMLA leave, so the judge sent the case to trial.

Cite: Hefti v. Brunk Industries

No. 2: ‘It’s inconsiderate’

Lisa Kimes, a public safety officer for the University of Scranton’s Department of Public Safety, requested FMLA leave to care for her son, who had diabetes.

Kimes was granted all the time off she requested. But in a meeting with her supervisor she was told that since the department was short staffed it was “inconsiderate” of her to take time off.

When her relationship with the department soured, she sued claiming FMLA interference.

The department tried to get her suit tossed before it went to trial. It had a seemingly reasonable argument: She got all of the leave she requested, so it couldn’t have interfered with her FMLA rights.

But Kimes argued that her supervisor’s comments prevented her from requesting more FMLA leave – thus the interference lawsuit.

The court sided with Kimes. It said she had a strong argument, so the judge sent her case to trial as well.

Suit: Kimes v. University of Scranton

No. 3: ‘I’m mad’

Judy Gordon was an officer with U.S. Capitol Police when she requested intermittent FMLA leave for periods of incapacitating depression following her husband’s suicide.

But before Gordon used any FMLA leave, a captain in the police department told her that an upper-level manager had said he was “mad” about FMLA requests in general, and he’d vowed to “find a problem” with Gordon’s request.

Then later, when she actually went to take leave, her manager became irate, denied her request and demanded a doctor’s note. He later relented and granted the request.

In fact, she was granted all the leave she requested.

Still, she filed an FMLA interference suit. And, again, the employer fought to get it thrown out before a trial on the grounds that Gordon had no claim because all of her leave requests were granted.

But this case was sent to trial, too. The judge said her superiors’ conduct could have a “reasonable tendency” to interfere with her FMLA rights by deterring her from exercising them — i.e., the comments made to her could’ve persuaded her not to request additional leave time to which she was entitled.

Suit: Gordon v. United States Capitol Police

Just the facts, please

Based on a thorough read-through of the court documents, each of these employers appeared to have a pretty good chance of winning summary judgment and getting the lawsuits thrown out before an expensive trial — that is, if it weren’t for the managers’ stray comments in each.

These cases have created two important teaching points for HR:

  1. Courts are allowing FMLA interference claims to be made if it appears an employee may have been coaxed into not requesting leave he or she was entitled to, and
  2. You never know when a stray remark will come back to bite you.

The best way to stay safe: Re-emphasize that managers must stick to the facts when employees request FMLA leave, as well as keep their opinions and other observations to themselves.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 March 17). 3 things managers can't say after FMLA requests [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/3-things-you-cant-say-after-fmla-requests/


5 reasons why auto accidents are on the rise

Have you noticed more auto accidents lately? Then check out this interesting article from Property Casualty 360 about the reasons why auto accidents are on the rise by Denny Jacob

According to the National Safety Council, traffic deaths increased 6 percent to 40,200 — the first time since 2007 that more than 40,000 have died in motor vehicle crashes in a single year.

The 2016 total follows a 7 percent rise in 2015. Much of this is attributed to continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy which has increased motor-vehicle mileage.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s early estimates show the motor vehicle traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2016 increased about 8 percent as compared to the motor vehicle traffic fatalities for the first nine months of 2015. Preliminary data reported by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) shows that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in the first nine months of 2016 increased about 3 percent.

All 10 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regions experienced increases during the first nine months of 2016. In particular, the South, Southeast and Northeast saw motor vehicle traffic fatalities spike between 11 and 20 percent alone.

Here are 5 factors contributing to the increase in auto accident rates:

More cars on the road and miles driven today

Cheap gas and diesel, plus a stronger economy, has caused high road density with more cars on the road. The Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration shows that driving jumped 3.5 percent over 2015, the largest uptick in more than a decade. Americans drove more than 3.15 trillion miles, equivalent to around 337 round trips from Earth to Pluto. The previous record, around 3 trillion miles, was set in 2007.

More distractions

Beyond texting and driving, from Bluetooth to Snapchat, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile. On top of that, we now have sensors and technologies that respond to our every move in vehicles. We have apps that connect to center consoles and more touch-screen technology in vehicles than ever before

Younger, more inexperienced drivers

A new study from AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety show that millennial drivers (more 19- to 39-year-old drivers) are texting, speeding and running red lights. They also think it's OK to speed in school zones. While the statistics improve for older drivers, it’s not by much. From a commercial driver standpoint, the experience (or inexperience) of drivers can lead to more auto accidents overall.

Cost of car repair more expensive

Think about your grandfather’s car. If the engine blew, you went to a mechanic who fixed the problem. Now, everything in a car is connected by a computer. If one fuse blows, it will likely have an impact on other parts of the vehicle. Yes, computers make it easier and quicker to fix, but overall costs tend to be higher, especially because cars on the road are much newer.

Ultimately, we pay for the technology (computers, advancements in bodywork, HVAC, etc.). To diagnose many computer issues and the dozens of sensors requires a scan tool that is capable of accessing the thousands of manufacturer-specific trouble codes and data streams. A good one can cost $7,000 alone.

Injury costs from accidents on the rise

No surprise, the cost of medical care has increased, most of which are spinal and soft tissue injuries. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 35 percent of spinal cord injuries are caused by vehicle accidents (truck, automobile, or motorcycle). Think about this — medical spending for spinal care per patient increased by 95 percent from $487 to $950 between 1999 to 2008, accounting for inflation.

But think about the full picture, which compounds the issue. You get whiplash (direct medical cost), have to stay home for a few weeks (loss of income) and get physical therapy (cost of post-injury medical care — according to one estimate, about 25 percent of whiplash injury patients end up suffering chronic pain). The costs can triple from an economic and quality-of-life perspective, costing the U.S. $2.7 billion per year.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob Denny (2017 March 02). 5 reason why auto accidents are on the rise [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/03/02/5-reasons-why-auto-accidents-are-on-the-rise?page_all=1


5 trends and factors that continue to impact cybersecurity in 2017

Great article from Property Casualty 360 about 5 trends that will impact cybersecurity in 2017 by Gary S. Miliefsky

It’s not unexpected any more: We awaken to learn that yet another national retailer has been hacked, and once again credit-card information for millions of customers is at risk.

Yet, despite all the publicity these security breaches receive and all the warnings consumers hear, cyber criminals still achieve success — and they’re becoming more brazen than ever.

Sometimes it can feel like the cyber criminals are working harder than the people who are supposed to be protecting our information, but when consumers and businesses are vigilant, they can foil those cyber criminals despite all their scheming.

We should be asking ourselves: Why not prevent breaches instead of reacting to them? Corporate America and consumers don’t need to sit around waiting to become cybercrime victims.

To that end, here are some cyber security trends and factors worth knowing about for the rest of 2017 and beyond:

Serious breaches still take too long to discover

As unsettling as it is to think about, the truth is there’s generally a long lag time between when a breach happens and when it’s discovered. The average is 280 days, which means if cyber criminals hack your system today, it could be about nine months before anyone realizes there’s a problem.

 

Employees will continue to be critical to protection

For just about any organization, employees are the first line of defense — and the weakest link. Typically, when a breach happens behind a firewall it’s because someone was tricked into clicking on a link they shouldn’t have. Employees need to be educated to prevent these kinds of attacks.

 

Cyber insurance is hot and growing hotter

A breach can prove costly to companies, which is why cyber insurance is a growing field. Just as homeowner’s insurance doesn’t keep your house from catching fire, though, cyber insurance doesn’t guard against a breach. However, it is important for businesses to adopt a policy that can help the company that’s hit by a breach regain its financial footing.

 

The importance of managing company intranet

Most breaches happen behind firewalls. You’ll need more than antivirus to stop the bad guys. This includes anti-phishing tools, network access control (NAC), zero-day malware quarantining and other next-generation approaches focusing on the root cause of how you get breached.

Without a NAC solution, you won’t be able to tell who is on your network, including if the cleaners are plugging in a laptop at midnight or if a consultant is on the wrong VLAN, like human resources or payroll where you don’t want them to have access.

In addition, you should find and fix all your common vulnerabilities and exposures. You can learn more about them at the National Vulnerability Database at nvd.nist.gov or cve.mitre.org. By finding and fixing your holes, you’ll have a stronger, less exploitable infrastructure.

Consumers’ best protection is still self-protection

Consumers can’t always count on how well their bank or their favorite retailer handles cyber security. Anyone can take steps to be safer. Change passwords frequently. Put a sticker over your laptop’s webcam when you’re not using it. Protect your smartphone by turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS except when you need them. Delete cookies and your browsing history regularly. When consumers learn the importance of mobile-device “hygiene,” both they and the places they work are at less risk of suffering a data breach or los

See the original article Here.

Source:

Miliefsky (2017 March 03). 5 trends and factors that continue to impact cybersecurity in 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address  http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/03/03/5-trends-and-factors-that-continue-to-impact-cyber?slreturn=1488916705&page_all=1


Health Law’s 10 Essential Benefits: A Look At What’s At Risk In GOP Overhaul

Great article from Kaiser Health News about all the changes that could be coming with the ACA overhaul by Michelle Andrews

As Republicans look at ways to replace or repair the health law, many suggest shrinking the list of services insurers are required to offer in individual and small group plans would reduce costs and increase flexibility. That option came to the forefront last week when Seema Verma, who is slated to run the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the Trump administration, noted at her confirmation hearing that coverage for maternity services should be optional in those health plans.

Maternity coverage is a popular target and one often mentioned by health law critics, but other items also could be watered down or eliminated.

There are some big hurdles, however. The health law requires that insurers who sell policies for individuals and small businesses cover at a minimum 10 “essential health benefits,” including hospitalization, prescription drugs and emergency care, in addition to maternity services. The law also requires that the scope of the services offered be equal to those typically provided in employer coverage.

“It has to look like a typical employer plan, and those are still pretty generous,” said Timothy Jost, an emeritus professor at Washington and Lee University Law School in Virginia who is an expert on the health law.

Since the 10 required benefits are spelled out in the Affordable Care Act, it would require a change in the law to eliminate entire categories or to water them down to such an extent that they’re less generous than typical employer coverage. And since Republicans likely cannot garner 60 votes in the Senate, they will be limited in changes that they can make to the ACA. Still, policy experts say there’s room to “skinny up” the requirements in some areas by changing the regulations that federal officials wrote to implement the law.

Habilitative Services

The law requires that plans cover “rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.” Many employer plans don’t include habilitative services, which help people with developmental disabilities such as cerebral palsy or autism maintain, learn or improve their functional skills. Federal officials issued a regulation that defined habilitative services and directed plans to set separate limits for the number of covered visits for rehabilitative and habilitative services.

Those rules could be changed. “There is real room for weakening the requirements” for habilitative services, said Dania Palanker, an assistant research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms who has reviewed the essential health benefits coverage requirements.

Oral And Vision Care For Kids

Pediatric oral and vision care requirements, another essential health benefit that’s not particularly common in employer plans, could also be weakened, said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health, a consulting firm.

Mental Health And Substance Use Disorder Services

The health law requires all individual and small group plans cover mental health and substance use disorder services. In the regulations the administration said that means those services have to be provided at “parity” with medical and surgical services, meaning plans can’t be more restrictive with one type of coverage than the other regarding cost sharing, treatment and care management.

“They could back off of parity,” Palanker said.

Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug coverage could be tinkered with as well. The rules currently require that plans cover at least one drug in every drug class, a standard that isn’t particularly robust to start with, said Katie Keith, a health policy consultant and adjunct professor at Georgetown Law School. That standard could be relaxed further, she said, and the list of required covered drugs could shrink.

Preventive And Wellness Services And Chronic Disease Management

Republicans have discussed trimming or eliminating some of the preventive services that are required to be offered without cost sharing. Among those requirements is providing birth control without charging women anything out of pocket. But, Palanker said, “if they just wanted to omit them, I expect that would end up in court.”

Pregnancy, Maternity And Newborn Care

Before the health law passed, just 12 percent of health policies available to a 30-year-old woman on the individual market offered maternity benefits, according to research by the National Women’s Law Center. Those that did often charged extra for the coverage and required a waiting period of a year or more. The essential health benefits package plugged that hole very cleanly, said Adam Sonfield, a senior policy manager at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research and advocacy organization.

“Having it in the law makes it more difficult to either exclude it entirely or charge an arm and a leg for it,” Sonfield said.

Maternity coverage is often offered as an example of a benefit that should be optional, as Verma advocated. If you’re a man or too old to get pregnant, why should you have to pay for that coverage?

That a la carte approach is not the way insurance should work, some experts argue. Women don’t need prostate cancer screening, they counter, but they pay for the coverage anyway.

“We buy insurance for uncertainty, and to spread the costs of care across a broad population so that when something comes up that person has adequate coverage to meet their needs,” said Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Health Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 February 21). Health law's 10 essential benefits: a look at what's at risk in GOP overhaul [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/health-laws-10-essential-benefits-a-look-at-whats-at-risk-in-gop-overhaul/


Cold & Flu Prevention in the Workplace

With flu season in full swing here are some great tips from Travelers on how to protect the workplace from getting sick.

Every year, without fail, flu season hits. While the influenza virus poses high health risks for individuals, an outbreak at the office can also affect business operations. All it takes is one employee and one sneeze to put others at risk and spread the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu viruses can spread to people from up to 6 feet away through droplets made by sneezing, coughing or talking.* Even before showing symptoms, an infected employee who sneezes during a meeting or coughs at someone's desk without covering his or her mouth can expose others to the flu.

Small businesses can be even more vulnerable if multiple employees call in sick due to flu-related illnesses. Fewer hands on deck could potentially impact productivity and operations.

Following are Five Tips for Business Owners to Help Reduce the Potential Spread of the Flu:

  1. Make the Flu Vaccine Available for Employees
    The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine every year. However, finding time to get the vaccine may be difficult for some. If possible, employers should consider hosting a vaccine clinic onsite. By having it available at work, employees should be able to take care of this simple task quickly and easily.
  2. Keep Work Spaces Clean
    Generally, human flu viruses can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours, so encourage employees to clean their desks regularly. When buying cleaning supplies, read the label to make sure it states that the product is effective against flu viruses, such as Influenza A.
  3. Offer the Option to Go Virtual
    Most people do not realize they can spread the flu virus to others one day before they show any symptoms and up to seven days after becoming ill. Small business owners should make employees aware of this fact and provide opportunities to reduce in-person interactions, as this can help minimize the spread of the flu in the office. There are still ways to get work done so consider giving employees an option to work from home. They can stay connected through emails or phone calls, and conduct meetings online.
  4. Be Open to Deferring Travel
    Small business owners should also be open to rescheduling business trips. If workers are not feeling well before a trip, encourage them to reschedule to a later date so that they are not sick while away from home. If travel plans involve airplanes, fellow passengers will be grateful for that decision as well.
  5. Hand Out the Tip Sheet….Now!
    Even before flu season hits, hand out a short, informative document to employees on ways to help reduce the spread of the flu, such as washing hands properly and regularly and avoiding touching your eye, nose or mouth (entry points into the body for germs). For more information, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional suggestions on preventing the flu and maintaining good health habits.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Cold & flu prevention in the workplace [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.travelers.com/resources/workplace-safety/cold-and-flu-prevention-in-the-workplace.aspx