Taking A Page From Pharma’s Playbook To Fight The Opioid Crisis

From Kaiser Health News, here is the latest: an interview with Dr. Mary Meengs, medical director at the Humboldt Independent Practice Association, on curbing opioid addiction through the reduction of prescription painkillers.

Dr. Mary Meengs remembers the days, a couple of decades ago, when pharmaceutical salespeople would drop into her family practice in Chicago, eager to catch a moment between patients so they could pitch her a new drug.

Now living in Humboldt County, Calif., Meengs is taking a page from the pharmaceutical industry’s playbook with an opposite goal in mind: to reduce the use of prescription painkillers.

Meengs, medical director at the Humboldt Independent Practice Association, is one of 10 California doctors and pharmacists funded by Obama-era federal grants to persuade medical colleagues in Northern California to help curb opioid addiction by altering their prescribing habits.

She committed this past summer to a two-year project consisting of occasional visits to medical providers in California’s most rural areas, where opioid deaths and prescribing rates are high.

“I view it as peer education,” Meengs said. “They don’t have to attend a lecture half an hour away. I’m doing it at [their] convenience.”

This one-on-one, personalized medical education is called “academic detailing” — lifted from the term “pharmaceutical detailing” used by industry salespeople.

Detailing is “like fighting fire with fire,” said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical School professor who helped develop the concept 38 years ago. “There is some poetic justice in the fact that these programs are using the same kind of marketing approach to disseminate helpful evidence-based information as some [drug] companies were using … to disseminate less helpful and occasionally distorted information.”

Recent lawsuits have alleged that drug companies pushed painkillers too aggressively, laying the groundwork for widespread opioid addiction.

Avorn noted that detailing has also been used to persuade doctors to cut back on unnecessary antibiotics and to discourage the use of expensive Alzheimer’s disease medications that have side effects.

Kaiser Permanente, a large medical system that operates in California, as well as seven other states and Washington, D.C., has used the approach to change the opioid-prescribing methods of its doctors since at least 2013. (Kaiser Health News is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

In California, detailing is just one of the ways in which state health officials are attempting to curtail opioid addiction. The state is also expanding access to medication-assisted addiction treatment under a different, $90 million grant through the federal 21st Century Cures Act.

The total budget for the detailing project in California is less than $2 million. The state’s Department of Public Health oversees it, but the money comes from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a program called “Prevention for States,” which provides funding for 29 states to help combat prescription drug overdoses.

The California doctors and pharmacists who conduct the detailing conversations are focusing on their peers in the three counties hardest hit by opioid addiction: Lake, Shasta and Humboldt.

They arrive armed with binders full of facts and figures from the CDC to help inform their fellow providers about easing patients off prescription painkillers, treating addiction with medication and writing more prescriptions for naloxone, a drug that reverses the toxic effects of an overdose.

“Academic detailing is a sales pitch, an evidence-based … sales pitch,” said Dr. Phillip Coffin, director of substance-use research at San Francisco’s Department of Public Health — the agency hired by the state to train the detailers.

In an earlier effort, Coffin said, his department conducted detailing sessions with 40 San Francisco doctors, who have since increased their prescriptions of naloxone elevenfold.

“One-on-one time with the providers, even if it was just three or four minutes, was hugely beneficial,” Coffin said. He noted that the discussions usually focused on specific patients, which is “way more helpful” than talking generally about prescription practices.

Meengs and her fellow detailers hope to make a dent in the magnitude of addiction in sparsely populated Humboldt County, where the opioid death rate was the second-highest in California last year — almost five times the statewide average. Thirty-three people died of opioid overdoses in Humboldt last year.

One recent afternoon, Meengs paid a visit during the lunch hour to Fortuna Family Medical Group in Fortuna, a town of about 12,000 people in Humboldt County.

“Anybody here ever known somebody, a patient, who passed away from an overdose?” Meengs asked the group — a physician, two nurses and a physician assistant — who gathered around her in the waiting room, which they had temporarily closed to patients.

“I think we all do,” replied the physician, Dr. Ruben Brinckhaus.

Brinckhaus said about half the patients at the practice have a prescription for an opioid, anti-anxiety drug or other controlled substance. Some of them had been introduced to the drugs years ago by other prescribers.

Dr. Ruben Brinckhaus says his small family practice in Fortuna, Calif., has been trying to wean patients off opiates. (Pauline Bartolone/California Healthline)

Meengs’ main goal was to discuss ways in which the Fortuna group could wean its patients off opioids. But she was not there to scold or lecture them. She asked the providers what their challenges were, so she could help them overcome them.

Meengs will keep making office calls until August 2019 in the hope that changes in the prescribing behavior of doctors will eventually help tame the addiction crisis.

“It’s a big ship to turn around,” said Meengs. “It takes time.”


Bartolone P. (14 November 2017). "Taking A Page From Pharma’s Playbook To Fight The Opioid Crisis" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/taking-a-page-from-pharmas-playbook-to-fight-the-opioid-crisis/



Health Care Property & Casualty Profile - November / December 2017

In this November / December Health Care Profile, we will dive into digital innovation within hospitals, the financial benefit of easing doctor burnout, and how the federal government threaten three Massachusetts psychiatric hospitals. Read more below.


A survey conducted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) and health innovation company AVIA found that 85 percent of health care leaders realize that digital innovation is a key factor in the long-term success of their health care organizations.

Survey respondents included executives and innovation officers from 317 health systems in 48 states. When asked to define innovation, almost 75 percent of survey respondents said that it involves collaborating with innovative organizations, and 42 percent said that they believe innovation includes testing and scaling externally developed digital solutions.

Christina Jack, the AHA’s senior director of entrepreneur strategy and innovation, stated that digital innovation could be hampered by the fact that it is dependent upon the competencies of a chief information officer. And, as a result, it isn’t woven into an organization’s operations.

Nonetheless, the health care leaders who participated in the survey were hopeful about the future and stated that, if done correctly, digital innovations could improve the patient and workplace experience for both physicians and staff, as well as improve safety and decrease costs.

According to the survey, areas where hospitals have already invested in digital innovation include operational efficiencies, primary care delivery and utilization, patient access and care transitions.


The federal government threatened ceasing Medicare payments to three Massachusetts psychiatric hospitals after safety lapses caused two mentally ill patients to forgo critical medication. One patient had a seizure and suffered a traumatic head injury as a result.


According to a letter dated Sept. 8 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to the CEO of all three hospitals, conditions discovered on Aug. 28, 29 and 30 posed an immediate jeopardy to the health and safety of patients, limiting the hospitals’ capacity to render adequate care.


According to a recent study published in JAMA’s Internal Medicine, addressing doctor burnout could save hospitals over $1 million per year.

The study looked at the cost of physician turnover as a whole and then used evidence to determine how many physicians leave their jobs because of burnout. It found that for an organization that employs 450 doctors, doctors who leave due to burnout cost the organization $2.5 million per year. If the same organization spent $1 million per year to lower the risk of burnout by 20 percent, it could save about $1.25 million each year.

Researchers said that the ways to decrease burnout involve understanding what causes it, such as a lack of work-life balance, heavy workloads, and a lack of flexibility and control.

Cyber Risks & Liabilities - November 2017

We live in a world centralized around cyber activity – so shouldn’t employers protect themselves from cyber risks? The answer: yes. This article will help employers be aware of the damage a breach in cyber security can cause and help them seek the best cyber insurance.

5 Cyber Risk Questions Every Board Should Ask

When a data breach or other cyber event occurs, the damages can be significant, often resulting in lawsuits, fines and serious financial losses. In order for organizations to truly protect themselves from cyber risks, corporate boards must play an active role. Not only does involvement from leadership improve cyber security, it can also reduce liability for board members.

To help oversee their organization’s cyber risk management, boards should ask the following questions:

  1. Does the organization utilize technology to prevent data breaches? Boards should ensure that the management team reviews company technology at least annually, ensuring that cyber security tools are current and effective.
  2. Does the organization have a comprehensive cyber security program that includes specific policies and procedures? Boards should ensure that cyber security programs align with industry standards and are audited on a regular basis to ensure effectiveness and internal compliance.
  3. Has the management team provided adequate employee training to ensure sensitive data is handled correctly? Boards can help oversee the process of making training programs that foster cyber awareness.
  4. Has management taken appropriate steps to reduce cyber risks when working with third parties? Boards should work with the company’s management team to create a third-party agreement that identifies how the vendor will protect sensitive data, whether the vendor will subcontract services and how it will inform the organization of compromised data.
  5. Has the organization conducted a thorough risk assessment and considered purchasing cyber liability insurance? Boards, alongside the company’s management team, should conduct a cyber risk assessment and identify potential gaps. From there, organizations can work with their insurance broker to customize a policy that meets their specific needs.

Key Considerations When Buying Cyber Insurance

Buying cyber insurance is not a one-size-fits-all process. To ensure your business has sufficient cyber coverage, it is critical to assess your needs and consider your specific risks. The following are some common elements of cyber insurance policies to consider when building optimal coverage for your business:

  • Limits and sublimits—Hierl Insurance Inc. can assist you in determining appropriate limits by utilizing industry benchmarking data and projected breach costs. From there, we can examine your sublimits, which don’t provide extra coverage, but set a maximum to cover a specific loss.
  • Retroactive coverage—Breaches can go undiscovered for years. For protection from unidentified cyber incidents, ask for a retroactive date that is earlier than the policy’s inception date.
  • Exclusions—Common cyber policy exclusions, such as outdated software, unencrypted mobile devices and penalties from credit issuers, can adversely impact coverage. Understand your policy exclusions before committing.
  • Panel provisions—Many insurance companies require policyholders to use preapproved investigators, consultants and legal professionals in the event of a cyber breach. If you have a preferred team of experts, make sure your preferred policy allows you to work with them before signing.
  • Consent provisions—Some cyber policies contain consent provisions that require obtaining the insurer’s consent before incurring certain expenses related to cyber claims. If prior consent provisions are included in the policy and cannot be removed, policyholders can change them to ensure that the carrier’s consent cannot be unreasonably withheld.
  • Vendor acts and omissions—Most organizations use third-party vendors to process or store a portion of their data. While they make it easier to do business, they also represent a potential exposure. It is critical that your business’s cyber liability policy covers claims that result from breaches caused by your vendors.

Cyber insurance is continually evolving alongside emerging cyber threats. Contact Hierl Insurance Inc. to help proactively assess your risks and ensure that your insurance coverage is in line with your specific business practices and exposures.





Yahoo Says All Accounts Were Hacked in 2013

Yahoo recently announced that, in contrast to an earlier estimate, all 3 billion of its accounts were hacked in 2013. The news could not only increase the legal exposure for Yahoo’s new owner Verizon Wireless, but also increase the number of class-action lawsuits expected in U.S. federal and state courts.

Recently obtained information shows that the stolen information did not include passwords in clear text, bank account information or card data. However, this information was protected with outdated encryption that experts said is easy to crack. It also included backup email addresses and security questions that could make it easier to break into other user accounts.

In late 2016, Yahoo made users change their passwords if they hadn’t since the hack, and invalidated old security questions and answers.

Equifax Cyber Security Incident

Equifax Inc. announced in September that about 143 million U.S. consumers may have been affected by one of the largest breaches in history.

Names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and driver’s license numbers were accessed by the intruders, according to a statement from Equifax. Credit card numbers for about 209,000 consumers were also accessed.

GDPR Compliance Deadline Approaching

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of European Union (EU) citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states. Noncompliance could be costly for businesses—amounting to up to €20 million or 4 percent of global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

Companies that do business with customers in the EU must be able to show compliance by May 25, 2018. For more information on whether the GDPR affects your business, and how to comply, visit the website of the European Commission here.

Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying

Bullying plagues our nation - and not just in high school. Here is an excellent article from our partner UBA Benefits on how to spot and handle bullying in the workplace.

Read the original article here.


Mukhtar G. (19 September 2017). "Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dont-put-up-with-the-bull-of-bullying


There’s no place for bullying and that’s especially true in the workplace, yet many employees bully their co-workers. So, how does this happen? It used to be that bullying was confined to the schoolyard, but now it’s spread to cyberbullying and workplace bullying. Now, if there’s a culture of bullying at an organization, often it’s repeated as people climb the corporate ladder even though they were bullied themselves when they held lower positions.

An article on the website Human Resource Executive Online titled, “How to Bully-proof the Workplace,” says that “80 percent of bullying is done by people who have a position of power over other people.” Let that number sink in. That means four out of five people in positions of power will bully their subordinates.

One possible reason for the high number is that bullying may be difficult to identify and the person doing the bullying may not even realize it. Either the bully, or the victim, could view the action as teasing, or workplace banter. However, when one person is continually picked on, then that person is being bullied. Likewise, if a manager picks on all of his or her subordinates, then that person is a bully.

It’s important for organizations to have policies in place to thwart bullying and not just for the toll it takes on employees. It also begins to affect productivity. Those being bullied often feel like their work doesn’t matter and their abilities are insufficient. Worse is that bullies tend to resent talented people as they’re perceived as a threat. So, bullies tend to manipulate opinions about that employee in order to keep them from being promoted.

Eventually, talented employees decide to work elsewhere, leaving the employer spending time and money to find a replacement. But the bully doesn’t care. It just means they get to apply their old tricks on someone who isn’t used to them.

At some point, someone will fight back. Not physically, of course, but through documentation. An employee who is being bullied should immediately document any and all occurrences of workplace bullying and then present those documents to someone in HR. Most likely, this will result in identification of the bullying, stoppage of it, counseling for both the bully and the victim, and, if not already enacted, policies to prevent it from happening again.


Read the original article here.


Mukhtar G. (19 September 2017). "Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dont-put-up-with-the-bull-of-bullying

Cyber Liability - 9 Cyber Risk Questions Every Board Should Ask

When a data breach or other cyber event occurs, the damages can be significant, often resulting in lawsuits, fines and serious financial losses. What’s more, cyber exposures impact businesses of all kinds, regardless of their size, area of focus, or status as a private or public entity.

In order for organizations to truly protect themselves from cyber risks, corporate boards must play an active role. Not only does involvement from leadership improve cyber security, it can also reduce liability for board members.

To help oversee their organization’s cyber risk management, boards should ask the following questions:


Does the organization utilize technology to prevent data breaches?

Every company must have robust cyber security tools and anti-virus systems in place. These systems act as a first line of defense for detecting and preventing potentially debilitating breaches.

While it may sound obvious, many organizations fail to take cyber threats seriously and implement even the simplest protections. Boards can help highlight the importance of cyber security, ensuring that basic, preventive measures are in place.

These preventive measures must be reviewed on a regular basis, as cyber threats can evolve quickly. Boards should ensure that the management team reviews company technology at least annually, ensuring that cyber security tools are up to date and effective.


Has the board or the company’s management team identified a senior member to be responsible for organizational cyber security preparedness?

Organizations that fail to create cyber-specific leadership roles could end up paying more for a data breach than organizations that do. This is because, in the event of a cyber incident, a fast response and clear guidance is needed to contain a breach and limit damages.

When establishing a chief information security officer or similar cyber leadership role, boards need to be involved in the process. Cyber leaders should have a good mix of technical and business experience. This individual should also be able to explain cyber risks and mitigation tactics at a high level so they are easy to understand for those who are not well-versed in technical terminology.

It should be noted that hiring a chief information security officer or creating a new cyber leadership role is not practical for every organization. In these instances, organizations should identify a qualified, in-house team member and roll cyber security responsibilities into their current job requirements. At a minimum, boards need to ensure that their company has a go-to resource for managing cyber security.


Does the organization have a comprehensive cyber security program? Does it include specific policies and procedures?

It is essential for companies to create comprehensive data privacy and cyber security programs. These programs help organizations build a framework for detecting threats, remain informed on emerging risks and establish a cyber response plan.

Corporate boards should ensure that cyber security programs align with industry standards. These programs should be audited on a regular basis to ensure effectiveness and internal compliance.


Does the organization have a breach response plan in place?

Even the most secure organizations can be impacted by a data breach. What’s more, it can often take days or even months for a company to notice its data has been compromised.

While cyber security programs help secure an organization’s digital assets, breach response plans provide clear steps for companies to follow when a cyber event occurs. Breach response plans allow organizations to notify impacted customers and partners quickly and efficiently, limiting financial and reputational damage.

Board members should ensure that crisis management and breach response plans are documented. Specific actions noted in breach response plans should also be rehearsed through simulations and team interactions to evaluate effectiveness.

In addition, response plans should clearly identify key individuals and their responsibilities. This ensures that there is no confusion in the event of a breach and your organization’s response plan runs as smoothly as possible.


Has the organization discussed and formalized a cyber risk budget? How engaged is the board in terms of providing guidance related to cyber exposures?

Both overpaying and underpaying for cyber security services can negatively affect an organization. Creating a budget based on informed decisions and research helps companies invest in the right tools.

Boards can help oversee investments and ensure that they are directed toward baseline security controls that address common threats. Boards, with guidance from the chief security officer or a similar cyber leader, should also prioritize funding. That way, an organization’s most vulnerable and important assets are protected.


Has the management team provided adequate employee training to ensure sensitive data is handled correctly?

While employees can be a company’s greatest asset, they also represent one of their biggest cyber liabilities. This is because hackers commonly exploit employees through spear phishing and similar scams. When this happens, employees can unknowingly give criminals access to their employer’s entire system.

In order to ensure data security, organizations must provide thorough employee training. Boards can help oversee this process and instruct management to make training programs meaningful and based on more than just written policies.

In addition, boards should see to it that education programs are properly designed and foster a culture of cyber security awareness.


Has management taken the appropriate steps to reduce cyber risks when working with third parties?

Working alongside third-party vendors is common for many businesses. However, whenever an organization entrusts its data to an outside source, there’s a chance that it could be compromised.

Boards can help ensure that vendors and other partners are aware of their organization’s cyber security expectations. Boards should work with the company’s management team to draw up a standard third-party agreement that identifies how the vendor will protect sensitive data, whether or not the vendor will subcontract any services and how it intends to inform the organization if data is compromised.


Does the organization have a system in place for staying current on cyber trends, news, and federal, state, industry and international data security regulations?

Cyber-related legislation can change with little warning, often having a sprawling impact on the way organizations do business. If organizations do not keep up with federal, state, industry and international data security regulations, they could face serious fines or other penalties.

Boards should ensure that the chief information security officer or similar leader is aware of his or her role in upholding cyber compliance. In addition, boards should ensure that there is a system in place for identifying, evaluating and implementing compliance-related legislation.

Additionally, boards should constantly seek opportunities to bring expert perspectives into boardroom discussions. Often, authorities from government, law enforcement and cyber security agencies can provide invaluable advice. Building a relationship with these types of entities can help organizations evaluate their cyber strengths, weaknesses and critical needs.


Has the organization conducted a thorough risk assessment? Has the organization purchased or considered purchasing cyber liability insurance?

Cyber liability insurance is specifically designed to address the risks that come with using modern technology—risks that other types of business liability coverage simply won’t cover.

The level of coverage your business needs is based on your individual operations and can vary depending on your range of exposure. As such, boards, alongside the company’s management team, need to conduct a cyber risk assessment and identify potential gaps. From there, organizations can work with their insurance broker to customize a policy that meets their specific needs.

Asking thoughtful questions can help boards better understand the strategies management uses to prevent, detect and respond to data breaches. When it comes to cyber threats, organizations need to be diligent and thorough in their risk prevention tactics, and boards can help move the cyber conversation in the right direction.

Cyber exposures impact organizations from top to bottom, and all team members play a role in maintaining a secure environment. However, managing personnel and technology can be a challenge, particularly for organizations that don’t know where to start.

That’s where Hierl Insurance Inc. can help. Contact us today to learn more about cyber risk mitigation strategies you can implement today to secure your business.

Safety Focused Newsletter - October 2017

Driver Safety After Dark

The approach of autumn brings less daylight, which results in an increase in traffic deaths. Follow these tips to stay safe during your evening commute.

5 Common Reasons for Injuries to New Employees

Almost one-third of workplace injuries involve workers who have been on the job for less than one year. Learn the most common injuries to new employees and how to prevent them.

Driver Safety After Dark

The approach of autumn brings less daylight, which results in an increase in traffic deaths. In fact, since drivers aren’t used to the decreased visibility, traffic deaths are three times more common after the sun goes down than during the daytime—both for drivers and pedestrians.

Studies suggest that it can take several days to adapt after daylight saving time ends. Although the extra hour of sleep is often celebrated, many people still feel fatigued. Whether you drive for your job or commute home from work in the evening, it is important to remember the following safety tips:

  • Test your headlights, and turn them on one hour before sunset and one hour after sunrise so other drivers can see you easily.
  • Do not look directly at oncoming headlights. Look toward the right side of the road, following the white line with your eyes.
  • Increase your following distance by four or five seconds to give yourself more response time.
  • If you have vehicle trouble, pull off the road as far to the right as possible. Set up reflector triangles near your vehicle and up to 300 feet behind it. Turn on your flashers and your dome light, and call for assistance.

5 Common Reasons for Injuries to New Employees

Thirty percent of all work injuries involve employees who have been on the job for less than a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following are the most common reasons for injuries to new employees, as well as ways to prevent them.

  1. Unfamiliarity with workplace hazards—Even if you will be doing the same job as you did elsewhere, don’t assume you’re aware of all potential job hazards and hazardous substances in your new environment. If you have questions, ask.
  2. Fear of asking questions—New employees may be too intimidated to ask questions. Remember that there is no such thing as a silly question when it comes to your safety. Also, be sure to use constructive criticism as a learning experience.
  3. Improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE)—Your past employer may have been lax with its PPE requirements. Don’t bring any bad habits to your new role. Feel free to ask for proper PPE training.
  4. Employer’s assumption of expertise—Some employers may be accustomed to dealing with employees who have been on the job for years and fail to realize the need to properly train new hires. Although your resume may be impressive, don’t assume that you’re qualified to do the job without proper training.
  5. Poor safety communication—A common cause of employee injuries is the inability to understand urgent safety messages. Make sure you’re familiar with emergency safety protocols and that you understand not only what to do in an emergency, but also the method your employer will use to communicate the safety message.

HRL - Employees - Happy

Who’s using what in P&C insurance

With the emergence of 21st century technology, there are bountiful risks for the cyber lives of millions. In this article written by PROPERTYCASUALTY360, learn how different companies grow to combat the threat of employer risk.

You can read the original article here.

Guidewire Software, Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Cyence, a software company that applies data science and risk analytics to enable P&C insurers to grow by underwriting “21st century risks” that have gone underinsured or uninsured. These emerging risks include cyber, reputation, and new forms of business interruption risk. “As traditional actuarial approaches struggle to address the unique characteristics of emerging risks like cyber, Cyence’s next-generation approach will enable insurers to broaden the scope and value of the products their policyholders need,” , Guidewire Software CEO and Co-Founder Marcus Ryu said in a press release.

In other news from Guidewire: MetLife Auto & Home has begun deploying Guidewire’s InsurancePlatform™ in a new cloud environment for customers using its MetLife Auto & Home MyDirect portal. MetLife Auto & Home is the first P&C insurer in the United States to offer a 100-percent digital experience from quoting to claim service. Rollout of the platform is expected to continue over the next several quarters.

Hearsay Systems recently announced a strategic alliance with Microsoft to help financial services firms empower advisors to be both high-tech and high-touch at scale in the digital age. The companies will focus on addressing the specific challenges faced by financial institutions, including the need for compliant advisor-client engagement technology that will enable advisors to better manage client relationships and grow business. The alliance will bring together the data-driven relationship insights from Microsoft Dynamics 365 with the financial industry-specific workflows, data and compliance capabilities from Hearsay, allowing advisors to more effectively acquire, convert and deepen client relationships.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty® (AGCS) has teamed up with Silicon Valley-based software company Zeguro, whose mission is to simplify and streamline cyber security and risk management  in small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Through its easy-to-use platform, Zeguro will serve as a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to those who purchase Allianz’s cyber insurance coverage to further manage their cyber exposure and decrease the overall risk of financial loss following a cyberattack.

Accenture and Duck Creek Technologies recently teamed up to create several new digital and emerging technology solutions for P&C insurers that are designed to improve efficiency and value. The companies have integrated Accenture’s IoT and analytics technologies with Duck Creek’s core platform and launched a blockchain proof-of-concept for medical bill auditing. “These new tools are the product of our focus on providing a new generation of digital solutions to our insurance clients working in collaboration with our joint venture partners,” Cindy DeArmond, managing director and P&C Core Platforms Lead for Accenture in North America, said in a press release.

Louisiana-based Aparicio Walker & Seeling, Inc. (AWS Insurance) is live on TechCanary’s insurance platform replacing its outdated legacy agency management system.  TechCanary’s breadth and depth of insurance functionality built in Salesforce and flexibility to easily customize it further were key to the decision.

Speedpay, Inc., a Western Union company, and Nordis Technologies recently announced an alliance to offer cloud-based customer communications management services to Speedpay clients. This strategic agreement provides current and future Speedpay clients with the opportunity to add Expresso®, an easy-to-use, self-service application to organize, automate and execute print and electronic communications. Nordis also delivers print/mail and email production services, thus enabling a seamless end-to-end communications solution.


You can read the original article here.


PropertyCasualty360 (9 October 2017). "Who’s using what in P&C insurance" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/10/09/whos-using-what-in-pc-insurance-oct-9-2017?t=agency-technology?ref=channel-news

SHRM Connect: Mental Health Issues in the Workplace - What Would You Do?

Are you a SHRM member and/or HR professional? In this article from SHRM by Mary Kaylor, she dives into what SHRM Connect is and how you can get involved!

You can read the original article here.

SHRM Connect is an online community where SHRM members can ask questions and get answers on a variety of HR topics. It’s a great place to network with other HR professionals and share solutions.

The conversation topics range from “HR Department of One” to Employment Law, are always insightful, and deal with some of the most pressing issues that HR professionals face in the workplace today.

While some of the conversations take on a more serious tone, others will deliver a bit of comic relief -- and on Fridays, I’ll be highlighting a conversation or two in hopes that you’ll take some time to visit. You may want to "lurk"… perhaps respond, but you’ll always learn something.

It’s a great community and I highly recommend checking it out.

While May is officially Mental Health Awareness month, HR must deal with employee mental health issues, and their effects on the workplace, all year long. This week’s highlighted conversations involve a few different scenarios. What would you do?

Subject: Self Harming

In the General HR area, a poster asks for advice on how to handle about a perceived case of self harming:

We have a new(er) employee that was observed by another employee to have cuts up and down her arm. The employee brought it to our attention out of concern. We thanked the employee and asked that she keep it confidential. We do not offer an EAP.

My thought is to speak with the employee that is self harming and let her know what was observed and just check in and see if she is ok. If she says everything is good, just leave it at that. If she mentions something is going on...or if she needs to seek treatment etc, go down that road.

For those of you who have experience with this, is this an ok approach? Is it best to not address it with the employee? Any other resources, since an EAP is not an option?


To read/respond to this conversation, please click here.

* * * * *

Subject: Alcohol and Discussion of Suicide

In the General HR area, another poster asks for advice on monitoring an employee:

Know of an employee with an alcohol problem who has gone through treatment and released to return to work by the treating facility. Prior to admittance, she talked about suicide. What follow-ups by the employer would you suggest, other than a monitoring agreement for a period of time?

To read/respond to this conversation, please click here.

* * * * *

Subject: WWYD

In the General HR area, yet another poster is wondering how others would handle a case of an employee with anxiety – and lots of absences:

I was hoping to get opinions on this situation, and I believe I know the correct way to follow up but I was interested to see what others would say.

We hired a non-exempt employee in July of this year. Since that time, this employee had 6 unexcused absences, and two preplanned days off. We accrue and allow employees to use their vacation leave from day one, and this employee essentially used all the time throughout the end of the year. Sick time is not available for employees until they've been employed for 90 days. This employee stated about a month ago after one of their absences that they has very bad anxiety, but does not have insurance they are unable to get medication or see a doctor. This employee never asked for any type of accommodation, and we actually even provided resources to assist with their anxiety. All of the times they called out after that conversation were simply because "i feel bad and can't come in". I received copies of the texts and they're pretty vague. They called out again on Tuesday after having a pre-planned half day off on Friday, and we decided to give the employee a final written warning with a 60 day timeframe to improve their attendance. Unfortunately the employee called out again yesterday with a very vague explanation and stated that 'I still feel pretty bad'.

After speaking with the managers over this department, we decided to terminate employment due to excessive absences. I explained that to the employee in the phone call and gave them an opportunity to explain themselves. I tried to create a dialogue in the event that we were missing something, but I just got 'heh. oh okay.'

Now this morning, I received a page long email stating this employee has rights under HIPAA that they didn't have to disclose the anxiety disorders that they have (we never asked, they disclosed it voluntarily). Also stated that they would have expected a written warning for their excessive absenteeism but not the fact we separated employment. They go on to blame us for other areas of lacking (training, etc) but said we amplified the anxiety problem because of the amount of training we were giving them.

I feel like this employee is looking for anyone to blame. It's an unfortunate situation but as an employer, we cannot read employees minds. If an employee needs an accommodation due to a medical condition, aren't they supposed to request it? How are we supposed to help with vague callouts?


You can read the original article here.


Taylor M. (22 September 2017). "SHRM Connect: Mental Health Issues in the Workplace - What Would You Do?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-connect-mental-health-issues-in-the-workplace-what-would-you-do

Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs

What's your state's stance on the cost of prescription drugs? See how Maryland has moved forward in their decision making for drug prices, giving themselves the ability to say "no" in this article from Benefits Pro written by Shefali Luthra.

You can read the original article here.

Lawmakers in Maryland are daring to legislate where their federal counterparts have not: As of Oct. 1, the state will be able to say “no” to some pharmaceutical price spikes.

A new law, which focuses on generic and off-patent drugs, empowers the state’s attorney general to step in if a drug’s price climbs 50 percent or more in a single year. The company must justify the hike. If the attorney general still finds the increase unwarranted, he or she can file suit in state court. Manufacturers face a fine of up to $10,000 for price gouging.

As Congress stalls on what voters say is a top health concern — high pharmaceutical costs — states increasingly are tackling the issue. Despite often-fierce industry opposition, a variety of bills are working their way through state governments. California, Nevada and New York are among those joining Maryland in passing legislation meant to undercut skyrocketing drug prices.

Maryland, though, is the first to penalize drugmakers for price hikes. Its law passed May 26 without the governor’s signature.

The state-level momentum raises the possibility that — as happened with hot-button issues such as gay marriage and smoke-free buildings — a patchwork of bills across the country could pave the way for more comprehensive national action. States feel the squeeze of these steep price tags in Medicaid and state employee benefit programs, and that applies pressure to find solutions.

“There is a noticeable uptick among state legislatures and state governments in terms of what kind of role states can play in addressing the cost of prescription drugs and access,” said Richard Cauchi, health program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many experts frame Maryland’s law as a test case that could help define what powers states have and what limits they face in doing battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

The generic-drug industry has already filed a lawsuit to block the law, arguing it’s unconstitutionally vague and an overreach of state powers. A district court is expected to rule soon.

The state-level actions focus on a variety of tactics:

“Transparency bills” would require pharmaceutical companies to detail a drug’s production and advertising costs when they raise prices over certain thresholds. Cost-limit measures would cap drug prices charged by drugmakers to Medicaid or other state-run programs, or limit what the state will pay for drugs. Supply-chain restrictions include regulating the roles of pharmacy benefit managers or limiting a consumer’s out-of-pocket costs.

A New York law on the books since spring allows officials to cap what its Medicaid program will pay for medications. If companies don’t sufficiently discount a drug, a state review will assess whether the price is out of step with medical value.

Maryland’s measure goes further — treating price gouging as a civil offense and taking alleged violators to court.

“It’s a really innovative approach. States are looking at how to replicate it, and how to expand on it,” said Ellen Albritton, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Families USA, which has consulted with states including Maryland on such policies.

Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Montana. And in Ohio voters are weighing a ballot initiative in November that would limit what the state pays for prescription drugs in its Medicaid program and other state health plans.

Meanwhile, the California legislature passed a bill earlier in September that would require drugmakers to disclose when they are about to raise a price more than 16 percent over two years and justify the hike. It awaits Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

In June, Nevada lawmakers approved a law similar to California’s but limited to insulin prices. Vermont passed a transparency law in 2016 that would scrutinize up to 15 drugs for which the state spends “significant health care dollars” and prices had climbed by set amounts in recent years.

But states face a steep uphill climb in passing pricing legislation given the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry, which can finance strong opposition, whether through lobbying, legal action or advertising campaigns.

Last fall, voters rejected a California initiative that would have capped what the state pays for drugs — much like the Ohio measure under consideration. Industry groups spent more than $100 million to defeat it, putting it among California’s all-time most expensive ballot fights. Ohio’s measure is attracting similar heat, with drug companies outspending opponents about 5-to-1.

States also face policy challenges and limits to their statutory authority, which is why several have focused their efforts on specific parts of the drug-pricing pipeline.

Critics see these tailored initiatives as falling short or opening other loopholes. Requiring companies to report prices past a certain threshold, for example, might encourage them to consistently set prices just below that level.

Maryland’s law is noteworthy because it includes a fine for drugmakers if price increases are deemed excessive — though in the industry that $10,000 fine is likely nominal, suggested Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who researches drug regulations.

This law also doesn’t address the trickier policy question: a drug’s initial price tag, noted Rena Conti, an assistant professor in the University of Chicago who studies pharmaceutical economics.

And its focus on generics means that branded drugs, such as Mylan’s Epi-Pen or Kaleo’s overdose-reversing Evzio, wouldn’t be affected.

Yet there’s a good reason for this, noted Jeremy Greene, a professor of medicine and the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who is in favor of Maryland’s law.

Current interpretation of federal patent law suggests that the issues related to the development and affordability of on-patent drugs are under federal jurisdiction, outside the purview of states, he explained.

In Maryland, “the law was drafted narrowly to address specifically a problem we’ve only become aware of in recent years,” he said. That’s the high cost of older, off-patent drugs that face little market competition. “Here’s where the state of Maryland is trying to do something,” he said.

Still, a ruling against the state in the pending court case could have a chilling effect for other states, Sachs said, although it would be unlikely to quash their efforts.

“This is continuing to be a topic of discussion, and a problem for consumers,” said Sachs.

“At some point, some of these laws are going to go into effect — or the federal government is going to do something,” she added.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.


Luther S. (29 September 2017). "Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/29/absent-federal-action-states-take-the-lead-on-curb?page=2

Risk Insights: Donating to Disasters and Avoiding Scams

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.

  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating money. Don’t let dishonest people take advantage of your good intentions.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding new charities because, despite their legitimacy, they may not have the resources needed to get your money to its intended recipients.

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how

the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

Gaining popularity for charitable donations is a crowdfunding website called GoFundMe, which allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website or to their state’s consumer protection hotline.

National Organizations

The following national organizations have long-standing reputations for providing disaster relief and accepting donations:

  • The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to people affected by disasters.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts that include direct assistance, rebuilding and health care services.
  • The Salvation Army provides shelter and emergency services to displaced individuals.

Remember that there are other ways to provide disaster relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near the affected area. Local food banks and blood centers commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.


Sourced from – Zywave.com