Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Monthly Archives: December, 2015

  • 5 Ways Encouraging Employees to Take a Vacation Helps Your Business

    Offering employees paid vacation isn?t mandated in the U.S.; in fact, it is the world?s only advanced economy that doesn’t have a policy requiring employers to provide paid time off, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

    Read more: Download PDF

    Read more
  • On-site Clinics Boost Health, Lower Employee Absence

    Employees who miss work due to illness or stay on the job while sick and unable to work productively take an enormous economic toll on organizations. But on-site clinics could make a dramatic difference in both workers’ health and the bottom line of many companies.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports absenteeism is costing employers in the U.S. about $225.8 billion annually, or $1,685 per worker. In addition, more people are working when they feel sick, even when they are unproductive, and that also cuts into the bottom line.

    The results of the Employer Measure of Productivity, Absence and Quality (EMPAQ) survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Truven Health Analytics revealed that on-site clinics can be an effective way to curb costs associated with employee absenteeism.

    Based on data provided by 107 large U.S. companies representing nearly 4 million employees, the EMPAQ research found more than half (60%) of the employers surveyed offered an on-site clinic for at least some of their employees. Those who provided on-site clinic services to all workers reported an average of fewer than 5 workdays missed per employee in 2014. However, organizations without any on-site clinics had an absentee rate in 2014 of more than 20 days per employee – a finding Karen Marlo, vice president of the NBGH, called “a real eye opener.”

    Although an on-site clinic may sound like an expensive undertaking that requires a fairly large space equipped with high-tech imaging devices and staffed with physicians, the reality is that on-site health facilities can be relatively simple and require little room, according to Marlo.

    For example, some on-site clinics function effectively with 1 health care provider, often a nurse practitioner who is available part-time to see employees who need to be checked for acute symptoms such as sore throats or headaches. Many organizations with on-site clinics also reported using nurses to help manage workers’ chronic conditions and to advise and coach those working on lifestyle issues such as smoking cessation.

    “Some employers say that in the end, just that one-on-one relationship has made all the difference to employees,” Marlo notes.

    The EMPAQ survey found organizations’ use of telehealth is expanding. However, it is premature to know if this technology will affect whether or not employers adopt the use of on-site clinics.

    The report also noted that the total lost workdays in 2014 averaged 6 days per worker for all industries – resulting in significant lost productivity for organizations with thousands of employees. The annual cost per long-term disability claim across all businesses last year was $9,546. Employers who offered transitional or light-duty assignment programs for employees who needed them reduced their average long-term disability costs per claim by 33%.

    The bottom line, according to the EMPAQ survey, is that an effective health and productivity management strategy – including on-site clinics – can mean the difference between high-performing, highly present employees and workers who have less than optimal performance and more absenteeism.

    – Sherry Baker is a health and medical journalist whose work has appeared in Psychology Today, Newsweek, Discover and many other publications. She is also the former Director of Public Relations for the Emory Heart Center. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Ebix or its personnel.

    Read more
  • Taking a “hiking” break after a fun day working at Moab Brewery

    12375979_1068460079851353_9208813098052725406_n 12376758_1068460003184694_2423580232364375980_n-2

    Read more
  • How to Read Your Health Insurance Explanation of Benefits Statement

    People generally know less than they think they do when it comes to understanding their health benefits — which can lead to problems down the road. According to the American Institutes for Research, 3 out of 4 people said they felt confident that they knew how to use their health insurance. But only 1 out of 5 could accurately calculate their out-of-pocket costs.

    This lack of knowledge can hurt when the explanation of benefits (EOB) shows up in the mail. The EOB is a form that identifies the treatment or services you were provided and what amount your insurance will pay, says Erin Singleton, chief of mission delivery at the Patient Advocate Foundation, a nonprofit that provides professional case management services to people with chronic, life-threatening and debilitating illnesses. The EOB often says “This is not a bill” in large letters, and then has a chart or balance sheet detailing what is covered.

    The problem is, these forms aren’t standardized across providers, and they don’t always arrive at the same time your actual bills do. It can be confusing to determine whether everything that should have been covered actually was or if there were any errors. These tips can help you read your explanation of benefits statement.

    Write It All Down

    A lot of understanding the EOB comes from keeping your own records, Singleton says. Keep a record of your appointments and make notes of any procedures, services or referrals. Having an accurate record of what was done can help you determine whether your EOB is accurate — and if you have a basis for an appeal down the road.

    Check the Basics

    When you first review your EOB, ensure your name and provider are accurate, Singleton says. Mistakes happen, and if you have changed insurance companies recently, your health care provider may not have gotten the notification yet. Check to see if the dates of procedures match your records.

    Examine Details

    Next, look at the procedure that’s described. Does it match up with your experience? There may be a remark code indicating that the insurance company needs more information to process the claim correctly, Singleton says. For example, it may want to know if your treatment was for a work injury that should be covered by workers’ compensation.

    If your claim is denied, there should be a denial code that tells you the reason for the denial. If you inadvertently used an out-of-network provider, for example, part or all of your claim may be denied.

    Don’t Take It at Face Value

    Going over your EOB without any context of what coverage you have is a wasted effort, says Sarah O’Leary, founder and CEO of Exhale Healthcare Advocates. You must have a thorough understanding of the parameters of your insurance plan when reviewing the EOB, so if something is denied, you’ll know how to appeal it. And there may be errors — according to 1 estimate, 30% to 40% of medical bills have errors in them; other estimates are even higher.

    Empower Yourself

    It takes time and effort to ensure your coverage is correct, but getting it right can save you money.

    “If you have the opportunity to appeal something, take it,” Singleton says. “Don’t give up. Investigate it — this is an opportunity for you to take control of your own medical bills. You just have to take the time to do it.”


    Mary Ellen Slayter is CEO and Founder of Reputation Capital Media Services. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about HR and financial services as a journalist and marketer. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Ebix or its personnel.

    Read more
  • Addicted to Your Smartphone?

    Smartphones are an integral part of life for millions of us, but there can be a downside. It’s not unusual for some people to compulsively check their phones countless times at work, while on vacation and even if they wake up at night. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that about half of U.S. smartphone owners check their devices multiple times every hour, and 11% said they need to check their phones every few minutes.

    The appeal of these amazing phones is undeniable. They provide instant communication, connect you to the Internet, let you snap a selfie, help you with directions, play your favorite music and more.

    But if you can’t fully focus on family life, leisure time or even the job at hand during work hours – and if you feel anxious when you aren’t staring at your super-duper device much of the time – you may need to stop and consider a healthier way to use your smartphone.

    That’s the conclusion of James Roberts, PhD, a professor of marketing in Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business. After studying behavior addictions for more than a decade, he’s concluded many smartphone users are suffering from a new malady he dubs “cellularitis.”

    According to Dr. Roberts, “it’s a socially transmitted disease (STD) that results in habitual use of one’s cell phone to the detriment of his or her psychological and physical health and well-being.”

    Smartphone Addiction Symptoms

    While the name he’s given the problem is clearly tongue-in-cheek, Dr. Roberts writes in his new book, Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?, that he’s serious about the addictiveness of smartphones.

    Although addiction has been defined in many ways, it usually involves repeatedly using a substance or object despite the fact that it causes negative consequences. And over the years, Dr. Roberts notes, the concept of addiction has been expanded to encompass not just drug or alcohol problems but addictive behaviors involving gambling, sex, eating, exercise and, more recently, compulsive smartphone usage.

    Addictive use of smartphones can have ramifications in all areas of your life, Dr. Roberts warns. Ironically, these high-tech devices that are designed for communication can actually prevent people from meaningful exchanges.

    study headed by Dr. Roberts, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, zeroed in on the act of phubbing, or phone snubbing, which describes ignoring your partner or friend in favor of your phone.

    Roberts and colleagues surveyed more than 450 people and found that phubbing caused those being ignored by phone users to experience depression and feel less satisfied with life. The more partners were phubbed, the more conflict was felt in relationships.

    “With smartphones we find less of a need to communicate face-to-face,” Dr. Roberts tells Synergy. “And that’s a pity because relationships based upon face-to-face contact are much stronger than ones based upon what we call computer-mediated communications.”

    While there are no statistics available about how much uncontrolled smartphone use may interfere with productivity at work, Dr. Roberts suspects it is a serious problem.

    “We have all seen colleagues totally oblivious to their work and surroundings, completely absorbed in the latest cat video on YouTube,” he says.

    University of Missouri research found that people who feel tied to their iPhones (the type of smartphones used in the study) can suffer serious psychological and physiological effects when separated from their phones – including increased anxiety, higher blood pressure and faster heart rates.

    How do you know if your frequent use of your smartphone is normal, has become a habit, or has moved into the worrisome zone of addiction?

    “If you have tried to cut back and failed, you are likely addicted,” Dr. Roberts answers. “If your smartphone use causes conflict, you could be addicted. If your usage is continually escalating, you may be addicted. And if you have lost control of your smartphone use, you are addicted.”

    He has developed an online quiz to help smartphone users measure their possible phone addiction.
    Healthy, Not Addictive, Smartphone Use

    Dr. Roberts emphasizes that taking healthy control of when and how much you use your smartphone is not an anti-technology stance.

    “It’s all about finding your ‘digital sweet spot,’ that magical place where you are still plugged in but have carved out time for the things that really matter,” Dr. Roberts explains. “You, your relationships and community are the bedrocks of living a happy and meaningful life. They are also the first things that suffer when our lives get out of balance.”


    Tips to control your smartphone so it doesn’t control you:

    • If you are driving, don’t use your smartphone. Dr. Roberts suggests you place your smartphone in the trunk of your car before you head out to avoid the temptation to talk or text while driving. “You’re dangerous when you are driving and on the phone – hands-free or not,” he says.
    • Establish smartphone-free times and places. Keeping smartphones out of the bedroom can help your relationship, and Dr. Roberts also urges making the dinner table a smartphone-free zone. Schedule 2 or 3 times during the day at work when you check your phone for messages. Stick to it and watch your productivity soar.
    • Set your phone to airplane mode. It allows you the safety of having your phone with you in case of an emergency but also lets you focus on the task at hand with no cellular interruptions.
    • Sign a contract. “Social contracts are a great way to change behaviors,” Dr. Roberts says. “Simply write a contract that states explicitly what is acceptable or unacceptable use of your smartphone and establish the punishment for unacceptable smartphone behavior. Enlist your spouse, significant other, and/or kids to be the enforcers. If your kids or spouse is like mine, they will not hesitate to let you know when you are breaking the rules and what the said punishment is for such behavior.”
    • Use a real alarm clock, not a smartphone, to wake up. You’ll avoid the temptation of starting the morning by looking at a video or chatting with a friend when you need to get going on your workday. Dr. Roberts advises not touching your smartphone until you are showered, dressed and have had your morning coffee.
    • Commit to healthy smartphone use. You can read suggestions and admit your smartphone is wasting too much of your time, but you’ll never curb your phone usage until you commit to changing your behavior. “Without such steely resolve you will be sucked into the digital vortex that has lured so many of us into an existence where leading a meaningful life has been replaced by the continual pursuit of momentary pleasures,” Dr. Roberts says.

    – Sherry Baker is a health and medical journalist whose work has appeared in Psychology Today, Newsweek, Discover and many other publications. She is also the former Director of Public Relations for the Emory Heart Center. Any opinions expressed within this document are solely the opinion of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of Ebix or its personnel.

    Read more