Are You Ready for New HIPAA Regs?

Medical Eye Spy
New Rules for Medical Eye Spy

You have some new steps to take should employees’ health info be seen by prying eyes.

New Heath Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security breach rules mean you’ll be responsible to notify each employee affected and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The rules technically kicked in Sept. 23, but the feds say they won’t enforce them until Feb. 22.

What counts, what doesn’t

Not all the data your Benefits and HR folks collect is impacted:

  • What counts: Individual info from group health, dental or vision plans; healthcare reimbursement flexible spending accounts; pharmacy benefits plans; employee assistance programs; and long-term care plans.
  • What doesn’t: Info related to leave request, accommodation requests, and workers’ comp.

And while you must inform individual employees immediately whenever their health info falls into the wrong hands, you only have to report to HHS right away if more than 500 records are affected.

If less are affected, you’ll need to keep a log of what happened and report to HHS by the following March 1.

Worker Safety Cal-OSHA Appeals Board Rulings Raise Questions

Who Do Rulings Favor?
Who Do Rulings Favor?

The board often reduces or dismisses penalties against companies that Cal-OSHA has fined.

Rosa Frias was working the evening shift at Bimbo Bakeries in South San Francisco when she reached into her bread-making machine to remove a hunk of dried dough.
She screamed as her left hand, and then her lower arm, were sucked into the gears of the Winkler stringline proofer.
That night, the limb had to be amputated above the elbow.
The incident drew a $21,750 fine from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
But Bimbo paid nothing. It appealed to the Cal-OSHA Appeals Board, which dismissed the case on a technicality: The inspector had retired and Cal-OSHA could not prove that he had had permission to enter the factory.

Since that 2003 accident, five more employees in Bimbo’s California plants have lost fingers or parts of fingers in accidents in which inspectors found similar safety violations. In two of those accidents, the appeals board reduced the fines by thousands of dollars.

“That is mind-boggling,” said Linda Delp, director of UCLA’s Labor Occupational Safety and Health program.

It is not, however, unusual for companies to fare well on appeals. A Times review found that the board has repeatedly reduced or dismissed penalties levied by Cal-OSHA over the last few years, even in situations in which workers have died or been seriously injured. The board’s actions have done more than save companies money. They have undermined Cal-OSHA’s efforts to prevent future accidents, according to labor advocates, inspectors and state documents.

Earlier this year, 47 inspectors and district managers at Cal-OSHA, about a quarter of the staff, signed a letter to the board complaining that Cal-OSHA’s “deterrent effect has been significantly undermined as employers learn they can ‘game the system.’ ”
Continue reading Worker Safety Cal-OSHA Appeals Board Rulings Raise Questions

Should Workers Who Live Heathier Get BIG Discounts?

by Christian Schappel

Big Healthy Discounts?
Big Healthy Discounts?

One senator believes employees who live a healthy lifestyle should be rewarded – and those that don’t should pay.

Republican Sen. John Ensign has introduced amendments to the healthcare reform bill that would allow employers to offer deeper discounts — up to 50% — on insurance if employees stay fit and smoke free.

But many groups, including the American Cancer Society, oppose Ensign’s approach, claiming it’ll make health coverage unaffordable for those who need it most. They also claim the current discounts of 20% are adequate.

Other organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and America’s Health Insurance Plans, the leading lobby for the nation’s insurance companies, have thrown their support behind Ensign’s plan. They see it as one possible way to start reducing healthcare cost increases.

Whose side are you on? Do you think employees who live healthier lifestyles should be entitled to steeper discounts? Tell us why or why not in the comments box below.


Redesigning the Benefit Plan and changing employee behavior while promoting health and wellness

Get Wellness in L.A.
Get Wellness in L.A.

Central Coast IndustrialCare has no affiliation with this conference. It just looked like something that might be of interest to our readers.

With over 400 attendees and over 50 expert speakers, this high level corporate wellness conference will bring together the best healthcare leaders in the country for 2 days of intense advanced educational sessions and networking dedicated to corporate wellness, value based benefit design, and reducing healthcare costs through health and wellness promotion. The cost of healthcare for a single employee on average is $9,660 according to Towers Perrin and is increasing by at least 5% each year.

More and more employers are forced to cut costs and in some cases reduce staff or reduce benefits because of the downturn in the economy. To make matters worse many Americans are living unhealthy lifestyles and are not aware of wellness or prevention, which will only result in worse health conditions and higher healthcare costs in the future. Employers have reached an impasse where they need to do something drastic in order to continue offering affordable and meaningful healthcare benefits to their employees. The Corporate Wellness conference brings together employers, health plans, consultants and health insurance agents for advanced educational sessions by the leaders in corporate wellness and value based benefit design to teach you how to redesign benefit plan designs to focus on engaging the consumer and implementing the right tools, disease management, knowledge and health and wellness programs to really change employees actions and decisions with the end result being more affordable healthcare premiums and healthier employees.

Will Work for Health

Get Paid to Stay Healthy!
Get Paid to Stay Healthy!

More Companies Are Paying Workers to Stay Healthy

If you’re like most people, you probably have a mile-long to-do list that includes items such as “Get blood pressure and cholesterol checked” and “Start walking 20 minutes per day.” Who knows when you’ll get around to all that? But if your employer offered to pay you cold, hard cash for taking better care of yourself, you’d probably start right now.

At least, that’s one finding of a new study by human-resources consultant Watson Wyatt and a nonprofit outfit called the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Bent on slashing costs left and right these days, a growing number of big companies are nonetheless investing serious money in bribing, er, encouraging employees to get healthier. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) now offer wellness programs, up from fewer than half (43%) in 2007. And the percentage of companies paying people to ditch bad habits (especially eating junk food and not exercising enough) has gone from 53% in 2008 to 61% this year. (See pictures of cubicle designs submitted to The Office.)

That trend seems likely to continue. Another survey, by employee-benefits experts Towers Perrin, says that among employers who don’t yet have programs in place, 33% plan to start one and 23% say they will introduce or increase financial rewards for their employees who get off the couch and snack on peaches instead of pizza. Smart. Notes the Watson Wyatt–NBGH study: “Companies that offer financial incentives report significantly higher participation in wellness programs.” It’s the old adage in action: What gets rewarded gets done.

Continue reading Will Work for Health