Work and Family Balance Reduces Safety Health Risks

BY: LESLIE B. HAMMER, PhD. – PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY AND ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE OREGON HEALTHY WORKFORCE CENTER (ORHWC)

baby in a briefcaseDuring the summer months, work-family stressors are high for employees caring for school-aged children. With children out of school during the summer, childcare arrangements for families that work can be extremely difficult to juggle. On top of that, the economic crisis has severely limited many families’ ability to pay for adequate care.

FIVE TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS TO HELP THEIR TEAMS ACHIEVE BETTER WORK-FAMILY BALANCE:

1. Train managers and supervisors to be more supportive of work and family. Recent evidence shows that employee support from managers and supervisors for family and work balance leads workers to report better health, improved job satisfaction and lower intentions to leave the company (Hammer et al., 2011).
2. Give workers more control over their work hours. Increased control over when, where, and how work gets done is related to improved health behaviors (Moen et al., 2011).
3. Create a resource guide for employees and their families. For example, work with your Human Resources department to pull together a list of day camps for children of various ages.
4. Be a role model. Take some time off to be with your own family to show your employees you know this should be a priority for them as well, especially if stress is overwhelming them.
5. Encourage and support flexible schedules. Help employees to come up with creative solutions for childcare coverage during the summer, such as working a compressed work week or taking 1-2 days off per week over the summer instead of one large vacation allotment.

Continue reading Work and Family Balance Reduces Safety Health Risks

California Pesticide Levels Show Low Health Risks

Pesticide Safety LabelWe know that those in the ag business feel like they’re always in the crosshairs of everyone from OSHA to enviornmentalists. So it’s great to see some good news about California’s farm practices!

Department of Pesticide Regulation Director Brian R. Leahy announced that air monitoring of nearly three dozen pesticides in California for the past year shows residues well below levels established to protect human health and the environment.

“We’re pleased the results indicate a low health risk to residents of the communities where monitoring stations are located,” Leahy said.

“This information is essential to help us evaluate whether our restrictions on pesticide applications are protective over the long term.”

Only one of the chemicals exceeded its screening level for exposure periods of one year or less. That chemical, acrolein, is sometimes used as a pesticide, but the residues detected were most likely from motor vehicle and industrial emissions.

(For more, see: California clamps down on pesticide applications)

The acrolein detections are consistent with California Air Resources Board monitoring throughout the state.

The monitoring data are posted at http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/airinit/air_network.htmand http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/emon/airinit/methylbromide_2011.pdf.

Continue reading California Pesticide Levels Show Low Health Risks

Don’t Let BBQ Become, “Bacteria Blooming Quickly”

Food Handling Tips to Prevent Foodborne Illnesses

Fight Bac, keep food safe from bacteria graphicIn the Santa Maria Valley, BBQ is more than just a casual summertime backyard activity … it falls somewhere between the Flag and Mom’s Apple Pie. We do barbecue like nowhere else in the world and people visit Santa Maria from around the globe to experience the Tri-Tip and pinquito beans that part of our Santa Maria Style Barbecue and a big part of our lifestyle. But the aromatic BBQ smoke in the air also reminds us to review some basic food handling safety tips so guests at your barbecue don’t wind up at Central Coast UrgentCare for “dessert!”

Each year, one in 10 Americans suffers from an illness caused by food. Foodborne illnesses, which are highly preventable, increase in the summer months due to a spike in temperatures and extra moisture in the air. And, with summer parties being held outdoors and away from home, the chance of suffering from a foodborne illness is naturally higher not only because of climate changes, but also because of the casual atmosphere surrounding social gatherings.

Proper food handling is especially important in the summer heat because bacteria thrive in warmer conditions, but when cooks are outside of the kitchen it’s easy to forget basic sanitation. It is just as important, if not more so, to practice excellent food handling and sanitation, when serving others in order to keep you and your guests healthy!

In order to prevent foodborne illnesses, Texas MedClinic recommends using common sense when serving others, following sanitation practices that you’d use in your own indoor kitchen, and paying special attention to the tips listed below.

Wash hands, surfaces and food. Even though the kitchen sink isn’t as close as it normally is, make sure to keep hands clean to avoid cross contamination. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food (sanitizer works too). Rinse all fruits and veggies.

Separate raw food. Bring an extra plate to put cooked meat on after grilling. Keep raw meat, seafood and poultry wrapped properly to avoid cross-contamination and raw juices from spoiling food.

Pack a second cooler for drinks. This cooler will be opened more frequently and will ensure the other cooler containing the food remains as cold as possible.

Continue reading Don’t Let BBQ Become, “Bacteria Blooming Quickly”

Small Employers to Get Lower Rate Increases from Major CA Health Insurers

Sacramento, Ca (WorkersCompensation.com) – Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced that three of California’s major health insurers have agreed to lower their July 1st rate increases. After review by the Department of Insurance and at the request of Commissioner Jones, Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Aetna have agreed to modify their most recent small group rate increases for this quarter. Small group policies are available to small employers with 2-50 employees. Under state law, the Department of Insurance reviews the rates in order to make a determination about whether the proposed rate is unreasonable, but lacks the authority to reject excessive rate increases.

Anthem Blue Cross has agreed to withdraw its 2.5% July 1st premium increase for small-group PPO products. The withdrawal of the premium increase results in a total savings of approximately $25 million for 45,000 of Anthem Blue Cross’ small group policyholders, covering approximately 280,000 individuals. Anthem has raised rates 4.7% on its small group policyholders in the previous twelve months with its earlier rate increases.

Blue Shield Life and Health Company agreed to provide a credit to 58,000 small employers (covering approximately 265,000 individuals) equivalent to reducing its July 1st third quarter rate increase by 1.5%. As a result of the credit, the effective Blue Shield rate increase will be 1.6%, which is Blue Shield’s only small group rate increase for its small employer policyholders in the last twelve months. This modified rate increase will save policyholders approximately $15 million.

Aetna has agreed to lower its proposed small group rate from 2.6% down to 1.3% for its 9,200 policyholders (covering approximately 69,000 individuals), which results in a savings of approximately $8 million for small employers.

Small employers have already been billed for July and August for the July 1st rate increases, but will see credits on their August or September bills.

“Lowering health insurance costs for small employers has been and will continue to be a top priority for me,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “I appreciate Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield and Aetna’s response to my request that they lower their proposed July 1st rate increases on small employers.”

“While this is a positive outcome, it again underscores the need for authority to reject excessive health insurance rate increases. Although I have the authority to reject excessive rates for auto, home, property and casualty insurance, I lack that authority when it comes to health insurance,” said Commissioner Jones. “Year after year, Californians and businesses are faced with rate hikes because the health insurers get to decide how high to raise our rates. I urge the State Senate to pass Assembly Bill 52 in its current form, so that Californians don’t have to wait until a ballot measure in 2014 to change the law to prevent excessive health insurance rates.”

Is a Bundle of Joy Increasing Your Workers Comp Costs?

cartoon of job foreman about to be bonked by wrecking ballThere Can Be Many Secondary Benefits to Being Off Work

I was reading a parenting magazine the other day about how parents sometimes tell little lies to their kids in order to get what they want. These aren’t major lies, but little ones that have a common goal of getting your younger child to leave a playgroup, or to eat something they really don’t want to eat.

I thought about how in the claims world it is often the claimant that tells fibs about their injury or pain in order to get what they want, which is often the goal of stretching their time off away from work. So why would some people lie about their injury? Isn’t the goal about getting better so you can return to work?

The answer here is yes–most people are honest and just want to get their injury over with. But there are others that will stretch the trutha bit in order to remain out of work. We call this “Secondary Gain.” This can be a very important part of the claim, whether it is in litigation or not. So what are some red flags to look for that could indicate a person has secondary gain issues?

The claimant has an infant or young child.

Daycare is very expensive! For many people, daycare costs are more than their house payment. It is not uncommon to pay over $2,000 a month to have 2 children in daycare during the workweek

It is easy to understand how claimants that have kids are more likely to attempt to stretch their time out away from work. In addition to their wage loss checks, they have other savings that include decreased daycare costs.

This is an unforeseen cost to the claim overall. If my injured worker, who is already receiving wage loss benefits, is also able to save $2,000 a month by being able to watch their own kids while off of work, they really have little incentive to rush back to work. They are making more money by not working than by actually working.

For example, I had a claimant that was off work with an ankle injury while his wife gave birth to their first son. Soon after, his employer mentioned to me that this person was not dropping off his medical slips at their HR office, and he was not as quick to return my calls to check up on how he was doing and how he was feeling. It seemed like whenever the employer had a light duty job open up, he was a lot harder to get a hold of.

Then I noticed in the medical records that he seemed to be moving backwards, complaining about increased pain and how his treatment was no longer helping him, when just before the birth he had mentioned how he was feeling better and was excited to return to work.

He did not tell me about the birth of his son, and as soon as I found out I was able to piece the puzzle together as to why his claim was suddenly at a standstill. Be vigilant about this issue, and use an IME or surveillance to your advantage in this scenario so you can keep the claim moving forward.

The claim is in litigation

Plaintiff attorneys know that the longer a person is off of work, the more wage loss benefits they accrue. This increases the value of their claim, resulting in larger settlement exposure. If a claim becomes litigated over any issue, you can guarantee that the worker will try to stay off work or totally disabled as long as possible.

Again use the IME and surveillance to your advantage. Call the employer and try to create a light duty job if none was previously available. This will decrease your wage loss exposure, and if an injured worker refuses a light duty job that was offered to them within their medical restrictions, you can end that wage exposure and keep a strong defense throughout the course of the litigation.

Work Comp Roundup – Reduce Your Workers Compensation Insurance Cove…log Archive » Is a Bundle of Joy Increasing Your Workers Comp Costs 7/9/12 2:21 PM Continue reading Is a Bundle of Joy Increasing Your Workers Comp Costs?

A Longer View of ACA

aerial view of farmLooking for a level-headed approach to sifting through the reality vs. rhetoric of the healthcare debate? Then take a peek at the view from someone in the information technology side of the health industry.
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June 29, 2012 | Tom Sullivan – Government Health IT

Now that we know the Affordable Care Act (ACA) survived constitutional review by the Supreme Court on June 28, eyes shift further down the road to the long-term impact of the healthcare reform law.

What lies out toward the horizon? Tom Sullivan, editor of Government Health IT, a sister publication of PhysBizTech, discussed that topic with Bill Bernstein, chairman of the healthcare division at law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which works with states and providers on health IT and related public policy issues. A summary of their conversation follows.

Q: Given the public sentiment here on the health reform law, is the court’s ruling surprising? 

A: It’s interesting how they got there. But in the end, what’s going to matter is not their constitutional reasoning but how it plays out. At this point, I think the forum really changes, goes to the states. As the opinion makes clear, I don’t think the justices were looking at public sentiment. Just from reading the opinion, I think they based this on a well-thought theory of the powers of federal and state government. I’m reading the Roberts opinion, just halfway through it, and it’s impressive.

Q: Will knowing how the court has ruled put many people in the healthcare realm at ease?
A: I think so. We all know somebody with a pre-existing condition. A big part of this is the fact that if you apply for coverage, you have to receive it and the fact that they can’t discriminate based on pre-existing conditions. That’s a huge step forward in terms or providing people access to basic healthcare coverage – and that’s a big day in American history.

Q: And among Manatt’s clients, do you anticipate a sense of hurry-up-and-wait among healthcare organizations? There is still uncertainty with the coming election on the horizon and Mitt Romney threatening to repeal the ACA.
A: I think this is going to play out differently in different parts of the country. There is a lot of implementation work that has to happen at the state level. In part of the country, it won’t be hurry-up-and-wait at all, it will be full foot on the accelerator to implement both the Medicaid expansion and the exchange provisions. Some states may have a view that ‘the election’s close, so let’s wait’ but I think that it’s highly unlikely that the election would lead to a change in a lot of the fundamental provisions of the ACA. There’s so much of it that’s popular. When people really think about it, the genie’s out of the bottle at this point. And I think even in the recalcitrant states, they’ll eventually decide to go forward and implement the law’s provisions. Continue reading A Longer View of ACA

California DWC Posts List Of National Drug Codes …

Affected ByThe Temporary Unavailability Of Updated Pharmaceutical Fee Schedule Data

department of workers' compensation logoOakland, CA (WorkersCompensation.com) – The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) has informed the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) that it has completed the update to the pharmaceutical price file that was necessitated by the unavailability of First Data Bank Average Wholesale Price. DHCS has prepared a list of those national drug codes (NDCs) that were affected during the period when the prices were unavailable.

Beginning May 23, 2012, the weekly pharmaceutical fee schedule data file and price calculator on the DWC website included all of the updates. DWC suggests that workers’ compensation providers examine the NDC list and, if warranted, resubmit pharmaceutical bills that were affected by the unavailability of price updates, and recommends that payers issue payments as appropriate. Payers and providers may consider whether there are contracts in place that may impact the need to re-process bills and issue corrected payments