Website Helps Employers Navigate Health Care Maze

Health care sign pointing into a hedge mazeWebsite helps employers wade through health care rules
Sacramento Business Journal by Kathy Robertson, Senior Staff Writer
Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 6:48am PDT 

Employers face new federal requirements when they renew coverage or enroll new people into plans this fall, but there’s a resource to help wade through the rules.

The Health Law Guide for Business is a website created by top California business leaders and funded by The California Endowment.

Employers face new federal requirements when they renew coverage or enroll new people into plans this fall, but there’s a resource to help wade through the rules.

Effective on Sunday, employers and health insurers must provide employees or consumers a uniform glossary and easy-to-understand summary of benefits and coverage.

What employers need to think about and do to comply is explained by the Health Law Guide for Business, an online site created by top California business leaders and funded by The California Endowment.
Business backers include the Pacific Business Group on Health, Small Business Majority, Small Business California, the Bay Area Council, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Small Business Development Centers, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
The California Endowment, a private foundation that seeks to improve access to affordable, quality care for underserved individuals and communities, invested $180,000 to get the website up and running.

The goal is to provide unbiased information on how the new health care law will affect small business, said Daniel Zingale, senior vice president at the foundation.

The website is billed as “2,409 pages. One simple website.”
The pages refer to the Affordable Care Act — and the website seeks to cut through political rhetoric to provide employers with accurate information about the federal health reform law.

The project is part of a health reform education and enrollment effort launched by the California Endowment in 2011 to combat misinformation going out to business owners and consumers.
The open enrollment information is only a portion of what’s available on the website. It also addresses small business health care tax credits, wellness and prevention programs — and the entire text of the health reform law.

See for more information.

Kathy Robertson covers health care, law, lobbying and labor and workplace issues for the
Sacramento Business Journal.

Best Care at Lower Cost

Inforgraphic for healthcare information eco systemThe IOM Paints the Picture of Health

If you have a long moment you might check out the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) latest report, Best Care at Lower Cost – The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America. This report offers a 50,000 foot view of how science, technology and a new culture of medicine can transform American health care. Underscoring the shortfalls of our current system, the IOM has conceptualized what they refer to as a learning health care system, one that links personal and population data to offer real-time information and improved outcomes.

I’m suspicious that the folks at the IOM have been reading Eric Topol’s visionary book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.

A couple of key elements that resonated with me:

Information. The report underscores one of the most pressing challenges of this generation: data and information management.

“The foundation for a learning health care system is continuous knowledge development, improvement, and application. Although unprecedented levels of information are available, patients and clinicians often lack access to guidance that is relevant, timely, and useful for the circumstances at hand. Overcoming this challenge will require applying computing capabilities and analytic approaches to develop real-time insights from routine patient care, disseminating knowledge using new technological tools, and addressing the regulatory challenges that can inhibit progress.” Continue reading Best Care at Lower Cost

20% of Employers Not Providing Personal Protective Equipment

Workplace wear safety equipment signIs Your Company Among  the 20% of Employers Not Providing Personal Protective Equipment?

A Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey published recently reveals that despite laws which say employers must give their staff Personal Protective Equipment free of charge, more than one in five workers are being forced to pay for it out of their own pocket.

Personal Protective Equipment includes protective clothing, helmets and goggles designed to protect workers from injury, electrical hazards, heat, chemicals, and infection. More than one in 10 (11.6 percent) of those who responded to the TUC questionnaire said that although their work required them to wear safety equipment of some kind, their employer failed to provide or pay for this.

A further 8.9 percent were made to pay for any replacement equipment if their original Personal Protective Equipment was damaged. In total more than one in five (20 percent) of respondents to the survey said that they had to pay for providing or replacing all or some of the equipment they needed for their work.

Women Workers Less Likely To Have Equipment Provided than Men

Women workers were even less likely than men to have their safety equipment provided, with more than 15 percent having to provide all or some of their own attire – usually foot protection or overalls – compared to 10.5 percent of men.

The TUC said it was shocked to find that even where the employer provided Personal Protective Equipment, the worker usually had to clean the equipment themselves or pay for it to be cleaned. Of those whose equipment needed cleaning, more than three in five (60 percent) claimed that their employer made no arrangements for providing, or paying the cost of, cleaning.
Continue reading 20% of Employers Not Providing Personal Protective Equipment

Black Widow vs. Brown Recluse

One of the frequently asked questions at both of our facilities, Central Coast Urgent Care and Central Coast Industrial Care, is about these two spiders. This handy little slideshow gives you a good summary of the facts.

The majority of spiders found in the US are harmless. The two most common exceptions are the black widow spider and the brown recluse spider, which are both dangerous to humans. The black widow and brown recluse spiders are more common in the southern states of the US and prefer warm, dry climates as well as undisturbed areas such as basements, closets, woodpiles, attics, or under sinks.

BlackWidow_BrownRecluse slideshow

What You Need to Know About West Nile Virus and Workers’ Comp

West Nile Virus cycle illustration
CLICK on graphic for LARGE version

Summer of 2012 on Track for Most West Nile Cases in 13 years

The summer of 2012 is on track to have the most cases of the West Nile Virus since the infection arrived in the United States in 1999. At the end of July there were only 29 cases of West Nile Virus in the U.S., per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of August 28th, the CDC is reporting 1,590 cases including 66 deaths. West Nile Virus has been documented in people (it also occurs in animals) in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Texas is bearing the brunt of the outbreak with 894 cases and 34 deaths.

Employers Need to Understand Infection and What Can be Done 

Employers need to understand the infection and what can be done to protect their employees. The workers’ compensation exposure to West Nile Virus can be catastrophic. A Texas jury awarded a Union Pacific employee nearly one million dollars because he claimed he was infected with the West Nile Virus while working. The illness is spread by the bite of mosquitos. Employers with employees who work outdoors are exposed to workers’ compensation claims arising out of mosquito bites. This includes landscapers, exterior painters, construction workers, delivery personnel, loggers, forestry workers, plant nurseries, utility linemen and utility repair personnel, amusement park employees and farm workers.

Only 2 – 3% of People Infected Report Cases

It should be noted that the reported cases is estimated to be only 2 percent to 3 percent of the people infected with the West Nile Virus. It is estimated by the CDC that 80% of the people infected by the mosquito bites develop no symptoms. In most of the 20% who develop symptoms, the symptoms are usually mild, primarily aches and fever. Only about one in 150 people infected with the West Nile Virus develop the severe symptoms that require extensive medical care.

West Nile Fever or Severe West Nile Disease

In the 20% of people who develop symptoms, there are two classifications, West Nile fever or severe West Nile disease. The West Nile fever symptoms include fever, headaches, body aches, tiredness, occasionally a skin rash on the trunk of the body, and swollen lymph glands. The West Nile fever will last a few days up to several weeks.

1 in 150 People Develop Severe West Nile Disease

In the 1 in 150 people who develop severe West Nile disease (also referred to as neuroinvasive disease which includes West Nile encephalitis or meningitis or West Nile poliomyelitis) the symptoms include headache, high fever, stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. While the severe West Nile disease can occur in anyone, employees over the age of 50 and employees with a compromised immunity system are at the highest risk of becoming severely ill. The issue that employers face with West Nile virus workers’ compensation claims is making a determination as to whether or not the West Nile Virus was contracted during work hours or during the employee’s nonwork hours. Complicating the determination of compensability is the fact that the incubation period from the mosquito bite to the onset of the West Nile fever or the West Nile disease can be as short as 2 days or as long as 15 days. 

Steps Employers Can Take to Reduce Risk 

Employers cannot eliminate all risk/exposure to West Nile Virus, but there are steps employers can take to reduce the risk of West Nile Virus in their employees working outside.

Continue reading What You Need to Know About West Nile Virus and Workers’ Comp