Occupational Health: Key Benefits of Workplace Health Management

Economic growth has been fundamental to the general improvement in health in the industrial world during the last century. Health gain was achieved within a process of building up social capital and also as a result of increasing investment in improving the working environment, housing, nutrition, education, and health care and by addressing the other needs of the whole population. Economic development has also recently been associated with increased investments to reduce or eliminate pollution of different environmental byproducts.

The average age of the work force is increasing very rapidly. With the current disability pension systems, a major proportion of the aged work force will leave working life, and this trend will inevitably bring higher rates of long-term unemployment amongst the elderly work force.

There is a need for a major reconsideration of the social policy and social insurance policy, with an investment in protecting and promoting the working ability of the economically active working population. The current trends will otherwise lead to considerable problems in financing social security systems and maintaining the important safety net that they provide. This will require changes to the social security systems which include systems of incentives that reward active participation in working life and early return to work following any period of illness or infirmity. The active participation of employers, and their occupational health services, will be required to achieve these goals. Occupational health advisors are well placed to initiate, support and evaluate interventions which can be used to promote early, safe and successful rehabilitation programs at the workplace. Investment in protection and promotion of health, may not only support the wellbeing of the individual, but can be justified on purely economic grounds.

 

The companies that comply with national policies in public health, health and safety, workplace health promotion and environmental health management, as part of a comprehensive workplace health management system can expect to reap some or all of the following benefits.

Economic benefits

  • Improves sustainable development at a national and area level
  • Helps to protect the economic independence of the working population
  • Improved integration of disabled people into the economically active workforce
  • Increased productivity, competitiveness and profitability
  • Increased probability of economic investment
  • Improved self-regulation and adjustment of insurance system to seek benefits of preventives activities
  • Increase probability of reduce social insurance premium
  • Increase probability of reduced costs of health care system
  • more efficient use of existing knowledge and skills
  • Improved economic stability

Health benefits

  • Increase life expectancy
  • Increase disability-free life expectancy
  • Increase working ability
  • Increased age of employees’ working potential
  • Increase proportion of employees free from occupational and work related diseases and injuries
  • Increase percentage of employees and pensioners free from serious disability due to chronic communicable diseases
  • Increased proportion of society with healthy lifestyle
  • Increased equity in health between different professions and economic sectors

Social and wellbeing benefits

  • Improved social image of company
  • Improved self-esteem of employees
  • Increased quality of working life
  • Improved compliance with existing legislation
  • Increased employment opportunities for people with slight work disability due to chronic diseases or injures
  • Increased participation of employees in organization of their own work
  • Increased awareness of society on social, environmental, occupational and lifestyle health and wellbeing factors
  • Increased knowledge on effective use on natural resources
  • Increased professional skills of employees
  • Increased managerial skills of employees
  • Increased ability of employees to cope with demands of working life
  • Increased knowledge of employees on legal requirements and their rationale concerning health and safety at work and environment management of the company.
  • Increased employability
  • Increased potential for social justice
  • Increased awareness of characteristics and social value of good management
 

Environmental benefits

  • Increased efficiency in using natural recourses
  • Increased number of companies with improved pollution prevention mechanisms and reduced wastes.
  • Increased number of companies managing environmental issue in compliance with legal requirements.
  • Increased number of companies managing environmental issue using principles and methods of such strategies as Cleaner Production, Eco-efficiency, Green Productivity, and Pollution Prevention.

Occupational health advisors, working independently or as part of a multi-professional occupational health service can make a significant contribution to the achievement of these goals. As occupational health advisors are the single largest group of healthcare professionals involved in delivering occupational health services, their active participation in and support of Workplace Health Management is essential if this national strategy is to succeed.

Health Insurance After Age 50: Not Kid Stuff

When you reach a certain age, your health insurance needs take on a whole new definition. The coverage you purchased when you were a young adult is not adequate for your health care needs after age 50. For many older Australians, health problems develop that are a natural part of the aging process, while for others poor nutrition, lack of exercise, or simply a history of hard living can catch up with our bodies. Adopting a healthy lifestyle later in life is always a good idea, and obtaining good health care coverage is very important.

Every Australian can get basic health care through Medicare. But Medicare may not be enough for individuals over 50, since its coverage options are limited and the medical needs of seniors are almost always greater than those of younger people. For this reason, comparing health insurance plans is important when it comes to protecting yourself financially and medically in later life.

Seniors face the need for more prescription medications, more surgical procedures, and more ancillary services such as hearing aids, vision, and dental care. Medicare coverage alone limits your choice of hospitals that will admit you for treatment, and which physicians you can enlist for your examinations, surgical procedures, and any other medical needs you may have. Additionally, if your health insurance is limited to Medicare with no private policy in place, your coverage may not be adequate to cover all medications and treatments you may need; some medical services are not covered by Medicare at all.

 

Seniors who do not have a pension can apply for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card before purchasing private health insurance. Australians over 50 with a fixed income who do not qualify for a pension can qualify for this card to help cover some prescription medication and medical services costs.

If you’re an individual over 50 who has a pension and are looking to enhance your health coverage, comparing private insurance plans is a great start to learning all you need to know about securing your health policy options. Although all private insurers offer options for improved care above your Medicare supplement, each fund offers its own plan structures, coverage options, and premium costs, so it pays to compare.

Whether you are already facing additional medical services related to an age-related injury or illness, or you are simply planning ahead and making sure your health insurance coverage is adequate as a prudent measure, comparing plans and purchasing a private insurance policy can provide financial security if extra costs arise from medical services that are not covered by Medicare alone.

Seniors with a preexisting condition may face a waiting period of up to 12 months before their private coverage can be used for treatment. It is important to compare private health policies and determine which have waiting periods that may not work for you. Remember, no medical insurer can refuse to provide you with coverage based on your age or any preexisting conditions.

Your private medical plan may cover services specific to seniors that are not covered by Medicare, including ambulance costs, home nursing care, Podiatry services, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, cataract surgery and glasses, and more.

Remember, the Australian government reimburses 30 percent of the cost of every private medical plan premium, a great incentive to make sure your health insurance coverage is adequate. And that percentage increases for seniors to 35 percent at age 65, and 40 percent at age 70, in order to make private coverage more affordable to aging citizens who are often living on a pension alone, with no other source of income. Those seniors who do have more income sources are still eligible for the same government reimbursement rates on private insurance premiums.

 

It may be a wise idea to get a complete physical and discuss with your physician which health insurance features you should have in place to meet your specific medical needs.

Many seniors take advantage of their new found freedom from work and raising children to travel. Anytime you travel overseas, make sure to contact your health insurance provider to suspend your premiums for up to three years while you are away, without any consequences to your Lifetime Health Cover. Check with your health fund to see if your absence and premium suspension will affect your policy when you return.

The lifestyle of a senior today can be full and rewarding, particularly since there is time to do so many things you may not have been able to do when you were younger, working and raising a family. Living an active, healthy lifestyle is certainly the best option for every older Australian, and securing a good private health care policy can help you maintain your health and your pace. Your health insurance is a ticket to the kind of financial and medical security that can keep you doing the things you love, even when the nuisances of age catch up with you.

The Importance of Having a Health Coach! 3 Things to Avoid, 3 Things to Do

Nowadays, people always think of money. They spend long, tedious hours working for and earning money. They often forget about eating or releasing stress through eating. Stressful lifestyles can have a hazardous and irrevocable effects to your health. Fatal diseases like cancer can hit you if you don’t act on your health now.

Health coaches are more than your typical physician, nutritionist and psychologist. They do not individually look at your physical, emotional or mental health. Health coaches look at all aspects to ensure you achieve optimal health. They will help make your body and brain to feel better.

 

Without the help of a health adviser, people tend to worsen their health condition by doing things by themselves. The following is a list of three things to avoid preventing worsening of health conditions:

1. Guessing about your Health

2. Trying all diet plans

3. Self-medication

Guessing what among the diet plans is effective for you by trying all of them may cause irrevocable effects to your health. You may take higher dosage of some vitamins and minerals than the level of dosage that your body needs. You can also get an ulcer with some diet plans that include fasting and drastic changes in food intake. Diet plans should be personalized and specific. It should meet the needs of the body. Moreover, it should consider the metabolic type of your body. Self-medication is not only infamous for causing different health troubles but also for causing the death of some people. We should be reminded that the food, vitamins and minerals and even food supplement we take can turn into poison when the dosage is not right.

To have a better health status, however; you have three things to do:

1. Ask for the help of a health coach

2. Know your metabolic type

 

3. Aim for Optimal Health

These things are actually connected. Health coaches can help you know your metabolic type and formulate with you a personalized diet. The metabolic type of person is studied to be key to a healthier life. When you know your metabolic type, you’ll also know how much and what food you should eat. Thus, you can formulate your diet, but you can’t do it alone. Formulating your personalized knowledge needs the expertise of a health coach. With a health coach, you are sure to have a healthy body and more. You can call it optimal health, the health that covers not only the body but also your wellness.

Telemedicine in the Affordable Health Care Act Explained

Telemedicine is an important component of the robust and technology driven Affordable Care Act system (Obama care) and provides avenues for reducing costs in the new healthcare structure, because it offers options in how to access healthcare services.

The Affordable Care Act is the most comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s health care system in decades and it’s implementation and sign-ups will all be processed through marketplace exchanges.

What is the Meaning of Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technology to provide clinical health care without a traditional face-to face consultation. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to supplementary medical services for people with:

  • Basic or No Insurance
  • High Deductible (HDHP) Insurance
  • Traditional Insurance

Tele-health Vs Telemedicine

‘Tele-health’ is an older, broader term for services such as health education and is not limited to clinical services, while ‘Telemedicine’ narrowly focuses on the actual curative aspect between the patient and healthcare professional. Examples of Tele-health are health professionals discussing a case over the telephone or conducting robotic surgery between facilities at different ends of the world.

 

Tele-Health has a broader scope than telemedicine and is sometimes called e-health, e-medicine, or telemedicine. Health care professional use tools like e-mails, e-visits, e-prescribing, after-hours care, e-reminders, health assessments, self-management tools, health coaching etc.

The State of the Market

The Affordable Care Act (Obama Care) Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) opens on Oct 1st, 2013. and goes into operation on Jan 1st, 2014. The Obama Care exchanges, are State, Federal or joint-run online marketplaces for health insurance. Americans can use their State’s “Affordable” Insurance Exchange marketplace to get coverage from competing private health care providers.

Steps to Sign up for Health Care Plans

  • Participants enter personal information into a web portal
  • Learn their eligibility for subsidies based on income, state-determined criteria or employer-based options.
  • Use a price calculator to shop, compare and choose a best benefit health plan.

Several major health companies have programs like TelaDoc in Aetna, KP-OnCall in Kaiser etc, trying to set up footholds in a market that is widely expected to grow rapidly. All participants have to do is research for telemedicine benefits through their health insurance plans or sign up for independent programs.

How Health Care Professionals Administer Telemedicine

Doctors can treat most everyday health needs by phone or a scheduled video consultation. A study by the American Medical Association shows that 4 out of 5 visits to a primary care doctor could have been treated over the phone instead. After each consultation, patients will receive a clinical report which can be emailed to a primary care physician.

Registered Nurses manage triage calls and act as health coaches. For some specific symptoms, they give guidance for the most appropriate care, and over 32% of the time will offer self-care options so patients avoid a visit to the doctor, ER or Urgent Care facility entirely.

 

Common symptoms often treated through Telemedicine

Respiratory Infections, Cold/Flu Symptoms, Urinary Tract Infections, Sore Throats, Headaches/Migraines, Sinusitis, Allergies, Insect bites, Certain Rashes, Sprains/Strains, Arthritic Pain, Stomach Aches/Diarrhea, Gastroenteritis, Minor Burns and many non-emergency medical conditions

By 2014, the law mandates that all non-exempt Americans have health insurance or face a tax penalty. The Affordable Care Act has far-reaching advantages such as prohibiting insurance companies from dropping a clients’ coverage if they get sick or discrimination against anyone with a pre-existing condition and extending children’s eligibility on parent’s plans.

For entrepreneurs, who will most likely be responsible for their own health insurance, knowing how telemedicine can supplement their health insurance plans, means they can take full advantage of the options, savings and benefits.

Retiree Health Care Benefits Continue to Decline

Employer-based retirement health care insurance benefits continue to decline, according to recent industry reports.

Many retirees have been able to rely on private or state employer-based retirement health benefits for supplemental health care coverage while on Medicare in the past, but this is becoming less common.

Employer-based health-related benefits can provide important coverage for the gaps that exist in Medicare programs. Additional coverage benefits can alleviate the cost-sharing requirements and deductibles associated with Medicare. Caps on the amount that can be spent out-of-pocket, often associated with supplemental coverage, are also often helpful for retirees.

Overall, supplemental retiree health and medical benefits sponsored by a private or municipal employer have helped many retirees cope with high medical costs often incurred in retirement.

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently reported, however, that the number of large private employers-considered employers with 200 or more employees-offering retiree healthcare benefits has dropped from 66 percent in 1988 to 23 percent in 2015.

Companies that do continue to offer retiree health benefits have been making changes aimed at reducing the cost of benefits, including:

  • Instituting caps on the amount of the provider’s financial liability
  • Shifting from defined benefit to defined contribution plans
  • Offering retiree health care benefits through Medicare Advantage plan contracts
  • Creating benefit programs through private health insurance exchanges

State employers have also not been immune to the trend, but the type and level of coverage being offered by most states is significantly different than retirement health care coverage being offered by large companies.

 

Unlike many private employers, state governments continue to offer some level of retiree health care benefits to help attract and retain talented workers, according to a report titled “State Retiree Health Plan Spending,” published by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in May, 2016.

With the exception of Idaho, all states currently offer newly-hired state employees some level of retirement health care benefits as part of their benefits package, according to the report. Of the states offering retiree medical benefits, 38 have made the commitment to contribute to health care premiums for the coverage being offered. State employers are, however, also making changes to the retirement health care insurance benefits they provide to state workers.

Significant among these changes for the states is at least one driving force-the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) now requires states to report liabilities for retirement benefits other than pensions in their financial statements. The changes were required from all states by the end of 2008. As a result, the increased financial transparency forced states to review the cost of their other post-employment benefits (OPEB) and address how they plan to pay for them.

Because retirement health care benefits account for the majority of the states’ OPEB obligations, many states have made policy changes to address the upcoming obligations. Factors such as date of hire, date of retirement or vesting eligibility, including minimum age and minimum service year requirements, are now being used by states to vary or limit retirement health care benefits.

Overall, from 2010 to 2013, the states saw their OPEB liabilities decrease by 10 percent from $627 billion after inflation adjustments. While this may sound contradictory, the declines are attributed to a slowdown in the growth of health care costs coupled with benefit modifications aimed at cost reductions.

To look at one state as an example, California’s recent budget revealed that health care benefits for retirees are costing the state more than $2 billion a year for an 80 percent increase over the prior 10 years. Although the situation recently changed, California was previously one of 18 states that had nothing set aside to cover its future retiree health care benefit costs of $80.3 billion.

It should be noted that retiree health care plans are typically funded by plan sponsors on a “pay as you go” basis, meaning that monies to pay current and future health care obligations are taken from current assets and not set aside in advance. This differs significantly from pension plans governed by ERISA, which are subject to funding guidelines.

In response to California’s unfunded OPEB liability, employees and the state are now paying into a fund for future retiree health care benefit costs. The state is also matching $88 million in employee contributions and paying an additional $240 million to prefund future retirement health care benefit costs. The changes are impacting retirees as well as state and private employers.

 

Overall, employer-based retirement health care benefits, once important for supplementing Medicare for retired seniors, continue to decline.

The Potential Impact of Eroding Employer-Based Health Care Retirement Benefits

Many baby boomers who are currently covered by retiree medical plans and plan to rely on future employer-paid medical benefits, are likely to be disappointed to learn that these benefit plans can be changed or terminated. ERISA-governed benefit plans typically contain a “reservation of rights” provision allowing the plan sponsor to change or terminate all or parts of the plan. Many private and state employers are reducing or terminating retiree health benefits due to the increasing cost of insurance premiums, rising health care costs, and increases in longevity.

Since the early 1990s there have been many cases where unexpected changes to post-employment pension and medical benefits have resulted in lawsuits. Typically, the key issue is the reservation of rights language and/or collective bargaining agreement language for employees who were covered by a union contract which referenced retiree medical benefits.

Beneficiaries who have questions about their retiree medical benefits should speak with their plan sponsor to learn about the specific benefits available to them and have a contingency plan for bridging their medical coverage to Medicare, if they are considering early retirement or want to better understand future benefits.

May, 2016