Workplace Wellness: County Benchmark Data For Wellness Initiatives

County Benchmark Data for Wellness Initiatives

Benchmarking data can be a beneficial tool for gaining a better understanding of your employees’ risk factors and their health needs. This data is useful for designing a workplace wellness program that will better meet the needs of your employees and increase your return on investment.

County Benchmark Data

County benchmark data can be a valuable tool for learning about your employees’ health risks. If you assume that your employee population has the same general health risks, behaviors and habits as your county’s population, you can use benchmark data to shape your wellness initiatives.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers reliable health benchmark data broken down by county. The following are some of the health metrics provided for each county:

  • Adult smoking
  • Adult obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive drinking
  • Alcohol-impaired driving deaths
  • Diabetes
  • Mammography screening
  • HIV prevalence
  • Uninsured rates
  • Access to exercise opportunities

Put it into Practice

Below is an example for applying these benchmarks to your own wellness initiatives. According to the CDC, 30 percent of adults in Madison County, Mississippi, are obese, which is higher than the national average.

So if your business is based in Madison County, Mississippi, and assuming the individuals analyzed by the CDC are representative of your employee group, you might presume that your employees (and their spouses and dependents) have a higher than average rate of obesity. Since obesity is a risk factor for many significant health problems like heart disease and strokes, you may want to implement wellness initiatives that encourage employees to eat healthier and exercise more.

To access the CDC county benchmarks, visit www.countyhealthrankings.org. Then, simply select your state and county to get started.

Want more information or need help applying county benchmark data to your company’s workplace wellness initiatives? Contact The Unland Companies today.

25 Most Commonly Stolen Passwords

person lifting up rug to reveal set of keys

How clever is your password? If it’s on the list below, your password is just as easily stolen as it is remembered. Protect yourself by making sure you’re not using one of the top 25 most commonly stolen passwords of 2018, as determined by IT security firm SplashData.

To create a more secure password, make sure you are not relying only on numbers, and try to avoid simple keyboard patterns. You may also want to avoid easy-to-find information such as birthdays, favorite sports teams and addresses. Attempt to create a password that is eight or more characters long, and avoid using the same password for multiple access points.

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 123456789
  4. 12345678
  5. 12345
  6. 111111
  7. 1234567
  8. sunshine
  9. qwerty
  10. iloveyou
  11. princess
  12. admin
  13. welcome
  14. 666666
  15. abc123
  16. football
  17. 123123
  18. monkey
  19. 654321
  20. !@#$%^&*
  21. charlie
  22. aa123456
  23. donald
  24. password1
  25. qwerty123

Cyber Risks & Liabilities – Top Cyber Predictions for 2019

cyber security internet and networking concept.Businessman hand working with VR screen padlock icon on computer background

The average global cost of a data breach has risen to $3.86 million, magnifying the need for companies to be aware of all potential threats. Here are just a few of the threats that cyber security experts have forecast for 2019.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a Weapon

With AI being so young, it is still vulnerable to attacks that can affect its operations. However, AI could also be used defensively to identify new threats and better protect systems from attacks.

A Lack of Security in the Cloud

As organizations are adding more data to the cloud, they’re not practicing good enough housekeeping to secure that data, making them a top target for cyber criminals.  

5G Network Vulnerability

As 5G takes the place of 4G, the market for 5G infrastructure is expected to grow by 118 percent annually through 2022. Although that rate of growth may be profitable for cellular networks and providers, it creates new vulnerabilities as well. Instead of connecting to a Wi-Fi router, 5G devices are expected to connect directly to a 5G network, making those networks more appealing targets to hackers while also making it more difficult for home and office users to monitor their devices.

Biometric Hacking

Despite being the most secure method of authentication, biometric data can be stolen and altered. And sensors on smart devices can deteriorate with excessive usage, making them less reliable and easier to hack.

Skimming Magnified

Criminals are targeting bank networks with malware, similar to the way they use credit and debit card skimmers to steal banking information and passcodes from unsuspecting customers. The result can be millions of dollars in losses and a lack of trust in major financial institutions. 

Online Gaming 

The online gaming industry has seen massive growth and is expected to hit $2.2 trillion by 2021. This is an attractive target for cyber criminals who can easily pose as gamers and gain access to their credit card information. 

More Targeted Spear Phishing 

Devious cyber criminals are using tactics that involve breaking into an email system and learning as much as they can about their targeted victims. They use that information to take advantage of the trust built with another person and scam them out of money. 

New Sanction Retaliations from Iran Worry U.S. Banks

After the Trump administration reimposed the sanctions lifted as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. banks are expecting retaliation in the form of cyber attacks.

The Treasury Department added 700 entities to the list of reinstated sanctions, including Iranian banks, aircraft, vessels, individuals and the country’s energy sector.

According to recent reports, a major U.S. bank, which chose not to be identified, listed Iranian hackers as the top trending cyber threat, even ahead of North Korea. 

The entire banking industry is on alert after the Iranian government issued public statements intending to defy the sanctions. When asked about the threat, the CEO of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center—the privately run group that coordinates defenses against cyber attacks—stated that he was more confident in the organization’s ability to ward off Iranian cyber attacks than when Iran targeted U.S. banks in 2011.

From 2011-2013, Iran launched a series of cyber attacks, jamming the internet services of major U.S. banks with garbage computer traffic. Instigated by seven Iranians on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the cyber attacks were unprecedented in size.

Experts at cyber security firm CrowdStrike worry that the Iranian hackers’ skills have grown since the 2011-2013 attacks. Although banks are at the top of the radar, every type of business is vulnerable to cyber attacks, magnifying the need for adequate cyber security. 

How to Secure Office IoT Devices

An internet of things (IoT) device is any smart device that is connected to the internet. Many of these devices are everyday objects—like watches or thermostats—that connect via Wi-Fi, allowing users to control them remotely or even collect data.

Employers pride themselves on using IoT technology to make their workplaces more modern and help them stand out from their competitors. Things like smart desks, video conferencing systems, security systems, smart TVs and intelligent HVAC systems are becoming more commonplace. Unfortunately, these same gadgets, as well as other IoT devices, can create a growing security threat for businesses who aren’t prepared. 

There is a lack of consistency between manufacturing companies who make the IoT devices. They have different operating systems and different security measures, and some aren’t even capable of software updates. This makes it difficult for IT departments to prevent hackers from accessing IoT devices and gaining access to company networks. 

That’s not to say that your organization shouldn’t use IoT devices altogether. You just need to take extra precautions. Here are a few ways to protect your valuable data while reaping the benefits of IoT devices:

  • Consider multi-factor authentication or use certificates.Both are able to stall hackers who’ve managed to crack your password. 
  • Create a separate Wi-Fi network specifically for all IoT devices.If hackers access the IoT network, your separate business network should still be safe.  
  • Limit access to sensitive data.For example, IoT security cameras can expose sensitive information to hackers. Therefore, it is important to consider what the device has access to before setting it up. Be sure to also clear its storage on a regular basis. In addition, it’s important to never store critical business or personal data on these devices.
  • In the event of a hack, be prepared to disable your devices and reset the factory settings at any time.If you regularly back up your devices, it should be easy enough to restore them and reconnect.
  • Avoid installing third-party software. It’s easy to add functionality to IoT devices simply by installing additional applications. However, you should never install software from an untrusted source. Doing so can open the door to hackers.
  • Turn off IoT devices when they aren’t in use.This may seem like a simple solution, but active devices are vulnerable to attacks. Just by switching off unused devices, you can improve network security overall.

Although IoT technology is likely here to stay, it is important to remember that it is still in its infancy. By taking proper precautions, you can enjoy its conveniences instead of letting it threaten your business operations.  

This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Advantages of Benchmarking Your Benefits Program

man looking at graphs on computer

An attractive benefits program is vital for your recruiting and retention efforts, but it is also a significant expense. To ensure you are providing a package that is both competitive and economical, you need to know how your offerings compare to others in your industry. Benchmark data can provide valuable insight for evaluating your benefits package, something that is more important than ever in light of health care reform.

Employer interest in benchmark data has grown over the past decade, as the cost of providing health care benefits continues to skyrocket and companies look for new ways to manage costs. Analyzing how other companies are structuring their plans and the strategies they are using to cut costs may make your own benefit plan decisions a bit easier.

What Data Can You Benchmark?

There is information available for almost any aspect of a benefits program, including total costs, cost-sharing measures, plan design, voluntary offerings, workers’ compensation and paid leave.

Whether you are curious to know how your voluntary disability benefits stack up or are wondering if your paid leave program is comparable to competitors, there is likely benchmark data available. We at The Unland Companies would be happy to provide you with a variety of benchmark data—simply let us know what you are interested in learning.

Health Care Reform Implications

Interest in benefits benchmark data has grown since the introduction and ongoing implementation of health care reform. The regulations and provisions of health care reform require significant changes to benefit plans, and, in many cases, tough decisions for employers.

Knowing how other employers are approaching these issues could be beneficial in helping you reshape your benefit program for this new health care insurance landscape.

Employers are responsible for implementing many new rules and absorbing their costs, which will likely mean cutting or shifting costs elsewhere. These decisions can make the difference between maintaining a competitive benefits package and seeing a decline in recruiting and retention of quality employees.

Knowing how other employers plan to address these benefits decisions can be incredibly advantageous for your company. Contact The Unland Companies for more information on benefit plan benchmark data.

Maximizing Open Enrollment for Employees

Big company Top managers attending business session of a professional coach trainer at big studio interior

Open enrollment can be an overwhelming time for both employers and employees. Employees are given the opportunity to re-evaluate their current benefits and make changes for the coming year, while employers must choose a benefits package that balances cost and value and facilitate the enrollment process. Due to a variety of factors, benefit offerings are changing, placing new demands on employees and employers during open enrollment. To make the enrollment process as smooth as possible, it is important that employers educate and communicate with their employees effectively.

The Open Enrollment Process

As employer-sponsored benefits transition to more voluntary, employee-paid or employee-subsidized offerings, employees must assume more control in making smart decisions. Accordingly, employers should provide benefit information in an easy-to-understand format that provides employees with essential information, along with additional resources to help them make decisions.

Here is a typical open enrollment process:

  • Notification – Employers send out an organization-wide announcement alerting employees that open enrollment will begin shortly. 
  • Receipt of Information – Employers distribute information about benefit plans, selection information and the appropriate forms to their workers. Employees may also receive personal information based on their elections from the previous year.
  • Employers may direct their employees to the company website, invite them to attend HR seminars, offer a benefit fair with the insurance company or offer access to interactive decision-making tools. 
  • Making Decisions – Employees research their various benefits options and discuss with family to determine which benefits they will elect for the coming year.
  • Enrollment – Employees select their benefits.

Open Enrollment Strategies

The following suggestions, based partially on an employee survey conducted by MetLife®, can improve the open enrollment process for both employers and their employees:

  • Establish solid communication between the HR department and employees. To do so effectively, conduct meetings and seminars and offer calculators, intranet education information and benefit fairs. If your organization is smaller, conduct one-on-one meetings with employees to determine exactly the type of information they need.
  • Survey your employee population to determine their priorities—product importance, preferred method of communication, etc. By doing so, employers can identify exactly what their employees want, and workers feel their needs have been heard by decision-makers.
  • Customize benefits and information resources to the life stages of your employees. For instance, if you have a large older population, feature more retiree benefits and long-term care insurance.

Communication

It is also wise to communicate with your employees in the same way that they communicate on a regular basis. For example, if messages are received via postings in a common area, consider placing benefit information in that area as well.

  • By customizing your benefits to your population, you can increase employee satisfaction without increasing your spending.
  • Employees have an easier time selecting the benefits that are best suited for them and their families.
  • Provide easy-to-understand tools. This will lessen employee confusion and the feeling of being overwhelmed while trying to make tough decisions.
  • Consider offering new benefits, even if they are voluntary, such as dental insurance, vision insurance or benefits for prescription drugs. Employees tend to make more changes when they receive new options.
  • Even if employees must pay 100 percent for such voluntary options, they can still be attractive offerings. Since the benefits are negotiated by the employer, employees typically receive a group rate, which is significantly lower than purchasing them individually.
  • Offer a second, off-cycle enrollment period when new benefits are featured. This can be a time for employees to focus on voluntary benefits and other offerings that are not traditional. These benefits are typically overshadowed by health insurance and retirement options, so a second off-cycle enrollment is a great time for employees to focus on their other needs. 
  • Make plan information as simple as possible, while also being interactive. Employees should be able to understand their offerings to make more knowledgeable decisions.
  • Maintain all Summary Plan Descriptions on your website, rather than directing employees to the insurance carrier site for information. This provides easy access to information and makes the company appear more in control of the information.

Overall, a successful and effective open enrollment process can have a dramatic impact on the relationship between employers and their employees. By catering to their needs and wants, employers will ultimately make the experience more enjoyable and worthwhile for their workers. As a result, they will feel more secure in their benefits decisions throughout the plan year.

Switching Health Plans

Stethoscope and pen on report pad ,health and medical concept ,selective focus.

The thought of changing your health insurance plan may be daunting. But when you learn your employer is making changes, it provides you with the opportunity to review your health care needs and possibly select a better-suited plan.

The first thing that many people think about when picking an employer-sponsored health care plan is price. What are the plan’s premiums and out-of-pocket expenses (e.g., deductible, copayment and coinsurance)? While price is undeniably an important factor when choosing a new plan, there are several other criteria that should be examined before electing new coverage.

Reviewing Provider Networks
When weighing your new plan options, it is important to check out each insurer’s website to determine if your current physician is within the plan’s network. Knowing which physicians are in-network can help reduce costs, since receiving out-of-network care typically will result in higher out-of-pocket expenses.

Prescription Drug Coverage
Some insurance plans have certain drug formularies, or a preferred list of medications, and step therapy requirements, which require individuals to try more cost-effective treatments before “stepping up” to more costly drugs.

If step therapy requirements are not followed or if your medication is not on the carrier’s formulary, your prescription could cost more, or it may not be covered at all. If you regularly take a certain medication, you will want to visit your new carrier’s website to view the plan’s drug list. A drug requiring step therapy, for example, may be marked with an “ST.” If a medication you take is on this list, contact your physician to determine the best course of action. Reviewing prescription drug coverage before selecting a plan helps ensure you are financially prepared for any adjustments to prescription drug coverage and can reduce confusion at the time of pharmacy pick-up.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage

Although mental and behavioral health treatments are one of the 10 essential benefits required by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), individual insurance policies may vary on the extent to which these services are covered. For instance, some plans may cap reimbursement at 20 therapy visits while others may not have an annual limit. Being aware that limits for these services may change between your old and new plan is essential when planning for and managing your health care expenses.

Upcoming Scheduled Medical Procedures

If you have already scheduled a medical procedure for the new plan year, it is important to contact your physician’s office to ensure you are still covered under your new plan. For example, a pre-authorization for surgery may be required by your new insurer, so by communicating insurance changes with your physician’s office prior to receiving services, you can avoid any billing surprises after the procedure.

Tax-advantaged Options

Lastly, some plans may feature tax-advantaged options like a health reimbursement account (HRA) or health savings account (HSA). While these programs vary in requirements and structure (for example, HSAs must be tied to a high deductible health plan), their end goal is to help minimize health care expenses. Reviewing new plans to see if an HRA or HSA is offered may be one way to potentially reduce your financial responsibilities.

Call 800-747-3241 or email us directly if you have any questions.

Choosing a Stop-Loss Partner

Thinking about self-funding? Better think about stop-loss insurance.

If you want to save money by self-funding your employee benefit plans without the danger of unexpected, catastrophic losses, you’re not alone. Even many smaller companies are exploring this option nowadays. The Unland Companies and Sun Life know that today, many employers and brokers are exploring the self-funding option:

 

66% of employers with 100-499 lives are interested in self-funding. 64% of brokers believe that their fully insured clients are becoming more interested in self-funding.

Risks and rewards

As always, this insurance comes with a lot of options that can be complicated. How to make the right choice that saves money without undue risk? That’s where a good broker like the Unland Companies comes in, with the right tools and information to help you make the right choices.

 

Benefits Top 5 Concerns

Choosing the right stop-loss partner

The Unland Companies partners with Sun Life, a leading independent U.S. stop-loss carrier that has more than 35 years in the stop-loss business, strong financial ratings and the ability to reimburse even the largest high-cost claims quickly.

 

Education

Learning

In addition, Sun Life offers educational modules for brokers and employers, a Stop-Loss Benchmark Report for all clients that provides unbiased, rich data across case sizes, industries and claim administrators, and thought leadership, including insights on high-cost claims, injectable drugs and the value of a group captive solution. A new program that will help employers monitor and manage costs associated with their self-funded medical plan is Sun Life’s Stop-Loss Clinical 360 program. This program pairs clinical experts with programs and tools to proactively identify savings opportunities, and it is available to all Sun Life stop-loss clients.

 

Stop-loss captives

Why Sun Life?

Sun Life has the expertise you’re looking for, including 4.2 million covered lives, 2,100 policy holders and $1.4 billion in premiums. (Source: Sun Life Financial book of business data, 2017.) You can trust Sun Life to put its expertise to work for you.

What’s the next step?

Contact the Unland Companies today and start learning about your options for self-funding.

 

1. Sun Life Broker and Employer Voices Online Community surveys. This is a research tool that gains insights from a group of over 300 brokers and 200 employers. Brokers and employers are asked to provide feedback on topics pertaining to their experience in the insurance industry and with Sun Life products and services.

2. 2016 Employer Insights research study sponsored by Sun Life and conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey. The blind study included decision-makers for companies that had from 50 to 999 employees and offered medical benefits to all their full-time employees.

3. 2018 Self-funded Employer Journey research sponsored by Sun Life and conducted by Conifer Research.

Group stop-loss insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada (Wellesley Hills, MA) in all states, except New York, under Policy Form Series 07-SL REV 7-12. In New York, group stop-loss insurance policies are underwritten by Sun Life and Health Insurance Company (U.S.) (Lansing, MI) under Policy Form Series 07-NYSL REV 7-12. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations.

© 2018 Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, Wellesley Hills, MA 02481. All rights reserved. Sun Life Financial and the globe symbol are registered trademarks of Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Visit Sun Life at www.sunlife.com/us.

Safety First Newsletter – September 2018

Double exposure photo of Working at height equipment. Fall arrestor device for worker with hooks for safety body harness

September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources.

More than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster, according to FEMA. Making sure your employees are prepared for emergencies not only ensures their safety, but also safeguards your business. September is National Preparedness Month. Take this opportunity to educate your employees with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from The Unland Companies:

Unland - September Newsletter

  • Emergency Contacts and Emergency Response Training Questionnaire
  • Safety Spotlight – Preparing for Emergency Evacuations
  • Be Prepared: Fire Emergency
  • Employee Emergency Preparedness Survey
  • Quiz: Emergency Action Plan
  • Playing it Safe: Medical Emergencies on the Job

Employee Shape Up Program

Employee leaves note on back of office chair: Out of Office. Gone to The Gym!

Shape Up is a program designed to encourage healthy, fit and active lifestyles through an increased focus on aerobic exercise, strength training and stretching. Physical activity can lead to many benefits:

  • Weight maintenance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved glucose (blood sugar) regulation
  • Stronger bone density

As a participant in the Shape Up Program, you will be encouraging yourself and your co-workers to incorporate aerobic, strength training and flexibility exercises into your daily routine. This guide will provide informational and introductory guidance for each of the three exercise program components.

 

Get the details and encourage your employees to start the Shape Up Program here.