Taking Action Express: The debate about spousal surcharges

May 27, 2014

180The Weekly Buzz: Should Employers Consider Spousal Surcharges?

Members who participated in the The Action Group’s Annual Employer Benefits Survey met recently to discuss benefit strategies and expense control options that emerged from the findings. Members told us that this opportunity to confidentially discuss such information among trusted cohorts is invaluable in being able to creatively discuss and solve problems without vendor influences.

Coincidentally, this new article from Employee Benefit News evaluates the pros and cons of implementing spousal surcharges, which was one of the topics of conversation. “The concept of limiting coverage of spouses through the implementation of a surcharge or waiver program has been talked about for years. Now, businesses are actually doing it. This is a microcosm of the employee benefits environment where employers are considering every possible cost-control strategy.”

Weighing in on the topic is Carolyn Pare, President and CEO of the Minnesota Health Action Group. “Until we get the waste out of the health care system and improve the efficiency and quality of services provided, employers will need to continue to increase cost sharing with employees.”

170Mental Health Month Wrap-up

Did you know mental illness represents the biggest economic burden of any health issue in the world? This burden is projected to cost $6 trillion by 2030 with two-thirds of these costs attributed to disability and loss of work. Alarmingly, of the 450 million people worldwide who suffer from mental health conditions, the majority (60 percent) do not receive any form of care, with 90 percent of people in developing countries receiving no form of care. This May 13 article from Psychology Today contains excellent information and access to a number of helpful tools and resources for employers.

Through Minnesota Bridges to Excellence, the number of Minnesota clinics achieving the optimal standards for depression care increased 81 percent last year over the previous year – the biggest jump in depression care since clinics began reporting on this condition in 2009. Action Group COO, Kris Soegaard, blogged about this and related topics last week.

In honor of National Mental Health Month, we have been covering a related topic each week in May.

178Closing the Gap in Obesity Management Solutions: Member Webinar Summary

During last week’s member webinar, we looked at the total cost impact of overweight and obesity on employers, the current state of employer strategies and tactics to prevent and manage obesity, and how to incorporate pharmacotherapy in obesity prevention and management plans.

“New therapies expand the range of available obesity management options,” says Dr. Kevin McCabe, our webinar guest speaker, and Executive Director – Occupational Health and Wellness, at SC Johnson & Son, Inc. “These options provide a great opportunity for employers to take a fresh look at their obesity management strategies.”

Dr. McCabe cited Blueprint for Health as a helpful tool in providing validated estimates of employer costs of obesity based on employee demographics. He also referenced a comprehensive National Health Survey that estimates the prevalence of obesity and the change of prevalence of obesity between 2004-2007 and 2008-2011 by occupation among U.S. workers.

The Minnesota Health Action Group has also added Cornerstones4Care to its website. This FREE personalized diabetes education and engagement tool, developed by Novo Nordisk, “meets patients where they are,” enabling them to better manage their health.

Thought for the Week

“More die in the United States from too much food than of too little.”

John Kenneth Galbraith