When I received my Open Enrollment booklet that year there was a big change. There were new medical plans, actually high deductible plans. At first I ignored them until I noticed the monthly employee deductions. It was going to cost me triple to stay in my low cost, copay for my services, plan. The high deductible option required a lower monthly pay deduction however, I was going to be on the hook for the first $2,000 of my medical services.
That was years ago when my company moved 75% of its employees out of our comfortable 100% paid HMO plan to a consumer directed health plan option. As an account executive, what a great story I was able to tell to potential corporate clients who were interested in those plans for their own employees. They could save lots of money, still provide coverage to their employees and finally find a way to engage their employees in their own health.
Despite all the studies that indicate improved health outcomes, worse health outcomes, or lower employer costs, there still is no “right” answer when it comes to how employees will react to being “pushed” to a consumer directed (high deductible) health plan. Although our organizations seek to foster a congruent culture, within it we have many types of employees each requiring a path to changing and adopting corporate strategies.
Not providing that path to change leaves us with unhappy and stressed employees and is completely counter to our desire for healthier employees.
The types of employees that I’ve encountered throughout the years include:
Missed the Communication – This employee somehow did not pay enough attention when making their selections and enrolled in a high deductible plan. Later in the plan year, they get an unexpected bill from their doctor and simply can’t understand what happened. They call the Benefits Call Center immediately to complain and broadly share with their co-workers how “crappy” the company benefits plan have become.
Unprepared – This employee understood what they signed up for and made the decision because they needed a small monthly employer deduction. Now that they’ve had medical services, they are in a payment plan with their medical group that will last a year. They are feeling the additional cost of their medical plan and don’t know how to seek lower cost services such as alternative labs and mail-order drugs. Financial stress is an added burden for this employee.
Uninformed – An example here would be Lois. Lois owned 10+ properties and was a wiz at financially managing millions of dollars in the real estate world. When it came to her benefits, she was paralyzed. She would pay a considerably higher monthly deduction just so she could continue paying a $25 copay when she went to the doctor. Lois understood nothing about how deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums or preventive care services work. Lois also would not think highly of her benefits and be angry about the costs.
Engaged – Yes, this employee can predict their health costs, determine the best plan, understand the out-of-pockets and deductibles, identifies the risks and generally makes the best decision for themselves. This employee “has it together” and is not distracted by the plan options. It’s what we all hoped all our employees would understand from the many communication and tools provided.
Obviously the engaged employees are less distracted and stressed and more capable of focusing on personal and corporate initiatives.
Before we finish up our open enrollments and completely wind down for the holidays, consider planning how we can support Missed the Communication, Unprepared, and Uninformed in the new year. Depending on the significance of the changes to your plans this open enrollment, ongoing outreach and attention may be the difference between anyone paying attention to upcoming company initiatives including your wellness programs.
Designing workout programs can always lead to better outcomes when we pause and look around us and look at ourselves. I was running errands today and passed by a local gym. The parking lot was full and people were in their exercise clothes heading into the gym to get a workout. This made me reflect on times that I’ve joined a new gym.
Joining a gym brings this wonderful feeling of hope…
- I’m going to lose that extra 15-20 pounds.
- My arms won’t be flabby anymore.
- I’ll look awesome in that dress.
- I’m finally getting my blood sugar balanced.
- I’ll look good, people will notice and say “Did you lose some weight?”
And at the same time, we can also tell ourselves a lot of stories…
- I’m going to the gym 5 days a week, immediately following work.
- 1 hour on the treadmill every day will do it!
- And salads everyday for lunch and dinner to support my exercise.
The thing I find most interesting is the difference between the hopeful feeling we have before we join the gym and then what happens after we join the gym. We can be so inspired when we first sign up that we lose sight of how we’re going to make any of these things happen. Before we know it, it has been 6 months and we notice the monthly charge on our credit card statement, reminding us how often we DON’T go to the gym.
I’ve had this happen to me many a time. Sometimes I get real energized and decide that I’m going to try it again. Make some new pledges to myself and this time, make it happen. There have also been the times I simply got sick of wasting my money and decided to find another solution.
Those I know who are successful, have a plan that is customized for them.
Here are some examples:
Cheryl loves salsa dancing. She found a dance class with an energizing instructor. Now she moves around everything on her schedule to make sure she can attend.
Daria significantly increased her amount of walking by walking to her errands. She walks to the grocery store and to get her morning coffee. She regularly gets 8,000 to 10,000 steps every day.
Teresa hired a nutritional consultant to help her enjoy her food choices while losing 15 pounds. She also has gotten her family to eat more vegetables which makes her feel good about how her children are eating.
The common thread is
Do things you like
Do things that you know will get the result you want
Do things that are sustainable
Does our programs give our users the flexibility they need to be successful?
“After all, it’s healthy right?”
A common response to dark chocolate. It’s usually followed by a short laugh because most people have heard about chocolate being healthy however few know the details. Nutrition is a challenging area within the employer ecosystem.
Though we joke about dark chocolate it actually IS a healthy food.
- What is it about dark chocolate that’s so healthy?
Dark Chocolate contains flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that helps our cells resist damage from everyday exposure from junky foods, pollution, stress, etc. Dark chocolate has also been known to help the heart with lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow to the brain.
- What exactly IS dark chocolate?
Dark Chocolate, unlike milk chocolate, is also known as “bittersweet” or “semisweet” chocolate. It contains a high percentage (> 60%) of cocoa solids, and little or no added sugar. You’ll notice that dark chocolate tends to be rich and intense in flavor.
NEWS ALERT*** You don’t have to rely on dark chocolate to get the benefits of the flavonoids. Other foods containing flavonoids include cranberries, apples, peanuts, onions, tea, many green vegetables and red wine.
CAUTION: NOT ALL DARK CHOCOLATE IS CREATED EQUAL
Most commercial chocolate is highly processed and won’t hold up to the great benefits noted above. If you want healthy, good chocolate, follow these steps:
- Choose Chocolate With High Percentages of Cocoa – 60% cocoa, is the base percentage for dark chocolate. The higher the percentage of cocoa,the darker the chocolate and the greater the health benefits you’ll receive.
- Get a High Quality Chocolate – Your dark chocolate is only as good as the cocoa. Choose chocolate made from “organic” or “fairly traded” cocoa beans.
- Opt For Raw Chocolate When Available – Raw chocolate also known, as raw cocoa, is actually the best. It has been cold pressed to preserve as much antioxidant content as possible.
- Be Thoughtful About Calories – Watch out for extra ingredients that can add extra fat and calories like caramel and marshmallow covered chocolate. Since there is no serving size, enjoy moderate portions such as 1-ounce of chocolate, a few times a week.
On a side note some wines have flavonoids also, but we’ll save that for another conversation. In the meantime eat dark chocolate and be healthy and happy!
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By now we’ve all heard the buzz about Coconut Oil. Is it good for me or is it bad for me?
The primary criticism about coconut oil is that it is a saturated fat. You are likely familiar with the saturated fats in meat and how too much is bad for your heart.
There’s been a lot of new research on coconut oil and despite it being a saturated fat, we are finding that is has some positive health benefits.
- A different type of saturated fat (medium-chain) and tends to metabolize quicker and is harder for us to store.
- Great energy source
- Eliminates disease and lower inflammation.
- High smoke point which means you can cook at higher heats than many other polysaturated or monosaturated oils.
Sounds good, right?! And it is. Just like anything else….variety and moderation is key. Here are 5 ways I use it:
- My oil of choice when I want to add an earthy flavor to my stir-fry.
- A ½ teaspoon in my morning coffee cuts the acidity and provides a nice flavor.
- When baking, I used 1:1 in place of butter to deliver a lower cholesterol and vegan muffin.
- It’s a wonderful moisturizer and it’s natural.
- Add to my bath along with any other oils. Coconut oil is a good skin conditioner and a contributor to a relaxing bath.
Be sure to purchase 100% organic coconut oil. It can get expensive so consider buying in bulk from your healthy food store.
I was in the 20th year of my career. My current job required a 2 hour commute each day. I left my home at 6 a.m. and didn’t return until at least 6 p.m. that evening. That left me only 12 hours each day to have dinner, attend to my family, exercise and sleep. I was absolutely exhausted at the end of my work day, my eating choices became poor, exercise rarely happened, relaxation was non-existent, and issues with my 50 year old body made sleep almost impossible. I pushed on.
Maybe I should eat better and exercise during my work day? So now my lunch hour which previously included working and eating lunch at my desk became running to the gym, rushing through a workout, then eating the same boring salad every day. I ridiculously was trying to cram 30 hours into a 24 hour day. Sound familiar?
Well one day my body just said “NO!” It told me I needed to seriously pay attention to my lifestyle and the unrealistic demands I was requiring of myself. . Our bodies say “NO!” in a variety of ways including:
- Pure Exhaustion
Related to Poor Meal Choices, Too Much Stress, and The Wrong Exercise. When it happened to me, I IMMEDIATELY FELT DEFEATED, OLD, OUT OF SHAPE, and FAT. Yes, many of us take ourselves through this process on a regular basis, but here’s a solution. I’m sharing some simple anchors for longer term change.
1- Make Coffee a PART of Breakfast, NOT all of Your Breakfast
Shannon’s story: Having coffee by itself, first thing in the morning contributed to my hormones being out of whack. Incorporating a healthy breakfast, along with my coffee, increased my energy. Focusing on eating first thing in the morning made me care more about what I ate for the rest of the day.
2- Do Absolutely Nothing for 15 Minutes Each Day
Baxter’s story: I told my family that when I get home, they need to give me time to just relax. And they actually did it! I wouldn’t plan, I wouldn’t read, no email…I just sat and looked out the window and took a breath. It became my 15 minute vacation. I felt relaxed and I’m sure I was more fun to be around. Amazing!
3- Only Do Exercise That Makes You Feel Good
April’s story: I hated going to the gym so I found a dance class. I now go to my dance class 5 days a week – no matter what. No more hardcore workouts. I walk. I enjoy it and my body feels wonderful. The last Saturday of each month, me and a friend check out a workout we never did before. Last month was anti-gravity yoga. This month it’s hula hooping.
I invite you to choose an anchor or create one of your own that makes your body feel GREAT!