person inputting numbers into calculator for tax season

Reminder: Individual Mandate Remains in Effect for 2018

Requirement is Effectively Repealed Beginning in 2019

Individuals are reminded that the section of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act which effectively repealed the individual shared responsibility provision (“individual mandate”) of the Affordable Care Act does not become effective until 2019. As a result, individuals are required to have minimum essential health coverage, qualify for an exemption from the requirement, or pay a penalty tax for 2018.

Our Individual Mandate (Individual Shared Responsibility) section provides additional information on the individual mandate.

person holding cup cup with tea and lemon in it above desk in office for vitamin c benefits

Brochures and Posters Promoting Health in the Workplace

Health and safety reminders posted in the workplace can help to inform your employees about important wellness topics and keep them on track with safety and nutrition. Be sure to rotate or switch out the posters you display on a regular basis to keep things fresh and encourage your employees to stay motivated and make healthy choices.

Employee Safety

Employee Nutrition and Health

Nutrition

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

Exercise and Physical Activity

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

Climb These Steps to a Healthier You!

The World Around You: Use What You Have to Stay Healthy and Fit

Tips to Help You Get Active

Walking . . . A Step in the Right Direction!

Managing Stress

Managing Stress Handouts

Source: North Carolina HealthSmart Worksite Wellness Toolkit

woman leaving the office walking down stairs for extra steps and exercise

StairWELL to Better Health

Taking the stairs is one way to be more physically active. At work, employees are often presented with a choice between taking the stairs and taking an elevator or escalator. Choosing the stairs instead of the elevator is a quick way for people to add physical activity to their day.

Using the stairs requires little additional time, no wardrobe change, and few additional costs because building codes require stairs. If your building has a staircase, why not start using it now?

This section will provide the information you need to transform your stairs into StairWELLs for better health from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The following topics are addressed in this section:

  • Motivational Signs
  • Installing Music
  • Other Ideas to Consider
  • Tracking Stair Usage
  • Project Checklist
man switching from work shoes, to workout shoes to stay healthy

Discount Fitness Club Network

This toolkit provides guidance on identifying and establishing a relationship with a nationwide Discount Fitness Club Network (DFCN) for employees of multi-site organizations. It is based on Healthier Worksite Initiative’s experience with implementing such a service, as a strategy to increase employee access to fitness centers at all CDC locations.

Health Challenge

The Guide to Community Preventive Services recommends increasing access to places to be physically active (combined with informational outreach) as a way to increase the public’s level of physical activity. Increasing access to places to be physically active at work can be accomplished in numerous ways, including making stairways inviting to encourage stair use, opening safe walking and biking trails, and improving community and worksite walkability.

Many worksites provide fitness centers for employees, but not all are able to offer sufficient facilities. In addition, not all employees choose to exercise at work; some prefer a fitness club closer to home.

Toolkit Components

The principles of program development in this toolkit hold true for private sector as well as public employers. The toolkit describes the following project phases:

  • Assessing Need and Interest
  • Promoting Your Project
  • Implementing Your Discount Fitness Club Network
  • Maintaining Interest
  • Evaluating Success
woman in work parking lot in a coat and scarf smoking a cigarette

Implementing a Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative in Your Workplace

This toolkit provides guidance for implementing a tobacco-free campus (TFC) initiative that includes a policy and comprehensive cessation services for employees. It is based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) experience with implementing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tobacco-Free HHS initiative.

Health Challenge

Worldwide, tobacco use results in nearly 5 million deaths per year. If current trends continue, it is predicted that tobacco use will cause more than 10 million deaths annually by the year 2020. Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the United States and is responsible for an estimated 438,000 deaths per year, or about one out of every five deaths.

Policies establishing smoke-free environments are the most effective way to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke. Evidence has shown that smoke-free policies in enclosed workplace settings are associated with reduced daily cigarette consumption among employees and possibly with increased cessation among employees.

The benefits of smoke- or tobacco-free campus policies that also apply to outdoor workplace settings have been much less thoroughly researched, probably because these policies are a relatively new development. One recent study found that the implementation of a smoke-free campus policy in an office workplace that already had a smoke-free policy for indoor settings was associated with an increase in quit rates and a reduction in daily cigarette consumption among continuing smokers.

Unlike smoke-free indoor policies, tobacco-free campus policies are not solely designed to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Rather, tobacco-free campus policies are also intended to encourage employees to improve their health by quitting the use of tobacco products. Tobacco-free campuses create work environments in which tobacco users find it easier to reduce their consumption or quit altogether.

Establishing a tobacco-free campus provides employers with an opportunity to communicate a consistent pro-health message, project a positive image, and reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs. Providing cessation benefits (coverage for counseling and medications) in conjunction with the policy supports the quitting process.

Toolkit Components

This toolkit describes how others in workplaces can plan and implement a tobacco-free campus policy and evaluate its success. The toolkit describes the following project phases:

  • Assessing Need and Interest
  • Planning
  • Promotion
  • Implementation
  • Evaluating Success
open enrollment 2018 member benefits graphic

Reminder: Individual Marketplace Enrollment Deadlines Approaching

Enrollment Deadline in Most States is Dec. 15

Individuals are reminded that the deadlines to enroll in health insurance coverage through HealthCare.gov or a state Marketplace are quickly approaching. To obtain coverage that will begin January 1, 2018, individuals in the states below must sign up for coverage by the following dates:

  • Connecticut: December 22
  • Massachusetts: December 23
  • Minnesota: December 20
  • Rhode Island: December 23
  • All Other States: December 15

Note: Some states may still be able to extend their 2018 open enrollment deadlines. In addition, certain states may provide extended deadlines for returning customers. Individuals are therefore advised to consult their state’s Marketplace for the latest updates.

Visit our Health Insurance Exchanges (Marketplaces) section for more information on the Marketplaces.

person resting from flu under blankets

Flu and Your Workplace

Flu can be a big disruption for business. Employees who are sick may need to take time off to recover and may not be as productive when it comes to getting work done. In addition, symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, and fever can spread germs to healthy employees.

The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering a cough and frequent hand washing can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.

Tips for Fighting Flu

Everyday preventive actions that can help prevent flu and the spread of germs in the workplace include:

  1. Cover Your Mouth and Nose

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing, or talking of someone with the flu.

  1. Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose, or Mouth

Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Routinely clean frequently touched objects and surfaces, including doorknobs, keyboards, and phones, to help remove germs.

  1. Clean Your Hands

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Make sure your workplace has an adequate supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes.

  1. Stay Home When Sick

Employees should be encouraged to stay home from work when they are sick to help prevent others from getting ill. If there is only one employee who performs a particular task, consider training others so that coverage is available should that employee need to leave work early or stay home due to illness.

  1. Practice Good Health Habits

Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Resources and Printable Materials for Promoting Good Health Habits

To help businesses, employers, and their employees learn about strategies for preventing flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the following toolkit, flyers, posters, and other materials:

This podcast provides information about recommended strategies to help businesses and employers promote the 2012–2013 seasonal flu vaccine.

Learn what two strategies are recommended to businesses and employers this flu season.

Host a flu vaccine clinic in the workplace and use this flyer–complete with fillable text boxes so you can add the location, date, and time of your flu vaccine clinic.

Encourage employees to get vaccinated at locations in the community. Navigate to the Flu Vaccine Finder website to find locations offering flu vaccine and then update the flyer and post.

Share this flyer with employees to encourage flu vaccination. Consider posting this in the workplace, or copy and place in mailboxes or include in pay statements or newsletters.

Use this flyer with other workplace managers to kick off discussions about flu vaccination planning.

Promote flu vaccination using web technology:

Post on business windows and restroom mirrors.

man sitting at desk stressed reading papers

Job Conditions That May Lead to Stress

The following conditions have been listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which may cause stress at the workplace.

The Design of Tasks

  • Heavy workload;
  • Infrequent rest breaks;
  • long work hours and shift-work; and
  • Hectic and routine tasks that have little inherent meaning, do not utilize workers’ skills, and provide little sense of control.

Management Style

  • Lack of participation by workers in decision- making;
  • Poor communication in the organization; and
  • Lack of family-friendly policies.

Interpersonal Relationships

  • Poor social environment and lack of support or help from coworkers and supervisors.

Work Roles

  • Conflicting or uncertain job expectations;
  • Too much responsibility; and
  • Too many “hats to wear.”

Career Concerns

  • Job insecurity and lack of opportunity for growth, advancement, or promotion; and
  • Rapid changes for which workers are unprepared.

Environmental Conditions

  • Unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions, such as crowding, noise, air pollution, or ergonomic problems.
A close up of a packet of birth control pills

Federal Agencies Relax Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

New Rules Expand Exemptions Based on Religious and Moral Objections

Effective as of October 6, 2017, two companion interim final rules issued by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor expand exemptions related to the Affordable Care Act requirement that non-grandfathered group health plans provide coverage without cost-sharing for contraceptive services (referred to as the “contraceptive mandate”). Previously, the contraceptive mandate was subject to exemptions for religious employers and accommodations for certain other non-profit religious organizations and closely held for-profit entities with sincerely held religious beliefs against certain contraceptives.

Expanded Exemptions

The new rules exempt entities that object to establishing, maintaining, providing, offering, or arranging (as applicable) coverage, payments, or a plan that provides coverage or payments for some or all contraceptive services based on their sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions. For this purpose, the term “contraceptive services” includes contraceptive or sterilization items, procedures, or services, or related patient education or counseling.

  • Religious Exemption. This exemption applies to non-governmental plan sponsors—including non-profit organizations and for-profit entities (whether or not they are closely held or publicly traded)—that object based on sincerely held religious beliefs.
  • Moral Exemption. This exemption includes the plans of plan sponsors that are non-profit entities, as well as for-profit entities that have no publicly traded ownership interests (as defined under the law).

Disclosure Requirements

Exempt entities will not be required to comply with a self-certification process. However, where an exemption applies and all or a subset of contraceptive services are omitted from a plan’s coverage, otherwise applicable ERISA disclosures must reflect the omission of coverage in ERISA plans.

For more information on the interim final rules, please click here.

rain drops on glass

Marketplace Special Enrollment Period Announced for Hurricane-Impacted Individuals

Special Enrollment Periods Available for 2017 Marketplace Coverage

As a result of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will make available special enrollment periods for certain individuals seeking health plans offered through the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace (Exchange). In general, these special enrollment periods are available to residents of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas.

Special Enrollment Period Details

The special enrollment periods created by CMS will allow individuals impacted by the storms to select a new 2017 Marketplace plan or make changes to their existing 2017 plan at any time through December 31, 2017. Specifically, there will be special enrollment periods for individuals who:

  • Experienced a special enrollment period qualifying event between 60 days prior to the start date of the incident designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and December 31, 2017, but were unable to complete the application, plan selection, and enrollment process due to a hurricane-related weather event in 2017; or
  • Reside in or move from areas affected by a hurricane in 2017.

These special enrollment opportunities are in addition to the annual open enrollment period this fall and any other enrollment period for which the individual may be eligible.

Additional details on these special enrollment periods can be found here.

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