Soda Tax Moves Ahead

In a prior newsletter, we reported on the City of Philadelphia’s intentions to tax sugary and sweetened drinks. While the beverage industry and retailers sued saying the tax is unconstitutional, a judge recently dismissed the legal effort, clearing the way for the 15 cent per ounce tax to take effect January 1, 2017.

While Philadelphia will become the first major U.S. city to pass such a tax, several other governmental entities, including the City of San Francisco and Cook County, Illinois, are taking similar action. In Cook County, which includes the City of Chicago, the tax will go into effect on July 1, 2017 and will add 68 cents to the cost of a 2-liter bottle of soda and a penny per ounce to all sugary fountain drinks.

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Overtime Rules Tough on Small Business

overtimeNew rules mandated by the Department of Labor could affect many small businesses, driving up labor costs and creating more red tape. These rules, effective on December 1, 2016, raise the salary threshold for eligible workers from $23,660 to $47,476 and to $134,004 for highly compensated employees. This means that salaried workers earning less than $47,476 will now be eligible for time-and-a-half for every hour they work beyond 40 hours per week. While the rules were intended to help millions of workers, they assume that every business will absorb the increased costs and pay overtime, rather than limiting hours for salaried employees.

Research by the National Federation of Independent Business shows that nearly half of all small businesses will be affected by the mandate. NFIB foresees a slowdown in productivity if salaried employees are forbidden from exceeding 40 hours per week. Another concern is that some employees may be converted from salaried to hourly, effectively receiving a demotion.

The rules also include a mechanism to automatically update the salary and compensation levels every three years in order to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

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Zika Virus and Summer Travel

zikaVSummer is upon us and with it comes more outdoor activities, more sunscreen and, for some, more travel. What you may not expect summer to bring is the risk of the Zika virus. But, U.S. health officials warn that mosquitos carrying the virus could hit the mainland’s southern borders, starting with Florida and the Gulf Coast, in a few weeks.

Whether you’re traveling this summer or you’re staying put, the CDC says the best way to reduce your risk is to avoid bug bites by using repellent and covering your skin. If possible while traveling, choose hotels with screens or air-conditioning. While using both sunscreen and repellent, apply the sunscreen first, let it dry and then apply the repellent. However, you do not want to use products that contain both sunscreen and repellent and you should not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.

Pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, are most at risk for the virus and should take every possible precaution and are advised to avoid affected areas. A current list of countries where Zika is active can be found on the CDC’s main site – http://www.cdc.gov.

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Game Show Education

quizzifyHealthcare education is rarely all fun and games, but a new approach might be succeeding at making it just that! They’re being called online education programs – offered to employees as both mobile and online applications.

One popular program called “Quizzify” promises to save money, boost morale, improve health and engage employees by making learning about medical care fun and interesting. And, it promises to do this all without requiring any medical data from participants. Using a game-show contest format, the program asks participants to click through questions as they compete with co-workers for prizes. Not only do people get the chance to receive wellness information, but they also learn about taking care of themselves and even avoiding costly treatment when it may not be needed at all.

And, while this particular service is not free, it may offer a fun, refreshing approach to traditional wellness communication.

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Drugs Drive Rising Costs

medicalWhile all treatment costs have risen consistently in the past 2 decades, the pharmaceutical sector has put up some amazing numbers. In 2011 alone, Americans spent an average of $985 per person, approximately twice the amount spent in other developed countries for the same benefit. In 2015, aggregate prescription drug sales in the U.S. totaled $374 billion – $190 billion more than other industrialized countries would have spent for a similar population.

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Corporate Fitness & Health Offers Summer Screening Special – Call Today!

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For a limited time only, Corporate Fitness & Health (CF&H) is offering discounted onsite health screenings! Schedule your screening for anytime from now until August 31, 2016 and receive 20% off per person.

965aab05-0823-4c6a-b9a6-b8f590b2351dScreening Includes:

  • A Non-Fasting Finger Stick Test which includes:
    • Total Cholesterol
    • HDL
    • Cholesterol Risk Ratio
    • Glucose
  • Blood Pressure Check
  • Height
  • Weight
  • BMI
  • Body Fat Percentage
  • Estimated Level of Hydration

Contact Corporate Fitness & Health today for more information via email at info@cfandh.com or call toll-free (800) 423-5591.

To be eligible for this discounted rate, you must be a first time Corporate Fitness & Health client and schedule your onsite health screening for the months of July or August 2016.  Travel costs may apply for locations outside of Connecticut.

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Taking Care of Your Medical Records

medicalrecordsWhile many of us are content to leave our medical records in the hands of our doctors, some patient advocates advise otherwise, saying that this gives doctors too much power over vital information and prevents you from using the information to your own benefit.

Serving as your own data warehouse can make it easier to seek a second opinion or shop for less expensive medical treatment. It can also help you avoid a medical error that may occur when a doctor lacks the information they need.

By All Means, Think Before You Act

Even though many incentive-driven providers are supporting the move to electronic medical records, not everyone agrees that caring for your own medical information is wise. Confusion and worry are valid concerns and of course, your current medical condition must be considered. When people are too sick, too busy or too nervous to monitor their health condition, taking charge of the information is seldom in the patient’s best interests.

From the Medicare Blue Button® to fitness tracking devices, there are many ways to obtain certain medical information. Regardless of how you obtain or organize your health data, experts agree that the most important step is protecting it. Data loaded into a personal health record or other commercial application is no longer protected by HIPAA and some fitness-related apps are free because they make data available to marketers.

While there are many good reasons to take control of personal medical records and many new ways to organize and share the data as needed, it is a step that should not be taken lightly or without appropriate care and communication. Talking to doctors and other health care providers and most important, loved ones, is the all-important first step.

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