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OBAMACARE ENROLLEES ARE MORE CHRONICALLY-ILL THAN AVERAGE
By: Nicola Heredia, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Since the insurance enrollment deadline passed last month, the White House reports that 7.1 million Americans have signed up for insurance plans offered through the exchanges. The last minute surge in enrollment allowed the administration to reach their initial target of participants.

Early breakdowns of the ACA enrollees demonstrate that this group is more likely to utilize expensive drugs. This suggests there is a large population of chronically–ill people among the exchange insurance plans. Early demographics released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in March showed more than 70 percent of enrollees were over the age of 35.  

“The hypothesis was that sicker and older people would be the first in line to get covered,” said Julie Huppert, Express Scripts vice president of healthcare reform, in a Fox Business article. “Those with chronic and complex conditions would want coverage, so we aren’t surprised that the early enrollment demo skewed older.”

The exchange insurance plans have only been active for a short time, and already prescription costs are on the rise. A report released by Express Scripts examined the prescriptions used through the exchange plans versus commercial health plans.

The study found that out of every 1,000 prescriptions ordered, more than six were for a medication used to treat HIV. Express Scripts reports that this number of prescriptions is close to four times the number reported by commercial plans. Additionally, there was in increase in pain, seizure and antidepressant medication within the federal and state sponsored insurances.

Exchange insurance plans are not the only ones seeing an increase in medication expenses. MMM-Online reports that claims among Medicaid patients are also on the rise. In January prescription claims increased by 10 percent and February went up to 14 percent higher than reported in 2013.

“Even with Medicaid expansion less than three months old, we’re starting to see notable increases in Medicaid prescription claims,” said Don Otterbein, executive at Symphony Health Services, in the MMM-Online article. “We expect this trend to continue and – most likely – to increase as newly enrolled Medicaid patients seek healthcare services.”

Experts speculate that the rise in costs related to medication could be due to more individuals enrolling in insurance plans or Medicaid. However, critics are concerned that people will quickly reach their out-of-pocket limits, forcing Obamacare to pick up the costly, financial burden of these medications and illnesses.

Additionally concerning is preliminary reports demonstrating that a large majority of the exchange enrollees have chronic illnesses that are expensive to treat in the long-term. The goal was to attract a younger, healthy demographic to the exchange to help offset these costs.

“It’s important that you hook the two together – young and healthy,” said Huppert. “But you will have some young people with chronic conditions. But way of generality, you see the assumption is always made that if you are young, you are healthy.”

Attracting this category of individuals is essential to off-set large medical bills, which can be attributed to costly, specialty drugs. While the enrollment numbers seemed to be a positive win for the Obama administration, it does not appear from early reports that they have the diversity necessary to keep monthly costs down.

INCORPORATING LAUGHTER AT WORK REDUCES STRESS, INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY

By: Nicola Heredia, CHS Marketing Coordinator

Managers and other employees in leadership positions are responsible for creating an environment that will allow employees to reach their maximum capabilities. New evidence suggests that incorporating humor into the workplace can have positive effects on employees and their productivity levels.

Traditionally, companies nationwide have spent years investing and developing wellness programs in an effort to create a healthier, more productive workforce. Many of the elements that go into these programs attempt to reduce stress and encourage more positive behavior among employees.

Often, wellness programs will focus on the specific health of each individual employee. Recent studies have demonstrated that targeting the atmosphere and mood throughout the workplace can have valuable results.

“Humor is evidenced to have a therapeutic value,” said Dr. Lee Berk, an associate professor at Loma Linda University California and lead researcher in various studies.

One particular experiment returned valuable evidence suggesting that laughing can actually improve short-term memory, among other benefits. A group of 20 older adults participated in the study. Some were shown a 20-minute, funny video, while others were shown nothing.

Saliva samples were tested to determine if there were levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Participants that watched the video and laughed had lower levels of the hormone then individuals who waited calmly without watching the video.

“Laughing with friends or even watching 20 minutes of humor on TV, as I do daily, helps me cope with my daily stressors,” said Dr. Gurinder Bains, Ph.D. co-author of the study. “Begin by laughing more daily, it will improve the quality of your life.”

According to an article published in Helping Small Businesses, there is an increasing number of companies that are beginning to incorporate this mentality into their office culture.

Google, for example, allows their employees to rock climb or play beach volleyball on company time. Other businesses have break rooms with pool tables to allow their staff to mentally take a breather so they can come back to their desk feeling refreshed. 

“There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, which is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation,” said Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute of Play in the article.

Entrepreneur.com highlights six specific ways that company executives can begin to foster this type of corporate culture.  Here is a summary of their tips for integrating humor into the workplace.

  • Be the Driving Force: Incorporate humor into professional relationships to lead by example.
  • Laughter is an Ice Breaker: Making a joke can help when dealing with stressful conflicts at work.
  • Happiness is Key: Job satisfaction is important to avoid turnover and employees lack of motivation.
  • Be Positive: Avoid complaining about situations by being optimistic and positively reinforcing staff.
  • Acknowledge Success: Find unique ways to commend employees.
  • Eliminate Internal Politics: Create more of a team feeling among employees instead of feeding into corporate politics.

Wellness programs often focus on individual health, but attention must be paid to corporate culture in order to maintain a positive workplace that encourages the employees to do their best. In order to motivate staff, it is vital to make the office a place individuals enjoy coming to everyday.

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