What You Need to Know About FMLA

March 4th, 2015

Law signYou may have heard the term Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but do you understand the details of the process and who qualifies? Insurance Administrator of America is here to help you understand FMLA.

What is FMLA and Who is Entitled?

FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Group health insurance coverage continues under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.  Eligible employees are entitled to 12 weeks of leave in a 12 month period for:

  1. The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth.
  2. The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement.
  3. To care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition.
  4. A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
  5. A qualify exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty.”

Only eligible employees are entitled to take FMLA leave. An eligible employee is one who:

  1. Works for a covered employer
  2. Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  3. Has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave
  4. Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles

About 62% of workers qualify to take leave under FMLA.

Who is a Covered Employer?

The FMLA only applies to employers who meet certain criteria. A covered employer is a:

  1. Private sector employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more work weeks in the current or proceeding calendar year.
  2. Public agency including a local, state or federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs. 
  3. Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

If you are qualified as a covered employer, it is important that you have knowledgeable staff or associates working to make sure you follow FMLA rules and regulations.

How IAA can Help

IAA understands the burden and costs associated with trying to handle FMLA administration in-house. Hiring IAA can help:

  • Employers are kept informed and updated on FMLA regulations.
  • FMLA administration is centralized. For companies that have more than one location, this is especially important.
  • FMLA compliance is ensured, thereby reducing the possibility of associated liability and violations with federal law.
  • HR professionals are relived from the FMLA burden and are now able to focus on other important business functions. 
  • IAA can help keep accurate records. IAA has programs that provide secure tracking of all reported leaves and with the ability to generate real-time reports, gives the employer the tools they need to help proactively address absence-related productivity issues.
  • IAA works with employers to ensure employee abuse of FMLA is reduced. If an issue is spotted, IAA will notify the employer.

IAA is here to help! If you are interested in learning more about how IAA can work with you on your FMLA administration, please reach out. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in learning more about how IAA can help you? Click here and here.

The Hidden Sodium in our Snacks

February 25th, 2015

Salt shakerWhen the snow falls and the cold winter weather makes us want to stay indoors, snacks and microwavable meals may seem like the ideal food solution. Unfortunately, snacks, frozen meals and even food at restaurants can be overloaded with sodium which is harmful to your health.

Sodium is Everywhere

The human body needs a small amount of sodium to maintain a balance of fluids, to keep muscles and nerves running smoothly, and to help certain organs work properly.  When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total volume of blood inside. With more blood flowing through, blood pressure increases.  Excess sodium can increase your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease and stroke.

Americans get most of their daily sodium (more than 75%) from processed and restaurant foods. Sodium is already in these foods when you purchase them, which makes it difficult to reduce daily sodium intake on your own. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that everyone age two and up should consume 2,400 milligrams (mg) or less of sodium a day.

Learn to Read the Signs

The Nutrition Facts Label lists the Percent Daily Value (%DV) of sodium in one serving of food. The Percent Daily Value is based on 100% of the recommended amount of sodium (which is less than 2,400 mg per day).

 While the Percent Daily Value is listed for one serving, many packages contain more than one serving. Look at the serving size and see how many servings you are actually consuming. If you eat two servings, you are actually getting twice as much sodium (or double the %DV).  Make sure you understand what the %DV is telling you:

  • 5%DV (120 mg) or less of sodium per serving is low
  • 20% DV (480 mg) or more of sodium is high

Check the front of food packages as well to identify foods that may contain less sodium. You may find these labels:

  • Light in sodium or lightly salted: At least 50% less sodium than the regular product.
  • Low sodium: 140 mg or less of sodium per serving.
  • No salt added or unsalted: No salt is added during processing, but not necessarily sodium free.
  • Reduced sodium: At least 25% less sodium than in the original product.
  • Salt/sodium free: Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving.
  • Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less per serving.

Cut Down on the Sodium

Americans are ingesting too much sodium! Try cutting down your sodium intake:

  • Add flavor without adding sodium: Use herbs and spices to add flavor to your foods.
  • Consider your condiments: Sodium in soy sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, and seasoning packets can add up.
  • Examine your dairy products: Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products.
  • Get fresh when you can: Buy fresh or frozen poultry, pork and lean meat rather than canned, smoked or processed.
  • Prepare your own food when you can: Don’t salt food before or during cooking and limit salt shaker use at the table.
  • Speak up at restaurants: Ask to see the nutrition information in restaurants and choose a lower sodium option.
  • Unsalt your snacks: Choose unsalted snack products that are marked low sodium or no salt added.

One estimate suggests that if Americans moved to an average intake of 1,500 mg a day of sodium it could result in a 25.6% overall decrease in blood pressure and an estimated $26.2 billion in healthcare savings.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to cut down on your sodium! While snacks may taste good, they are not so great for your overall health. When you go down those grocery store aisles, think of IAA reminding you to put down the chips and pick up the fresh vegetables.

Interested in reading more on this issue? Click here.

 

Winter Weather Could be Harmful to Your Feet

February 18th, 2015

BootsWhen damp and cold winter weather conditions set in, people’s feet can be at risk. What may seem like a simple cold and damp foot could turn into something potentially dangerous.

Cold Feet Conditions

Whenever temperatures drop below normal and as wind speed increases, heat can rapidly leave your body. When this happens it leaves your feet at potential risk for a variety of issues:

  • Chilblains: Chilblains are caused by the repeated exposure of skin temperatures just above freezing to as high as 60°F. The cold exposure causes permanent damage to the capillary beds (groups of small blood vessels) in the skin. Symptoms include:
  1. Redness
  2. Itching
  3. Possible blistering
  4. Inflammation
  5. Possible ulceration in severe cases
  • Frostbite: Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. Frostbite can permanently damage body tissues and in severe cases can lead to amputation. Symptoms of frostbite include:
  1. Reduced blood flow to the hands and feet (fingers and toes can freeze)
  2. Numbness
  3. Tingling or stinging
  4. Aching
  5. Bluish, pale or waxy skin
  • Trench foot: Trench foot, also known as immersion foot, is an injury of the feet resulting from prolonged exposure to wet and cold conditions. Trench foot can occur at temperatures as high as 60°F if the feet are constantly wet. Injury occurs because wet feet lose heat 25 times faster than dry feet. Therefore, to prevent heat loss the body constricts blood vessels to shut down circulation in the feet. Skin tissue begins to die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients. Symptoms of trench foot include:
  1. Reddening of the skin
  2. Numbness
  3. Leg cramps
  4. Swelling
  5. Tingling pain
  6. Blisters or ulcers
  7. Bleeding under the skin
  8. Gangrene (the foot may turn dark purple, blue or gray)

It is important to keep your feet covered in the cold. Make sure boots are waterproof and insulated. 

When Cold Feet are not From Cold Weather

Shivering on a chilly day is often an inescapable part of winter, and usually nothing serious. There are times, however, when feeling cold cannot be cured by an extra sweater. Feeling cold can be a sign of ill health or an underlying medical condition:

  • Acrocyanosis: A persistent blueness to the extremities (hands, feet or face). Acrocyanosis is typically symmetrical and is marked by mottled blue or red discoloration of the skin on the fingers and the wrists, the toes and the ankles, and the face.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can lead to feet feeling numb and tingly. It is caused by nerve damage or neuropathy. The result is you may be less able to feel cold or pain and this loss of sensation could lead to skin damage.
  • Raynaud’s disease:  Raynaud’s disease is a common condition that affects blood supply to parts of the body, particularly to the fingers and toes. Raynaud’s is usually triggered by cold weather, anxiety or stress. Blood vessels go into a temporary spasm which blocks the flow of blood. Affected areas turn white, then blue and finally change to red as the blood flow returns.

Your feet may be cold from something that may be going on inside your body, not the weather outside.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you feet to be wrapped up tight! Feet are affected by the weather so it is important to have proper winter boots. Just think of IAA as your third party shoe salesman, reminding you that your feet need protection from the winter cold.

Interested in reading a similar blog post? Click here.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week: February 22nd-28th

February 11th, 2015

Eating Disorder SymbolEating disorders are a group of serious conditions in which a person is so preoccupied with food and weight that they can often focus on little else.

Types of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can cause serious physical problems and at their most severe, can even be life-threatening. The different types of eating disorders are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa: A person with anorexia may have an intense fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. Someone with anorexia may practice unhealthy behaviors such as restricting calories, only eating specific foods or skipping meals frequently.
  • Binge Eating Disorder: This disorder involves eating very large amounts of food rapidly (to the point of feeling sick or uncomfortable). These episodes of binging occur frequently. When binge eating, a person feels like they cannot stop eating or control how much is eaten.
  • Bulimia Nervosa: Someone with bulimia may eat large amounts of food in a short period of time (binge) and then eliminate the food and calories (purge).
  • Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED): OSFED is a feeding or eating disorder that causes significant distress or impairment, but does not meet the criteria for another feeding or eating disorder.

The exact cause of eating disorders is unknown. Possible causes of eating disorders include:

  • Biology: There may be genes that make certain people more vulnerable to developing eating disorders. People with first degree relatives (siblings or parents) with an eating disorder may be more likely to develop an eating disorder too, suggesting a possible genetic link.
  • Psychological and emotional health: People with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships.
  •   Society: Our culture often cultivates and reinforces a desire for thinness. Success and worth are often equated with being thin in popular culture.

It is estimated that eating disorders affect over 30 million people in the United States.

Signs and Symptoms

Eating disorder signs and symptoms may vary with the particular type of eating disorder.

  • Anorexia Nervosa:
  1. Refusal to eat and denial of hunger
  2. An intense fear of gaining weight
  3. A negative distorted body image
  4. Excessive exercise
  5. Flat mood or lack of emotion
  6. Fear of eating in public
  7. Preoccupation with food
  8. Social withdrawal
  9. Thin appearance
  10. Trouble sleeping
  11. Soft downy hair present on the body
  12. Constipation
  13. Abdominal pain
  14. Dry skin
  15. Frequently being cold
  16. Irregular heart rhythms
  17. Low blood pressure
  18. Dehydration
  • Binge Eating Disorder:
  1. Eating to the point of discomfort or pain
  2. Eating more food during a binge episode than during a normal meal or snack
  3. Eating faster during a binge episode
  4. Feeling that your eating behavior is out of control
  5. Frequently eating alone
  6. Feeling depressed, disgusted or upset over the amount eaten  
  • Bulimia Nervosa:
  1. Eating until the point of discomfort or pain, often with high fat or sweet foods
  2. Self-induced vomiting
  3. Laxative use
  4. Excessive exercise
  5. An unhealthy focus on body shape and weight
  6. Going to the bathroom after eating or during meals
  7. A feeling that you can’t control your eating behavior
  8. Abnormal bowel functioning
  9. Damaged teeth and gums
  10. Swollen salivary glands in the cheeks
  11. Dehydration
  12. Irregular heartbeat
  13. Sores, scars or calluses on the knuckles or hands
  14. Consistent dieting or fasting

Treatments for eating disorders usually involve:

  • Family counseling
  • Hospitalization
  • Medication
  • Nutrition education
  • Psychotherapy

Research shows that 35% of “normal dieters” progress to pathological dieting and of those, 20-25% continue on to develop partial or full-syndrome eating disorders.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants you to support Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Send this blog post out to colleagues, family and friends. You never know who it could help! IAA wants everyone to lead a healthy life and sometimes the first step is learning how to properly take care of your body.

Like this blog post? Let IAA know by going to our Facebook page and clicking the Like button!

 

IAA Helps Lower Prescription Costs With a Discount Card

February 4th, 2015

Prescription bottleInsurance Administrator of America wants you to be in the loop about value added products.  IAA has teamed up with the National Prescription Savings Network to offer the IAA NPSN Rx Savings Card. This card is available to anyone, even if you are not enrolled in a public or private healthcare plan.

How the Card can Help

The IAA NPSN Rx Savings Card can be a helpful tool for brokers, employers and employees. Some benefits of this card are:

  • Accepted almost everywhere: More than 50,000 participate throughout the country. This includes nearly every major pharmacy chain as well as thousands of independent ones. 
  • Affordable: The card is designed to help people afford their prescription costs. The discount provides card carriers with relief from the already high and continually rising cost of prescription medications.
  • Free and available to everyone via the IAA website
  • Lowest prices: Discounts range up to 75% off the retail price, but the average discount is nearly 50%.
  • Medications: All medications are eligible for discounts. This includes over- the- counter medications as well as diabetes supplies.  The card covers every FDA approved prescription medication. 
  • No restrictions: No paper enrollment forms, no fees, no eligibility required, no age or income requirements, no waiting period, no exclusions, and no limits.

Over 7.5 million participants have saved over $750 million to date on their prescription medications.

Who can Benefit From This Card?

Not sure if this card is right for you or your broker client? Does your situation fit into one of the following categories?

  • Covered by a High Deductible Plan that doesn’t offer  discounts until your deductible is satisfied
  • Medicare “donut hole”
  • Purchasing prescriptions not covered by your insurer’s formulary
  • Uninsured
  • Under insured

If you are a broker who has a client with employees that fit into these categories, this savings card could help the life of their business. Healthy employees equates to a healthy business. 

How IAA can Help

When it comes to prescription benefits, IAA is there for you! To enroll for a free card, simply fill out the online form and one will be sent to you. Once you have received your card, you can use it at any participating pharmacy. One out of three Americans lack adequate prescription coverage, this card can help. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more about how IAA can help you? Click here and here.