Wednesday, October 23, 2019

In Brief: You vs. Flu

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending all Americans older than six months be vaccinated against the flu. Although last year's flu season was relatively mild, the CDC warns that Americans should not be complacent about the flu. It recommends that people be vaccinated in October, before the flu season kicks into full gear. During the 2011-12 flu season, 128 million Americans (or 42 percent) received a flu shot.

A recent federal action may signal an uptick in HIPAA enforcement, according to the law firm Spencer Fane Britt & Browne LLP. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently settled a case with the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Associates, Inc. (collectively MEEI), in which MEEI agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle possible HIPAA Security violations. Recently, HHS has operated in "compliant-driven" mode regarding HIPAA, Spencer Fane notes, but this recent case suggests a stricter HIPAA enforcement may be on the horizon.

The new summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) rules took effect on Sept. 23 for plans that start on or after that day. The rules call for a "standardized written description of health insurance policies and coverage so that participants and consumers can better understand their coverage and compare it with other health insurance options on the market," according to SmartHR Manager.

The cost of employer-sponsored health care increased at a rate of 4.6 percent in 2011, the slowest rate in five years, according to Truven Health Analytics. The study predicts that costs will grow at a moderate rate of 4 percent to 5 percent in 2012 and 2013.

The IRS is, for the second time, delaying for at least a year the effective date of new rules regarding cash balance pension plans. The proposed rules allow plan sponsors to use a "market rate" to credit interest to participants' accounts.


New research suggests that online tools can improve the outcome of a weight-loss campaign. A study by Brown University researchers found that Internet-based weight-loss sessions improved outcomes and helped participants keep the weight off afterward.

More employers are turning to electronic delivery of health plan communications, according to a HighRoads report. Eight of 10 polled employers said they used some form of electronic distribution, with websites being the most popular. Thirty-seven percent said they planned to distribute future summary plan descriptions electronically.

A new survey finds that total fees for defined contribution (DC) retirement plans dropped in 2011 compared with 2009. The Investment Company Institute and Deloitte Consulting LLP found that the median plan fee (including administrative, recordkeeping and investment fees) was 0.78 percent, or about $248 per participant.

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