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Weis Markets launches sixth annual Fight Hunger Program

BY Michael Johnsen

SUNBURY, Pa. — Weis Markets on Wednesday announced that it will launch its sixth annual Fight Hunger Program to run throughout Hunger Action Month this September. The program works to provide food and monetary donations to local food banks and emergency food providers in Weis’ 165-store service area.

“Each September, we ask our customers to consider donating to local food banks in all of the markets we serve,” stated Kurt Schertle, EVP sales and merchandising for Weis Markets. “Food insecurity is a growing challenge in our country, and we are committed to helping our food bank partners meet this rising demand. We are grateful to our customers for their continued support.”

Customers are able to donate shelf-stable items, as well as purchase $3, $5 and $10 vouchers during the checkout process. All of the proceeds will be donated to area food banks in the form of gift card donations to help fill gaps in food supplies. Weis also offers convenient, pre-filled Fight Hunger donation boxes containing pasta, sauce, fruit, vegetables, tuna, cereal and soup — all for less than $10.

 

 

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Study uncovers new groups at risk of influenza complications — new moms and obese people

BY Michael Johnsen

HAMILTON, Ontario — New mothers and obese people, two groups not typically regarded as risk groups, were found to have a higher risk of death and other severe outcomes from influenza, according to a global study sponsored by the World Health Organization that was released Tuesday.

“Policy makers and public health organizations need to recognize the poor quality of evidence that has previously supported decisions on who receives vaccines during an epidemic,” stated Dominik Mertz, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine of McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. “If we can define the risk groups we can optimally allocat[e] vaccines, and that is particularly important when and if there is vaccine shortage, say during a new pandemic.”

“These data reinforce the need to carefully define those conditions that lead to complications following infection with influenza,” added Mark Loeb, senior author on the paper. He also is a microbiologist and professor of medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine.

But, in contrast to current assumption, such ethnic minorities as American aboriginal people and pregnant women were not found to have more complicated influenza and would not need priority vaccination.

The report is published online in the BMJ, the journal of the British Medical Association.

The researchers reviewed 239 observational studies between 1918 and 2011, looking at risk factors for complications of influenza including developing pneumonia or needing ventilator support, admission to hospital or its intensive care unit, or dying.

 

 

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Employer survey: Cost of providing healthcare coverage expected to increase by 7% in 2014

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The cost of providing employee healthcare benefits at the nation’s largest employers is projected to increase 7% in 2014 — the third-consecutive year employers have budgeted this amount, according to a new survey by the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit association of more than 265 large U.S. employers. The survey also found that some employers believe health insurance exchanges could be a viable option for certain populations. Additionally, more companies plan to offer workers a consumer-directed health plan as their only health benefits option in 2014.

"Rising healthcare costs remain a serious concern for U.S. employers," said Helen Daring, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. "Employers spent considerable time and energy this year designing health plans that comply with the various provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that would have become effective next year," stated Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group. "And while the decision to delay provisions related to the employer mandate has provided respite from some of these requirements, the pressure remains on employers to lower costs. Interestingly, many respondents indicated that a portion of their budgeted costs for 2014 was to implement changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act. With the delay, it is unclear how employer costs will be affected."

Employers who were surveyed expressed an interest in healthcare offering designs that readily engaged workers in health management and healthy lifestyles. The survey found that implementing a consumer-directed health plan was considered the most effective tactic to control rising costs, cited by more than one-third of respondents (36%). In fact, nearly three-quarters of employers (72%) now offer at least one consumer-driven health plan, or CDHP. This number has remained relatively steady over the last couple of years. However, the number of employers that are offering only a CDHP plan to employees continues to rise, with 22% planning to implement a total replacement CDHP plan next year, up from 19% this year.

The survey asked employers about a variety of initiatives they use to manage the health of their employees. More than 4-in-10 respondents (44%) currently have an on-site clinic in at least one of their locations, with 9% expecting to build a clinic next year. 

Employers cover a variety of services/medications for the treatment of obesity and severe obesity. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (66%) will cover surgical interventions for the treatment of severe obesity in 2014. Additional treatments covered by some employers include FDA-approved medications (36%) and intensive, multi-component behavioral interventions for plan participants with a BMI of more than 30.

Respondents also were asked about common wellness programs. Nearly all employers offer a tobacco-cessation program (89%), and 77% offer telephonic or on-site health coaching. More than half of respondents (55%) also make on-site weight management programs available to employees. The vast majority also conduct health assessments (88%) or biometric screenings (83%).

"Employers continue to implement numerous tactics to control costs, improve employee health and productivity and ensure the delivery of high-quality health care to their employees and dependents," Darling said. "Some employers are taking creative approaches in their efforts to win the war on rising health costs. These include managing specialty and non-specialty pharmaceuticals, contracting directly with providers who have been shown to provide high quality health care, as well as offer employees numerous programs designed to help them live a healthy life."

The survey, based on responses from 108 of the nation’s largest corporations, was conducted in June 2013 prior to the Obama administration’s decision to delay for one year the implementation of the employer mandate.

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