Fall 2021 Insight Employer Newsletter

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Independent Health to offer low rates and enhanced product options in 2022

As the only true local health plan in our community, no one knows Western New York like Independent Health. Through our relationships with doctors, hospitals and the work we do in our community, the decisions we make here, and the partnerships we create bring real value from and for our community.

And for the third year in a row, we filed the lowest premium adjustments in New York state. Our average small group premiums are almost 9% lower than the closest competitor. 1 That means less money out of the pockets of small business employers and employees, without reducing the benefits employees rely on.

Here are some key things to consider when it comes time for your group to renew for 2022:

  • We have the lowest average premiums in the small group market because we’re good stewards of your health care dollars and manage our medical trends we are able to maintain low rates for another year.
  •  We’ve lowered members’ out-of-pocket costs by reducing copayments and deductibles for many of our popular plans.
  • We’ve added new plans such as FlexFit® Platinum Option 2, iDirect® Gold Copay Option 2 and thRed Platinum.
  • We’ve made Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) easier with seamless eligibility, enrollment and claims integration through HealthyEquity and $0 monthly maintenance fees.

As always, we will continue to offer a variety of unique plans, benefits, tools and resources to help your employees get and stay healthy2:

  • Independent Health’s thRed® – An innovative plan that unites physicians, members and healthy lifestyle rewards through mobile technology. Our thRed Bronze plan is the lowest-priced plan in the Western New York small group market for 2022.
  •  Brook+ Diabetes Prevention Program – This year-long, CDC-approved digital program has already helped more than 4,000 of our members lose weight and reduce their risk for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Brook+ is available for free to eligible members.
  • Nutrition benefit – Your employees can get up to $1,000 back for buying fresh fruits and vegetables.3
  • Health Extras $250 Prepaid Visa® Card – Your employees can use this card toward a variety of health and wellness services.
  • Digital tools and apps – For on-the-go management of their health, your employees can simply download the MyIH app for access to their member ID card, EOBs, telemedicine, deductible balances and chat support with a RedShirt®.
  • Free preventive care – With more than 60 preventive services and over 300 preventive medications at no cost to your employees.
  • Wellness discounts – Available when your employees show their member ID card at a wide range of local businesses.

Plus, the experienced and knowledgeable RedShirtsSM throughout our company, many of whom are your friends and neighbors, are committed to helping meet your group’s needs and those of your employees. If you have any questions about your current plan offerings or would like to learn how our new plan options could fit your benefits strategy for 2022, please contact your account manager by phone or email.

1According to the rate adjustments announced by the New York State Department of Financial Services for 2022. 2Please check your benefit summary. Benefits vary by plan.3Canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are excluded. Money back is in the form of store credit for future purchases.

Papers with Health  Savings Account HSA on a table.

Offering a Health Savings Account (HSA) can benefit your employees in various ways

Article courtesy of HealthEquity

An important part of any business is the ability to attract and retain highly-skilled workers. Most employers provide benefits ranging from paid vacation time and tuition reimbursement to bonuses and raises. And then there are health benefits, which can be one of the more expensive benefits you offer employees.

Offering a high-deductible health plan with a Health Savings Account (HSA) is a great way to provide health benefits. Plus, it can be considered an employee retention strategy. That’s because, among other things, HSAs empower employees to take control of their finances, health and retirement. Here’s how:

  • Finances
    With ever-increasing medical costs looming, HSAs provide a vehicle for employees to save for those expenses.
    • HSAs provide three tax advantages: Employees can contribute, grow and spend HSA funds on qualified medical expenses, all tax free.1
    • Since HSAs are paired with high-deductible health plans, employees spend less on premiums. Contributing those savings to their HSAs can lead to even more tax savings.
    • Another approach is for employees to pay for qualified medical expenses out-of-pocket while their HSA funds earn interest. Later, employees can use saved receipts to reimburse themselves from their HSAs. There is no expiration date for reimbursing out-of-pocket spending.
  • Health
    HSAs help transition your employees into a more consumer-driven healthcare mindset. Consumer-driven healthcare means employees take more of an active role in their healthcare decisions, including shopping around for the best, lowest-cost care and prescriptions. This approach, coupled with proper education and engagement, can help employees make wise healthcare decisions and ultimately save money.
  • Retirement
    The Employer Benefits Research Institute issued a report stating the average couple will need $301,000 to have a 90 percent chance of having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement. One advantage of an HSA is that funds carry over every year. This means HSAs can be used as part of a retirement strategy to cover medical care costs during retirement. HSA funds can also be invested for additional tax-free growth. And, if the employee also has a 401(k), they can grow both accounts together and potentially set themselves up for a more comfortable retirement.

If you are interested in offering an HSA, we can help!

Independent Health is proud to partner with HealthEquity, the leading administrator of HSAs in the nation. Through this collaboration, Independent Health is the only health plan in Western New York that offers an integrated HSA product with complete automated enrollment and claims payment solutions that makes it easier for employers and their employees to manage, use and maximize an HSA. Visit our website  to learn more or contact your account manager.

Independent Health and HealthEquity do not provide legal, tax, financial or medical advice. Always consult a professional when making life-changing decisions.

Trocaire College partners with Independent Health to develop a campus-wide health and wellness program

When it comes to offering corporate wellness programs, organizations naturally focus on their own employees. But as an educational institution, Trocaire College has gone the extra mile to improve the health and well-being of both its employees and student body.

The South Buffalo-based college currently employs about 100 full-time faculty and staff members, while serving 1,300 students. Over the past 16 months, Trocaire officials have worked closely with Independent Health to enhance and expand the college’s wellness efforts. 

“Since the entire Trocaire community matters to us, we felt it was important to offer a wellness program that appealed not only to our faculty and staff members, but to our students as well,” said Genevieve Kruly, who serves as Director of Wellness for Trocaire. “Our goal was to build a program around educational outreach and a variety of activities that would inspire and empower individuals to take responsibility for their own health and wellness.”

Despite having to navigate the many challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Trocaire was able to successfully roll out a new, more robust wellness program last fall.

“Getting a new program off the ground isn’t easy, especially when you’re in the midst of a pandemic. But, as it turns out, the timing has actually worked in our favor,” added Tracy Rozewicz, MS, PHR, HR Business Partner for Trocaire. “With so many people working from home or studying remotely, we’ve had to do most things virtually. People have seemed to be very receptive to that. They like being able to participate when it’s most convenient for them.”

Both Rozewicz and Kruly have been instrumental in bringing the idea of a revamped wellness program to fruition at Trocaire. They currently co-chair the program’s wellness committee, which is made up of faculty, staff, students and an Independent Health corporate wellness specialist. The 15-person committee meets monthly during the school year to create and implement programming.

Activities and initiatives developed by Trocaire’s Wellness Committee include:

  • Online “lunch and learn” presentations that have focused on a wide range of topics, such as the importance of stretching and moving, reducing lower back pain, incorporating meditation and mindfulness into your day, and eating healthy meals and snacks.
  • Monthly self-care chats that have allowed faculty, staff and students to connect virtually so that they can safely socialize and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation during these challenging times.
  • A virtual health and wellness fair that featured a series of short presentations from local experts about exercise, mental health, financial health, health insurance and COVID-19.
  • Onsite health screenings that gave employees the chance to have their waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol levels measured, and then talk with a clinician about their results and what they can do to improve or maintain their numbers.
  • Onsite flu and COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
  • Bi-weekly wellness walks around Cazenovia Park and the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition, Trocaire employees were recently introduced to FitWorks®, Independent Health’s online wellness program that gives participants the chance to earn points by completing health and wellness-related activities. This includes an annual routine checkup and blood work, completing a health assessment and attending any wellness program activity. Based on their level of participation, Trocaire employees will be eligible for rewards and prize giveaways throughout the year.

“It’s exciting that we’ve been able to offer as much as we have during the past year,” said Rozewicz. “The feedback we’ve received about the program has been overwhelmingly positive. Now we have the chance to use that feedback to really fine tune our approach and develop new activities that our employees and students would find helpful and engaging.”

Providing worksite wellness solutions
As a local leader in worksite wellness, Independent Health has a long history of providing Western New York-based organizations and companies with the tools, resources and knowledge needed to keep both their employees and their bottom line healthy. Through our FitWorks® Prime program, our corporate wellness team works one-on-one with large group employers to develop and manage employee wellness programs that are customized for their culture and benefit strategies. To learn more about our FitWorks Prime program, contact your account manager or visit our website.

Shot of a happy young couple using a digital tablet while preparing a healthy meal together at home

We’re making it easier for your employees to eat healthier at home and when dining out

Making the right food choices and eating healthy isn’t always easy. However, sometimes a little advice from a nutrition expert can make a big difference.

With Independent Health, your employees have three different options to help them live a healthier life — including free telenutrition through smartphone apps and local nutritional consultations:

  1. Brook
    Using our Brook app, your employees can video chat with a dietitian one-on-one from the comfort and safety of their home for FREE. They have the opportunity to discuss nutritional balance and food choices that can positively impact chronic conditions, with the option to leverage health data they track through Brook.
  2. Foodsmart™
    To help them overcome the challenges they face to eating well, your employees can receive FREE virtual, one-on-one nutritional counseling with a dietitian through the Foodsmart app .  Other tools available through the app include a recipe library and meal planning.
  3. Local Dietitian
    Your employees also have the option to meet with a local dietitian for FREE to discuss their nutritional needs and to make a plan to achieve their health goals. Our online “Find A Doctor” search tool can help them find a dietitian near them.

Serving up Healthy Options
In addition, the Independent Health Foundation offers the Healthy Options® Buffalo program, which was designed to help address the high rates of heart disease, stroke and obesity prevalent in our region. Since 2004, Healthy Options has assisted Western New Yorkers in making more informed decisions when choosing what they eat.

More than 250 local restaurants and area food trucks currently participate in the program by offering heart-healthy food options that are considered lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium. A list of all participating restaurants and food trucks can be found at healthyoptionsbuffalo.com. While there, your employees can also view a variety of healthy recipes they can prepare themselves.

Thousands have embraced our new Brook+ program

Independent Health is pleased to offer Brook+, a year-long digital program designed to help your employees lose weight, reduce their risk of Type 2 diabetes and feel their best. It’s available to eligible members at no additional cost. More than 4,000 members have enrolled in Brook+ since it was launched earlier this year. To learn how this CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program has helped a South Buffalo resident get her health and life back on track, visit our A Healthy Vision” Blog.

Worksite wellness program tax reminder

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), rewards or incentives provided to participants of a worksite wellness program may be considered taxable. This includes any cash or cash equivalents (e.g., wellness cards, gift cards and nutrition benefits) that participants received. Independent health is prepared to provide an accounting of cash and cash equivalent awards received by your employees during the 2021 calendar year so that you may consider them in satisfying any related obligations under the applicable tax rules. If you would like us to provide a report specific to your company and employees who earned an incentive from one of our wellness programs, please contact your account manager. As always, when it comes to federal rules and regulations, we encourage you to speak with your legal consultant, accountant and/or tax advisor for professional advice.