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Summer 2023 Insight Employer Newsletter

mom & daughter grocery shopping

How we’re helping your employees achieve their health and wellness goals

For nearly 35 years, Independent Health has worked closely with employer groups throughout Western New York to design, implement and maintain worksite wellness programs that help reduce preventable illness, aid in managing chronic disease more effectively and inspire employees to be passionate about their overall well-being.

Employees who are more engaged in their health care are more likely to take the necessary steps to be healthy and stay healthy. For employers, that can lead to reduced absenteeism, higher productivity and job satisfaction, and lower overall health care costs.

While encouraging a culture of health is a key component of any employee wellness program, it’s also imperative that prevention and wellness activities extend beyond the workday, too. That’s why Independent Health offers a variety of innovative benefits*, digital tools and community programs that make it easier for people to take charge of their overall health and adopt healthier habits. This includes:

RedShirt RewardsSM
New for 2023, RedShirt RewardsSM provides our members with incentives for staying on top of their health and wellness. By completing certain healthy actions – such as an annual checkup, flu shot, COVID-19 vaccine and booster, and breast cancer and colon cancer screenings – our members will earn a $10 a gift card from a wide range of participating retailers.

Members can earn up to $30 in RedShirt Rewards each plan year. They can also make it a family affair, because each member in their plan that is 18 years of age and older (spouse and dependents) is eligible to earn their own rewards just for completing the actions that are right for them. RedShirt Rewards can be accessed online or through the MyIH mobile app.

Nutrition Benefit
Through this unique benefits, eligible members receive a $1 credit for future in-store grocery purchases at Tops Friendly Markets for every $2 they spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. Members who enroll in the benefit can earn up to $1,000 on their food purchases each year on a family plan (up to $500 on a single plan).

The fruit and vegetable purchases are tracked right through the Tops BonusPlus® program, so it’s easy to earn reward dollars for purchasing healthy foods. Each quarter, enrolled members receive a rewards card, which they can use for in-store grocery purchases (except for tobacco products).

Brook+ Diabetes Prevention Program
Brook+ is a year-long program that helps participants reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes by making real lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, incorporating physical activity into their daily lives, and improving problem-solving and coping skills. It’s a completely digital Diabetes Prevention Program, meaning it can be accessed using a smartphone, tablet or computer. Plus, Brook+ is fully-covered $0 benefit for most of our plans.

More than 14,000 Independent Health members have participated in Brook+ since it was launched in January 2021. Eligible participants receive one-on-one guidance and advice from a CDC-trained, personal lifestyle coach who customizes the program to fit their lifestyle needs and goals. They also have access to group support for encouragement, sharing ideas, and celebrating success, and receive a free digital scale and Fitbit to track their progress in the program.

Health and Wellness Programs
Independent Health currently partners with the Buffalo Bills, YMCA, Buffalo Museum of Science Outer Harbor Buffalo, GObike Buffalo, Buffalo RiverWorks and many other local organizations to offer and sponsor engaging community programs and initiatives that promote healthy lifestyle choices. Among the ways we’re bringing healthy to Western New Yorkers include Fitness in the Parks, Reddy Bikeshare, Wellness Walks at Tifft Nature Preserve, and the Independent Health and Buffalo Bills Health & Wellness Challenge.

Independent Health members can also receive more than 500 exclusive wellness discounts by simply showing their member ID card. Discounts apply to select community partners, too!

*As always, benefits vary by plan. Please check your summary of benefits to see if one of these benefits is associated with your plan.


3 ways Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) can help employees battle inflation

Article courtesy of HealthEquity

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 6.4 percent over the last year for all items. When the CPI increases, it indicates inflation (or rising process for goods) and a decrease in a dollar’s purchase power. Today’s dollar buys fewer items than a year ago. You can almost hear the pennies crying and see wallets shrinking.

Even if the rate of inflation has slowed, it’s a topic that will likely have ripple effects and be top of mind for months to come. Across-the-board, Americans care about inflation as household budgets stretch to buy the basics. When this happens, not only are people less likely to save money, but they may accumulate more medical debt.

Assistance with managing medical expenses is where employers can play an important role. To help your workforce combat inflationary pressures, consider offering a Health Savings Account (HSA)-Qualified High Deductible Health Plan combined with an HSA. Here are three ways this approach can help:

  1. HSA benefits can help bridge the gap
    An HSA allows employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for qualified medical expenses. This can be beneficial for every employee, but also for lower-wage earners as it allows them to save money on health care costs.

    HSAs are an individually-owned savings account where employees and employers can contribute money to cover qualified medical expenses. Funds are not subject to taxes when contributed, and employees can use the funds for qualifying health-related expenses tax-free as well. Additionally, employees can earn tax-free interest on the funds in the account, and the entire remaining HSA balance rolls over each year.

    An HSA can be especially helpful when trying to save up for larger expenses like braces, or even just regular medical expenses like checkups and vaccinations. The funds saved through an HSA can also be used to pay for over-the-counter medications and co-pays.

  2. Remember the HSA tax advantages
    HSAs are also attractive because the money saved is tax free. Contributions to an HSA are tax deductible, and any money distributed from the account to pay for qualified medical expenses is also tax free. This means that any money put into the account is not subject to taxes, so it can be a great way to save money while still taking advantage of the tax benefits.

    Overall, HSAs offer a great way to save money for medical expenses. The money saved is tax free, so it can be an ideal method of maximizing savings while still taking advantage of the tax benefits.

  3. Empower employees to take control of their health
    HSAs help transition your employees into a more consumer-driven health care mindset. Consumer-driven health care means employees take more of an active role in their health care 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 health care decisions and ultimately save money. Saving money? Yep, that’s a key part of conquering inflation.

Interested in an HSA solution?

If you would like to learn more about the many benefits of an HSA, Independent Health is here to help. Since 2019, we have partnered 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 as well as no monthly maintenance fees.

Visit our website to learn how we’re making it easy for employers and their employees to manage, use and maximize an HSA.

Disclaimer: HSAs are never taxed at a federal income tax level when used appropriately for qualified medical expenses. Also, most states recognize HSA funds as tax-free with very few exceptions. Independent Health does not provide legal, tax, financial or medical advice. Therefore, please consult a tax advisor regarding your state’s specific rules.

Doctor on a phone call

Teladoc®: Feel better faster by connecting with a doctor 24/7

As part of Independent Health’s efforts to help make health care as accessible as possible, we offer a telemedicine benefit provided through Teladoc®. When your employees can’t reach their primary care physician (PCP), Teladoc can put them in touch by phone with a doctor to discuss a variety of common, non-emergent medical issues, such as allergies, asthma, bronchitis, cold/flu, pink eye, rashes, strep throat and more.

Plus, they can use Teladoc to receive consultation for the treatment of dermatological and behavioral health (mental health and substance use) conditions.

How Teladoc works

  • Visit the Teladoc website to create an account.
  • Request a consultation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through your online account, the Teladoc mobile app or by phone at 1-800-Teladoc (1-800-835-2362). The doctor will call you back in minutes. Consultations are also available by online video, 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.
  • Teladoc connects you and your covered dependents to a national network of experienced board-certified doctors. A doctor will review your medical profile before contacting you to discuss your health concerns.
  • If needed, prescriptions can be sent to a pharmacy of your choice.
  • You can share your Teladoc visit information with your PCP by simply selecting “yes” at the end of your online consult.

Depending on your group’s plan benefits*, Teladoc has either a $0 copay or a low copayment. To learn more, visit our website.  

*If your plan is HSA-qualified, by law, your employees are responsible for paying the full cost of Teladoc services until their deductible is satisfied. **If your plan requires your employees to meet a deductible before their specialist cost share, they are responsible for paying the full cost of Teladoc dermatology services until their deductible is satisfied. If your plan does not require your employees to meet a deductible prior to a specialist cost share, they are only responsible for their specialist cost share for Teladoc dermatology services.

FITP sign

Get fit and active with Fitness in the Parks

Independent Health is once again teaming up with the YMCA to offer Fitness in the Parks, the largest and longest running outdoor fitness program in Western New York. Now in its 12th season, Fitness in the Parks is the perfect way for your employees to burn some calories while enjoying the beautiful weather. This popular summertime program runs through August 31.

Classes held every day of the week!

A variety of free fitness classes are currently offered at 26 different parks and other unique locations across Western New York, from Lewiston all the way down to Jamestown. Locations include Delaware Park, Chestnut Ridge Park, Wilkeson Pointe at Outer Harbor, Larkin Square and the Buffalo Bills ADPRO Sports Training Center.

People of all ages and skill levels are encouraged to attend the classes, which are led by YMCA-certified instructors. Among the 16 different types of classes being offered are:

  • Boot Camp – A challenging yet enjoyable workout that focuses on speed, endurance, agility, strength, power moves and cardiovascular training.
  • Pilates (mat required) – Strengthen the body’s core muscles, including the abdominals and lower back, with this method of body conditioning. You’ll tone your body and increase flexibility.
  • Yoga (mat required) – Enjoy gentle, effective postures that promote stretching, strengthening and relaxation. Benefits include increased blood circulation, improved mental awareness, strengthened muscles and reduced stress.
  • Zumba® – This class features exotic rhythms set to high-energy Latin and international beats.

In addition, new for 2023, we are also offering Kids Yoga and Storytime, Kickboxing Boot Camp and Beginners’ Qigong. Again, all classes are free with no advanced sign-up required. Participants can simply show up to the location of their choice at the day and time listed on the class schedule.

To view the full schedule, park locations and class descriptions, visit our website. Day-of cancellations, due to rain or poor weather, will be listed on the YMCA Buffalo Niagara and Jamestown YMCA Facebook pages.

Ready to Retire seminars being held this month

When thinking ahead to retirement, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and confused when it comes to Medicare. To help make this information easier to understand, Independent Health is hosting in-person Ready to Retire seminars at our Medicare Information Centers during the month of August. One of our RedShirts will be there to cover the basics of Medicare, including eligibility, applying, timing, coverage choices and more. These seminars are free and open to the general public; however, an RSPV is required. For more information, visit our website.