E to E...by Employers for Employers E to E provides information from a business perspective that will educate regional employers about significant healthcare issues to help them make decisions benefiting their organizations and employees.

 Sponsored by Northern Illinois Health Plan

January 2015 Issue


Fight The Flu And The Dreaded "A-Choo!"
– Five Simple Steps To Reduce Absenteeism

Say 'So Long' To HIPAA Certificates

ACA Update – 2015 A Year To Fine-Tune And Assess Progress

Busting Bad Habits: Do Smoking Surcharges Help?

Apps To Help Smokers Become Non-Smokers

Quick Poll – Review

January Quick Poll – Vote

Contact Information


– Five simple steps to reduce absenteeism

You know those people in your office who channel Felix Unger from The Odd Couple, cleaning and tidying the workplace at every opportunity? If you give them grief for obsessing, stop – you may owe them a debt of gratitude instead! Especially during cold and flu season, these people can make the difference between a cubicle pandemic and an illness-free office. Simply by wiping down workstations and sanitizing doorknobs and common areas, these co-workers can help keep themselves healthy while reducing your chances of getting sick, too.

HR professionals know that helping workers stay healthy costs far less than the financial impact of having them miss work for illness or injury. So in addition to arming your business "germophobes" with the proper supplies, consider implementing these five simple steps to keep contagious germs at bay:

  1. Remind workers to wash their hands – often.
  2. Take the time to clean your keyboard if you work in an office environment, especially if you've been feeling ill.
  3. Put out hand sanitizer and wipes or give them to each employee if cost-effective. It is an inexpensive investment in avoiding illness.
  4. Don't just talk on your phone – disinfect it. Pay attention to both work phones and cell phones and suggest that employees take a minute to clean their phones once per week.
  5. Provide support with a wellness program. NIHP can help you customize a program to meet your needs and help your employees proactively improve their immune systems and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


How to Kill Office Germs and Stop Cold and Flu in Their Nasty Tracks

5 Mistakes People Make During Cold and Flu Season

Two Most Important Ways to Prevent Colds and Flu This Winter: One Key Tip: Don't Forget to Clean and Sanitize your Keyboard!


The start of a new year signaled the end of mandatory HIPAA certificates. These certificates were originally put in place to help administer pre-existing condition exclusionary rules for participants who lost group health plan coverage. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) eliminates enrollee exclusion due to pre-existing conditions, these certificates are no longer required as of Dec. 31, 2014…one less thing for plan professionals to oversee. This is true for both grandfathered and non-grandfathered plans. However, if you want to continue sending the certificates to plan members, it is acceptable to do so.


No Pre-Existing Condition Exclusions Means HIPAA Certificates No Longer Required

Effective January 1, 2015, HIPAA Certificates of Creditable Coverage are No Longer Required

HIPAA Certificates No Longer Required in 2015


After several years of prolific policy change and implementation, 2015 provides a welcome opportunity for healthcare plan professionals to assess progress and play catch-up, if needed. But the New Year brings a focus on improving quality and lowering costs in the physician’s realm.

Starting on January 1, 2015, there is a new emphasis on paying physicians based on value, not volume. A new provision will tie physician payments to the quality of care they provide. Physicians will see their payments modified so that those who provide higher value care will receive higher payments than those who provide lower quality care. The coming months will give us a better look at how well this is being implemented and what the related metrics show.


Key Features of the Affordable Care Act by Year
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


At some point in most smokers' lives, there is talk about quitting the habit – but often no action. After all, smoking is well documented as a powerful addiction that can be challenging to overcome. As some insurance plans add penalties for lighting up, these employees are faced with a costly decision…one that may be the catalyst to get them to finally quit after all.

Most plans that add a smoking surcharge do so in conjunction with a smoking cessation program. Just joining usually eliminates the extra fee, or it may be reimbursed after the program is successfully completed. Some believe these programs are too punitive and lay groundwork for a "slippery slope" that could lead to a multitude of charges. Unhealthy behaviors like a poor diet, excess alcohol consumption, or less-than-ideal health conditions like extra pounds could be penalized. Grievances have been filed in some union environments to challenge such programs. Pundits on both sides of the debate use the Affordable Care Act to support their claims for and against smoking surcharges. A lively discussion will likely continue for years to come.

Would a smoking surcharge be of benefit to your plan — and your employees’ efforts to end their addiction? Talk to us at NIHP if you'd like to discuss the options.


The Smokers' Surcharge

Why Does Obamacare Discriminate Against Smokers?

Obamacare Could Help Millions of American Smokers to Kick the Habit


In light of our article about smoking cessation and program surcharges, here is a look at several smart phone Apps that claim to help people stop smoking. After learning that at least half of you use job-related Apps, we continue to research more that you may find helpful. Check these out or offer them up to your employees!

  • SmokeFree – aims to help users quit by showing how much money they’ve saved since quitting, how much tar and how many cigarettes they have avoided, and what regenerative steps their body has made since they stopped.
  • Quit Smoking with Andrew Johnson – this self-hypnosis application is an audio program intended to help participants drift into deep relaxation and curb their desire to smoke.
  • ButtOut – allows users to track cravings and read motivational messages from others who are trying to quit through community support forums.

See other acclaimed quit-smoking apps here.

Do you have a healthcare-specific App you'd like to recommend to our readers? Let us know!

A Quick Review of Last Issue's "Quick Poll"

In the October 2014 issue of E to E we asked readers, "Is your business confident you will meet upcoming deadlines for reinsurance fees and health plan identifiers (HPIDs)?" Specific survey results are noted in the chart, below.

October Quick-Poll Summary

January Quick Poll – Vote

Does your plan assess a surcharge for employees who smoke?
(Click a response to vote. Answers are strictly anonymous.)

Then, visit the NIHP website to view this issue's quick poll results.

For more information contact us at:
(800) 723-0202 or NIHPCustomerService@fhn.org

Northern Illinois Health Plan

773 W. Lincoln Blvd., Suite 402, Freeport, IL 61032

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