A minor update and is our Federal Government fueling Eating Disorders?

We’re a few months into 2016, and I know, I haven’t posted in a while.  I have been busy a lot trying to balance the load between my full time job and my weekends at the railroad museum.  In my spare time I have been tweaking EdwardRingwald.com little by little trying out some new features.

If you haven’t noticed, I made a slight change to the blog picture that you see to the left and also made it into an icon as you can see in the title bar of your browser.  How do you make this icon?  It’s time for a web design Great American Teach-In moment!

First, you take an image and resize it to a small image file, usually 100 x 100.  You can use any image editor including Microsoft Picture Manager (which comes with the Office suite) to resize the image.  Save the image file as a .jpg file.

But you are not done yet!  There is one more step!

You have to convert the resized image into an icon file.  There are plenty of websites out there that will convert an image file into an icon for you, and I highly recommend the Favicon and App Icon Generator at Dan’s Tools.  The site is easy to use, but make sure you deselect the check mark for including your favicon in the public gallery before you click on create favicon.  The resulting file will be a favicon.ico file (the .ico extension tells Windows that it is an icon file).

Simply upload the favicon.ico file to your web server, add the HTML (link rel=”shortcut icon” href=”(location of your favicon file)”) for the favicon in your HTML header area on your web page, and you’re all set!

With the minor updates aside, let’s change gears here and discuss a subject that I haven’t got around to in a while.  Lately, if you go to your favorite restaurant you have more than likely seen something new on the menu:  Calorie counts.

You can thank the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the same law that gave us Obamacare.  A part of the law requires that chain restaurants post calorie counts in their menus, all in the name of encouraging Americans to live healthier lifestyles.  To me, I think these calorie counts posted prominently on printed menus and menu boards have the potential to scare people away, especially people who are fighting a battle with eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa.

Is our Federal Government requiring restaurants to post calorie counts on the menus fueling people with eating disorders?  This article I found at reason.com on the Federal Government’s mandatory calorie counts being hazardous to your health tells it all.

According to the article, twenty million women as well as ten million men (as of 2011) struggle with one form of eating disorder or another, including Anorexia Nervosa.  An eating disorder is a serious condition, both physically and mentally, in which a person avoids eating food for fear of weight gain.  The road to recovery for someone with an eating disorder is a long road to recovery requiring the help of a psychiatrist, clinical psychologist as well as a counselor specializing in eating disorders.  Most people with eating disorders are helped on an outpatient basis but a good number (especially the more severe cases) require some form of inpatient treatment, usually at a treatment facility specializing in eating disorders.

A person who is recovering from an eating disorder is usually taught to stop counting calories and stop weighing oneself as a part of therapy, according to the reason.com article.  Unfortunately, when a person in recovery from an eating disorder walks into a restaurant for a get together with friends and/or family, once the calorie counts are seen on the menu that person could potentially face an anxiety attack, worried about weight gain and appearance.  Is this what our Federal Government is doing to scare away people with eating disorders from restaurants?

My opinion is this:  Calorie counts have no place on a restaurant’s printed menu or on a menu board.  However, restaurants can make nutritional information including calorie counts available to the customer upon request, as is present practice.  But don’t post calorie counts to scare away customers!

Clearly, this is one part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that should be repealed.  Our Federal Government should not be in the nanny business scaring people with calorie counts prominently posted.
 

The Privacy Dangers of Biometric Screenings

As we celebrate America’s 237th year of independence I got to see the annual 4th of July fireworks display over at Channelside, a shopping and dining mecca located next to the cruise port terminal in downtown Tampa just east of the St. Pete Times (Tampa Bay Times) Forum.  I decided to take in the fireworks display at Channelside after several years viewing the 4th of July fireworks in downtown St. Petersburg for a change.
 
After all, change is good when you want to see the fireworks at a different place.  Besides, downtown St. Petersburg is not the same without its iconic signature trademark, the St. Petersburg Pier, which recently closed this past Memorial Day weekend in May 2013.  However, the future of the St. Petersburg Pier is up to the voters of the City of St. Petersburg which will be on the 27 August 2013 ballot as a referendum question.
 
If you cherish and value your rights of privacy in the health care setting as an American, you need to read this blog entry word for word.  In an earlier blog entry I spoke my opinion on employer sponsored wellness programs.  A increasingly disturbing trend of these wellness programs is the biometric screening, where you are screened for several factors such as your blood pressure and blood glucose level among them.  In fact, what makes these biometric screenings more disturbing is that if you fail to participate, you will pay more for your health insurance or be penalized somewhere; I have read based on my research online that employers can go to extremes such as terminating your employment – all because of pre-existing health conditions you may have had.
 
Now how can these biometric screenings be used against you?  You will be surprised.
 
1.  Your employer’s health insurance carrier.  The results of the biometric screening are not only kept by your health insurance carrier, the results are also reported to the Medical Information Bureau, which can pose serious problems for you if you decide to apply for life insurance at a later time.
 
2.  The Medical Information Bureau is a specialty consumer reporting agency in that records are kept on millions of Americans as to their health conditions.  If you decide to apply for life insurance as I mentioned earlier, or if you submit a claim for benefits such as health insurance benefits, your record at the Medical Information Bureau comes into play here.
 
3.  Your employer can use the information from the biometric screening against you as well.  Despite the privacy protections in the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, commonly known as HIPAA, the information from the biometric screening somehow makes it to your employer.  After all, it is your employer paying a huge chunk of your health insurance bill (and you paying your share out of your paycheck).
 
4.  Now this is very important, and I mentioned this in my earlier blog entry on employer sponsored wellness programs:
 
Suppose you went and got that biometric screening in order to cut your health insurance bill deducted from your paycheck.  The results of that biometric screening show that you have a serious medical condition and a nurse practitioner has counseled you.
 
If in the event – later down the road – a petition for guardianship is ever filed against you, a three person committee called the examining committee is ordered by the judge for the purpose of examining the person whose capacity is in question.  This three person committee consists of a physician, a psychiatrist and a lay person such as a social worker.

In Florida, two petitions start the guardianship process as defined in Chapter 744 of the Florida Statutes:  Petition to Determine Capacity and Petition for Appointment of Guardian.
 
As part of the duties of the examining committee, it can subpoena your health records – not only from your own physician but from your employer’s insurance company as well as the Medical Information Bureau – and use the health records against you in determining whether you should be adjudicated incompetent.
 
Remember, once you or your loved one is adjudicated incompetent, the legal status changes from being an adult to a ward.  Imagine a total stranger in control of all of your everyday activities – having your right to vote taken away from you, having your Florida Driver License taken away from you, being unable to seek and/or retain employment, and being taken out of your home and placed in an Assisted Living Facility (ALF) – all because of the results of a biometric screening that you submitted to with your employer.
 
Additionally, beware of social workers lurking around the corner in the hospital, especially the ER.  If you or your loved one – particularly someone who is older – goes to the ER for a seemingly minor ailment, that social worker lurking around the corner could be developing a case against you to have a guardianship petition filed.  Not only the two petitions that commence a guardianship case are filed, usually by a religious based social services agency in which the hospital’s social worker works with, but another petition which fast tracks the person straight into guardianship, the emergency petition for appointment of guardian, is filed.
 
Speaking of the emergency petition for appointment of guardian, it is usually used when there is no one around that can make an important medical decision such as a relative.  I have read up on abuses of the emergency guardianship petition so that professional guardians can get a head start on seizing control over a person and his or her assets.
 
5.  If you are taking any prescription medications for a serious medical condition you have, don’t think your prescription history is private.  There is a company out there called Milliman that has a prescription history product called IntelliScript, and if you decide to apply for life insurance your prospective insurer can check this database to see if you have a serious medical condition – this time, by what medications you are taking.

And we can’t forget the FICO Medication Adherence Score, brought to you by the same people that bring you your credit score.  It is a numeric score that tells anyone how you adhere to your doctor’s treatment protocol including taking the medications you are prescribed.

Like the information that your health care insurer and the Medical Information Bureau have on you, the information that Milliman’s IntelliScript prescription database as well as your FICO Medication Adherence Score can be legally disclosed if your health records are subpoenaed as part of a legal proceeding, especially in a guardianship case if the three person examining committee conducting an inquisition of your personal affairs wants to take a look at these records.  I know, this is not related to biometric screenings but I threw the information in on prescription histories just to illustrate the privacy dangers you face when it comes to your personal health information.

So, these are things that you should know about before you submit yourself or a loved one to a biometric screening conducted by your employer.  You value the privacy of your health condition and the records of your health care, and it is your right.  A discussion of your personal health conditions should stay within your own doctor’s office, and your primary care doctor is the one that knows your health condition.
 
After all, your personal health conditions are none of your employer’s business.  I cannot over-emphasize this enough:  This is something for you to think about before you submit yourself to an employer sponsored biometric screening.


My Opinion on Employer Sponsored Wellness Programs

By now you’ve heard about them at work.  It’s those so-called employee wellness programs that are put on by your employer so that you can stay healthy; after all, your employer wants to maintain a healthy workplace so to speak.
The purpose of those employee wellness programs is simple:  Your employer’s Human Resources Department (HR for short) more than likely has on staff a wellness coordinator to oversee the wellness activities within your workplace.  The job of the wellness coordinator – as well as the purpose of these wellness programs – is to lure you, the employee, into a conference room conveniently located to where your desk or cubicle is located for a chock full of health and wellness information such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, stuff on diabetes prevention, maintaining a healthy blood pressure, and much, much more.
In fact, some wellness events will bring in a health paraprofessional to conduct screenings for diseases such as blood pressure checks, blood glucose screenings for diabetes, and a lot more as well.  The purpose of these events is to apparently “empower” you with what you need to know to stay healthy – at your company’s expense.
However, employee wellness is going much beyond the periodic wellness events conducted by your employer.  With the advent of Health Care Reform (a/k/a Obamacare) we are seeing more and more wellness programs tied into employer sponsored health insurance.  Sure, with Obamacare your insurer cannot charge you more for getting sick but there’s a catch:  You can be charged more for having a risky lifestyle.
Here’s a trend that is becoming more and more popular with employer sponsored health insurance:  The high deductible health plan, where you pay a significantly less premium but you have to pay more on deductibles.  However, in order to help you meet the high deductibles your employer will more than likely fund a health savings account to help you with these deductibles.
Now how much does your employer fund your health savings account?  Good question!  The following is from what I recently read on one high deductible health plan:
1.  Mere enrollment in the high deductible health plan:  $250.
2.  Complete a healthy lifestyle attestation:  $150.
3.  Complete an online health assessment:  $200.
4.  Submit yourself (and your spouse, if covered) to a biometric screening:  $250.
1 and 2 are no brainers.  However, 3 and 4 I think begin to cross the line into patient privacy, especially if someone has health issues.  With the biometric screening, in theory it can be used by your employer’s health insurance company against you in that you can be charged high rates or risk getting dropped.  (I am not sure if the risk of being dropped applies to employer sponsored health care plans once Obamacare goes into full effect in 2014, but I know for sure you can’t get dropped from an individual health care plan).
This is where employee wellness programs start to fit in more.  Beyond the traditional seminars and information on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle, we are seeing employee wellness programs that dabble more and more into one’s private life as far as his or her health is concerned.  To me, that’s none of an employer’s business.
Which leads us to this question:  Do employer sponsored wellness programs give helpful information and advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle or do these wellness programs go way too far and overreaching?
Well, here’s my opinion on employer sponsored wellness programs:
These wellness programs should be renamed as employer sponsored sickness programs.  After all, these programs are designed to diagnose what your ailment is and to get you into a program in order to ameliorate your ailment or condition – usually an eight to ten week program held at a hospital or health care center somewhere.
More than likely you can’t attend that eight to ten week program.  It’s because of family commitments, not to mention the long commute you got to and from work daily.
Besides, there is no immediate cost savings realized from these employer sponsored wellness programs, according to a study published in the journal Health Affairs, as mentioned in this ABC Action News (WFTS-TV, the ABC affiliate here in Tampa) article.  The study followed a wellness program at a St. Louis hospital for two years.
According to the study, hospitalizations have decreased for six major conditions.  Unfortunately, the downside is that the savings, if any, were erased by increased outpatient costs.
Further, these employer sponsored wellness programs do dabble into one’s medical history above and beyond the information and seminars presented.  According to the Health Affairs study, anyone wanting to sign up for the employer’s most generous of their health insurance program are asked to submit to a privacy invading wellness program which included taking a person’s height, weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and much more.
Yeah right.  These wellness screenings can be used against you by either your employer or your employer’s health insurance company.  Does the Medical Information Bureau ring a bell?  And if you are filling a prescription and your employer’s health insurance is covering you, chances are this information is being reported to a third party such as Ingenix.
And we can’t forget one more privacy invading service:  The FICO Medication Adherance Score, courtesy of the same people that give you your credit score.  It is a record of how you adhere to your doctor’s prescriptions.  In theory, this so-called medication adherance score can be used against you or even your loved one, especially if a petition for guardianship is ever filed:  During the inqusition of you or your loved one’s personal affairs by the court appointed examining committee, your FICO Medication Adherance Score can be obtained by court order.  I know, the brief discussion on guardianship is not part of this topic on employer sponsored wellness programs but I threw it in for you just to illustrate the privacy dangers you face when you submit yourself to a privacy invading wellness screening.  I can go on further on how you or your loved one’s medical records can have a significant impact in a guardianship case, but I’ll save that for another topic.
In short, my opinion on employer sponsored wellness programs is this:  These programs are an invasion of your medical privacy, and your doctor’s office – in a private setting – is the place to discuss your medical concerns.  Besides, there is little to no cost savings or return on investment involved.