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Mercer

Employee Benefit News recently recognized 50 visionaries who are “driving technology innovation, overcoming organizational and technology barriers, deploying leading-edge technology, and shaping benefit technology regulation and policy” – including our own Dr. David Kaplan, leader of Mercer’s Innovation LABS team. More than ever before, employers are keenly interested in the latest innovations as they realize the value of creativity and forward-thinking solutions to stay competitive in this tight labor market. Mercer’s LABS team has worked with quite a few innovative companies this past year – Rethink Benefits, Kurbo Health, and ConsejoSano, to name a few – to facilitate the process of bringing their solutions to market. Innovation is more than just a buzzword, and the latest benefits and perks aren’t just for Silicon Valley start-ups. Innovation is absolutely key for any organization when it comes to talent attraction and retention; your organization’s value proposition needs to reflect the expectations and dynamics of today’s workforce and their families.

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April is Autism Awareness month. More than 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder, including about one in 45 children, according to a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of parents.  Autism has been associated with intellectual disability, difficulties with motor coordination, sensory processing, attention, and sleep and gastrointestinal issues.  Many on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information and can become overwhelmed, leading to stress, anxiety, and even physical pain.

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If trends around childhood obesity stay on their current course, for the first time in US history we may see life expectancy start to fall. There are some scary statistics on the topic:

 

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A scan of news headlines from the past couple of months netted articles discussing genetic links to anxiety, glaucoma, weight gain, intelligence, athletics, cancer, and smoking. It’s not unimaginable that genetics could play a role in managing every aspect of our health. The trick will be figuring out how to counterbalance genetic predisposition with behavioral changes and clinical support.

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Telehealth offers health care consumers greater convenience and the chance to save money -- but it only works if the provider speaks the patient’s language. To that end, Mercer has formed an alliance with ConsejoSano to bring telehealth services to the Spanish-speaking population. ConsejoSano provides consumers with instantaneous access to Spanish-speaking doctors, mental health specialists, and nutritionists.

 

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Mercer recently announced a strategic alliance with Progyny, in support of fertility and women’s health. I’m excited by this organization’s innovative solutions that expand access to fertility services, improve clinical quality, and reduce maternity-related costs — as well as the work we’ve done together to refine their program for employers. More broadly, I’m proud of the work that Mercer has conducted in support of gender diversity and women in the workplace.  The topic is very current in American society, so I’ve compiled a number of notable items:

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After the events in Paris and Beirut last week, every one of your screens – from TVs to tablets, phones to laptops – was probably like mine, filled with stories and images of tragedy and human loss. For better or worse, the speed and connectedness of our social world allow us to feel and experience events throughout the globe, via tweets, timelines and newsfeeds, all updating around the clock. As we process and digest the events, we’re asked to try to continue normal daily life in our homes, our workplaces, and our communities.

 

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I recently painted this piece in celebration of the changing seasons -- with 75 spray-painted leaves! It made me reflect how the health care world is undergoing a season of change as well. Here are a few of the recent developments:

 

  • Healthcare.gov reopened this week, with some improvements, to kick off open enrollment.
  • Ten nonprofit health insurer co-ops (consumer-operated and -oriented plans), out of the 23 originally established by the ACA, have closed this year due to weak balance sheets.
  • The annual Top 50 in Digital Health survey just opened, querying public perceptions around the fastest-growing start-ups, disruptive founders, inventions of the year, and thought leaders, among other categories.
  • The presidential political climate renewing debate focused on several options for the evolution of health care reform: single payer (Sanders), repeal and replace (Republicans) and refinement of the status quo (Clinton).
  • Wearable tech and emerging smart home electronics -- both with health-care-related sub-segments -- are expected to be big sellers this holiday season.
  • 224 data breaches involving 500 or more individuals were reported this year, as required, to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.
  • We’re seeing significant M&A activity among payers (Aetna/Humana, Anthem/Cigna), consumer brands (Walgreens/Rite-Aid, CVS/Target Pharmacy) and health systems (70 this year so far), as well as sizable funding for new entrants into the marketplace like Collective Health and Oscar Health.

 

That’s quite a long list of health care activity that’s of interest to me -- and I’m sure I’ve left out some things that are relevant to you. As you read through this list and think about the season of change that we’re undergoing, what stands out? Or what would you add?

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