3 reasons to prove jumping on a trampoline is a great idea

Trampoline is currently a fitness which it is favorite sport of many people in the gym on over the world. This sport brings so many great benefits to human health. Jumping on trampoline will feel happy, healthy and burn more energy if you know how to properly play.

Nowadays, trampoline is used widely in the amusement parks, kindergarten, family…because it is easy to use and has the big benefits. There are a lot of reasons to spend money to buy a trampoline device. However, you can base on three following reasons to prove somersaulting on a trampoline is a great idea.

Trampoline in your family

mini-trampolineMany people said that they often see the trampoline device in sport club or park for children. How about installing in the family? How many kinds of this product which used for all members in a family? Here are some products about trampoline, you can refer:

  • Mini Trampoline: This type is mainly used for children who are under 6 years old. Mini trampoline has small size with the affordable price so it is really suitable for families with small area or can install in house.
  • Big Trampoline: This kind of trampoline is more popular in the market in the developed countries. Most of big trampoline will have the full basic features of a trampoline. Besides, it is considered unable equipment in the recreational activities of the family to help everyone have the most fun time. Also, big trampoline often use in school, parks and public places.
  • Water Trampoline: It is the number one for your choice if your family has a picnic or vacation. Actually it is also like other trampoline however, this special product can float on water such as in a large swimming pool, lake,… Maybe water trampoline is the best product for all people who like water sport.
  • Pro-Trampoline: This is a product designed for those who preferred to play the adventurous game but it is extremely safe. Pro-trampoline has the safety belts helping players can jump with the freely high without fear to their lives.

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Food cravings weigh down recurring effort to lose weight

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I’m only going to say this once: Please, for the love of God, send food!

Yes, I’m dieting again. As a result of this, I’m having trouble concentrating on anything other than what I am currently not eating. That’s bad when you’re in the news business, because invariably you wind up forgetting to cover a four-alarm fire because you’re day dreaming about melted cheese.

I’m not what you’d call a chronic dieter – it’s just something I get into my head every six or seven years. It usually happens when I’m grappling over whether to make the jump to the next waist size, a conflict brought about by the red indentations I find around my torso each evening. You can only convince yourself that they’re being caused by a debilitating skin rash for only so long.

I’ve found that one’s motivation for dieting changes depending on your station in life. When I was in high school during the early ’80s, for instance, it was to look good in parachute pants; that one never really worked out.

A few years ago, I changed my eating habits when I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. I made a pledge to completely cut fat out of my diet; this lasted for about a month or so, at which time I was waylaid by a deep-dish sausage pizza. Since then, whenever somebody asks me about my cholesterol, I simply cry, “It’s genetic!” and waddle off to the nearest sub shop.

This time I’m watching my caloric intake because my wife is concerned about me dropping dead and leaving her and our two young children without my meager but handy salary. I haven’t come up with a good rebuttal to that one yet, but I’m working on it.

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Teachers striving to lose weight

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Needwood Middle School teachers are determined to be the biggest losers on campus, and, get this, they’re even prepared to brag about it.

Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s all in good spirit. It’s motivation for losing weight.

Realizing that so many people make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and fail to accomplish their goals, 39 faculty members began the Biggest Loser competition – a weight loss challenge modeled after a popular real-life television program.

“My New Year’s resolution is to get healthy and lose weight,” said Jessica Thumser, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Needwood.

“We will start with a warm up, then do aerobics, yoga or use the stability ball,” said Dawn Ketchum, the school’s physical education coach. Ketchum is also the aerobics instructor.

These teachers – and others in the school system – are serious about leaning up. They walk after school, eat controlled portions of food and drink as much water as they can.

“They are determined to win,” Ketchum said.

As an extra incentive to stick with the program, the Needwood teacher have penalties for anyone who goes astray. It costs $1 for every pound gained in a week and $10 if dropping out of the competition.

So far, no one has had to plunk out money for breaking ranks.

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You are able to get many benefits from hunting

For recent years, hunting has become one of the most controversial issues all over the world. For some people’ viewpoints, hunting is unacceptable because of its inhumanity. However, the others are on the opposite side that hunting is acceptable. Despite opposite opinions, it cannot be denied that hunting is in the rank of 10 most favorite sports for many years until now. As a result, hunting gears are becoming more popular, especially modern one like game cameras, so the phrase “trail camera reviews” is searched much on the Internet. So why is hunting a favorite outdoor activity?  Considering hunting in a more neutral viewpoint, not only hunters but also people in general will overwhelm the advantages of hunting, for example, closer relations with friends and family, physical and mental balance, natural enjoyment and mental relaxation.

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  1. Closer relations with family and friends

Hunting is considered as “a free sport” due to its extremely easy requirements, in which hunters can find absolutely comfortable to go hunting with their family, friends or even alone. For most situations, hunters usually go with their partners to share their experience, learn many interesting things from them or simply have someone to chat instead of the adventurous hunting enjoyment alone.

In the opinions of many hunters, they are taught how to hunt wildlife animals from their family members and enjoy lots of instructions in details.  Furthermore, family members can find easier to share their hunting experience with others and give some necessary advice for younger hunters. In these hunting, they give opportunities to listen and comprehend each other after working time at work. Parents and children can be more comprehensive and connected to each other. Similarly, friendship can be also closer because during hunting time together, they can share their thoughts, gather and overcome some dangerous situations.

  1. Physical and spiritual balance.

What’s more, during the hunting time, the stance of hunters aiming at the target from their positions exercises their core muscles. The holding- gun stance will support their suitable hunting postures, the muscles become more and more correspondent to physical pressures on their bodies. This process will assist hunters to generate power and endurance so that bodies can be familiar with hard work and pressure.

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In addition to the benefits of physical balance, hunting is also good for our spirits when balancing and relaxing our minds from working stress or life pressure. Sinking themselves in a hunting, hunters will enjoy the fresh environment of wildlife with animals and plants, sunshine and wind, which is totally different from their daily stressful work. Hunters can enjoy their adventurous interests with freshly natural environment, keep them away from busy work and closely integrate with their partners.

  1. Having opportunities to enjoy nature around you

You are fed up with your current life because it is so boring? If so, hunting is one of many methods that you should try to find fun for yourself. When hunting, you will have to face many challenges, which make your journey more adventurous and exciting. You will deal with difficulties from temperature, hard weather and tough terrains, your creativeness as well as your ability of analysis will be encouraged.

Instead of sitting at home and watch TV, let’s go out and enjoy natural environment!

  1. Helping to control wildlife habitats

It is clear that when you would like to enjoy hunting, you are responsible for hunting taxes which go to the state budgets or the federal government. This amount of money will used for some useful purposes to protect wildlife environment. For example, the state spends money on improving wildlife habitat or maintaining green parks. As a result, hunters contribute a big part in benefiting our natural environments.

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  1. Bringing home food

This is one of the most important objectives of hunters. These achievements are meats or even fruits. Your targets are usually animals growing up in a natural environment, they mostly eat grass as your food, so that meat you bring home is a lean protein, which is very good for your health. Their meat contains more vitamins and protein compared to those you buy at the market, because meat you buy at the market are products from animals fed by artificial food like animal feed.

In addition, thanks to your achievements you bring home, your family will save a little money per month because your wife or your mother does not have to spend money buying meat for your meals. You can contribute to diversify your meal through venison, elk meat, partridge or rabbit. They are all less fat and improve your health as well as your family’s health.

Because of the benefits listed above, you should try hunting at least one time to make your life more interesting and meaningful. However, hunting is also a dangerous outdoor activity which requires you certain techniques and professional tools. You should find information on the Internet to know what skills you need have and what equipment you should prepare before your journey.

I recommend you to purchase a game camera to make your hunting easier and obtain more targeted animals. On the Internet, you can get knowledge about top game camera reviews so that you are able to decide which is suitable for you before making a decision.

Staying in step with bench aerobics

Bench aerobics, or step training, is a form of exercise that involves stepping on and off of a bench or platform. This type of exercise strengthens and conditions every major muscle group and improves cardiovascular strength.

America’s interest in fitness shows no signs of letting up, and with good reason. More and more people are discovering that regular exercise can help them look better, feel better, and probably live longer.

Many people these days are stepping their way to trimness and health with a new evolution in exercise– step aerobics. Step aerobics combines the group activity and rhythmic music of aerobic dance with the exercise benefits of stair-climbing. Fitness instructors say step aerobics is as safe as walking.

Step Right Up

Also called step training or bench aerobics, this new kind of exercise routine involves stepping on and off a platform using varying foot positions and performing upper-body movements with hand-held weights. Besides being different, the routine can provide a high-intensity workout with less impact on the body than other aerobic exercises, such as running.

Aerobic exercise as a way to fitness and health was promoted by Dr. Kenneth Cooper more than 20 years ago. He demonstrated that strenuous, sustained exercise would not only strengthen muscles, but also build cardiovascular endurance–strong heart and lungs.

However, we learned that some aerobic movements–such as running, jumping, and hopping–can create high-impact stress on the body’s joints and bones. Through their jarring activity, these moves may cause injuries such as shinsplints and stress fractures.

Many people turned from jogging and aerobic dance to low-impact aerobics, in which one foot is always touching the floor or ground. Of course, the challenge in low-impact exercise is to keep the energy level high enough to burn calories and push the heart and lungs to work harder. Step aerobics seems to achieve this, while at the same time eliminating most of the damaging impact on the body.

 

In one study, researchers found that the energy output of step training was almost exactly the same as that of running at seven miles per hour. They also found that while step training was more demanding than walking, it exerted forces on the feet that were similar to the low-level stress of walking.

Whole-Body Workout

The new technique was developed in 1986 by Gin Miller, an aerobics instructor and bodybuilder. While recovering from a serious knee injury, she took the advice of her physical therapist and began performing a series of step-up exercises to help her rehabilitation. She soon realized that step-up exercises gave her whole body a workout, not just her knees.

Later, Miller introduced the movements to her aerobics classes, adding hand-held weights for upper-body development. She designed 15 basic ways to get up and down steps that can vary in height from four to 12 inches.

Forward and Up

Why is step aerobics good exercise?

Through the stepping-up action, you are moving your body both forward and up. This works every major muscle group in the lower body, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals.

In addition to strengthening and conditioning muscles, the up-up/down-down patterns of step aerobics provide a vigorous cardiovascular workout. This workout is what improves the fitness and endurance of your heart and lungs.

If you’re like to give step aerobics a try, you can join a class at a fitness center or develop your own routines at home. A number of portable benches for step aerobics are on the market. Or you can use any sturdy, anchored platform that’s the right height. You can also use the bottom step of a staircase.

Star with Stretches and…

When doing any type of exercise, be sure to warm up first with stretches to get the muscles ready to work. Gently stretch your leg and buttocks muscles.

Put on some music. Start the workout by stepping up and down slowly on a bench four inches above the floor for five minutes. Step up and down rhythmically: up-two-three, down-two-three.

 

You can gradually pick up your pace and work at your target heart rate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Maintain a good posture. Step on the surface solidly with the whole foot, allowing your heels to toch the floor when stepping down. Lean from the ankles, not the waist.

After you’ve established a rhythm, you can add some arm work, such as curling up the arms from the elbows as you step up, or pressing the hands toward the ceiling.

Don’t stop stepping suddenly, which could cause fainting. Slow down gradually to cool off, and then walk for a few minutes. If you feel sore after exercising, reduce the intensity next time you work out. And be sure to stretch before and afterward.

Beginners should work at their own pace and not try to do too much too soon. And keep in mind that step aerobics isn’t for everyone. Sports-medicine physicians have warned that the routines can produce added stress on the knees. People with knee or hip problems may increase their risk of injury.

For many Americans of all ages who are looking for both fun and fitness, step aerobics is proving to be just what its name implies: a step in the right direction.

HOW MODERN TECHNOLOGY CAN IMPROVE OUR LIVES?

Modern technology has gradually played a crucial role in our home improvement. Nowadays, we utilize variously updated technologies and equipment, for example, cell phones, computers, washing machines, air-conditioners and so on at home, which have made our household chores more and more simple and time- saving. Instead of taking all our not working valued time for household chores from evening until midnight, we can spend a lot of our free time for our family members: our children, parents, husbands or wives and ourselves. In some years ago, we did not use anything modern, just backward and completely simple, these luxury equipment didn’t develop at all.  On the contrary, modern equipment has become one of the most necessities in our life, not only at work but also especially important at house. Without the development of technology, human beings can gain a great improvement on both material and spiritual aspects. Some of the most useful equipment at home can be named are washing machines and computers. As a result, we will consider their advantages in home improvement.

Washing machines

On the one hand, many years ago, women must take responsibilities for all of various household chores, for instance: clean their houses, cook delicious meals for their family members, wash clothes and dishes, take care of their husbands and children and so on. Therefore, they cannot work outside in the office. They spend all their free time from morning until night in order to accomplish their housework as real housewives. What’s more, they have no time for taking care of themselves, doing make-up, going outside with their friends, going shopping a lot of time or even doing anything they would love to do because of housework. However, some recent days have changed so much in improving their lives when modern technology made them more and more time- saving and convenient. Instead of spending a huge amount of time for washing clothes of husbands, many children and themselves, they can utilize washing machines as an extremely useful tool to wash these clothes cleanly, while they can have a free time to do anything else. They not only save their efforts, time and money, but protect their hands skins from toxic chemicals in washing powder. Washing machines work one hundred per cent of effectiveness when using water and electricity to mobilize washing systems to wash cleanly their clothes. It is a great invention to assist women save time for taking care of their family members and themselves and help to improve their spiritual lives. Continue reading

Benefits of jogging regularly

Among some outdoor sports for individuals, there are lots of activities you can pick up for practicing along. And why don’t think about encouraging others including friends and members in the family to play with you? It will not only strengthen the physical health, but your emotional state as well.

Besides the benefits of improving physical health, one outdoor activity which is considered to help you lose weight is jogging. There are many weight loss methods but jogging to lose weight is a super-fast, efficient and simpleso that everyone can try. Jogging not only brings the toughness that makes you lose weight fast, but also shape the standards of your body.

Jogging helps not only get in shape, but also helps you improve the function for the respiratory system, immune system and digestive system gradually. According to some researches, if you want to burn 50% calories, you should run approximately 1.5km.

Therefore, for those who want to lose fat, why not choose jogging as a simple and inexpensive method? This article will show you some small tips to lose weight in the fastest and most efficient way just by jogging regularly.

Methods which help you lose weight quickly and efficiently just by jogging Continue reading

Fitness chains strive to diversify offerings: Will the new arrival stir up the market

The gym fitness centre sector is seeing a sudden burst of activity, with the American brand Gold’s Gym looking to muscle in on the UK action and homegrown chains overhauling their offerings.

LA Fitness, the only UK chain still publicly quoted, has just announced a plan to trial small “weight loss” centres in partnership with supermarkets, hospitals and other suitable locations.

The planned centres would strip out intimidating high-maintenance lifestyle trappings, such as mirrors and MTV video monitors, and instead focus on affordable courses designed to help people shed the pounds. The chain is feeling particularly bullish after good results revealed last week show a 27 per cent increase in pretax profits to 8.1m [pounds sterling], on turnover up 20 per cent for the year to July

Meanwhile, Gold’s Gym, which began as a weightlifting centre at Los Angeles’ “muscle beach” and has 550 gyms and 2.5 million members worldwide, is planning an assault on the UK market. It has four UK gyms operating under a licensing agreement but wants to introduce its franchise model to the UK with the aim of getting ten sites up and running.

The health and fitness sector underwent rapid expansion earlier this decade.

The value of the private health and fitness market increased by 62 per cent between 1998 and 2002, with revenue from membership tees alone topping more than 1.3bn [pounds sterling] in 2002 (Mintel). But as Deloitte partner Adrian Bcicombe, who heads the wellness division, points out: “The industry suffered through 2002/3 as the economy was doing badly. The South-east and the City, where there are a lot of gyms, were badly affected.”

Local authority gyms, which offer pay-as-you go facilities, also raised their game. Opportunistic venture capitalists moved in to buy several chains, including Holmes Place, Esporta, Total Fitnessand Fitness First.

Balcombe says once the market flattened, “a different style of management” was needed. Several chains have overhauled top-heavy management structures. Fitness First, Europe’s largest chain, announced 20 redundancies in the UK last week. The chain is also looking for a new marketing director (MW last week). Continue reading

Providers step up marketing of Medicare HMO products

Health insurance companies have discovered a way to market their Medicare HMO products and save local businesses money on retirement health benefits.

United HealthCare of Ohio Inc. and Mount Carmel Health System have been marketing Medicare HMO products through local companies to retirees. The insurance companies and businesses claim the deal is “win-win” because it expands the benefit package for retirees while reducing company health-care expenses.

  • “We will save enough to make it worthwhile,” said John Ennis, director of benefits administration for Battelle, who would not reveal specific numbers.

The company started offering United HealthCare’s Medicare Complete product last month to its 915 retirees. By July 24, about 100 retirees had signed up for the plan.

  • “We hoped for at least 10 percent and we got that,” said Ennis.

Battelle employees will have the option to return to the company’s traditional health plan if they are not satisfied with the HMO. The company does not offer a United HealthCare plan to its current employees.

The federal Health Care Financing Administration contracts with some private HMO organizations to provide health-care benefits to people over the age of 65. Medicare pays the HMO a monthly premium for each member. The HMO then assumes all risk related to the member’s health care. Seniors often choose an HMO because it offers less out-of-pocket expense.

Many businesses offer supplemental insurance to retirees to pay for the medical expenses not covered under traditional Medicare.

Battelle’s traditional Medicare-supplemental health insurance package for retirees has a $225 deductible and covers 85 percent of all medical expenses including prescriptions not covered by Medicare.

The supplemental insurance costs the retiree a monthly premium of $39 a month along with Medicare’s premium of $43.80 a month. Retiree choosing Medicare Complete don’t have to pay the $39 premium, Ennis said.

David Fandkuhl, director of Medicare sales and marketing for United HealthCare, said a company can either reduce or eliminate the premium it pays for Medicare supplemental insurance and reduce its liability for the health insurance benefit.

To enhance the health benefits offered through the Medicare HMO, businesses often pay a premium. The United HealthCare Medicare HMO had an annual limit on how much it would pay out for prescriptions. Battelle chose to pay the HMO a premium to make the prescription benefit unlimited for its retirees.

Joe Calvaruso, president of Mount Carmel MediGold, a provider-based Medicare HMO, said companies can save money if retirees sign onto the plan.

Mount Carmel launched its MediGold product in March and has about 3,000 enrollees. No businesses have partnered with the hospital system to offer the product.

United HealthCare, meanwhile, started its Medicare Complete product about a year ago. It offers the product through 27 businesses statewide accounting for about 22 percent of its total 26,000 enrollees. Fandkuhl said in general businesses do not understand the product and its benefits since Medicare HMOs are new in the Ohio market.

As businesses and retirees become more familiar with the Medicare HMO products, Fandkuhl said he thinks it will be an easy sell.

Businesses play a vital role in marketing a Medicare HMO product since about 40 percent of Ohio’s 1.8 million Medicare eligible retirees have some type. of health benefit plan from their previous employer.

What types of balance bike are safety and good for kids health?

The word is out: if you are looking for an easy way to teach your child to ride a two-wheeler, balance bikes are just what you need. Getting ready to buy your first balance bike? Hold on! Here are some points you should consider when choosing a balance bike:

  1. The size of the bike.

The saddle height is the first thing you have to consider when you buy a balance bike. In fact, most negative reviews of balance bike come from choosing the wrong size.  Too low and it results to painful legs, too high and it gets even more difficult to balance.

So unless you know your child’s inseam – add 1” or 1.5”’ inches more to the inseam, and you get the perfect height – it is best to visit the bike shop with your kid before you buy.

If you don’t want to be bothered by measurements, just make sure that when your child is sitting on the bike, he can reach the floor with his legs fully stretched. This way, he can get on and off the bike easily, hence avoiding injuries.

If you can’t bring your child to the shop, then the best solution is to buy a balance bike that has an adjustable saddle.

  1. Type and Make of Bike

Balance bikes come in many different kinds: wood, metal and composite frames.

Metal bikes are durable because they are typically made of aluminum or steel alloys. Steel bikes can take on heavier load (for heavier kids), but it can also be heavy and can rust easily if they are stored outdoors. Aluminum bikes are lighter and rust-free, but can take on up to 75 lbs. only.

Wooden bikes are more eco-friendly, but as they are made of wood, they are less durable than metal bikes and they often have fixed saddles so you need to buy a different balance bike for kids of different ages.

Composite frames are relatively new development and they combine the benefits of the two kinds of metal bikes – it is lightweight and durable even for heavier loads, and does not rust, hence making it the top choice in terms of material for balance bikes.

  1. Brakes or without brakes?

The choice depends on your preference, and your child’s level. Pre-schoolers generally do not have the necessary hand coordination or dexterity to put the brakes into good use. On the other hand, older kids may no longer use the brakes since they can use their foot to do the braking for them.

Brakes are important if your house is near a hill or if the road has twists and turns and you simply want to provide an additional safety feature so your child can use the balance bike even without mommy or daddy running to stop their fall.

  1. Type of tire

There are six kinds of tires available in the market: the “fat boy” and “big apple”, pneumatic, rubber honeycomb, EVA foam, hard plastic and solid rubber. Which type you should choose depends on your local terrain and your child’s level.

The “fat boy” and “big apple” typically have wide profiles and are extra-cushioned so they are perfect for beginners and younger kids. It does not do well for rocky terrain (as the tire can be punctured) and off-road (it has less traction compared to other tires).

The pneumatic rubber provides traction and extra cushioning so it is great for mid-level kids who want to go off road. Because it needs air, it is prone to flats, and it’s not so great in muddy areas (can be slippery as it has mid-level traction only).

Rubber honeycomb tire are sealed tires. They provide great traction, but has very minimal cushion so it can be uncomfortable for young learners. It is, however, great for off-roads and older kid since it is not prone to flats.

EVA foam tires and solid rubber tires are great for the park because it has minimal traction and has no cushioning. The great thing about these tires is that they are maintenance free and flat tires are no possibility.

Meanwhile, bikes using hard plastic tires can only be used indoors as it has no traction and no cushioning. It is often used only in play bikes and must be used only by very young kids.

  1. Does it come with Safety guard or more assembly task?

Balance bikes are pretty straight forward and do not need too much features for it to work well. The simpler its build is the better. Aside from the seats and the material of the whole bike, everything else is a bonus.  Choose the best balance bike that is easy to assemble, this way, there are no loose parts and there is lesser tendency to repair it.

By considering these five points when you choose a balance bike, you can ensure that your child will have a great time learning to ride a two-wheeler. The best part is that they get to become more independent of you, faster, so they will be biking on their own in no time!

Just remember, even though balance bikes are relatively safe, it is still important to purchase a helmet and knee guards to prevent injury. Anyway, your child will need these when they start exploring on their two-wheeler.

Now you can go buy your child’s first balance bike, and let him experience the freedom of biking. Enjoy!

Managing health benefits: the ten-minute manager’s guide to

IN AN INDUSTRY where business is made or broken by how well guests are treated, it shouldn’t be unreasonable for those who provide hospitality to receive the care they need.

To curb escalating health costs, operators are turning toward outsourced services and programs that emphasize well-being. Pending legislation might also offer financial relief. If the result is lower turnover in a tight labor market, the efforts are bound to be worthwhile for large and small operators.

“Every employee, from the least glamorous to the most glamorous, is important to the success of the company,” says Peggy Rubenzer, director of people services at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro. “Because of that, providing healthcare is extremely important to us.”

WELL BEING

Providing health-related initiatives called wellness programs in addition to traditional health benefits is not new, but the concept still is in training wheels. In 2004, Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee rolled out Thrive!, an online wellness program where employees can monitor their health, but the company has yet to study the program’s effectiveness.

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro offers wellness programs for senior management in conjunction with its healthcare provider and plans to extend the program to all employees in several years. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain also sponsors the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon (r.) in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe, which it encourages employees to enter. Last year, 170 employees participated in the event.

Foodservice is the biggest employer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. So when the university started analyzing rising healthcare costs, it also looked at ways to improve overall employee health and well-being.

Campus human resources and foodservice departments teamed up six months ago to embrace wellness programs. The For Your Information training fair offered skin-cancer screenings, hearing tests, blood-pressure tests and tips on maintaining health.

Informational events are designed to reduce weight and smoking. By offering information on healthful living, Bill Moloney, director of student dining, hopes to soften the impact of rising healthcare costs.

“If we can spend this money on wellness and our overall costs go down, then we think that the wellness program is the way to go,” says Moloney.

COST CRUNCH

When it comes to offering employee healthcare, it’s no secret that costs can be prohibitive. According to a study by Washington, D.C.-based Employee Benefit Research Institute, 59% of small companies offer health benefits; among large firms, uninsured workers are concentrated among lower-wage employees in service industries.

Small businesses also have a higher percentage of employees qualified for coverage who decline because of cost. Tallahassee, Fla.-based, Po’ Boys Creole Cafe offers health insurance to every employee through its payroll company. But of the six-unit chain’s 90 employees, many of whom work part-time, only a few opt for insurance.

“It’s a significant amount of money taken out of their paychecks every week,” says Charlie Youngs, vice president of franchise development for the chain. “Insurance has always been a challenge.”

The issue hasn’t been ignored by the Washington, D.C.-based National Federation of Independent Business, which supports legislation that would allow national trade associations to sell health insurance to their members. By mimicking the buying power of large companies, associations could offer small businesses lower rates than they currently qualify for.

Proponents of such health plans estimate that offering insurance through a national organization could save small businesses 15% to 30% in healthcare costs. However, critics caution that the legislation fails to protect patients’ rights due to its omission of some state healthcare regulations.

If the legislation passes, the Washington, D.C.-based National Restaurant Association (NRA) will offer healthcare plans to restaurateurs at competitive prices, according to Brendan Flanagan, vice president of federal relations for the NRA. “It doesn’t solve all the problems,” Flanagan explains, “but it does take the important step of giving restaurateurs the tools to address cost increases.”

SAVING GRACE

Independent restaurateur Deirdre Pain knows first hand that offering health insurance is not impossible, but she acknowledges that it requires dedication.

“It’s a personal choice. I believe in the value of my employees,” says the founder and owner of Malee’s Thai Bistro on Main in Phoenix and managing partner of Malee’s Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar.

It hasn’t been easy. Pain has seen her employee health insurance more than double in cost since she began offering it in 1988. Rising fees made her scale down her original 100% coverage for long-term employees to 50%. But she’s never questioned whether or not it’s worth offering. She’s had too many close calls.

When a young, healthy waitress was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis months after signing up for Malee’s insurance plan, the worker was able to get the care she needed. A manager reluctant to get insurance was gradually talked into it. A few months later, he collapsed at work and landed in the hospital.

With these experiences in mind, Pain has no plans to scale back on benefits. But she does have a tip for other operators. To provide healthcare most efficiently, she recommends forming a relationship with a healthcare insurance broker who understands the foodservice industry.

“I have a terrific broker,” Pain says. “She is very diligent in shopping for me to get the best plan.”

BOTTOM LINE

Food service operators have always had to grapple with part-time employees and high turnover. But Paul Fronstin, a senior research associate with the Employee Benefit Research Institute, believes that choosing to provide healthcare in foodservice isn’t so different than offering it in other sectors.

“Bottom-line productivity is a common concern in any industry,” Fronstin says. A stable, predictable work force is better for business, and health benefits remain a tried-and-true retention tool.

“But will offering health insurance mean fewer sick days among your staff?” he asks.

But operators need to ask themselves how much of a premium they can require employees to contribute as well as whether they will include families in coverage.

He suggests taking a close look at all the angles related to healthcare costs. If providing health benefits leads to better employee retention, then healthcare expenses may offset training costs. There also are tax incentives for providing employee health benefits. Customer service could improve too.

HELPING HAND

There’s no shame in asking for help.

PF Chang’s China Bistro, which offers health benefits to employees who work at least 20 hours a week and have been employed a minimum of one year, debated whether to include tipped employees in its group plan. With paychecks for tipped employees occasionally working out to $0 after taxes, there were times when employees couldn’t afford to contribute to their healthcare plan.

Instead of denying coverage, the company contracted a vendor to collect healthcare contributions. “It’s a bit of an issue for operators who don’t want to manage another account, but it’s important for us so we make it work,” says P.F. Chang’s Peggy Rubenzer.

And for the interim period, when employees haven’t reached their required one year of employment, new hires receive information on alternative affordable healthcare plans that bridge the gap until they can sign up for group insurance. New employees can choose between catastrophic or comprehensive coverage. If employees leave P.F. Chang’s, these alternative plans can travel with them.

“We’ve seen employee satisfaction improve based on comments from workers,” Rubenzer says. “We’ve seen a positive impact on retention.”

Do-IT-YOURSELF HEALTH INSURANCE: EMPLOYEES WILL BE IN COMMAND WHEN IT COMES TO COVERAGE DECISIONMAKING

Say goodbye to employer micromanagement of healthcare benefits. For many Americans, selecting a health plan will become a point-and-click decision unencumbered by the biases of human resources departments.

In the coming decades, individual consumers will be the ones directing much of the multibillion-dollar market for health insurance.

Do-it-yourself health insurance investing isn’t really as foreign as it sounds. Many workers already have a hand in managing billions of dollars in pension benefits as a result of corporate America’s movement toward defined contribution 401(k) plans. Employees receive a set amount of retirement money to invest as they see fit among a variety of savings options, such as mutual funds and guaranteed investment contracts.

“I think that’s a good parallel to what we can see in healthcare,” says Steve Richter, group and healthcare practice leader in the Sherman Oaks, Calif., office of Watson Wyatt Worldwide.

Employed individuals will be given a fixed sum of money with which to purchase health plans that meet their own healthcare requirements and budgetary constraints. A middle-aged manager with a family history of heart disease might select an expensive plan featuring a network of cardiologists and a top-notch heart hospital. An athletic 25-year-old might opt for a bare-bones plan.

To baby boomers accustomed to having things their way, the movement toward a consumer-choice model of healthcare coverage is just what the doctor ordered. And given the 1990s backlash against managed-care constrictions, it is inevitable.

Healthcare prognosticators offer varying opinions about the future degree of employers’ financial and operational involvement in the health insurance arena. Much of the debate centers on where the tax benefit ought to rest — with the individual consumer or the employer, says Ray Werntz, president of the Consumer Health Education Council, a new arm of the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington.

More choice for the consumer

How the tax debate will shake out is unclear. But clearly there is momentum for more consumer choice, and presumably consumers would be more price- and quality-sensitive if they were in charge of their own healthcare spending, he says.

While the so-called single-payer system of healthcare coverage still has its devoted fans, most people agree it’s not in the cards. More plausible is a shift of power to consumers from employers, coupled with some tax credits for the employed uninsured or underinsured.

“Employer-based healthcare will still remain, but it’s going to be very different,” offers Regina Herzlinger, a Harvard Business School professor who has written and lectured extensively about the emerging role of the consumer in healthcare. Employers will retain the tax benefit of funding health insurance premiums, she says. But instead of purchasing healthcare directly, employers will be involved in educating workers and otherwise facilitating the process.

A consumer-driven healthcare system will moderate costs by driving out provider inefficiencies and shifting purchasing power to the ultimate user of health benefits, says Herzlinger. As healthcare inflation slows, Congress may be willing to loosen its purse strings to cover the poor uninsured, she says.

Dwight McNeill, a health policy fellow at Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., and a consultant with WayPoint Health in Barrington, R.I., anticipates greater consumer choice. “But I don’t think defined contribution is enough,” he says. “I think that’s a short-term solution.” McNeill predicts several coinciding pressures will alter the health insurance landscape and employer behavior by 2020. Those forces include:

  • Rising insurance premiums.
  • Inflation.
  • A growing uninsured population.
  • Baby boomer outrage over the $125 billion federal tax deduction employers enjoy for footing the healthcare tab.
  • Increased employer exposure to consumer litigation under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, a 1974 federal law governing employer-sponsored health plans.

” Nobody’s going to force employers out,” McNeill says. ” Employers will make the decision to stay or not stay based on a business decision. My bet is that they’ll get out.”

Ultimately, healthcare benefits will be folded into a “total compensation” package, along with salary, pension and other perks. Individuals will have complete control over how that money gets divvied up and invested. However, he cautions that as employers bow out of providing coverage, policymakers will need to ensure that the money pulled out of workers’ wages for healthcare premiums — now roughly $265 billion a year — gets passed along.

One group of employers that’s less likely to exit the market? Large companies with strong union connections, such as General Motors Corp. McNeill says that for those companies and their workers, progression to defined contribution plans is unlikely because of multiyear contracts locking companies into providing specified benefits.

But for many Americans, the choice will be theirs!

Healthy Opportunity? Health Insurance Exchange Planned

A big change in how Americans obtain health insurance will take place over the next several years, and one CUSO here is moving now to help credit unions leverage the shift to create a new revenue stream.

EPL, a technology CUSO owned by 12 CUs across the country, next month will introduce the Credit Union Exchange Blueprint (CUEB), a national private health insurance exchange open to all CU employees and members that will be offered through credit unions. EPL is partnering with Health Partners America here on the effort.

EPL President and CEO Wayne Benson wants credit unions to recognize the magnitude of change that his company believes is coming. Citing statistics from the Congressional Budget Office and McKinsey & Co., Benson said that today 14 million Americans receive healthcare coverage through a group employer plan, 40 million have personal policies, 47 million receive Medicare, 45 million are on Medicaid, and 40 million are uninsured.

“By the end of 2015, because of the Affordable Care Act, it’s expected 185-million Americans will receive health insurance through personal policies,” he said.

The Affordable Care Act stipulates that by 2014 public health insurance exchanges must be in place in each state. A public health insurance exchange is a set of government-regulated and standardized healthcare plans from which individuals can purchase health insurance. Many private health insurance exchanges are being formed or are already in place, noted several sources who spoke with Credit Union Journal.

‘Ahead of the Game’

“We know there will be a number of other private exchanges, but we feel we are ahead of the game for credit unions. If credit unions can get out in front of this, they can really position themselves as leaders in their communities,” said Benson, who added that the CU philosophy of people helping people fits with the concept of health insurance exchanges.

Some state leagues are also paying attention to private health insurance exchanges, possibly seeking to form exchanges to serve CUs and their members. Scott Simpson, CEO of the Utah CU Association, told Credit Union Journal that a private health insurance exchange contacted him to be part of its board of directors to help establish a cooperative business model for the effort (see related story).

Benson said CUEB will help credit unions several ways-potentially saving money on their own employeehealthcare costs, generating revenue for the CU by offering health insurance to members and sponsor groups, deepening existing relationships and attracting new members, and tying the credit union more closely to the community.

“There is a significant revenue stream for credit unions from this,” said Benson. “There are different financial models we are exploring. But we are planning on an ongoing revenue sharing with credit unions, and as more members use the exchange there will be increased revenue share for each credit union. EPL will make money through a one-time installation charge to the credit union and then a monthly fee.”

Benson believes credit unions that will see the option as less costly but still good coverage for staff will move away from offering coverage to employees through the credit union in favor of CUEB. The Affordable Care Act states that by 2014 businesses with 50 or more employees must offer affordable minimum health insurance coverage or pay penalties. The penalty for not offering coverage is $2,000 per employee. But many will choose the penalty, predicted Benson, as have other analysts who have spoken with CU Journal (Credit Union Journal, Jan. 14), since it may be less expensive than offering insurance.

‘Tremendous Value’

According to Benson, accessibility to care won’t be limited within CUEB, saying contracts have been secured with most of the large health insurance carriers across the U.S. Pricing is competitive, said Benson, without sharing specifics.

“I think CUEB will provide tremendous value. Pricing can get complex, as we are moving into uncharted waters. There will be a lot of change with health insurance moving forward, but we know we will be providing value through the Blueprint.”

With an online portal and call center for individuals to sign up and select coverage, and to learn abouthealthcare reform, CUEB will also offer value through service, said Benson. The EPL chief said service will be in line with what CU members have come to expect, delivered via a 156-person call center staff that will likely be beefed up to meet an expected growing demand, he said.

“We will train the call center on the credit union philosophy,” said Benson of the team of employed by Health Partners America.

Fundamental changes are occurring in how employers and employees view health benefits, noted Josh Hilgers, president of Health Partners America. “There is a real disruption that is taking place and will continue take place for some time. For credit unions to be able to provide guidance and assistance in these times is a natural fit. They are trusted advisors and a resource for their communities, this just brings them closer to the people they serve.”

Economic, demographic and political changes offer great opportunities for private health insurance around the world

Many health insurance agents and brokers in the United States are concerned about federal government intrusion into the insurance arena. There is a growing fear among U.S. agents that private health insurance may become extinct unless government is held at bay. But when one looks to the private health insurance industry outside the United States, a different story is unfolding.

Meetings with health insurance executives and government ministry officials around the world have revealed a startling reality: Private health insurance is a growth industry, even in the poorest of countries.

Today, health care is the world’s largest service business and draws in excess of $1.5 trillion in investments annually. That investment figure is expected to grow to $4 trillion annually by 2010. There are many reasons for this investment trend, including national governments limiting and reducing health-care budgets, the corresponding growth of private health insurance and the aging population the world over.

Most readers are aware that during the past 10 years, health-care expenditures have grown to about 14% of gross domestic product in the United States. That same growth trend is seen in the 30 member countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. Health-care expenditures in these countries have doubled in the same time period. This steady growth in health-care spending is understandable, given that for each 1% growth in societal wealth, there is a corresponding 0.5% growth in health-care expenditures. That is, as a nation becomes wealthier, its people are willing to spend more on health care.

This steady growth in health-care expenditures creates some unique opportunities for individuals and companies in the health insurance sector.

Reasons for Growth

Around the globe, the pressures behind rising health-care costs include technology, medical advances, an aging society and consumerism. Collectively, these factors drive up medical costs 2.5% to 3.5% annually. This is a significant annual increase, and governments are increasingly turning to the private sector, including private health insurance, to alleviate budgetary pressures.

Pertinent developments are taking place outside the United States.

In the European Union, the founding Maastricht Treaty specifically forces EU members to rein in budget increases and align their budgets with the budgets of the other member nations. And while the treaty doesn’t specifically state how governments should control costs, many countries have looked to the health-care sector as one sizable budget item that can be reduced.

In Belgium, the OECD recently reviewed the health insurance sector and concluded that while solidarity, or health coverage for all, was effective, the industry had too many insurance companies (due to state regulations and price supports).The OECD recommended that Belgium allow consolidation within the health insurance industry through mergers, acquisitions and company failures.

While the Asian economies have struggled the past few years, their governments are rapidly updating their health insurance sectors. India recently liberalized the insurance industry and Australia, in the summer of 2000, instituted lifetime pricing in health insurance in the interest of building up the number of citizens covered by private insurance.

In the old Eastern Bloc countries, Poland and Slovakia stand out as two extremes of the changes taking place today. Poland is redefining the country’s budget in anticipation of entry into the EU and increasing its use of private health insurance to meet budget guidelines. The opposite is happening in Slovakia, a country where all employees have mandatory health coverage provided by private, nonprofit health insurance companies. A new movement within the government intends to ban private insurance. While this is distressing to the private sector, these reactionary efforts are not the norm in today’s global market.

Nations such as the Netherlands and Singapore adhere more closely to what can be considered “the new norm” in health care. The Netherlands is currently reducing the number of sickness funds, or state-sponsored associations for health insurance, to cut costs, and the government is looking to the private sector to fill the void. In Singapore, the government is concentrating on a three-tiered program–Medisave, Medishield and Medifund–that encourages individuals to pay a portion of their health-care expenses.

Collectively, these changes have driven the rapid growth of private health insurance overseas. Europe has a growth rate in private health insurance between 5% and 7% annually, according to a recent PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey. But it must be noted that this rapid growth in private health insurance, while due in part to budget constraints, also is attributed to a growing dissatisfaction with government-paid health services and the use of private insurance by employers as an additional benefit for employees.

With governments looking to the private sector to help finance health care through health insurance, the health insurance industry will continue to experience significant growth. Although the top three health insurance companies in Brazil control nearly 80% of the market, the private players in Turkey have penetrated only 10% of the country’s private-market potential.

Marketing Potential

But all markets are not the same. It is important to recognize that the world is composed of countries in various stages of economic development. For analysis, the countries can be divided into the mature markets and the developing, or emerging, markets.

As mentioned earlier, it is projected that 2010, private investment in health care will be $4 trillion. A significant opportunity lies in the $750 billion of that investment that will come from emerging markets.

In emerging markets, health-care expenditures will focus in the areas of hospital and clinic development, pharmaceuticals, specialty care and private access, or insurance. Although private health insurance will be a growth product, the overall dollar amount spent compared with developed countries will be relatively small. But make no mistake, growth will be rapid. Officials in Bahrain, for example, are considering how the country can develop its private health insurance sector in anticipation of petroleum revenues drying up.

Within mature markets, such as Western Europe, parts of South America and Asia, significant growth in medical services is anticipated to support increased outpatient care and private hospitals. Also, strong growth in private insurance is likely. For instance, according to the OECD, the average hospital days per capita in Japan is 4.1, while in the United States the average is only 1.1. This indicates that mature markets will focus on reducing the number of days patients stay in hospitals, resulting in the growth of smaller healthcare facilities supporting outpatient and post-hospital-stay care.

Product Opportunities

With these developments over the next eight to nine years, there is a corresponding opportunity in how health and life insurance products are designed. In addition to the segmented, or individual country, changes described above, there are opportunities on a global basis for health and life companies.

Research by PHM International indicates that opportunities exist for private companies that develop a global orientation and act according to market-segment characteristics. That is, these “winning” companies will create new products for different markets, but the products will provide coverage across arbitrary boundaries, such as nations, economic unions or employment.

The growth rate of world travel is astounding, and according to the World Tourism Organization, more than 636 million international trips are made annually. Today’s health insurance market has effectively conceded this market to the travel insurance industry. France had 75 million visitors in 2000, while the United States had nearly 51 million and Spain, 48 million. These visitors can cause havoc on a country’s healthcare system, particularly how to pay for any health care they may need during a Visit.

Spain’s health minister spoke at the International Hospital Associations Millennium Conference in Palma de Majorca in May 2000 about the challenges of the uninsured in Spain. Spain’s Balearic Islands alone receive 10 million visitors, and the healthcare system struggles under this financial burden. The challenge is that most of the 10 million visitors do not have private health insurance, government bureaucracies bungle insurance payment transfers, and many visitors have no coverage at all.

Prior to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, international travel was projected to increase 50% by 2010. Even with the relative short-term adjustments made for travel projections, astute health insurance companies will realize this fantastic opportunity, develop transnational policies and lay claim to a significant new type of market share.

In addition to an increasing use of private health insurance around the world, many governments are laying the groundwork to privatize their life insurance sectors. China’s policy changes in compliance with World Trade Organization demands are well known, but other countries also are advancing their life insurance sectors as a means of increasing standards of living. In Egypt and India, there have been recent legislative changes to support the growth of private life insurance. Such changes have included the removal of foreign ownership restrictions on life insurance companies and the removal of price controls. Discussions with two health and life carriers in Cairo last spring highlighted the excitement and growth opportunities in the private sector there.

It’s tough not to think the private health insurance industry has a bright future. There are many new and growing markets, new products are being developed to meet emerging trends and market share will be defined without borders. All this will take place in a global arena that allows private health insurance to operate in open and free markets.