Broker Survey

By Brian M. Kalish

Many brokers might want to change the way they do business. A majority of employers are not happy with the service they provide, according to a new Zywave white paper.

What employers are looking for from their broker is changing more than ever, explains Dave O’Brien, division president of insurance solutions at the Milwaukee, Wisc.-based company. The annual “Broker Services Survey” asked more than 5,500 employers in a range of industries what they would be looking for if they were to consider changing their broker.

In the past, the ability to negotiate a lower premium always ranked highest. Last year, 61% of employers said that was highly important — that number dropped to 27% this year. “Brokers focus on price, price, price,” O’Brien says. “But the top reasons employers left their broker was because they did not provide the level of service expected, did not keep them abreast of regulatory and legal issues, and did not properly manage insurance options.”

Further, Zywave says, as employers demand more service from their brokers, what brokers are actually delivering has decreased, from the employer’s point of view. Employers want to hear from their broker monthly in light of all the change going on in the industry. In the survey, 97% of employers say providing updates on health care reform and other legislation is important, but 23% are unsatisfied with their broker’s current way of providing information.

O’Brien explains a broker likes to tell a story when prospecting. “You will see the broker go in and talk about their years in the industry and history,” he says. “Employers are saying that is not all that important. What is really important to them [is] … updates on health care reform and employee communication.”

Other survey results include:

  • 91% of employers say it is important that their broker create a strategic plan to align with company goals — but 43% are unsatisfied with their current broker
  • 95% say offering employee benefits and consumerism communications is important — but 41% are unsatisfied with their current broker

Some ways for brokers to change their story include turning to technology products, of which Zywave is a provider. O’Brien says you can’t meet all the new demands the old-fashioned way, and technology is becoming “more of a must have than a great have.”

Further, brokers need to do more than say they provide great service — they need to provide examples of it. “Imagine if five brokers walk in and say, ‘It’s our people and our service.’ You have to do more to distinguish that and define what service means,” O’Brien says. “How are you going to distinguish? Do you spent a lot of money [on training] making great people?”

The broker/employer relationship needs to be powered by performance and results. “When you talk about service, you have to defend what does that mean and how are you going to do it?” he says. “Give examples of things clients have received in the past. Tell them what you do, show them and tell them again.”

The survey was conducted during April to May and had 5,536 respondents, of which 33.4% were HR professionals, 15.3% C-suite and 8.7% benefits professionals. Of the employers who responded, 55% have 100 lives or less, 20% 100-249 lives and the rest 250 lives plus.

SourceMedia. (2014). Employee Benefit Adviser. Retrieved from Benefit News:


Best and Worst Fitness Trends

Each year brings a new slew of trends; both good and bad. The following list from Health Magazine outlines the best and worst trends of 2013:


  • Water Workouts: Whatever your workout class of choice, chances are it can probably be done in the water, thereby eliminating the joint impact that many exercise classes have and adding in the water resistance to increase strength and weight loss.
  • Fun Runs: People who workout in groups for the pure sake of working out rather than expecting an immediate result tend to stick to their workout plans and have better long term results.
  • Going Vegan: This can be disputed depending on who you talk to, however the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that vegans tend to be thinner and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Martica Heaner PhD, a Nutritionist and Exercise Physiologist recommends that those who try to switch to the Vegan lifestyle make sure they get enough daily protein.
  • Hybrid Yoga: Workout classes are taking the fundamentals of yoga and adding in hula hoops, kickboxing moves and even trampolines to make a hybrid type of yoga class that caters to a wider variety of muscles and results in better body sculpting says Melissa diLeonardo, an American Council on Exercise, certified personal trainer and Life Fitness Master Trainer.
  • Bike Sharing Programs: A study in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics found that biking decreases fatigue by 65%. Studies have also shown that those people who use a bicycle as their main mode of transportation gain less weight over the years than those who drive their car everywhere.
  • Playground Workouts: diLeonardo has found that implementing bars for climbing, ropes for pulling and platforms for jumping, playground like workouts strengthen your entire body through natural, multi-joint exercises.
  • Exercise Specific Footwear: Shoe stores are finally stocking Zumba, cycling and CrossFit shoes that provide much more support than regular tennis shoes. Shoes are now being designed for specific types of workouts, with hopes to improve performance and lessen the amount of sprained ankles and injuries.
  • Intermittent Fasting: The British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease stated this year that “fasting diets not only aid in weight loss, but actually may help people with cardiovascular disease by decreasing inflammation, reducing blood pressure, and improving blood sugar and triglyceride levels.” The key is to understand your body’s needs and know how long is too long to try to fast. Alexandra Caspero, RD and dietician advises talking to a nutritionist or healthcare provider to find a fasting or juicing diet that’s right for you.


  • Open-Bar Gyms: More and more gyms are now serving alcohol at their facilities to help with the “cool down” process. The switch from water to alcohol following a workout is frowned upon by a number of Nutritionists and Dieticians. According to one study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, alcohol drains your muscles’ levels of glycogen which works as their primary source of fuel. Your muscles don’t have the energy to repair and grow. The alcohol following the workout simply negates the whole point of going to the gym.
  • The Whole30 Diet: Similar to the Paleo Diet, the Whole30 Diet is a month long program that prohibits the consumption of fiber-filled legumes, whole grains, calcium and vitamin D. While the strict plant and meat diet is a sure fire way to lose weight, the diet isn’t sustainable. Weight is almost immediately gained back once an individual stops following the strict guidelines.
  • Hot Classes: The American Council on Exercise found that increasing the temperature in the room does not mean that more calories are going to be burned during the workout. The sweat makes you think you’re losing weight, when really you’re just becoming dehydrated.
  • Going Gluten Free For No Reason: The NPD Group did a survey in 2013 and found that nearly 1 in 3 Americans are cutting down on Gluten. While there have been a number of success stories for those people who need to cut out gluten for health reasons, researchers have found that sometimes, when not recommended by a Nutritionist or health professional, gluten free living can actually cause weight gain and provide no added benefit.
  • Vibration Machines: The new fad is to stand on a pulsating platform to tone muscles and boost your metabolism, however one study in the International Journal of Sports and Medicine followed women for 24 weeks who completed the vibration training and found that none of them actually lost fat.
  • Too-Intense Workouts: A number of DVDs that came out in 2013 promoted pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion as the ultimate goal. While working out at home is already difficult given you may not be following the correct form on your own, it’s even less productive if you’re also increasing your risk of injury. Before trying out a new DVD, develop correct form or talk with a personal trainer.
  • The Bulletproof Diet: Designed by a Silicon Valley investor and computer security professional who lost more than 100 pounds by not exercising or counting calories. While we would all love to be able to eat more and weigh less, it sounds too good to be true.

Material courtesy of Fetters, Aleisha K. “Best and Worst Health Trends of 2013.” Health Magazine. 2013. Web. 10 December 2013. <,,20756061,00.html>


Surviving the Holiday Calories

As Thanksgiving and Hanukkah come to a close, a number of us find that we’ve consumed close to 2,000 calories more that we needed to over the course of the weekend. We can’t just not eat the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pumpkin pie, but what now? Instead of sitting on the couch and watching football, let’s consider burning a few calories before the next set of holidays.

Studies show that a 150 pound person can burn up to 80 calories an hour just by working on their smartphone. How about we get rid of the phone though and actually go for a walk? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that if you walk at a 3.5 mph pace for an hour, the same 150 pound person can burn up to 250 calories.

Maybe the weather is bad and you can’t walk. WebMd’s Fit-O-Meter shows that you can burn up to 157 calories an hour just by washing the dishes.

We all love the holidays, and we all hate having to burn off all the calories afterward, but it’s easier than you think. You should be able to burn all the calories off just in time for…the next holiday.

Material courtesy of Barrineau, Jacqui. “You just ate 4,000 Thanksgivukkah calories. Now what?” USA Today, Health and Wellness. 28 November 2013. Web. 29 November 2013. <>


Stay in the Know with the ABC’s of Vitamins

We grow up being told to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but what does that really mean?  Does it matter which fruits and vegetables?  What are the vitamins within those fruits and vegetables that need to be consumed?

Vitamin A is essential for people of all ages.  Children need it to protect against diarrhea, measles, and malaria.  In teens, vitamin A can prevent acne, cold sores and sunburns.  Adults benefit from vitamin A in that it minimalizes the effects of aged-related macular degeneration, night blindness, glaucoma, and cataracts.  You can find vitamin A in carrots, spinach, eggs and lettuce.

Vitamin B is a group of vitamins that help produce energy throughout the body.  Thaimine (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), and biotin (B7) help with energy production by regulating metabolism, nutrient conversion, and cell production. Pyridoxine (B6) is essential to the conversion of amino acids into proteins and helps maintain normal blood sugar levels.  Crab, chicken, fish and cheese are all good sources for vitamin B.

Vitamin C strengthens the immune system to fight off colds and strokes.  The common misunderstanding with vitamin C is that consuming more will increase your chances of staying healthy, when the reality is, the body can only absorb a certain amount.  Once it reaches its threshold, the rest gets flushed out of the body.  Vitamin C can be found in oranges, tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and strawberries.

Vitamin D controls the body’s ability to absorb calcium.  Vitamin D is critical in keeping bones and teeth strong and healthy.  Vitamin D deficiency results in bone pain and bone loss.  Roughly 80-90% of the body’s supply of vitamin D comes from the sun.  Aside from just the sun, milk, fish and eggs are all very good sources for vitamin D.

Consistent levels of Vitamin E guard against heart disease, artery blockages and high blood pressure.  When treating conditions like Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, vitamin D complements other medications, increasing energy and improving muscle strength.  Vitamin E can be found in whole grains, vegetable oil, sunflower seeds and eggs.

Lastly, Vitamin K is an essential component in blood clotting, but one that isn’t as highly publicized as vitamin B or C.  Vitamin K is often used to reserve the blood-thinning effects of some medications.  Those who lack vitamin K may see an increase in bruising.  That said, it’s understandable that increased amounts of vitamin K can help with scarring, burns, acne, stretch marks and swelling.

Knowledge is power, and the more you know about what fruits and vegetables to consume will help increase your health, and your overall state of mind.  Start eating healthy today and work towards getting the most out of the fruits and vegetables you put in your body.

Information provided by VSP Vision Care. The content of this article is meant for general awareness.  Please consult with your doctor for advice specific to you and your body.

Source: Vitamins 101: The need-to-know facts you can’t ignore. EnVision, July 2013. Web. August 2013.


National Sleep Awareness Week

Sleep is an integral part of everyone’s day to day routine, so much so that we spend about 3,000 hours a year doing it. However, countless studies show that people all over the world aren’t getting enough. March 3rd launched the National Sleep Foundation’s week long annual campaign for sleep awareness. The week ends with Daylight Savings Time on Sunday, March 10th with Americans losing an hour of sleep.

As timing would have it, this year’s sleep awareness week overlaps with the release of Consumer Reports’ first comprehensive mattress tests, which provide information on finding the perfect mattress for each individual body type.¹

A 2011 poll states that more than half of Americans between the ages of thirteen and sixty-four said they experience a sleep problem almost every night. The U.S. Department of Transportation has determined that drowsy U.S. drivers cause forty thousand injuries a year and more than fifteen hundred deaths.²

Social Media websites like Facebook and Twitter are spreading the word through posts and online groups. For the latest information about National Sleep Awareness Week events and the Sleep in America poll, visit

¹ DiClerico, Daniel. “Rest Easy! It’s National Sleep Awareness Week.” Consumer News. 06 March 2013.

² DiClerico, Daniel. “Rest Easy! It’s National Sleep Awareness Week.” Consumer News. 06 March 2013.


New Year Resolutions

While December may be the month to gorge on great meals and Sees candy, January tends to be the month where gyms everywhere are crowded with people working on their exercise resolutions for the New Year.  Start 2013 off right with a pantry full of healthy alternatives and get on track to being the best version of yourself that you can possibly be.

In a recent Anthem health magazine, they list everyday problems that can actually be treated by a simple change in diet. Ginger tea helps to calm a nervous stomach and decrease levels of nausea, while oranges, strawberries and other fruits that contain vitamin C can help lower levels of cortisol, a hormone that rises in response to stress.¹ Swap out lettuce for spinach, sourdough bread for whole wheat, or steak for chicken to improve the quality of your meal, without losing massive amounts of flavor.

While a change in diet is half the battle, exercise and sleep make up the other half of leading a healthy lifestyle. Implementing a weekly workout routine for just ten minutes a day can help boost energy and increase life expectancy by almost two years past the age of forty.² Improved self esteem and reduced levels of stress and anxiety all result from exercise. That, combined with a good nights’ rest can do wonders on both your physical appearance and overall mindset.  The better you feel on the inside, the better you look on the outside.

Take these tips into consideration and make 2013 a great year.

¹ “The Power of Positive Eating.” Healthy You 2013: 1.

² “Your Total Health Checklist.” Healthy You 2013: 1.


American Diabetes Month

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, many take this opportunity to reflect on the many blessing in life and give thanks for the opportunities and guidance that have been bestowed upon them. However, Thanksgiving isn’t the only thing celebrated throughout this month. November also represents American Diabetes Month.

The American Diabetes Association states that nearly 26 million children and adults living in the United States have diabetes; an additional 79 million having been diagnosed with pre-diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $174 billion. Further published studies suggest that when additional costs for gestational diabetes, pre-diabetes and undiagnosed diabetes are included, the total diabetes-related costs in the U.S. could exceed $218 billion.  Recent estimates project that in 2050 one in three American adults will have diabetes.¹

To raise awareness on the impact diabetes has on individuals and families worldwide, The American Diabetes Association has launched a socially-focused initiative called, “A Day in the Life of Diabetes.” People across the country have started posting pictures on Facebook showing what “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to them. Whether the picture is of themselves or a loved one, the aim is to shed light on the amount of people affected each and every day by this illness. To encourage participation, CVS Pharmacy has donated $1 to the American Diabetes Association for every picture posted, up to $25,000.²

At Neovia we promote Wellness in all aspects of life, both to our clients and colleagues. Being healthy is half the battle in preventing this serious disease.  A good diet and daily exercise can drastically decrease your chances at ever having to face or struggle with diabetes. For more information on diabetes, please visit The American Diabetes Association at or contact your doctor to decide what steps you should take to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

¹ American Diabetes Association, 2012

² American Diabetes Association, 2012


Stress Awareness Month

A new year can bring new experiences, new resolutions and new challenges; all of which can lead to heightened levels of stress.  Whether it is stemmed from the workplace, personal relationships, or situations we cannot control, stress can make any situation difficult.  It has become commonplace for a majority of people to accept that with life’s demands come the hassle and anxiety of dealing with deadlines and frustrations.

Moodiness, irritability, sleep deprivation, sickness and depression are all symptoms which stem from stress.  It is for these reasons that we label stress as a counterproductive nuisance, when in fact, stress can be our body’s way of protecting us.  When used correctly, stress helps us stay focused and alert.  Stress can sharpen concentration and drive us to become more aware of the outside forces that cause heightened levels of anxiety.

It is important to learn how to manage stress.  Too much stress can cause physical, as well as mental health problems.  Stress has the ability to affect each part of a person’s life.  Everything from our personal to our professional life to our physical well being can be thrown off balance by our inability to handle life’s changes.

Understanding what equates to a healthy amount of stress in one’s life differs from person to person.  While some people are quick on their feet to adapt to change, others panic at the idea of the unknown.  Factors that influence stress levels vary, but understanding the quality of a support network and being able to deal with emotions and instability will help to keep those overwhelming feelings in check.

April is stress awareness month.   Ask yourself what factors are causing anxiety and agitation in your life.  Try to find the root of your stress and decide what actions can be taken to manage the situation rather than react emotionally.

According to the Anxiety Disorder Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults age 18 or older (18% of U.S. population)¹. Events throughout the month are sponsored by the Health Resource Network, a non-profit health organization founded in 1982². Learn about ways to decrease stress levels so you can get back to enjoying life!

¹Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 2012

²The Health Resource Network, Inc., 2012


The ABC’s of Diabetes

The good ol’ days of ABC picture books and prancing through the alphabet song are some of the most enjoyable times in our childhood lives. How can we take these past times and turn them into educational tools to improve our employees’ health and reduce the health care costs for our company? One answer: guide your employees through the ABC’s of diabetes.

Of the seven most chronic conditions affecting Americans, diabetes is caused by poor lifestyle choices 91% of the time¹, while other chronic diseases such as cancer and stroke are caused by poor lifestyle choices 75% of the time or less. And, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 8.3% of the U.S. population, or more than 25 million people, are affected by the disease. Employers can bend this trend by educating and implementing programs to support your employees.

The National Diabetes Education Program outlines the following metrics in order to help lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke or other diabetes problems:

“A” for the A1C test. This test specifically shows your blood glucose levels, which should generally be below 7.

“B” for Blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke and even kidney disease. The goal blood pressure level for most of your employees will be 130/80.

“C” for Cholesterol. The LDL goal for most people is less than 100, while the HDL goal for most people is above 40.

Knowing that health care costs for a diabetic employee are 2.3 times higher than your non-diabetic employees², providing basic education and offering wellness incentives will not only improve productivity but will lend favorably towards your bottom line. For additional tools and ideas for your company’s wellness program, contact your Neovia Account Manager today.

¹Stampfer, 2000; Platz, 2000; Hu, 2001
²Diabetes Care. 2008 Mar;31(3):596-615


Make September Fruit & Veggie Month at your Workplace

Promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), September is National Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month. As we see health care costs continue to increase, it’s critical that we support the health of our employees in order to improve productivity, reduce absenteeism, and lower health care costs. And, because we know that less than 15% of Americans eat the daily recommended number of fruits and vegetables, we encourage you to make September Fruit & Veggie Month!

Ranging in price, here are some ideas to promote Fruit & Veggie Month in your office:

  • Replacing the candy bowl with apples, bananas, and oranges
  • Organizing potlucks to showcase unique fruit and vegetable recipes (The CDC shares fruit and vegetable recipes here)
  • Coordinating a Registered Dietitian to host a Lunch & Learn in order to share professional advice and offer nutritional information to employees
  • Encouraging employees to share simple and fresh recipes at Monthly Staff Meetings
  • Providing fruit and vegetable afternoon snacks or refreshments once per week (such as a fruit or vegetable tray, fresh juice, or even dark chocolate covered strawberries)

By implementing some of these suggestions and others to promote Fruit & Veggie Month you can reduce an employee’s likelihood to develop many common diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Improving the baseline health of your employees and developing healthy habits in the office will ultimately provide financial savings to your organization while creating a healthier, happier community.