Long COVID Is Keeping Significant Numbers of People Out of Work, Study Finds

Link: https://www.yahoo.com/news/long-covid-keeping-significant-numbers-125618654.html

Source of study: https://ww3.nysif.com/

Link to study (will download): https://ww3.nysif.com/~/media/Files/NYSIF_Publications/PDF/NYSIFLongCOVIDStudy2023.ashx

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Long COVID is having a significant effect on America’s workforce, preventing substantial numbers of people from going back to work while others continue needing medical care long after returning to their jobs, according to a new analysis of workers’ compensation claims in New York state.

The study, published Tuesday by New York’s largest workers’ compensation insurer, found that during the first two years of the pandemic, about 71% of people the fund classified as experiencing long COVID either required continuing medical treatment or were unable to work for six months or more. More than a year after contracting the coronavirus, 18% of long COVID patients had still not returned to work, more than three-fourths of them younger than 60, the analysis found.

“Long Covid has harmed the work force,” said the report, by the New York State Insurance Fund, a state agency financed by employer-paid premiums. The findings, it added, “highlight long Covid as an underappreciated yet important reason for the many unfilled jobs and declining labor participation rate in the economy, and they presage a possible reduction in productivity as employers feel the strains of an increasingly sick work force.”

Author(s): Pam Belluck

Publication Date: 24 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Yahoo (originally published at NYT)

Hospitals’ Use of Volunteer Staff Runs Risk of Skirting Labor Laws, Experts Say

Link: https://khn.org/news/article/hospital-volunteers-labor-laws/

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At HCA Healthcare, the world’s largest for-profit hospital system, volunteers include aspiring medical providers who work in patient rooms, in labs, and in wound care units, according to the company’s magazine.

Over centuries, leaning on volunteers in medicine has become so embedded in hospital culture that studies show they yield meaningful cost savings and can improve patient satisfaction — seemingly a win-win for hospital systems and the public.

Except, there’s a catch.

The U.S. health system benefits from potentially more than $5 billion in free volunteer labor annually, a KHN analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Independent Sector found. Yet some labor experts argue that using hospital volunteers, particularly at for-profit institutions, provides an opportunity for facilities to run afoul of federal rules, create exploitative arrangements, and deprive employees of paid work amid a larger fight for fair wages.

The federal government instructs that any person performing a task of “consequential economic benefit” for a for-profit entity is entitled to wages and overtime pay. That means profit-generating businesses, like banks and grocery stores, must pay for labor. A Chick-fil-A franchise in North Carolina was recently found guilty of violating minimum wage laws after paying people in meal vouchers instead of wages to direct traffic, according to a Department of Labor citation.

Author(s): Lauren Sausser

Publication Date: 10 Jan 2023

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

To Attract In-Home Caregivers, California Offers Paid Training — And Self-Care

Link: https://khn.org/news/article/california-paid-training-self-care-in-home-caregivers/

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The class is a little touchy-feely. But it’s one of many offerings from the California Department of Social Services that the agency says is necessary for attracting and retaining caregivers in a state-funded assistance program that helps 650,000 low-income people who are older or disabled age in place, usually at home. As part of the $295 million initiative, officials said, thousands of classes, both online and in-person, will begin rolling out in January, focused on dozens of topics, including dementia care, first-aid training, medication management, fall prevention, and self-care. Caregivers will be paid for the time they spend developing skills.

Whether it will help the program’s labor shortage remains to be seen. According to a 2021 state audit of the In-Home Supportive Services program, 32 out of 51 counties that responded to a survey reported a shortage of caregivers. Separately, auditors found that clients waited an average of 72 days to be approved for the program, although the department said most application delays were due to missing information from the applicants.

The in-home assistance program, which has been around for nearly 50 years, is plagued by high turnover. About 1 in 3 caregivers leave the program each year, according to University of California-Davis researcher Heather Young, who worked on a 2019 government report on California’s health care workforce needs.

Author(s): Laurie Udesky

Publication Date: 9 Dec 2022

Publication Site: Kaiser Health News

2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey

Link: https://www.kff.org/health-costs/report/2022-employer-health-benefits-survey/

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This 24th annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, offer rates, wellness programs, and employer practices. The 2022 survey included 2,188 interviews with non-federal public and private firms.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $22,463 this year, with workers on average paying $6,106 toward the cost of their coverage. The average deductible among covered workers in a plan with a general annual deductible is $1,763 for single coverage. Workers at smaller firms contribute on average contribute nearly $2,000 more toward the cost of family coverage than workers at smaller firms. They also face general annual deductibles that are $1,000 higher on average. This year’s report also looks at employers’ experiences and views about mental health and substance use services, telemedicine, and wellness programs.

Publication Date: 27 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Kaiser Family Foundation

Group Life COVID-19 Mortality Survey Report

Link: https://www.soa.org/4a368a/globalassets/assets/files/resources/research-report/2022/group-life-covid-19-mortality-03-2022-report.pdf

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Tables 2.1 through 2.41 display high-level incidence results for the second quarter of 2020 through the first quarter of 2022 compared to the 2017-2019 baseline period for each combination of (a) incurred/reported basis and (b) count/amount basis as of March 31, 2022. In these tables, the number of COVID-19 claims has not been adjusted for seasonality, but the ratios to baseline have been adjusted for seasonality.


Note that additional data reported in April and May 2022 indicated that the 1Q 2022 excess mortality would likely complete downward from the 19.9% shown below using March data. The fully complete 1Q 2022 excess mortality is expected to remain above 15%.

….

The 24-month period of April 2020 through March 2022 showed the following Group Life mortality results:
• Estimated reported Group Life claim incidence rates were up 20.0% on a seasonally-adjusted basis
compared to 2017–2019 reported claims.
• Estimated incurred Group Life incidence rates were 20.9% higher than baseline on a seasonally-adjusted
basis. As noted above, the incurred incidence rates in February and March 2022 are based on fairly
incomplete data, so they are subject to change and should not be fully relied upon at this point.

Author(s):

Thomas J. Britt, FSA, MAAA
Paul Correia, FSA, MAAA
Patrick Hurley, FSA, MAAA
Mike Krohn, FSA, CERA, MAAA
Tony LaSala, FSA, MAAA
Rick Leavitt, ASA, MAAA
Robert Lumia, FSA, MAAA
Cynthia S. MacDonald, FSA, MAAA, SOA
Patrick Nolan, FSA, MAAA, SOA
Steve Rulis, FSA, MAAA
Bram Spector, FSA, MAAA

Publication Date: August 2022

Publication Site: SOA

What we learned from a massive survey on America’s mental health crisis

Link: https://www.cnn.com/2022/10/08/politics/cnn-kff-mental-health-survey-what-matters/index.html

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The vast majority of Americans of all ages, races, generations and backgrounds say the US has a mental health crisis.

Nine in 10 Americans in a new survey from CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation say the country as a whole is facing a crisis on this front and about half of adults say they’ve experienced a severe mental health crisis in their family.

CNN published a series of stories this week based on the poll in conjunction with KFF. Read the main report here. And read this from CNN’s polling team about how the survey was conducted.

There’s also 988 – the three-digit number anyone in crisis can call, but which the survey found few people know about.

Author(s): Zachary B. Wolf

Publication Date: 8 Oct 2022

Publication Site: CNN

The Impact of COVID-19 on Life & Disability Claims Departments – Results of a Gen Re Survey in the UK Market

Link: https://www.genre.com/knowledge/publications/2022/october/rm22-3-en

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The main concern of managers was that their assessors were, like the rest of the population, limited in terms of what they could do to unwind or use to escape due to lockdown restrictions and limited freedom. This contrasted with usual routines.

We asked about the impact of these concerns on the health of claims professionals. Absenteeism within claims teams varied across the companies and while sick leave increased slightly there did not appear to be any significant or concerning trends (Figure 6).

Author(s): Grace Cairns

Publication Date: 9 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Gen Re

Stable Fund Focus in Another Excessive Fee Suit

Link: https://www.napa-net.org/news-info/daily-news/stable-fund-focus-another-excessive-fee-suit#.Y0F5DNPIdlA.linkedin

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The latest excessive fee suit targets “wildly excessive compensation,” an allegedly imprudent stable value offering, and the unmonitored use of “float” income. 

More specifically, the participant-plaintiffs of Miami, Florida-based Lennar Corp. are raising issues with the recordkeeping/administrative fees (“wildly excessive compensation”) paid by the plan, the prudence of retaining Prudential’s stable value fund, and the use of float income by Prudential (the plan’s recordkeeper). 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida (Catenac v. Lennar Corp., S.D. Fla., No. 1:22-cv-23232, complaint 10/5/22), is directed at a plan with approximately $1.2 billion in assets and nearly 13,000 participants. The participant-plaintiffs are represented here by Morgan & Morgan PA.   

Author(s): Nevin E. Adams, JD

Publication Date: 6 Oct 2022

Publication Site: NAPA-net

Public Sector Pensions in the United States

Link: https://eh.net/encyclopedia/public-sector-pensions-in-the-united-states/

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Although employer-provided retirement plans are a relatively recent phenomenon in the private sector, dating from the late nineteenth century, public sector plans go back much further in history. From the Roman Empire to the rise of the early-modern nation state, rulers and legislatures have provided pensions for the workers who administered public programs. Military pensions, in particular, have a long history, and they have often been used as a key element to attract, retain, and motivate military personnel. In the United States, pensions for disabled and retired military personnel predate the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

Like military pensions, pensions for loyal civil servants date back centuries. Prior to the nineteenth century, however, these pensions were typically handed out on a case-by-case basis; except for the military, there were few if any retirement plans or systems with well-defined rules for qualification, contributions, funding, and so forth. Most European countries maintained some type of formal pension system for their public sector workers by the late nineteenth century. Although a few U.S. municipalities offered plans prior to 1900, most public sector workers were not offered pensions until the first decades of the twentieth century. Teachers, firefighters, and police officers were typically the first non-military workers to receive a retirement plan as part of their compensation.

By 1930, pension coverage in the public sector was relatively widespread in the United States, with all federal workers being covered by a pension and an increasing share of state and local employees included in pension plans. In contrast, pension coverage in the private sector during the first three decades of the twentieth century remained very low, perhaps as low as 10 to 12 percent of the labor force (Clark, Craig, and Wilson 2003). Even today, pension coverage is much higher in the public sector than it is in the private sector. Over 90 percent of public sector workers are covered by an employer-provided pension plan, whereas only about half of the private sector work force is covered (Employee Benefit Research Institute 1997).

Author(s): Lee A. Craig, North Carolina State University

Publication Date: 16 March 2003, accessed 8 Oct 2022

Publication Site: EH.Net Encyclopedia

Citation: Craig, Lee. “Public Sector Pensions in the United States”. EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. March 16, 2003. URL http://eh.net/encyclopedia/public-sector-pensions-in-the-united-states/

Public Coverage Increased for All Workers, Private Coverage Declined for Full-Time, Year-Round Workers

Link: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/09/private-health-coverage-declines-for-full-time-workers.html

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Between 2020 and 2021, there were changes in health insurance coverage rates for both full-time, year-round workers and those who worked less than full time, year-round. 

The uninsured rate for full-time, year-round workers was 0.6 percentage points higher in 2021 than in 2020. Compared to 2020, a larger share of these workers had public coverage and a smaller share had private coverage, such as employer-based coverage.

Those who worked less than full time, year-round were 1.2 percentage points less likely to be uninsured in 2021 — not because more had private coverage but because a larger share had public health insurance.  

Author(s): Katherine Keisler-Starkey, Laryssa Mykyta and Lisa Bunch

Publication Date: 13 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Census Bureau

Government Worker Shortages Worsen Crisis Response

Link: https://www.governing.com/work/government-worker-shortages-worsen-crisis-response

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States and cities all over the country have seen a loss of workers over the past several years, and many are struggling to hire new ones. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, state and local governments lost more than 600,000 workers between the start of the pandemic and June of this year. Those shortages have begun to affect basic services, including many that are critical to safety and quality of life. According to a Center for American Progress report from March, there were 10,000 fewer water and wastewater treatment plant operators in 2021 than there were in 2019.

…..

The obvious reason why governments have struggled to hire and retain workers over the past few years, says Brad Hershbein, senior economist and deputy director of research at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, is that they can’t improve pay rates as quickly as the private sector can in response to worker demands for better wages. Another reason is that lots of government work has become newly politicized during the pandemic — public workers can be “heroes one day and villains the next,” he says. And a third factor is that staff shortages tend to make work that much more difficult for people who remain, contributing to unattractive working conditions.

“The burnout gets worse,” Hershbein says. “You get a spiral, where fewer people are stuck trying to handle the same amount of work and the whole thing collapses. That’s a real risk at a lot of agencies.”

Author(s): Jared Brey

Publication Date: 3 Oct 2022

Publication Site: Governing

ILLINOIS’ PUBLIC PENSION MESS SHOWS THREAT OF UNCHECKED GOVERNMENT UNION POWER

Link: https://www.illinoispolicy.org/illinois-public-pension-mess-shows-threat-of-unchecked-government-union-power/

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At the top of the Nov. 8 ballot is a proposal to change the Illinois Constitution called Amendment 1, which union backers are calling the “Workers’ Rights Amendment.” Just like the controversial decision to include rigid rules about pensions in the 1970 state constitution, Amendment 1 proposes rigid rules regarding how government unions are treated and makes their powers virtually untouchable.

State lawmakers cannot control soaring pension costs without changing the state constitution. Amendment 1 would similarly make it impossible for them to curb government union negotiating powers, and unchecked union power means an unchecked ability to make demands that taxpayers would have no choice but to fund. The cost of those demands is conservatively estimated at $2,100 for the typical Illinois family during the next four years if voters pass Amendment 1, but the tax damage could be far worse.

Looking back, the adoption of the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution started many of the problems Illinois faces today. Illinois’ pension protection clause has been interpreted to be more rigid than any similar provision in any state constitution. With no ability to rein in the cost of public pensions, payments have crowded out spending on education and public services even as Illinoisans bear some of the highest tax burdens in the country.

The state holds the lowest credit ratings in the country, and residents are consistently leaving for states unrestrained by an unyielding pension clause in their constitutions. State lawmakers made attempts to correct the problem in 2013, but the Illinois Supreme Court struck down most of those reforms. The only option left is to change the state constitution, which could let the state regain fiscal sanity.

Instead, state lawmakers went in the opposite direction and handed voters Amendment 1. Instead of giving Illinois more flexibility to handle its money problems, the proposal takes away options and is potentially more restrictive than even the 1970 constitution’s pension protection clause.

Author(s): Joe Tabor

Publication Date: 14 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute