Chronic Diseases Top of Mind for New Wellness Council Executive Director

Chronic disease management is a costly challenge in Indiana. Due to high rates of tobacco usage and obesity and the resulting health issues (diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease, etc.), Indiana finds itself again near the bottom of recent national health and fitness rankings.

As the new executive director of the Wellness Council of Indiana (WCI), Jennifer Pferrer is ready to help tackle those challenges and spread the message of comprehensive wellness programming to Hoosier employers.

“Some of the goals in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan target reducing smoking rates and obesity levels in Indiana, and the role of the WCI is to bring that conversation to a broader space and make an impact in health care costs and the health of Hoosiers,” she explains.

“I’m passionate about health care and I am looking forward to adding my mark on the Wellness Council of Indiana, as it really fits my background.”

Pferrer joined the WCI – a program of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce – in April and previously worked for the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for 10 years, serving in roles that included executive director for Indiana and Kentucky, and regional vice president of a six-state region. Prior to the ADA, she studied consumer-physician relationships as marketing manager at St. Vincent Hospital.

Pferrer’s goal is to continue proving the value of the WCI as an investment for Hoosier employers.

“Wellness is so much broader than Fitbit programs. This is not just food and fitness. There is a data-driven business case for wellness. Wellness needs to be seen as an investment and it goes back to managing chronic diseases,” Pferrer notes. “For example, health education for employees with pre-diabetes can reduce the annual health care spend by the employer by thousands of dollars.”

Through the WCI’s AchieveWell company-based wellness program certification and the Indiana Healthy Community Initiative – which encourages a community-based approach to wellness to increase economic development potential – Pferrer says the infrastructure is in place for wellness success.

“I want employers to know – if wellness is on their radar, they don’t have to recreate the wheel. We can convene and share best practices and be that resource for them,” she concludes.

For more information on the WCI or to connect with Pferrer, visit www.wellnessindiana.org or call (317) 264-2168.

Health Care: Donnelly Co-Authors Bipartisan Bill to Speed Up FDA Approvals for Devices; Young Reaches Across the Aisle on ACA

Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) have re-introduced the bipartisan FDA Regulatory Efficiency Act, which would allow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to bring innovative medical devices to market more quickly.

Donnelly stated, “As scientists and innovators across Indiana and our country work to find new cures and therapies, we should be making it easier for them to bring these products safely to those who need them. I’m proud to work with Sen. Gardner on this bipartisan legislation to cut through the red tape at the FDA and safely speed up the approval process.”

The FDA Regulatory Efficiency Act would help the FDA concentrate on high-priority activities by authorizing third parties to approve quality systems of device companies. Authorized third parties could only approve changes that do not involve major technology changes or changes in the use of the product. The legislation would still hold companies accountable for their quality systems, while also helping to alleviate the overwhelmed FDA. Donnelly and Gardner first introduced the legislation in October 2015.

Health Care Reform Notes
Freshman Sen. Todd Young has reached across the aisle in an attempt to find common ground on health care. He recently sent a letter to all Democratic senators urging them to share their views on what’s working and what’s not with the Affordable Care Act. Young is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which will have a key role in shaping the Senate’s version of health care reform.

Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (IN-02) is touting the American Health Care Act (AHCA), as passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, and how it “brings us closer to a better health care system that puts patients first.” Her editorial appeared Sunday in the South Bend Tribune.

Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08), who sits on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce where he is a member of the Subcommittees on Health, is using his web site to promote the Washington Post’s fact-checking of several recent claims about the AHCA. One is on coverage for those with pre-existing conditions and the other on classification of assault as a pre-existing condition; both claims were deemed untrue.

Chamber Goes to D.C., Talks Top Member Issues With Hoosier Delegation

The Chamber’s Caryl Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young last Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Indiana Chamber members were once again represented in Washington as Caryl Auslander, VP of federal relations, returned to meet with over half of Indiana’s congressional delegation last week. On the agenda: the most pressing public policy matters the Chamber hears about from its member companies throughout the state.

On this trip, Auslander met with Sen. Todd Young, Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05), Rep. Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08) and Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (IN-09), as well as with key legislative staffers from the offices of Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03), Rep. André Carson (IN-07) and Rep. Pete Visclosky (IN-01).

Below are the five main policy areas discussed with these delegation members:

Health Care Reform
The Indiana Chamber wants to see lower health care costs and improvement to the overall system. We believe the Affordable Care Act is overly complex, administratively burdensome and financially unsustainable as-is. We support a “repeal and replace” approach, but in the absence of that, substantial changes should be made to make the law more workable and viable for the long term.

Infrastructure
The Chamber is looking for a stable, long-term way to pay for highway infrastructure, with a separate, sustainable and dedicated transportation funding source. Whatever the upcoming Trump and congressional plans entail, Indiana deserves its fair share of federal transportation dollars. Equity guarantee would ensure that all states receive a minimum level of funding relative to other states. All states should receive a minimum of 95% return on their share of fuel tax contributions and on any additional funding sources. Without an equity guarantee, overall funding may increase; however, Indiana could receive less overall or comparatively.

Regulatory Reform
The federal government has consistently overreached its authority, which has left Hoosier companies facing a multitude of complicated and changing federal regulations. It’s not only burdensome and time-consuming, but has created a lot of business uncertainty and hinders the ability to expand in the U.S. NOTE: Auslander reiterated the top regulations to overturn from the Chamber’s standpoint and gave the delegation another copy of the list.

Rural Broadband
The Chamber believes that advanced communications and digital infrastructure is critical to long-term economic development. Yes, we have come a long way, but still not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We encouraged our delegation to find more ways to bring the most rural parts of the country and state up to date technologically to help reverse downward economic trends. Broadband in rural communities helps businesses, schools and communities at-large; it is no longer a luxury but now a necessity.

Tax Reform
We need a tax code that is certainly simpler. It’s complicated and it costs way too much to comply with. Lowering the corporate income tax rate – which puts us at a competitive disadvantage globally – is something virtually everyone agrees on. We also urged getting rid of the ineffective alternative minimum tax (AMT) and the federal estate tax, which poses a real threat to small businesses and family farms. And while it is important for comprehensive tax reform, we need to do it in a way that does not increase the deficit.

ChamberCare Business Resources Provides Long-Term Solution for Your Groups

In March, we shared information about ChamberCare Solutions, an enhancement to the partnership between the Indiana Chamber and Anthem. Now we’d like to tell you more about ChamberCare Business Resources, part of ChamberCare Solutions.

What is it?
ChamberCare Business Resources is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) that allows Indiana Chamber members with 2+ employees to outsource human resource tasks like worker’s compensation, payroll and tax filing, employee benefit programs, compliance, and more. Using a PEO frees up time and resources so small businesses can focus on the well-being and direction of their company. ChamberCare Business Resources is administered by Human Capital Concepts (HCC), a leader in innovative technology and administrative solutions.

In addition, ChamberCare Business Resources offers affordable health benefits along with comprehensive human resources (HR) services that can help you keep your workforce healthy and save time and money. As a member of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, you can choose a high-quality, affordable health plan from Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield (Anthem), with a wide range of options designed especially for small to medium-sized companies.

Why use ChamberCare Business Resources?
According to the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO), businesses that utilize a PEO grow 7% to 9% faster, enjoy 23% to 32% lower employee turnover and are over 50% less likely to go out of business.

Another benefit for Indiana Chamber members is access to high-quality, affordable health plan from Anthem, with a wide range of options designed especially for small to medium-sized companies. Through the PEO, Anthem pools membership so it can offer lower premiums on the same great head-to-toe coverage members expect from Anthem including medical, dental, vision, life and disability. As trusted organizations and pillars of the community, Anthem brings 73 years of experience coupled with the Chamber’s 95 years of service and HCC’s 125 years of combined staff experience offering a long term solution for your clients.

For more infomation about Anthem plans and benefits, check out our ChamberCare Business Resources Product Guide.

Need help finding the right solution for your clients?
Contact Indiana Chamber Director of Membership, Brock Hesler, at (317) 264-7539 or bhesler@indianachamber.com.

Recent News from Washington

  • Per last Thursday’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indiana has been selected for a $10.9 million federal grant to fight the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. Senator Donnelly talked about this needed boost during a visit to Granger. Read the story. Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) also weighed in: “… Indiana is getting the resources it desperately needs to reduce overdose deaths; help Hoosiers get treatment for substance abuse and stay in recovery; and reduce the over-prescription of opioids.” Read Brooks’ full statement.
  • Congressman Jim Banks (IN-03) believes Congress should exert influence by authorizing military force against ISIS. He said, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent use of chemical weapons against his own people is a grim reminder of the deep challenges that continue to exist in Syria and the surrounding region.” Read his op-ed.
  • Congressman André Carson (IN-07), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, was on CNN last Wednesday talking about the situations with North Korea and Syria. Of North Korea, he said our country’s “tough talk has to get tougher”. Watch the over six-minute interview.

BizVoice Earns SPJ Honors

Congrats to our communications team /BizVoice writers who earned three honors at the Indiana Society of Professional Journalists Awards Friday – a second place and two third place finishes:

Donnelly Talks Policy to Chamber Group

Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly discussed a wide variety of issues with members of the Indiana Chamber’s Executive Committee during an hour-long visit last week. Among his comments on the issues before Congress:

  • Opioid crisis: Senators are working on a federal law that would limit painkiller prescriptions to one week (hopefully reducing addictive outcomes)
  • Transportation infrastructure: There will be a big bill and he believes it will pass as long as it gets paid for
  • Tax reform: Stuck for now because money to pay for it was going to come from the failed health care overhaul
  • Health care bill: Legislation can’t be passed that would result in fewer people having insurance coverage. Democrats, Donnelly noted, have ideas that should be considered

Other topics of conversion: immigration, trade agreements and global threats (Donnelly is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee).

Health Care Takes Federal Spotlight

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there have been calls from the Republican Party to repeal the federal health care law. There were many votes in the House to try to accomplish that goal, but efforts stalled after that. The results of the November election, however, have put the issue on the fast track.

This week, the American Health Care Act was introduced in the House of Representatives; it’s a House Republican leadership-led plan that would repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act and is said to contain patient-centered reforms that drive down costs and expand access to care. More information can be found online.

The legislation has received mixed reactions from both sides of the aisle in the Indiana delegation. And overall, more mixed reaction – especially more from Republicans – has been prevalent in the Senate.

Representatives Larry Bucshon (IN-08) and Susan Brooks (IN-05) participated in the 27-hour hearing by the Energy and Commerce Committee on the new legislation. This markup phase lasted from Wednesday morning to Thursday afternoon before it was finally approved for advancement 31-23. During and since that marathon, Bucshon and Brooks have taken to social media to offer their support for the American Health Care Act. Here
are two updates they provided:

Brooks subsequently also stated: “The goals of the American Health Care Act are to provide states with more flexibility, lower health care costs for families and offer people more options when it comes to their health care decisions. Our plan protects coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, allows kids to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, continues to protect seniors from the high costs of prescription drugs caused by the Medicare Part D donut hole and bans lifetime caps to ensure that people will never have a limit imposed on their care.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Banks (IN-03) offered: “While the replacement plan contains positive reforms like a permanent repeal of the medical device tax and repeal of the individual mandate, I have concerns about several aspects of the bill. These include the overall cost of the plan, the length of time it takes to repeal many Obamacare taxes, the possible creation of a new entitlement program and whether essential pro-life protections will be maintained. I will carefully study this legislation and evaluate how these concerns are addressed as this bill moves through the legislative process.”

Banks further stated that he supported two amendments to the replacement bill supported by the Republican Study Committee (of which he is a member) that he thinks would improve the underlying bill: one would freeze new enrollment in Medicaid expansion at the end of this year; the other would institute work requirements for able-bodied, childless adults on Medicaid.

On the Senate side, Indiana Republican Todd Young took to Twitter to give his quick thoughts on the new proposal: “Americans will have weeks to see what’s in the GOP health care plan before the Senate votes on it. (We) will not repeat mistakes of 2009. Feedback from both D’s & R’s alike will be welcome. We need input from all sides to fix the Obamacare mess.”

In an interview with WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, his counterpart – Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelley – implored Congress to not rush to pass a new law, but instead to work on a bipartisan effort to install some commonsense measures in the existing health care law that would be more beneficial to Hoosiers. Watch the full video interview.

Hits and Misses: The Indiana Legislature Halftime Report

We are pleased that several of our top priorities are alive and in good shape at the midpoint – including long-term transportation funding, pre-K expansion and anti-smoking legislation. All of these tie directly to the Indiana Vision 2025 economic development plan.

Long-term transportation funding – tolling around the corner?
This is the Chamber’s top priority in 2017. House Bill 1002 is the proposal to take care of the state’s transportation needs; the 20-year infrastructure plan addresses the erosion in funding that has taken place and the lost purchasing power from the enhancements in automotive technology and fuel efficiency.

We believe that the bill’s proposed gas tax increase is pretty solid. Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville), who appears to be taking the lead on this bill in the Senate, may change things like dedicating all of the sales tax on gasoline to transportation needs and put a heavier emphasis on tolling, which would enable the state to undertake major projects like adding additional lane miles to Interstate 70 and Interstate 65 throughout Indiana. Overall, we are very encouraged by the commitment we have seen to date from the House, Senate and Governor. We also realize this will be a little tougher sell in the Senate and are prepared for a strong advocacy effort.

Tax threats avoided; overall outlook good
Everyone should be thrilled that two detrimental proposals – on mandatory combined reporting and sales tax on services – didn’t really get out of the gate. And that’s thanks to the good work of the Chamber’s Bill Waltz over the course of the summer. That means there are no big, threatening tax bills looming for us to worry about.

Instead, this session has brought some positive activity that will improve things procedurally within the Department of Revenue. Additionally, while not involving the Legislature, the Chamber has provided substantial input to the Department of Local Government Finance on a rule with respect to the so-called big box commercial/industrial property assessments. (That input was made possible thanks to a subgroup of the Chamber’s Tax Committee that analyzed the big box assessment issue; we are always grateful to our members for lending their expertise!)

On track: expansion of the state’s pre-K pilot for children from low-income families
Obviously, the expansion – to $16 million total in the Senate (including funds for a new online pre-K pilot); at $20 million in the House proposal – is not as significant as we would like, but we recognize this is still a very young program and are encouraged that what’s being debated is the level of increased funds, not the merit. We also appreciate all of the programmatic language that allows for potential expansion into all 92 counties (SB 276) and increases the income thresholds for eligible families (HB 1004). That said, we are going to continue to work to get as many dollars as possible directed to this. It’s vital for children to have that strong early education as a foundation.

Making the superintendent of public instruction an appointed position still can happen
We remain optimistic this longstanding Chamber goal will be realized this session. Yes, House Bill 1005 will have to be amended because it’s too similar to the one the Senate voted down last week. What happened there was, by all accounts, a blunder created by a perfect storm of factors – including little caucus discussion before the vote. But the good news is that the House bill is alive AND Senate leader David Long (R-Fort Wayne) has assigned it to the Senate Rules Committee that he chairs, so he’s going to go to work on it and will ultimately determine how much of it needs to be changed. We speculate that requiring Indiana residency – which is not currently in HB 1005 – could be one modification. It definitely will have to be different than the failed bill to pass the Senate Rules Committee.

Comprehensive smoking reform, now in HB 1001 and HB 1578, would send big message
We are hopeful that the increased tax on cigarettes ($1 per pack) and funding for a more robust smoking cessation program will stay in the budget bill (HB 1001). Likewise, that the repeal of the special civil rights privileges for smokers will survive on its own in HB 1578; this marks the first time that policy has been passed by either house, so we are making progress. Seeing these three elements cross the finish line would be a clear indication that the state is taking seriously the ever-increasing costs to employers of Hoosiers smoking – more than $6 billion annually in health care costs and lost productivity on the job.

The provision raising the cigarette buying age from 18 to 21 is most likely not happening this session after its removal in the House Ways and Means Committee. That group felt there wasn’t enough definitive information or testimony.

ISTEP, energy and technology updates
The Chamber is supporting legislation that will replace ISTEP with a shorter, more focused assessment. You can put all the debates and disagreements aside because this has to happen this session.

We are encouraged by the Senate’s passing of SB 309, an energy bill, which, among other things, addresses net metering for those investing in wind and solar energy; we believe the bill is consumer-friendly. Moreover, utilities have offered up some ideas and concessions that we think will help control electricity prices. The water infrastructure proposal (SB 416), while not funded, sets up the appropriate framework and keeps that needed policy moving along.

The budget bill (HB 1001) contains some pro-technology priorities, including the transferability and expansion of the venture capital tax credit. This would incentivize additional out-of-state investors without state tax liability to invest in promising early stage Indiana companies. Additionally, the open data measure (HB 1470) would allow public access, in an appropriate way, to the tremendous amount of data the state has collected. This is one of a couple of new initiatives coming from our Indiana Technology & Innovation Council policy committee. To see these efforts making progress right away, in their first session, is very encouraging.

A disappointment for the Indiana Chamber
There were several bills centered on litigation that couldn’t get out of committee. That’s because there are too many attorneys on both civil justice committees who are standing with trial lawyers, which essentially is blocking any sort of tort reform.

The Week in Federal Affairs

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (IN-05) launched a new video series this year called, “What I’m Hearing.” In each episode, she discusses one issue based on concerns from her constituents. The most recent episode is focused on health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Brooks states that this coverage is a priority for her and for her colleagues in Congress.
  • Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman introduced
    legislation, H.R. 1121, Pre-Existing Conditions Protection Act, and Rep. Brooks is an original co-sponsor. This bill confirms guaranteed health care access, ensures a person cannot have benefits excluded from a plan due to pre-existing conditions and makes sure that people will not pay more for coverage based off of how healthy or sick they may be. This bill will be debated and discussed in the Health Subcommittee, of which she is a member, in coming weeks.
  • Senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, along with local and federal officials, met with Governor Eric Holcomb in East Chicago to discuss the lead crisis after the Governor declared it a disaster emergency earlier this month.
  • Yesterday was confirmation hearing day for Indiana’s former Sen. Dan Coats, who is President Trump’s pick to be director of national intelligence. Coats will appear before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
  • Representatives Brooks and Larry Bucshon (IN-08) were recently in Japan to discuss economic opportunities and partnerships.
  • Congressman Andre Carson is hosting a Youth Opportunities Fair on March 6 for potential jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities at the Central Library in Indianapolis.