Cervical Health Awareness Month



Take time this month to raise awareness about cervical health and how women can protect themselves from HPV and cervical cancer. HPV is a common virus that spreads through sexual activity and is one of the major causes of cervical cancer to date.
Over 79 million Americans have HPV and many don’t know that they are carrying the virus. Currently, there are more than 12,000 women in the United States that have been diagnosed with cervical cancer and one-third will die as the result.

Cervical cancer can be prevented with regular screenings and can also catch abnormal cells early before they turn into cancer. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented by regular screenings and follow-up care. HPV vaccines are also available.

Remind the women around you to get their annual well woman visit and remember that wellness exams are covered 100% by most insurance plans.

Impacts of Healthcare Reform and Other Topics

The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) has an excellent program where it keeps its human resources and employee benefits members fully informed of all upcoming changes and trends in healthcare.  I found most interesting their update on some of the costs associated with implementing the new system.  You can find the agenda and some presentation items here:

Qtrly Benefits Meeting

Some highlights of upcoming changes:

ACA Reminders….
W-2’s issued by January 31 must include the value of benefits.

Summary of Benefit Coverages are required during OE.

Final decisions 1 month prior to start of OE.

Mental health parity exemption expires in the current PY.

Patient centered research institute (PCORI) fee of $1.00 per employee per year is effective January 1, 2014.

VSEBT members with a July 1 PY date will need to factor in to premiums in the upcoming 2013/14 renewals.

Transitional Reinsurance fee has been set at $5.25 per employee per month is effective January 1, 2014.

VSEBT members with a July 1 PY date will need to factor in to premiums in the upcoming 2013/14 renewals.

The patient centered research institute (PCORI) fee of $1.00 per employee and the Transitional Reinsurance fee of $5.25 per employee per month are changes I did not even know were inside the Affordable Coverage Act.  This will mean significant cost increases for employers.  Good job to VSEBT for the heads up!

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Local Governments Win Healthcare Awards

Three major awards were given out by the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to major employers in Arizona for their outstanding efforts in providing healthcare and other employee benefits to their employees.  During the same event, gifts were donated by employees at their expense for the Toys for Tots Drive:


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The three major awards earned were:

Outstanding Achievements in Wellness 2012BALSZ School District.  This award goes to employers who focus on wellness programs for their employees and show marked improvement in costs and positive life outcomes as a result.


Laurie Colter & Lisa Apley

Best Business Practices 2012The Town of Queen Creek .  This award is achieved by following all proscribed laws, accounting, financial practices and HIPAA requirements and having the most timely payments, documentation and fewest errors.


Deb Davis and Nina Waters

Lowest Per Member Per Month Costs – Tolleson Elementary School District (TESD) – This award goes to the employer with the lowest claims costs on a per member per month basis.  This is usually do to a well-structured plan with a focus on wellness initiatives.  Much of this particular award is due to the last few years of conversion by TESD over to health savings accounts plans which allow their employees and families to keep unused funds each year in their account.


Lisa Rafferty of Aon/Hewitt, Andrea Billings of VSEBT, and Darlene Kracht of VSEBT


Congratulations to these three employers for their outstanding achievements!

Solis Offering Mammogram Discounts Through VSEBT

The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) offers free mammograms for preventive care to all their covered members.  However, health care coverage is not available to some part time or seasonable employees, or those without insurance or may not be included in the plan of a spouse.  VSEBT teamed up with Solis to solve this problem and provide affordable mammograms to those employed by VSEBT participating employers, but without health insurance.

$99 SolisCoupon

Solis is offering the folks that are employed by VSEBT member school districts but are not eligible for district benefits and/or do not have insurance coverage at all a coupon for a mammogram for $99. Solis is also offering the gift card of choice (district promotion) as well to those who use the coupon if the District is participating in the gift card promotion program.


Currently, the following employers are participating in this program:

Chandler Unified School District

Littleton Elementary School District

Paradise Valley Unified School District

Balsz Elementary School District

Tolleson Union School District (coming soon)

Congratulations to VSEBT, Solis and these school districts for helping women get early preventive mammograms!

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8 healthy ways to boost energy

8 healthy ways to boost energy

By Tiffany Barrett, Special to CNN
updated 12:50 PM EST, Mon November 26, 2012
Your food and beverage choices can have a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day, an expert says.
Your food and beverage choices can have a big effect on your energy levels throughout the day, an expert says.

  • Energy drinks can contain excess sugar and high caffeine
  • Staying hydrated is important in avoiding fatigue, expert says
  • Eating breakfast and consuming protein can also help energy levels

Editor’s note: Tiffany Barrett is a registered dietician at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute.

(CNN) — As our energy levels decrease because of our overstressed lifestyles, many people look for a quick fix to combat fatigue.

Energy drinks mask the symptoms of fatigue and dehydrate the body. The majority of energy drinks contain excess sugar, high levels of caffeine and other stimulants.

Recently, the 5-hour Energy shot and Monster Energy drink have come under fire.

The Food and Drug Administration said this month that 13 deaths have been reported after consumption of 5-hour Energy. Last month, the parents of a 14-year-old girl filed suit, alleging that she died after drinking two Monster Energy drinks in a 24-hour period. Anais Fournier’s underlying heart condition was complicated by caffeine toxicity, according to the death certificate.

FDA checking reports about 5-hour ENERGY

Relying on caffeine and energy drinks makes us feel worse in the long run by causing our system to crash.

Continued fatigue decreases the immune system, making us more susceptible to depression and illness.

So what to do? Exercise, sleep and reducing stress are important in fighting fatigue. But our eating habits also directly affect energy levels. And nutrition can affect energy levels throughout the day.

Here are some tips on healthy ways to boost your energy:

Drink water

The body needs water — multiple glasses a day.

Being hydrated is an easy and inexpensive way to increase energy levels. You don’t need vitamin water or sports drinks; they only add extra unneeded calories. Keep a fresh water source with you at all times and drink throughout the day. Add lemons, limes or oranges for taste variety.

Eat breakfast

This is the meal that sets the stage for the entire day. Studies show that breakfast helps keep you alert, starts your metabolism for the day and keeps you satisfied until lunch.

But a healthy breakfast is the key. Good options include whole-grain cereals, breads, fruit and lean protein instead of doughnuts, pastries and white breads. A hard-boiled egg sliced into a whole wheat pita, oatmeal with fruit, and whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter are all healthy choices.

Don’t forget protein

Not consuming enough protein during the day can be a primary reason for fatigue. Protein-based foods provide the body with fuel to repair and build tissues. Protein takes longer than carbohydrates to break down in the body, providing a longer-lasting energy source. You can find protein in poultry, fish, lean red meat, nuts, milk, yogurt, eggs, yogurt, cheese and tofu.

Keep your carbs smart

Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel. Pick whole grains like cereal, brown rice and whole wheat bread, and avoid sweets, which cause energy to plummet. Many processed carbohydrates contain little to no fiber. Always read the nutrition label.

Snacks are important

If you let yourself get too hungry between meals, your blood sugar falls, and you get lethargic. Keep your blood sugar and energy level steady during the day by consuming snacks. Choosing the right snacks prevent peaks and valleys in energy.

Combine complex carbs with a protein and/or fat for lasting energy. The protein and fat slow the breakdown of sugar into the blood, preventing fatigue. Snacks also can prevent overeating at mealtimes. A few examples of smart snack choices are yogurt with fruit, mixed nuts, veggies with hummus, pears with almond butter, whey protein shake or blueberries with a cheese stick. Plan ahead!

Omega-3 fatty acids

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, combat depression and improve mood and memory. Try to focus on omega-3 fats from food rather than supplements. Excellent sources include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax seeds, leafy greens and hemp seeds.


Almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts are rich in magnesium, a mineral important in converting carbohydrates into energy. Other good sources of magnesium include whole grains and dark green vegetables.

Don’t skimp on calories

Skimping on calories decreases your metabolism and causes you to feel lethargic. Keep your energy levels high and increase metabolism by meeting your caloric needs each day. Whole foods are preferred over supplements to obtain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals instead of one or two single nutrients. Consume a variety of foods for overall health but also to keep your energy levels high.

reposted from Valley Schools Daily News Clippings, provided by John Hartsell of Hardsale Communications.

Strategic Healthcare Planning for Employers

You might ask what “strategic healthcare planning for employers” even means?  Next to salaries, benefits are often one of the highest costs to an employer.  An employer can simply toss the dice and see what the costs add up to, or they can think strategically about their healthcare costs, the same as if they were deciding whether or not to open or close a manufacturing facility, to adopt a product line, or to move their headquarters.  By strategically planning efforts to create a healthier, happier workforce with less stress and better diet, exercise and lifestyles, an employer can see huge returns over time.

If your health benefits cost $20 million per year, then saving just 1% per year due to strategic health planning can cut your costs over a ten year period by $19.4 million.  (This assumes you drop a 10% annual increase to a 9% annual increase average.)  Your costs at the end of ten years at ten percent will be $51.9 million per year at 10$ growth, but shaving just 1% off that can change your ten year budget to just $47.3 million.  The benefits literally accrue more as time goes on.

So how can you do this?  You can’t get your whole workforce to eat right, exercise and be healthy all at once.  It is also illegal to only hire healthy or younger workers.  The way to do it is baby steps.  Early detection of diabetes, prostate cancer and breast cancer drop your expected costs from $150,000 per patient to $10,000 per patient.  Just getting your workforce to go to their doctor once per year and get their screenings on time can save well over 1%.  Incentivize healthy choices like smoking cessation, healthy cooking classes, wellness programs, exercise breaks at work, ergonomic atmospheres, reducing stress, can all have dramatic savings impacts.

Only a few employers are really committed to wellness.  One such local employer is the Paradise Valley Unified School District.  Their employee Insurance Committee will be working with Aon/Hewitt and the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to accomplish strategic healthcare planning for teachers and other employees of the district.  The VSEBT already offers ready made programs including WellStyles and PREP, which offer either awards or lower premiums in exchange for healthy choices.  These programs were designed and implemented by Sheri Gilbert of VSEBT specifically to address school district needs.

By focusing on individual employers, the strategic wellness plan can be tailored to that organization’s culture, structure, and specific health needs.  In the case of school districts, they have a higher number of women employees and a higher average age and tenure.  This means more emphasis is placed on stress, depression, migraine prevention, and breast cancer early detection.

Each employer should seriously examine its own healthcare costs to see how you can impact the bottom line by encouraging healthier, happier, and less costly employee benefits by offering rewards to your employees for good healthcare choices and regular examinations.


Scottsdale Unified School District Holds Successful Health Fair!

On November 1, 2012, the Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) held a very successful health fair with hundreds of attendees.  Special thanks go to Dr. David J. Peterson, Superintendent for SUSD who shows a consistently high enthusiasm for programs which will help employees stay healthy and live well.

Dr. Dave Peterson, Superintendent, SUSD


The health fair is one of many being conducted by local school districts in conjunction with the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) a group purchasing organization they are a member of, and the various health providers and vendors used by the district.  These fairs are a win-win for everyone.  They identify serious conditions early to cut health care costs and suffering of employees, they help employees learn and live health and wellness, and they result in better output and fewer substitute days in the classrooms, helping overall test scores and learning for our children.

Scottsdale Unified held their Health Fair at the Saguaro High School. It was a successful event that included health screenings, benefit information, preventative information and education, wellness classes and a Health Assessment campaign onsite.

They had the following vendors actively participating in the event:

Davita and The Kidney Trust90 Screenings completed! (all staffed by volunteers!)

ABRAZO – Blood pressure and BMI screenings

United Healthcare (UHC)

Delta Dental of Arizona

VSP (Vision Service Plan)


Brockhurst & Associates

Met Life Auto and Home

Pinnacle Lifestyles – Spinal Health Educatoin

Solis Women’s Health (Mammographies and Breast Cancer Treatment)

Dr. Ezrre – Naturopathic Family Healthcare

Susan G. Komen for the Cure

Southwest Herb w/Reflexologist in attendance

Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI)  St. Joseph’s Hospital

Living Well Now

Valley Schools staff members were also in attendance to assist the District with set up, registration, Health Assessments & management of the event. It was a true group effort!

Congratulations to the Scottsdale Unified School District for working for healthier and happier employees!


Pet Health MD

There is a site for cats and dogs called Pet Health MD, much like WebMD for us human folk.  The health of your furry family member is very important.  Please use this resource to help find out about your pet when they are not feeling well.  It should not be used instead of a veterinarian treatment, but as a site for information:


In the  middle top you can click on the cat shape, or the dog shape, and list your pets symptoms.  Then you click on the part of the pet that is bothering it, and click on symptoms.  It will then you give helpful possible causes and actions you can take.


Good veterinary care, regular check-ups, shots, exercise, attention and good food is what our pets need.  Make sure you keep them up to date on their quality of care.  There are now insurance plans for pets as well that you can choose from.  Some are very expensive, while others are quite cheap.  VPI (Veterinary Pet Insurance) is one such company that does business with The Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) and provides an outstanding array of group rated and individual plans for your pets, including birds and exotic pets.  Unforeseen illness can leave you in the tough spot of going broke or choosing not to pay for costly care for your pet.  Pet Insurance is a great way to keep from getting into that situation.

H-PACT – Saving Money for Arizona Cities and Towns

H-PACT – The Health Insurance Plans for Arizona Cities and Towns, sponsored and endorsed by the League of Arizona Cities and Towns (azleague.org) is a program administered through the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Group (VSEBT) which allows cities and towns in Arizona to group purchase employee benefits and other insurance.  Arizona has long enjoyed the benefits of its cities and towns working together on various projects and speaking with a unified voice.  H-PACT brings them the ability to save money by selecting either group purchasing options or purchasing individually.

By bringing together more employees into a purchasing entity, you can garner better services and lower prices.  It is the same reason that most state agencies use the state retirement system and the state employee benefits system rather than going out as individual agencies and all bidding separately.  Group purchasing also allows governments to shrink procurement costs.  Instead of a hundred separate entities working on their own, one group can act, cutting the work to around one percent of the previous efforts.

The strength of H-PACT is that individual cities and towns can pick and choose the services they utilize.  They do not have to go with a specific vendor or contract if they don’t wish.  It simply gives them more options and more leverage in the market than they had prior to creating H-PACT.

For more information on H-PACT, feel free to call Sheri Gilbert at 623-594-4370.

HPACT Program Information at the League Conference


League of Arizona Cities and Towns Honors VSMG for Gold Sponsorship


Local School Districts Focusing On Kidney Health

Many local school districts are taking advantage of a program provided through the Valley Schools Employee Benefits Trust (VSEBT) to its public entity members in partnership with Davita at davita.com and the kidneytrust.org.   Sheri Gilbert of Valley Schools is very happy to see the commitment to screening.  “It is great to see school districts interested not only in saving money on future health care costs, but also so committed to taking advantage of free programs to promote health for their employees.”

The Kidney TRUST aims to benefit the 31 million American adults estimated to be living with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), as well as the 506,000 Americans with kidney failure who require dialysis or a kidney transplant.

CKD is a silent epidemic. It often has no symptoms until the kidneys begin to fail. However, CKD is usually treatable if detected early. In response to the epidemic, the TRUST is seeking to reduce the progression of CKD through free, rapid-screening in non-medical settings and to provide assistance to people affected by the disease.

The Chandler Unified School District will be hosting their Kidney Screening on 10/16/12. Scottsdale Unified School District has also been approved for the screening to be held in conjunction with their Health Fair Event on November 1st.   These screenings are at no cost to the districts.   This is a not for profit group and an application must be filled out and submitted to the board for approval and both districts were granted the approval for the screenings.   Approval for the Peoria Unified School District is pending.

Here are some helpful links for more information: