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4J Benefits and Wellness Newsletter – February 2016 – Issue 286

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4J BENEFITS AND WELLNESS NEWSLETTER
Prepared by Julie Wenzl • 541-790-7682 • wenzl@4j.lane.edu • February 22, 2016 • Issue Number 286

403(b) CONTRIBUTION LIMITS

The limit on elective deferrals – the most an employee can contribute to a 403(b) account out of salary – is $18,000 for 2016. Employees who are age 50 or over at the end of the calendar year can also make a catch-up contribution of $6,000 for 2016 beyond the basic limit on elective deferrals. Finally, if you will have at least 15 years of full-time equivalent service with 4J by December 31, 2016, then you may be eligible to contribute up to an additional $3,000 during 2016.  If you are planning to make contributions to utilize this catch-up feature, please contact Carruth Compliance Consulting (CCC) to confirm your maximum allowable contributions for 2016. (CCC serves as the third party administrator of the 403(b) plans for 4J.)

If you would like to change the amount you are putting in to your 403(b) account, please complete a Salary Reduction Agreement (SRA) and return it to 4J Financial Services. Your new salary reduction amount will begin with the first paycheck after the properly completed SRA is received by the District, provided your SRA is received before the Payroll cutoff date for that paycheck (generally the 15th of the month in question). SRAs received after the Payroll cutoff will take effect with the next month’s paycheck. There is not a limit on when you can submit an SRA to Financial Services, so as your needs change, you can change your elective deferral amount.

The SRA can be found on the CCC website: http://www.ncompliance.com/guest_employerplan.aspx?EmployerID=12

WELLNESS INITIATIVE GRANTS AVAILABLE BY REGION

The 4J Wellness Committee has made regional grants available for the purpose of endorsing, educating, and promoting wellness related initiatives. This could include promotion of existing wellness options (for example, Weight Watchers at Work), or could be used to fund something new (cooking classes, fitness opportunities, etc.)

Grants will be limited to one per region per year, and are capped at $250.00. The focus of a grant request can be on physical or nutritional behaviors, which improve health outcomes. Employees who participate in any implemented program must sign a waiver indicating that the activity is outside of the course and scope of their work, and therefore is not covered by Workers’ Compensation.   Any adopted program will be open only to 4J employees.

A region interested in pursuing these grant dollars must form a regional Total Work Health Committee, which will focus on employee wellness and safety. To receive grant dollars, the committee must to the following:

  1. Develop a poll to disseminate wellness initiatives to employees in the region;
  2. Poll employees in the region to gather input on potential programs; and
  3. Work to implement the wellness initiative with the most votes.

If the Total Worker Health Committee wishes to hire a vendor to provide services, it must select a contractor in accord with all 4J Purchasing requirements.

Specific questions can be directed to 4J Risk Manager Randi Bowers-Payne. Randi can be reached by e-mail at bowers_r@4j.lane.edu or by phone at 541-790-7672.

SINGING IS GOOD MEDICINE

The Editors from the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter and the School of Public Health have this to share about the potential benefits of breaking out in song.

Singing is as old as humanity and may actually predate the development of spoken language. Most of us sing, at least occasionally, vocalizing in the shower or improvising duets with a favorite opera singer or rock star. Millions of people sing in choirs or other groups. Research increasingly shows that singing can also benefit physical and mental health. Here are a few of the latest findings:

Several studies suggest that singing can help improve breathing in some people with asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). According to a Canadian review article in Health Promotion International, the research has been promising, though in some studies the benefits may have been due to improvements in general health, mood, and well-being, not necessarily to better breathing.

Several groups of researchers have found that singing can reduce certain stress hormones or improve levels of some immunity-related factors. For instance, in a Japanese study in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine, older people had reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their saliva after singing, as well as improved mood and less tension. Changes in such markers are temporary, however, and may mean little in terms of health.

As British researchers reported in the journal Dementia, a group singing program developed by the U.K.-based Alzheimer’s Society, called “Singing for the Brain,” may help improve aspects of memory, sociability, and mood in people with dementia. Though there’s no evidence that memory-dependent activities, such as singing, can prevent dementia, many experts think they may help delay the onset of some age-related cognitive problems.

Surveys have found, not surprisingly, that people who take part in choirs and other singing groups often report improvements in social confidence and social support. Singing familiar songs and learning new ones in a group can help build self-esteem and alleviate loneliness.

Much research has confirmed that music has a wide range of beneficial psychological and physiological effects, particularly for people performing it and doing so with others. It isn’t hard to find a singing group; many organizations have choirs or sponsor community singing. Of course, you don’t need to have a reason to make music other than the pleasure it gives you. But that in itself can have salutary effects.

MINDFULNESS QUICK-START GUIDE

Mindfulness is a popular meditation technique that trains you to observe your thoughts, emotions, and internal and external sensations without judgment. Practicing mindfulness can lead to improvements in concentration and emotional well-being, and can also activate the relaxation response. The relaxation response is a physiological change can help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

If you’d like to give mindfulness a try, start with 10 minutes a day initially and work up from there.

  • Sit quietly, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
  • Say a word such as “peace” or “one” each time you exhale.
  • Don’t worry about thoughts that come into mind; come back to them later and repeat your word. This helps bring your attention back to the present.

You may only be able to sustain this for a few moments as you begin, but with practice, you’ll find yourself relaxing for longer periods.

QUEST DIAGNOTICS – NO COST FOR COVERED LAB SERVICES

As an OEBB member, you can save time and money when you request your lab test through Quest Diagnostics. Your provider will receive results quickly. Best of all, you won’t have a copay for covered lab services. For employees and retirees enrolled in OEBB coverage through 4J, the deductible is waived, too.

When you need lab services, there are two ways to take advantage of this cost-savings benefit:

  • Have your specimen collected at a Quest Diagnostics Patient Service Center. To find a convenient location and make an appointment, visit QuestDiagnostics.com/patient, or call 888-277-8772.
  • Ask your doctor to use Quest Diagnostics. Have your doctor send your sample to Quest Diagnostics — or have Quest Diagnostics pick up the sample via their extensive logistics network.

If you are in the Eugene area, the local Quest Diagnostics lab is located at 1144 Gateway Loop, Suite 115 in Springfield.

To learn more about these lab services, please call Quest Diagnostics at 866-MY-QUEST (697-8378).


The information in this newsletter has been summarized. It is presented as information – not advice or counsel. In all instances, the benefits, conditions, and limitations as outlined in the 4J Master Contracts prevail over this representation. Please refer to your Benefits booklet or master contracts available at the District offices for additional information regarding your benefits plans.

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