business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There was a confluence of stories yesterday that circled around the same issue - health - that suggest impending problems for retail businesses.

First, Axios reports on a new Kaiser Family Foundation report suggesting that "employers face a brutal increase in health-insurance premiums for 2023."

The piece notes that "premiums stayed relatively flat this year, even as wages and inflation surged. That reprieve was because many 2022 premiums were finalized last fall, before inflation took off."  And, in a tight labor market, "some employers absorbed rising costs of coverage instead of passing them on to workers."

But, Axios writes, "an October survey of 1,200 small businesses found that nearly half had raised prices to offset rising costs of health care."  And there is the expectation that has premiums skyrocket, employers are going to have to either raise prices or pass along at least some of the increases to workers.

Axios notes that "nearly 159 million Americans get health coverage through work — and coverage costs and benefits have become a critical factor in a tight labor market.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on a potential "tripledemic" that could affect Americans this winter.

Here's the explanation:

"For more than two years, shuttered schools and offices, social distancing and masks granted Americans a reprieve from flu and most other respiratory infections. This winter is likely to be different.

"With few to no restrictions in place and travel and socializing back in full swing, an expected winter rise in Covid cases appears poised to collide with a resurgent influenza season, causing a 'twindemic' - or even a 'tripledemic,' with a third pathogen, respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., in the mix.

"Cases of flu have begun to tick up earlier than usual, and are expected to soar over the coming weeks. Children infected with R.S.V. (which has similar symptoms to flu and Covid), rhinoviruses and enteroviruses are already straining pediatric hospitals in several states."

The Times also has another Covid-centric story about the rebound cases of Covid that seem to be occurring with greater frequency:

"When the antiviral treatment Paxlovid came into wider use for Covid-19 infections earlier this year, doctors who prescribed it and patients who took it noticed that symptoms sometimes flared up again a few days after having gone away. Some people even tested negative before they experienced the rebound. But this puzzling phenomenon can occur whether you take Paxlovid or not, according to a new study … Eighty-five percent of those who had a rebound reported that their symptoms were mild; 15 percent had at least one moderate symptom.

"The most common complaints during a symptom rebound were coughing, feeling fatigued and having a headache."

I bring all this up because health issues could easily have an impact on businesses that already are straining to find enough people to keep operating - especially going into a season that, in retail, tends to require higher staffing levels.

Whether it is Covid, the flu or this new respiratory syncytial virus, businesses are going to have to be sensitive to employees' various situations and figure out a way to maintain service levels under difficult circumstances.  It all will be an Eye-Opener.

I can speak to the whole rebound syndrome - that's exactly what happened to me.  Days after I recovered from my first bout with Covid, I got hit with severe cold symptoms and extraordinary fatigue … and then tested positive.  It was back into isolation for five days, though I had a quick recovery and finally feel like myself.  (Unlike my first go-round, I had no problem continuing to do MNB.  I've had no "Covid fog" that I'm aware of … or, at least, I seem to be no foggier than usual.)