LIMRA aims to shape benefits data exchange standard

How will LIMRA shape the benefits data exchange standard? Find out in this article from Benefits Pro.

LIMRA wants to help develop electronic data transmission standards for the employee benefits market.

The life and health market research group, has formed an alliance with the Object Management Group (OMG), a nonprofit technology standards group based in Needham, Massachusetts.

LIMRA has been working on the benefits market data standards issue for more than a year.

To help benefits market players develop standards, OMG has set up a Workplace Benefits Domain Task Force. The chairs of the new task force are Edie Bice of Unum; InAh Chambers of LIMRA; and Aaron Roby of Texas Life.

The task force organizers hope to develop data exchange standards for non-medical, non-retirement benefits.
The standards could apply both to group benefits and to individual benefits products sold at the worksite.

Organizers say the new task force will be open to benefits brokers, independent benefit plan administrators, benefits administration technology vendors, and insurers that offer non-medical, non-retirement employee benefits products.

The task force will start its first face-to-face meeting June 18, in Boston.

Source:
Bell A. (4 May 2018). "LIMRA aims to shape benefits data exchange standard" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wfIZey


These 3 industries are leading the way in HDHP adoption

Interested in knowing which industries are leadig the way in HDHP adoption? Check out this blog article.

Employers in the education, health care, manufacturing and retail sectors are using a variety of tactics to drive selection of HDHPs, with varying levels of adoption from employees, so says the report, based on anonymous employee benefit election data on the Benefitfocus Platform from more than 540 large employers in those sectors.

In the education sector, HDHPs are becoming less the exception, more the rule.

“Back in 2016, traditional health plans like PPOs and HMOs represented an overwhelming majority of health plan offerings and elections among employers in the education industry,” the authors write. “But just two short years later, things look completely different. In an industry known historically for its generous health insurance benefits, the HDHP has made remarkable gains in popularity.”

The share of employers in the education sector offering at least one HDHP has more than doubled since 2016, from 23 to 50 percent, according to the report. Employers have done a lot to make HDHPs attractive — they now pay 87 percent of the total HDHP premium and have doubled their contribution to employees’ HSAs since 2016. Their efforts have worked — 34 percent of employees selected an HDHP when given the choice for 2018, up from 20 percent two years ago.

In the health care sector, employers are encouraging consumer-driven plans with moderate success, according to the report.

“Over the past two years, employers in the health care industry have taken steps to shift more health insurance costs onto employees, while providing ways to help them manage the additional burden,” the authors write. “But there remains a long runway of opportunity for these organizations to boost adoption of the consumer-driven health care model.”

The number of employers offering HDHPs has nearly doubled in two years, with 73 percent offering at least one in 2018, up from 41 percent in 2016. However, despite there efforts, only 27 percent of employees selected an HDHP for 2018. Health care employers are likely trying to raise the adoption rate by transferring more PPO plan costs onto workers — the average employee premium contribution for a single-coverage PPO is up 24 percent from 2016.

In the manufacturing sector, despite boom in HDHP offerings among those employers, more of their workers are still opting for PPOs. “Manufacturing employers have displayed a particularly strong and growing enthusiasm for HDHPs in recent years,” the authors write. “But cost-sharing dynamics appear to be driving employees away from these plans and back into traditional health plans. Meanwhile, voluntary benefits maintain above-average popularity among both employers and employees.” The majority (88 percent) of employers in manufacturing now offer an HDHP, up from 54 percent in 2016. However, the percentage of employees electing an HDHP continues to decrease, while PPO participation grew from 36 percent in 2016, to 57 percent for 2018.

The report also found that voluntary benefits have become increasingly prevalent among manufacturers, with nearly 60 percent of employers offering at least one for 2018, up from 34 percent in 2016.

In the retail sector, employees shoulder more health plan costs, while more employers offer voluntary benefits to supplement coverage, according to the report.

“As employers in the retail industry look to keep benefit costs under control, health care is getting more expensive for their employees,” the authors write. “And while voluntary benefits offer additional financial protection for the majority of these workers, there remains a long runway of opportunity for health spending accounts to help them manage their out-of-pocket liabilities.”

Retail employers offering at least one HDHP increased from 55 percent in 2016 to 76 percent. Nearly half (40 percent) of their employees elected HDHPs, but premiums for these plans are rising, with the average annual employee contribution for a single-coverage HDHP up nearly 20 percent since 2016.

Despite HDHP prevalence, retail employers contributed 40 percent less to HSAs than the average for all employers, and employees contributed 20 percent less than peers in other industries. To supplement coverage, 56 percent of employers offered at least one voluntary benefit, up from 43 percent in 2016.

“Everywhere you turn there’s a story about rising health care costs,” says Ray August. “What employers in every industry have in common is the struggle to economically provide the best plans and care for their employees.”

Source:
Kuehner-Hebert K. (7 May 2018). "These 3 industries are leading the way in HDHP adoption" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2FUf4Ii


4 actions HR departments should take to prepare for GDPR

In this article from Benefits Pro, we are going to take a look at the top four actions HR departments should take to prepare for GDPR. Continue reading:

A few years ago, Mark Cuban famously advised that data is the new gold. However, things have changed since the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal as the public has become increasingly concerned with how companies are using their personal information.

As businesses prepare for the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), leaders could be forgiven for thinking that data can become more of a liability than an asset – depending on its handling.

GDPR is a much-needed update to data protection that aims to strengthen and unify security for everyone in Europe. The legislation goes live on May 25, 2018 and will enforce all businesses to secure and manage the personal data of all individuals living within the European Union.

After years of gathering data, we are now entering a new era where trust and transparency are the new global currency. GDPR will affect all businesses that store any aspect of personally identifiable information of all individuals, both customer and employee, living in the EU, whether or not that business has an office there.

The scope of GDPR includes employee data, so it directly affects HR departments. As a result, companies need to update processes around the lifecycle of basic employee personal data such as health information and family details.There are many resources surrounding the topic; some on which include free, user-friendly materials published by the EU governments in addition to those that act as “scaremongers” seeking to try to trick companies into paying for compliance help. What makes it most difficult for HR professionals is interpreting the rule, which was written broadly to address any type of personal data and applying it to employee data and HR practices, specifically. Compliance cannot be achieved overnight or ready for the big “go live” in May either. An entirely new way of working to understand where every aspect of data is obtained, how it is used, and where it is stored needs to be put in place. In short, this is not a job for the IT department alone, but rather requires a highly collaborative effort across the company. Silos will need to be broken down to efficiently unify all departments such as sales, marketing, finance, IT, and legal to understand the scale of how much data businesses are actively storing. But what do HR professionals need to know?

1. Create new or updated privacy policies
New privacy policies likely need to be created and implemented to reflect the new rights of employees. Equally, all existing policies should to be reviewed to determine which ones require updating to fall in line with GDPR’s transparency and accountability requirements.

In addition, a key difference between the current EU data rules and the GDPR is the emphasis on individual rights. Employees can now request that their data be completely erased at any time or request a copy of their data thats on file. HR teams need to be prepared to uphold these demands.

2. Revisit outdated processes
Reviewing HR processes, like onboarding a new employee, will help reveal what data you’re collecting that you don’t necessarily have a need for. Minimization is key to successful GDPR compliance; less is more. Implementing minimization will likely require you to update protocols and rethink processes that include the requesting of personal data from employees. For example, the onboarding and transfer of employees will need to be revisited to ensure that data collection practices meet GDPR requirements. You may also need to revisit your record retention policies and processes for ex-employees.

Ask your partners and vendors for their GDPR and compliance plan as risk is shared when they handle employee data on your behalf…

3. Allow data access only to those who really need it
The rise of shadow IT and sensitive data being increasingly stored in the public cloud combined with malware in cloud SaaS applications are the more significant concerns. CIOs and IT leaders now have the power to implement stronger cybersecurity and secure data-management policies that will protect personal data now and in the future. Security elements of the legislation demand that appropriate technical and organizational measures are taken to ensure all employee data is kept safe. HR’s responsibility is to ensure that only those who need access to personal data to do their job have access to it. Making sure that the right people have the appropriate access levels within a digital HR platform – or keys to the file cabinet – is the secret to successful compliance.

4. Centralize your employee file management
Learning about and documenting every element of employee data, where it is stored, and who has access is a process made much easier with centralized digital files. Going forward, a digital system makes it possible for HR to implement and internally audit procedures that will ultimately provide them with the visibility into compliance as well as potential vulnerabilities. GDPR and employee expectations means companies need to shift from a reactive to a proactive approach. A digital system is necessary to enable HR with visibility across their data, securely manage access to the data and implement at scale and policy changes.. With GDPR, the stakes are increasing yet again for companies; HR now must think about collecting the least amount of data they need to get the job done and being completely transparent around its usage, rather than burying this information in complicated terms and conditions. Sure, this will dramatically change the way companies globally deal with EU citizens’ data, but it’s something to be embraced rather than feared. By showcasing implementation of these new data protection practices, a brand can actually build its reputation. While board members might fear the ramifications of the GDPR, we all know that the breach of company data is something far worse. For these reasons alone, GDPR should be seen as an opportunity for every employee to focus on protecting their personal data or at least understanding their responsibilities. And for employers, take this opportunity to become more open to a review of outdated practices and investing in and building technology that can complement this forward thinking approach. Data protection compliance is now an on-going priority and its beneficial for all to take seriously.

Source:
Gouchan A. (4 May 2018). "4 actions HR departments should take to prepare for GDPR" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wl6ZwU


Why Work? For More than the Money

Discovering the individualized reasons people work is key to helping employers understand what will motivate employees.

According to the article "What People Want from Work: Motivation" on the website The Balance, successful companies need to start with money. Paying employees fair compensation, or ideally more than fair, brings the talent in and reduces the risk of losing great employees. Money helps employees check off responsibilities ranging from taking care of the most basic necessities to enjoying hobbies to long-term planning for retirement.

Turns out, it takes more than money, though. 

While many managers assumed money is the biggest factor, it is only one part of an ecosystem of motivation. Knowing that there are other reasons that get people up and out of bed to head to work can help employers better meet employee needs.

What were some of those factors?

Personal time and attention from a manager, the opportunity to feel known and praised for good work, was the top motivator for workers. Being valued, it turns out, can be as valuable as monetary compensation.

What's more, people want to see that the opposite is also true. Lack of consequences and failure to discipline for not performing is cited as a main demotivator, along with paying those less successful workers the same wage.

Beyond fair pay and managerial recognition, what other factors did workers mention? More control over work, including feeling like they have a say in decision making and goal setting, was one element. Likewise, a feeling of control over schedules and work environments also mattered. Flexibility is a major motivator for many employees. 

Another motivator surrounded opportunity. Both growth opportunities within a role and opportunities for advancement in an institution ranked highly for employees. Access to education and training as well as understanding succession planning and what was needed to be promoted (and that promotions were possible) impact morale and retention.

The big takeaway? While motivation is different for every employee, it is potentially easier than you think to understand what will motivate your employees. Ask them. Many easy, low-cost options abound which, if done well, free up time and money from other efforts that may not yield the assumed results. Pay attention, and you'll find yourself working with motivated, engaged people.

Read the full article here.


10 states with the most Social Security recipients

Which state economies will face a greater impact when cutting social security payments? Find out in this article for BenefitsPro.

More than 51 million American retirees or their survivors collected Social Security benefits last year, according to the Social Security Administration.

Those payments function as the foundation for their economic security during retirement, providing 90% or more of the income of almost one-third of those beneficiaries and the majority of the cash income for about 60% of them, according to a new report from the Democratic staff of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC).

The report, “Social Security: A Promise to American Workers and Families,” focuses not only the benefits to recipients who depend on those payments but also the broader economic costs of reducing them, which has been a priority for the Republican leadership in Congress.

Democratic members of Congress expect Republicans will continue to push for those cuts especially because the U.S. deficit is expected to grow by more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years as a result of the recent tax cut legislation.

“Slashing Social Security would not only have a negative impact on beneficiaries and their families, but have a devastating impact on the economy as a whole,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., ranking member of the JEC, in a statement accompanying the release of the report.
According to the report, Social Security supports about $1.4 trillion in goods and services in the U.S. economy, accounting for more than 9 million jobs nationwide. Reducing benefits by 25% across the board would cost $349 billion in economic output, 2.3 million jobs and about $83 billion in employee compensation, the report notes, adding that such cuts would also put pressure on the families of beneficiaries to make up the difference.

In the gallery above are the 10 states with the most Social Security recipients and their average monthly benefit.

Source:
Napach B. (7 May 2018). "10 states with the most Social Security recipients" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2HWmHnt


Eat to Live Well: Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Promoting workforce wellness never tasted so good. For heart-healthy living, it turns out a great dietary option for many dates back centuries.

Based on the traditional cuisine of communities along the coasts of Italy and Greece, the Mediterranean diet is gaining increasing popularity among nutrition experts in this hemisphere.

In the ‘50s, researchers noticed the poor villagers along the Mediterranean coasts tended to live longer than the wealthiest New Yorkers. Further study revealed that, in addition to their vigorous lifestyle, a big contributor to their longevity was their cuisine of basic ingredients, rich in local produce, fish harvested daily from the bountiful ocean waters and a splash or two of red wine from neighboring vineyards.

According to the Mayo Clinic, research involving more than 1.5 million healthy adults following a Mediterranean diet showed a strong association with reduced risk of heart disease, far and away this country’s leading killer. It’s much lower in fat and complex carbohydrates than typical North American fare. As a result, this diet promotes lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, which can build up on artery walls and eventually cause total blockage.

The Mediterranean diet is also associated with reduced risk of a range of other afflictions, including cancer. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may reduce their risk of breast cancer. It also fights cognitive diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer’s. Some studies have shown that the diet even enhances one’s memory and ability to focus.

Key components:

Plant-based foods — fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes
Replaces butter and saturated fats with olive and canola oils
Uses herbs and spices instead of salt and artificial flavorings
Fish and poultry predominate over red meats
Red wine in moderation

Source:
Olson B. (24 April 2018). "Eat to Live Well: Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet" [blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2JOqjEF


Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers

"While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals." Find out more in this article.

If you ask them, 78 percent of employees laboring under a load of student debt will tell you that they want their bosses to provide a student loan benefit that will help them dig out.

Bosses, not so much. While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, according to an HRDive report, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals.

Related: The problem with student-loan repayment benefits

It’s not just younger workers who want it, either. The 78 percent of employees who wish their jobs came with a student loan benefit includes 65 percent of workers over age 55 who have problems with current or future loan debt.

The report points to a CommonBond study that finds student loan benefits not only help to keep employees on the payroll and even better their job performance, but they also help in recruiting new talent. The study finds that 75 percent of all workers have paid for their own education via student loans, and 21 percent plan to take out student loans for a child or another family member in the next five years.

Oh, and another disconnect between boss and worker: while 75 percent of HR executives think their benefits offerings are innovative, only 50 percent of workers agree.

Money, of course, is a big worry for workers—and it’s not all about salary, with 44 million Americans weighed down by some $1.4 trillion in student debt. Worrying about lingering student loans also cuts productivity at work, in addition to subjecting workers to increasing stress, so it’s really an employer’s problem too.
Not only do students owe an average of more than $25,000 by graduation, figures from The Student Loan Report indicate that the loan default rate and delinquency rates are more than 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively—not exactly conducive to either peace of mind or high productivity at work. So employers are increasingly getting involved, considering tuition payment programs for employees who want to pursue a degree or add new skills.

And that can help both groups as employers become increasingly desperate for a more skilled employee base. It also helps employers as employee stress falls, potentially cutting health care costs as well and making workers more productive.

Source:
Satter M. (7 May 2018). "Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wi9yA0