The Results Are In: These Are the Companies With the Most Influence Over Washington

 

300x200

Poll: Americans Aghast Over Drug Costs But Aren’t Holding Their Breath For A Fix

The recent school shootings in Florida and Maryland have focused attention on the National Rifle Association’s clout in state and federal lobbying activities. Yet more than the NRA or even Wall Street, it’s the pharmaceutical industry that Americans think has the most muscle when it comes to policymaking. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 72 percent of people think the drug industry has too much influence in Washington —outweighing the 69 percent who feel that way about Wall Street or the 52 percent who think the NRA has too much power. Only the large-business community outranked drugmakers. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Drug prices are among the few areas of health policy where Americans seem to find consensus. Eighty percent of people said they think drug prices are too high, and both Democrats (65 percent) and Republicans (74 percent) agreed the industry has too much sway over lawmakers. Democrats were far more likely than Republicans — 73 vs. 21 percent — to say the NRA had too much influence. The monthly poll also looked at views about health care. Americans may be warming to the idea of a national health plan, such as the Medicare-for-all idea advocated by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Overall, 59 percent said they supported it, and even more, 75 percent, said they would support it if it were one option among an array for Americans to choose.

Americans are far more concerned with lowering prescription drug prices, though they don’t trust the current administration to fix the problem. Fifty-two percent said lowering drug costs should be the top priority for President Donald Trump and Congress, but only 39 percent said they were confident that a solution would be delivered. “There’s more action happening on the state level; what we are finding is they’re not seeing the same action on the federal level,” said Ashley Kirzinger, a senior survey analyst for KFF’s public opinion and survey research team. “They’re holding the president accountable as well as leaders of their own party.”

Overall, at least three-quarters of people don’t think Democrats and Republicans in Congress, as well as the Trump administration, are doing enough to bring costs down. Twenty-one percent reported that they didn’t trust either party to lower prices, up from 12 percent in 2016. And, unlike other health-related policy questions such as repealing the Affordable Care Act or creating a national health plan, the poll does not find a partisan divide on this perception.

Passing legislation to lower drug prices was at the top of the list of the public’s priorities, making it more important than infrastructure, solving the opioid epidemic, immigration reform, repealing the ACA or building a border wall. Looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, 7 percent reported that creating a national health plan was the “single most important factor” for how they would vote in 2018. However, 7 in 10 said it is an important consideration, and 22 percent said it is not an important factor at all.

The poll found that support for the federal health law fell this month, from February’s all-time high of 54 percent to 50 percent in March. Opposition moved up slightly from 42 to 43 percent. The poll was conducted March 8-13 among 1,212 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/-3 percentage points. KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation .

—khn.org


Millennials, tech industry driving adoption of paid leave programs

More employers are voluntarily offering paid leave benefits to win over millennial workers in an increasingly competitive marketplace, but costs related to workforce management and thin profit margins in many industries have hampered widespread voluntary adoption, according to The Paid Leave Project’s report, “Emerging business trends in paid family medical leave.”

The project, an initiative managed by “action tank” Panorama, interviewed representatives from 470 large U.S. employers across 23 industries to find top reasons for voluntarily offering paid leave programs – as well as main barriers to offering such benefits.

The leading factor that prompts most companies to voluntarily offer the benefit is employee demand, particularly from millennial workers who hear about other companies’ paid leave policies from the media as well as from their friends and family members who receive such benefits. More than 40 percent of companies that already have paid leave cited this as a driver.

Some employers say they want to be considered a “best employer” within their industry. Says a representative from a manufacturing company: “A company can choose to be in the middle of the pack, but we don’t see that as a competitive advantage. We want to be leaders.”

Employers in specialized industries or geographies with a tight labor market say a compelling benefits package, including paid leave, is key to attracting and retaining top talent. “The war for talent is pretty bad,” says a representative from an aerospace company. “We are taking a deeper dive at looking to expand (our) total rewards.”

The tech industry is leading the way, with employers like Netflix and Spotify, respectively offering 52 weeks and 26 weeks of parental leave. Part of this is because other industries are increasingly needing tech talent as the “digital revolution” is now transforming their own sector, including transportation, retail, telecommunications, healthcare, and manufacturing. Some companies in these industries are directly reaching out to technology companies to benchmark against their benefits.

The main challenge to offering paid leave is cost, including paying for a resource to temporarily fill a role while also funding the employee’s leave,

“Employers from retail, manufacturing, transportation and others with a high concentration of hourly workers indicated that coverage is particularly challenging for their sectors,” the authors write. “Given the nature of production and frontline roles, it can be logistically complex for such workers to cover their coworkers’ duties in addition to their own.”

Those industries with low profit margins, such as retail and transportation, find it particularly difficult consider offering paid leave because it just isn’t financially viable, they contend.

Says a representative from a nationwide retailer: “How can I offer paid leave when I can’t even offer comprehensive healthcare, including dental insurance?”

However, a handful of employers in these industries who have embraced paid leave are seeing positive results, including outdoor clothing and gear retailer Patagonia, according to the report.Over the last five years, 100 percent of the women who have had children while working at Patagonia have returned to work. This has led to a balanced workforce and about 50 percent representation of women in all management levels.

For those who offer paid leave, many are also implementing “wrap-around” supports to complement the benefits, such as flexible work schedules to ramp on and off when employees return from leave, providing private locations for mothers to breastfeed, and employee resource groups for new parents. More and more employers are also expanding paid leave for those are providing caregiver services to elderly or disabled family members.

Organizations such as DMEC, the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI), and providers such as LeaveLogic offer valuable research, tools, and resources for employers as they roll out or expand benefits, according to the report. Moreover, The Paid Leave Project, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, created a comprehensive paid leave Playbook for employers, which includes cost calculator and industry benchmarking data; paid leave policy template; tips for employers in states with new paid leave laws were recently added; and paid Leave best practices and case studies of companies that offer the benefit.

The latest report builds on earlier work by The Paid Leave Project and the Boston Consulting Group, which in 2017 released “Why Paid Family Leave Is Good Business,” a summary report from initial research into the paid leave practices of more than 250 U.S. companies.

In 2018, The Paid Leave Project will focus its research on industry-specific dynamics, the challenges for companies in states with current or pending legislation, and how employers are tracking paid leave data, results, and return on investment.

Read the article.

Kuehner-Hebert K. (2 March 2018). "Millennials, tech industry driving adoption of paid leave programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/02/millennials-tech-industry-driving-adoption-of-paid/


You May Want To Rethink Your 'Cultural Fit' Mentality, and Here's Why

 

300x200

Why achieving diversity in tech requires firing the industry’s ‘cultural fit’ mentality

If you have interviewed for a technology job, there’s a good chance the words “culture” and “fit” made an appearance during the phone-screen phase, or in early rounds of interviews. It is no longer enough for a candidate — especially early to mid-career — to arrive to job interviews with a stellar resume and relevant technical skills. They might also have to come with their best “I’m normal and will fit into the overall team culture of this company” outfit on. Over the past decade, the idea of hiring for “cultural fit” has become as important as, and at times superseded, hiring to fit a job description across forward-looking industries, from tech to transportation.

The nuance of this shift may be a cause for concern — especially for a global tech sector in search of a clear route to workforce diversity. Many of today’s tech human resources teams are tasked with recruiting a diverse group of people and retaining star employees. However, they still tend to supplement those pursuits with cultivating a unified office culture. While the industry has largely moved on from using ping pong tables as a recruiting tool, hiring people who pass the Beer Test — an applicant that hiring managers could work with in the office and hang with at happy hour — remains commonplace. Further, hiring based on a hiring manager’s own narrow set of requirements needed to fit their idea of a relatable person opens the door to all sorts of unconscious biases. Taking this recruiting shortcut also raises the bar for candidates from already under-represented groups, including minorities and women.

The main casualties: the pursuit of diversity and business bottom lines. It is true that research-backed conventional wisdom suggests happy workplaces are productive workplaces. What that line of thinking doesn’t account for is the fact that exclusively hiring talent for interpersonal compatibility can negatively impact the quality of work and focus of employees. In other words, employee camaraderie does not equal workplace compatibility. It definitely does not equal workforce diversity. And while a company may benefit from a general aspect of like-mindedness, there’s a great chance that the actual work is suffering due to the lack of diversity — both in people and ideas. Here in Toronto, hiring managers still focus heavily on likeability, which at times can be seen as more important than technical skills. My team and I recently began to see to potential impacts of “cultural fit” as we started to dive into the findings of our new report on the state of talent in Toronto’s emerging tech sector.

—techcrunch.com


5th Circuit Ruling Leaves DOL’s Fiduciary Rule in Limbo

 

300x200

When the Dallas-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Department of Labor's (DOL's) controversial fiduciary rule on March 15, just two days after the Denver-based 10th Circuit upheld the same rule, it created a split among the circuits. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually decide the rule's fate. In the meantime, President Donald Trump's administration continues to review its options.

"Pending further review, the [Labor Department] will not be enforcing the 2016 fiduciary rule," a DOL spokesman said in a statement to CNBC. Prior to the court decisions, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said that the DOL was considering public input about revising the regulation and, if necessary, will propose changes in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators.

However, unless the fiduciary rule is definitively repealed or replaced, employers that sponsor 401(k) and similar defined contribution plans should continue to take it seriously and closely monitor their vendor arrangements, benefits advisors said. The Obama administration's regulation, formally known as Definition of the Term "Fiduciary"; Conflict of Interest Rule-Retirement Investment Advice, began taking effect in stages in June 2017.

The rule requires anyone being paid to give investment advice to retirement savers—whether to participants in a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan or to those with individual retirement accounts (IRAs)—to follow the fiduciary standard of conduct under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In other words, investment advisors can only make recommendations that reflect loyalty to the "best interests" of plan participants without regard to commissions and fees rather than investments that are just "suitable," and must disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Failure to do so means that advisors—and the plan sponsors that hire them—could face class-action lawsuits brought by participants and ERISA-violation penalties.

In the 5th Circuit ruling, a three-judge panel split 2-1 in vacating the rule where the court has jurisdiction—Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The court, in particular, held that the DOL went too far in extending the fiduciary standard to advice provided to IRA savers. "IRA plan 'fiduciaries,' though defined statutorily in the same way as ERISA plan fiduciaries, are not saddled with these duties, and DOL is given no direct statutory authority to regulate them," the majority opinion stated. Days earlier, in a March 13 decision, the 10th Circuit held that the fiduciary rule was the result of a sound regulatory process. "Relying on the record before it, the DOL could reasonably conclude that the benefits to investors outweighed the costs of compliance," the two-judge panel said.

—shrm.org


Is Ergonomics A "Must-Have" For Your Workplace Wellness Plan?

 

300x200

Workplace wellness in most organizations centres around health promotion activity or policy development to support healthy behaviour and improve health outcomes in the workplace. A "workplace wellness" Google search reveals a range of programs focused on fitness, weight management, smoking cessation, stress management, work-life balance and occasionally flexible work scheduling. These are legitimately important aspects targeted at improving specific health outcomes.

It is important to realize that the average office worker spends over 65 per cent of their time at work in a sedentary seated position. No doubt you have seen the media campaigns touting the health concerns related to sedentary behaviour, some going as far as labelling sitting as the new smoking. Prolonged sitting has been associated with cardiovascular problems, increases in musculoskeletal discomfort, and decreases in concentration and productivity. Improper sitting and work station setup has been associated with an increase in musculoskeletal pain and injury (MSI) in the neck, shoulders, arms, wrists, legs and lower back. MSI are associated with the wear and tear on the muscles, tissues, ligaments and joints of the body.

It is for these reasons that office ergonomics should be on the workplace wellness program menu. Ergonomics is the science of matching the work to the worker. In an office environment, a major focus would be insuring that employee workstations fit the worker – not the employee made to fit the workstation. To design a healthy employee work station properly requires an understanding of the limitations of the human body, especially in terms of muscle and soft tissue fatigue. Again, a Google search on "office ergonomics" leads you to resources on the proper configuration of computer workstations to promote a neutral sitting posture aimed at reducing muscle and soft tissue pain.

This is a great place to start, but does not replace the knowledge of an experienced ergonomist to ensure that individual limitations and pre-existing health conditions are accommodated for properly. Here are some examples of the most common office ergonomic challenges I encounter when consulting with organizations. The first is the desk. The working height of a standard desk is 30 inches, for which we expect it be comfortable for both the 5-foot-2-inch and a 6-foot-2-inch employee. But the reality is that this standard desk height is appropriate for the 6-foot-2-inch employee. The average female is 5-foot-4-inches, which would suggest that the standard 30-inch working height is too high for the majority of female workers in the office. When the working height is too high, the employee will adopt a posture where the wrists are extended when keyboarding, the neck is extended, shoulders are hunched and back is flexed forward off the chair.

—theglobeandmail.com


6 Steps to a More Effective Performance Management Program

 

300x200

Traditional methods of managing performance aren’t working anymore. Companies are moving away from traditional performance management tools, like annual reviews, to new techniques that emphasize real-time feedback. You know the drill: managers and employees sit down once a year to review performance. These performance reviews assess an employee’s performance on a scale, or give it a numerical rating. And then, in some cases, employees are given a ranking compared to other employees.

A performance system used in figure skating or competitive cooking shows may not be the best way of evaluating employees in the workplace. When it comes to the traditional performance review process, consider: Traditional performance management approaches aren’t effective because they weren’t designed for the current workforce. Today, with a tight labor supply and the nature of work very different from the industrial past, organizations must focus on developing people, rather than rating them. This requires a shift to performance development. Here’s how you as an HR professional can help your management team create a thoughtful performance development plan.

This is important for two reasons: to make the case to management that there is room for improvement in your current performance management system and, later, to provide baseline metrics to which you can compare your system after the shift to performance development. Your audit should ask the following questions: As part of your evaluation, also assess current organizational performance. A shift to performance development will see organizational performance metrics improve, and you want to be able to quantify this improvement.

Let your senior management team know that performance management may no longer be meeting your company’s needs. Two-thirds of companies are shifting from traditional performance management to an emphasis on developing talent and providing continuous feedback. Then present the results of your audit to senior management. What are the areas that need to be improved? Provide examples of how performance development will help improve these areas. For instance, if your employees rarely receive feedback outside of their annual performance review, show how alternatives to the review, such as consistent coaching or monthly or weekly , can provide your employees with regular feedback.

—tlnt.com


Medicare Out-Of-Pocket Expenses Q&A

 

300x200

How much does the average Medicare recipient pay out of pocket for medical expenses?

Q: How much does the average Medicare recipient pay out of pocket for medical coverage and expenses?

A: According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study published in 2018, the average Medicare beneficiary paid $5,503 in 2013, including premiums and out-of-pocket costs for covered care, as well as out-of-pocket costs for things like dental care and long-term care, which are not covered by Medicare. This amounted to 41 percent of the average per capita Social Security income — and that’s expected to increase to 50 percent by 2030.

The Kaiser Family Foundation study included both Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage enrollees. 28 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans as of 2013. It’s likely that total enrollee spending on Medicare has increased since 2013, as premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance have increased. But for seniors who end up in the Medicare Part D donut hole, total out-of-pocket spending may have decreased, as the Affordable Care Act has been gradually closing the Part D donut hole. But average prices for prescription drugs — and thus, the total amount that people pay in coinsurance, which is a percentage of the cost — have increased since 2013, so people who don’t end up in the donut hole may be paying more for their Part D prescriptions than they were several years ago.

In 2018, the standard Part B premium is $134/month, although most enrollees are paying about $130/month. In 2013, Part B premiums were $104.90/month. The Part B deductible is $183 in 2018. That’s the same as it was in 2017, but it was only $147 in 2013. The Part A deductible and coinsurance also increased slightly in 2018, as did the premium for Part A that applies to people who don’t have enough work history (or a spouse with enough work history) to qualify for premium-free Medicare Part A.

—medicareresources.org


Boring Little Miracles

From SHRM, this article goes into the importance of "boring little miracles" in the workplace


The success of an organization is often borne on the backs of people performing boring little miracles.

Boring little miracles don’t make headlines. They, perhaps purposely so, fly under the radar, disguised as everyday tasks performed under pressure or work that doesn’t feel like much to the person performing it. People performing boring little miracles get the job done and then pack up and go home like it was no big deal.

But it IS a big deal.

Boring little miracles add up over time. They are the compounding interest of organizational productivity, and they are performed by people who invest early and often. These miracles sneak up on you and can quickly become the expectation rather than the exception.

Boring little miracles are still miracles.

They aren’t jobs or tasks that are easy, they just appear that way because of the person doing the work. Highly experienced and highly trained professionals doing what they do don’t have to sweat the work that other people dread. They just do it.

“Hey, she’s always been good at this stuff”," or “Well, he’s the only one who knows how to do it,” you might hear around the office. But you shouldn’t take it for granted.

Recognize and reward the behavior you want to see more of. Make space for the work that grabs headlines AND the work that doesn’t in your rewards and recognition structure. Pay special attention to the people who prefer to stay out of the spotlight; honor their work and contributions because it is important, not necessarily because it grabs attention.

Make recognition for this work specific. Make it count.

Do it well enough, and your team and organization might just become a boring little miracle itself.

Read the article.

Source:
Escobar C. (26 February 2018). "Boring Little Miracles" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/boring-little-miracles


Ashleigh Galligan's Universal Cheesy Potatoes

For this month’s Dish, Ashleigh Galligan has given us her Dine In and Dine Out choices. Check them out below!

Dine In

Ashleigh’s favorite Dine In recipe to enjoy with her family is Cheesy Potatoes. It’s great for any occasion and can be paired with any meal!

You can get the full recipe and directions here.

Dine Out

Ashleigh’s favorite place to eat out is Ala Roma Pizzeria & Pub in Fond du Lac. Her favorite dish is…everything! “You can’t go wrong with italian food!”

You can visit their website here.

171 N Pioneer Rd, Fond du Lac, WI 54935

Thanks for joining us for this month’s Dish! If you try a recipe or restaurant, be sure to let us know. Don’t forget to come back next month for more yummy favorites!


Could These 3 Reasons Be Behind Your Failing Employee Engagement?

300x200

Encouraging employee engagement with health benefits

In a competitive economy, a robust package of employee health benefits is one of the key elements that employers need to attract and to retain a skilled, experienced workforce. In fact, according to statistics gathered by Collective Health and Harris Poll, 78% of adults in the U.S. say healthcare benefits strongly factor into their decision on where to accept a job. However, once employees have these benefits, most do not take full advantage of the complete range of services and support available. Only 25% of employees questioned in one survey said they have used all the preventive care benefits offered by their employer.

Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that only 33% of employees report participating in employer-provided health promotion programs. The failure to engage with and use the benefits available can have an especially significant impact when employees or their family members face serious or complex medical issues, such as a cancer diagnosis or recommendation for surgery. When employees don’t use the full spectrum of benefits available to them, such as second opinions and case management, the risk of poorer health outcomes and higher employer and employee healthcare costs increases, with more than $210 billion a year spent on inappropriate and unnecessary treatment according to an Institute of Medicine report. Several factors contribute to employees’ failure to use all the health benefits available to them:

Problems with the benefits selection process: Although the choice of benefits can have wide ranging effects on both physical and financial health, 77% of employees spend 60 minutes or less choosing benefits, while 46% spend 30 minutes or less on this important decision, according to an Aflac poll. Another survey noted the high stress levels associated with making benefit decisions, finding that 49% of employees say making benefits decisions is always stressful.

Not understanding the options: A survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans found that approximately 80% of organizations reported that employees do not have a high level of understanding of their benefits. This lack of understanding comes at a financial cost. According to 42% of employees in the Aflac survey, the estimated cost of errors employees make understanding and choosing benefits can cost them up to $750 per year.

Complexity of benefits: When faced with multiple benefit providers and contact points, employees often do not know where to find the information they need to understand the benefits available to them and how to access them. As a result, employees fail to access the information, resources and support that can help them make informed medical decisions. This can have a negative impact on health outcomes and healthcare costs.

—benefitnews.com