Competing for talent in a Gen Z world

As 2018 progresses, HR managers are well advised to start stepping out of their comfort zones. Because Generation Z is beginning to surge into the workplace, forcing the reinvention of everything from benefits to recruiting. Your relevance in the war for talentmay hang in the balance.

You’ve been hearing for some time now about the challenge of engaging a multi-generational workforce. But it’s time to think beyond the Millennials, and take a good look at the Gen Zs (born after 1995). They have a whole new set of expectations and values that are forcing employers to re-evaluate how they recruit, retain and, especially, engage their people. Start working on your battle plan in 2018 (and beyond) to avoid losing the talent battles.

They have decided views on how they expect to be treated and managed and how they respond if they don’t think their employer is measuring up. It’s a function of their upbringing in a hyper-connected world. According to Pew Research, only 14 percent of U.S. adults had Internet access in 1995, but that exploded to 87 percent by 2014. Small wonder that for the Zs, it’s the always-on and available tech-enabled connections to networks of people and information that rule. It’s how Zs learn and solve problems and it influences their expectations.

Here’s what it all means for your workplace and how you will need to compete for talent moving forward.


Legacy benefits and old attitudes need replacing now

The Zs aren’t merely connected. They share aggressively. Studies show that if their experiences – with a brand or a product or an employer – are negative, this generation will happily tell everybody about it online, including on Glass Door, a fast growing site that reviews millions of employers. That makes it important to foster a positive culture and work environment, and provide the types of benefits that will attract the Zs, keep them happy and ideally inspire them to spread the word.

To that end, take a long, hard look at your employee benefits: Too many employers still offer legacy employee packages that have changed little in the last two decades. Will they be good enough to woo the Zs and keep them satisfied? In fact, the Zs are motivated by the total deal, not just financial compensation. They want unique benefits that are personalized for them right down to the individual level.

Think about the 22-year-old who’s working in an urban setting, maybe with a pet at home, doesn’t have a lot of time to shop and is saddled with student loans. What are the priorities? A plan offering vision, life or disability insurance? Or a benefits package that provides a personal concierge and maybe dog walker, student loan repayment and an identity theft program, too? Best-of-class employers will offer up a robust mix of traditional and non-traditional benefits that cater to the individual employee’s lifestyle needs.


VR and gamification: Critical tools in winning Gen Z talent

Even as the Zs mature, there’s a trend toward a blending of personal and work lives as outside influences bleed into the workplace. When it comes to virtual reality, this generation of digital natives is enthusiastic over its potential use in the workplace.

There’s been a 250 percent jump in VR companies since 2012 and the technology’s significance is for more than just promoting productivity by connecting people in different locations for virtual meetings. It’s also a good recruiting tool, a way of letting prospective hires “experience” your environment so they are better able to tell before they take a job if it’s right for them.

Gamification is another Z activity that’s bleeding into business and affecting recruitment and hiring. Picture Silicon Valley’s “code-offs,” where prospective developers compete during a set time period to find the best solution to a specific design challenge. The winner gets the job. It certainly makes resume screening seem obsolete by comparison.

This incoming generation has a lot to offer employers who value the kind of fresh perspective it represents. The next big challenge will be reflecting that appreciation in creative approaches to winning and keeping their hearts and minds.

Read the article.

Barone M. (1 March 2018). "Competing for talent in a Gen Z world" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act

From SHRM, let's take a look a this innovative approach toward paid leave using WorkFlex.

Do you ever sit in your office and wonder about everyone else? Ponder whether anyone is dealing with the same things that you are in that very moment? The simple fact is that everyone independent of age, gender, race or title, wants to be there to support their family. For myself, that means advocating for clients, while caring for my mother and doing all that I can for my wife and two boys. It is quite a balancing act on the best of days. To be fair, I know that I am not alone in this balancing act. As I write this I am wondering if you know exactly what I mean. Perhaps not for yourself, but a colleague or a friend.

Now since we generally live, work or both in New Jersey and in particular within the Delaware Valley there are some things that impact our ability to balance. For example, if you work for an organization that has offices in Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; Montclair, NJ and Haddonfield, NJ exactly how do you provide equal paid leave to employees? Why should you care? Because these specific locations differ in how they require paid leave to be provided to employees. Are you concerned about this? You are not alone, clients regularly ask what to do as it relates to dealing with paid leave. Often this is more challenging for us than in most places around the country due to the varying ways that towns as opposed to States or the Commonwealth deal with this issue.

Some time ago I was asked to assist SHRM with the creation of federal legislation to address the issue of varying applications of paid leave laws around the country.  After a significant amount of discussions, revisions and hard work by a host of individuals we came up with a legitimate proposal to address our respective concerns.  Recently the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219) was introduced in the House by Representative Mimi Walters. This bill is designed to support the goals of everyone, not just employers or employees. You can read more about the specifics at:

For now, allow me to give you three specific reasons (although there are more) that both you and your organization should support this legislation:

First, unlike federal mandates under the FMLA, FLSA, or ADA, this legislation is OPT-IN, which means as an employer in order for your organization to be held responsible under the bill it would have to decide to agree to it first. Put another way, an employer is not required to do it if it chooses to go in another direction.

Second, many federal employment laws bring with them a threshold beyond which every employer is held to the same standard, however that is not the case with the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act.”  It is designed to grow with your organization. As a result the benefit thresholds change based on the number of employees in an organization, so that it supports growth rather than stifling expansion.

Third, contrary to the way things are currently going in our region, this bill provides a level of certainty and flexibility for both employers and employees alike to know the threshold of their leave benefits, which will result in more productive employees and organizations. Part of the reason for this certainty is that the various local leave laws would be preempted by this bill.

What does all this mean? I would suggest that this bill is a good compromise of interests across the spectrum of both employers and employees, as well as unions, who want to do the right thing. Allow for realistic time to care for a child, parent or for yourself. No one needs to change jobs to get a specific type of benefit and employers can choose if it makes sense for their workplace, rather than being dictated to in terms of the benefits to provide their employees.

Now I would like to challenge you to join me. This is the first piece of legislation that SHRM has created for the workplace and as you can see the goal is to address concerns that all workers have, independent of title, so we can all have the balance that we need and want in order to be better contributors in our respective organizations, supportive of our parents, children and ourselves. How can we achieve this together? We can all reach out to our federal legislators and let them know that you support the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219). You can find more information on or on the SHRM Advocacy App. Let’s take this opportunity to make the workplace better for everyone, together.

Read more.


Lessig L. (February 8th, 2018). "A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

4 trends in financial education

Having financial wellness within your business is incredibly valuable for its overall growth and success. In this article, we are going to take a look at four trends contributing towards financial wellness in the employee benefits realm. Read more below.

Employees’ financial well-being is a hot topic these days. Right now, it’s top-of-mind with most employees. And it’s becoming more so with employers, not only because they are realizing the effect employee financial stress has on their bottom line, but also because industry surveys are revealing that employees want their employers to help by providing financial education and benefits.

Benefit advisers have a definite role in helping employers take steps toward building a more financially-secure workforce through financial wellness benefits. What should advisers expect to see this year in financial wellness benefits?

Industry research confirms the impact employee financial stress has on a company’s bottom line, including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more healthcare claims. Only about half of employers offered some kind of counseling or instruction about money last year, according to SHRM and IFEBP surveys. Certainly, more employers will want to add financial education benefits this year. Benefit advisers can help by bringing this to the attention of their clients.

Another trend to consider is that financial education benefits are becoming more holistic. Financial education benefits should be more than planning for retirement and having access to supplemental medical benefits. Financial education benefits today should include financial education tools and resources as well as voluntary benefits that are designed to address both physical and emotional struggles while working to help employees with short-term financial needs.

Look for more student loan repayment benefits to become available in the industry this year. In 2017, more Americans were burdened by student loan debt than ever before. It’s a major concern among today’s millennials, the largest generation in today’s workforce. This year we likely will see more student loan repayment benefits appear, including programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.

Increased attention to helping employees with short-term financial issues also will be a focus this year. In spite of the improved economy, employees are still struggling financially. Statistics show the alarming number of employees that continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck and do not have even $1,000 in savings for emergency needs.

While financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, employers should offer additional voluntary benefits that provide employees some financial assistance in the short-term. Benefit advisers should bring short-term financial assistance voluntary benefits to the attention of their clients. Among these are employee purchase programs and low interest installment loans and credit that help employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs such as a broken refrigerator or unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Employers are realizing the important role that financial education plays in an employee’s overall well-being and will look to increase their financial wellness benefits on several levels. Benefit advisers not only can bring the need to the attention of their clients, but can also offer benefit recommendations to round out their clients’ employee benefits programs.

Read the original article.

Halkos E. (February 9th, 2018). "4 trends in financial education" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefits revolution?

What will happen if the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition becomes a real thing? Find out in this article from Employee Benefit Advisor.

The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase would form an independent healthcare company for their U.S. employees is just one more move in a growing, albeit relatively quiet, revolution inside the benefits industry: Employers banding together for more control over a health system they see as wasteful and inefficient.

Employee medical expenditures have been the driving factor behind these moves. Last year, premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage hit $18,764, up 3% from the previous year, with employees paying an average $5,714 toward the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Frustration with those costs — and the lack of quality that often goes along with them — has resulted in a number of employer initiatives. But the news of the three corporate behemoths’ coalition may propel even more employers to band together, looking for alternatives on how they provide coverage while driving transparency in an industry notorious for obfuscation.

While it didn’t make the same splash as the big three’s news, two years ago 20 of the country’s biggest companies, including American Express, Berkshire’s BNSF Railway, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, du Pont, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Marriott and Verizon, joined together to form the Health Transformation Alliance. The goal of the group is to use data analytics, collective leverage and shared expertise to lower costs for all members. The group has grown to almost 40 members.

And at about the same time, health and financial consulting firm Mercer started running employer collectives to help companies save on pharmacy costs. There also are individual efforts. Intel, notes American Benefits Council president James Klein, has been a leader in direct contracting with healthcare providers.

“When large and successful companies come together in this way, it’s potentially disruptive,” says Frank Easley, senior vice president of Aon’s health and benefits group, about the Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan partnership. “The healthcare system is ripe for positive disruption and is in need of new solutions that improve employee satisfaction and reduce costs.”

While the three giants did not detail what their new company would do, they did say in a statement that the entity’s focus will be on technology that will provide employees and their families with “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

The collaboration will likely pressure profits for middlemen in the healthcare supply chain. Potential ways to bring down costs include providing more transparency in prices for doctor visits and lab tests, and by enabling direct purchasing of some medical items, a person familiar with the companies’ plans said.

Efforts to increase transparency have been an important focus for employers of late and have “enormous potential” when it comes to transforming employer healthcare, says benefits consultant Jack Kwicien. If employers can explain to employees how and where their healthcare dollars are going, it will not only give workers a better understanding of their own money, but it has the potential to build a better relationship between employer and employee.

In addition, Amazon’s e-commerce operation could be used to send medication direct to patient’s homes, saving them trips to a pharmacy. Its cloud-computing division can store patient healthcare records so they can be easily accessed by doctors anywhere. And its payments system could be used to automate payments with healthcare providers.

If Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are successful in lowering costs, the weight of the big three might kick the transformation engine into high gear, leading to a dramatic shift in the benefits delivery as more employers look to use combined leverage to lower their health costs.

“Any time organizations of this caliber — these are world class organizations — say they are going to tackle healthcare, you have to pay attention,” says Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. The organization advises around 12,000 organizations that buy health plans for millions of employees.

Thompson says that given Amazon and Berkshire’s records, it’s clear “that they have the potential to truly change the consumer experience for their employees, and frankly, that could become a model that could be used by other employers.”

Some benefits insiders, however, express doubts that the three behemoths will spur a widespread industry disruption. Their two biggest doubts: that corporate America can successfully battle the nation’s largest healthcare players and, even if successful, if they can cut costs in a meaningful way.

“Most health costs are incurred by a small percent of the population with chronic conditions,” Klein says. “So if this initiative is just about how health costs are paid for, and does not promote ways to improve health itself, the impact will be minimal.”

Still, business groups say the potential is there for more employer involvement in controlling costs and delivering healthcare, and the need is real.

“New entrants with fresh approaches like these may be just the prescription our ailing healthcare system needs,” says Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “The collective resources of these three companies, emerging technologies and Amazon’s customer obsession and supply-chain savvy gives me optimism that they will pursue a consumer-focused model that will transcend the fragmented, provider-centric delivery system that we have today.”

Read more.

Mayer K. (31 January 2018). "Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefitsrevolution?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

Tax Law Fuels Changes to Benefits and Compensation Programs

What changes will your employee benefits embark on with The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed? This article from Employee Benefit Advisor touches on the topic.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fueling changes to corporate America’s employee benefits, compensation and executive pay programs, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson.

Of 333 large and midsize employers who responded, 49% are considering making a change to at least one of these programs either this year or next.

“The tax reform law is creating economic opportunity to invest in their people programs,” says John Bremen, managing director of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “While a significant number have already announced changes to some of their programs, the majority of employers are proceeding to determine which changes will have the highest impact and generate the greatest value.”

The most common changes organizations have made or are planning or considering include expanding personal financial planning, increasing 401(k) contributions and increasing or accelerating pension plan contributions.

Beth Ashmore, the senior consultant for retirement risk management at Willis Towers Watson, says when it comes to expanding personal financial planning and increasing 401(k) contributions, for an employer, the value of making adjustments in those areas is to ensure employees they are going to be taken care of.

“Whenever any employer is thinking about making a change in total rewards, they need to be thinking about it from the perspective of the compensation as the benefit,” Ashmore says. “What is the best value and impact I can make for my employees?”

As for increasing or accelerating pension plan contributions, Ashmore says with the tax law change the majority of employers have a short-term opportunity to make a pension contribution and potentially deduct at a higher tax rate at the beginning of 2018. “Going forward, that tax deduction will be less for a lot of employers under the new tax law,” Ashmore says.

Other potential changes to benefit programs include increasing the employer healthcare subsidy, reducing or holding flat the employee payroll deduction, or adding a new paid family leave program in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act’s tax credit available for paid leave for certain employees.

Compensation plans

At least 64% of employers are planning to or considering taking action on their broad-based compensation programs, or have already taken action. The most common changes organization have made or are planning include conducting a review of their compensation philosophy, addressing pay-gap issues and introducing a profit-sharing or one-time bonus payout to all employees.

Steve Seelig, executive compensation counsel at Willis Towers Watson, says when it comes to changing compensation philosophy employers should re-evaluate their pay structure to determine if they want to continue to offer the same compensation.

“Employers may want to consider a more fixed compensation — similar to what Netflix started — where the CEO is paid much more salary and less performance-based compensation,” Seelig says.

Many employers answered questions on addressing pay gaps from the perspective of closing a gender pay gap. However, Seelig says employers could also refer to pay gaps between levels within an organization, such as an associate to a supervisor.

“The CEO pay ratio will be disclosed later on this year and employers could take this time as an opportunity to narrow the gaps between positions before the disclosure,” Seelig says.

Read more.

Olsen C. (28 January 2018). "New tax law fuels changes to benefits and compensation programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address


Tax Cut Spurs Employers to Boost 401(k) Contributions

Following one after the other, large employers including Wal-Mart, Aflac and SunTrust have announced significant compensation and benefits changes and attributed them to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December.

Experts expect hundreds of other employers to join suit.

A new study from global consulting and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found that about half of 333 large and mid-sized companies polled plan on making changes to their employee benefits, compensation, total rewards and executive pay programs within the next year.

All told, 66% of employers surveyed have either made changes to their benefits packages or are considering making changes. The most common changes are expanding personal finance planning (34%), increasing 401(k) contributions (26%) and increasing or accelerated pension plan contributions (19%), according to WTW.

About 22% of employers say they plan on addressing pay gap issues — a hot topic in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the public firings of top CEOs, editors and TV anchors, politicians and chefs — as part of a broad-based approach to compensation, according to the report.


“The tax reform law is creating economic opportunity to invest in their people programs,” says John Bremen, managing director of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “While a significant number have already announced changes to some of their programs, the majority of employers are proceeding to determine which changes will have the highest impact and generate the greatest value.”

Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, one expert says the decision of where to place those extra savings is going to vary by employer.

“Clearly you have that situation where there has been a tremendous amount of activity,” says Jack Towarnicky, executive director for Plan Sponsor Council of America. “I haven’t seen a comparable situation in the past where somebody announced a particular change and so many others have moved in the same direction. I think it would be as varied as the enterprises themselves where they deploy any corporate reduction.”

Some companies, such as Boeing, Disney and MidWestOne Bank, announced one-time bonuses and student loan repayment contributions, respectively, but said those decisions were not made with consideration to the tax reform.

The heavy lift of raising retirement benefits

Any changes to a company’s employee benefits plan require analysis and strategy to determine the predicted costs, which is more time-consuming than giving every employee a one-time bonus, Towarnicky says.

“There have been a handful of employers that have announced changes in 401(k) savings plans, but it’s clearly dwarfed by the number of employers that announced one-time bonus payments,” he says. “There is a difference between a one-time action and a change to your 401(k) match. It is reasonably predictable if you’ve got a match and you’re going to increase it.”

Employers may also apply those extra savings to voluntary or employer-sponsored benefits, a growing trend for 2018, and wellness initiatives that transcend the benefits package.

Companies with larger, campus-like office buildings are beginning to invest in bike trails around the area and ergonomic work stations, says Catherine O’Neill, senior healthcare consultant at Willis Towers Watson.

Employers are “trying to blend their work environment with their benefits strategy or wellness strategy to make it more successful,” O’Neill says.

While the changes will remain to be seen, Towarnicky warns employers faced with reinvesting their tax savings that those rates may not remain in effect indefinitely.

“Too many times, particularly when it comes to retirement, people develop expectations,” he says. “Any reductions [to benefits or compensation] have a negative impact on employee relations.”

Read more.

Eisenburg A. (28 January 2018). "Tax cut spurs employers to boost 401(k) contributions" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

CenterStage: Effective Employee Benefit Communications

Welcome to our very first CenterStage of 2018! We hope you all had a warm, happy New Year. In this month’s CenterStage, we spoke with Tonya Bahr and Scott Seaton on some helpful tips on “Effective Employee Benefit Communications”.

It is not a one size fits all approach, each group needs to take a look at their population and decide what is best for them.”  -Tonya Bahr, Hierl Employee Benefit Advisor.

  • Emails are efficient for targeting professional staff, especially companies that have companywide email addresses.
  • Letters or texts are the best way to communicate with field or labor employees.
  • A popular way to communicate is by meeting, whether it be a webinar or seminar. Often, companies will mandate that their employees attend informational sessions discussing benefits offered. This allows our clients to efficiently communicate a consistent message out to employees to help understand their benefits.

Paper VS Digital communications

Okay, not really because it’s not a competition!

An online approach works really well for employees but it is also very important for the spouses to be engaged as well. We typically follow up the meetings with a deliverable the employee can bring home to their spouse. This not only allows the spouse to learn more about the benefits available to them, but it also reinforces what was covered in the meeting for the employee.”

-Tonya Bahr

Potential Impact of Good Communication

Good things come to those who wait…. except when understanding your benefits. The sooner employees become educated on why they have unique benefits, the sooner they will put them to use!

Those who don’t understand benefits, don’t utilize them correctly. They are not good consumers of health care.” – Scott Smeaton, Hierl Executive Vice President.

It is important to understand your employee benefits not only for your own health reasons, but also so that you are able to recognize why your employer offers the unique benefits they do.

What differentiates Hierl and how they help effectively communicate benefits?

At Hierl, we look at each client as unique. What works best for one may not be ideal for another. It’s about really being able to understand the culture and provide different communication options such as presentations, visuals, emails, and website.

Hierl shines when it comes to giving employers/employees access to all forms of communication, specifically in the communication campaigns run throughout the year. By assessing the necessary points to communicate and then building quarterly and monthly campaigns around these objectives, Hierl brings unique, strategic solutions to explaining employee benefits. The evidence of communication strategies at work is apparent in the results gathered from clients.

One of the ways companies can measure the success of their program is to measure employee satisfaction. By measuring employee satisfaction after communication campaigns, findings show that the more regularly benefits are communicated, the higher employee satisfaction goes up!” – Scott Smeaton

3 Key Points on Communicating Benefits

  1. Keep it simple- (no explanation needed!)
  2. Try different avenues- one person may prefer email while another prefers paper
  3. Communicate often- benefits communication should take place all year long

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2017 and was updated in January 2018 for accuracy.

What to consider when redesigning a benefits program

"The secret sauce to getting employees engaged and on board is to create and promote a culture of health." Check out this article from Employee Benefit Advisor for an insight look at designing successful benefit programs.

The concept of design is matching people’s needs with what’s technologically feasible — and redesigning health plans is no different for employers looking to shake things up.

Creating a culture of health, rather than looking at plans as a way to curb costs, should be a priority for benefits executives when they redesign benefits programs, a panel of industry insiders said recently at the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions conference in Arlington, Va.

Employers must have design standards and strive to make things better for employees, explained Marcia Peterson, manager of benefit design and strategy at Washington State Health Care Authority. That was her strategy when WSHCA redesigned its benefits program. She wanted to change the experience from start to finish and looked to the Bree Collaborative, an evidenced-based quality standard, as her blueprint for design, she said.

The goal of the collaborative is to identify and recommend evidence-based strategies in areas where there is unnecessary change in the way care is delivered and/or increased care that isn’t improving outcomes.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

“What we focused on was the member experience and quality … not cost,” Peterson said, comparing healthcare purchasing to buying a cup of coffee.

“If we bought coffee the way we bought healthcare, it would be awful,” she said, noting consumers would need to get a cup from one vendor, some beans from another and then find someone to grind the beans.

But there is a disconnect in benefit plans between what employers say and what employees feel, added Ron Goetzel, vice president, consulting and applied research, at IBM Watson Health. He suggests employers find what the employee pulse is when designing benefit programs.

“We always look at the cost, but we never ask the consumer about the process,” he said. The secret sauce to getting employees engaged and on board, he said, is to create and promote a culture of health.

Goetzel said employers have the misconception that if they pay employees to quit smoking or eat healthy that they’ll do it. “Money alone won’t do it; it’s got to be an internal motivation,” he says. Employers need to exude health and wellness as a part of the organization. “[Employees] do it because they want to have a healthier family, money may be the wrong signal,” he adds.

In designing benefit plans, the goal should not to contain healthcare costs, said Ray Fabius, co-founder of HealthNEXT, a healthcare consulting group. “The real goal is to bend the healthcare cost curve, and it’s possible,” he said.

For the last 50 years, medical inflation has exceeded general inflation by about two to one, he explained. And that’s despite the fact that “we’ve come up with all these benefit designs — from HMOs to PPOs and now HDHPs and benefit exchanges.” Still, he said, one thing is absolutely certain: changing design by itself is not going to stem the march of higher costs or make a workforce more productive.

Echoing Goetzel, Fabius said that talking to and surveying employees about what they want from their benefits can be insightful and even therapeutic.

“You have to keep the well people well, reduce the risks of the high-risk and help people with chronic illness not succumb to the complication of their chronic conditions,” he said of designing benefit programs.


Read the original article.

Otto N. (20 November 2017). "What to consider when redesigning a benefits program" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address



How millennials are shaping employee benefits

By 2025, the millennial generation will make up more than 75% of the U.S. workforce. With this spike and the need for new ways of thinking, employers are updating their benefits packages to entice the future talent of their companies.

Traditionally, the two big-hitting variables for potential employees are, you guessed it, salary and benefits. But what are millennials looking for when it comes to the actual benefits package? They’re looking for good pay and insurance, to be sure, but Care@Work names eight of the most swoon-worthy benefits for the millennial generation including flexible employee benefit options, holistic approaches to wellness, and lifestyle solutions.

Flexible employee benefit options

As the spice girls sing, “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want.” Excuse the pop culture reference, but millennials will get it – and they know what they want. They don’t fit into a cookie-cutter benefits package, and instead look for flexible plans to satisfy their needs. Flexible benefit plans allow employees to choose benefits they want from a package of programs offered by their employer. Flex plans may include health insurance, retirement benefits or reimbursement accounts.

Holistic approaches to wellness

Millennials are constantly bombarded with the notion of living a healthy lifestyle. They are looking for employers who don’t just hand them a health insurance packet but also serve as proactive partners for their health and well-being. They are looking for opportunities to join work-sponsored club sports, health screenings at the campus clinic and lunch-and-learns on low carb Crockpot diets. Can you hear those spice girls singing in the background again? An added bonus: Companies benefit from this approach as well!

Lifestyle solutions

Another hallmark of millennials is the “access over ownership” mentality. With the majority of employees’ everyday lives revolving around technology, companies are finding ways for them to access and elect their benefits online rather than the old pen and paper approach. Millennials want solutions to their everyday responsibilities while they are giving their all on the job. So, other lifestyle solutions they might look for are child care services, therapists and dog walkers. Instead of driving home during your lunch break to walk the dog or pick up the kids, why can’t dogs and kids come to work with you and have their needs met at daycare while you’re on the third floor running from meeting to meeting?

“Employees are looking for the ‘total package’ and that’s what Unum is hoping to offer,” says Ben Roberge, human resources benefit consultant at Unum. “We want to think of benefits in terms of total rewards, combining compensation and benefits to entice and engage existing and future employees.”

Whether you just landed that big job or are still weighing your options, consider if your company is forward-thinking and meeting your needs and wants.


You can read the original article here.

Dunham H. (21 June 2017). "How millennials are shaping employee benefits" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address

New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women

You can read the original article here.


Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address

The Trump Administration has issued new regulations that significantly broaden employers’ ability to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  The regulation opens the door for any employer or college/ university with a student health plan with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption. Any nonprofit or closely-held for-profit employer with moral objections to contraceptive coverage also qualifies for an exemption. Their female employees, dependents and students will no longer be entitled to coverage for the full range of FDA approved contraceptives at no cost.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued two new regulations greatly expanding the types of employers that may be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  These regulations are a significant departure from the Obama-era regulations that only granted an exception to houses of worship.  One of the regulations allows nonprofits or for-profit employer with an objection to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption and drop contraceptive coverage from their plans.  The other regulation also exempts all but publicly traded employers with moral objections to contraception from rule. These new policies, effective immediately, also apply to private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans. The immediate impact of these regulations on the number of women who are eligible for contraceptive coverage is unknown, but the new regulations open the door for many more employers to withhold contraceptive coverage from their plans.

New regulations from the Trump administration greatly expand exemption from #ACA contraceptive coverage rule

Contraceptive coverage under the ACA has made access to the full range of contraceptive methods affordable to millions of women. This provision is part of a set of key preventive services that has been identified by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for women that must be covered without cost-sharing. Since it was first issued in 2012, the contraceptive coverage provision has been controversial. While very popular with the public, with over 77% of women and 64% of men reporting support for no-cost contraceptive coverage, it has been the focus of litigation brought by religious employers, with two cases (Zubik v Burwell and Burwell v Hobby Lobby)  reaching the Supreme Court. This brief explains the contraceptive coverage rule under the ACA, the impact it has had on coverage, and how the new regulations issued by the Trump Administration change the contraceptive coverage requirement for employers and affect women’s coverage.

How do the new regulations change contraceptive coverage requirements for employers?

Since they were announced in 2011, the contraceptive coverage rules have evolved through litigation and new regulations. Most employers were required to include the coverage in their plans. Houses of worship could choose to be exempt from the requirement if they had religious objections. This exception meant that women workers and female dependents of exempt employers did not have guaranteed coverage for either some or all FDA approved contraceptive methods if their employer had an objection. Religiously affiliated nonprofits and closely held for-profit corporations were not eligible for an exemption, but could choose an accommodation. This option was offered to religiously affiliated nonprofit employers and then extended to closely held for-profitsafter the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The accommodation allowed these employers to opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage in their plans by either notifying their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection. The insurers were then responsible for covering the costs of contraception, which assured that their workers and dependents had contraceptive coverage while relieving the employers of the requirement to pay for it.

As of 2015, 10% of nonprofits with 5,000 or more employees had elected for an accommodation without challenging the requirement. This approach, however, has not been acceptable to all nonprofits with religious objections.1 In May 2016, the Supreme Court remanded Zubik v. Burwell, sending seven cases brought by religious nonprofits objecting to the contraceptive coverage accommodation back to the respective district Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court instructed the parties to work together to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”2

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued new regulations greatly expanding eligibility for the exemption to all nonprofit and closely-held for-profit employers with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs or moral convictions, including private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans (Figure 1).  In addition, publicly traded for-profit companies with objections based on religious beliefs also qualify for an exemption. There is no guaranteed right of contraceptive coverage for their female employees and dependents or students. Table 1 presents the changes to the contraceptive coverage rule from the Obama Administration in the new Interim Final regulations issued by the Trump Administration.

Figure 1: Employers Objecting to Contraceptive Coverage: Exemptions and Accommodations Under the Trump Administration Regulations

The accommodation will be available to employers that previously qualified for the accommodation.  They now will also have the choice of an exemption. The federal departments issuing the regulations posit that these new rules will have limited impact on the number of women losing contraceptive coverage.   However, it is not clear how many employers previously utilizing the accommodation will now opt for an exemption, resulting in the loss of contraceptive coverage for their employees and dependents.  In addition, there are also an unknown number of organizations that were not previously eligible for either the accommodation or exemption that may now opt for an exemption. These new regulations create two new categories of employers who can now qualify for an exemption or can voluntarily chooses an accommodation:  1) publicly traded for-profit companies with a religious objection and 2) nonprofit and closely held for-profit employers who have a moral objection to contraceptives, a considerably larger pool of employers than when the exemption was available only to those who were employees of a house of worship or who were eligible for an accommodation in the past.

Table 1: Summary of Changes in the Contraceptive Coverage Regulations for Objecting Entities
  Obama Administration
August 2012 to October 5, 2017
Trump Administration
Effective October 6, 2017
What types of contraceptives must plans cover without cost-sharing? At least one of each of the 18 FDA approved contraceptive methods for women, as prescribed, along with counseling and related services must be covered without cost-sharing. No change
Are any employers “exempt” from the contraceptive mandate?
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • No notice to employees is required. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • Nonprofit or  for-profit employers (including publicly traded companies), insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage
  • Nonprofit or closely held for-profit employers, insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a moralobjection to contraceptive coverage
  • Notice is only required if the plan previously included contraceptive coverage. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an exemption?
  • The cost of contraceptives is borne by women workers and female dependents.
  • There is no guarantee of contraceptive coverage for employees of an exempt organization.
  • The employer may choose to cover some methods, but has no obligation to cover all 18 FDA methods without cost sharing
No change

What type of employers may seek an “accommodation” to avoid paying for contraceptives in their plans?  
  • Closely held for-profit corporations and religiously affiliated nonprofits with religious objections to contraception can opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
  • Any entity (except for houses of worship) eligible for an exemption can choose the accommodation instead of the exemption.
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an accommodation?
  • Insurance companies of firms obtaining an accommodation must pay for contraceptive coverage.
  • Third-party administrators (TPA) of self-funded health plans must cover the costs of contraceptives for employees. The costs of the benefit are offset by reductions in the fees the TPA pays to participate in the federal exchange.
No change
When can entities change from an accommodation to an exemption? N/A
  • When an employer or private college or university currently using the accommodation opts for an exemption, the revocation of contraceptive coverage will be effective on the first day of the first plan year that begins 30 days after the date of the revocation or 60 days notice may be given in a summary of benefits statement.
  • The issuer or third party administrator is responsible for providing the notice to the beneficiaries.

How has the contraceptive coverage rule affected women?

Contraceptive use among women is widespread, with over 99% of sexually-active women using at least one method at some point during their lifetime.3 Contraceptives make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket health care spending for women.4 Since the implementation of the ACA, out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs has decreased dramatically (Figure 2). The majority of this decline (63%) can be attributed to the drop in out-of-pocket expenses on the oral contraceptive pill for women.5 One study estimates that roughly $1.4 billion dollars per year in out-of-pocket savings on the pill resulted from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.6  By 2013, most women had no out-of-pocket costs for their contraception, as median expenses for most contraceptive methods, including the IUD and the pill, dropped to zero.7

Figure 2: The Contraceptive Coverage Policy Has Had a Large Impact on Out-Of-Pocket Spending in a Short Amount of Time

This provision has also influenced the decisions women make in their choice of method. After implementation of the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement, women were more likely to choose any method of prescription contraceptive, with a shift towards more effective long-term methods.8  High upfront costs of long-acting methods, such as the IUD and implant, had been a barrier to women who might otherwise prefer these more effective methods.  When faced with no cost-sharing, women choose these methods more often9, with significant implications for the rate of unintended pregnancy and associated costs of childbirth.10

Finally, decreases in cost-sharing were associated with better adherence and more consistent use of the pill. This was especially true among users of generic pills.  One study showed that even copayments as low as $6 were associated with higher levels of discontinuation and non-adherence,11 increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Do states with no-cost contraceptive coverage laws allow exemptions to objecting entities?

The federal standards under Affordable Care Act created a minimum set of preventive benefits that applied to most health plans regulated by the federal government (self-funded plans, federal employee plans) and states (individual, small and large group plans), including contraceptive coverage for women with no cost-sharing.  States have also historically regulated insurance, and many have had mandated minimum benefits for decades. State laws, however, have more limited reach in that they only apply to state regulated fully insured plans, do not have jurisdiction over self-funded plans, where 61% of covered workers are insured.12 In self-funded plans, the employer assumes the risk of providing covered services and usually contracts with a third party administrator (TPA) to manage the claims payment process. These plans are overseen by the Federal Department of Labor under the Employer Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and are only subject to federally established regulations.13  The ACA sets a minimum standard of coverage for preventive services for all plans. However, state laws regulating insurance, including contraceptive coverage, can require fully insured plans to provide coverage beyond the federal standards.

Eight states have strengthened and expanded the federal contraceptive coverage requirement (CA, IL, MD, ME, NV, NY, OR, VT).  Another 20 states have contraceptive equity laws that require plans to cover contraceptives if they also provide coverage for prescription drugs but they do not necessarily require coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives or ban cost-sharing (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Many States Have Contraceptive Coverage Requirements

Many of the 28 states that have passed contraceptive coverage laws (both equity and no-cost coverage) have a provision for exemptions, but the laws vary from state to state and only apply to fully insured plans.  This means that there may be a conflict between the state and federal requirements when it comes to religious exemptions.  In some states with a contraceptive coverage requirement, some employers who are eligible for an exemption under federal law will not qualify for an exemption under state law (Table 2). Employers in those states will have to have to meet the standards established by their state even though they may qualify for an exemption based on the new federal regulations.  This conflict may set the stage for future litigation.

Table 2: State Requirements for No-Cost Contraceptive Coverage
StateDate Effective Applies to Coverage required without cost sharing Exemptions allowed
  Private plans Medicaid With RX all FDA approved OTC Vasectomy Religious Moral
CaliforniaJanuary 2015 X MCOs X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
IllinoisJanuary 2017 X X X
except male condoms
Any employer, or insurer with a religious objection Any employer, or insurer with a moral objection
MarylandJanuary 2018 X X X X X Religious organizations if the coverage conflicts with the organization’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices None
MaineJanuary 2019 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
NevadaJanuary 2018 X X X Insurers affiliated with a religious organization None
New YorkAugust 2017 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers* None
OregonAugust 2017 X X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
VermontOctober 2016 X X – and all other public health assistance programs X X None None
NOTES: *Requires the insurer to offer a rider to policyholders so that women will have contraceptive coverage.
SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state laws and regulations.


The Trump Administration’s new regulations substantially expand the exemption to nonprofit and for-profit employers, as well as to private colleges or universities with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. It is unknown how many of these employers and colleges will maintain coverage through the accommodation as before and how many will now opt for the exemption leaving their students, employees and dependents without no-cost coverage for the full range of contraceptive methods. As a result of the new regulation, choices about coverage and cost-sharing will be made by employers and private colleges and universities that issue student plans. For many women, their employers will determine whether they have no-cost coverage to the full range of FDA approved methods.  Their choice of contraceptive methods may again be limited by cost, placing some of the most effective yet costly methods out of financial reach.

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Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address