Retirement Calculator Seen as Critical Tool

Did you know that the most impactful tool for employee financial wellness is a retirement calculator? Find out more in this article by Bruce Shutan from Employee Benefit News on why you should have a retirement calculator included in your employee benefits program.

In analyzing the financial behaviors of 67,089 U.S. employee financial wellness assessments, Financial Finesse concluded that the most impactful action was for employers to offer a retirement calculator. The 2016 Year in Review Report also suggested that they promote it to the hilt with the help of their brokers and advisers.

“Running that projection is driving other behavior,” such as changes in cash flow or higher retirement plan contributions over time, explains Cynthia Meyer, a financial planner with Financial Finesse and author of the report.

She says advisers can help spotlight the use of a retirement calculator in an educational workshop or enrollment meeting where they can detail examples or case studies involving the potential effect of this handy tool.

The report uncovered a few bright spots. More employees ran a retirement projection, which jumped to 49% in 2016 from 35% in 2015. In addition, about 60% of these employees discovered they were on track to retire comfortably while about 40% discovered they were underfunded and needed to make changes.

Another positive development was that repeat usage of workplace financial wellness programs appears to be gaining momentum. The number of employees who have done annual workplace assessments of their finances multiple times has climbed steadily since 2013 when it was just 6% to 15% in 2014, 16% in 2015 and 29% in 2016.

However, problems persist. Virtually all demographic groups were still found to have insufficient savings for a comfortable retirement. For example, while 92% of the employees studied participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, just 77% contribute enough to earn the full employer match.

Still, Meyer notes that packaging financial wellness content with a good retirement plan is becoming a standard practice as the movement toward a more holistic view of employee finances gains traction.

Aon Hewitt’s 2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing survey found that 59% of employers are very likely and another 33% are moderately likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in ways that extend beyond retirement decisions. Moreover, 86% of employers are very or moderately likely to communicate to their workforces the link between health and wealth.

Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, says this is an indication of “just how much I think employers still care about their employees.” It certainly bodes well for brokers and advisers who can expect to be busy in the coming years helping their clients create a strategy and build out a plan that appeals to each workforce, he believes.

Aon Hewitt’s survey, whose 238 respondents represent nearly 9 million employees, noted several other key trends. They include employers enhancing both the accumulation and decumulation phases for their defined contribution plan participants, and defined benefit plan sponsors revisiting ways they’re removing risk from their plan.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Shutan Bruce (2017 May 29). Retirement calculator seen as critical tool [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/retirement-calculator-seen-as-critical-tool?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


GOP’s Health Bill Could Undercut Some Coverage In Job-Based Insurance

Thanks to the legislation passed by the House, healthcare is on the verge of changing as we know it. Check out this interesting article by Michelle Andrews from Kaiser Health News on how these changes will affect Americans who get their healthcare through an employer.

This week, I answer questions about how the Republican proposal to overhaul the health law could affect job-based insurance and what the penalties for not having continuous coverage mean. Perhaps anticipating a spell of uninsurance, another reader wondered if people can rely on the emergency department for routine care.

Q: Will employer-based health care be affected by the new Republican plan?

The American Health Care Act that recently passed the House would fundamentally change the individual insurance market, and it could significantly alter coverage for people who get coverage through their employers too.

The bill would allow states to opt out of some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including no longer requiring plans sold on the individual market to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” such as hospitalization, drugs and maternity care.

Small businesses (generally companies with 50 or fewer employees) in those states would also be affected by the change.

Plans offered by large employers have never been required to cover the essential health benefits, so the bill wouldn’t change their obligations. Many of them, however, provide comprehensive coverage that includes many of these benefits.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The ACA placed caps on how much consumers can be required to pay out-of-pocket in deductibles, copays and coinsurance every year, and they apply to most plans, including large employer plans. In 2017, the spending limit is $7,150 for an individual plan and $14,300 for family coverage. Yet there’s a catch: The spending limits apply only to services covered by the essential health benefits. Insurers could charge people any amount for services deemed nonessential by the states.

Similarly, the law prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime or annual dollar limits on services — but only if those services are related to the essential health benefits.

In addition, if any single state weakened its essential health benefits requirements, it could affect large employer plans in every state, analysts say. That’s because these employers, who often operate in multiple states, are allowed to pick which state’s definition of essential health benefits they want to use in determining what counts toward consumer spending caps and annual and lifetime coverage limits.

“If you eliminate [the federal essential health benefits] requirement you could see a lot of state variation, and there could be an incentive for companies that are looking to save money to pick a state” with skimpier requirements, said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Q: I keep hearing that nobody in the United States is ever refused medical care — that whether they can afford it or not a hospital can’t refuse them treatment. If this is the case, why couldn’t an uninsured person simply go to the front desk at the hospital and ask for treatment, which by law can’t be denied, such as, “I’m here for my annual physical, or for a screening colonoscopy”?

If you are having chest pains or you just sliced your hand open while carving a chicken, you can go to nearly any hospital with an emergency department, and — under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) — the staff is obligated to conduct a medical exam to see if you need emergency care. If so, they must try to stabilize your condition, whether or not you have insurance.

The key word here is “emergency.” If you’re due for a colonoscopy to screen for cancer, unless you have symptoms such as severe pain or rectal bleeding, emergency department personnel wouldn’t likely order the exam, said Dr. Jesse Pines, a professor of emergency medicine and health policy at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not the standard of care to do screening tests in the emergency department,” Pines said, noting in that situation the appropriate next step would be to refer you to a local gastroenterologist who could perform the exam.

Even though the law requires hospitals to evaluate anyone who comes in the door, being uninsured doesn’t let people off the hook financially. You’ll still likely get bills from the hospital and physicians for any care you receive, Pines said.

Q: The Republican proposal says people who don’t maintain “continuous coverage” would have to pay extra for their insurance. What does that mean? 

Under the bill passed by the House, people who have a break in their health insurance coverage of more than 63 days in a year would be hit with a 30 percent premium surcharge for a year after buying a new plan on the individual market.

In contrast, under the ACA’s “individual mandate,” people are required to have health insurance or pay a fine equal to the greater of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per adult. They’re allowed a break of no more than two continuous months every year before the penalty kicks in for the months they were without coverage.

The continuous coverage requirement is the Republicans’ preferred strategy to encourage people to get health insurance. But some analysts have questioned how effective it would be. They point out that, whereas the ACA penalizes people for not having insurance on an ongoing basis, the AHCA penalty kicks in only when people try to buy coverage after a break. It could actually discourage healthy people from getting back into the market unless they’re sick.

In addition, the AHCA penalty, which is based on a plan’s premium, would likely have a greater impact on older people, whose premiums are relatively higher, and those with lower incomes, said Sara Collins, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, who authored an analysis of the impact of the penalties.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 May 23). GOP's health bill could undercut some coverage in job-based insurance[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/gops-health-bill-could-undercut-some-coverage-in-job-based-insurance/


The Employer Mandate: Essential or Dispensable?

Have you wondered how the passing of the AHCA will impact employers? Check out this article by David Blumenthal, M.D and David Squires from Commonwealth Fund and see how employers will affect by the passing of the most recent healthcare legislation.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Sara Collins has blogged that, “Employers are at the heart of the U.S. health insurance system and their ongoing commitment to it will be critical to its success and viability over time.” The point is undeniable. More than 150 million Americans under the age of 65 get their coverage through the workplace, and employer-sponsored insurance remains critical to the success of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage plans.

Some may therefore be surprised by the growing talk of repealing the ACA’s requirement that employers cover their employees. To unpack this issue, let’s take a look at the ACA provision itself, why it was enacted, and the potential upside and downside of repeal.

The Employer Mandate

The ACA section under discussion is often called an employer mandate, but that’s an oversimplification. The law says that employers with 50 or more employees have a choice. They can offer health insurance that meets minimum standards for affordability and coverage to employees working 30 or more hours a week. Or they can pay the federal government a penalty if at least one of their employees receives a federal subsidy for a private insurance plan sold through one of the new ACA insurance marketplaces.

You can call this a mandate. Or you can call it a requirement that businesses share responsibility for the costs of covering all Americans, either by helping to buy insurance directly for their own employees, or helping the federal government do so.

The language here matters. The concept of shared responsibility reflects a political calculation and a statement of values. It asserts that for the ACA to be fair and politically viable, all Americans have to do their part. All U.S. citizens are required to have health insurance, and many will have to pay a penalty if they go without it (the individual mandate). Employers must cover workers or help the government financially to do so. Taxpayers have to support the expansion in Medicaid eligibility and marketplace subsidies. Hospitals have to take cuts in Medicare payments, medical device makers need to accept additional taxes, and so on. The most successful American social programs—such as Social Security and Medicare—rely on this concept of shared responsibility.

The Rationale

Whatever you label it, the employer coverage requirement has several rationales beyond the concept of shared sacrifice. Policymakers want to deter employers who now provide coverage to  their employees from dumping workers into the marketplaces, either by dropping coverage completely or limiting benefits to the point where workers will chose to buy insurance elsewhere. The requirement also attempts to nudge employers who don’t cover employees into offering health insurance. And on the assumption that some businesses will chose to pay rather than offer coverage, the employer provision provides an important source of revenue to cover the ACA’s expenses: an estimated $139 billion over 10 years.

The Rationale for Repeal

Several arguments are fueling the repeal push. First, implementation will be administratively complex and burdensome. For example, employers will have to report many new details about their workers, including what coverage they have been offered and whether they have received coverage elsewhere.

Second, some economists are concerned that the employer requirements will distort hiring decisions, leading companies to bring on fewer low-income employees who might be eligible for subsidized coverage in the marketplaces. Firms with payrolls near 50 workers might hire fewer workers altogether. Economists also believe that if employers incur penalties for not offering coverage, workers might contribute to the costs of insurance through reduced wages. Other economists, however, believe these effects will be modest.

Third, modeling from RAND and the Urban Institute suggests that when fully implemented in 2016, the employer provisions will increase the number of insured Americans by only a few hundred thousand. The overwhelming proportion of U.S. employers already provides insurance to their employees, and would continue to do so without the penalties in the ACA, the analysts contend.

Concerns About Repeal

Supporters of the employer requirement posit that projections that employers would stay in the health insurance business without the ACA requirements are just that—projections. Balanced against employers’ past record of providing coverage is an increasing tendency for businesses to reduce the generosity of coverage. In fact, the law’s requirements that workplace coverage be affordable and meaningful may be as important as the requirement that employers offer coverage at all.

Eliminating the employer provisions would also leave a big hole in funding for the ACA. The likelihood that supporters and opponents could reach agreement on how to raise the missing cash seems low, especially given the recent history of the congressional effort to replace the Medicare physician payment formula known as the SGR. This year, a bipartisan consensus on policy crashed and burned when Republicans and Democrats could not agree on new sources of revenue to pay for the legislation.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, repealing the employer mandate would undermine the concept of shared responsibility and potentially add momentum—which could grow in a new Congress or under a new president—to the idea of eliminating the individual mandate as well. After all, why should individuals have to buy insurance when businesses don’t? Virtually all disinterested analysts agree that the individual mandate is critical to the stability of the new insurance marketplaces created under the ACA, and to reducing the number of uninsured Americans.

 Proceed with Caution

The full effects of repealing the employer provisions of the ACA remain speculative. A repeal seems unlikely in the short term, in part, because a repeal effort would open the floodgates to partisan warfare over undoing the ACA in its entirety, or to changing other elements of the law that could have more far-ranging consequences.

However, if serious bipartisan discussion of ACA improvement becomes possible, expect to see a repeal of employer coverage provisions front and center on the legislative agenda.  Under these circumstances, lawmakers should still proceed with caution. It may be wise to experiment with implementing the employer provisions and to reassess their comparative benefits and costs  at a later date. The philosophy of shared responsibility is foundational to the law’s political viability, and should not be discarded without compelling evidence that the employer requirements are not essential to the ACA’s success.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Blumenthal D., Squires D. (2017 June 4). The employer mandate: essential or dispensable [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/blog/2014/jun/the-employer-mandate


HSAs vs. HRAs: Things Employers Should Consider

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Bob Bentley on what employers should know about choosing between HSAs and HRAs.

With health care costs and insurance premiums continuing to rise, employers are looking for ways to reduce their insurance expenses. That usually means increasing medical plan deductibles. According to the latest UBA Health Plan Survey, the average in-network single medical plan deductible increased from $2,031 in 2015 to $2,127 in 2016. But shifting costs to employees can be detrimental to an employer’s efforts to attract and retain top talent. Employers are looking for solutions that reduce their costs while minimizing the impact on employees.

One way employers can mitigate increasing deductibles is by packaging a high-deductible health plan with either a health savings account (HSA) contribution or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Either can be used to bridge some or all of the gap between a lower deductible and a higher deductible while reducing insurance premiums, and both offer tax benefits for employers and employees. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach that employers need to consider.

Health Savings Account (HSA) General Attributes

  • The employee owns the account and can take it when changing jobs.
  • HSA contributions can be made by the employer or employee, subject to a maximum contribution established by the government.
  • Triple tax advantage – funds go in tax-free, accounts grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are for qualified expenses (see IRS publication 502).
  • Funds may accumulate for years and be used during retirement.
  • The HSA must be paired with an IRS qualified high-deductible health plan (QHDHP); not just any plan with a deductible of $1,300 or more will qualify.

HSA Advantages

  • Costs are more predictable as they are not related to actual expenses, which can vary from year to year; contributions may also be spread out through the year to improve cash flow.
  • Employees become better consumers since there is an incentive to not spend the money and let it accumulate. This can result in an immediate reduction in claims costs for a self-funded plan.
  • HSAs can be set up with fewer administration costs; usually no administrator is needed, and no ERISA summary plan description (SPD) is needed.
  • The employer is not held responsible by the IRS for ensuring that the employee is eligible and that the contribution maximums are not exceeded.

HSA Disadvantages

  • Employees cannot participate if they’re also covered under a non-qualified health plan, which includes Tricare, Medicare, or even a spouse’s flexible spending account (FSA).
  • Employees accustomed to copays for office visits or prescriptions may be unhappy with the benefits of the QHDHP.
  • IRS rules can be confusing; IRS penalties may apply if the employee is ineligible for a contribution or other mistakes are made, which might intimidate employees.
  • Employees may forgo treatment to avoid spending their HSA balance or if they have no HSA funds available.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) General Attributes

  • Only an employer can contribute to an HRA; employees cannot.
  • The employer controls the cash until a claim is filed by the employee for reimbursement.
  • HRA contributions are tax deductible to the employer and tax-free to the employee.
  • To comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), an HRA must be combined with a group medical insurance plan that meets ACA requirements.

HRA Advantages

  • HRAs offer more employer control and flexibility on the design of the HRA and the health plan does not need to be HSA qualified.
  • The employer can set it up as “use it or lose it” each year, thus reducing funding costs.
  • An HRA is compatible with an FSA (not just limited-purpose FSA).
  • Depending on the employer group, HRAs can sometimes be less confusing for employees, particularly if the plan design is simple.
  • HRA funds revert to the employer when an employee leaves – which might increase employee retention.

HRA Disadvantages

  • Self-employed individuals cannot participate in HRA funding.
  • There is little or no incentive for employees to control utilization since funds may not accumulate from year to year.
  • More administration may be necessary – HRAs are subject to ERISA and COBRA laws.
  • HRAs could raise HIPAA privacy concerns and create the need for policies and testing.

Both HSAs and HRAs can be of tremendous value to employers and employees. As shown, there are, however, a number of considerations to determine the best program and design for each situation. In some cases, employers may consider offering both, allowing employees to choose between an HSA contribution and a comparable HRA contribution, according to their individual circumstances.

For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor,  “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

For information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans, read our breaking news release.

For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by industry, region and group size, view UBA’s "Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up", to understand which aspects of these accounts are most successful, and least successful.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bentley B. (2017 May 12). HSAs vs. HRAs: things employers should consider[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/hsas-vs.-hras-things-employers-should-consider


Employees Look to Employers for Financial Stability

Do your employees depend on their pay and benefits for their financial security? Find out in this great article by Nick Otto from Employee Benefit News on what employees depend on from their employers to support their financial well-being.

As the American dream of financial security continues to slip out of reach for many U.S. workers, employers — seen as trusted partners by employees — will need to step up to restore faith in retirement readiness.

Only 22% of individuals described themselves as feeling financially secure, Prudential says in its new research paper, and there is growing acceptance among employers that there is significant value in improving employees’ financial wellness.

Aspirations are modest, says Clint Key, a research officer in financial security and mobility at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Between economic mobility or financial stability, an overwhelming 92% of workers say they want stability.

“Four in 10 don’t have the resources to pay for a $2,000 expense,” he said Tuesday, at a joint financial wellness roundtable sponsored by Prudential Financial and the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. More alarmingly, employees don’t have the income to last a month if they were to lose their job.

Still, Key adds, it isn’t so much the number of dollars in the bank, but the peace of minds that savings buy them.

And employers are feeling the repercussions of the growing stressors in the workplace.

“People who are stressed about finances are five times more likely to take time off from work to deal with personal finances,” added Diane Winland, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Three to four hours every week go to handling personal finances, and these employees are more likely to call out sick from work.”

The security levers once in place, such as home equity, are going away and it’s becoming much more difficult for workers to handle a financial emergency, she added.

The good news, however, is employers get it, she said. “They understand employee financial wellness is tied to the bottom line and it behooves them to invest in their employees,” said Winland. “The conundrum is how to deploy and what to deploy in their programs. Is it counseling? Coaching? Is it a new snazzy app that comes out. The key is there is no silver bullet.”

So, what is there to do?

Each employer has a unique business model and employee base, and, therefore, faces different challenges when implementing a financial wellness approach, Prudential’s paper notes. “Employers should design financial wellness programs that are informed by insights into the unique financial needs of their employees, successfully educate and engage employees, and help employees take concrete actions to improve their financial health. We encourage employers to discuss financial wellness with their benefit consultants or advisers.”

And, added Robert Levy, managing director at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, just talk to your employees. “They’re open to discussing their financial challenges,” he said, and employers can engage these conversations through numerous ways: surveys, one-on-one talks, focus groups.

Prudential stepping up

To try to change the current unease in financial security, Prudential Tuesday also announced its expansion of worksite tools for employers to enable them to analyze the financial needs of their workforce and offer the employees a personalized interactive experience that includes videos, tools, webinars and articles that empower them to manage their financial challenges.

In addition, Prudential has launched a $5 million, three-year program in partnership with the Aspen Institute — a Washington, D.C.-based, non-partisan educational and policy studies organization — to promote employees’ financial security.

“The investment highlights the need to increase the national discourse about greater economic access for employees as they bear increasing risk and responsibility for their short-term and long-term financial security,” said Prudential.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 May 18). employees look to employers for financial stability [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-look-to-employers-for-financial-stability


HSAs and Employer Responsibilities

Do you know all the responsibilities an employer will face when dealing with HSAs? If not, take a look at this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Vicki Randall and find out about all the HSA responsibilities facing employers.

It’s no secret that one of the primary agenda items of the new Republican administration is to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to sign into law a plan that they feel will be more effective in managing health care costs. Their initial attempt at a new plan, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), included an increased focus on leveraging health savings accounts (HSAs) to accomplish this goal. As the plan gets debated and modified in Congress, we do not know whether the role of HSAs will be expanded or not, but they will continue to be a part of the landscape in some shape or form.

HSAs first came into existence in 2003 and they have been gaining momentum as a way to deal with increasing health care costs ever since. If you, as a plan sponsor, do not already offer a health plan compatible with an HSA, chances are you’ve at least discussed them during your annual plan reviews. So, what exactly is an HSA and what is an employer’s responsibility relating to one?

An HSA is a tax-favored account established by an individual to pay for certain medical expenses incurred by account holders and their spouses and tax dependents. Anyone can make a contribution to an eligible Individual’s HSA. This includes the individual’s employer. However, if employers contribute to participant HSAs, employers must:

  1. Ensure their health plan meets high-deductible health plan (HDHP) requirements,
  2. Determine eligibility,
  3. Establish contribution method,
  4. Provide W-2 reporting, and
  5. Confirm employer involvement in the HSA does not create an ERISA plan, or cause a prohibited transaction.

High-Deductible Health Plan Requirements

Plan sponsors should make sure their plan meets certain HDHP requirements before making contributions to participants’ HSAs.

Characteristics of an HDHP

An HDHP is a health plan that has statutorily prescribed minimum deductible and maximum out-of-pocket limits. The limits are adjusted annually for inflation.

For example, for 2017, the limits for self-only coverage are:

  • Minimum Deductible: $1,300
  • Maximum Out-of-Pocket: $6,550

The limits for family coverage (i.e., any coverage other than self-only coverage) are twice the applicable amounts for self-only coverage. The limits are adjusted annually for inflation and, for a given year, are published by the IRS no later than June 1 of the preceding year. In addition, an HDHP cannot pay any benefits until the deductible is met. The only exception to this rule is benefits for preventive care.

Eligibility

Eligible Individuals can make or receive contributions to their HSAs. A person is an eligible individual if he or she is covered by an HDHP and is not covered by any other plan that pays medical benefits, subject to certain exceptions.

Employer Contribution Methods

Employers that contribute to the HSAs of their employees may do so inside or outside of a cafeteria (Section 125) plan. The contribution rules are different for each option.

Contributions Outside of a Cafeteria Plan

When contributing to any employee’s HSA outside of a cafeteria plan, an employer must make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees.

Contributions Made Through a Cafeteria Plan

HSA contributions made through a cafeteria plan do not have to satisfy the comparability rules, but are subject to the Section 125 non-discrimination rules for cafeteria plans. HSA employer contributions will be treated as being made through a cafeteria plan if the cafeteria plan permits employees to make pre-tax salary reduction contributions.

Employer HSA Contribution Amounts

Contributions from all sources cannot exceed certain annual limits prescribed by the IRS. Although employer contributions cannot exceed the applicable limits, employers are only responsible for determining the following with respect to an employee’s eligibility and maximum annual contribution limit on HSA contributions:

  • Whether the employee is covered under an HDHP or low-deductible health plan, or plans (including health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) sponsored by that employer; and
  • The employee’s age (for catch-up contributions). The employer may rely on the employee’s representation as to his or her date of birth.

When employers contribute to the HSAs of their employees and retirees, the amount of the contribution is excludable from the eligible individual’s income and is deductible by the employer provided they do not exceed the applicable limit. Withholding for income tax, FICA, FUTA, or RRTA taxes is not required if, at the time of the contribution, the employer reasonably believes that contribution will be excludable from the employee’s income.

Employer Reporting Requirements

An employer must report the amount of its contribution to an employee’s HSA in Box 12 of the employee’s W-2 using code W.

Design and Operational Considerations

Employers should make sure that their involvement in the HSA does not create an ERISA plan, or cause them to become involved in a prohibited transaction. To ensure that contributions will not cause the health plan to become subject to ERISA, certain restrictions exist that employers should be aware of and follow. Employer contributions to an HSA will not cause the employer to have established a health plan subject to ERISA provided:

  • The establishment of the HSA is completely voluntary on the part of the employees; and
  • The employer does not:
    • limit the ability of eligible individuals to move their funds to another HSA or impose conditions on utilization of HSA funds beyond those permitted under the code;
    • make or influence the investment decisions with respect to funds contributed to an HSA;
    • represent that the HSA is an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by the employer;
    • or receive any payment or compensation in connection with an HSA.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Randall V. (2017 May 25). HSAs and employer responsibilities [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/hsas-and-employer-responsibilities


CenterStage...The Experts Weigh In

5 Main Benefits of Self-Funding

Simply put, a Partially Self-Funded health plan is just an alternative, and often times more effective way of financing your employer sponsored health plan. Outside of “How does it work?” the questions that are most frequently asked are regarding the risks involved with this strategy and limiting the employer’s exposure. It was once thought that partially self-funding your health plan was reserved for only large employers. Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI.org) reported that in 2015 there was a 36.8% increase in private sector employers moving to partially self-funding. We don’t see the use of this strategy slowing down any time soon. It’s all about building the self-funded plan the right way in order to reduce the risk, while at the same time creating opportunity for savings.

A well designed self-funded plan built by a knowledgeable advisor will result in healthier employees and money saved over time. The opportunity for nearly all size employers is substantial. Whether your company is large enough to be completely self-funded, or are mid-size and need stop loss, or are smaller and can take advantage of a level-funding type plan, there are self-funding opportunities for all size employers.

In this article, Scott Smeaton shares his insights on what makes self-funded plans beneficial and what Hierl can do to help.

Scott Smeaton, Executive Vice President

“My advice to anyone who is considering moving to a self funded plan from a traditionally funded plan is that it’s not a one year strategy,” said Scott Smeaton, Executive Vice President of Hierl. “Take the time to find a knowledgeable advisor who will help you understand the risks and opportunities with self-funding, and commit to it for at least three years."

1. Financial Control

The most significant benefit of self-funding is the resulting increased financial control. Self-funded plans often times improve cash flow as funds that would otherwise be held by the insurance carrier for unreported or pending claims are free for use. With a self-funded plan, employers have access to detailed reports and documentation of how every health plan dollar is spent. “We’ve all heard the phrase, we can’t manage what we can’t measure”. Self-funded plans provide access to information that we otherwise would not have.

2. Lower Costs

While traditional fully insured plans allow for a guaranteed monthly cost, meaning the premium stays the same month to month, self-funded plans provide greater flexibility where you only pay for what you use. The disadvantage of a traditional plan is that in a year that the claims and administrative expenses are less than the premium an employer paid – none of that money will be refunded back.

With a partially self-funded plan, you will have administrative and stop loss insurance expenses that will be about 20% of your total budget. The other 80% is purely claims. If at the end of the year your claims were lower than expected, the employer realizes the savings. In a year when claims exceed what is expected, we have stop loss insurance to protect the employer and its employees.

“Wellness efforts and self-funded benefit plans can often work hand in hand in reducing your annual health plan costs,” explained Scott. “I often tell employers who are currently fully insured and have experienced low claims cost that if you believe you can have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of your employees, then a self-funded plan will be perfect for you because you will be rewarded for wellness efforts and initiatives.”

3. Increased Flexibility

Self-funded plans provide employers the flexibility to design a health benefit plan that addresses specific employee needs as well as company objectives. When compared to traditional plans, self-funded plans allow you to choose your own partners and plan designs. Whether it’s the provider network, the prescription benefit manager, utilization management or centers of excellence manager, vendors can be hand selected from national provider networks to incorporate in the program.

A fully insured plan is required to meet state mandates, state premiums taxes, and ACA taxes among other expenses. Self-funded plans are not subject to the state mandates and either avoids or minimizes many of the taxes.

4. Control Over Plan Design

A downside of traditional plans is being required to select an off-the-shelf plan that your insurance carrier offers.

“One of the things we are doing with our self-funded plans is designing our plans in a way that drives employees to seek out the highest quality but lowest cost providers within their provider network. Provider discounts are great, but there’s even more savings to be gained by creating incentives to seek care from these highest quality, lowest cost providers within that network. Employees are beginning to understand the importance of being better healthcare consumers and it’s paying off. When this happens, it’s only in a self-funded environment that you see the maximum savings from these efforts,” said Scott.

5. Information Management

Self-funded plans provide convenient, secure access to all the necessary information needed to effectively manage plan structure. With a self-funded plan, you can:

  • Track and report data regularly: tracking data allows monthly or quarterly patterns to be detected and acted upon accordingly. Proactive data tracking helps employers stay on top of what is coming next.
  • Utilize predictive plan modeling: past and current claim data can be used to analyze risks and forecast costs allowing for spending waste to be eliminated.

How can Hierl help?

If an employer is moving to a self-funded plan for the first time, Hierl walks clients through a simple process beginning with a risk tolerance analysis to be sure that the plan design keeps the client within their comfort level. From there, Hierl assists with finding a product and design that meets a client’s specific needs. Whether this is a level-funded plan, a captive self-funded plan that limits exposure, or a stop-loss plan that will refund any excess premium at the end of the year, an expert will help determine the best plan for the employer and their employees.

Hierl’s Self-Funded Renewal 101

Here’s an example of the process Hierl guides fully insured clients through as they transition to selffunding. For more information or assistance reach out to an expert at Hierl today.

  • 9-6 months before renewal - Hierl walks clients through all the components of how self-funding works (Self-Funding 101).
  • 6-7 months before the renewal - Hierl facilitates interviews with TPA (Third Party Administrators) in order to select the TPA that best meets the client’s goals and objectives.
  • 5-6 months before renewal - Hierl provides benefit modeling to illustrate self-funding plan design and financial projections in order to compare it to the current fully insured plan.
  • 2-4 months before renewal – Implementation and enrollment is completed.

To download the full article click Here.


Helping Your Employees Protect Against Identity Theft

Are you doing enough to help your employees protect themselves from identity theft? Make sure to take a look at this article by Irene Saccoccio from SHRM on what employers can do to protect their employees from identity theft.

Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for you and your employees. Protecting your identity and information is important to us. Security is part of our name and we take that seriously.

Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and pretends to be you. It happens to millions of Americans every year. Once identity thieves have your personal information they can open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name. You can help prevent identity theft by:

  • Securing your Social Security card and not carrying it in your wallet;
  • Not responding to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online;
  • Shredding mail containing PII instead of throwing it in the trash; and
  • Reviewing your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

It is important that your employees take the necessary steps to protect their Social Security number. Usually, just knowing the number is enough, so it is important not to carry your Social Security card or other documents unless they are needed for a specific purpose. If someone asks for your employees’ number, they should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if they refuse. When hired, your employees should provide you with the correct Social Security number to ensure their records and tax information are accurate.

If your employees suspect someone else is using their Social Security number, they should visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov guides them through every step of the recovery process. It’s a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your employee should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Don’t let your employees fall victim to identity theft. Advise them to read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number or read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you or an employee suspects that they’re a victim of identity theft, don’t wait, report it right away!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 May ). Helping your employees protect against identity theft [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/helping-your-employees-protect-against-identity-theft


Advisers Seek a Tech Solution to Financial Wellness

Have you been looking for a new solution to increase your client's investment into their financial well-being? Check out this great article by Cort Olsen from Employee Benefits Advisors on how advisers are using technology to help their clients invest in their financial wellness.

With many employers taking advantage of wearable wellness devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, advisers and consultants say they would like to see a similar platform that will efficiently monitor a person’s financial wellbeing.

“For physical wellness there are health assessments like biometric screenings to gather information and then there is the wearable data that tells people where they need to be to stay on track with their health goals,” says Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. “The difference with the financial piece is that there isn’t a way to track users’ spending habits or monitoring their retirement funding to make their financial status more budget friendly.”

While Schmidt says he has not been able to find a platform that monitors financial status at such a personal level, John Tabb, chief product officer of Questis, has put together a platform that manages to gather data and make suggestions on what employees should be focusing their investments on such as paying off student loan debt or investing in their Roth IRA.

Tabb estimates that there are roughly 30 companies that call themselves financial wellness firms but adds that none of them are “holisitic.” “Not to say that they are not good, but there are only a handful of companies that can allow advisers at financial institutions to utilize their platform as a tool,” he says.

Saving for retirement vs. paying off student debt
Shane Bartling, retirement consultant for Willis Towers Watson, says they have developed a program with their clients that addresses gaps in the market and increases the value of the overall lineup of financial well-being services offered by employers generally around retirement readiness.

“As a result of requests from clients and the needs we have identified with our consulting work, we have built out a technology solution to compliment the line-up of other resources that clients have available,” Bartling says. “We wanted to find the indicators of poor financial wellbeing in the workforce, how to measure it and then how do we engage the parts of our workforce that are going to see the highest value from the resources we are providing.”

The WTW program offers clients an initial assessment from an adviser to determine where employees are struggling the most with their finances. “There is a way to look at behaviors employees are signaling when they are in a poor financial situation,” Bartling says. “They begin to do things like using loans, taking hardship withdrawals and then ultimately you see issues like wage garnishment tend to pop up on the radar and are opting out of the 401(k).”

SoFi has expanded its business focus from student loan refinancing firms into the workspace by helping employers offer a student loan repayment benefit.

“Looking at the employee benefits space today, student loans are generally a pretty big hole in most employers benefit offerings,” says Catesby Perrin, vice president of business development at SoFi. “The main stays of employee benefit offerings are healthcare and 401(k), which we all know are essential, but in many respects don’t address the most pressing financial concerns of the largest demographic in the workforce, which are millennials.”

Perrin adds that 401(k) and other forms retirement saving is imperative for everyone in the workforce, however retirement is not a top priority for millennials due to other financial stressors that are taking place in their day-to-day lives.

“As great as a 401(k) is and how important it is intrinsically, if you have $500 or $800 a month due in student loan payments, which is totally plausible for somebody coming out of undergrad today, the 401(k) is a total luxury,” Perrin says. “Most employers are not doing much about student loan problem, so we are offering two primary benefits today for employers… a student loan refinancing benefit and a benefit set for employers to help pay down the principle balance of their employee’s loan.”

Alternative tech gaining traction
One option is the increasing popularity of mobile push notifications. Ayana Collins, wellness consultant out of EPIC’s Atlanta office, says she is seeing a greater response from users who utilize these alerts on their smartphones to view wellness tips and strategies that they may not read if they are delivered in the form of an e-mail.

“Employees receive thousands upon thousands of e-mails and one more e-mail coming from HR or from a wellness company may not be opened,” Collins says. “If they receive a push notification from their mobile phone they are more likely to check out what financial wellness tips we are sending to them.”

Privacy invasion?
Meanwhile, new legislation determining how wellness plans are regulated has sparked a renewed interest in finding a streamlined financial wellbeing platform.

Shan Fowler, senior director of employer portfolio and product strategy at Benefitfocus, says legislation such as the Employer Participation in Repayment Act and the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, will help fuel the creation of a financial wellbeing platform.

“Financial regulation is very similar to healthcare regulation,” Fowler says, “due to so many branches that are contingent with legislative support. Seeing bipartisan support for this national epidemic [has me feeling] very optimistic.”

However, employees may not be as enthusiastic. Many workers are concerned about the level of data employers could have access to, seeing it as an invasion of privacy, Fowler adds.

“I think you need to put yourself into the shoes of the employee and ask if I want my company to have access to my personal information,” he says. “That speaks to that very fine line employers have to walk of having their employees’ best interests in mind, but not going too far into a ‘big brother’ mentality.”

Tabb says that while the Questis platform does offer individual advice on financial direction based off an initial assessment, the data collected is stored in an aggregate form that protects employees’ personal information from being viewed by their superiors or colleagues.

“If the employer wants some data, they are going to pay for it to help them make decisions, but it is all on an aggregate level,” Tabb says. “There is certainly a perception that needs to be addressed to ensure employees that their data is safe and that nothing is being shared with their employer that does not need to be shared.”

Both Bartling and Perrin also say their platforms offer data to employers only in an aggregate form to give them an idea of how many employees are utilizing the benefit and also the projected success rates, but when it comes to the personal finances of each individual employee, security is in place to ensure private financial information is protected.

EPIC’s Collins says no matter what branch of wellness an employer invests in, whether it be financial, physical or mental, there needs to be a reason behind the technology that they are using. If there is no payout for the employee, there will be no demand to carry the program.

“There has to be a ‘so what’ behind it,” Collins says. “If the employer is just doing a simple challenge with nothing behind it, people are not going to gravitate toward it, because it doesn’t create a moment where the users discover an improvement to themselves. That is the whole point behind wellness.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 May 11). Advisers seek a tech solution to financial wellness [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/advisers-seek-a-tech-solution-to-financial-wellness


Is Your Wellness Program Compliant with the ACA, GINA and EEOC?

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Valeria S. Tivnan.

Workplace wellness programs have increased popularity through the years. According to the most recent UBA Health Plan Survey, 49 percent of firms with 200+ employees offering health benefits in 2016 offered wellness programs. Workplace wellness programs’ popularity also brought controversy and hefty discussions about what works to improve population health and which programs comply with the complex legal standards of multiple institutions that have not really “talked” to each other in the past. To “add wood to the fire,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made public some legal actions that shook the core of the wellness industry, such as EEOC vs. Honeywell International, and EEOC vs. Orion Energy Systems.

To ensure a wellness program is compliant with the ACA, GINA and the EEOC, let’s first understand what each one of these institutions are.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in March 2010 during the Obama presidency. It has three primary goals: to make health insurance available to more people, to expand the Medicaid program, and to support innovative medical care delivery methods to lower the cost of healthcare overall.1 The ACA carries provisions that support the development of wellness programs and determines all rules around them.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. GINA relates to wellness programs in different ways, but it particularly relates to the gathering of genetic information via a health risk assessment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. In 2017, the EEOC issued a final rule to amend the regulations implementing Title II of GINA as they relate to employer-sponsored wellness program. This rule addresses the extent to which an employer may offer incentives to employees and spouses.

Here is some advice to ensure your wellness program is compliant with multiple guidelines.

  1. Make sure your wellness program is “reasonably designed” and voluntary – This means that your program’s main goal should be to promote health and prevent disease for all equally. Additionally, it should not be burdensome for individuals to participate or receive the incentive. This means you must offer reasonable alternatives for qualifying for the incentive, especially for individuals whose medical conditions make it unreasonably difficult to meet specific health-related standards. I always recommend wellness programs be as simple as possible, and before making a change or decision in the wellness program, identify all difficult or unfair situations that might arise from this change, and then run them by your company’s legal counsel and modify the program accordingly before implementing it. An example of a wellness program that is NOT reasonably designed is a program offering a health risk assessment and biometric screening without providing results or follow-up information and advice. A wellness program is also NOT reasonably designed if exists merely to shift costs from an employer to employees based on their health.
  2. Do the math! – Recent rules implemented changes in the ACA that increased the maximum permissible wellness program reward from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of self-only health coverage (50 percent if the program includes tobacco cessation). Although the final rules are not clear on incentives for spouses, it is expected that, for wellness programs that apply to employees and their spouses, the maximum incentive for either the employee or spouse will be 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage. In case an employer offers more than one group health plan but participation in a wellness program is open to all employees regardless of whether they are enrolled in a plan, the employer may offer a maximum incentive of 30 percent of the lowest cost major medical self-only plan it offers. As an example, if a single plan costs $4,000, the maximum incentive would be $1,200.
  3. Provide a notice to all eligible to participate in your wellness program – The EEOC made it easy for everyone and posted a sample notice online at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/ada-wellness-notice.cfm. Your notice should include information on the incentive amount you are offering for different programs, how you maintain privacy and security of all protected health information (PHI) as well as who to contact if participants have question or concerns.
  4. If using a HRA (health risk assessment), do not include family medical history questions – The EEOC final rule, which expands on GINA’s rules, makes it clear that “an employer is permitted to request information about the current or past health status of an employee's spouse who is completing a HRA on a voluntary basis, as long as the employer follows GINA rules about requesting genetic information when offering health or genetic services. These rules include requirements that the spouse provide prior, knowing, written, and voluntary authorization for the employer to collect genetic information, just as the employee must do, and that inducements in exchange for this information are limited.”2Due to the complexity and “gray areas” this item can reach, my recommendation is to keep it simple and to leave genetic services and genetic counseling out of a comprehensive wellness program.

WellSteps, a nationwide wellness provider, has a useful tool that everyone can use. Their “wellness compliance checker” should not substituted for qualified legal advice, but can be useful for a high level check on how compliant your wellness program is. You can access it at https://www.wellsteps.com/resources/tools.

I often stress the need for all wellness programs to build a strong foundation, which starts with the company’s and leaders’ messages. Your company should launch a wellness program because you value and care about your employees’ (and their families’) health and well-being. Everything you do and say should reflect this philosophy. While I always recommend companies to carefully review all regulations around wellness, I do believe that if your wellness program has a strong foundation based on your corporate social responsibility and your passion for building a healthy workplace, you most likely will be within the walls of all these rules. At the end, a workplace that does wellness the right way has employees who are not motivated by financial incentives, but by their intrinsic motivation to be the best they can be as well as their acceptance that we all must be responsible for our own health, and that all corporations should be responsible for providing the best environment and opportunities for employees to do so.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Tivnan V. (2017 May 9). Is your wellness program compliant with the ACA, GINA  and EEOC? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/is-your-wellness-program-compliant-with-the-aca-gina-and-eeoc