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2017 Health Plan Survey Shows Sharp Rise in Group Healthcare Premiums

With over 20,000 health plans entered into UBA's Health Plan survey, the results have never been more informative. After reading the post below on Group Healthcare Premiums, head on over to this page to take our benchmark survey for customized results fit to your company's needs.


I’m happy to report that this year’s UBA Health Plan survey achieved a milestone. For the first time, we surpassed 20,000 health plans entered—20,099 health plans to be exact, which were sponsored by 11,221 employers. What we were able to determine from all this data was that a tumultuous Presidential election likely encouraged many employers to stay the course and make only minor increases and decreases across the board while the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) became clearer.

There were, however, a few noteworthy changes in 2017. Premium renewal rates (the comparison of similar plan rates year over year) rose nearly 7%, representing a departure from the trend the last five years. To control these costs, employers shifted more premium to employees, offered more lower-cost CDHP and HMO plans, increased out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and significantly reduced prescription drug coverage as six-tier prescription drug plans exploded on the marketplace. Self-funding, particularly among small groups, is also on the rise.

Percent Premium Increase Over Time

UBA has conducted its Health Plan Survey since 2005. This longevity, coupled with its size
 and scope, allows UBA to maintain its superior accuracy over any other benchmarking survey in the U.S. In fact, our unparalleled number of reported plans is nearly three times larger than the next two of the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. The resulting volume of data provides employers of all sizes more detailed—and therefore more meaningful—benchmarks and trends than any other source.

Read our breaking news release with survey highlights. For a detailed examination of the key findings, download UBA’s free 2017 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary. To benchmark your exact plan against others in your region, industry or size bracket, contact a UBA Partner near you to run a custom benchmarking report.

 

 

You can read the original article here.

 

Source:

Weber P. (30 October 2017). "2017 Health Plan Survey Shows Sharp Rise in Group Healthcare Premiums" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/2017-health-plan-survey-shows-sharp-rise-in-group-healthcare-premiums

 

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5 SIMPLE STEPS TO DEVELOPING A COMPETITIVE PAY PRACTICE

Have you struggled with employee engagement and building a competitive pay practice? Fortunately, HR Morning has provided us and you with this awesome article, including five simple steps toward a competitive pay practice. Read more below.


In today’s competitive environment, employees are more educated than ever before about the current salary rates in their location and industry. If you want your business to remain competitive, and retain top talent, you need to stay one-step ahead of your competition, and have a solid pay strategy that’s based on accurate salary data – not speculation.

Here are a few simple steps to get you closer to a compensation strategy that retains talent and keeps your company ahead of the curve.

1)      Get a Pulse on Your Market

After a series of wage declines in 2009 and 2010, a number of industries are now seeing continual salary growth across multiple industries and locations. If your company’s compensation plan is based on the trends in those leaner years immediately after the recession, it’s probably time to revisit your pay strategy. Or you may be at risk of losing talent to competitors who’ve more quickly adapted to shifts in the market. Keep an eye on the PayScale Index to keep track of quarterly trends in pay by location, industry and job category.

 

2)      Benchmark Your Job Positions

It’s great to have a pulse on the overarching pay trends in your industry and area, but it’s another thing to have confidence that you’re actually paying top employees at the right rates for their job. By engaging in at least once-per-year salary benchmarking, you’ll be able to identify employees who are at a “high flight risk” of turnover, and be able to make smarter decisions about where you allocate your labor budget. Download PayScale’s How to Perform Compensation Benchmarking and Salary Ranges whitepaper for more information.

 

3)      Develop a Compensation Plan

Often times, businesses fear that having a compensation plan will limit their ability to make good business decisions, so they skip building a compensation plan in favor of fewer rules and less structure. But without a formalized compensation plan, companies often miss an opportunity to structure their pay decisions in a way that support business goals. As companies grow, the costs of compensation continue to rise, and without a formalized plan in place, companies often experience problems with pay inequities, employee retention, and engagement. Simply put, it’s easier, and more cost-effective to take small steps toward developing a smart compensation plan now, than it is to alter your course later down the line.

 

4)      Identify Pay Inequities

Some people live by the motto, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” That’s a motto your organization cannot afford to live by when it comes to internal pay inequities. Without a formalized comp plan, it’s often common for pay inequities to develop across organizations and departments. Those pay inequities can most definitely hurt you and your organization in the form of heightened turnover, over payment, and even litigation. Learn how to identify and resolve these inequities with PayScale’s guide to pay inequities.

 

5)      Communicate Your Compensation Strategy

If you go through the process of creating a compensation plan, don’t forget to let your employees know about it. In theory, your compensation strategy should reiterate and support your business goals. So, it’s important to communicate to employees how their work aligns with the goals of the organization, and how their compensation reflects that. If you share with your employees, and make your investments in talent clear to them, you’ll be surprised by the positive effect it has on employee morale. Check out PayScale’s Four Tips for Communicating Your Compensation Plan to Employees to help you get started.

 

Need help developing a competitive compensation strategy, or maintaining salary ranges for your workforce? PayScale offers access to the largest online salary database in the world. With data that’s updated on a daily basis, and software designed to help you maintain salary ranges, benchmark jobs, and allocate raises, PayScale is the choice for businesses who value accuracy and ROI in their pay practices. Request a demo of PayScale compensation software to learn how PayScale’s fresh, detailed data can support good compensation planning.

 

Read the original article here.

Source:

HRMorning.com (N.D.). "5 SIMPLE STEPS TO DEVELOPING A COMPETITIVE PAY PRACTICE" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://pbpmedia.staging.wpengine.com/5-simple-steps-to-developing-a-competitive-pay-practice/


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Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?

Do your employees find themselves bogged down with financial concerns? Maybe it's time to help them out. In this article, our partner, UBA, explores some of the ways your employees may be struggling with their financial health, and how you can help.


The importance of health and wellness in the workplace is more apparent than ever. It’s obvious why healthy individuals make better employees and the positive impact this has on your bottom line. When thinking about building a program to improve the well-being of your employees, don’t forget about the importance of their financial health.

In recent years, studies show that employees have a wide range of financial concerns that affect their work. Some financial issues are widespread, impacting a large number of employees, while others may be more unique based on an employee’s specific circumstances.

Financial stress in the workplace influences productivity, absenteeism, physical health, emotional well-being, and the overall happiness of employees. Nearly 25 percent of employees confirm personal finance issues are a distraction at work and 39 percent say they spend three hours or more each week at work dealing with personal financial issues.1

Some of the biggest financial stressors impacting employees today include:

  • Student loan debt – 2 million Americans collectively owe $1.3 trillion in student loans – that’s more than credit card and auto loan debt, and second only to mortgage debt 2
  • Retirement savings – 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 in retirement savings 3
  • Emergency funds – 46 percent are unable to cover a $400 emergency 4
  • Other debt – 48 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than savings 5

Unfortunately, financial stress can go unnoticed because it is usually not as openly discussed or addressed. Discussing personal finance with co-workers and even family members is still considered difficult for many. This makes it even more important to have a program in place to educate and empower your employees to make positive financial decisions.

There are a wide variety of financial wellness programs and services available. When developing a program, be sure that you include both educational resources and tools that support behavioral change.

  • Educational resources – Education is the backbone to any financial wellness program. Remember, financial issues can impact anyone in your company and not everyone learns the same way. Offer a variety of resources including workshops, seminars, books, online courses and access to financial consultations. It’s important to assure employees that they are in a safe environment where they can learn and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking more information.
  • Empowering behavioral change – Financial wellness doesn’t stop with education. Worksheets, budgeting tools, financial consultants, loan repayment plans and retirement savings plans are all tools that aid employees in making long-term behavioral changes that improve their financial health. Celebrating the small successes early on will help employees commit to making more long-term changes. Be sure to have programs in place that offer the tools and resources needed for employees to set goals, change their behavior and celebrate their success.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Cannon N. (3 October 2017). "Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/are-you-addressing-your-employees-financial-health


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Using data to identify high-intent consumers

Does your company struggle with acquiring high performing leads? Check out this article from Property Casualty 360 degrees written by JAIMIE PICKLES.

You can read the original article here.


For years, insurance companies and agents have acquired third-party internet leads as an efficient way to supplement their own lead generation efforts. But with the shift toward digital engagement and increasing regulatory compliance concerns, acquiring high performing leads has become a much more complicated venture.

According to a recent study by J.D. Power, 74% of auto insurance consumers use insurance brand or aggregators websites for obtaining quotes and information. This is something that holds true across almost all lines of insurance.

Regardless of device, the preferred platform for shopping is now digital.

But while brand websites generate a percentage of insurance leads, more consumers are choosing the choice model that internet lead generators and aggregators offer to research and obtain quotes. This is because more consumers prefer to have access to what they perceive as independent and unbiased sources for information and quotes.

 

Mitigate TCPA compliance risk

Compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has become more of a priority for insurance brands and their partners over the past few years. TCPA lawsuits filed by consumers are on the rise — growing by a factor of 1,273 percent since 2010 — and a number of large insurance brands have been part of multimillion-dollar TCPA settlements.

For example, in May 2017, a Florida-based insurer settled a class action TCPA lawsuit for $4.25 million. And that does not include the court costs and legal fees or the cost to counter bad the bad PR and lost brand reputation from the case.

Knowing definitively that a consumer has given consent to be contacted is a must. Ted Todd Insurance is a multi-office agency in Florida which generates leads on its own website and buys online leads from third party lead generators. They assure TCPA compliance by using a SaaS-based solution to track and verify consumer consent.

CEO Charley Todd says, "the technology tracks and assures the existence of the consumer’s consent, delivering a positive first experience for every new customer, and provides persuasive evidence in the event of a consumer complaint or lawsuit."

 

Analyze the right data

With the overabundance of data that insurance brands have, from internal and external sources, it is not always easy to make sense of it all. Even with a sophisticated data science and analytics program, the key is getting access to the right data at the right time, to help optimize your marketing programs.

In the case of customer acquisition, that begins with having access to data that you can  use to help score, prioritize and route higher-performing leads. By knowing the origin and history of your leads, you’ll be able to mitigate TCPA compliance risk and prioritize selection of and engagement with higher-intent consumers.

The majority of the top ten insurance companies in the United States are doing just that — connecting the dots and using sophisticated technology and data — to gain real-time intelligence into the origin, history and intent of the leads they are acquiring. Such solutions enable insurance companies and agents to follow consumers in real time on their buying journeys until the end when consumers purchase a policy, helping insurers observe and access behavioral data which they can use to analyze the intent of the consumer.

When marketers gain the ability to identify and take action on consumer behavioral data, buying low-intent leads is no longer part of the "cost of doing business" in lead management and analysis. Brands that leverage these insights gain efficiencies and can better focus their precious time and budgets on productive leads.

 

Optimize lead acquisition and marketing

In implementing technology solutions, here are five tips to supercharge your lead generation.

  1. Know the age of your leads. If you’re measuring speed-to-lead from the moment you received a lead post, you are missing a key data point. It’s not about when you received the lead, but rather when the consumer actually submitted the inquiry.
  1. Be proactive in avoiding fraudulent leads and those that are not TCPA compliant. Consumers who didn’t fill out the form or who filled it out six months ago have no intent to buy from you. Also, these leads put you at risk for TCPA complaints. Only purchase leads that are TCPA compliant. You don’t want to damage your brand and reputation, or take on the costs if you are sued by a consumer. You need a vendor who can help you identify, in real-time, that your leads are compliant and provide persuasive proof that a consumer gave consent to be contacted.
  1. Don’t get dupedMany marketers assume that a duplicate is the result of recycled data. They think that the same consumer means it is the same inquiry. In fact, it could very likely be the same consumer with a brand new inquiry, which is actually indicative of a high-intent consumer. Know the difference.
  1. Understand if leads are shared vs. exclusive. Know if your leads are being shared with some of your competitors. If they are, you need to determine how many other competitors that lead is being shared with and whether you are the first or last to receive it.
  1. Right price your leads. If you find a vendor who will help you identify low intent leads, you can reallocate that spend and pay more for higher intent leads. This is a key strategy to quickly and notably improve lead conversion.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Pickles J. (9 October 2017). "Using data to identify high-intent consumers" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/10/09/using-data-to-identify-high-intent-consumers?ref=hp-news


Connecting Business with the College Community, the Next Step in HR Education

Written by Mark Fogel on the SHRM blog is this informative article on connecting business with the college community, and how it is a fantastic next step in HR education. How do you feel about this update in HR eduction?

You can read the original article here.


 

Many of you know I am passionate about preparing our next generation of HR practitioners for the workforce of tomorrow. I have been teaching graduate, and occasionally undergraduate HR courses, in the business school at a major university on Long Island for close to a decade. It is hard to integrate my classes with local businesses when the courses are primarily at 6 or 8pm at night. I am sure many if not most graduate HR programs face a similar challenge.

I try to bring practitioners in to speak, host panels and do an online HR simulation in one of my classes. But, the real-life experiences of being integrated into a business is and will always be the best learning experience as far as I am concerned. So short of the occasional internship opportunity, my students and those at the university have faced a void of HR reality that I have looked to fill throughout my tenure.

I have now found a solution that I want to share with the HR community in hopes that you think about partnering with local schools too.

I have partnered with GEICO insurance to do a case competition in my graduate selection and recruiting class on Attraction and Retention of Millennials for GEICO’s Management Development Program. The project involves having 6 teams of students research millennial hiring and retention trends as it relates to Geico’s current and future employment needs.

GEICO’s local talent team is providing support and opening their doors at a major work center to have my students come into their business to interview and observe their employment practices. Their regional facility has expanded hours of operation and this helps in coordinating schedules for on-sites too. The project/competition ends late in the semester with formal presentations and prizes for the best research. They bring in a few senior executives along with the Talent team to listen, question, and discuss the research results, which adds to the overall experience and creates great networking opportunities.

This is an amazing partnership that can be replicated by other businesses on a variety of projects and is a win-win for all. Students get a bird’s eye view of HR challenges and Geico gets great insight and research in return. With minimal to no cost and great ROI, this is a no brainer.

This is not to say that SHRM and other learning systems, courses, and conferences are not great value adds in the learning experience. They obviously are and I continue to do my part in volunteering in the conference space myself, however this is a missing piece of the puzzle for HR education. Especially for early and emerging practitioners or those wishing to enter the field.

What are you waiting for?

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Fogel M. (3 October 2017). "Connecting Business with the College Community, the Next Step in HR Education" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address blog.shrm.org/…/connecting-business-with-the-college-community-the-next-step-in-hr-educatio


Self funded health care – a big business advantage

Check out this article from Business Insurance by one of their staff writers. In this article, Business Insurance dives into the awesome advantages of self-funding for big businesses.

You can read the original article here.


Health insurance benefits are expensive. The rising costs of health care has driven up insurance premiums to levels where many businesses have been forced to reduce these benefits or drop them altogether. There is, however another option that is less regulated, taxed less and typically results in cost savings: self funded health insurance. The problem is, it's not always the best option for all employers, particularly the smaller ones. And there's a number of reasons for this:
What is self funded health care a.k.a. self-insurance?

Self-insurance is a method of providing health care to employees by taking on the financial liabilities of the care instead of paying premiums to an insurance agency to do the same. In other words: when a person covered under a self-funded plan needs medical care, the company is financially responsible for paying the medical bill (minus deductibles). It's an alternative risk transfer strategy that assumes the risk and liability of medical bills for those covered instead of outsourcing it to a third party. It's a surprisingly common practice:

In 2008, 55% of workers with health benefits were covered by a self-insured plan….and 89% of workers in firms of 5,000 or more employees.
Most (but not all) self-insurance plans are administered by a third party, usually a health insurance company, in order to process claims. The bills are simply paid for by the employer. Health insurance companies act as a third party administrators in what are called ASO contracts (Administrative Services Only)

Another common component of self insurance plans is stop-loss insurance. This is a separate insurance plan that the employer can purchase to reduce the overall liability of claims. With this type of insurance, if claims exceed a certain dollar amount, stop-loss kicks in paying the rest. There are two kinds of stop-loss insurance:

Specific – covers the excess costs from larger claims made by individuals in the group
Aggregate – kicks in when total claims by the group exceed a set amount
For example, a company who self-insures their $1000 employees projects $100,000 in medical care claims for the year. If they purchase aggregate stop-loss insurance for claims that exceed 120% of the expected amount or $120,000, the insurance will pick up the bill for the remaining claims. If the company purchases specific stop-loss insurance at 200%, if any single claim exceeds $2,000, the stop-loss pays the remainder.

Typically, self-funded insurance providers will purchase both specific and aggregate stop-loss insurance unless the conditions are such that specific stop-loss provides enough financial protection.
Benefits of self-insurance

There are a number of financial and administrative advantages to using self-funded health insurance plans for employers. According to the Self-Insurance Institute of America (SIIA) these include:

The employer can customize the plan to meet the specific health care needs of its workforce, as opposed to purchasing a 'one-size-fits-all' insurance policy.
The employer maintains control over the health plan reserves, enabling maximization of interest income – income that would be otherwise generated by an insurance carrier through the investment of premium dollars.
The employer does not have to pre-pay for coverage, thereby providing for improved cash flow.
The employer is not subject to conflicting state health insurance regulations/benefit mandates, as self-insured health plans are regulated under federal law (ERISA).
The employer is not subject to state health insurance premium taxes, which are generally 2-3 percent of the premium's dollar value.
The employer is free to contract with the providers or provider network best suited to meet the health care needs of its employees.
There are, however, some drawbacks to self-insurance policies:

Health care can be costly, so heavy claims years can be extremely expensive
Self insurance isn't tax deductible the same way the costs of providing health insurance is.
Financial benefits are long-term, particularly with an investment component.
Small businesses at a disadvantage

Self insurance is much more prevalent for larger companies mostly because it is easier to predict health care costs from a larger group. The more people in the group, the less potentially damaging a single expensive claim will be to the plan overall. That's why less than 10% of companies with less than 50 employees use self-insurance. The graphic to the right [source: businessweek.com] gives a telling breakdown of its prevalence based on company size.

Because risk is more difficult to predict with smaller groups, stop-loss insurance is also more expensive for smaller businesses. The practice of “lasering”, or increasing deductibles for specific higher risk employees can also be much tougher on small firms. As a result, self-insurance tends to be a less cost effective option than it is for larger companies.

Another roadblock for small businesses is a lack of cash-flow that is necessary to finance self-insurance. This doesn't mean, however, that small businesses can't benefit from a self-insurance plan. In fact, an increasing number of small businesses still are. But fully understanding the risks and rewards for doing so can sometimes be difficult.
Regulations

Because the only 3rd party administration of insurance (stop-loss) is between the employer and the insurance company directly, it is not subject to state level regulation the way traditional insurance policies are. Instead, they're regulated by the department of labor under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act – ERISA. Benefit administrators must still comply with federal standards despite the lack of state regulation.

California SB 1431

California is considering a proposed legislation to regulate the sale of stop-loss policies to smaller businesses. On the surface, the regulation looks as though it is an attempt to prevent small businesses from taking on too much risk. But the true intentions of the legislation may be to prevent cherry-picking of generally healthier small businesses (effectively removing them from the health insurance pool). This cherry-picking would theoretically cause traditional insurance premiums to become more expensive.

According to the SIIA, SB 1431 would prohibit the sale of stop-loss policies to employers with fewer than 50 employees that does any of the following:

Contains a specific attachment point that is lower than $95,000;
Contains an aggregate attachment point that is lower than the greater of one of the following:
$19,000 times the total number of covered employees and dependents;
120% of expected claims;
$95,000

This legislation would effectively limit the options of small businesses as it would force them to purchase a more expensive low deductible stop-loss policies. And according to the SIIA, with this legislation, almost no small business under 50 employees would (nor should they) consider self-insurance as an option.

If the legislation is passed in California, it has been suggested that it is only time before other states follow suit and/or enact even stricter regulations on small businesses. The SIIA even has a facebook page dedicated to defeating the bill they say is:

“…unnecessary and will only exasperate the problem that small employers in California face in being able to afford the rising cost of providing quality health benefits to their employees.”

So while self insurance can be a relatively risky option for small businesses, with legislation like this, it could no longer be a realistic option at all… And, in effect: another competitive advantage big businesses will have over their smaller counterparts.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Staff Writer. (Date Unlisted). "Self funded health care – a big business advantage" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.businessinsurance.org/self-funded-health-care-a-big-business-advantage/


SHRM Connect: Mental Health Issues in the Workplace - What Would You Do?

Are you a SHRM member and/or HR professional? In this article from SHRM by Mary Kaylor, she dives into what SHRM Connect is and how you can get involved!

You can read the original article here.


SHRM Connect is an online community where SHRM members can ask questions and get answers on a variety of HR topics. It’s a great place to network with other HR professionals and share solutions.

The conversation topics range from “HR Department of One” to Employment Law, are always insightful, and deal with some of the most pressing issues that HR professionals face in the workplace today.

While some of the conversations take on a more serious tone, others will deliver a bit of comic relief -- and on Fridays, I’ll be highlighting a conversation or two in hopes that you’ll take some time to visit. You may want to "lurk"… perhaps respond, but you’ll always learn something.

It’s a great community and I highly recommend checking it out.

While May is officially Mental Health Awareness month, HR must deal with employee mental health issues, and their effects on the workplace, all year long. This week’s highlighted conversations involve a few different scenarios. What would you do?

Subject: Self Harming

In the General HR area, a poster asks for advice on how to handle about a perceived case of self harming:

We have a new(er) employee that was observed by another employee to have cuts up and down her arm. The employee brought it to our attention out of concern. We thanked the employee and asked that she keep it confidential. We do not offer an EAP.

My thought is to speak with the employee that is self harming and let her know what was observed and just check in and see if she is ok. If she says everything is good, just leave it at that. If she mentions something is going on...or if she needs to seek treatment etc, go down that road.

For those of you who have experience with this, is this an ok approach? Is it best to not address it with the employee? Any other resources, since an EAP is not an option?

Thanks!

To read/respond to this conversation, please click here.

* * * * *

Subject: Alcohol and Discussion of Suicide

In the General HR area, another poster asks for advice on monitoring an employee:

Know of an employee with an alcohol problem who has gone through treatment and released to return to work by the treating facility. Prior to admittance, she talked about suicide. What follow-ups by the employer would you suggest, other than a monitoring agreement for a period of time?

To read/respond to this conversation, please click here.

* * * * *

Subject: WWYD

In the General HR area, yet another poster is wondering how others would handle a case of an employee with anxiety – and lots of absences:

I was hoping to get opinions on this situation, and I believe I know the correct way to follow up but I was interested to see what others would say.

We hired a non-exempt employee in July of this year. Since that time, this employee had 6 unexcused absences, and two preplanned days off. We accrue and allow employees to use their vacation leave from day one, and this employee essentially used all the time throughout the end of the year. Sick time is not available for employees until they've been employed for 90 days. This employee stated about a month ago after one of their absences that they has very bad anxiety, but does not have insurance they are unable to get medication or see a doctor. This employee never asked for any type of accommodation, and we actually even provided resources to assist with their anxiety. All of the times they called out after that conversation were simply because "i feel bad and can't come in". I received copies of the texts and they're pretty vague. They called out again on Tuesday after having a pre-planned half day off on Friday, and we decided to give the employee a final written warning with a 60 day timeframe to improve their attendance. Unfortunately the employee called out again yesterday with a very vague explanation and stated that 'I still feel pretty bad'.

After speaking with the managers over this department, we decided to terminate employment due to excessive absences. I explained that to the employee in the phone call and gave them an opportunity to explain themselves. I tried to create a dialogue in the event that we were missing something, but I just got 'heh. oh okay.'

Now this morning, I received a page long email stating this employee has rights under HIPAA that they didn't have to disclose the anxiety disorders that they have (we never asked, they disclosed it voluntarily). Also stated that they would have expected a written warning for their excessive absenteeism but not the fact we separated employment. They go on to blame us for other areas of lacking (training, etc) but said we amplified the anxiety problem because of the amount of training we were giving them.

I feel like this employee is looking for anyone to blame. It's an unfortunate situation but as an employer, we cannot read employees minds. If an employee needs an accommodation due to a medical condition, aren't they supposed to request it? How are we supposed to help with vague callouts?

Thoughts?

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Taylor M. (22 September 2017). "SHRM Connect: Mental Health Issues in the Workplace - What Would You Do?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-connect-mental-health-issues-in-the-workplace-what-would-you-do


What You Need to Know about Health Flexible Spending Accounts

Are you having a hard time figuring out how a FSAs works? Take a look at this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla and found out everything you need to know about FSAs.


A health flexible spending account (FSA) is a pre-tax account used to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs for a participant as well as a participant's spouse and eligible dependents. Health FSAs are employer-established benefit plans and may be offered with other employer-provided benefits as part of a cafeteria plan. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for FSAs.

Even though a health FSA may be extended to any employee, employers should design their health FSAs so that participation is offered only to employees who are eligible to participate in the employer's major medical plan. Generally, health FSAs must qualify as excepted benefits, which means other nonexcepted group health plan coverage must be available to the health FSA's participants for the year through their employment. If a health FSA fails to qualify as an excepted benefit, then this could result in excise taxes of $100 per participant per day or other penalties.

Contributing to an FSA

Money is set aside from the employee's paycheck before taxes are taken out and the employee may use the money to pay for eligible health care expenses during the plan year. The employer owns the account, but the employee contributes to the account and decides which medical expenses to pay with it.

At the beginning of the plan year, a participant must designate how much to contribute so the employer can deduct an amount every pay day in accordance with the annual election. A participant may contribute with a salary reduction agreement, which is a participant election to have an amount voluntarily withheld by the employer. A participant may change or revoke an election only if there is a change in employment or family status that is specified by the plan.

Per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), FSAs are capped at $2,600 per year per employee. However, since a plan may have a lower annual limit threshold, employees are encouraged to review their Summary Plan Description (SPD) to find out the annual limit of their plan. A participant's spouse can put $2,600 in an FSA with the spouse's own employer. This applies even if both spouses participate in the same health FSA plan sponsored by the same employer.

Generally, employees must use the money in an FSA within the plan year or they lose the money left in the FSA account. However, employers may offer either a grace period of up to two and a half months following the plan year to use the money in the FSA account or allow a carryover of up to $500 per year to use in the following year.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 August 29). What you need to know about health flexible spending accounts [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-health-flexible-spending-accounts-1


Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs

What's your state's stance on the cost of prescription drugs? See how Maryland has moved forward in their decision making for drug prices, giving themselves the ability to say "no" in this article from Benefits Pro written by Shefali Luthra.

You can read the original article here.


Lawmakers in Maryland are daring to legislate where their federal counterparts have not: As of Oct. 1, the state will be able to say “no” to some pharmaceutical price spikes.

A new law, which focuses on generic and off-patent drugs, empowers the state’s attorney general to step in if a drug’s price climbs 50 percent or more in a single year. The company must justify the hike. If the attorney general still finds the increase unwarranted, he or she can file suit in state court. Manufacturers face a fine of up to $10,000 for price gouging.

As Congress stalls on what voters say is a top health concern — high pharmaceutical costs — states increasingly are tackling the issue. Despite often-fierce industry opposition, a variety of bills are working their way through state governments. California, Nevada and New York are among those joining Maryland in passing legislation meant to undercut skyrocketing drug prices.

Maryland, though, is the first to penalize drugmakers for price hikes. Its law passed May 26 without the governor’s signature.

The state-level momentum raises the possibility that — as happened with hot-button issues such as gay marriage and smoke-free buildings — a patchwork of bills across the country could pave the way for more comprehensive national action. States feel the squeeze of these steep price tags in Medicaid and state employee benefit programs, and that applies pressure to find solutions.

“There is a noticeable uptick among state legislatures and state governments in terms of what kind of role states can play in addressing the cost of prescription drugs and access,” said Richard Cauchi, health program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Many experts frame Maryland’s law as a test case that could help define what powers states have and what limits they face in doing battle with the pharmaceutical industry.

The generic-drug industry has already filed a lawsuit to block the law, arguing it’s unconstitutionally vague and an overreach of state powers. A district court is expected to rule soon.

The state-level actions focus on a variety of tactics:

“Transparency bills” would require pharmaceutical companies to detail a drug’s production and advertising costs when they raise prices over certain thresholds. Cost-limit measures would cap drug prices charged by drugmakers to Medicaid or other state-run programs, or limit what the state will pay for drugs. Supply-chain restrictions include regulating the roles of pharmacy benefit managers or limiting a consumer’s out-of-pocket costs.

A New York law on the books since spring allows officials to cap what its Medicaid program will pay for medications. If companies don’t sufficiently discount a drug, a state review will assess whether the price is out of step with medical value.

Maryland’s measure goes further — treating price gouging as a civil offense and taking alleged violators to court.

“It’s a really innovative approach. States are looking at how to replicate it, and how to expand on it,” said Ellen Albritton, a senior policy analyst at the left-leaning Families USA, which has consulted with states including Maryland on such policies.

Lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in states such as Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Montana. And in Ohio voters are weighing a ballot initiative in November that would limit what the state pays for prescription drugs in its Medicaid program and other state health plans.

Meanwhile, the California legislature passed a bill earlier in September that would require drugmakers to disclose when they are about to raise a price more than 16 percent over two years and justify the hike. It awaits Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

In June, Nevada lawmakers approved a law similar to California’s but limited to insulin prices. Vermont passed a transparency law in 2016 that would scrutinize up to 15 drugs for which the state spends “significant health care dollars” and prices had climbed by set amounts in recent years.

But states face a steep uphill climb in passing pricing legislation given the deep-pocketed pharmaceutical industry, which can finance strong opposition, whether through lobbying, legal action or advertising campaigns.

Last fall, voters rejected a California initiative that would have capped what the state pays for drugs — much like the Ohio measure under consideration. Industry groups spent more than $100 million to defeat it, putting it among California’s all-time most expensive ballot fights. Ohio’s measure is attracting similar heat, with drug companies outspending opponents about 5-to-1.

States also face policy challenges and limits to their statutory authority, which is why several have focused their efforts on specific parts of the drug-pricing pipeline.

Critics see these tailored initiatives as falling short or opening other loopholes. Requiring companies to report prices past a certain threshold, for example, might encourage them to consistently set prices just below that level.

Maryland’s law is noteworthy because it includes a fine for drugmakers if price increases are deemed excessive — though in the industry that $10,000 fine is likely nominal, suggested Rachel Sachs, an associate law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who researches drug regulations.

This law also doesn’t address the trickier policy question: a drug’s initial price tag, noted Rena Conti, an assistant professor in the University of Chicago who studies pharmaceutical economics.

And its focus on generics means that branded drugs, such as Mylan’s Epi-Pen or Kaleo’s overdose-reversing Evzio, wouldn’t be affected.

Yet there’s a good reason for this, noted Jeremy Greene, a professor of medicine and the history of medicine at Johns Hopkins University who is in favor of Maryland’s law.

Current interpretation of federal patent law suggests that the issues related to the development and affordability of on-patent drugs are under federal jurisdiction, outside the purview of states, he explained.

In Maryland, “the law was drafted narrowly to address specifically a problem we’ve only become aware of in recent years,” he said. That’s the high cost of older, off-patent drugs that face little market competition. “Here’s where the state of Maryland is trying to do something,” he said.

Still, a ruling against the state in the pending court case could have a chilling effect for other states, Sachs said, although it would be unlikely to quash their efforts.

“This is continuing to be a topic of discussion, and a problem for consumers,” said Sachs.

“At some point, some of these laws are going to go into effect — or the federal government is going to do something,” she added.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. KHN’s coverage of prescription drug development, costs and pricing is supported in part by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.

Source:

Luther S. (29 September 2017). "Absent federal action, states take the lead on curbing drug costs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/29/absent-federal-action-states-take-the-lead-on-curb?page=2


VR headset at DrupalCon LA by pdjohnson from Flickr

VR for HR

Have you always wanted to see the world? May VR technology is a way to incorporate the world into your business. Check out this article from our partner, UBA, written by Geoff Mukhtar, and discover what the world's latest technology can offer your company.

You can read the original article here.


No matter how well traveled you are, or how busy your lifestyle may be, you likely haven’t been everywhere in the world, or done everything there is to do. There is technology out there, however, that can bring the world to you. That technology is called “virtual reality,” or VR for short, and it’s changing the way that people experience life. VR provides a simulated environment that mimics a real one.

Whether you want to climb a mountain, dive deep underwater, or even go on a top-secret military mission, VR can bring all this to you in the comfort of your own home. So, what does all this have to do with human resources? In an article titled, “Virtual Reality Gives Job Candidates a Vivid Big Picture” on the Society for Human Resource Management’s website, there are numerous, maybe even limitless, uses for VR. The U.S. Navy uses VR in its recruiting and so, too, are many companies.

Not only does VR simulate what it’s like to work at a particular company, but it also highlights that a company is on the cutting edge in terms of technology and is using VR to differentiate itself from other companies. Just like Pink Floyd’s song, “Wish you were here,” VR can bring you to any location, whether it’s a city or a corporate headquarters. The latter being especially relevant with recruiting because a company doesn’t have to spend the money to fly job candidates to their office.

Plus, once these job candidates “see” what it would be like to work at a particular company in a particular city, they may even decide that it’s not what they want and retract their application. Thus, not wasting their time, or a company’s time, during the interview process.

Another benefit of VR recruiting is the undivided attention of the wearer. While a job candidate explores the company’s campus, offices, surroundings, etc., messages can be presented that include information about a company’s health plan, employee benefits, and other opportunities.

VR technology is just another tool that recruiters can use, but it’s definitely one of the more powerful ones. No other tool, not even video conferencing, can immerse someone so deeply into an environment so that he or she can seemingly blend into the workplace culture without actually stepping foot through the door.

 

Mukhtar G. (26 September 2017). "VR for HR" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/vr-for-hr