Safety Focused August 2017

When traveling for work, even for short periods of time, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself from cyber criminals.

Cyber Tips for Traveling

Staying safe while traveling involves more than simply locking your valuables in a hotel safe. Today, cyber crime is just as prevalent as conventional crime. In fact, your digital property may be more valuable to criminals than your personal property. Before packing for your next business trip, take the following precautions to protect yourself and your belongings while away:

  • Turn off home and work computers before you leave. Computers that are always left on are more vulnerable to hacks.
  • Back up all data. Store sensitive files either on a removable storage device locked in a safe or in a secure facility in the cloud.
  • Be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. If it is necessary to go online in public, use a secured connection. If you have to use an unsecured connection, avoid checking bank balances or visiting any site that asks you for personal information, which can be easily stolen.
  • Enable a pass code on your smartphone. This can prevent hackers from accessing sensitive information should you lose your phone.
  • Use a credit card instead of a debit card for purchases. A cyber criminal can deplete your bank account with your debit card.

How to Avoid Distractions While Driving

Driver distractions have joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in crashes that cause fatal and serious injuries. However, cellphones aren’t solely to blame. Anything that takes 100 percent of your attention away from driving is a distraction. There are three main types of distractions:

  • Visual—Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual—Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive—Taking your mind off of driving

Whether driving for work or for personal reasons, it is important to remember that any activity that you engage in while driving is a potential distraction that increases your risk of crashing. Taking the following precautions can help you avoid distractions while driving:

  • Silence your mobile devices and keep them away from you while driving to avoid being distracted by incoming calls or texts. If you must receive phone calls while on the road, pull over before answering, even if using a hands-free device.
  • Set destinations in navigational devices before you depart.
  • Make a playlist on your smartphone before you leave to avoid the temptation to change radio stations.
  • Avoid eating while driving. Take proper breaks to allow yourself time for meals.
  • Speak up if you’re a passenger of a distracted driver. Offer to take over the driving responsibilities if possible.
  • Review ’s safe driving policy to ensure that you are fully aware of the best practices when it comes to road safety and know what to do in an emergency.

To download the full article click here.


Reduce Employee Financial Stress

Are your employees struggling to reach their financial goals? Here is a great article by Heather Garbers from SHRM on what employers can do to help their employees reduce their financial stress and reach their monetary goals.

More American workers are living paycheck to paycheck than ever before, just making ends meet. Nearly three-fourths have less than $1,000 saved; and 34 percent have nothing in savings. Student loan debt totals over $1.3 trillion among some 44.2 million borrowers in the U.S. Unexpected expenses are not budgeted for and people are placing themselves at great financial risk.

As HR practitioners, we need to recognize that people are struggling financially – and that it is taking a toll not only on them personally, but also in the workplace. There are innovative benefit options and strategies that can help relieve financial stress on employees:

Student loan assistance. Today’s Millennials are challenged to get their lives going despite the crushing burden of student loan debt, and trust their employers for advice on how to manage it. Doing so can make you stand out in attracting the best talent and help win loyalty.  Programs are available that not only assist Employees in refinancing and managing their debt, but also allow you to make contributions to loan balances, and assist Employees in setting up a 529 savings plan.

Employee Purchasing Programs (EPP). When people are experiencing financial stress and are confronted with unexpected expenses, they may take on high interest credit card debt or a payday loan. Employee purchasing programs are a great way for them to avoid amassing high interest rate charges when purchasing consumer goods.

Low Interest Installment Loans and Credit. A major danger for financially stretched employees is the ease with which they can get payday loans or cash advances on their credit cards without fully understanding the risk. The exorbitant interest rates only worsen the vicious cycle of debt. There are services, however, that underwrite low-interest rate installment loans well below the going rates and allow Employees to make payments through payroll deduction. Employers can sponsor the service at no cost as a voluntary benefit, and Employees can use the funds however they need to – whether it is paying a medical bill or purchasing a new air conditioner.

Financial planning and wellness services. Whether offered as one-on-one, personal coaching or online resources with interactive money management tools, everyone appreciates when employers offer resources to help them understand how to repair or build their credit and better manage their money. By offering these services, you have the opportunity to occupy a position of trust and cement long-term employee loyalty.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Garbers H. (2017 July 17). Reduce employee financial stress [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/reduce-employee-financial-stress


What Could Happen If The Administration Stops Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments To Insurers?

Has the President's recent threat to slash Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments for insurers left you worried about your healthcare costs? Find out how the loss of Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments will impact your health insurance in this informative column by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs.

August 4 Update: Voluntary Insurer Reporting Of Catastrophic Coverage Offered Through Exchange Continued

On August 3, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service released Notice 2017-41  informing insurers that for 2017, as for 2015 and 2016, they would be encouraged but not required to report coverage under catastrophic plans in which individuals were enrolled through an exchange. Insurers and employers are generally required to file 1095-B or 1095-C forms with the IRS, and to provide these forms to individuals whom they cover, documenting that the individuals have minimum essential coverage as required by the individual mandate.

Insurers are not, however, required to report qualified health plan coverage provided through the exchanges, because the exchanges themselves file 1095-A forms documenting QHP coverage and provide these forms to enrollees. But catastrophic health plans are not QHPs, so exchanges do not report catastrophic coverage either.

The IRS proposed regulations in 2016 to require insurers to report catastrophic coverage issued through the exchange and thus to fill this gap.  These rules have not yet been finalized however.  In the meantime, the IRS has encouraged insurers to report catastrophic coverage issued through an exchange voluntarily. The guidance extends this policy for another year. Insurers that voluntarily report catastrophic coverage will not be subject to penalties with respect to returns and statements reporting this coverage.

Original Post

Although the decision of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to allow attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia to join the House v. Price cost-sharing reduction (CSR) litigation as parties complicates President Trump’s ability to simply stop the CSR payments, rumors continue that he is preparing to do so. The CSR payments are made monthly; the next installment is due on August 21, 2017. If the administration intends not to make the August payment, it must announce its decision soon.

Changes to qualified health plan (QHP) applications in the federally facilitated exchange (FFE) are due on August 16, 2017, as are final rates for single risk pool plans including QHPs. Final contracts with insurers for providing QHP coverage through the FFE must be signed by September 27. If the Trump administration is going to defund the CSRs, now is the time it will do it.

The back story on the CSR issue can be found in my post on July 31, while the intervention decision is analyzed in my post on August 1. This post focuses on issues that will need to be resolved going forward if the Trump administration decides to defund the CSRs.

The Choices Insurers Would Face If CSR Payments Were Ended

First, insurers would have to decide whether to continue to participate in the exchanges. Those in the FFE have a contractual right to drop participation for the rest of 2017, but how exactly they would do this would depend on state law, and would probably require 90 days notice. Insurers would also not be able to terminate the policies of individuals covered through the exchange, although once the insurers left the exchange premium tax credits would cease and many policyholders would drop coverage. Insurers that tried to leave immediately would likely suffer reputational damage, and those that could financially would likely try to hold on until the end of the year.

Some insurers might well decide that the government is an unreliable partner and give up on the exchanges for 2018. Indeed, some would conclude that the individual market is too risky to play in at all. The individual market makes up a small part of the business of large insurers; even though it has become more profitable in the recent past, some insurers might conclude that the premium increases that would be needed to make up for the loss of the CSRs would drive healthy enrollees out of the individual market. Rather than deal with a deteriorating risk pool, they might leave the individual market entirely (although they would probably have to give 180 days notice to do so.)

Insurers that decide to stay would have to charge rates that would allow them to survive without the $10 billion dollars the CSR payments would provide. They would need to raise premiums significantly to accomplish this. How they did so would depend on guidance that they got from their state department of insurance or possibly from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The California Experience

On August 1, 2017, Covered California announced its 2018 rates. The California state-based marketplace is an example of how the Affordable Care Act can work in a state that fully supports it and has a big enough market to form a balanced risk pool. For 2018, the average weighted rate increase in California is 12.5 percent, of which 2.8 percent is attributable to the end of the moratorium on the federal health insurance tax. Consumers can switch to plans that will limit their rate change to 3.3 percent in the same metal tier. All 11 health insurers in California are returning to the market for 2018 (although one insurer, Anthem, is leaving 16 of the 19 regions in which it participated for 2017) and 82 percent of consumers will be able to choose between three or more insurers. About 83 percent of hospitals in California participate in at least one plan.

Covered California instructed its insurers to file alternate rates that would go into effect if the Trump administration abandons the CSR payments. The insurers were instructed to load the extra cost onto their silver (70 percent actuarial value) plans, since the CSRs only apply to silver plans. The alternative rates filed by the insurers project that if the CSRs are not funded, they would have to essentially double their premium increases, hiking premiums by an additional 12.4 percent.

Virtually all of this increase would be absorbed by increased federal premium tax credits for those with incomes below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. As the premium of the benchmark second-lowest cost silver plan increased, so would the tax credits. A Covered California study concluded that the premium tax credit subsidy in California would increase by about a third if the CSR subsidies are defunded.

Bronze, gold, and platinum plan premiums would not be affected by the silver plan load. As the premium tax credits increased, many more enrollees might be able to get bronze plans for free, and gold plans would become competitive with silver plans in price. More people would likely be eligible for premium tax credits as people higher up the income scale found that premiums cost a higher percentage of their household income.

Consumers who are not eligible for premium tax credits would have to pay the full premium increase themselves. Covered California has suggested, however, that insurers load the premium increase only onto silver plans in the exchange, since CSRs are only available in the exchange. Insurers would likely encourage their enrollees who are in silver plans in the exchange to move to similar products off the exchange that are much more affordable. Bronze, gold, and platinum plans would cost more or less the same on or off the exchange.

Other States Would Likely Make Different Choices Than California’s

It is likely that not all states would follow California’s lead. If state departments of insurance do not allow insurers to increase their premiums, more insurers would leave the individual market. If state departments require insurers to load the CSR surcharge onto all metal-level plans, both on and off the exchange, bronze, gold, and platinum plans would be more expensive and individual insurance would become much more costly for all consumers who are not eligible for premium tax credits. If insurers leave the market or consumers drop coverage, more consumers would end up using care they cannot afford, increasing medical debt and the uncompensated care burden of providers, and of hospitals in particular.

Some insurers in other states have likely already loaded a substantial surcharge onto their 2018 premiums in anticipation of CSR defunding and of other problems, such as uncertainty about the Trump administration enforcing the individual mandate. If insurers in fact profit from excessive rates, consumers might eventually receive medical loss ratio rebates, but 2018 rebates would not be paid out until late in 2019, if the requirement is still on the books by then.

Other Ramifications Of Ending CSR Payments To Insurers

CSR defunding could have other effects as well. Insurers have been reimbursed each month for CSRs based on an estimation of what they are paying out to actually reduce cost sharing. Each year the insurers must reconcile the payments they have received with those they were actually due. Insurers were supposed to have filed their reconciliation data for 2016 by June 2, 2017, and were supposed to be paid any funds due them, or to refund overpayments, in August. Reconciliation payments may also be due in some situations for 2015. If the administration cuts off CSR payments, it could conceivably cut off reconciliation payments as well.

Finally, defunding of CSRs would likely have an effect on risk adjustment payments as well. The risk adjustment methodology has been set for 2018 in the 2018 payment rule. It would likely not be amended for 2018 in light of the CSR defunding. Defunding would increase the statewide average premium on which risk adjustment payments are based. This would generally exaggerate the effects that risk adjustment would otherwise have. In particular, insurers with heavy bronze plan enrollment would end up paying more in, while insurers with more gold or platinum plans might receive higher payments.

Looking Forward

President Trump claims to see the CSR payments as a “bailout” to insurers, which surely they are not. They are a payment for services rendered, much like a Medicare payment to a Medicare Advantage plan. The effects of defunding would reverberate throughout out health care system, likely causing problems far beyond those identified in this post.

Fortunately, Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, have announced that they will begin hearings on a bipartisan approach to health reform when the Senate returns in September, and funding of the CSR payments for at least a year seems to be at the top of their list. A bipartisan group of House members has also called for funding the CSRs. And pressure to fund the CSRs continues from the outside, with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners calling for it again last week. It is to be hoped that President Trump will not take steps that would sabotage the individual market and that a solution can quickly be found to the CSR issue that will bring stability to the market going forward.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 2). What could happen if the administration stops cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/02/what-could-happen-if-the-administration-stops-cost-sharing-reduction-payments-to-insurers/


Compliance Recap July 2017

July was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world, despite the U.S. Senate's release of two bills in its attempt to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

First, the U.S. Senate revised its Better Care Reconciliation Act and declined to vote on its revision. Then the U.S. Senate released its Health Care Freedom Act and voted on it. The Health Care Freedom Act failed to pass the U.S. Senate.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) launched an electronic form 300A that employers use to report work-related injuries and accidents. Two courts issued decisions regarding ACA accommodation and website accessibility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, opened the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program to an additional 15,000 workers for 2017, and began issuing redesigned Green Cards and EADs as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project.

The U.S. District Court, which issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prohibit HHS from enforcing portions of the ACA's Section 1557, remanded the case in part to HHS for reconsideration of the regulation.

UBA Updates

UBA released three new advisors in July:

·         COBRA Notices

·         Determining COBRA Premiums for Fully Insured and Self-Funded Health Plans

·         ERISA's "Church Plan" Exception

UBA updated existing guidance:

·         OSHA's Final Rule on Electronic Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

U.S. Senate Releases Revision of Better Care Reconciliation Act

On July 13, 2017, the U.S. Senate released a revised draft of its Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) bill. The U.S. Senate released the original draft of the BCRA on June 22, 2017, which would substitute the House's House Resolution 1628, a reconciliation bill aimed at "repealing and replacing" the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The House bill was titled the "American Health Care Act of 2017" (AHCA).

The revised draft BCRA proposes to affect employer-sponsored plans in a few ways:

·         Allow health savings account (HSA) funds to be used to pay for the medical expenses of children under age 27 and to pay for high-deductible health plans' (HDHPs) premiums that are not otherwise covered by tax credits, deductibles, or exclusions.

·         Make HDHPs ineligible for HSAs if the HDHPs cover abortions except where necessary to save the mother's life or in cases of rape or incest.

·         Allow professional employer organizations to sponsor association plans.

On July 18, 2017, the U.S. Senate declined to vote on the revised BCRA after it determined that it didn't have enough votes to pass the bill.

On July 28, 2017, the U.S. Senate voted on the Health Care Freedom Act to repeal the ACA's individual and employer mandates and temporarily repeal the medical device tax. The bill failed to pass.

Employers with group health plans should continue to monitor progress in Washington, D.C., and should not stop adhering to any provisions of the ACA in the interim, or begin planning to comply with provisions in either the AHCA or revised BCRA.

OSHA Launches Electronic Form 300A

In 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a rule entitled "Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses" which issued sweeping changes to the way certain employers were required to report work-related injuries and accidents. Employers with at least 10 employees at a single site have always been required to maintain and annually post a Form 300A log. Among the changes were that "high risk" employers with at least 20 employees (see the complete list atwww.osha.gov/recordkeeping/NAICScodesforelectronicsubmission.pdf) and all employers with 250 or more employees in a single physical location were required to file their report electronically. The original due date for filing 2016 data was July 1, 2017.

On June 28, 2017, OSHA proposed delaying the compliance date until December 1, 2017, "to provide the new administration an opportunity to review the new electronic reporting requirements prior to their implementation and allow affected entities sufficient time to familiarize themselves with the electronic reporting system, which will not be available until August 1."

OSHA will release the electronic Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Three options have been made available for submission:

1.     Users may manually enter data into a web form.

2.     Users may upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time.

3.     Users of automated recordkeeping systems will have the ability to transmit data electronically via an API (application programming interface).

OSHA estimates that it will take employers 10 minutes to create an account. Establishments may no longer submit paper reports. Future plans include an interface for entering data from a mobile device.

Technology is the New Frontier with ADA Accommodation

Website accessibility has become a hot topic in the world of ADA accommodation. Recently, a Florida federal judge handed down a trial verdict finding that grocery chain Winn-Dixie had violated Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by having a website that was inaccessible to a blind plaintiff. Shortly thereafter, a federal judge in the Central District of California allowed another blind plaintiff to continue a case against Hobby Lobby for failing to "provide full and equal enjoyment of goods and services offered by its physical stores by not maintaining a fully accessible website."

Title III relates to public accommodation (private and non-profit business) and could impact any business offering goods and services through a website, which, in this era of e-commerce is far-reaching. Further, Title I of the ADA relates to employment, so would impact online application processes and career web pages.

In the Winn-Dixie case, the court recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 as the website standard. WCAG are guidelines developed by a private group of accessibility experts that have been used to support accommodation initiatives. Until this case, WCAG had not been referenced by the court as the de facto legal standard.

Regarding Title I employment accommodation, the U.S. Department of Labor recently identified the Partnership on Employment & Accessible Technology (PEAT) as the source for employers who want to ensure that their workplace technology is accessible to all employees and job applicants. In particular, the "Accessible Technology Action Steps: A Guide for Employers" was recommended as a resource.

Definitive guidelines have traditionally been elusive in the amorphous arena of public accommodations within the requirements of the ADA. Businesses would be well advised to review their accessibility through these validated resources.

Immigration Updates: I-9, H-2B Visas, Green Cards

I-9 Updates

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17, 2017. Employers can use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 through September 17, 2017. On September 18, 2017, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17. Revisions include changes to the instructions and revisions to the List of Acceptable Documents, including:

·         All the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) were combined into List C, number 2.

·         All List C documents were renumbered, except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C changed from number 8 to number 7.

·         Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Sections 2 and 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.

Increase in H-2B Visas

USCIS has opened the H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program to anadditional 15,000 workers for 2017. The H-2B Temporary Nonagricultural Worker program was designed to serve U.S. businesses unable to find a sufficient number of qualified U.S. workers to perform nonagricultural work of a temporary nature. To qualify for the additional visas, petitioners must attest, under penalty of perjury, that their business is likely to suffer irreparable harm if it cannot employ H-2B nonimmigrant workers during fiscal year (FY) 2017.

New Green Cards Issued

USCIS has begun issuing redesigned Green Cards and Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) as part of the Next Generation Secure Identification Document Project. The new cards feature enhanced graphics and fraud-resistant features. Enhancements include:

·         The card holder's photo on both sides of the card

·         Unique graphic images and color palette

·         Holographic images

Cards will no longer display the individual's signature, nor will they have an optical stripe on the back.

Court Remands ACA Section 1557 Case to HHS

ACA Section 1557 provides that individuals shall not be excluded from participation, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any health program or activity which receives federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.

In May 2016, HHS issued a final rule implementing Section 1557, which took effect on July 18, 2016.

Eight states and three faith-based private health care providers filed a lawsuit to challenge HHS' authority under the ACA to issue regulations that interpret sex discrimination as forbidding discrimination based on gender identity and termination of pregnancy. The lawsuit also asserted that the regulations violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to them.

On December 31, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a nationwide preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the rule as it prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity or pregnancy termination.

On July 10, 2017, the District Court stayed the case and remanded it in part to HHS for reconsideration of the rule. The injunction remains in place.

Question of the Month

Q. Who must be counted under Form 5500's 100-participant rule?

A. Generally, small unfunded, insured, and combination unfunded/insured welfare plans are exempt from the Form 5500 filing requirement. To qualify for the exemption, a plan must cover "fewer than 100 participants at the beginning of the plan year."

Employees who are covered participants are counted. All former employees who are COBRA qualified beneficiaries are counted. Non-employees (covered spouses and dependent children) are not counted.

Only covered participants are counted. To determine when a participant is covered, the plan sponsor would look to the earlier of:

·         The date that the plan document states that participation begins.

·         The date when the individual becomes eligible to receive a benefit.

·         The date when the individual makes a voluntary or mandatory plan contribution.

To download the full recap click here.


Voluntary Benefits Key to Helping Employees with Rising Health Costs

With the cost of healthcare rising day by day, many employees are struggling to pay for their healthcare expenses. Take a look at this interesting article by Nick Otto from Employee Benefit Adviser and see how employers are leveraging their voluntary benefits to help employees offset some of their healthcare costs.

As workers continue to struggle with out-of-pocket medical bills, there’s a growing opportunity for benefits managers to hold more conversations with employees on voluntary benefits that can help offset costs.

“The rising cost of healthcare has driven many employers to offer supplemental group insurance products, often in conjunction with a health savings account,” says Elias Vogen, director of group insurance client relationships for financial services firm Securian. “This combination can be cost-effective for both employer and employee … and when employees are aware that these benefits are available to them through work they opt in at a high rate.”

According to a recent survey from Securian, 28% of employees with health insurance through work facing an out-of-pocket expense of $5,000 or more would use their personal savings to pay rather than other means, including an HSA (8%) or supplemental group insurance (7%).

Further, a majority of respondents said they do not know how they would pay for an out-of-pocket expense (21%), or that they would need to rely on credit cards (12%), a loan from their 401(k) (7%) or family/friends (4%), their tax return (5%) or by selling/pawning a personal possession (2%).

“Healthcare costs continue to rise and that almost certainly will not change anytime soon,” Vogen says. “As a result, employers and employees will continue to look for options to help ease the cost crunch. The popularity of benefits like accident, critical illness and hospital indemnity insurance will continue to rise. These benefits are here to stay.”

A multi-touch strategy is the best way for employers to communicate with employees about voluntary benefits, according to Vogen.

“We recently conducted accident and critical illness insurance enrollment campaigns with a large employer that involved six points of contact: direct mail, e-mail, videos, digital materials, an interactive benefits guide and webinars,” he says. “By using a variety of channels, we were able to educate employees on the value of these voluntary benefits in ways that were convenient and comfortable to them.”

Voluntary benefits relieve a key concern for employees: While the survey revealed that paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses would be the top financial concern for a plurality (42%) of workers facing a debilitating injury, a critical illness diagnosis or a hospitalization, 58% say their top concern would be lost wages from work, the ability to pay for regular monthly expenses such as groceries, or the need to take on additional expenses such as lawn care or cleaning.

“If you break your leg, or your critically ill spouse needs specialized medical care out of state, these benefits can be used to help pay for expenses like hiring out your household chores, paying for travel costs, extra child care and more,” says Vogen. “You don’t have to turn in your receipts; you’re able to use the funds as you wish. The flexible nature of these benefits can be instrumental in warding off financial troubles from an unexpected health event.”

According to the survey, employees were asked if they are offered six different voluntary benefits by their employer:

· Life insurance (54% said yes)
· Disability insurance (38%)
· Health savings account (36%)
· Accident insurance (24%)
· Critical illness insurance (15%), and
· Hospital indemnity insurance (9%).

Further, 12% of employees said they are offered none of these benefits, and 18% said they are not sure if these benefits are offered by their employer.

Of these six benefits, life insurance is the most popular, with 75% of employees who have access to life insurance through their employer saying they are enrolled. “Accident insurance ranked second, with 64% of employees offered this insurance enrolled. Hospital indemnity insurance came in third at 59%, followed by disability insurance at 54%, health savings account at 52% and critical illness insurance at 47%,” says Vogen.

Employers recognize that healthcare costs have become burdensome to their workers and their families, and it’s important to remember that these cost increases have impacted employers’ bottom lines as well, according to Terry Holloway, an employee benefits adviser and executive vice president with insurance broker Cobbs Allen.

“Supplemental group insurance benefits are a cost-effective solution for both employers and employees,” Holloway says. “We have seen a significant increase in employer interest in these and other voluntary benefit platforms in the past five years, along with innovative enrollment solutions from insurance carriers.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 July 20). Voluntary benefits key to helping employees with rising health costs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/voluntary-benefits-key-to-helping-employees-with-rising-health-costs?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Top Misconceptions about Long Term Care Insurance

What do you know about long-term care insurance? Here is a great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Christine McCullugh on the top misconceptions people have about long-term care insurance.

In conversations with HR professionals and benefit brokers, we find that the topic of long-term care insurance (LTCi) is often covered in less than two minutes during renewal meetings. When I ask why the topic of conversation is so short, they tell me, “Employees just aren’t asking about it, so they must not be interested.”

If employees aren’t asking about LTCi, does it mean they aren’t interested? They just may be unaware of the value of LTCi and that it can be offered by their employer with concessions not available in the open market. Here are the top seven reasons why LTCi should be a bigger part of the employee benefits conversation.

  1. Do you know LTCi can be offered as an employee benefit?
    There are multiple employer-sponsored products, including those with pricing discounts, guarantee issue, and payroll deduction.
  2. Do you believe Medicaid and Medicare will provide long-term care for employees?
    This is a popular misconception. Medicare and Medicaid will restrict your employees’ choices of where and how they receive care. These options will either not offer custodial or home care, or they’ll force employees to spend down their assets for care.
  3. Do you think LTCi is too expensive, or that your employee population is too young to need it?
    Many plans can be customized to meet personal budgets and potential care needs. It’s also important to know that rates are based on employees’ ages. The younger the employees are, the lower their rates will be.
  4. Are you aware of the variety of LTCi plans?
    Many policies offer flexible coverage options. Depending on the policy an employer selects, LTCi can cover a wide range of care—in some cases even adult day care and home safety modifications.
  5. Do you believe the market is unstable?
    Today’s products are priced based on conservative assumptions, and employers are enrolling very stable LTCi plans for their employees. Each month, we see new plan options and products being introduced along with new carriers entering the market.
  6. Do you already offer an LTCi plan but it’s closed to new hires?
    Being able to offer a similar LTCi benefit to all employees is crucial for most employers. Find a partner that can assist with the current LTCi plan and can assist with bringing in a new LTCi offering for new hires.

See the original article Here.

Source:

McCullugh C. (2017 July 6). Top misconceptions about long term care insurance [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/top-misconceptions-about-long-term-care-insurance


Eating a Little Bit Healthier Helps You Live Longer

Are your eating habits having a negative effect on your body? Check out this great column by Alice Park from Time for some great tips on how you can tweak your current diet to help improve your quality of life.

No surprise here: people who follow healthy diets tend to lead longer, healthier lives. But most of the studies backing this assertion compared people who ate well to people who didn't. Does changing your own diet over many years make much of a difference?

In a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that it did. People who added in some wholesome foods over time—even if they didn't necessarily commit to making over their entire way of eating—improved their chances of living longer.

Researchers looked at data from the same group of people over 12 years to see if those who changed their diet for better or for worse—either by eating more healthy foods or more unhealthy foods—lived longer or died earlier than those who didn’t change what they ate.

The study involved more than 73,700 men and women enrolled in two long-term health studies. People were asked to record their typical diet at the start of the study, then to fill out food questionnaires every four years for 12 years after that. The researchers then scored the diets by ranking the healthfulness of food components including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, nuts, red meat, fish and dairy, as well as things like sugar-sweetened beverages. Using the reports, researchers were able to gauge how much of a person’s eating habits changed over time.

People who said they ate more healthy foods over time had a lower risk of dying during the study period. The more healthy foods people added to their diet, the lower their risk. It worked the other way, too. Those who ate more unhealthy foods over time saw their risk of dying during the study go up.

The good news is that adding in any amount of healthy foods may help lower the risk of early death. Improving diet by just 20% was linked to a 8-17% lower risk of premature death. (Eating 20% more of unhealthy foods, in contrast, contributed to a 6-12% increased risk in death.)

Even cleaning up one meal a day seems to help. Swapping out one serving of red or processed meat a day with healthier nuts or legumes was linked to any where from an 8% to 17% drop in the risk of premature death.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Park A. (2017 July 12). Eating a little bit healthier helps you live longer [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://time.com/4855506/healthy-diet-live-longer/


Employers Spend $742 per Employee for Wellness Program Incentives

Are you looking for new incentives to help your employees participate in your wellness program? Check out this interesting article by Brookie Madison from Employee Benefit Advisor on how employers are offering financial incentives in order to increase participation in their wellness programs.

Wellness programs are popular with employers but employees continue to need motivation to participate. Seventy percent of employers are investing in wellness programs, while 73% of employees say they are interested in wellness programs, but 64% of employees undervalue the financial incentives to join the wellness programs, according to UnitedHealthcare’s Consumer Sentiment Survey entitled “Wellness Check Up.”

Only 7% of employees understand the four basic terms of health care —premium, deductible, copayment and coinsurance — which is why UHC didn’t find it surprising that workers underestimate their financial incentives in wellness programs, says Rebecca Madsen, chief consumer officer for UnitedHealthcare.

Despite this disconnect between what employers are offering to help ensure their employees’ health and what employees are willing to do to maintain a healthy well-being, the most appealing incentives to employees for wellness programs are health insurance premium reductions (77%), grocery vouchers (64%) and health savings accounts (62%).

Employees find the financial incentives of the wellness programs appealing, yet only 24% of employees are willing to give up one to three hours of their time per week to exercise, attend wellness coaching sessions or research healthier recipes to eat.

“Unwilling to engage is part of the problem why a third of the country is obese and another third is overweight. We have a real problem in terms of keeping people healthy and that’s what we want to help address,” says Madsen.

Madsen recommends that employers promote their wellness programs and incentives multiple times throughout the year. Gift cards, reduction of premiums and contributing to health savings accounts are leading ways to reward employees. “Incentives on an ongoing basis get people engaged and motivated to participate for a long period of time,” says Madsen.

Wellness programs also provide a way for employers to adjust their benefit packages to be customized and be more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach. “Look at your insurance claims, work with insurance providers and identify common health challenges. See where you have prevalent healthcare needs and who your high risk populations are to develop programs that target those results,” suggests Madsen.

Wellness programs need endless support from advisers, insurance providers, consultants, consumers, friends, family members and employers in order to encourage employees to live healthy lifestyles, according to UnitedHealthcare.

Madsen suggests that employers have onsite biometric screenings. “Helping people know their numbers will help them understand where they have an opportunity to improve their health, which would make them motivated to engage more,” says Madsen.
New trends of wellness programs incorporate the use of activity trackers. Twenty-five percent of employees use an activity tracker and 62% would like to use one as part of a wellness program.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Madison B. (2017 June 28). Employers spend $742 per employee for wellness program incentives [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-spend-742-per-employee-for-wellness-program-incentives


3 Traits of a Successful Well-Being Program for Employees

Do you know what it takes to create a successful wellness program for your employees? Check out this article by Maya Bach of Benefits Pro and find out the 3 traits all successful wellness programs have in common.

Well-being.  You’ve likely heard the term used in and out of the workplace for how to become “a heathier you.”

According to a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, two thirds of employers offer a general wellness program. 

Many companies invest in corporate well-being with the aim of increasing productivity, driving talent acquisition, employee retention and lowering health claim costs.

These businesses aim to consciously foster a company culture that values the mental, physical and financial health of their employees in and out of the workplace, recognizing that “health” means something different to everyone.

So, in the race to attract and retain talent, how can you create a well-being program that sets you apart?

1. Shared and customized programming

Research published in Harvard Business Review that examines the effectiveness of well-being programs highlights that engagement with wellbeing programming increases when employees feel a sense of ownership.

These programs that are built and shaped by staff through focus group sessions and channels, such as an internal communication platform where employees can voice suggestions for types of activities and timing of events, perform the best.

With the understanding that “being healthy” means something different for everyone at different points in their lives, programs should take on a flexible quality while seeking to meet the needs expressed directly by employees, thereby offering them a unique sense of ownership of the program.

2. Follow-through on feedback

Several studies suggest that organizations with a culture of keeping one’s word are more profitable.Throughout the employee experience, sharing and engaging on feedback actively is encouraged.

Following through, whether that means evening cardio-yoga classes or fresh avocados, demonstrates the company values feedback and staff ideas.

If the request can’t be completed, it’s important to close the loop by offering insight and attempting to offer alternative solutions.

Replying to a seemingly small request highlights that even a fast-paced, rapidly growing organization listens, thereby cultivating a culture of trust.

3. Offer multiple touch points

Not everyone is interested in lunch and learns or yoga classes, for that matter.

While it’s good to offer traditional program components – nutrition classes, cooking demos, weekly walking club, weight loss challenges – staff shouldn’t need to sign up for a class to engage with the program’s tenets.

To avoid adding another “to-do” to an employee’s already-full plate, digital signage with weekly “Did you know…” health facts followed by calls to action, healthy catering suggestions and smaller snack self-serve cups helpfully nudge employees to adopt healthier behaviors.

While well-being professionals should maintain a business-centered mindset when designing and implementing a program, it’s important to maintain a high degree of flexibility and visibility to provide a customized program.

Actively soliciting employee feedback, following through on specific requests and offering employees various ways to engage with core well-being tenets support program sustainability and longevity.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bach M. (2017 July 3). 3 traits of a successful well-being program for employees [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/07/03/3-traits-of-a-successful-well-being-program-for-em?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


HSAs and 401(k)s are Becoming More Closely Linked

As HSAs continue to grow, more employers are starting to work HSAs into their retirement programs. Take a look at this great article by Brian M. Kalish from Employee Benefit News and see how employers are using HSAs as a tool to help their employee plan for their healthcare cost in retirement.

There has been progress among leading-edge advisers and employers to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s in order to allow employees to use a health savings account to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement.

Eighty percent of Americans have a high concern about healthcare costs in retirement, according to Merrill Lynch, and healthcare is the largest threat to retirement savings and the most important part of a retirement income plan, according to Fidelity, which is why there has been a recent push to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s, or health and wealth.

HSAs are triple tax-free, Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group said at a recent event hosted by AFS 401(k) Retirement Services

The fact of linking health and wealth “is a big idea and there is some continued focus on it moving forward,” says Alex Assaley, managing principal of Bethesda, Md.-based financial services advisory company AFS 401(k).

“There is a lot more interest in HSAs by pretty much everybody,” explains Nevin Adams, chief of marketing and communications at the American Retirement Association.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly 30% of employers offered an HSA-eligible health plan in 2015 and that percentage is expected to increase in the future both as a health plan option and as the only health plan option. Most of the growth has been recent as more than four-in-five HSAs have been opened since the beginning on 2011, according to EBRI.

At an event hosted by Assaley’s firm in 2016, he said there was not a lot of traction around the idea of using HSAs to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement. But, now, there is a bigger push.

As HSAs continue to grow, employers, employees and advisers are “understanding there is an ability to accumulate money in the HSA and use that for healthcare or something [employees] want to set aside because they are not sure what their healthcare cost situation in the future is going to be,” Adams explains.

Assaley adds that there has “definitely been a good deal of refinement and evolution in the HSA marketplace [recently], whereby … you are now seeing more companies offering HSAs as a part of their medical and retirement strategy. You are also seeing more employees thinking about HSAs as part of their overall holistic fin wellness program.”

In one-on-one coaching sessions with employees, conversations are becoming more prominent, as advisers help employees, “understand how all employee benefits tie together to make wise financial decisions today, tomorrow and for their retirement,” Assaley says.

“With certainty, there has been a great deal of growth in the marketplace and evolution in how HSAs and 401(k)s are starting to interlock together,” he adds.

Saving for the future
Looking down the road, Assaley expects the linking to continue, especially if proposals to alter the maximum accounts that can be contributed pre-tax to an HSA is tweaked, as has been proposed by legislators on Capitol Hill. Some proposals shared amongst the industry, Assaley says, propose doubling the pre-tax amount.

“If that happens or there is any sort of meaningful increase, then I think you will see an exponential growth in the numbers of HSAs,” he says.

For advisers, the work is not done as they need to help employees better understand how a HSA works and from there help employees understand the benefits of a HSA and the different ways to structure one, Assaley explains.

“Even today, there is a large knowledge gap on what an HSA is, how it works and how someone can use one as part of health and retiree healthcare needs,” he says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kalish B. (2017 July 5). HSAs and 401(k)s are becoming more closely linked [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hsas-and-401-k-s-are-becoming-more-closely-linked?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000