Employees desperately need more information on health plans, study says

Did you know that a lot of your employees may be unaware of the health care options your company offers? Take a peek at this great article from HR Morning on how to improve your employees knowledge of their healthcare options by Jared Bilski

As an increasing number of employees are being asked to make smarter healthcare spending decisions, communication is more important than ever. Unfortunately, it looks like many firms have a lot of room for improvement.  

That’s one of the alarming takeaways from healthcare administrator Alegeus’ recent “State of Denial” study.

A number of the stats from the study point to a major employee healthcare problem that’s only getting worse. That problem: While employees’ health options are becoming increasingly complex, most workers don’t have the knowledge and/or accountability to make wise decisions involving those options.

Unaware and overwhelmed

Here are some of the most alarming stats from the study:

  • 63% of employees said they don’t know the benefit of an HSA
  • 50% don’t know how to predict current or future out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures and can’t select the best savings vehicle or rate
  • 26% of HSA accountholders don’t know they can use HSA funds beyond the immediate plan year, and
  • 41% of HSA accountholders were unaware they could invest HSA funds.

The study also highlighted some of the contradictions between what employees said they wanted or needed, and how they acted.

For example, although 70% of employees said they’d like to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions, just 50% intend to conduct more due diligence when purchasing healthcare in 2017.

The importance of one on one

One of the most effective ways to improve employees’ benefits understanding is through one-on-one communications.

To help ensure this is effective, here are three things HR pros should keep in mind, according to Winston Benefits, a voluntary benefits plan provider:

1. Prepare the right materials

When you’re doing a large-scale benefits presentation, you generally just hand out the materials, and employees look through and use those materials as they see fit.

But with individual sessions, benefits pros have to be prepared to explain those materials in any way an employee requests.

Example: Walking a worker through a tool or calculator in a step-by-step manner.

2. Look to your broker

In many cases, benefits brokers are willing to go on site for one-on-one sessions, and companies should take advantage whenever possible.

Employees will be comfortable knowing there’s an in-house HR or benefits pro at the broker, and a broker’s expertise can really improve workers’ overall understanding.

3. Allot enough time

The point of these meetings is to give employees all the time they need to understand their options and make informed decisions.

Rushing workers through these meetings will ensure the one-on-one education falls flat.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 February 17). Employees desperately need more information on health plans, study says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/employees-desperately-need-more-information-on-health-plans-study-says/


Where exactly are we in the ACA repeal process?

Worried about the ACA repeal process? Check out this informative article from HR Morning about the status of the ACA's repeal by Christian Schappel,

President Trump, along with other Republican lawmakers, have promised to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But it hasn’t happened yet. Here’s why, as well as a timeline for what’s to come. 

In his “Contract with the American Voter,” Donald Trump promised to repeal Obamacare within his first 100 days in office. But the reality is he can’t do it on his own. He needs votes to get it repealed outright — and he doesn’t have enough of them.

What’s the hold up?

Broad legislation that would repeal the ACA would require 60 votes in the Senate, and the GOP doesn’t control enough seats to make that a reality — or avoid a filibuster by the Democrats.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Trump from declaring war on the healthcare reform law. In one of his first acts as president, Trump issued an executive order that directs federal agencies to waive some of the requirements of the law that could impose a burden on individuals and certain businesses.

It was a clear sign from Trump that his administration plans to attack the ACA by any means necessary.

So what’s the plan now?

Congressional Republicans are now preparing to dismantle portions of the ACA using a process known as reconciliation. It will allow the GOP to vote on budgetary pieces of the health law, without giving the Democrats a chance to filibuster.

The problem for Republicans is reconciliation limits the extent to which they can reshape the law.

Parts of the law it appears they can roll back through reconciliation:

  • The individual mandate (which is imposed through a tax)
  • The employer mandate (which imposed through a tax), and
  • The subsidies to help individuals purchase coverage (which require government funding).

The Republicans believe that through reconciliation they can knock the legs out from under the ACA and begin to implement their own health reforms.

Some of the things members of the GOP have indicated they want to do:

  • Go to a more free-market approach, in which individuals would have greater ability to purchase health insurance across state lines
  • Expand health savings accounts
  • Allow individuals to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums from their income taxes, and
  • Let states manage Medicaid funds.

Two popular ACA provisions Republicans said they plan to keep in health plans:

  • The prohibition on denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, and
  • The ability for children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.

So when is it all going to happen?

When it comes to a timeline for when the GOP hopes to initiate reforms, things are a little murky. The problem is, due to the reconciliation process — and complaints from insurers about what the requirement to provide coverage to those with pre-existing conditions will do to risk pools and pricing — things aren’t as cut and dried as employers would like them to be.

But here’s what we know:

  • In late January, at its annual retreat, the GOP said it wants to bring a final reconciliation package to the floor of the House by late February or early March
  • In a pre-Super Bowl interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, President Trump said the repeal and replace process is “complicated” and could take until “sometime next year,” and
  • Just a few days after Trump’s statements to O’Reilly, House Speak Paul Ryan (R-WI) said the president’s remarks won’t alter the timeline for the House GOP to introduce significant repeal and replace legislation by the end of 2017. Still, Ryan did indicate that even if such legislation is passed, it could take some time for it to be fully implemented.

Bottom line: Employers are likely looking at a long legislative process, and an even longer implementation period.

Bills that could chip away at law

While Congress mulls larger-scale changes to the ACA, a few bills have been introduced for lawmakers to chew on.

The following could chip away at certain elements of reform:

  • The Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act (H.R. 173) would kill the 40% deductible excise tax (a.k.a., “the Cadillac tax”) on high-cost employer health plans
  • The Health Savings Account Expansion Act (H.R. 247 and S. 28) would permit the reimbursement of health insurance premiums and increase the maximum allowable contribution, and
  • The Healthcare Tax Relief and Mandate Repeal Act (H.R. 285) would kill both the individual and the employer health insurance mandates.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 February 10). Where exactly are we in the ACA repeal process? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/where-are-we-aca-obamacare-repeal-trump/


Implications of the 21st Century Cures Act

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about the impact of the 21st Century Cures Act by Danielle Capilla,

On December 13, 2016, former President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The Cures Act has numerous components, but employers should be aware of the impact the Act will have on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, as well as provisions that will impact how small employers can use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). There will also be new guidance for permitted uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We review the implications with HRAs below; for a discussion of all the implications, view UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “21st Century Cares Act”.

The Cures Act provides a method for certain small employers to reimburse individual health coverage premiums up to a dollar limit through HRAs called "Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements" (QSE HRAs). This provision will go into effect on January 1, 2017.

Previously, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2015-17 addressing employer payment or reimbursement of individual premiums in light of the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). For many years, employers had been permitted to reimburse premiums paid for individual coverage on a tax-favored basis, and many smaller employers adopted this type of an arrangement instead of sponsoring a group health plan. However, these "employer payment plans" are often unable to meet all of the ACA requirements that took effect in 2014, and in a series of Notices and frequently asked questions (FAQs) the IRS made it clear that an employer may not either directly pay premiums for individual policies or reimburse employees for individual premiums on either an after-tax or pre-tax basis. This was the case whether payment or reimbursement is done through an HRA, a Section 125 plan, a Section 105 plan, or another mechanism.

The Cures Act now allows employers with less than 50 full-time employees (under ACA counting methods) who do not offer group health plans to use QSE HRAs that are fully employer funded to reimburse employees for the purchase of individual health care, so long as the reimbursement does not exceed $4,950 annually for single coverage, and $10,000 annually for family coverage. The amount is prorated by month for individuals who are not covered by the arrangement for the entire year. Practically speaking, the monthly limit for single coverage reimbursement is $412, and the monthly limit for family coverage reimbursement is $833. The limits will be updated annually.

Impact on Subsidy Eligibility. For any month an individual is covered by a QSE HRA/individual policy arrangement, their subsidy eligibility would be reduced by the dollar amount provided for the month through the QSE HRA if the QSE HRA provides "unaffordable" coverage under ACA standards. If the QSE HRA provides affordable coverage, individuals would lose subsidy eligibility entirely. Caution should be taken to fully education employees on this impact.

COBRA and ERISA Implications. QSE HRAs are not subject to COBRA or ERISA.

Annual Notice Requirement. The new QSE HRA benefit has an annual notice requirement for employers who wish to implement it. Written notice must be provided to eligible employees no later than 90 days prior to the beginning of the benefit year that contains the following:

  • The dollar figure the individual is eligible to receive through the QSE HRA
  • A statement that the eligible employee should provide information about the QSE HRA to the Marketplace or Exchange if they have applied for an advance premium tax credit
  • A statement that employees who are not covered by minimum essential coverage (MEC) for any month may be subject to penalty

Recordkeeping, IRS Reporting. Because QSE HRAs can only provide reimbursement for documented healthcare expense, employers with QSE HRAs should have a method in place to obtain and retain receipts or confirmation for the premiums that are paid with the account. Employers sponsoring QSE HRAs would be subject to ACA related reporting with Form 1095-B as the sponsor of MEC. Money provided through a QSE HRA must be reported on an employee's W-2 under the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage. It is unclear if the existing safe harbor on reporting the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage for employers with fewer than 250 W-2s would apply, as arguably many of the small employers eligible to offer QSE HRAs would have fewer than 250 W-2s.

Individual Premium Reimbursement, Generally. Outside of the exception for small employers using QSE HRAs for reimbursement of individual premiums, all of the prior prohibitions from IRS Notice 2015-17 remain. There is no method for an employer with 50 or more full time employees to reimburse individual premiums, or for small employers with a group health plan to reimburse individual premiums. There is no mechanism for employers of any size to allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to purchase individual premiums. Reimbursing individual premiums in a non-compliant manner will subject an employer to a penalty of $100 a day per individual they provide reimbursement to, with the potential for other penalties based on the mechanism of the non-compliant reimbursement.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 February 01). Implications of the 21st century cures act [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/implications-of-the-21st-century-cures-act


Why wellness needs to be personal

Great article from Employee Benefits News about the importance of employee wellness by Brian M. Kalish,

There is no question that a healthier workforce is a more productive and more engaged workforce. With employers consistently looking to improve effectiveness of wellness programs, advisers agree that making the programs more personal provides a solid road toward increased engagement.

When a wellness program is personal, it is relevant. Employees will see something they are interested in and engage, says Erin Milliken, wellness consultant with EPIC Brokers in Houston.

The benefits of personalized wellness are abundant. Aetna recently ran a pilot program through its innovation lab, in cooperation with personalized health management startup Newtopia, which used a combination of behavioral science and limited genetic testing to build a highly personalized disease prevention and weight management program for Aetna employees at high risk for metabolic syndrome.

Through personalized information, nearly three-quarters of the more than 400 people in the program reported significant weight loss, with an average weight loss of 10 pounds. Additionally, Aetna employees in the programs improved in several of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, including waist size, triglycerides and good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

As a cost savings, average healthcare costs were reduced $122 per program participant per month, according to Aetna.

Making information personal is important because clients and their employees are oversaturated with points of contacts, adds Archana Kansagra, director of health and wellness product and strategy at Aetna in Boston.

Kansagra, who previously worked as a consultant to large employers, says employers are focusing on making access to wellness programs easy for their employees. “It is such a transformational time,” she says. “These [wellness] programs are trying to get pointed to understand the member, what their needs are and how to best communicate with them … with information that is timely and relevant.”

Wellness is becoming personalized through technology, such as through smartwatches and different devices that employees keep with them 24 hours a day, Milliken says.

“Technology will really take wellness and the health management space to another level,” she adds. “We haven’t quite gotten there, but technology will cause this industry to boom and get … employees to engage.”

Working with clients
Although there is little question personalized health programs increase employee wellness and therefore productivity and engagement, it is a fine line for advisers to bring it up with their clients.

Milliken says advisers should be proactive about the conversation because most employers do not know what to do when it comes to wellness. “It is our job to engage them and engage their population,” she says.

But responses remain a mixed bag. “Some employers will come to me or come to my team and say, ‘We want wellness because our claims experience is outrageous,’” she explains. “But some clients don’t know anything about wellness and we [as advisers] have to … build the case.”

It is easier for brokers working with employers who already understand wellness. “For those employer groups who aren’t quite persuaded into believing wellness can work for them, that is a tougher conversation,” Milliken says. “But we can get there and once they understand how wellness can improve their business” they are onboard.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why wellness needs to be personal [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-wellness-needs-to-be-personal?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


10 tips for next generation benefits

Great article from Benefits Pro about ten tips to help improve your benefits for the next generation by Erin Moriarty-Siler,

If brokers and their clients want to continue to attract and, more importantly, retain millennials and other generations entering the workforce, they'll need to start rethinking benefits packages.

As part of our marketing and sales tips series, we asked our audience for their thoughts on the next generation and their benefits needs.

Here are the 10 tips we liked best.

1. Show appreciation

“Even if you don't have the time and resources to roll out the red carpet each time an employee joins your team, they should feel as if you do. Even something as simple as a team lunch to welcome them and a functioning computer can go a long way toward making a new employee feel valued and at home.” Sanjay Sathe, president & CEO, RiseSmart.

2. Real world benefits

“It's important for benefits professionals and brokers to transform their organizations’ benefits offerings to align better with what both the individual and the generational millennials value — benefits that reflect the real world in which all generations in today's workforce think about the interconnection between their careers, employers, and personal lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive, Connecture, Inc.

3. A millennial world

“One can no longer think of millennials as the ‘kids in the office.’ They are the office.” Eric Gulko, vice president, Summit Financial Corporation

4. New normal

Millennials are no longer just data and descriptors in a PowerPoint slideshow about job recruitment. They are now the majority, and how they do things will soon be the norm. It's important to consider these implications.

5. Innovation

“If we want to build organization that can innovate time and again, we must recast our understanding of what leadership is about. Leading innovation is about creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving.” Linda Hill, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School

6. Don't make assumptions

“Just because millennials are comfortable using the internet for research doesn't mean they don't also like a personal touch. Employers need to be wary of relying on only one communication vehicle to reach millennials. Sixty percent of millennials say they would be willing to discuss their benefits options with someone face to face or over the phone.” Ken Meier, vice president, Aflac Northeast Territory

7. The power of praise

“The prevailing joke is that millennials are ‘the participation trophy generation,’ having always been praised just for showing up, not necessarily winning. Turn that negative perception into a positive by realizing that providing constructive, encouraging feedback when it's earned motivates this generation to strive for even more successes.” Kristen Beckman, senior editor, LifeHealthPro.com

8. Embrace diversity

“For the first time, employers are likely to have up to five generations working together — matures, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials (Generation Y) and now Generation Z. From their workstyles to their lifestyles, each generation is unique.” Bruce Hentschel, leads strategy development, specialty benefits division, Principal Financial Group

9. Non-traditional needs

“Millennials have moved the needle in terms of work-life balance. They don't expect to sit in their cubicles from 9-5. They want flexibility in their work location and hours. However, on the flip side of that, they are more connected to their work than generations before, often logging ‘non-traditional’ work hours that better fit into their lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive at Connecture, Inc.

10. Listen in

“If there's one thing the Trump victory teaches us, it's to listen to the silence in others. Millennials may be giving the financial industry the silent treatment, but that doesn't mean they don't want to talk.” Christopher Carosa, CTFA, chief contributing editor,FiduciaryNews.com

See the original article Here.

Source:

Moriarty-Siler E. (2017 February 03). 10 tips for next generation benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/03/10-tips-for-next-generation-benefits?page_all=1


9 questions employees have about ACA – and how to answer them

Have your employees been asking more questions about the ACA? Check out this great article from HR Morning about some of the question your employees might ask and how to answer them by Christian Schappel.

Even under the Trump administration, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still a real, enforceable law. You already know this. But do all of your employees? 

Chances are, once employees start getting their ACA-mandated 1095 forms from you in the next few weeks, some of them are going to have questions — à la: What is this? I thought Trump did away with Obamacare.

Here are some of the questions employees are asking — and are bound to ask — along with how HR can answer them:

1. Didn’t Trump repeal Obamacare?

No. While he has promised to “repeal and replace” the ACA, all he has done so far is sign an executive order that directs federal agencies to grant certain exemptions from the law, as well as waive any requirements that they’re able to by law.

Surely, the executive order will eventually weaken some parts of the ACA — and maybe even lead to some repeals — but nothing concrete has happened yet. As a result, employers still have to comply with the “play or pay” mandates, and individuals still have to carry health insurance or risk penalties.

2. Didn’t Republicans in Congress start repealing the law?

No. Republicans in Congress don’t have the votes they need to repeal the ACA outright. They can’t avoid a Democratic filibuster.

As a result, what they have done is state their intention to attack the law through a process known as reconciliation. It’ll allow Republicans to vote on budgetary pieces of the law — like the individual mandate (which is imposed with a tax) and healthcare subsidies — without giving the Democrats a chance to filibuster.

The problem for Republicans, though, is that reconciliation limits how they can reshape (or repeal) Obamacare.

3. Then when will Obamacare be repealed?

All you can tell employees right now is that it hasn’t happened, and there is no clear answer on when (or even if) it will happen in its entirety.

However, Republicans recently made two things clear at its recent annual retreat in Philadelphia:

  • They plans to use the reconciliation process to “repeal and replace” parts of the law.
  • The GOP will bring a final reconciliation package to the floor of the House of Representatives by late February or early March.

Chances are, we’ll find out more once Trump’s cabinet picks — specifically his pick to lead the Department of Health and Human Services — have been confirmed.

4. If I have a pre-existing condition, will I have trouble finding a health plan?

President Trump, as well as Republicans in Congress, have stated their intentions to attempt to keep two popular requirements of the ACA in place:

  • The need for insurance companies to offer coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
  • The ability for children to be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26.

Form 1095 questions

5. What is this form?

Form 1095 is a little like Form W-2: The employer or insurer sends one copy to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and one copy to the employee. It describes whether the person obtained the minimum required level of health insurance under the ACA in 2016.

It also informs the IRS, and the employee, if the person was eligible for a premium tax credit in 2016.

6. If Obamacare is going to be repealed, do I still need this form?

Yes. The reason is because the ACA was in effect for all of 2016, and this form is for reporting information that reflects what happened in 2016.

7. What do I have to do with it?

In most cases, no action will be necessary. When filing taxes for 2016, individuals will be asked if they obtained minimum insurance coverage. This form will help individuals answer that question.

8. Do I have to wait to receive the form to file my taxes?

Again, in most cases, the answer is no. Only those who received insurance via an exchange or the “marketplace” will have to wait for their 1095 to file their taxes.

If a person received insurance through an employer, that person doesn’t have to wait for Form 1095 to file his or her taxes, assuming the person already knows whether or not they had minimum coverage throughout the year. In that case, the person can just keep the form for their records.

If a person’s unsure whether he or she had minimum coverage for the entire year, that person can wait for the form to file their taxes or ask their employer whether he or she had minimum coverage.

9. How will I receive the form(s)?

Individuals may receive their form(s) in one of three ways:

  • mail
  • hand delivery, or
  • electronically (if they have consented to receive it electronically).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Schappel C. (2017 February 1). 9 questions employees have about ACA- and how to answer them [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/employee-questions-aca-obamacare-repeal-answers/


Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology

Are you looking for new ways to help improve your employees' financial needs? Take a look at this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about how the use of technology can improve your employees' financial needs by Mark Singer

We have seen how a large percentage of the American workforce has an inadequate degree of financial literacy, and how the lack of basic financial knowledge causes personal problems and workplace stress. We have also seen the importance of financial education and how raising employee literacy directly benefits the bottom lines of companies.

The financial health of employees can vary greatly between companies, as can employee numbers. Work schedules and available facilities are other issues of variance. There is also the interest factor to address. Employees must find programs interesting and beneficial, or they will not attend or glean maximum results. Financial wellness programs that may be beneficial and successful for one company may be burdensome and unsuccessful for another. To meet pressing personal financial problems effectively, cutting-edge technologies need to be applied that both address immediate employee issues and limit company expense.

There are numerous new technologies that can be utilized in a mix-and-match fashion that successfully target employee financial needs. This age of the World Wide Web brings a host of financial education tools directly to the audience. Informational videos, virtual learning programs, webinars, training portals and other virtual solutions are easily accessible over the Internet and most are quite user-friendly. This mode of education is significant. For example, 84% of respondents to a survey conducted by Hewlett-Packard and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship said that e-tools were valuable. The study went on to show that modalities containing some degree of online training were preferred by 56% of respondents.

Gaming and data
One form of online educational technology that is gaining momentum as well as results is known as game-based learning. This method of learning is particularly popular with the millennial generation that has grown up with an ever-increasing variety of online gaming. In 2008, roughly 170 million Americans engaged in video and computer games that compel players to acquire skills necessary to achieve specific tasks. It has been found that well-designed learning programs that utilize a gaming sequence improve target learning goals. Such games teach basic financial lessons in a fun and innovative way that requires sharpened financial skills to progress through the programs.

Technological tools not only benefit those that are utilizing them directly, but they also assist the entire community through the collection of key data. Many of the mentioned tools embed surveys within programs or collect other data such as age, income and location, which can be used to create even better educational materials or better target groups in need of specialized services.

Employers need to realize that they benefit when they utilize these new technologies in their financial wellness programs, since these tools assist workers in taking control of their financial lives. Thereby reducing their stress levels, which in turn leads to happier and more productive employees. Sometimes it is best to meet the employees where they are, with tools that are easy and fun to use.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Singer M. (2017 February 02). Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/target-employee-financial-needs-by-finding-the-right-technology


Who Are You Benchmarking Your Health Plan Against?

Great article about the importance of benchmarking your employer health plans from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by RJ Nelson

Many employers benchmark their health plan against carrier provided national data. While that is a good place to start, regional cost averages vary, making it essential to benchmark both nationally and regionally—as well as state by state. For example, a significant difference exists between the cost to insure an employee in the Northeast versus the Central U.S.—plans in the Northeast continue to cost the most since they typically have lower deductibles, contain more state-mandated benefits, and feature higher in-network coinsurance, among other factors.

Drilling down even more, comparing yourself to your industry peers can tell a very different story.

Consider a manufacturing plant in Georgia that offers a PPO. Its premium cost for single coverage is $507 per month. Compare this with the benchmarks for all plans and you can see that it is $2 per month less than the national average. When compared with other PPOs in the Southeast region, this employer’s cost is actually $2 more than the average. This employer’s cost appears to be higher or lower compared with national and regional benchmarks, depending on which benchmark is used. Yet this employer’s cost is actually higher than its closest peers’ costs when using the state-specific benchmark, which in Georgia is $468. Bottom line, this employer’s monthly single premium is actually $39 more than its competitors in the state.

As our CEO, Les McPhearson, recently stated, “Benchmarking by state, region, industry, and group size is critical. We see it time and time again, especially with new clients. An employer benchmarks their rates nationally and they seem at or below average, but once we look at their rates by plan type across multiple carriers and among their neighboring competitors or like-size groups, we find many employers leave a lot on the bargaining table.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Nelson R. (2017 January 27). Who are you benchmarking your health plan against? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/who-are-you-benchmarking-your-health-plan-against


What Trump’s ACA executive order means for employers

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Nick Otto

President Donald Trump wasted no time in fulfilling one promise he made time and again on his campaign trail in undoing the Affordable Care Act on day one in office.

On Friday, Trump issued an executive order directing members of his administration to take steps that will facilitate the repeal and replacement of the ACA, but experts note employers should continue with business as usual until solid formalities come out.

From an employer’s perspective, “every regulation they need to comply with, they still need to until they hear differently,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health.

What Trump’s order did was send a signal to everyone that his administration is prioritizing to repeal major parts of the ACA and to replace it with something else.

“In terms of specifics, nothing changes now, and it makes it clear that some changes may take longer than others because of the regulatory process to revise existing regulations,” Wojcik notes.

This specific order reiterates that it is administration policy to seek the repeal and replacement of the ACA and directs relevant agencies like Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor, to utilize their authorities under the act “to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act, and prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market,” according to the order.

But the different agencies will have to follow the law that requires notice and commenting periods before any final regulation is put in place, adds Chatrane Birbal, a government relations senior advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Trump’s administration is drawing a line in the sand,” she says. “While Congress is working on making its changes on a legislative front, Trump wants to move forward with the regulatory side.”

The most immediate focus will be whether the IRS acts to delay the employer reporting requirements under the employer shared responsibility provisions of the law, points out Joy Napier-Joyce, principal and leader of the employee benefits group at labor & employment law firm Jackson Lewis P.C.

“Employer reporting is key to assessing employer penalties under the employer mandate, [but it] represents a significant burden to employers and the deadlines are fast approaching,” she says. Similarly, Napier-Joyce says, “we have not seen enforcement of employer penalties under the employer mandate to date.”

Especially given Trump’s announcement Monday of a hiring freeze for federal workers and the known shortage of resources at the IRS, employers will be eager to glean hints as to any non-enforcement stances, she says. Much of the requirements under the employer mandate have been formalized through statute and regulation, so in order to effectively and completely reverse course, formal processes will need to be followed, which will in turn take time.

“For now, employers should stay the course, but stay tuned as we await how and when the agencies, particularly the IRS, choose to exercise discretion,” Napier-Joyce adds.

One issue Birbal advises keeping an eye on is that the executive order calls for greater flexibility to states.

“This could be a concern for employers because it doesn’t recognize ERISA preemption,” she notes. “It has provided employers and employees with a workable regulatory framework for benefits, offering uniform set of benefits to employees throughout out the U.S.”

“We believe the flexibility and certainty of the ERISA framework already in place has been a success to the employers sponsored system and we hope that’ll be maintained,” she adds.

Another area to note, says NBGH’s Wojcik, is how providers could be impacted by the order.

“There are a lot of punitive delivery reform regulations that are in various stages of completion or haven’t been issued,” he says. “To the extent that that affects hospitals and physicians, it could be an area where you see a lot of impact besides issues like the individual mandates and excise tax.”

As for policies that were still in the works, “if something hasn’t come out yet, it’s likely that it won’t come out ever based on executive order,” Wojcik notes.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 January 23). What trump's ACA executive order means for employers [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/what-trumps-aca-executive-order-means-for-employers?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works

Do all of your employees understand how their 401(k) works? If not check out this article from HR Morning on the statistics of about 1 in 3 employees that do not understand their 401 (k) by Jared Bilski,

When it comes to common financial vehicles like 401(k) plans, term life insurance, Roth IRAs and 529 college savings plans, most workers could use some education on the finer points.  

In fact, according to a recent study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of American, one-third or  less of employees said they had a solid understanding of the most common financial products.

Problem areas

Here is the specific breakdown from the Guardian Life study on the percentage of worker that said they have a solid understanding of various financial products:

  • 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans (just 32% of workers said they had a solid understanding)
  • IRAs apart from Roth IRAs (27%)
  • Individual stocks and bonds (26%)
  • Mutual funds (25%)
  • Pensions (25%)
  • Roth IRAs (24%)
  • Term life insurance (23%)
  • Separately managed accounts (23%)
  • Disability insurance (23%)
  • 529 college savings plans (23%)
  • Whole life insurance (22%)
  • Business insurance, such as key person insurance or buy/sell agreements (20%)
  • Annuities (19%)
  • Universal life insurance (19%), and
  • Variable universal life insurance (18%).

Education vs. no education

One of the best ways to help workers garner a better understanding of their finances — and the financial products available to them — is through one-on-one education.

Consider this example:

The Principal Group compared the saving habits and financial acumen of workers who attended a one-on-one session the organization offered one year to those who didn’t.

What it found: Contribution rates for those who attended the session were 9% higher than those who didn’t. Also, 19% of the workers who received education opted to automatically bump up their retirement plan increases with pay increases, compared to just 2% of other employees.

Also, 92% of the employees who were enrolled in Principal’s education program agreed to take a number of positive financial steps, and 80% of those workers followed through on those steps.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 27). Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/only-1-in-3-employees-actually-understands-how-their-401k-works/