Solving the Prescription Puzzle

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Mary Delaney

Determining how an employer develops the most effective formulary, while protecting the financial stability of the plan, is certainly the challenge of this decade. Prescription management used to mean monitoring that the right people are taking medications to control their disease while creating strategies to move them from brand name to generic medications. With the dawn of specialty medications, formulary management has become a game of maximizing the pass-through of rebates, creating the best prior authorization strategies and tiering of benefits to create some barrier to more expensive medications, all without becoming too disruptive. As benefits managers know, that is a difficult challenge. The latest UBA Health Plan Survey revealed that 53.6 percent of plans offer four tiers or more, a 21.5 percent increase from last year and nearly a 55.5 percent increase in just two years. Thus, making “tiering” a top strategy to control drug costs. There are many additional opportunities to improve and help control the pharmacy investment, but focusing on the key components of formulary management and working on solutions that decrease the demands for medications are critical to successful plan management.

When developing a formulary, Brenda Motheral, RPh, MBA, Ph.D., CEO of Archimedes, suggests that chasing rebates is not a strategy to optimize your investment. Some of the highest rebates may be from medications that add no better therapeutic value than an inexpensive medication that does not offer a rebate, but net cost is much lower than the brand or specialty medication being offered. Best formulary management will mean that specific medications that do not offer a significant therapeutic value are removed from the formulary, or are covered at a “referenced price” so the member pays the cost difference. Formulary management will need to focus on where the drug is filled and which medications are available.

When setting up parameters on where a drug is to be filled, the decision needs to be made if a plan will promote mail order. Mail order, if used and monitored appropriately, makes it more convenient for a patient to receive their regularly used medications and may provide savings. In fact, the UBA Health Plan Survey finds that more than one-third (36.3 percent) of prescription drug plans provide a 90-day supply at a cost of two times retail copays. But if mail order programs are not monitored, people can continue to receive medications that are no longer required and never used, adding to medical spend waste. Furthermore, in our analysis, we are finding that not all medications are less expensive through mail order, as shown in Figure 1 below. Therefore, examining the cost differential is critical in a decision to promote, or not promote, mail order.

To see the full original article and charts click Here.

Source:

Delany M. (2017 January 24). Solving the prescription puzzle [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/solving-the-prescription-puzzle


Best and Worst States for Group Health Care Costs

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about which states are the best/worst for group health care by Matt Weimer.

Also make sure to register for our upcoming UBA webinar on Tuesday, February 21 at 2:00 p.m. ET. The topic will be a case study on why communication matters in employee benefits. To register for the webinar click Here.

Employer-sponsored health insurance is greatly affected by geographic region, industry, and employer size. While some cost trends have been fairly consistent since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was put in place, UBA finds several surprises in its latest Health Plan Survey. Based on responses from more than 11,000 employers, UBA recently announced the top five best and worst states for group health care monthly premiums.

The top five best (least expensive) states are:

1) Hawaii

2) Idaho

3) Utah

4) Arkansas

5) Mississippi

Hawaii, a perennial low-cost leader, actually experienced a nearly seven percent decrease in its single coverage in 2016. New Mexico, a state that was a low-cost winner in 2015, saw a 22 percent increase in monthly premiums for singles and nearly a 30 percent increase in monthly family premiums, dropping it from the “best” list.

The top five worst (most expensive) states are:

1) Alaska

2) Wyoming

3) New York

4) Vermont

5) New Jersey

The UBA Health Plan Survey also enables state ranking based on the average annual cost per employee. The average annual cost per employee looks at all tiers of a plan and places an average cost on that plan based on a weighted average metric. While the resulting rankings are slightly different, they also show some interesting findings.

The 2016 average annual health plan cost per employee for all plan types is $9,727, which is a slight decrease form the average cost of $9,736 in 2015. When you start to look at the average annual cost by region and by state, there is not much change among the top from last year. The Northeast region continues to have the highest average annual cost even with the continued shift to consumer-driven health plans (CDHP). In 2016, enrollment in CDHPs in the Northeast was 34.9 percent, surpassing those enrolled in preferred provider organization (PPO) plans at 33 percent. Even with the continued shift to CDHPs, the average annual costs were $12,202 for New York, which remained the second-highest cost state, followed by $12,064 for New Jersey, and rounding out the top five, Massachusetts and Vermont flip-flopped from 2015 with Massachusetts at $11,956 and Vermont at $11,762.

As was the case in 2015, Alaska continues to lead all states in average health plan costs, topping New York by more than $1,000 per employee, with an average cost of $13,251. While year-over-year the average cost for Alaska only increased 3.35 percent, the gap increased to 36.2 percent above the national average of $9,727.

Keeping close to the national average increase, the top five states all saw a year-over-year increase of less than 4.5 percent. Unfortunately, even at a modest increase, the one thing that the top five have in common is that they all are more than 20 percent above the national average for health plan costs per employee.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Weimer M. (2017 February 15). Best and worst states for group health care costs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/best-and-worst-states-for-group-health-care-costs


10 tips for furthering benefits education

Are you looking for some new ways to educate yourself in the world of benefits? Here are some great tips from Benefits Pro you can use to help increase your knowledge about benefits by Erin Moriarty-Siler

In order to maintain relevant in today's ever-changing benefits market, it's important that brokers and benefits professionals keep learning.

Whether that be by networking with others in the industry, diving in with new technology efforts, or simply chatting about client needs, it's essential industry professionals keep learning.

As part of our our marketing and sales tips series, we asked our audience for their thoughts on how to continue their benefits education.

Here are the 10 tips we liked best.

1. Cost-effective education excites employees

Employees are eager to better themselves, especially if doing so can be cost effective through innovative benefits. Consider offering financial planning and educational services like career development courses or college prep classes, as these are becoming more and more popular.

2. Industry events

Disruption will continue in the insurance industry, but will you be able to keep up? Stay up-to-date by attending industry events, such as the BenefitsPRO Broker Expo in April.

3. Practice makes perfect

To retain knowledge and keep a competitive edge, it's important to practice and refresh skills year-round (think social media training, for instance).

4. It's not a "no," it's a growth opportunity

Treat rejection as a learning opportunity. Find ways to turn a no into a yes and remember that persistence prevails.

5. Trial and error is the best teacher

“Experiments are usually about learning. When you get a negative outcome, you’re still really learning something that you need to know.” Linda Hill, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School

6. Think outside your own experience

Look to your colleagues for exclusive insight you might not have. Ask a younger co-worker what they’d most like out of a benefits package, or what type of insurance is best for your officemate nearing retirement.

7. Learning and education are not created equal

“I’m a three-time college dropout, so learning over education is very near and dear to my heart, but to me, education is what people do to you, learning is what you do to yourself.” Joi Ito, director, MIT Media Lab

8. Become the expert

“You can distinguish yourself with top-notch technical or industry knowledge. It pays to be viewed as an expert, whether in risk management or the regulatory landscape. You’ll open up many opportunities by becoming an authority.” Renee Preslar, communications manager, Transamerica Employee Benefits

9. Money, money, money

“The No. 1 employee wellness trend in 2017 will be an increasing focus on helping employees better themselves financially by providing the tools, resources, education and environment to improve their finances.” Matt Cosgriff, retirement plan consultant, BerganKDV Wealth Management.

10. Too much is never enough

“You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Oscar Wilde

See the original article Here.

Source:

Moriarty-Siler E. (2017 January 24). 10 tips for furthering benefits education[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/24/10-tips-for-furthering-benefits-education?ref=hp-news&page_all=1


Large Employer Health Plans Could Also See Some Impacts From Obamacare Overhaul

Obamacare repeal could have a huge impact on employer healthcare plans. According to this article from Kaiser Health News large employers might feel some of the Obamacare overhauls ripple effect by Michelle Andrews

If you think that because you get health insurance through your job at a big company, you won’t be affected if Republicans overhaul Obamacare, think again.  Several of the law’s provisions apply to plans offered by large employers too (with some exceptions for plans that were in place before the law passed in March 2010).

It’s not yet clear how President-elect Donald Trump and the congressional Republicans plan to revamp the federal health law. They have not agreed on a plan, and they do not have enough votes in the Senate to fully repeal the current statute. So they are planning to use a budgeting rule to disassemble part of the law, and that will limit what they can change. But they also may seek revisions in important regulations and guidance that have determined how the law is implemented.

Nonetheless, as the tensions grow in Washington over the future of the health law, it is important to understand some of its effects on large-group plans.

No Copays For Preventive Services

The health insurance offered by big companies is typically pretty comprehensive, the better to attract and keep good employees. But Obamacare broadened some coverage requirements. Under the law, insurers and employers have to cover many preventive services without charging people anything for them. The services that are required with no out-of-pocket payments include dozens of screenings and tests, including mammograms and colonoscopies, that are recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force; routine immunizations endorsed by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices; and a range of services that are recommended specifically for children and for women by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

The change that affects the most people on an ongoing basis is likely the requirement that plans cover without cost sharing all methods of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration. (There are limited exceptions for religious employers.)

“In terms of sustained costs, birth control is probably the biggest,” said Caroline Pearson, a senior vice president at Avalere Health.

No Annual Or Lifetime Limits On Coverage

Even the most generous plans often had lifetime maximum coverage limits of a few million dollars before the health law passed, and some plans also imposed annual coverage limits. The health law eliminated those dollar coverage limits.

Annual Cap On Out-Of-Pocket Payments For Covered Services

The health law set limits on how much people can be required to pay in deductibles, copayments or coinsurance every year for covered care they receive from providers in their network. In 2017, the limit is $7,150 for individuals and $14,300 for families.

“Many employers often had an out-of-pocket limit anyway, but this guarantees protection for people with high needs,” said JoAnn Volk, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms, who has written on this issue.

Adult Kids’ Coverage Expanded

The law allowed workers to keep their children on their plans until they reach age 26, even if they’re married, financially independent and live in another state. Republicans have said they may keep this popular provision in place if they dismantle the law.

Guaranteed External Appeal Rights

Consumers who disagree with a health plan’s decision to deny benefits or payment for services can appeal the decision to an independent review panel.

The provision applies to all new health plans, including those offered by self-funded companies that pay their workers’ claims directly and who were previously exempt from appeals requirements.

No Waiting Periods To Join A Plan 

Employers used to be able to make new employees wait indefinitely before they were eligible for coverage under the company plan. No more. Now the waiting time for coverage can be no more than 90 days.

No Waiting Periods For Coverage Of Pre-Existing Conditions 

Prior to the ACA, employers could delay covering workers’ chronic and other health conditions for up to a year after they became eligible for a plan. Under the ACA, that’s no longer allowed. As a practical matter, though, coverage of pre-existing conditions was rarely an issue in large-group plans, say some health insurance experts.

“It was difficult administratively, and the law of large numbers” meant that one individual’s health care costs didn’t generally have a noticeable impact on the group, said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Repeal could reopen the door to that prohibited practice, however.

Standardized Plan Descriptions

The law requires all plans to provide a “summary of benefits and coverage” in a standard format that allows consumers to understand their coverage and make apples-to-apples plan comparisons. 

Basic Coverage Standards For Large-Group Plans

The health law isn’t as prescriptive with large-group plans about the specific benefits that have to be offered. They aren’t required to cover the 10 essential health benefits that individual and small-group plans have to include, for example. But the law does require that big companies offer plans that meet a “minimum-value” standard paying at least 60 percent of the cost of covered services, on average. Those that don’t could face a fine.

Initially, the online calculator that the federal Department of Health and Human Services provided to help large employers gauge compliance with the minimum value standard gave the green light to plans that didn’t cover hospitalization services or more than a few doctor visits a year. Now plans must provide at least that coverage to meet federal standards.

The result: Large employers generally no longer offer so-called “mini-med” policies with very skimpy benefits.

If the health law is repealed, that could change. In some industries with lower-wage workers and smaller profit margins, “they might begin to offer them again, and employees might demand it” to help make the premiums more affordable, said Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health, a membership organization representing large employers.

Although the law strengthened coverage for people in large-group plans in several ways, consumer advocates have complained about shortcomings. It aimed to ensure that coverage is affordable by requiring that individuals be responsible for paying no more than 9.69 percent of their household income for individual employer coverage, for example.

If their insurance costs more than that, workers can shop for coverage on the marketplaces set up by the health law and be eligible for premium tax credits — if their income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $47,000). But the standard does not take into consideration any additional costs for family coverage.

Consumer advocates also point to the wellness regulations as a problematic area of the law. The health law increased the financial incentives that employers can offer workers for participating in workplace wellness programs to 30 percent of the cost of individual coverage, up from 20 percent.

Such incentives can effectively coerce people into participating and sharing private medical information, critics charge, and unfairly penalize sick people.

“It potentially allows [plans] to discriminate against people with medical conditions, which the ACA is supposed to eliminate,” said Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 January 17). Large employer health plans could also see some impacts from obamacare overhaul [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/large-employer-health-plans-could-also-see-some-impacts-from-obamacare-overhaul/


All That Glitters Is Not Gold in Employee Benefits

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about how not everything is what it seems in the world of employee benefits by Michael A. Fleck

The Magpie Effect

Why does a magpie decorate its nest with shiny objects? The randomly gathered trinkets serve no practical purpose. Scientists suggest, and it seems likely, that these most intelligent of animals simply like the way they look.

When something is pleasing to the eye, we – like magpies – are drawn to it. Beauty can, and often does, cloud our critical assessment. This occurs in the world of benefits and benefits technology when we assume the outward appearance of an object (what we see) and what’s beneath the surface (what we get) are the same.

Indeed, the Internet has changed the world. Today’s buyers tend to judge the capabilities of a system by the “prettiness” of its user interface (UI): The Magpie Effect.

But, we’ve all learned the hard way that choices made on appearances alone can lead to disappointment.

The Big Three

As the creators and managers of Benefits Passport – United Benefit Advisor’s (UBA) open architecture exchange – understanding what goes into highly successful relationships between benefit advisors and the employers they serve is essential to our work. That’s because our primary purpose is to give benefits advisors more freedom to create and deliver value to their clients, while we empower employers to take maximum advantage of that value. In our quest for greater understanding, we have found three things you need to know:

  1. The Magpie Effect! Sometimes (too often, actually), what advisors offer and what employers find attractive are not things upon which highly successful relationships can be built.
  2. All employer/advisor relationships go through a life cycle.
  3. An outcome-based relationship is essential for the successful navigation of the life cycle and optimal ROI for every dollar spent on employee benefits.

Let’s take a closer look at why The Magpie Effect occurs and the damage it can cause. I will explore the life cycle and outcome-based relationships in parts two and three of this blog.

Technology For Technology’s Sake

Being part of an HR company that develops and delivers technology has made me acutely aware of how often technology is seen as a panacea. With insufficient – if any – critical assessment, advisors sell and employers buy a shiny new online portal featuring enrollment, multimedia employee education, and FAQ-driven issues resolution. With a sexy user interface, paperwork-replacing-automation, and anytime, anywhere accessibility … it’s all very bedazzling and it’s easy to see why The Magpie Effect is so powerful. That’s why being aware of The Magpie Effect adds even more validity to that old, old adage, “caveat emptor” (i.e., let the buyer beware).

Let the buyer beware means it is up to the employer to critically assess what their benefits advisor is offering. It also means that lying beneath the shiny surface of traditional employer/advisor relationships are some less than attractive things. When the buyer must beware, the relationship is not built on sound decision-making driven by verifiable, relevant facts and mutually beneficial outcomes. Instead, it’s an adversarial relationship driven by sentiment, opinion and, too often, opposing goals.

A Culture of Convenience and Commodities

Two powerful cultural forces give weight and power to what lies below the shiny surface of traditional employer/advisor relationships.

One is the belief we are entitled to more and more convenience. Developers, marketers, and sellers have long preyed on the images of a technological utopia deeply embedded in our collective consciousness … think the Jetsons. In the case of employee benefits, this belief has contributed to the rise of a “set-it-and-forget-it” attitude; simply set the technology in place and forget about it as it does the job of keeping employees happy.

In addition to the demand for convenience is the perception that health insurance is a commodity. This perception leads to an environment where the price is the dominating focus of the annual renewal selling/buying conversation. Made increasingly acute by unsustainable annual premium increases, the focus on price precludes all but the most cursory discussions about why benefits are being offered in the first place. There is little room for any thought of aligning the benefit program with the employer’s strategic, social, and ethical goals.

Beauty Gets into the Eyes of the Beholder

Beauty (a beautiful UI) lures us along an easy decision-making shortcut that stifles awareness and bypasses logic. Bright and shiny sells because it makes it easier for us to convince ourselves we are making a wise choice. By giving us an excuse, and permission, to not critically assess our current reality and honestly appraise the true value – the outcomes we can expect. Beauty too often leads to getting far less than we paid for … and, far, far less than what we need to be truly successful.

Admittedly, breaking free of The Magpie Effect is not easy. Becoming fully aware of what is actually happening and why – and our complicity in making it so – can be painful and embarrassing. And, embracing logic before beauty compels us to look at the root causes of the problems we are seeking to solve. Embracing logic means being honest about the challenges we must be prepared to face on the road to our dreams.

Say, “Bye-Bye Birdy!”

There are many examples of employers who have broken free from the cultural conditioning that continues to trap the vast majority in a win/lose relationship with their benefits. The catalyst in these cases is the relationship they’ve developed with their advisor – one focused on the relationship and not on selling solutions. The best advisors know their job is to navigate the employer-advisor relationship life cycle starting with a deep understanding of their client’s world. And the most progressive employers partner with advisors who have the courage to have open, honest conversations with clients about the outcomes that count. Fueling their success is a relentless commitment to playing an essential role in making those outcomes happen.

In parts two and three of this blog, I will share what we’ve learned about how to best navigate the client relationship life cycle and how you can initiate and sustain a relationship based on the outcomes that count.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Fleck M. (2017 January 19). All that glitters is not gold in employee benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/all-that-glitters-is-not-gold-in-employee-benefits


IRS may have big ACA employer tax woes, advocate says

IRS may play a big part in your company's ACA tax filing. Checkout this article from Benefits Pro about what the IRS will be looking for in companies ACA filings this year by Allison Bell

An official who serves as a voice for taxpayers at the Internal Revenue Service says the IRS may be poorly prepared to handle the wave of employer health coverage offer reports now flooding in.

The Affordable Care Act requires "applicable large employers" to use Form 1095-C to tell their workers, former workers and the IRS what, if any, major medical coverage the workers and former workers received. Most employers started filing the forms in early 2016, for the 2015 coverage year.

This year, the IRS is supposed to start imposing penalties on some employers who failed to offer what the government classifies as solid coverage to enough workers.

If Donald Trump's promise holds true, the Affordable Care Act could be on its way out. Along with it may...

Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, says the IRS was not equipped to test the accuracy of ACA health coverage information reporting data before the 2016 filing season, for the 2015 coverage year. The IRS expected to receive just 77 million 1095-C forms for 2015, but it has actually received 104 million 1095-C's, and it has rejected 5.4 percent of the forms, Olson reports.

"Reasons for rejected returns include faulty transmission validation, missing (or multiple) attachments, error reading the file, or duplicate files," Olson says.

Meanwhile, the IRS has had to develop a training program for the IRS employees working on employer-related ACA issues on the fly, and it was hoping in November to provide the training this month, Olson says.

"The training materials are currently under development," Olson says. She says her office did not have a chance to see how complete the training materials are, or how well they protect taxpayer reports.

Olson discusses those concerns about IRS efforts to administer ACA tax provisions and many other tax administration concerns in a new report on IRS performance. The Taxpayer Advocate Service prepares the reports every year, to tell Congress how the IRS is doing at meeting taxpayers' needs.

In the same report, Olson talks about other ACA-related problems, such as headaches for ACA exchange plan premium tax credit subsidy users who are also Social Security Disability Insurance program users, and she gives general ACA tax provision administration data.

APTC subsidy

The ACA premium tax credit subsidy program helps low-income and moderate-income exchange plan users pay for their coverage.

Exchange plan buyers who qualify can get the tax credit the ordinary way, by applying for it when they file their income tax returns for the previous year. But about 94 percent of tax credit users receive the subsidy in the form of an "advanced premium tax credit."

When an exchange plan user gets an APTC subsidy, the IRS sends the subsidy money to the health coverage issuer while the coverage year is still under way, to help cut how much cash the user actually has to pay for coverage.

When an APTC user files a tax return for a coverage year, in the spring after the end of the coverage year, the user is supposed to figure out whether the IRS provided too little or too much APTC help. The IRS is supposed to send cash to consumers who got too little help. If an APTC user got too much help, the IRS can take some or all of the extra help out of the user's tax refund.

Another ACA provision, the "individual shared responsibility" provision, or individual coverage mandate provision, requires many people to obtain what the government classifies as solid major medical coverage or else pay a penalty.

Individual taxpayers first began filing ACA-related tax forms in early 2015, for the 2014 coverage year. Early last year, individual taxpayers filed ACA-related forms for the second time, for the 2015 coverage year.

Only 6.1 million taxpayers told the IRS they owed individual mandate penalty payments for 2015, down from 7.6 million who owed the penalty for 2014.

But, in part because the ACA designed the mandate penalty to get bigger each year for the first few years, the average penalty payment owed increased to $452 for 2015, from $204 for 2014.

The number of households claiming some kind of exemption from the penalty program increased to 8.6 million, from 8.4 million.

The number of filers who said they had received APTC help increased to 5.3 million for 2015, up from 3.1 million for 2014. And the amount of APTC help reported increased to $18.9 billion for 2015, from $11.3 billion in APTC subsidy help for 2014.

That means the 2015 recipients were averaging about $3,566 in reported subsidy help in 2015, down from $3,645 in reported help for 2014.

Olson says her office helped 10,910 taxpayers with ACA premium tax credit issues in the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2016, up from 3,318 in the previous 12-month period.

One of her concerns is how the Social Security Disability Insurance program, which is supposed to serve people with severe disabilities, interacts with the ACA provision that requires people who guess wrong about their income during the coverage year to pay back excess APTC subsidy help.

SSDI lump-sum payment headaches

Some Social Security Disability Insurance recipients have to fight with the Social Security Administration for years to qualify for benefits. Once the SSDI recipients win their fights to get benefits, the SSA may pay them all of the back benefits owed in one big lump sum.

The big, lump-sum disability benefits payments may increase the SSDI recipients' income for a previous year so much they end up earning too much for that year to qualify for ACA premium tax credit help, Olson says in the new report.

The SSDI recipients may then have to pay all of the ACA premium tax credit help they received back to the IRS, Olson says.

So far, IRS lawyers have not figured out any law they can use to protect the SSDI recipients from having to pay large amounts of premium tax credit help back to the government, Olson says.

For now, she says, her office is just trying to work on a project to warn consumers about how accepting any lump-sum payment, including an SSDI lump-sum benefits payment, might lead to premium tax credit headaches.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bell A. (2017 January 16). IRS may have big ACA employer tax woes, advocate says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/16/irs-may-have-big-aca-employer-tax-woes-advocate-sa?page_all=1


FIVE TRENDS IN TALENT

Do you know what is needed to attract new talent to your company? Here's a great article from SHRM about 5 trends that new hires are looking for in 2017 by Shonna Waters & Alex Alonso

1. A VERY COMPETITIVE TALENT MARKETPLACE
Labor market improvements and skills shortages have combined to create a very competitive talent marketplace. Sourcing talent is now as much about how organizations represent themselves to the world as it does about digging deeper to find new pockets of talent. Not only is sourcing talent a real and relevant problem for HR, but according to a 2015 SHRM survey of non-HR executives, it is the defining issue for ensuring organizational sustainability. As we look to the future, organizations that can find talent in non-traditional pockets or manufacture their talent through partnerships with educational institutions and NGOs will continue to build competitive advantage.
2. DATA & ANALYTICS WILL DRIVE HUMAN CAPITAL DECISIONS
Big data and analytics trends have not spared HR. Today's competitive landscape requires HR professionals to be able to tie talent investments to business objectives. Metrics such as cost-per-hire and time-to-fill are no longer sufficient. New trends in workforce analytics call for meta-metrics like return on workforce investment and assessing opportunity costs associated with workforce processes. Moreover, truly astute consumers of these meta-metrics will also blend in marketing tools like net promoter scores to enhance the information gathered about the organization's effectiveness when promulgating brand and consumer value propositions. All this to say, when looking at workforce analytics we can safely say, "it isn't your grandfather's analytics anymore."
3. INTEGRATED PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT
In part thanks to increased attention on business outcomes (or lack thereof) of traditional performance appraisal systems, organizations are responding to an overwhelming imbalance between what they invest in appraisal systems and the outcomes they receive by eliminating or significantly re-conceptualizing performance management (e.g., General Electric, Deloitte, Adobe, Microsoft, Gap, Inc.). Despite overwhelming frustration with appraisal systems, they are here to stay. HR professionals will have to take on new ways of designing these systems to move beyond administrative processes to business impact. The most successful organizations will focus on strengthening the performance culture to embed performance management behaviors such as feedback and coaching into the day-to-day work rather than crafting it as a separate and administrative process.
4. PARENTAL LEAVE
Heavy workplace demands and an increasingly complex, global environment can lead to burnout, low productivity, dissatisfaction, and stress-related illnesses across organizational levels. Increased research demonstrating the importance of employee well-being, an increasingly transparent and competitive talent market, and media attention on both gender equality and paid leave policies across the globe have made paid parental, maternity, and paternity leave a top trend for 2017. Although only about a quarter of organizations currently offer this type of paid leave, competitive organizations will be taking a hard look at their policies next year to ensure their benefits packages appeal to their target employees.
5. THE GIG ECONOMY & ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP
Two other trends, the contingent workforce and leader development, are worth watching. The gig economy is here to stay. Employees can no longer be easily parsed into full-time and part-time, exempt and non-exempt. HR professionals will need to grapple with how to orient and socialize gig workers, while staying in compliance with evolving laws and regulations. Rapid changes within the business environment are also threatening the old command and control management structures and styles. As a result, new models of leadership and leader development methods are required to build complex, adaptable leaders who can handle ambiguity and constant change and motivate their employees to do the same by focusing on meaning and purpose.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Waters S., Alonso A. (2017 January 5). Five trends in talent [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/five-trends-in-talent


Feds pump out even more Obamacare instructions

Have you heard about the recent changes coming to the ACA? If not take a look at this great article from HR Morning about the recent changes that will be going into effect for the ACA by Jared Bilski

If you believe Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t long for this world. Still, the Obama administration continues to clarify how businesses are supposed to comply with the law’s many provisions. 

The Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just put their heads together for the 35th time to address questions surrounding Obamacare reforms.

Here’s some of the most useful info to come out of this latest FAQ:

Qualified small employer HRA

As HR Morning reported previously, the 21st Century Cures Act, among other things, allows certain small employers to offer a general purpose stand-alone health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) without violating the ACA. It is also referred to as a “qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement” — or QSEHRA.

The FAQ touches on how this new law jibes with the ACA and clarified that in order to be a QSEHRA, the structure of the plan must:

  • be funded entirely by an eligible employer — one with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees in the prior year and that doesn’t offer a group health plan to any of its employees
  • provide payment to, or reimbursement of, an eligible employee for medical care under Code section 213(d)
  • not reimburse more than $4,950 for eligible expenses for individuals or $10,000 for families, and
  • be provided to all eligible employees of the employer offering the HRA.

One thing the 21st Century Cures Act (and the feds’ FAQ) doesn’t address: Whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) applies to a QSEHRA.

Special Enrollment & HIPAA

The FAQ also addressed special enrollment for group health plans under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Because HIPAA generally allows current employees and dependents to enroll in a company’s group health plan if the employees/dependents lose their previous coverage, they must be offered the same special enrollment option if they lose individual market coverage (i.e., health coverage they obtained through the individual Obamacare marketplace — or “exchanges”).

This could happen to individual market participants if an insurer that was covering an employee/dependent decides to stop offering that individual market coverage. As we saw last year, several major insurers have taken that step.

One exception to this special enrollment: If the loss of coverage is due to a failure to pay premiums in a timely manner — or “for cause.”

Updated women’s preventive services

As you know, under the ACA, non-grandfathered health plans are required to provide recommended preventives services for women without any cost-sharing.

Those services are listed in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) guidelines, and the guidelines were just updated on December 20, 2016. The updated guidelines bolster many of the existing covered preventive care services for women in the areas of:

  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • gestational diabetes
  • HIV, and
  • domestic violence.

The services in the updated guidelines must be covered — without cost-sharing — for plan years beginning on or after December 20, 2017 (Jan. 1, 2018 for calendar year plans). Until then, plans can keep using the previous HRSA guidelines.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 6). Feds pump out even more Obamacare instructions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/feds-pump-out-even-more-obamacare-instructions/


DOL and IRS want a closer look at your retirement plan

Are you worried that your company's retirement plan is not up to government standards? If so take a look at this article from HR Morning about what the DOL and IRS are looking for in retirement plans by Jared Bilski

Two of the most-feared government agencies for employers — the DOL and IRS — have decided there’s a real problem with the way retirement plans are being run, and they’re ramping up their audits to find out why that is.

In response to the many mistakes the agencies are seeing from retirement plan sponsors, the IRS and DOL will be increasing the frequency of their audits.

What does that mean for you? According to experts, plan sponsors can expect the feds to dig deep into the minute operations of plans. That means the unfortunate employers who find themselves in the midst of an audit can expect to be asked for heaps of plan info.

Linda Canafax, a senior retirement consultant with Willis Towers Watson, put it like this:

“The DOL and IRS are truly diving deep into the operations of the plans. We have seen a deeper dive into the operations of plans, particularly with data. Plans may be asked for a full census file on the transactions for each participant. Expect the DOL and IRS to do a lot of data mining.”

What to watch for

Ultimately, it’s impossible to completely prevent an audit. But employers can — and should — do certain things to safeguard themselves in the event the feds come knocking.

First, a self-audit is always a good idea. It’s always better for you to discover any problems before the feds do. Next, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the types of errors that can lead the feds to your workplace in the first place.

The most common errors the IRS and the DOL are looking for:

  • Untimely remittance of employee deferrals (i.e., contributions)
  • Incorrect compensation definition (plan documents dictate which types of comp employees are eligible to contribute from)
  • Not following the plan’s own directives, and
  • Not having a good long-term system (20-30 years out) for tracking and paying benefits to vested participants.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 6). DOL and IRS want a closer look at your retirement plan[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/dol-and-irs-want-to-take-a-closer-look-at-your-retirement-plan/


How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing

Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees', employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen

Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.

As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.

Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.

Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.

“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”

Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.

Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.

“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”

The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.

“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000