Don’t expect tech to solve benefits communications problems

Great article from Benefits Pro about using technology to communicate with your employees by Marlene Satter

Although technology has spawned multiple methods of communication with employees on benefits, that doesn’t mean they’re solving all the problems in conveying information back and forth between employer and employee.

In fact, generational and demographic differences, varying levels of comfort with a range of communication methods and the complexity of information all mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in workplace benefits communication.

A study from West’s Health Advocate Solutions finds employees’ expectations cover a wide range in benefits, health and wellness program communication. As a result, human resources and benefits managers have to dig more deeply in finding ways to convey information to employees.

One finding which may surprise them is employees prefer live-person conversations, although some do prefer the option to use digital communication channels in certain benefits scenarios. And 41 percent of employees say their top complaint about employers’ benefits programs is that communication is too infrequent.

Employee benefits in 2017 will feel the effects of political change as well as cultural change. Here are some trends...

The top choice of employees for communicating about health care cost and administrative information is directly by phone (73 percent) with a live person; second choice was a website or online portal (69 percent), while an in-person conversation was the choice of 56 percent.

For information about physical wellness benefits, 71 percent opt for the website/online portal, while 62 percent want to talk to someone on the phone and 56 percent wanted an in-person conversation. Interestingly, 62 percent of men and 44 percent of women prefer in-person conversations.

For personal/emotional wellness issues, 71 percent want that chat with a person on the phone, 65 percent want an in-person conversation and just 60 percent want to interact with a website/online portal.

When it comes to managing a chronic condition, 66 percent prefer to talk to someone on the phone, 63 percent would prefer the website/online portal option and 61 percent want an in-person conversation. Sixty-seven percent of men, compared with 53 percent of women, prefer in-person conversations, while 35 percent of women, compared with 18 percent of men, prefer mobile apps.

And there are generational differences, too, with millennials wanting in-person interactions more than either Gen X or boomer colleagues. But they all want multiple options, and the ability to choose the one they prefer, rather than simply being restricted to a single method.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2016 December 14). Don't expect tech to solve benefits communications problems [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/12/14/dont-expect-tech-to-solve-benefits-communications


Financial wellness: Here’s what employees want, need in 2017

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

Recent research into individuals’ financial resolutions for 2017 can tell you whether your financial wellness initiatives are giving employees what they want. It can also tell you whether to expect employees to increase their retirement contributions next year. 

Personal finance company LendEDU recently asked 1,001 Americans about their financial goals for 2017, as well as what their biggest concerns are. The results were published in LendEDU’s “Financial Resolution Survey & Report 2017,” which can help employers determine if their financial programs are on point.

Here are some of the more interesting Q&A’s from the research:

What’s your most important financial resolution in 2017?

  • Save more money — 52.85% of respondents selected this
  • Pay off debt — 35.56%
  • Spend less money — 11.59%

Takeaway for employers: Improving savings should be front and center in any financial wellness strategy.

What’s your top financial resolution?

  • Make and stick to a budget — 21.38%
  • Save for a large purchase like a down payment, household upgrade, or car, etc. — 19.28%
  • Pay down credit card debt — 18.88%
  • Place money aside for an emergency — 16.58%
  • Save for retirement — 13.69%
  • Pay down student loan debt — 7.29%
  • Save for college — 2.90%

Takeaway for employers: Employees need the most help creating a budget they can stick to.

What’s your top financial concern?

  • Unexpected expenses — 53.25%
  • Healthcare costs — 23.98%
  • Higher interest rates — 9.69%
  • The labor market — 7.79%
  • Stock market fluctuations — 5.29%

Takeaway for employers: Helping employees manage healthcare costs can be a key add-on to any financial education program.

Do you think you’re better off financially in 2017 than in 2016?

  • Yes — 78.32%
  • No — 21.68%

Takeaway for employers: Employees’ financial state of mind is on the upswing, which is good. But it could make increasing participation in wellness initiatives more challenging.

Do you make financial resolutions with your spouse or significant other?

  • Yes — 84.83%
  • No — 15.17%

Takeaway for employers: When it comes to finances, very few people go it alone, so invite spouses to be a part of your wellness offerings.

What would make you stick to a financial resolution?

  • Having a reward for reaching the goal — 37.56%
  • Segmenting a longer term goal into smaller bit sized pieces — 20.08%
  • Technology that helps you save money or monitor goals in real-time — 19.38%
  • The encouragement of family and friends — 13.99%
  • Having a consequence for not reaching the goal — 8.99%

Takeaway for employers: Incremental rewards and incentives, can help drive participation and success in 2017 financial wellness initiatives.

Do you think you’ll increase your retirement savings contributions this year?

  • Yes — 63.24%
  • No — 36.76%

Takeaway for employers: This could be a good year to really push employees to bump up retirement plan contributions.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Author (Date). Title [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/financial-wellness-heres-what-employees-want-need-in-2017/


SHRM Study: Health Care Remains Key Benefit for All Employee Groups

Check out this interesting article from Workforce about the most recent SHRM benefits study by Andie Burjek

Health care is still the king of employee benefits packages.

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of HR professionals indicated that within an employee benefits package, health care was their primary strategic focus, according to a survey released Nov. 30 by the Society for Human Resource Management.

SHRM surveyed 738 HR professionals for its 2016 Strategic Benefits Survey and conducted annually since 2012, in five categories: wellness initiatives, flexible work arrangements, health care, leveraging benefits to retain and recruit employees, and assessment and communication of benefits.

The survey also found that among all categories of employees, health care most impacts retention, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of workforce analytics. The survey specifically differentiated between high-performing, highly skilled and millennial employees, all of who were most swayed to stay by health care.

“There are a lot of different ways that organizations can tailor their benefits to meet the strategic needs of recruiting and retaining employees,” said Esen. “And that’s where we see a lot of creativity and innovation. Good employers know the benefits that their employees and potential employees will value and then they shape their benefits accordingly.”

Almost 1 in 5 survey respondents said that over the past year they’ve altered their benefits program to help with retention of employees at all levels of the organization, and the most popular area to change, indicated by 61 percent of respondents, was health care. Just below was flexible working (37 percent) and retirement (35 percent).

SHRM also found that there was a decrease in HR professionals worried about health care costs. Sixty-six percent of respondents were “very concerned” about controlling health care costs in 2016, compared to 79 percent in 2014.

Health care is a big-ticket item, so there will always be concern, said Esen. That being said, the decrease may be attributed to several possibilities.

First, Esen explained, health care costs have been rising, but not at the same double-digit rates they have been in previous years. SHRM has seen this level of concern decline annually since 2012.

Wellness may also have played a role.

“Wellness has been much more integrated in organizations and their health care strategies,” said Esen. “Organizations have found wellness does impact health care costs in the long run.” She doubled down on the point that an employer probably won’t see a decrease in health care costs immediately thanks to a wellness program, however there is long-term potential. Almost half (48 percent) of survey respondents said their company wellness initiatives decreased health care costs.

“That may have alleviated some concern that employers have,” she added. “Because at least there’s something they can do. They have some control. They can encourage their employees to be healthier.”

Under wellness, one notable finding was that although interest in wellness is rising, certain programs are being offered less. In the past five years, Esen noted, programs that have steadily decreased include: health care premium discounts for both participating in a weight-loss program and not using tobacco; on-site stress reduction programs; and health and lifestyle coaching.

“Companies are examining ways to keep wellness relevant to employees,” she said. “Employers, if they really do want to continue with wellness and have impact on health care costs, need to continually be assessing and also be creative in terms of the type of wellness programs they [offer], because just like anything, it will become stale over time.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Burjek A. (2016 December 1). SHRM study: health care remains key benefit for all employee groups[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.workforce.com/2016/12/01/shrm-study-health-care-remains-key-benefit-employee-groups/


16 building blocks that bolster employee engagement

Need a strategy for improving engagement from your employees? Check out this great read by Lauren Stead

Do you know what sets your company apart from the rest for job seekers? Is it your recent accomplishments? How about your Fitness Fridays or Casual Mondays? Or is it the opportunities you provide for employees to grow throughout your firm and take their careers to the next level? 

The chances are it’s all of these things, which collaboratively come together to build up your culture. Today, culture is what sells your company above, as innovation is no longer a reliable way to set yourself apart from your competition. What makes for a great culture is great people, engaged in their company.

So how can you get ahead and stay ahead in this current market? How, exactly, do you build up your culture so employees stay more engaged?

Rusty Lindquist, VP of human capital management strategy for BambooHR, recently spearheaded a panel at the virtual HR conference Elevate 2016. His presentation focused on 16 components that are key improving employee engagement efforts. He said when your current workforce is engaged, they’ll be the ones who help sell the company to others and help it grow.

Lindquist’s breakdown to getting your employees more engaged included these steps:

  1. Objectiveknowing where you’re going and why you should care about it.
    People need to know where they’re going. Otherwise, they’ll be aimless and lack motivation to keep going forward, simply spinning their wheels in place. Rusty explained that if you were just set at the top of a mountain and left to roam, you would accomplish far less than the person who’s put at the base and has the summit pointed out to them as the goal. Make sure managers are sharing what the company’s mission and objectives are with their teams, to keep everyone working toward that summit.
  2. Alignmentcapability to do work and succeed at it.
    Managers need to find the sweet spot between the three factors that make up an employee’s alignment: competency, opportunity, and passion. In other words, an employee needs to actually be able to do what’s set before them, have the chance to move forward afterward, and enjoy what she’s doing. If something is off with these three factors, chances are the employee will be under-performing.
  3. Planknowing what the next step is or how to move forward on your career path.
    People need to know what to do next and have a clear visualization of a path they can follow. They can be sold on their objective and feel comfortable in the company, but managers need to make sure there’s no confusion on how to achieve that objective. Break down future goals into achievable steps.
  4. Spacehaving what you need to move forward.
    Get out of employees’ way so they can create and accomplish personal goals. Space can mean having autonomy, ownership, permission, trust, influence, or just the right tools.
  5. Contributiongetting things done and feeling like you’re making a difference.
    People need to feel that what they’re doing is making a difference. The moment someone feels that they don’t matter, they begin to under-perform. If someone isn’t contributing, it’s a good time to evaluate the other engagement elements to see if something is out of alignment.
  6. Scorekeeping score of your contributive value.
    Progress and impact need to be measured in some way. If a sense of progress is removed, people tend to contribute less value overall. Rusty compared it to playing a game with yourself. There’s no sense of accomplishment or context if you’re just racking up points by yourself.
  7. Momentumhaving a sense of moving forward and inevitability.
    Momentum may drop when a project is completed or canceled. Before a new project starts up to take the old’s place, there’s a window where there’s no momentum. While periodic breaks are good, make sure managers are keeping employees focused on the overall summit.
  8. Investmentfeeling like you have skin in the game.
    This is a factor you can notice outside of the workplace. For example, consider a stamp incentive program at coffee shops. Each time you visit, you’re given a stamp and when you achieve a certain number you’re given a reward. These types of programs instill in you a sense of investment, that you’ve potentially lost out on if you quit now. This is the same sort of feeling employees need to feel from their managers.
  9. Growthfeeling like you’re gaining mastery, progressing personally or professionally.
    Everyone likes the idea that they’re getting better at what they do. When careers stagnate, people begin to stall and lose interest in moving forward. Have managers challenge employees so they feel like they’re growing by providing them opportunities to improve personally and professionally.
  10. Meaningfinding fulfillment and purpose in what you do.
    Connect people to the work they’re doing through a story. This isn’t necessarily done through the company’s objective or mission statement, and it should be more personal. Managers need to identify what matters to their team, and then connect that meaning to their work through a narrative or story.
  11. Valuefeeling appreciated and adequately rewarded for your efforts.
    Value isn’t completely tied up in compensation, since more compensation doesn’t always directly improve someone’s engagement. It also relies on rewards and recognition. Managers need to find ways to give people all three.
  12. Identityknowing who you are, what you’re capable of, and believing in yourself.
    This building block relies on the theory of functional fixedness, the idea that people rely on their past successes to inform their next actions. If something has worked in the past, why not continue doing it? Managers need to push employees to think outside the box, consistently innovating new solutions to old problems.
  13. Leadershiphaving someone who believes in, challenges, and shows you the way.
    Every workplace, in some fashion, has a leader who is capable of showing people the way. Most times, these leaders are the ones who can self-diagnose and critique themselves. These employees aren’t necessarily managers or in executive-level positions, but they are the ones people lean on when they need a guiding light. Give these people a platform.
  14. Relationshiphaving connections with people you care about.
    When people are invested in each other, they have a sense that they don’t want to let their team down. Even when things with the company are bad, people will tough it out because they want to stay for the people they’ve built up relationships with. Foster those relationships.
  15. Environmenthaving surroundings that support and enable your efforts.
    If people are living in a bad environment, their behaviors will reflect their surrounding negativity. This was evident in New York’s broken windows theory. The city had high amounts of crime. Some people wanted to bolster the criminal and justice system, and crack down on that crime. A new mayor instead invested in beautifying the environment, cleaning up the city and fixing broken windows. Amazingly, the crime was reduced in those areas. Be aware of your company’s environment and how it impacts employees.
  16. Renewalfinding restoration through balance and moderation.
    Finally, this block of engagement is important for every employee. There may be a time when a great worker becomes disengaged and feels burned out. A short break or new challenging project may be in order to rouse spirits once more.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Stead L. (2016 November 30). 16 building blocks that bolster employee engagement[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/16-building-blocks-that-bolster-employee-engagement/


4 holiday season fire prevention tips

by Caterina Pontoriero

It’s the holiday season and for many homeowners, it’s easy to neglect some of the most basic rules of home safety.

The hustle and bustle of activity this time of year can lead to property damage and injuries that normally can be easily prevented.

Denver-based insurance comparison shopping site InsuranceQuotes and Washington-based research firm Princeton Survey Research Associates International polled 1,000 American adults, asking them to recount the frequency of certain holiday hazards, including injuries to houseguests, weather-related driving accidents and fires caused by everything from cooking mistakes to misadventures with decorations.

According to the study, 16 million Americans have experienced a house fire because of a fryer or cooking accident, and 2 million have had fires caused by Christmas trees and other decorations.

Scott Humphrey, second vice president of risk control for New York City-based Travelers Cos., says homeowners file more claims for fire damage during this time of year than any other.

“Our claim data also shows that fire is one of the costliest claims,” Humphrey says. “If fire results in a total loss, it’s important that homeowners are insured for the total cost to rebuild, not just the market value of the home. Homeowners should be sure to review this point with their insurance agent or carrier.”

Here are some tips for homeowners to help prevent fanning the flames of fire risk:

1. Use deep fryers safely

While experts agree that it’s objectively safer to deep fry your turkey outside, they also say holiday chefs should make sure it’s set up on level ground at least 30 feet away from the home, trees or any other flammable objects.

“Believe it or not, dry leaves on the ground can serve as natural lighter fluid if there’s a mishap, so make sure to rake beforehand,” says Peter Duncanson, director of system development with the disaster restoration company ServiceMaster Restore.

2. Practice basic electrical safety

Humphrey says one of the main causes of fires this time of year result from electrical hazards like holiday lights, appliances or other devices that overload an extension cord or structural wiring in the home.

“It is especially important to inspect your strands of lights for frayed cords and cracked lamps before stringing them up,” Humphrey says. “Also, turn off your lights when you go out for the evening or when you go to bed so you don't wake up or come home to a fire.”

3. Use candles with caution

Candles are traditionally used in many holidays this season, but despite adding a warm and inviting touch to holiday tablescapes, candles can be as damaging as they are delightful, and Bud Summers, vice president of operations for Tamarac, Florida-based property restoration company PuroClean, suggests homeowners proceed with extreme caution when considering the placement of their holiday candles.

“Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, or anywhere they may be knocked over or forgotten about,” Summers says. “Make sure to leave approximately one foot of space between your burning candle and anything else. Be sure that the candle has a stable base and always extinguish the flame before leaving the house or room, or going to bed. When guests leave, designate someone to walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out.”

 

4. Care for the Christmas tree

When maintained properly, the only harm caused by a Christmas tree is the mess of fallen needles it inevitably leaves behind. But if it’s neglected, homeowners could find themselves with a significant fire hazard perched in the middle of their living room.

Related: 4 tips to avoid a Christmas tree fire

“Real Christmas trees are more likely to start a fire than artificial ones, especially over time as the tree tends to dry out. And it only takes 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room when a fire is ignited,” Summers says. “If you choose to go the natural route, making sure to keep the tree moist and full of water will significantly decrease your chances of unintentional fire.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Pontoriero C.(2016 December 8). 4 holiday season fire prevention tips[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/12/08/4-holiday-season-fire-prevention-tips?eNL=58496aa3160ba015228ec3eb&utm_source=PC360_NewsFlash&utm_medium=EMC-Email_editorial&utm_campaign=12082016&page_all=1


United Benefit Advisors Insight and Analysis Blog

Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a penalty on “large” employers that either do not offer “minimum essential” (basic medical) coverage, or who offer coverage that is not affordable (the employee’s cost for single coverage is greater than 9.5 percent of income) or it does not provide minimum value (the plan is not designed to pay at least 60 percent of claims costs). A large employer is one that employed at least 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees during the prior calendar year. To discourage employers from breaking into small entities to avoid the penalty, the ACA provides that, for purposes of the employee threshold, the controlled group and affiliated service group aggregation rules will apply to health plans. Essentially, this means that the employees of a business with common owners or that perform services for each other may need to be combined when determining if the employer is “large.”

The aggregation rules are very complicated and may require a large amount of information to do an accurate analysis. This article does not address all of the possible considerations or all of the intricacies of the rules, and assumes that the regulations that apply to retirement plans will also apply to health plans. We strongly encourage employers with complex arrangements to consult with their attorney or accountant.

Controlled Group

When one business owns a significant part of another business, there may be a “controlled group.” There are four types of controlled groups – parent-subsidiary, brother-sister, combined, and life insurance.

Ownership includes:

  • Stock ownership in a corporation
  • Capital interest or profits in a partnership
  • Membership interest in an LLC
  • A sole proprietorship
  • Actuarial interest in a trust or estate
  • A controlling interest in a tax-exempt organization (80 percent of the trustees or directors are also trustees, directors, agents or employees of the other organization or the other organization has the power to remove a trustee or director)
  • A government entity, including a school, if there is common management or supervision or one entity sets the budget or provides 80 percent of the funding for the other.

Affiliated Service Groups

If the company regularly performs certain types of personal services or management functions with or for related entities, it may be part of an “affiliated service group” even if there is not common ownership.

An affiliated service group is basically a group of businesses working together to provide services to each other or jointly to customers, and can be one of three types:

  • A-Organization (A-Org), which consists of a First Service Organization (FSO) and at least one A-Org
  • B-Organization (B-Org) which consists of an FSO and at least one B-Org
  • Management groups

Only entities that provide personal services are subject to the affiliated service group rules. Attribution rules similar to those that apply to controlled groups apply to affiliated service groups.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla, D. (2016 October 18). Controlled groups and affiliated service groups: how they apply to ACA [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address


Employers rate private exchanges positively, but use is still low

Great article from Benefits Pro by Gil Lowerre and Bonnie Brazzell

A recent Eastbridge survey of employers found that the use of private exchanges continues to be minimal among all size categories and that a positive correlation remains between use and employer size (with use increasing as employer size increases). Many times, it is the broker who influences these employers to adopt the exchange model, and to offer more options to their employees or to move to a defined contribution approach.

Since brokers are often the ones suggesting an exchange for their clients, it makes sense that most employers (74 percent) continue to use a broker for their employee benefits after implementing a private exchange. Only 19 percent of the employers no longer utilize broker services.

While use has been low, employers that have implemented an exchange believe their employees’ experience with the private exchange has been positive. Forty percent indicated the experience was not only positive, but easier than previous enrollments, and 52 percent said it was positive, but not significantly different from previous enrollment.

The survey also pointed to future interest by employers in private exchanges. Over one-quarter of the employers that are not using a private exchange today are open to using this concept in the future, and another one-quarter are still undecided.

Whether or not to offer a private exchange is a decision that should be based on many factors. Nonetheless, it is important for brokers to at least consider broaching the subject with employer clients — or risk the chance that some other broker will. The fact that most employers rate the exchange process positively should provide comfort to those considering this approach to benefits.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Lowerre, G. & Brazzell, B. (2016 November 02). Employers rate private exchanges positively, but use is still low. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/11/02/employers-rate-private-exchanges-positively-but-us


ACA exchanges report strong early application activity

Busy start to the 2017 open enrollment period 50 percent higher than last year, by Allison Bell

Managers of HealthCare.gov say the open enrollment period for 2017 has gotten off to a busy start.

The level of activity during the first six hours of the open enrollment period was 50 percent higher than during the comparable period in 2015, and HealthCare.gov took in 150,000 coverage applications during the first full day of the enrollment period, according to officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS set up HealthCare.gov to provide Affordable Care Act exchange enrollment and account administration services in states that are unable or unwilling to handle that job themselves.

The open enrollment period for 2017 started Tuesday.

A year ago, HHS officials said HealthCare.gov had taken in about 250,000 coverage applications during the first full day of the open enrollment period for 2016.

MNsure, Minnesota's state-based exchange enrollment system, was down much of the day yesterday because of some combination of heavy volume, technical glitches and efforts by ACA opponents to crash the system by flooding it with visits. In spite of the technical problems, about state residents used the system to apply for coverage for about 5,000 people, according to the Twin Cities Pioneer Press.

MNsure may have spurred consumers to try to sign up for exchange plan coverage early by announcing that it will impose enrollment caps for 2017 on coverage from most participating carriers. Blue Plus is the only exchange issuer selling coverage without protection from an enrollment cap.

George Kalogeropoulos, the chief executive officer of HealthSherpa.com, a San Francisco-based "Web broker entity" that helps retail insurance agents and brokers submit ACA exchange coverage applications for their customers, says HealthSherpa.com activity levels support the idea that the ACA exchange system has been very busy.

"As of day two of open enrollment, the traffic on HealthSherpa.com has been through the roof," Kalogeropoulos said in an email. "We know HealthCare.gov is getting 50 percent more website visits compared to last year, and our website is experiencing that surge as well."

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bell, A. (2016 November 04). ACA exchanges report strong early application activity. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2016/11/02/aca-exchanges-report-strong-early-application-acti?slreturn=1478548849


2016 Health Plan Survey: Topline Trends at a Glance

Great review of the 2016 Health Plan Survey from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Jason Reeves

The 2016 UBA Health Plan Survey contains the validated responses of 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, who cumulatively employ over two and a half million employees and insure more than five million total lives. Our data reflects the experiences of 99% of U.S. businesses in rough proportion to their actual prevalence, not just the largest employers who are often the sole focus in other surveys. As a result, our findings are extensive, so we’ve compiled a topline list of the biggest trends below.

Cost-shifting, plan changes and other protections work to hold rates steady.

  • Increased prevalence and enrollment in lower-cost CDHP and HMO plans.
  • “Grandmothered” employers continue to have the options they need to select cheaper plans (ACA- compliant community-rated plans versus pre-ACA composite/health-rated plans) depending on the health status of their groups.
  • The Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act protects employers with 51 to 99 employees from higher-cost plans.
  • Increased out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, as well as prescription drug cost shifting, are among the plan design changes influencing premiums.
  • UBA Partners leverage their bargaining power.

Overall costs vary significantly by industry and geography.

  • Retail, construction and hospitality employees cost the least to cover; government employees (the historical cost leader) cost the most.
  • Plans in the Northeast cost the most; plans in the Central U.S. cost the least.
  • Retail and construction employees pay the most toward their coverage; government employees pay the least (bad news for taxpayers).

Plan design changes strain employees financially.

PPOs, CDHPs have the biggest impact.

  • Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans cost more than average, but still dominate the market.
  • Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) cost less than average and enrollment is increasing.

Overall, wellness program adoption holds steady, but program design is changing.

  • Health risk assessments continue to decline, while chronic condition coaching is on the rise.

Metal levels drive plan decisions.

  • Most plans are at the gold or platinum metal level. In the future, we expect this to change since it will be more difficult to meet the ACA metal level requirements and still keep rates in check.

Key trends to watch in 2017:

  • Slow, but steady: increase in self-funding for all group sizes, decrease in employees electing dependent coverage, increase in plan options, and mail order pharmaceutical programs more for convenience than cost savings.
  • Cautious trend: increased CDHP prevalence/enrollment.
  • Rapidly emerging: increase of five-tier prescription drug plans, increased out-of-pocket maximums.

See the original article Here.

 


Non-drug approaches to pain management prove effective

Helpful insights on pain coping techniques from Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN)

Data from a review of U.S.-based clinical trials published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggest that some of the most popular complementary health approaches — such as yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture — appear to be effective tools for helping to manage common pain conditions. The review was conducted by a group of scientists from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health.

Millions of Americans suffer from persistent pain that may not be fully relieved by medications. They often turn to complementary health approaches to help, yet primary care providers have lacked a robust evidence base to guide recommendations on complementary approaches as practiced and available in the United States. The new review gives primary care providers — who frequently see patients with chronic pain — tools to inform decision-making on how to help manage that pain.

“For many Americans who suffer from chronic pain, medications may not completely relieve pain and can produce unwanted side effects. As a result, many people may turn to nondrug approaches to help manage their pain,” said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., NCCIH’s lead epidemiologist and lead author of the analysis. “Our goal for this study was to provide relevant, high-quality information for primary care providers and for patients who suffer from chronic pain.”

The researchers reviewed 105 U.S.-based randomized controlled trials, from the past 50 years, that were relevant to pain patients in the United States and met inclusion criteria. Although the reporting of safety information was low overall, none of the clinical trials reported significant side effects due to the interventions.

The review focused on U.S.-based trial results on seven approaches used for one or more of five painful conditions — back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine — and found promise in the following for safety and effectiveness in treating pain:

  • Acupuncture and yoga for back pain
  • Acupuncture and tai chi for osteoarthritis of the knee
  • Massage therapy for neck pain with adequate doses and for short-term benefit
  • Relaxation techniques for severe headaches and migraine.

Though the evidence was weaker, the researchers also found that massage therapy, spinal manipulation, and osteopathic manipulation may provide some help for back pain, and relaxation approaches and tai chi might help people with fibromyalgia.

“These data can equip providers and patients with the information they need to have informed conversations regarding non-drug approaches for treatment of specific pain conditions,” said David Shurtleff, Ph.D., deputy director of NCCIH. “It’s important that continued research explore how these approaches actually work and whether these findings apply broadly in diverse clinical settings and patient populations.”

Read more about this report at nccih.nih.gov/pain_review.

About the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH): NCCIH’s mission is to define, through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health approaches and their roles in improving health and health care. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. Follow us on Twitter (link is external),Facebook (link is external), and YouTube.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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Reference

Nahin RL, Boineau R, Khalsa PS, Stussman BJ, Weber WJ. (2016 September 7).  Evidence-based evaluation of complementary health approaches for pain management in the United States. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2016;91(9):1292-1306. Retrieved from address http://www.ishn.com/articles/104834-non-drug-approaches-to-pain-management-prove-effective