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.
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
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.”
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
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.
Overall costs vary significantly by industry and geography.
Plan design changes strain employees financially.
PPOs, CDHPs have the biggest impact.
Overall, wellness program adoption holds steady, but program design is changing.
Metal levels drive plan decisions.
Key trends to watch in 2017:
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:
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.
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
Article Originally Sourced from Carrier Management
By placing the right type of workers in close proximity to each other, employers can generate up to a 15 percent increase in organizational performance, a new study reveals.
For a workforce of 2,000 employees, that translates into adding $1 million per year to the bottom line, according to research into “strategic seating” performed by Cornerstone OnDemand and researchers at Harvard Business School, which uncovers how the distance between two employees’ desks affects various performance measures and company profit.
The authors suggest that while money and time spent on hiring practices, employee education and performance incentives are all effective ways to boost productivity, simply rearranging employee seating is a faster, low-cost means to the same end.
“Physical space is something organizations can manage relatively inexpensively, and it should be viewed as an important resource in increasing the returns to human capital,” said Dylan Minor, visiting assistant professor for Harvard Business School and one of the study’s authors, in a statement.
Specifically, the research report titled “Planning Strategic Seating to Maximize Employee Performance” reveals the most beneficial seating patterns for three types of workers: productive workers, generalists and quality workers.
The study is based on data from more than 2,000 employees over a two-year period provided by a single large technology company with several locations in the U.S. and Europe. It focuses on an analysis of a distance-weighted metric for each employee called “spillover,” which provides an aggregate measure of the performance of the employee’s surrounding peers, concluding that “spillover” is minimal for workers with common strengths. But workers are greatly affected by “spillover” effects on their weak dimension.
For the complete article, please click here.
What are your top concerns as an employer? See what others had to say in the article by Tim Gould.
What’s keeping C-level execs up at night? Just a few small concerns like the new overtime rules, a likely increase in bias claims based on sexual orientation, the Affordable Care Act and the threat of workplace violence.
Those are the takeaways from the 2016 Executive Employer Survey from Littler, the giant employment law firm. The fifth annual survey, completed by 844 in-house counsel, human resources professionals and C-suite executives from some of America’s largest companies, examines the key legal, economic and social issues impacting employers as the 2016 presidential election approaches.
As you well know, the Department of Labor (DOL) has advanced several regulatory initiatives that have brought the agency’s enforcement of federal employment laws to the forefront for employers. This concern is no doubt driven in large part by the recently finalized Fair Labor Standard Act overtime regs, which will dramatically increase the number of Americans who can qualify for overtime pay. Although respondents completed the survey in the weeks prior to the release of the final rule, 65% had already conducted audits to identify affected employees.
“Employers are clearly feeling the impact of the DOL’s increasingly aggressive regulatory agenda, most notably the new overtime regulations,” Littler attorneys Tammy McCutchen and Lee Schreter said in a joint statement.
They added a sobering note: “While it is encouraging that the majority of respondents started to prepare before the rule was finalized, more than a quarter (28%) said they had taken no action given delays in the rulemaking process. Given that the reclassification process can take up to six months and the rule is unlikely to be blocked from going into effect on December 1, 2016, employers should move quickly to ensure compliance.”
And participants are pretty sure the DOL’s going to be aggressive about making the new rules stick: The vast majority of respondents to this year’s survey (82%) expect DOL enforcement to have an impact on their workplace over the next 12 months, with 31% anticipating a significant impact (up from 18% in the 2015 survey).
Where are the presidential candidates likely to land on employment policies? The majority of respondents (75%) said income inequality (e.g., overtime rules, state equal pay, minimum wage laws, etc.) would be a significant priority of the Democratic candidate. Only 4% felt income inequality would be a significant priority of the Republican candidate.
With the National Labor Relations Board’s recent expansion of the definition of a “joint employer,” 70% of respondents to the Littler survey expect a rise in claims over the next year based on actions of subcontractors, staffing agencies and franchisees. Approximately half of respondents predicted higher costs (53%) and increased caution in entering into arrangements that might constitute joint employment (49%).
As was the case in the 2015 survey, 85% of employers said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would have an impact on their workplace in the next 12 months. While two-thirds said they do not expect a repeal of the ACA if a Republican is elected president this fall, respondents saw a greater likelihood of changes to individual provisions. Fifty-three percent said a Republican administration could lead to a repeal of or changes to the Cadillac excise tax and 48% saw a likelihood for changes to the play-or-pay mandate.
Today’s companies are increasingly experiencing the incursion of social issues into the workplace, the survey indicated.
In the largest year-over-year change in Littler’s survey results, 74% of respondents expect more discrimination claims over the next year related to the rights of LGBT workers (up from 31% in 2015) and 61% expect more claims based on equal pay (up from 34% in 2015).
This change is driven by LGBT discrimination and equal pay ranking among the top enforcement priorities for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), but it also mirrors key focus areas for the Obama administration, government efforts at the state and federal levels, and increased public awareness.
In response to tragic mass shootings across the nation, companies are taking a range of actions to keep their employees safe, including updating or implementing a zero-tolerance workplace policy (52%), conducting pre-employment screenings (40%) and holding training programs (38%). Only 11% of respondents said they had not taken any action because violence is not a concern for their company.
“Putting policies in place to increase awareness of workplace violence and ensure that employees understand how to report threats in the workplace are steps that all employers would be advised to take,” said Littler’s Terri Solomon, who has extensive experience counseling employers on workplace violence prevention. “Unfortunately, even though workplace violence – and particularly active shooter instances – are statistically rare, no employer is truly immune.”
See the original article from HRMorning.com Here.
Gould, T. (2016, July 13). Report highlights employers’ biggest concerns: ACA, new bias claims and OT regs [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/report-highlights-employers-biggest-concerns-aca-new-bias-claims-and-ot-regs/
Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Bill Olson
Two-thirds of employers believe that good benefits increase employee productivity, according to the 2016 United Benefit Advisors Benefits Opinion Survey of employers. Given the ever increasing cost of health care, UBA finds that one of the best long-term cost-containment strategies available to employers today is an effective wellness program that strives to keep low-risk individuals from becoming high-risk, and helps high-risk individuals reduce their need for medical services.
UBA finds that wellness programs have evolved substantially since they first appeared on the market, and today announces a new Whitepaper: Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization, to educate employers about the latest trends in wellness program success.
“Wellness programs were initially tacked on to an employee’s benefits and consisted of just the basics — physical activity, nutrition, and smoking cessation,” says Travis Horne, MBA, and Director of Health & Well-Being at Massachusetts-based UBA Partner Firm, Borislow Insurance.
“But there’s been a shift: the new thought is that it’s more important to target the solution for a client, rather than just putting something fun in place,” says Horne. “Employers are taking the holistic view of the employee so that there is meaningful change. Basically, there are five different elements — physical, financial, workplace, community, and mind/spirit. Some employers may only focus on three, but the majority focus on all five elements in order to create a culture of health & wellbeing, change unhealthy behaviors and develop a sustainable wellness program.”
According to UBA, some of the latest wellness program trends, include:
In UBA’s new Whitepaper: Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization, readers will learn which aspects of wellness programs are finding the most success and the most critical five steps to making any wellness program work.
Download UBA’s Whitepaper: Wellness Programs — Good for You & Good for Your Organization, athttp://bit.ly/wellness-whitepaper.
Compliance Advisor: Understanding Wellness Programs and their Legal Requirements
One of the main reasons employers are slow to adopt wellness programs is a lack of time and resources, startup costs, and not knowing the legal requirements, finds UBA.
The new Affordable Care Act (ACA) Compliance Advisor paper from UBA, “Understanding Wellness Programs and Their Legal Requirements,” reviews the five most critical questions that wellness program sponsors should ask and work through to determine the obligations of their wellness program under the ACA, HIPAA, ADA, GINA, and ERISA, as well as considerations for wellness programs that involve tobacco use in any way. With over 20 pages of comprehensive guidance, examples and frequently asked questions, this is an invaluable employer resource.
Download the UBA Compliance Advisor, Understanding Wellness Programs and their Legal Requirements at http://bit.ly/wellness-requirements (free registration required).
“Employers are starting to recognize that promoting healthy behavior internally is also a way to educate and change behavior at home and in families,” says Les McPhearson, CEO of UBA. “When it comes to reducing health care premium costs, wellness is one area that employers cannot afford to ignore.”
Olson, B. (2016 September 8). Whitepapers: making wellness programs work, from united benefit advisors. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/news/whitepapers-making-wellness-programs-work-from-united-benefit-advisors
Are your employees prepared for retirement? See how Cath McCabe gives tips and tricks on coaching your employee for retirement.
America may be becoming the land of the free and the home of the grey as more adults are living longer lives.
According to the Administration on Aging, the number of centenarians more than doubled between 1980 and 2013. But lifespans aren’t the only thing increasing – so are the expenses that many older Americans face.
Retiree health care costs have surged exponentially – the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) estimates that the average healthy 65-year-old man will need $124,000 to handle future medical expenses. For a healthy woman of the same age, the expected amount is $140,000.
Many of these extra years – or decades – will be spent in retirement, so it’s crucial that Americans plan to have the income they need not only to retire, but to last throughout a potentially long retirement.
Since many adults use employer-sponsored retirement plans as a source of retirement funding, plan sponsors are in a key position to act as retirement “coaches” by encouraging employees to plan ahead and help them plan for their financial security in retirement.
We have found that employers are a trusted source of financial information for employees. Plan sponsors can leverage this trust to engage employees with a variety of programs and tools that help them understand their future retirement income needs.
A plan sponsor’s role as coach begins when employees begin their careers by providing financial education. Education can help new employees recognize the importance of contributing to a retirement plan and the benefits of saving early, as well as help to optimize employee participation in retirement programs. Education designed for mid-career employees, and those nearing retirement, can cover more complex topics as they encounter life events that require a change to their road map for retirement.
And if employees can get started earlier in their careers, there is an increased likelihood that employees will have a positive retirement experience. A recent survey among current TIAA retirees found that those who began retirement planning before age 30 are more likely to retire before the age of 60, and 75 percent say they are very satisfied with their retirement.
Many Americans need help in setting and achieving their retirement goals – a recent survey found that 29 percent of Americans are saving nothing at all for retirement. It’s important to develop a retirement coaching strategy that can help put participants in the right frame of mind and offers the resources they need to establish clear retirement goals and a road map for achieving those goals.
Many people think about their retirement savings in terms of accumulation – how much of a “nest egg” they’re able to build to fund their retirement. But employers should help their employees think about their retirement savings in terms of the amount of income they will have each month to cover their living expenses. Having a source of guaranteed lifetime income can help employees mitigate the risk of outliving their retirement savings.
As a rule of thumb, most employees will need between 70 percent and 100 percent of their pre-retirement income. If employees find they are not on track to meet this ratio, plan sponsors can help identify the necessary actions to increase the chance of success. For example, employees may need to increase their savings rate. Plan sponsors can help by encouraging employees to save enough of their own dollars to get the full employer match. If employees already are saving enough to get the full match, they then should aim to increase their contributions each year until they are saving the maximum amount allowed. Many employees older than 50 also can take advantage of catch-up provisions to save additional funds.
Perhaps the most important function of education is to drive employees to receive personalized advice from a licensed financial consultant supporting the employer’s retirement plan. This is where the road map is created, with the advisor providing turn-by-turn guidance. For most employees, an annual meeting can help keep them on track.
Why is it important to “coach” employees to create the road map? Simply put, it can improve both plan outcomes and the employees’ retirement outcomes. Advice is proven to positively correlate with positive action – enrolling, saving or increasing saving or optimizing allocations. (See this Retirement Readiness research for more information). Individuals who have discussed retirement with an advisor are much more likely to “run the numbers” and calculate how much income they’ll need in retirement – 79 percent versus only 32 percent who have not met with an advisor.
Helping employees along the road to retirement is a win-win for employees and plan sponsors, even beyond the fiduciary requirements. A 2015 EBRI report found that 54 percent of employees who are extremely satisfied with their benefits, such as their retirement plan and health insurance, also are extremely satisfied with their current job. Similarly, a 2013-2014 Towers Watson study revealed that nearly half (45 percent) of American workers agree that their retirement plan is an important reason why they choose to stay with their current employer. Establishing strong connections between employees and their retirement plans may aid employers’ retention efforts.
Once employees have a better sense of the actions they need to take, plan sponsors can provide additional support by highlighting the investment choices that may help employees achieve their desired level of income. Many employees may understand how to save, but they are far less familiar with how and when to withdraw and use their savings after they have stopped working. Offering access to lifetime income options, such as low-cost annuities, through the plan’s investment menu can help employees create a monthly retirement “paycheck” that they can’t outlive.
The peace of mind that these solutions offer can last a lifetime, too. A survey among TIAA retirees found that those who have incorporated lifetime income solutions into their retirement have been satisfied with that decision. Among the retirees with a fixed or variable annuity, 92 percent are satisfied with their decision to annuitize.
Employers also should set a benchmark for regularly evaluating employees’ progress toward their retirement goals. This will allow employees to monitor their retirement outlook and identify opportunities to adjust their savings strategy so they don’t veer off their retirement road map.
In addition to the financial aspects of retirement planning, it’s important to factor in emotional considerations. Offering a mentoring program, one-on-one advice and guidance sessions, or workshops and seminars to guide people on how to navigate this major milestone could be helpful for new retirees.
For some employees, going from working full time to not working at all may be a too abrupt change. Employers may want to consider offering a phased approach to retirement that gives employees the opportunity to work part time or consult to help ease the transition. An alumni program that offers occasional reunions or other programming can help retirees still feel connected to their organization for many years after they stop working.
Employers are uniquely positioned to guide employees through the retirement planning process, from early in their careers to their last day in the office – and beyond. It’s not enough to simply get employees to retirement: Plan sponsors need to help them get through retirement as well. Establishing a coaching mindset can be an effective way to actively engage employees in retirement planning and help them see that the end of their working careers can be the beginning of a wonderful new stage of life.
See the Original Post from BenefitsPro.com Here.
McCabe, C. (2016, August 04). Adopting a coaching mindset to help employees plan for retirement [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/08/04/adopting-a-coaching-mindset-to-help-employees-plan?slreturn=1472491323&page_all=1
Originally published by our partner, United Benefit Advisors on August 24, 2016.
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. Of the preliminary findings, we see that employees continue to take on more cost for coverage. The median in-network deductible on an employer-sponsored PPO health plan (which nearly half of all employees enroll in) increased 50 percent, from $1,000 to $1,500 in 2016, yet employer costs remain steady.
The survey shows that average health plan costs for employers actually decreased slightly from $9,736 in 2015 to $9,727 in 2016 while the employees’ share increased as they continue to accept lower coverage levels. Of the $9,727, employees contributed an average of $3,378 and employers contributed on average $6,350, whereas in 2015, employers paid $6,403 of the $9,736 average overall cost, while employees paid $3,333.
Monthly Premiums and Copays
UBA finds that total monthly premiums, combined for all types of plans, remained flat at $509 for a single. However, employers shifted costs to employees in other ways, including median out-of-network deductibles, which jumped from $3,000 to $3,400 this year (a 13.3 percent increase) and median ER copays increased from $250 to $300 (20.0 percent).
The employees’ share of monthly premiums increased only slightly from $140 in 2015 to $144 (2.6 percent), and family portions went from $540 in 2015 to $552 in 2016 (2.2 percent).
UBA also finds that families are again bearing the brunt of the cost of health insurance. For an employee electing single coverage, the employer covers 71 percent of the monthly premium, and only 54 percent of a family premium.
For commentary from UBA Partners on these cost trends, read UBA’s breaking news release.
For comprehensive survey findings, pre-order UBA’s 2016 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be available to the public in late September.
Get the latest trends in healthcare benefits in the survey conducted by SHRM.
Original Post from SHRM.org on July 13, 2016