Small Businesses See Big Hikes in Health Plan Costs

Original post ubabenefits.com

Health insurance premium renewal rates increased an average of 6.2 percent for all plans in 2015, up from the previous year’s 5.6 percent increase, according to new survey data released from United Benefit Advisors (UBA), the nation’s leading independent employee benefits advisory organization. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, which account for five million U.S. employers, were hit the hardest, finds UBA.

“In 2014, employers overwhelmingly utilized early renewal strategies to delay moving to higher cost ACA- compliant plans and keep increases in check,” says Les McPhearson, CEO of UBA. “These delay tactics ran out in 2015 and, as a result, these small businesses (that make up the majority of American businesses), were forced into higher-cost, community-rated ACA plans. Without the negotiating power of bigger groups or the protection from grandmothering, many small employers were left with no cost containment strategies other than reducing coverage.”

Health Plan Costs

In line with previous years’ findings, UBA finds there are significant regional differences in health plan costs. The Northeast continues to be the region with the highest average annual cost per employee in the country, but Alaska tops the chart with an average annual cost of $12,822 per employee.

“To put that in perspective, that is 27.4 percent above the national average of $9,736 per employee annually,” says Matt Weimer, Director of Strategic Solutions for Diversified Insurance Solutions, a UBA Partner Firm. “In fact, Alaska is 11.1 percent above the fifth highest cost state of Massachusetts, which comes in at $11,468 average per employee annually.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii has the lowest average annual cost per employee, which is 24.5 percent below the national average at $7,610, finds UBA. Put another way, Alaska’s average annual cost is 51.0 percent higher than Hawaii.

“Hawaii is a state that was on the forefront of managed care and adopted an integrated care model as a strategy to address cost, quality, and access over 40 years ago,” explains Lon Wilson, President & CEO of The Wilson Agency, a UBA Partner Firm in Alaska. “Alaska, on the other hand, has resisted most forms of care management, not the least of which is the carrier’s limited ability to contract with physicians. We are just now beginning to see collaboration between payers, providers, and hospitals, but we are way behind the rest of the country. This, coupled with our small population, geographic size, lack of transportation infrastructure, and cultural diversity, add up to a perfect storm of high cost of care, large variations in quality and access challenges,” says Wilson.

Other states that fare better than the national average, and are among the five best states for health plan costs, include Arkansas, New Mexico, Virginia, and Oklahoma at $7,704, $7,793, $7,858, and $7,915, respectively.

Premiums increased the most for singles in Louisiana (23.5 percent) and California (17.2 percent), and families saw the biggest premium increase (7.6 percent) in South Carolina. Connecticut was the only state to see a modest decrease in single premiums (5.1 percent) and decreases in family premiums were largely nonexistent, according to the survey.

Costs and Contributions by Industry

Total costs per employee for the retail, construction, and hospitality sectors are 8.6 percent to 21.2 percent lower than the average, making employees in these industries among the least expensive to cover. Surprisingly, the finance industry eclipsed the government sector—the perennial leader in the highest costs per employee— and now pays, on average, $11,842 per employee, a 16 percent increase from 2014. Government plans still have the third highest average cost per employee ($11,817), yet employee contributions are 45.2 percent ($2,105) less than the average employee contribution of $3,333.

Health Plan Options

UBA finds that more than half (53.7 percent) of all employers offer one health plan to employees, while 28.7 percent offer two plan options, and 17.6 percent offer three or more options.

“The percentage of employers now offering three or more plans is of particular interest since it represents nearly a 28 percent increase over the past five years,” says McPhearson. “More and more, employers are offering expanded choices to employees either through private exchange solutions or by simply adding high-, medium-, and low-cost options, a trend we believe will continue to increase. Not only do employees get more options, but employers can introduce lower-cost plans that ultimately may attract enrollment and lower their costs.”


Group Healthcare Premiums by State: How does your plan stack up?

Original post ubabenefits.com

We recently highlighted the top five best and worst states for group health plan costs. See below for your state's average monthly premiums.

 2015 Monthly Premium by State© 2016 United Benefit Advisors, LLC. All rights reserved.

Contact us to benchmark your plan by industry, region, or employer size today.


Top Five Best and Worst States for Group Health Plans

Original post ubabenefits.com

Health insurance premium renewal rates increased an average of 6.2 percent for all plans in 2015, up from the previous year’s 5.6 percent increase, according to UBA’s Health Plan Survey. Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees, which account for five million U.S. employers, were hit the hardest.

When looking at the data regionally, the Northeast continues to be the region with the highest average annual health insurance cost per employee in the country, with four of the five highest cost states in that region. Plans in the Northeast continue to cost the most since they typically have low or no deductibles, contain more state-mandated benefits, and feature higher in-network coinsurance, among other factors. But the state with the highest average annual cost per employee is on the other side of the continent.

Alaska tops the chart with an average annual cost of $12,822 per employee. To put that in perspective, that is 27.4% above the national average of $9,736 per employee annually, and 11.8% above next highest cost state of Massachusetts, at $11,468. Rounding out the top five are New York at $12,162, New Jersey at $12,059 and Vermont at $11,920 per employee per year in average annual health insurance costs.

Average Annual Health Care Cost per Employee

Highest Cost States Lowest Cost States
Alaska $12,822 Hawaii $7,610
New York   12,162 Arkansas   7,704
New Jersey   12,059 New Mexico   7,793
Vermont   11,920 Virginia   7,858
Massachusetts   11,468 Oklahoma   7,915

On the other end of the spectrum, Hawaii has the lowest average annual cost per employee, which is 24.5% below the national average at $7,610. In contrast, Alaska’s average annual cost is 51.0% higher than Hawaii. Other states that fare better than the national average and are among the five best states for health plan costs are Arkansas ($7,704), New Mexico ($7,793), Virginia ($7,858), and Oklahoma ($7,915).


Case Study: Using Data to Identify Healthcare Savings for a Mid-size Manufacturer

Original post ubabenefits.com

Historically, companies have struggled with the best way to package and deliver benefits to attract talent and retain staff. Today, companies understand that they need to leverage a variety of solutions to provide meaningful healthcare coverage, promote wellbeing and mitigate cost. UBA Partners offer innovative product and service solutions to identify medical spend waste and improve efficient spend, allowing employers to reinvest in the correct resources that will improve employee health. For one mid-sized manufacturer, UBA Partner LHD Benefit Advisors used Vital Incite risk scoring tools to coordinate efforts between the employer HR and C-suite, the advisor and the population health consultant.

Key information unique to this employer:

  • Japanese owned and multiple nationalities employed with little knowledge of the American health care system other than in the HR team
  • Manufacturing company with predominately male employees
  • Onsite clinic opened April 2014 with initial services including primary care, physical therapy, massage therapy, lab, nurse health coaching
  • Increase in medical plan participation due to growing workforce and rich medical plan offered at a low cost to employees.

Value of what was delivered:

  • Improved risk migration of high/very high risk members (total population and same cohort)
  • Improved efficiency of medical plan utilization and improved unit cost
  • Improved care coordination (decreased ER visits, decrease in multiple medications, increase in number of members with a primary care physician)
  • Targeted outreach from onsite clinic to improve overall health of members

Problem 1: Increase in medical plan spend

Prior to the clinic opening, the medical plan saw utilization of ER visits and imaging services along with associated costs above benchmark. The number of covered lives (employees and spouses) was also increasing as well as the average employer paid amount per member due to high cost utilization of an unmanaged workforce. Current medical plans were two low deductible, PPO plans with little consumerism and offered at low cost to employees.

Problem 2: Low onsite clinic utilization

The first six months the clinic was open showed low utilization for several services resulting in the employer reducing services effective January 1, 2015, through March 31, 2015, to help reduce costs. The suspended services included patient advocacy, evening clinic hours, reduced health coaching hours and physical therapy. In order to fully recognize the benefit of an onsite clinic, employees needed easier access to the clinic during working hours, a better understanding of services provided (i.e. labs, medications and nurse coaching) and targeted outreach to key members.

Problem 3: Increase in risk migration of member population

Data revealed employees carried the majority of the high/very high risk, and risk migration from 2013 to 2014 showed a neutral to slight increase (Figure 1). Further analysis showed a higher than average percentage of untreated chronic conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Cost information from a disease perspective showed the potential impact specific disease programs within the clinic could have on employee health and medical cost.

Risk Distribution - high to very high riskRisk distribution bar chart

Analysis of Avoided Costs

The data reported from the population health team was instrumental in developing a strategy to have an impact on the member population and a successful onsite clinic. Once there was an understanding of the prospective risk and impact of chronic disease management by the employer C-suite, the HR team gained support for the initiatives developed by the population health and HR teams. A key illustration (Figure 2) to this point was showing a cost avoidance calculation for key services provided by the onsite clinic.

Avoided cost calculation


Employee Relations: Don't Bring Me Down!

Original post ubabenefits.com

Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.

Employers that ignore low-performing employees risk more than just productivity. In an article titled, “Study: Beware ‘Toxic’ Influence of Low-Performers” on the Society For Human Resource Management’s website, research found that low-performing employees hurt overall morale and increased their co-workers' workload. Furthermore, innovation and motivation are stifled and mediocrity is deemed acceptable.

What may be of most concern is that a mere 60% of survey respondents looked at their co-workers and would rehire them. Their motto should have been: we may hire the best, but we keep the rest.

Successful companies know how to weed out their weakest links, while rewarding and retaining high-performing employees. They know that employees who perform poorly can cause high-performing employees to seek jobs elsewhere. Successful companies are able to identify their best employees, then they establish incentives, opportunities, or other ways of ensuring they stay.

 

So, how do you identify the best, or even the best of the best? It’s not as easy as it may seem. These are the top 10% to 15% of the organization. A company must first determine a set of guidelines that mark an employee as a high performer. Once the guidelines are in place, observation of these employee traits should be done in order to ensure uniformity and that the guidelines were set correctly.

 

Now that a company knows what it expects in its employees, it’s time to announce that to everyone so that they either know they’re doing the right things, or can make a plan for improvement. At the same time, employers should conduct surveys on employee satisfaction. Their focus should be on their top performers and what makes them happy.

 

Plenty of data should be collected regarding the criteria that not only make an employee a top performer at the company, but also what he or she prefers in terms of job satisfaction. Going forward, this data should be matched to potential recruiting candidates for new positions. In addition, surveys that measure the quality of a new hire (i.e., whether the recruiter hired the right candidate) should be completed at predetermined intervals of three, six, nine, or 12 months.

 

In jobs where there is high demand and lots of attrition, correctly recruiting and retaining the best performers could be the key difference in a company’s success.

Here are the top 10 most costly U.S. workplace injuries

Original post lifehealthpro.com

Workplace injuries and accidents are the near the top of every employer’s list of concerns. Here is the countdown of the top 10 causes and direct costs of the most disabling U.S. workplace injuries. The definitions and examples are found at the BLS website.

  1. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks

Some of these tasks may include a word processor who looks from the computer monitor to a document and back several times a day or the cashier at the local grocery store who is scanning and bagging groceries for several hours at a time.

  1. Struck against object or equipment

This category of workplace injury applies to workers who are hurt by forcible contact or impact, for example, an office worker who bumps into a filing cabinet or an assembly line worker who stubs a toe on stacked parts.

  1. Caught in or compressed by equipment or objects

These workplace injuries result from workers being caught in equipment or machinery that’s still running as well as in rolling, shifting or sliding objects.

Picture the scene in a movie in which wine barrels topple over, catching the bad guy beneath them, only in this case, it’s the employee whose job it may be to stack the barrels. Perhaps it’s the experienced worker who removes a machine guard to dislodge material that’s stuck and gets a finger caught when the machine starts moving again.

  1. Slip or trip without fall

Occasionally, workers do slip or trip without hitting the ground. Think of the employee entering the workplace who slips on icy stairs but is able to grab the handrail to prevent hitting the ground. But the action of grabbing the handrail may cause the employee to injure his shoulder or wrench her knee.

  1. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle

The worker may be the driver, a passenger or a pedestrian, but the cause of the injury is an automobile, truck or motorcycle.

  1. Other exertions or bodily reactions

These motions include bending, crawling, reaching, twisting, climbing or stepping, according to the BLS. Consider, for example, a roofing contractor’s employees who are continually climbing up and down ladders.

  1. Struck by object or equipment

This category covers a range of possible injuries, from being struck by an object dropped by a fellow worker to being caught in a swinging door or gate. Picture the construction worker on a scaffold dropping a hammer on the worker below.

  1. Falls to lower level

The roofer could fall to the ground from the roof or ladder, or an office worker standing on a stepstool, reaching for a heavy file box, could fall to the floor.

  1. Falls on same level

The second most costly workplace injury, surprisingly, is a fall on the same level. Picture the employee who is walking through the office and falls over an uneven floor surface or someone leaning too far back in an office chair and toppling over.

  1. Overexertion involving an outside source

The BLS explains that overexertion occurs when the physical effort of a worker who lifts, pulls, pushes, holds, carries, wields or throws an object results in an injury.

The object being handled is often heavier than the weight that a worker should be handling or the object is handled improperly. For example, lifting from a shelf that’s too high, or in a space that’s cramped. Within the broad category of sprains, strains, and tears caused by overexertion, most incidents resulted specifically from overexertion in lifting.

Risk managers should work with their carriers and workplace safety specialists to minimize injuries, lost work days and workers’ compensation costs. With a little effort, employers can understand more about the causes of accidents and injuries in their organizations, identify the appropriate actions to reduce the number of injuries and minimize employee disabilities from workplace accidents.

 

 

Workplace injuries and accidents are the near the top of every employer’s list of concerns. Here is the countdown of the top 10 causes and direct costs of the most disabling U.S. workplace injuries.


4 ways to maximize the benefit of your workday breaks

Take a look at your workday. When do you take a break? How long is your break? What do you do on your break? Do you take more than one break? Do you feel recharged after your break?

Those questions were the focus of a study done by 2 Baylor University researchers. Emily Hunter, Ph.D. and Cindy Wu, Ph.D. are associate professors of management in Baylor's Hankamer School of business. The pair surveyed 95 employees between the ages of 22 and 67 over a 5-day workweek. Each person was asked to document each break they took.

Their empirical study - "Give Me a Better Break: Choosing Workday Break Activities to Maximize Resource Recovery" - was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

The research defined a break as “any period of time, formal or informal, during the workday in which work-relevant tasks are not required or expected, including but not limited to a break for lunch, coffee, personal email or socializing with coworkers, not including bathroom breaks.”

When compiling the total of 959 break surveys, Hunter and Wu were able to provide a greater understanding of workday breaks. Their findings offer suggestions on when, where and how to plan the most beneficial daily escapes when on the clock.

Key findings of the study include:

1) Best time to take a workday break: Mid-morning.

A typical work day may have you counting down to lunch, but the study found an earlier break is more successful in replenishing energy, concentration and motivation.

“We found that when more hours had elapsed since the beginning of the work shift, fewer resources and more symptoms of poor health were reported after a break,” the study says. “Therefore, breaks later in the day seem to be less effective.”

2) What to do on your break: Something you enjoy and not necessarily non-work related.

The study found no evidence that non-work-related activities are more beneficial. Instead, do things choose to do and like to do which could include work-related tasks.

“Finding something on your break that you prefer to do – something that’s not given to you or assigned to you – are the kinds of activities that are going to make your breaks much more restful, provide better recovery and help you come back to work stronger,” Hunter said.

3)"Better Breaks" = Better health, increased job satisfaction

Employee surveys showed those that took mid-morning breaks and did things they preferred led to less somatic symptoms like headaches, eyestrain and lower back pain after the break.

The study also found the employees also experienced increased job satisfaction and a decrease in emotional exhaustion.

4) But how long should the break be?

The study wasn't able to pinpoint an exact length of time for a better workday break, but it did find that more short breaks with associated with higher resources - energy, concentration, and motivation.

“Unlike your cellphone, which popular wisdom tells us should be depleted to zero percent before you charge it fully to 100 percent, people instead need to charge more frequently throughout the day,” Hunter said.

Hunter and Wu believe the results of the study benefit both managers and employees.


Back to (Driving) School: More Crashes and Convictions for Teens that Skip Driver Ed

Source: AAA Newsroom, by Erin Stepp

Although vehicle crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens, fewer new drivers are participating in what used to be considered a rite of passage – driver education.  State funding and requirements for these programs have declined over recent decades, leaving uneducated teen drivers vulnerable on America’s roads. New research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reveals that teens that skip this important step are involved in more crashes and receive more traffic convictions compared to their peers that participated in driver education.

“This research confirms what conventional wisdom tells us – driver education makes a difference,” said Dr. William Van Tassel, AAA manager of Driver Training Programs. “Despite recent declines in participation, the overwhelming majority of Americans believe new drivers should take part in this critical step of the learning-to-drive process.”

This study assessed examples of U.S. and Canadian driver education programs using a variety of evaluation methods including surveys, driver’s licensing tests, driver simulators and the review of driving records. The results revealed that several key differences exist between teens who receive driver education and those who do not, including:

  • Driver education is associated with a lower incidence of both crashes and convictions – reducing crashes by 4.3 percent and convictions by nearly 40 percent.
  • Teens that completed driver education not only scored higher on the driving exam, they also demonstrated modest increases in knowledge over their peers who did not take any formal training.

“Overall, the findings suggest that driver education can make a difference, but there is still much room for improvement in most existing programs,” noted Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This underscores the need for states to adopt the NHTSA-supported Standards that are designed to enhance the scope and quality of driver education.”

AAA, a vocal advocate for teen driver safety for nearly 80 years, works at the state level to improve driver education programs and prioritizes five of the NHTSA-funded Novice Teen Driver Education and Training Administrative Standards, owned by the driver education community:

  1. Requiring a teen’s parent/guardian to attend an educational seminar
  2. Ensuring that classroom instruction is completed in no less than 30 days
  3. Requiring annual continuing education for driving instructors
  4. Ensuring standards are met by public and private driving schools
  5. Adopting a comprehensive graduated drivers licensing (GDL) system that integrates driver education

AAA and the AAA Foundation are committed to helping teens stay safe on the roads and have developed comprehensive resources including TeenDriving.AAA.com, a state-specific website to help parents navigate the learning-to-drive process, DriversZed, an interactive tool designed to teach teens how to react in various driving scenarios and the StartSmart Online Parent Session, a two-hour webinar that explains the licensing process and parents’ role, and demonstrates how to maximize the practice driving that parents/guardians are required to do with their teen.

Established by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit, publicly-supported charitable educational and research organization. Dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries on our roads, the Foundation’s mission is to prevent crashes and save lives through research and education about traffic safety. The Foundation has funded over 200 research projects designed to discover the causes of traffic crashes, prevent them, and minimize injuries when they do occur.  Visit http://www.aaafoundation.org/ for more information on this and other research.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.


Study: Older drivers benefit from exercise

Originally posted by Liz Seegert at the New Haven Register.

Doug Crocker knows a thing or two about driving. The 74-year-old former Hartford police officer and his wife have navigated the continental United Staters three times in their motor home.

Yet even experienced drivers feel the effects of aging when behind the wheel. “It’s harder to turn around now to look for blind spots,” Crocker said. “Backing up is a real issue too,” especially when he drives the Jeep they tow along for in-town use.

Age-related decline in mobility, flexibility and reaction time can seriously impact driving and safety. Some simple, targeted exercises may ease normal age-related physical changes and help keep Crocker – and many of the 700,000 older Connecticut drivers -- safely on the road.

A study by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the M.I.T. Age Lab looked at the effects of exercise on older drivers’ strength, flexibility, coordination and range of motion. Participants used a specially designed exercise program and an X-Box. Drivers who exercised for 15-20 minutes daily reported greater ease in turning their heads to look in blind spots when changing lanes or backing up, compared with a similar group that did not exercise.

The exercise group also could rotate their bodies further to scan the road when making right hand turns compared with non-exercisers.

“When you think about the risks in intersections, that’s a very positive outcome,” said Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center, part of The Hartford Insurance Co. The group also was able to get in and out of their cars more quickly, which translates to improved flexibility, something “so essential to be able to respond to all of the various actions that are required for driving,” she said.

The study was important in establishing a connection between exercise and a specific fitness program and driving ability, added Olshevski.

“We wanted to look at the impact of physical fitness on driving skills of older drivers before they have really significant health issues,” she said.

There were more than 2.4 million licensed drivers in Connecticut in 2012, according to the latest figures available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. State Department of Motor Vehicle data show that one in five drivers is age 65 or older. In Connecticut, 50 of the 332 fatal traffic crashes involved older drivers in 2012, according to the NHTSA.

Frank Pagerino, AARP’s state coordinator for driver safety, said, “Most older driver don’t complain about their physical ailments, but when we start talking about it, they admit they can’t walk, or it’s hard to bend down, or turn their necks.’’ That affects their ability to conduct maneuvers such as lane changes, which require turning the torso and neck to make sure there’s no oncoming traffic, he said. AARP is a partner with The Hartford Insurance Co., offering car insurance to mature drivers.

Older adults have a higher crash rate per mile driven and are frailer. So when they crash, their chances of injury or death is greater compared with a younger driver in that same crash, according to Yale doctoral student Nancy Knechel.

Knechel conducted a separate analysis on the effects of various interventions on improving skills of older drivers. She found exercise was the best approach to maintaining driving ability in older adults compared with other activities such as cognitive training.

Driving is more than getting from point A to B, she said. Seniors who don’t drive have less social interaction, more depression, and worse overall health. “Even though it seems like a quick Band-Aid to take them off the road, it probably creates bigger problems,” Knechel said.

In a 2013 national telephone survey of 1,107 drivers age 50 and older, turning their heads to look at blind spots, getting in and out of a vehicle, and reaching and adjusting the seat belt ranked as the top three physical challenges.

“The real question is what can people do to try to extend their ability to stay safe on the road as long as possible. That’s why we wanted to look at the role of exercise as an empowerment model, rather than a reactive ‘oh you’ve got to get off of the road’ model,” Olshevski said.

Many newer cars have built-in technology that addresses age-related challenges, such as blind spot warnings, light-sensitive headlights and backup cameras. Fifty-one percent of consumers surveyed by the Hartford Center said they would feel safer with at least one of these technologies in their car.

AARP’s Pagerino cautioned that technology is also a distraction, because “you’re taking your eyes off the road to look at a screen and your concentration gets blurred. I’m a bit leery, but that’s what’s coming down the pike.”

This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).


'Smart' Seat Could Reduce Whiplash Injuries

Originally posted on August 25, 2014 on The Globe and Mall.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) are working to create a car seat system that can mitigate the effect of whiplash enough to significantly reduce the risk of injury from low-speed rear-end collisions. In the United States, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that more than $8.8-billion (U.S.) is paid out annually for whiplash injuries, accounting for 25% of the total spent for all crash injuries.

The economic and social strain caused by these soft tissue injuries was an impetus for Daniel Mang, a kinesiology student at UBC, to develop an active "smart seat" that responds to the pulse created during a collision, and automatically adapts and adjusts the seat on impact to lessen the effect on the head and neck. Mang says that the smart seat has more time to adjust (than an airbag), so it would rely on technology similar to the airbags to sense the collision and adapt the seat in response to accelerometers (that can estimate how much you weigh.)

To see the full article, go to:www.theglobeandmail.com/