6 Promising Wearables Tips for Wellness Programs

Have you been trying to implement wearable technology in your wellness program? Check out this great article by Jessica Grossmeier from Benefits Pro for some great tips to know when integrating wearable technology into your company's wellness program.

Wearable devices can be a powerful element in a workplace wellness program. They add a fun factor to fitness challenges, and allow individuals to more clearly see the progress they’re making toward their goals.

A new report and video from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) identifies six promising practices for effectively integrating wearables into wellness programs.

Read on to find out how these companies increased participation in wellness programs and even decreased health cost trends for some participants.

1. Remove financial barriers

While many people have discovered the value of wearables, more than half of Americans still believe the devices are too expensive, and that may be enough to keep them from participating in a wellness program. Giving the devices to employees for free or at reduced cost removes a significant barrier and makes it easier for everyone to participate.

2. Choose culturally relevant incentives

Having goals can help drive change, and the data fitness trackers generate make it simple and fun to track progress toward those goals. Offer employees incentives for reaching targets, but make sure the incentives make sense for your workplace. For example, some employees may value prime parking or internal recognition more than a cash prize or a gift card.

3. Cultivate support at home

Convincing employees to walk more is easier if they have someone to walk with. When you involve spouses or domestic partners in the program, employees have someone at home motivated to hit the trail with them rather than settling in for an evening on the couch.

4. Get the details right

There’s a lot to consider when you add wearables to a wellness program, and it’s not always possible to think of everything before you start. Working out the details with a small pilot program creates an opportunity to identify challenges and opportunities, streamline processes, and set meaningful goals for the program once it expands companywide.

5. Shake things up

Wearables can add a fun factor to your wellness program, but even fun activities can wear out their welcome. It’s important to keep things fresh in your wearables strategy, so watch how employees use their devices, and change things up when you see an opportunity to increase engagement.

6. Keep your eye on the prize

Wearable devices show great promise, but a device isn’t a magic solution. Success with wearables requires planning. Before you hand out your first device, make sure you know what you want to accomplish, how the device fits in your broader well-being strategy, and how you’ll measure success.

The employers who participated in the HERO report saw increased participation in wellness programs — employees enjoyed using the devices. And at least one company saw decreased health cost trends for participants. They attribute their successful integration of wearables to these six promising practices.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Grossmeier J. (2017 July 31). 6 promising wearables tips for wellness programs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/07/31/6-promising-wearables-tips-for-wellness-programs?page_all=1


3 takeaways from the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study

IBM has just released their findings on their cost of data breaches study. Check out this great by Denny Jacob from Property & Casualty 360 and find out what they key findings from IBM research means for you.

As companies continue to infuse technology into their business models, they must also keep up with an ever-changing digital landscape. In 2017 and beyond, companies need to consider their cybersecurity practices.

As cyber attacks continue to rise in frequency and sophistication, companies should also consider where data breaches are occurring. For those looking to understand data breaches by country, the latest report from IBM Security and Ponemon Institute sheds light on such a topic.

Sponsored by IBM Security and conducted by Ponemon Institute, the study found that the average cost of a data breach is $3.62 million globally, a 10% decline since 2016.

To explore the complete report, visit the IBM Security Data Breach Calculator, an interactive tool that allows you to manipulate report data and visualize the cost of a data breach across locations and industries, and understand how different factors affect breach costs.

Or, keep reading for highlights from the study's key findings.

The costs by region.

In the 2017 global study, the overall cost of a data breach decreased to $3.62 million, which is down 10% from $4 million last year. While global costs decreased, many regions experienced an increase.

In the U.S., the cost of a data breach was $7.35 million, a 5% increase compared to last year. When compared to other regions, U.S. organizations experienced the most expensive data breaches in the 2017 report. In the Middle East, organizations saw the second highest average cost of a data breach at $4.94 million  an uptick of 10% compared with the previous year. Canada ranked third with data breaches costing organizations $4.31 million on average.

European nations experienced the most significant decrease in costs. Germany, France, Italy and the U.K. experienced significant decreases compared to the four-year average costs. Australia, Canada and Brazil also experienced decreased costs compared to the four-year average cost of a data breach.

Time is money when you're containing a data breach.

For the third year in a row, the study found that having an Incident Response (IR) Team in place significantly reduced the cost of a data breach. IR teams, along with a formal incident response plan, can assist organizations to navigate the complicated aspects of containing a data breach to mitigate further losses.

According to the study, the cost of a data breach was nearly $1 million lower on average for organizations that were able to contain a data breach in less than 30 days compared to those that took longer than 30 days. The speed of response will be increasingly critical as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is implemented in May 2018, which will require organizations doing business in Europe to report data breaches within 72 hours or risk facing fines of up to 4% of their global annual turnover.

There's still room for improvement for organizations when it comes to the time to identify and respond to a breach. On average, organizations took more than six months to identify a breach, and more than 66 additional days to contain a breach once discovered.

Additional key findings.

  • For the seventh year in a row, healthcare topped the list as the most expensive industry for data breaches. Healthcare data breaches cost organizations $380 per record, more than 2.5 times the global average overall cost at $141 per record.
  • Close to half of all data breaches (47%) were caused by malicious or criminal attacks, resulting in an average of $156 per record to resolve.
  • Data breaches resulting from third party involvement were the top contributing factor that led to an increase in the cost of a data breach, increasing the cost $17 per record. The takeaway: Organizations need to evaluate the security posture of their third-party providers  including payroll, cloud providers and CRM software  to ensure the security of employee and customer data.
  • Incident response, encryption and education were the factors shown to have the most impact on reducing the cost of a data breach. Having an incident response team in place resulted in $19 reduction in cost per lost or stolen record, followed by extensive use of encryption ($16 reduction per record) and employee training ($12.5 reduction per record).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob D. (2017 August 8). 3 takeways from the 2017 cost of data breach study[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/07/05/3-takeaways-from-the-2017-cost-of-data-breach-stud?ref=rss&_lrsc=05d8112f-7bfb-4c4d-916f-0e2085debd9a&slreturn=1502379703&page_all=1


Beyond the Basics: Snapchat "Snap Map" Safety

Did You Know?

Snapchat is one of the top five social media platforms among young people, with approximately 150 million daily active users. While Snapchat is designed to be a fun photo, video and text messaging app, a number of features—particularly the Snap Map function—pose serious safety concerns.

What is Snap Map?

Introduced in a June 2017 update, Snap Map allows users to share their exact location with their friends within the Snapchat app. Snap Map gathers location data using a smartphone's GPS sensor and displays the time of day an individual is at a specific location and his or her speed of travel. This information is shown on a map that can be accessed when a user first opens Snapchat and pinches the screen to zoom out.

While Snapchat users can choose to share their location with selected friends, any posts users share on Snapchat’s “Our Story” feature will appear on the global map regardless of their privacy or location settings.

Safety Concerns

As with many apps that use geolocation features, privacy is a major concern. Many fear the Snap Map feature opens users up to the risk of stalking, burglary or kidnapping, particularly because locations in Snap Map can be viewed down to exact addresses.

Safety Tips

  • Edit your location settings by clicking the gear icon in the Snapchat app. From there, scroll down to the “See My Location” tab and turn on “Ghost Mode.” This will prevent others from seeing your location.
  • Be mindful of what you’re sharing on Snapchat, and avoid providing your exact location online.

Safety First

Snapchat is a popular app for young children. As such, it’s important for parents to speak with their kids about online safety. Children should be instructed to avoid sharing their location on any social media app, even if they think the information is only viewable by friends and family.

If you have other safety concerns related to Snapchat, you can submit them to the company here.

To download the full article click Here.


Is Data Collection Key to a Successful Wellness Program?

Are you looking for the key to unlocking a successful wellness program? Check out this article by Joseph Goedert from Employee Benefit Adviser and see how data collecting can be a great resource to use when creating a successful wellness program.

The collection and analysis of consumer data can provide insights to employers, including healthcare organizations, into their employees’ health status while offering the basis for information for the creation of wellness plans.

An individual’s buying habits, voting affiliation and voting history, television viewing, financial status, family status and social sentiments—which are the emotions behind social media mentions—together can give a view of the individual’s overall well-being, says April Gill, vice president of analytics solutions at Welltok, a vendor that offers health optimization services.

Social media mentions, for instance, can be analyzed to generate a sentiment score on the general happiness of an individual. A regular voter can indicate a person who may be active in community affairs and may be agreeable to accepting a walking program to improve health.

Consumer data, matched with health data like lab results, claims and biometric data, can be used to start making correlations that detail the healthcare needs of a person. The goal, Gill says, is to have a better understanding of an individual’s receptivity to joining a health program that can offer the highest probability of success.

If an individual subscribes to Netflix or other television services, data collection companies can see what television shows a person is watching and if they are a couch potato and need to exercise more. A person watching a lot of sports might be a candidate for suggesting a step program or playing a sport. A diabetic who often is online may be a good candidate for an online diabetes management program and to stay engaged in the program. “We need to offer resources in a manner that patients are ready for,” Gill asserts. These resources could come from an employer, health plan or provider organization.

Privacy laws may limit the types of health data that employers can see, but Welltok will work with local providers to identity employees to be targeted for health interventions. “We can get individual level data from providers,” Gill says. “It behooves employers to establish relationships with local providers.”

That relationship includes working with providers to move beyond a focus on utilization—tracking how many individuals participated in a certain programs, she advises.

But while data can paint a picture of wellness, there are many gaps in the available information, Gill cautions. A lot of commercial data is not identifiable, and sometimes the data is incorrect.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Goedert J. (2017 June 9). Is data collection key to a successful wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/is-data-collection-key-to-a-successful-wellness-program?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Employers Need to Protect Benefit Plans Against Cyberattacks

Is your employee benefits plan properly protected from cyberattacks? Here is a great article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on why employers must make sure that their employee benefits program is protected from cyberattacks and data breaches.

Think only credit card data and bank accounts are the targets of cyberattacks? Think again—because employee benefits data is in the hackers’ crosshairs.

That’s according to a report by the Society for Human Resource Management, which says that attacks on benefit plans can result in more than just loss of data for employers who fail to safeguard the information.

The report quotes Neal Schelberg, a partner with law firm Proskauer Rose in New York City, saying at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ 2017 Washington Legislative Update in Washington, D.C. that employee health and retirement plans “are big targets and particularly susceptible to cyberattacks,” and warning employers to defend their plans against hacking attempts.

Schelberg pointed to some major attacks, including a June 2016 hit on more than 90 deferred-compensation retirement accounts of Chicago municipal employees. Hackers not only got personal information, but managed to pull money from 58 accounts, with the city losing $2.6 million that had to be replaced in participant accounts and also providing credit monitoring services to account holders.

Another big hit the very next month targeted a grocery workers union pension plan in St. Louis, with hackers demanding a three-bitcoin (about $2,000) digital currency ransom to return control of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 655 pension plan’s computer servers.

Among the data at risk were employee names, birthdates, Social Security numbers and bank information. While the union refused to knuckle under and pay ransom (it had a backup system), it did end up footing the bill for a year of credit monitoring and theft restoration services.

But in another case, the University of Massachusetts Amherst was on the hook for a $650,000 penalty and had to follow a corrective action plan after a malware infection targeting the university's employee health care plan exposed the sensitive health information of 1,500 people in a potential violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Why so much? The Department of Health and Human Services found that the university had failed to accurately assess the risk of malware infection and adopt procedures to secure its data.

According to Schelberg, benefit plans “are particularly susceptible to cyber-risks because they store large amounts of sensitive employee information and share it with multiple third parties.” And even though security measures may not be foolproof, cyber-risks “can be managed.”

It could be argued, he said, that it’s actually within a plan trustee's fiduciary duties not only to prepare for a possible cyberattack but also to ensure that any breach results in as little exposure, and cost, as possible.

Some actions he suggested sponsors take to protect plan data include the following:

  • Developing and implementing a framework to address cybersecurity issues
  • Addressing third-party vendor vulnerabilities that could add risk, especially for electronic transfer of sensitive data to third parties
  • Backing up sensitive data, then storing it off network where it is not accessible to hackers
  • Boosting passwords, including adding multifactor authentication for accessing data systems
  • Increasing investment in security software and systems
  • Involving boards of directors more directly in security matters
  • Considering the purchase of cyberliability insurance

Sponsors must also be current on the HIPAA requirements for notification of people whose health information may have been breached, even if a third party is involved, as well as for ERISA requirements for notification and for other actions in the event of a security breach.

And in the case of ERISA, the process could be far more complicated than sponsors believe.

In the report, Kristen Mathews, another partner in Proskauers New York City office, was cited saying that benefit plans are affected by the laws of states where health plan enrollees or retirement plan participants live—not just the state where the company is headquartered or where the plan is administered.

She pointed out that pension plans could be affected by security laws in any state in which a retiree or beneficiary resides.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 June 9). Employers need to protect benefit plans against cyberattacks [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/09/employers-need-to-protect-benefit-plans-against-cy?ref=hp-news&page_all=1


Losing Sleep Over Benefits Technology? Get Over It!

Are you having a hard time figuring out all the different technologies associated with your benefits program? Read this great article by Linda Keller from SHRM on how to navigate through the different technologies associated with your employee benefits program.

It’s easy to get caught up wanting to deliver a sophisticated platform to engage your workforce. Many benefits technology solutions promise to make employees smarter consumers of health care through slick recommendation engines, bots, and avatars delivered on smart phones.

I advise you to keep these three things in mind when you evaluate benefits technology:

1. Technology won’t solve your millennial dilemma.
Right now Millenials make up the largest portion of the workforce.  HR professionals are scrambling to figure out how to best communicate and educate them about benefits. The fact is Millennials rely heavily on their parents -- not technology -- to make insurance decisions.  When the Affordable Care Act changed the benefits landscape by allowing kids to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, it meant that these new workers didn’t have to take an active role in managing their benefits. They just deferred to their parents. HR needs to figure out how to appropriately involve parents in the benefits decision-making process, while ensuring they meet Millennial’s growing demand for non-traditional benefits. Some solutions may include call center support where questions can be answered prior to enrollment.
2. Technology is necessary to reduce compliance risk.
Labor laws are complex and fluid.  The future of ACA and its unpopular reporting requirements are unclear. I believe what is clear is that federal, state and local compliance requirements will continue to be a burden and risk for HR. Compliance falls on HR shoulders and the importance of well-kept records is crucial to avoiding fines and penalties. I advise beginning by automating processes that are currently manual and present the highest risk to your organization. If you continue to rely on manual processes for compliance, the odds of success are not in your favor.
3. Technology is not a strategy.
Employers will waste a lot of money on benefits technology if they don’t know what they want to do with it. Develop a clear strategy and roadmap first -- then consider how technology can enable your strategy. Determine your cost management and employee engagement goals and then figure out how benefits technology can help drive down administrative cost, create enrollment efficiencies and enhance communication and reporting.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Keller L. (2017 May 23). Losing sleep over benefits technology? get over it! [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/losing-sleep-over-benefits-technology-get-over-it


Helping Your Employees Protect Against Identity Theft

Are you doing enough to help your employees protect themselves from identity theft? Make sure to take a look at this article by Irene Saccoccio from SHRM on what employers can do to protect their employees from identity theft.

Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for you and your employees. Protecting your identity and information is important to us. Security is part of our name and we take that seriously.

Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and pretends to be you. It happens to millions of Americans every year. Once identity thieves have your personal information they can open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name. You can help prevent identity theft by:

  • Securing your Social Security card and not carrying it in your wallet;
  • Not responding to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online;
  • Shredding mail containing PII instead of throwing it in the trash; and
  • Reviewing your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

It is important that your employees take the necessary steps to protect their Social Security number. Usually, just knowing the number is enough, so it is important not to carry your Social Security card or other documents unless they are needed for a specific purpose. If someone asks for your employees’ number, they should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if they refuse. When hired, your employees should provide you with the correct Social Security number to ensure their records and tax information are accurate.

If your employees suspect someone else is using their Social Security number, they should visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov guides them through every step of the recovery process. It’s a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your employee should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Don’t let your employees fall victim to identity theft. Advise them to read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number or read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you or an employee suspects that they’re a victim of identity theft, don’t wait, report it right away!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 May ). Helping your employees protect against identity theft [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/helping-your-employees-protect-against-identity-theft


Advisers Seek a Tech Solution to Financial Wellness

Have you been looking for a new solution to increase your client's investment into their financial well-being? Check out this great article by Cort Olsen from Employee Benefits Advisors on how advisers are using technology to help their clients invest in their financial wellness.

With many employers taking advantage of wearable wellness devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, advisers and consultants say they would like to see a similar platform that will efficiently monitor a person’s financial wellbeing.

“For physical wellness there are health assessments like biometric screenings to gather information and then there is the wearable data that tells people where they need to be to stay on track with their health goals,” says Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. “The difference with the financial piece is that there isn’t a way to track users’ spending habits or monitoring their retirement funding to make their financial status more budget friendly.”

While Schmidt says he has not been able to find a platform that monitors financial status at such a personal level, John Tabb, chief product officer of Questis, has put together a platform that manages to gather data and make suggestions on what employees should be focusing their investments on such as paying off student loan debt or investing in their Roth IRA.

Tabb estimates that there are roughly 30 companies that call themselves financial wellness firms but adds that none of them are “holisitic.” “Not to say that they are not good, but there are only a handful of companies that can allow advisers at financial institutions to utilize their platform as a tool,” he says.

Saving for retirement vs. paying off student debt
Shane Bartling, retirement consultant for Willis Towers Watson, says they have developed a program with their clients that addresses gaps in the market and increases the value of the overall lineup of financial well-being services offered by employers generally around retirement readiness.

“As a result of requests from clients and the needs we have identified with our consulting work, we have built out a technology solution to compliment the line-up of other resources that clients have available,” Bartling says. “We wanted to find the indicators of poor financial wellbeing in the workforce, how to measure it and then how do we engage the parts of our workforce that are going to see the highest value from the resources we are providing.”

The WTW program offers clients an initial assessment from an adviser to determine where employees are struggling the most with their finances. “There is a way to look at behaviors employees are signaling when they are in a poor financial situation,” Bartling says. “They begin to do things like using loans, taking hardship withdrawals and then ultimately you see issues like wage garnishment tend to pop up on the radar and are opting out of the 401(k).”

SoFi has expanded its business focus from student loan refinancing firms into the workspace by helping employers offer a student loan repayment benefit.

“Looking at the employee benefits space today, student loans are generally a pretty big hole in most employers benefit offerings,” says Catesby Perrin, vice president of business development at SoFi. “The main stays of employee benefit offerings are healthcare and 401(k), which we all know are essential, but in many respects don’t address the most pressing financial concerns of the largest demographic in the workforce, which are millennials.”

Perrin adds that 401(k) and other forms retirement saving is imperative for everyone in the workforce, however retirement is not a top priority for millennials due to other financial stressors that are taking place in their day-to-day lives.

“As great as a 401(k) is and how important it is intrinsically, if you have $500 or $800 a month due in student loan payments, which is totally plausible for somebody coming out of undergrad today, the 401(k) is a total luxury,” Perrin says. “Most employers are not doing much about student loan problem, so we are offering two primary benefits today for employers… a student loan refinancing benefit and a benefit set for employers to help pay down the principle balance of their employee’s loan.”

Alternative tech gaining traction
One option is the increasing popularity of mobile push notifications. Ayana Collins, wellness consultant out of EPIC’s Atlanta office, says she is seeing a greater response from users who utilize these alerts on their smartphones to view wellness tips and strategies that they may not read if they are delivered in the form of an e-mail.

“Employees receive thousands upon thousands of e-mails and one more e-mail coming from HR or from a wellness company may not be opened,” Collins says. “If they receive a push notification from their mobile phone they are more likely to check out what financial wellness tips we are sending to them.”

Privacy invasion?
Meanwhile, new legislation determining how wellness plans are regulated has sparked a renewed interest in finding a streamlined financial wellbeing platform.

Shan Fowler, senior director of employer portfolio and product strategy at Benefitfocus, says legislation such as the Employer Participation in Repayment Act and the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, will help fuel the creation of a financial wellbeing platform.

“Financial regulation is very similar to healthcare regulation,” Fowler says, “due to so many branches that are contingent with legislative support. Seeing bipartisan support for this national epidemic [has me feeling] very optimistic.”

However, employees may not be as enthusiastic. Many workers are concerned about the level of data employers could have access to, seeing it as an invasion of privacy, Fowler adds.

“I think you need to put yourself into the shoes of the employee and ask if I want my company to have access to my personal information,” he says. “That speaks to that very fine line employers have to walk of having their employees’ best interests in mind, but not going too far into a ‘big brother’ mentality.”

Tabb says that while the Questis platform does offer individual advice on financial direction based off an initial assessment, the data collected is stored in an aggregate form that protects employees’ personal information from being viewed by their superiors or colleagues.

“If the employer wants some data, they are going to pay for it to help them make decisions, but it is all on an aggregate level,” Tabb says. “There is certainly a perception that needs to be addressed to ensure employees that their data is safe and that nothing is being shared with their employer that does not need to be shared.”

Both Bartling and Perrin also say their platforms offer data to employers only in an aggregate form to give them an idea of how many employees are utilizing the benefit and also the projected success rates, but when it comes to the personal finances of each individual employee, security is in place to ensure private financial information is protected.

EPIC’s Collins says no matter what branch of wellness an employer invests in, whether it be financial, physical or mental, there needs to be a reason behind the technology that they are using. If there is no payout for the employee, there will be no demand to carry the program.

“There has to be a ‘so what’ behind it,” Collins says. “If the employer is just doing a simple challenge with nothing behind it, people are not going to gravitate toward it, because it doesn’t create a moment where the users discover an improvement to themselves. That is the whole point behind wellness.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 May 11). Advisers seek a tech solution to financial wellness [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/advisers-seek-a-tech-solution-to-financial-wellness


The Pitfalls of Online Enrollment Systems

Are you using an online system to enroll your clients into their employee benefits? Check out this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about the risk associated with online enrollment by Elizabeth Kay.

Online enrollment platforms are great, but communication and understanding are terribly important for the end-user.

I always say, "technology is great, when it works." Online enrollment platforms have been around for years, and the technology that powers them has grown and advanced at an exponential rate. Who would have guessed that we would be enrolling in our employee benefits directly from our own phones and tablets, without being given the huge enrollment packets from HR?

In this virtual communication age, you can't take the “human” out of Human Resources, and you can't take the confusion out of insurance benefits just because you wrap it in a nice, pretty website with fancy graphics and videos.

An employee's health concerns and needs are as diverse and different as hair colors are at Comic Con, so while a brief overview of plan details is fine for one person, someone else wants to know how many physical therapy visits they can have in a year, or if their child's insulin pump will be covered on their plan.

A simple online enrollment platform does not always meet the needs of all employees, and not all platforms will offer the level of detail some will require. Aside from posting the evidence of coverage, or insurance contract, at a place that is easily found on the portal, there may not be a way to achieve that level of detail. However, even for those that don't need that level of detail, critical information must be communicated easily and effectively.

Costly mistakes can be made when benefits are not communicated effectively, or when important information is simply omitted. For example, since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, some employers have opted to offer minimum value plans (MVPs), or plans that cover very few procedures such as office visits, preventive care, and hospital room and board, but they do not cover a wide range of other services such as ambulance, surgery, medical devices, physical or occupational therapy, etc.

When an employee sees a number of choices or plans from which to choose, they will likely compare the various plan options by looking at the carrier, if the plans are HMOs or PPOs, and the cost. From there, an employee may look at the office copays, deductibles, prescription drug costs, and coinsurance.

If the comparison shows MVP plans as well as traditional health plans, but does not call out in big, bold letters, all of the items the MVP plan does not cover, one could come away with the understanding that if they choose the MVP plan, they are selecting a plan that is a comprehensive insurance plan just like the other plans shown, or like they have had in the past.

Most of us don't read our car insurance policy in detail until we get in an accident and the insurance adjustor says, "sorry, your policy does not cover that." The same is usually true for our health insurance plans.

You could argue that it is the responsibility of the employee to verify that the plan they are choosing meets all of their needs, certainly. But if that information is not easy to locate, you could find fault with the employer, or insurance carrier, if there were to be a problem. Furthermore, an employer would want to show their employees that they want to take care of them, and not set them up for failure in the event of a crisis.

Let's walk through a scenario. An employee named "Joe" is 28, and is enrolling in his company's health plans during open enrollment. His company recently merged with another larger company, and so the benefits being offered are slightly different, but look pretty close to what they had been last year. There are four plans offered, two that are HMO plans with Kaiser and two that are PPO plans, one is labeled Silver, the other Gold.

Joe is young and single, and when he was living at home with his parents, he had never had Kaiser and always traditionally had PPO coverage. Last year, Joe enrolled in the Silver PPO plan so he could continue to see the doctors that had been managing his care for all of his adult life, so he elects the same plan this year. The online system shows a $250 deductible, $40 office visit copay, and 30% coinsurance. In addition, the Kaiser premiums have gone up considerably from what he remembered them to be last year, and are higher than the PPO plan options, so he feels comfortable that he has made the choice that is best for him.

Later in the year, he comes down with a bad cold. The pressure in his head that is caused by the cold is so severe that when he sneezed, he blew out his right ear drum. He goes to the doctor, and his doctor orders a CT scan of his ear. The CT scan shows he has perforated his ear drum and will need surgery to repair it. The surgery is scheduled for two weeks after that. He contacts the hospital and surgeon to confirm they are contracted, in-network providers under his health plan, and asks them to do a pre-determination of benefits so he will know up front how much he should expect to pay as his 30% of the cost of the procedure.

While waiting for the surgeon and hospital to get back to him regarding the out-of-pocket costs, he receives the bill for the CT scan and explanation of benefits from his doctor for the office visit and CT scan. They show his office copayment that he paid at the time of service, and his $250 deductible, plus 30% of the remaining cost of the CT scan, which came out to a total of $500. He pays the bills and continues to work even though he is in extreme discomfort from his right ear.

The surgeon and hospital both get back to him and let him know the surgery itself will cost approximately $20,000 because his plan does not cover surgery, period. Joe is not an executive in a large company; he does not have the money to pay for a $20,000 surgery and also afford to take three weeks off of work in order for him to recover. So, what is he to do?

He can't enroll in another plan offered by his employer for another nine months when they go through open enrollment again. It is March, so he has missed the state Exchange open enrollment window, and he has not experienced an involuntary loss of coverage that would enable him to enroll in a state Exchange plan. If he were to purchase a short-term, comprehensive medical plan it won't cover any pre-existing conditions, which his perforated ear drum would certainly be considered. So, unless he gets married and enrolls on his new spouse's plan if they were offered one by their employer, he is out of options. He will simply have to wait until open enrollment next year.

How do you think Joe is feeling about his employer right now? Do you think he is counting his blessings that he only ruptured his ear drum and was not diagnosed with cancer that needed to be removed before it spread any further? Or is he going to be using a few choice words to describe an employer that offers a medical plan to its employees that has a longer list of services not covered than are covered? I can't say that I know for sure, but I can guess.

Now, the question becomes how does an employer prevent their employees from running into these kinds of pitfalls? It comes down to clear communication—multiple forms of communication that are easily accessible to employees and their family members that may also play a role in making plan decisions. Having someone to partner with your company, such as a UBA Partner Firm that will not only help you develop long-term plan strategies for your employee benefits package, but can be an integral part of developing and implementing online systems, hard copy communications, and give you access to tools such as smartphone applications that not only give employees access to essential information, but also push out important communications that contain relevant information at the appropriate times like open enrollment. Making plan details easily accessible in the online platform, with clear and bold statements if there are essential benefits that are not covered on the plan such as a warning, should be clearly stated so that employees are well informed.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Insurance is a complicated business and you, as an employer, would not want to make decisions about the health care you offer your employees without someone to guide you through the various options and possibilities. As responsible employers, our employees should not have to either.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kay E. (2017 May 2). The pitfalls of online enrollment systems [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/the-pitfalls-of-online-enrollment-systems


Is Social Media Putting Employees’ Health, Safety at Risk?

Do your employees know about all of the risks that can come from their social media? Find out how social media can affect your employee's safety and health in this article from Employee Benefit News by Jill Hazan.

The issue of personal online safety has finally crossed over into the healthcare arena — and employers need to step up and learn to best educate employees about keeping them safe.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, “Parental Sharing on the Internet: Child Privacy in the Age of Social Media and the Pediatrician’s Role,” highlights how parents who post information about their children on social media put them at greater risk for identity theft. In addition, this trend toward oversharing compromises a child’s protected health information. What might happen when that child applies for a job in the future and a simple internet search reveals health information she would not want an employer to know?

While HIPAA protects the confidentiality of an individual’s medical records, it doesn’t provide comprehensive protections outside the healthcare environment. The laws around the privacy rights of children relative to their parents’ online disclosures are still evolving. The article recommends that pediatricians ask parents about their social media habits to help keep children safe and their data private. It is a natural extension that all primary care providers should be asking patients about social media behaviors, as the issues of identity theft and data privacy are relevant to children and adults alike.
This recommendation is increasingly significant from an employee benefit perspective.

So what should employers do?

Employers routinely provide healthcare benefits to employees. If health plans and physicians are acknowledging and addressing the risks of social media from a privacy and security perspective, shouldn’t employers extend that focus into the workplace? With the continued employer emphasis on wellness, it is incumbent on health plans and employers alike to educate employees on online security and the risks of identity theft.

 

There are a variety of resources and benefits that employers can access to assist employees in navigating the online world safely. A series of well-structured, engaging seminars on identity theft and online security that combine real-life stories with actionable advice are effective in educating employees and changing behaviors. Online tutorials, like those provided by the Center for Identity at the University of Texas, Austin, can guide employees on setting proper privacy settings on social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Identity theft protection plans provide monitoring and restoration services, as well as education to help keep employees and their families secure. EAPs may provide guidance on identity theft and counseling for victims. Comprehensive legal benefit plans provide legal advice and representation for victims of identity theft. Employers may also provide employees access to online data protection tools for use at work and home with features that encrypt communication and block malware and phishing attempts.

Employees need to understand how to navigate the social media and online environment to keep their families safe. Identity theft of a family member affects more than just one person. It can register an emotional, physical and financial toll on the entire family. Employers need to structure a comprehensive approach to managing the health and wellness of employees as it relates to their online behaviors. A program with a combination of employee benefits, from healthcare to identity theft protection benefits, supplemented by onsite employee education, will support the goals of the health plan and, ultimately, the organization’s overall business objectives.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Hazan J. (2017 May 1). Is social media putting employees' health, safety at risk? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/is-social-media-putting-employees-health-safety-at-risk?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000