What You Need to Know about Health Flexible Spending Accounts

Are you having a hard time figuring out how a FSAs works? Take a look at this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Danielle Capilla and found out everything you need to know about FSAs.


A health flexible spending account (FSA) is a pre-tax account used to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs for a participant as well as a participant's spouse and eligible dependents. Health FSAs are employer-established benefit plans and may be offered with other employer-provided benefits as part of a cafeteria plan. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for FSAs.

Even though a health FSA may be extended to any employee, employers should design their health FSAs so that participation is offered only to employees who are eligible to participate in the employer's major medical plan. Generally, health FSAs must qualify as excepted benefits, which means other nonexcepted group health plan coverage must be available to the health FSA's participants for the year through their employment. If a health FSA fails to qualify as an excepted benefit, then this could result in excise taxes of $100 per participant per day or other penalties.

Contributing to an FSA

Money is set aside from the employee's paycheck before taxes are taken out and the employee may use the money to pay for eligible health care expenses during the plan year. The employer owns the account, but the employee contributes to the account and decides which medical expenses to pay with it.

At the beginning of the plan year, a participant must designate how much to contribute so the employer can deduct an amount every pay day in accordance with the annual election. A participant may contribute with a salary reduction agreement, which is a participant election to have an amount voluntarily withheld by the employer. A participant may change or revoke an election only if there is a change in employment or family status that is specified by the plan.

Per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), FSAs are capped at $2,600 per year per employee. However, since a plan may have a lower annual limit threshold, employees are encouraged to review their Summary Plan Description (SPD) to find out the annual limit of their plan. A participant's spouse can put $2,600 in an FSA with the spouse's own employer. This applies even if both spouses participate in the same health FSA plan sponsored by the same employer.

Generally, employees must use the money in an FSA within the plan year or they lose the money left in the FSA account. However, employers may offer either a grace period of up to two and a half months following the plan year to use the money in the FSA account or allow a carryover of up to $500 per year to use in the following year.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Capilla D. (2017 August 29). What you need to know about health flexible spending accounts [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-health-flexible-spending-accounts-1


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Apple, Fitbit to join FDA program to speed health tech

Wondering how technology can speed the process of developing health tech? In this article from BenefitsPro written by Anna Edney, gain a close insight on how Apple and Fitbit are working together with the FDA to make your health of vital importance.

You can read the original article here.


A federal agency that regulates apples wants to make regulations on Apple Inc. a little easier.

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees new drugs, medical devices and much of the U.S. food supply, said Tuesday that it had selected nine major tech companies for a pilot program that may let them avoid some regulations that have tied up developers working on health software and products.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The program is meant to let the companies get products pre-cleared rather than going through the agency’s standard application and approval process that can take months. Along with Apple, Fitbit Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Verily Life Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and Roche Holding AG will participate.

 

A new report and video from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) identifies six promising practices for effectively integrating wearables...
The FDA program is meant to help the companies more rapidly develop new products while maintaining some government oversight of technology that may be used by patients or their doctors to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions.

Apple is studying whether its watch can detect heart abnormalities. The process it will go through to make sure it’s using sound quality metrics and other measures won’t be as costly and time-consuming as when the government clears a new pacemaker, for example. Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is working with Novartis AG to develop a contact lens that could continuously monitor the body’s blood sugar.

Faster Pace

“Historically, health care has been slow to implement disruptive technology tools that have transformed other areas of commerce and daily life,” Gottlieb said in July when he announced that digital health manufacturers could apply for the pilot program.

Officially dubbed the Pre-Cert for Software Pilot, Gottlieb at the time called it “a new and pragmatic approach to digital health technology.”

The other companies included in the pilot are Pear Therapeutics Inc., Phosphorus Inc. and Tidepool.

The program is part of a broader move at the FDA, particularly since Gottlieb took over in May, to streamline regulation and get medical products to patients faster. The commissioner said last week the agency will clarify how drugmakers might use data from treatments already approved in some disease to gain approvals for more conditions. In July, he delayed oversight of electronic cigarettes while the agency decides what information it will need from makers of the products.

Rules Uncertainty

As Silicon Valley developers have pushed into health care, the industry has been at times uncertain about when it needed the FDA’s approval. In 2013, the consumer gene-testing company 23andMe Inc. was ordered by the agency to temporarily stop selling its health analysis product until it was cleared by regulators, for example.

Under the pilot, the FDA will scrutinize digital health companies’ software and will inspect their facilities to ensure they meet quality standards and can adequately track their products once they’re on the market. If they pass the agency’s audits, the companies would be pre-certified and may face a less stringent approval process or not have to go through FDA approval at all.

More than 100 companies were interested in the pilot, according to the FDA. The agency plans to hold a public workshop on the program in January to help developers not in the pilot understand the process and four months of initial findings.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Edeny A. (27 September 2017). "Apple, Fitbit to join FDA program to speed health tech" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/27/apple-fitbit-to-join-fda-program-to-speed-health-t

Wondering how technology can speed the process of developing health tech? In this article from BenefitsPro written by Anna Edney, gain a close insight on how Apple and Fitbit are working together with the FDA to make your health of vital importance.

You can read the original article here.


A federal agency that regulates apples wants to make regulations on Apple Inc. a little easier.

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees new drugs, medical devices and much of the U.S. food supply, said Tuesday that it had selected nine major tech companies for a pilot program that may let them avoid some regulations that have tied up developers working on health software and products.

“We need to modernize our regulatory framework so that it matches the kind of innovation we’re being asked to evaluate,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

The program is meant to let the companies get products pre-cleared rather than going through the agency’s standard application and approval process that can take months. Along with Apple, Fitbit Inc., Samsung Electronics Co., Verily Life Sciences, Johnson & Johnson and Roche Holding AG will participate.

 

A new report and video from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) identifies six promising practices for effectively integrating wearables...
The FDA program is meant to help the companies more rapidly develop new products while maintaining some government oversight of technology that may be used by patients or their doctors to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions.

Apple is studying whether its watch can detect heart abnormalities. The process it will go through to make sure it’s using sound quality metrics and other measures won’t be as costly and time-consuming as when the government clears a new pacemaker, for example. Verily, the life sciences arm of Google parent Alphabet Inc., is working with Novartis AG to develop a contact lens that could continuously monitor the body’s blood sugar.

Faster Pace

“Historically, health care has been slow to implement disruptive technology tools that have transformed other areas of commerce and daily life,” Gottlieb said in July when he announced that digital health manufacturers could apply for the pilot program.

Officially dubbed the Pre-Cert for Software Pilot, Gottlieb at the time called it “a new and pragmatic approach to digital health technology.”

The other companies included in the pilot are Pear Therapeutics Inc., Phosphorus Inc. and Tidepool.

The program is part of a broader move at the FDA, particularly since Gottlieb took over in May, to streamline regulation and get medical products to patients faster. The commissioner said last week the agency will clarify how drugmakers might use data from treatments already approved in some disease to gain approvals for more conditions. In July, he delayed oversight of electronic cigarettes while the agency decides what information it will need from makers of the products.

Rules Uncertainty

As Silicon Valley developers have pushed into health care, the industry has been at times uncertain about when it needed the FDA’s approval. In 2013, the consumer gene-testing company 23andMe Inc. was ordered by the agency to temporarily stop selling its health analysis product until it was cleared by regulators, for example.

Under the pilot, the FDA will scrutinize digital health companies’ software and will inspect their facilities to ensure they meet quality standards and can adequately track their products once they’re on the market. If they pass the agency’s audits, the companies would be pre-certified and may face a less stringent approval process or not have to go through FDA approval at all.

More than 100 companies were interested in the pilot, according to the FDA. The agency plans to hold a public workshop on the program in January to help developers not in the pilot understand the process and four months of initial findings.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Edeny A. (27 September 2017). "Apple, Fitbit to join FDA program to speed health tech" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/09/27/apple-fitbit-to-join-fda-program-to-speed-health-t


How Voluntary Benefits Options are Changing

The market for voluntary benefits has seen substantial growth over the last few years with the rise of health care cost. Find out how you can prepare for the changes coming to the voluntary benefits market thanks to this great article by Keith Franklin from Benefits Pro.

As health care insurance deductibles continue to rise, interest in voluntary benefits are growing. This trend supports another growth area that we’re seeing: companies are looking for innovative, cost-effective ways to enhance their compensation packages and are finding that voluntary health benefits are the solution. We’ve seen a significant rise in sales for dental discount plans that offer additional benefits over the past six months.

The most popular dental plans that we offer to groups and individuals now include telemedicine, medical bill negotiation and health advocacy services — along with our more typical dental care, vision, hearing, and prescription savings plans.

But, no matter how popular they are, these plans still do not sell themselves. The key to success in the group voluntary benefits marketplace is clearly communicating the business return on investment that can be expected from offering voluntary benefits to employees.

Voluntary benefits refresher

Of course, you know employers use voluntary programs to offer ancillary benefits, or supplementary benefits, that help fill in the holes in major medical coverage.

If you have not had much direct involvement in voluntary benefits, you may be surprised by how much the menus have grown.

Many of the newest voluntary benefits provide discounted or free access to services that were not typically associated with health care plans. These offerings tend to address concerns related to security, financial management, health care that may not covered by primary insurance (such as dental) and personal improvement.

Today, voluntary benefits may include:

  • Automobile, homeowners, or pet insurance
  • Concierge services
  • Critical illness
  • Cybersecurity/Identify theft protection
  • Dental
  • Education
  • Financial counseling
  • Financial planning
  • Fitness
  • Healthcare advocacy
  • Life insurance
  • Medical bill negotiation
  • Telemedicine/Telehealth
  • Vision

Voluntary benefits are typically offered to employees as an optional add-on to their benefits package. While the benefits may be paid for in part by the employer, these are more typically payroll-deducted benefits.

When sold directly to individuals, voluntary benefit offerings are often described as “discount,” or “additional benefit” plans. Target markets in the business-to-consumer space would include self-employed people and owners of very small businesses. Typically, businesses can qualify as a “group” for voluntary benefits purposes if the business employs three to five people.

When sold to groups, these plans offer savings by tapping into discounts for group rates, and discounts pre-negotiated by the plans’ providers. The savings are passed on to plan members, giving the cost-savings of group coverage to individuals. Brokers and agents can tap into this market effectively by working with trade groups, chambers of commerce, and other associations that serve small businesses, contactors and the self-employed.

It is important to note that many voluntary benefits offerings are not insurance. They are intended to complement existing insurance coverage, make health care such as dental and vision more affordable, or provide discounted access to a broad variety of supplementary services.

There are exceptions, of course. Some voluntary plans offer supplementary health coverage, or other types of insurance.

How to communicate advantages

Financial benefits are the most obvious advantage to businesses. Adding desirable benefits at no additional (or low) cost to the company is obviously an appealing proposition. But that’s not the whole picture.

Businesses considering offering voluntary benefits plans to their employees will also want to ensure that any solution that they buy into fully delivers on its promises and doesn’t add new complications.

Provider reliability: Who is offering the benefit, who is the provider or underwriter? Voluntary benefits can be backed by a provider, such as a health insurance company that offers both dental insurance and dental discount plans. The benefit may be offered directly by the providing company or by another company that they have partnered with. Look for a proven track record of trustworthiness and experience within the voluntary benefits space by all companies involved in providing the benefit.

Easy deployment and administration: What is involved in offering the benefit to employees? What information will be required, how long will it take to on-board people? Will proprietary software need to be installed, or are benefits managed through a platform-generic, online portal? Is there an automatic payroll deduction feature? Obviously, the easier a solution is to set up and use, the more attractive it is. Know the back-end as well as you know the benefits.

Data security: Securing information is an ever-growing concern. Not all companies will ask about data security when evaluating a benefits plan, but an increasing number are vitally concerned about protecting personnel information – both as a service to employees and as a way of warding off digital crime. Cyber criminals can use information about employees to impersonate them and gain access to company networks and data. It is best to be prepared with answers to these questions: How is sensitive information on employees kept secure and private when it is captured, in use, and in storage? If data is stored in the cloud, does the storage solution used meet the organization’s compliance and regulatory obligations?

Education/engagement: Well-designed, informative, and customizable materials that help employees get excited, understand, and use their voluntary benefits are a highly valuable add-on to any offering. Companies expect to see quantifiable results from their benefits packages, and limited adoption reduces return on investment. Keeping employees engaged is central to a company’s happiness with their voluntary benefits plan. Get samples of the employee training material from providers.

Metrics: While many companies will rely on their own data-led decision making tools to measure a program’s success, it’s helpful to point out the ROI voluntary benefits can deliver. Overall, the data points that can be used to gauge the success of a voluntary benefits offering will include an ability to attract and retain top talent, reduced medical absenteeism/presenteeism, increased productivity, and employee interest and usage of the benefits.

Customer care: If employees have problems using their benefits, who provides support? The provider or service partner should offer a single-point-of-contact tasked with solving problems, and a dedicated customer support team that employees can access with questions or concerns.

Interest in voluntary growing

Voluntary benefits aren’t new, but the interest in these offerings is strong – particularly for money-and-time saving services such as telemedicine. As the marketplace grows, businesses and brokers need to understand how to evaluate these offerings and select the best options.

There are advantages to offering a tightly curated bundle of benefits, or providing a broad variety of options that businesses can mix and match. When offering the latter, it’s important to ensure that administration and access are streamlined as much as possible. What seems simple in isolation – you manage and access your benefits though this app or portal – can quickly become wildly complex when the burden grows to a dozen or more apps and portals. Partnering with service providers who focus on delivering a quality experience end-to-end provides significant advantages to brokers and businesses.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Franklin K. (2017 July 13). How voluntary benefits options are changing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/07/13/how-voluntary-benefits-options-are-changing?t=innovation&page_all=1


Employers Broadening Health Programs

Employers are starting to change their approach on how they look at their employee benefits program. Take a look at this great article by Nick Otto from Employee Benefit Adviser and find out how employers are reclassifying their employee benefits program in order to expand their employees' well-being.

The siloed approach to retirement, healthcare and wellness is a thing of the past as employers are increasingly taking a holistic approach to addressing their employees’ health and wealth.

Employers are expanding their view of employee overall well-being, according to a new report from Optum, a technology-enabled health services company. That means that, while employers are still offering traditional wellness programs, there has been a significant shift in the last three years to those programs addressing workers’ financial, behavioral and social health.

“For example, we see increased interest among companies in developing new programs around mindfulness, positivity and creativity, which can reduce stress, improve eating and sleeping habits, and stimulate innovative thinking,” says Seth Serxner, Optum’s chief health officer.

While physical health still remains a significant focus for employee wellness programs, other dimensions are tracking with higher importance among large employers:

· 51% of such programs now address financial health, up from 38% in 2015;
· 47% address employees’ social health by using strategies like team-based activities to increase feelings of connectedness and a sense of belonging, compared to 37% in 2015; and
· 68% address behavioral health, up from 65% in 2015

And technology is helping employers to better engage these programs to workers. Since 2014, there has been a significant increase in the use of a variety of innovations, including online competitions, activity tracking devices, social networks, mobile apps and mobile messaging to help engage employees, the study notes.

Additionally, incentive strategies are helping to get workers in the wellness game.

Use of incentives is at an all-time high, Optum notes, with 95% of employer respondents offering incentives to their employees. Recognizing that workers can be highly influenced by their family members, 74% of employers also are offering incentives to family members. According to Optum, average incentives per participant per year equate to $532.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 August 15). Employers broadening health programs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-broadening-health-programs


Reduce Employee Financial Stress

Are your employees struggling to reach their financial goals? Here is a great article by Heather Garbers from SHRM on what employers can do to help their employees reduce their financial stress and reach their monetary goals.

More American workers are living paycheck to paycheck than ever before, just making ends meet. Nearly three-fourths have less than $1,000 saved; and 34 percent have nothing in savings. Student loan debt totals over $1.3 trillion among some 44.2 million borrowers in the U.S. Unexpected expenses are not budgeted for and people are placing themselves at great financial risk.

As HR practitioners, we need to recognize that people are struggling financially – and that it is taking a toll not only on them personally, but also in the workplace. There are innovative benefit options and strategies that can help relieve financial stress on employees:

Student loan assistance. Today’s Millennials are challenged to get their lives going despite the crushing burden of student loan debt, and trust their employers for advice on how to manage it. Doing so can make you stand out in attracting the best talent and help win loyalty.  Programs are available that not only assist Employees in refinancing and managing their debt, but also allow you to make contributions to loan balances, and assist Employees in setting up a 529 savings plan.

Employee Purchasing Programs (EPP). When people are experiencing financial stress and are confronted with unexpected expenses, they may take on high interest credit card debt or a payday loan. Employee purchasing programs are a great way for them to avoid amassing high interest rate charges when purchasing consumer goods.

Low Interest Installment Loans and Credit. A major danger for financially stretched employees is the ease with which they can get payday loans or cash advances on their credit cards without fully understanding the risk. The exorbitant interest rates only worsen the vicious cycle of debt. There are services, however, that underwrite low-interest rate installment loans well below the going rates and allow Employees to make payments through payroll deduction. Employers can sponsor the service at no cost as a voluntary benefit, and Employees can use the funds however they need to – whether it is paying a medical bill or purchasing a new air conditioner.

Financial planning and wellness services. Whether offered as one-on-one, personal coaching or online resources with interactive money management tools, everyone appreciates when employers offer resources to help them understand how to repair or build their credit and better manage their money. By offering these services, you have the opportunity to occupy a position of trust and cement long-term employee loyalty.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Garbers H. (2017 July 17). Reduce employee financial stress [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/reduce-employee-financial-stress


HSAs and 401(k)s are Becoming More Closely Linked

As HSAs continue to grow, more employers are starting to work HSAs into their retirement programs. Take a look at this great article by Brian M. Kalish from Employee Benefit News and see how employers are using HSAs as a tool to help their employee plan for their healthcare cost in retirement.

There has been progress among leading-edge advisers and employers to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s in order to allow employees to use a health savings account to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement.

Eighty percent of Americans have a high concern about healthcare costs in retirement, according to Merrill Lynch, and healthcare is the largest threat to retirement savings and the most important part of a retirement income plan, according to Fidelity, which is why there has been a recent push to more closely link HSAs and 401(k)s, or health and wealth.

HSAs are triple tax-free, Brian Graff, CEO of the American Retirement Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade group said at a recent event hosted by AFS 401(k) Retirement Services

The fact of linking health and wealth “is a big idea and there is some continued focus on it moving forward,” says Alex Assaley, managing principal of Bethesda, Md.-based financial services advisory company AFS 401(k).

“There is a lot more interest in HSAs by pretty much everybody,” explains Nevin Adams, chief of marketing and communications at the American Retirement Association.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly 30% of employers offered an HSA-eligible health plan in 2015 and that percentage is expected to increase in the future both as a health plan option and as the only health plan option. Most of the growth has been recent as more than four-in-five HSAs have been opened since the beginning on 2011, according to EBRI.

At an event hosted by Assaley’s firm in 2016, he said there was not a lot of traction around the idea of using HSAs to save for healthcare expenses post-retirement. But, now, there is a bigger push.

As HSAs continue to grow, employers, employees and advisers are “understanding there is an ability to accumulate money in the HSA and use that for healthcare or something [employees] want to set aside because they are not sure what their healthcare cost situation in the future is going to be,” Adams explains.

Assaley adds that there has “definitely been a good deal of refinement and evolution in the HSA marketplace [recently], whereby … you are now seeing more companies offering HSAs as a part of their medical and retirement strategy. You are also seeing more employees thinking about HSAs as part of their overall holistic fin wellness program.”

In one-on-one coaching sessions with employees, conversations are becoming more prominent, as advisers help employees, “understand how all employee benefits tie together to make wise financial decisions today, tomorrow and for their retirement,” Assaley says.

“With certainty, there has been a great deal of growth in the marketplace and evolution in how HSAs and 401(k)s are starting to interlock together,” he adds.

Saving for the future
Looking down the road, Assaley expects the linking to continue, especially if proposals to alter the maximum accounts that can be contributed pre-tax to an HSA is tweaked, as has been proposed by legislators on Capitol Hill. Some proposals shared amongst the industry, Assaley says, propose doubling the pre-tax amount.

“If that happens or there is any sort of meaningful increase, then I think you will see an exponential growth in the numbers of HSAs,” he says.

For advisers, the work is not done as they need to help employees better understand how a HSA works and from there help employees understand the benefits of a HSA and the different ways to structure one, Assaley explains.

“Even today, there is a large knowledge gap on what an HSA is, how it works and how someone can use one as part of health and retiree healthcare needs,” he says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kalish B. (2017 July 5). HSAs and 401(k)s are becoming more closely linked [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hsas-and-401-k-s-are-becoming-more-closely-linked?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


How Rising Healthcare Costs are Changing the Retirement Landscape

Has rising the rising cost of healthcare impacted  your plans for retirement?  Here is a great article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News on how healthcare is reshaping the way people are planning their retirement.

It’s hard enough getting employees to save for their retirement. It’s even harder to get them to think about how much they need to save for medical expenses in retirement.

“Most Americans don’t think about what the medical component will be for them,” says Robert Grubka, president of employee benefits at New York-based Voya Financial. “They often think that Medicare and government-provided healthcare is enough and what people quickly find out is, it is helpful but it doesn’t mean it’s enough.” When people think about their retirement plan, the medical piece is “one of the most surprising aspects of it,” he says.

But talking about managing healthcare costs during post-work years is now a vital element of retirement planning. And it’s one employers need to consider, especially as new statistics shed light on the seriousness of the issue.

As a person’s retirement savings shrinks in retirement, their medical expenses continue to increase, according to Voya Financial’s report “Playing the long game – Understanding how healthcare costs can impact your retirement readiness.” Healthcare costs rose 6.5% in 2017, but inflation only went up 2.4%, Voya found.

“The rapid rise of healthcare costs could have a large impact on quality of life in retirement,” according to the report. Forty-two percent of pre- and post-retirees say that healthcare is their biggest concern, especially since nearly half of retirees or their spouses experience a serious or chronic health problem.

Meanwhile, Medicare data finds that those in their 70s spend about $7,566 per person in healthcare costs annually. That figure more than doubles to $16,145 by the time a person reaches age 96. According to Voya, Medicare will only cover about 60% of all retirement healthcare costs, which means people need to figure out a way to cover that other 40%.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that the average couple will need $259,000 to cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement. That figure includes premiums and costs related to all Medicare plans and the cost of supplemental insurance. When asked how much they should stock away for medical expenses, 69% of baby boomers and 66% of retirees thought they needed less than $100,000.

As the retirement industry has shifted away from defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans, employers have tried to compensate for some of the missing perks of having a pension plan. That includes offering options like life insurance, disability insurance, accident insurance, critical illness insurance or a hospital confinement indemnity.

A 2014 report by the Council for Disability Awareness found that more than 214,000 employers were offering long-term disability insurance plans to their employees in 2013, a slight increase from the previous year.

The other component that is relatively new is the high-deductible health plan that usually comes with a health savings account. The money saved in an HSA can be used for medical expenses in retirement if a person doesn’t use up their balance every year. Any extra funds are invested, just like they would be in a typical retirement plan.

High-deductible health plans make the plan participant more responsible for how those health care dollars are spent. It also has “sped up the recognition of the healthcare issue,” Grubka says.

According to the 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29% of covered workers are enrolled in a high-deductible plan with a savings option. Over the past two years, enrollment in these high-deductible plans increased 8 percentage points as enrollment in PPOs dropped 10 percentage points, the report found.

Many times, individuals must pay out most or all of their deductible at once, which could be $2,500 for an individual or $5,000 for a family. That’s when people start taking loans from their retirement plan to help cover costs.

That’s why some of these ancillary products, like critical illness or disability insurance, are so important.

“It is so people can get through the chunky expenses and not get to the point where they have to tap their savings or their retirement plan,” Grubka says.

It’s critical that employees try and determine what all of their expenses will be in retirement. Individuals must try and determine how long they will live, by looking at their family history and making an educated guess. Then they should calculate their projected monthly Social Security payment by setting up an account with the Social Security Administration. They should then add up their expected monthly living expenses like rent/mortgage, groceries and utilities and any healthcare expenses that are not covered by Medicare to come up with a target number.

They should base how much they set aside for retirement on that figure.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladyech P.  (2017 July 4). How rising healthcare costs are changing the retirement landscape [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-rising-healthcare-costs-are-impacting-retirement-planning


3 Key Points for Choosing a Wellness Provider

Are you in the process of searching for a new wellness provider? Take a look at this article by Rick Kent from Employee Benefit Adviser and check out these 3 great tips on what you should be looking for when searching for your next  wellness provider.

Saddled with low savings rates and high household indebtedness, many American workers are relying on company-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k) programs as their last great hope for retiring with dignity someday. Unfortunately, rapidly escalating costs and tougher regulatory obligations have made supporting such plans among employers and third-party benefits consultancies a far more complex task than ever before.

Naturally, these events have raised the importance of offering robust financial wellness programs that complement company-sponsored retirement plans. Employees need offerings that provide valuable educational resources, personal finance coaching and relevant benchmarking data to plan participants and plan sponsors.

But how can employee benefits consultancies, already frequently strapped for time, deliver such tools and resources to their clients? Do they need to build this on their own, or should hiring an in-house expert or acquire a smaller provider?

The good news is “neither.”

Over the past few years, a number of dedicated financial wellness service providers for company retirement plans has emerged and are able to serve true third party, turnkey offerings that can be integrated with the offerings of employee benefit consultancies. In many instances, these services can be "white labeled" under the consultancies' own brands.

But caveat emptor: As with capturing any potential growth opportunity with an outsourced provider, it’s important to team up with the right partner.

With that in mind, here are the three key considerations to bear in mind for benefits consultants who are seeking the right third party, turnkey financial wellness provider to partner with and drive greater value for clients.

Look for educational and training materials that are robust and tailor-made to the plan participants. Any reasonably good financial wellness provider should be able to offer educational and training materials that cover a wide range of topics, including basic financial and investing concepts, tips for paying down debt and general keys to improving retirement preparedness. Frankly, that’s easy enough to accomplish, and required nothing more than bit of time and some money.

But what separates great financial wellness solutions from those that are merely good is both the willingness and capability to customize that content to the size of the plan and unique needs, goals and aspirations of the participants. An educated plan participant, one who is armed with information that is tailor-made for them, is far more likely to take the steps necessary to improve their financial wellness.

Demand data analytics programs that can demonstrate ongoing financial health and retirement readiness. It’s one thing for plan participants to have the knowledge they need to understand better what takes to one day retire comfortably. It’s an entirely different thing, however, knowing whether they are actually on track to do that.

That’s why it’s critical for a financial wellness provider to have data analytics programs in place that monitor key metrics and can determine, in real time, whether someone is making the behavioral changes necessary to become financially healthy and retirement ready. Importantly, providers should also be able to aggregate this data for plan sponsors, since that would provide important clues about the overall effectiveness of the plan.

Provide access to financial wellness resources without disrupting or tearing down current technologies. Nearly every benefit company has their own technology portals that allow plan participants to adjust their contribution amount or swap investments, as well as to view balances, statements and other critical information about their account. Obviously, not many companies will want to rebuild or make significant changes to their technology infrastructure to add financial wellness resources.

Therefore, look for providers that can integrate their own turnkey solutions into existing platforms with little, if any, disruption. This includes giving benefit companies the option of white labeling those resources under their own brand.

Not only is there a clear opportunity for employers to invest in financial wellness programs to seek to maximize productivity by minimizing personal finance-related stress in the workplace, but there are also heightened risks of regulatory fines and penalties from the U.S. Department of Labor. These regulations are aimed at company retirement plans that fail to provide plan participants with the tools and guidance they need to make the most of their retirement plan savings and investments.

Given this extra layer of liability, it will be more important than ever for plans sponsors and employee benefits companies to pair up with the best possible financial wellness provider to give plan participants a better sense of their options and better prepare them for the future.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kent R. (2017 June 21). 3 key point for choosing a wellness provider [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/three-key-points-for-choosing-a-wellness-provider


10 Ways Millennials are Saving for the Future

Have your millennial employees started saving for their retirement? Check out this article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro and see what millennial across the country are doing to prepare themselves for retirement.

They’re called spendthrifts by other generations, are laden with student debt and burdened with lower-paying jobs.

But that doesn’t mean that millennials aren’t thinking about the future and saving for it.

And they could certainly use a little help—from human resources and from plan sponsors—to be more successful at it, since both the debt and the jobs don’t leave them much to work with when all expenses are accounted for.

Both HR and sponsors might want to consider how retirement savings plans and their features—auto-enrollment, auto-escalation, employer matching funds—could be tweaked to give millennials a boost in meeting major life goals and in saving for retirement, as well as for the health expenses it undoubtedly will bring along with it.

In the meantime, they can consider how millennials are already trying to stretch every dollar till it snaps—some in very unconventional ways.

In a survey, digital banking app Varo Money, Inc. has uncovered a range of methods millennials are using to make those paychecks go farther.

And while retirement is certainly on their radar, that’s not the only goal they’re pursuing; of course they have a whole life to live first. Some of their prime goals are travel, buying property and dreaming about a new car, while

Here are some of the strategies to which millennials resort in the quest to fund their futures. Can plan sponsors be less imaginative than some of these? Surely not….

10. Half of millennials surveyed save automatically.

While respondents say they aren’t fond of spreadsheets—they don’t track their money constantly, or input figures into programs like Excel or Mint to create detailed, category-based budgets—they do watch their bank balances regularly and are pretty aware of what they spend monthly.

They view it as “hands-off” money management.

What they do, however, is save automatically out of each paycheck, with 50 percent socking away a percentage every payday. So they’re prime candidates for savings plans with auto features—enrollment, escalation, etc.

report from the Society of Human Resource Management points to multiple studies indicating that auto escalation in particular—but to a high level such as 10 percent—results in higher savings for employees, since few actually opt out of a rate higher than they might have chosen for themselves.

9. Millennials are looking to climb the corporate ladder—to a higher paycheck.

An impressive 39 percent of millennials are on the prowl for a better-paying job opportunity, which is yet another reason that HR personnel and plan sponsors hoping to retain good staff might want to keep an eye on millennials’ rate of pay, as well as their rate of savings.

Reviewing other benefits wouldn’t hurt, either, since the more attractive an existing job is, the more likely an employee is to stay.

Considering the cost of finding, hiring and training replacements, a raise and better benefits might be cheaper in the long run.

8. Millennials know food is cheaper at home, especially with a partner to share it.

Millennials, despite their spendthrift reputation, are willing to skip little luxuries like the much-vaunted avocado toast or make coffee and meals at home.

In fact, 36 percent stick with the coffeepot on the counter instead of the barista at the corner, while 11 percent of men and 3 percent of women are willing to abandon the avocado toast—after all, everyone has his, or her, breaking point when economizing.

And 26 percent of respondents point out that cooking for two is cheaper than dining solo at home—much less in a restaurant.

7. Millennials recognize how much cheaper it is to live as a couple.

While 75 percent of millennials are conscious of the financial benefits in being half of a couple. 44 percent point to the cheaper rent when there are two to share the load.

And that helps them both save more.

Even those who aren’t part of a couple are looking for roommates, according to Mashable, which reports on a SmartAsset study finding that in high-rent cities like San Francisco, New York and Boston a person can save at least $700 a month by having a roommate.

Cue in the cooking-at-home technique for group meals, and the savings grow even more.

6. Millennials go on fewer dates to save money.

Being in a relationship, say 16 percent of millennials, is cheaper than still looking, since they save money by not going out on so many dates.

5. They save on taxes if they’re married.

Ever-practical, these millennials. They recognize that being half of a married couple can save on their tax bill—and they don’t forget that either when looking for cash to stash for the future.

4. They bargain-hunt for credit card perks.

Make no mistake, among millennials travel is a big deal: 58 percent said travel destinations are their favorite topic of conversation.

And asked what they would purchase with $2,000 if they could only spend it on one thing, 25 percent said plane tickets.

As a result, they tend to be particularly savvy when it comes to being able to travel, with 16 percent seeking out credit cards that provide big mileage bonuses.

3. They leverage perks to pursue other little luxuries without having to lay out cash for them.

In fact, they’re fond of doing it for travel, with 7 percent using airline miles to upgrade to business class.

In addition, 7 percent use status from premium credit cards for hotel upgrades, and 6 percent use premium cards for lounge access.

2. They’re planning on grad school.

While that may not seem like saving—even though it’s definitely ahead of the 11 percent of male millennials who are saving for a new luxury car and the 12 percent of female millennials saving for a new wardrobe—they’re looking toward an advanced degree for a leg up the job ladder.

Oh, and 27 percent are saving for a place of their own.

1. They stay away from credit cards.

Mashable reports that, despite their spendthrift reputations, millennials are actually opting for other types of technology—digital wallets, for instance—but not so much credit cards.

It cites a BankRate finding that in fact, 67 percent of millennials don't have credit cards—the lowest amount of people without credit cards in any demographic, among adults.

And they’d rather be paid in cash, thank you very much. So say 58 percent, and they’re smart; it wards off unnecessary purchases and helps keep them out of credit card debt.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M.  (2017 June 29). 10 ways millennials are saving for the future [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/29/10-ways-millennials-are-saving-for-the-future?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


How to Build Financial Wellness into a More Holistic Wellness Program

Are you looking for new ways to help your employees increase their financial wellness? Check out this great article by Michelle Clark from SHRM highlighting what HR can do to help employees engage with the company's benefits program to improve their financial situation.

The majority of HR professionals give their employees a financial health rating of “fair” and nearly 20 percent report that their employees are “not at all” financially literate according to a national SHRM survey.

That’s an issue. Because when employees are stressed about money they don’t turn their worry off at work – and the price is paid in lost productivity.

You can help fix the problem. Everyone wins when traditional employee wellness programs are recast in a more holistic, well-rounded way – with financial wellness an important cornerstone.

There is no cookie cutter solution. But if you build a customized program that’s responsive to specific requirements and comfort levels of different employee groups, it can be rewarding and valuable.

First, review your employee demographics to get an idea of what their financial situations may look like. For example, it’s understood that the majority of today’s workforce is comprised of three age groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each has different financial stressors and preferences on how they prefer to receive assistance:

  • Boomers on the verge of retirement are wondering if they can afford it or even want to retire. If they need to work, they are worried they’ll have a hard time finding a job.
  • Generation X can barely think about retirement planning when they’re trying to cover the mortgage, raise kids, save money for college and shoulder responsibilities for aging parents.
  • Millennials are burdened by student loan debt while trying to stretch their paychecks so they can live on their own instead of with their parents.

There also are vastly different ways each accesses support. Boomers may be okay with online resources and one-on-one coaching. But Millennials and Gen Xers may want more high-tech resources such as websites offering basic money courses and worksheets to help with budgets, housing or investment planning.

Once a solution has been established, the next step is getting people to partake. You don’t want to target employees, since privacy is a major consideration. Offering options allows employees to engage privately on their own terms. That’s why the online solutions are ideal for individual financial issues, offered in tandem with more on-site sessions on general concerns. And there’s always the potential of offering one-on-one financial counseling or financial wellness coaches to round out your program.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Clark M. (2017 June 16). How to build financial wellness into a more holistic wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-blog-june-2017-how-to-build-financial-wellness-into-a-more-holistic-we