Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies

Has your employee benefits program grown old and stale? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the benefits of upgrading your employee benefits to match your employees needs by Chris Bruce

Historically, employee benefits have been viewed as a routine piece of the HR process. However, the mentality of employees today has shifted, especially among the growing population of millennial employees. Today’s workforce expects more from their employers than the traditional healthcare and retirement options, in terms of both specific benefit offerings and communications about those offerings.

For companies, it’s critical they address the evolving needs of their workforce. With unemployment rates plunging to their lowest levels since before the financial crisis, the search for talent is heating up, and organizations need to work harder than ever to retain top talent in a competitive job market. To do this, I see three steps that organizations need to take when rethinking their benefits strategy and engaging with employees: embrace a proactive rather than reactive benefits strategy, think digital when it comes to employee communications and consider the next generation of employee benefits as a way to differentiate from the competition.

1. Reconsider your benefits evaluation process

The benefits process at most companies is reactive — executives and HR only look to evaluate current offerings when insurance contracts expire or a problem emerges. When the evaluation does happen, the two factors that often concern employers the most are product and price. Employers often gravitate toward well-known insurers that offer the schemes that appear familiar. However, this can often lead companies to choose providers who fall short on innovation and overall customer experience for employees.

This approach needs to be flipped on its head. Companies should be proactive in determining which benefit schemes best meet the needs of their workforce. The first step is going straight to the source: talk to employees. Employers can’t know what benefits would be most appealing to their employee base unless they ask. By turning the evaluation process to employees first, companies can better tailor new benefits to meet the needs of their workers, and also identify existing benefits that might be outdated or irrelevant, therefore saving resources on wasted offerings.

Data and analytics also are playing an increasing role across the HR function, and benefits is no exception. By leveraging technology solutions that allow HR to track benefits usage and engagement, teams can better determine what is resonating with employees and where benefits can be cut back or where they should be ramped up.

2. Put down the brochure and think digital engagement

Employee education is another area of benefits that can often perplex companies. According to a recent survey from Aflac, half of employees only spend 30 minutes or less making benefit selections during the open enrollment period each year. This means employers have a short window of time to educate employees and make sure they are armed with the right information to feel confident in their benefits selection.

To do this effectively, HR needs to move past flat communication like brochures, handouts and lengthy employee packets and look for ways to meet employees where they live — online. By testing out innovations that create a rich experience, while still being simple and intuitive, employers can grab the attention of their workforce and make sure key information is communicated. For example, exploring opportunities to create cross-device experiences for employees so they can interact on-the-go, including augmented reality applications or digital interactive magazines. Additionally, for large corporations, hosting a virtual benefits fair can provide a forum for employees to ask questions in a dynamic setting.

3. Embrace the next-generation of benefits

As organizations become more savvy and nimble, personalization will have a huge impact in encouraging employee engagement and driving satisfaction among today’s increasingly diverse workforce. We have already started to see some companies embrace this new approach to benefits, adding out-of-the-box items to normal offerings — from debt consolidation services and wearable health tracking technology to genome testing and wedding concierge services.

The fact is, the days of “status-quo” benefits are gone, and employees today want benefit options that match their current life circumstances. To best engage employees, organizations need to be proactive in evaluating benefits regularly and using analytics to track usage, identify opportunities to implement digital communication elements and look for ways to introduce new benefits to meet the needs of their employee base. By following these steps, organizations can gain a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bruce C. (2017 March 10). Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-steps-employers-can-take-to-rethink-benefits-strategy?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


ACA replacement proposal leaked: Some of the finer points for HR

Does the repeal of the ACA have you worried? Checkout this great article about some of the changes that will come with the repeal of the ACA by Jared Bilski.

A draft of the Republicans’ Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement bill that was leaked to the public is likely to look a lot different when it’s finalized. Still, it gives employers a good indication of how Republicans will start to deliver on their promises to “repeal and replace” Obamacare. 

It should come as no surprise to employers that the GOP replacement bill, which was obtained by POLITICO, would scrap a cornerstone of the ACA — the individual mandate — as well as income-based subsidies and all of the laws current taxes (at least one replacement tax is included in the legislation).

According to the discussion draft of the replacement bill, it would offer tax credits for purchasing insurance; however, those credits would be based on age instead of income.

For example, a person under the age of 30 would receive a credit of $2,000. A person over the age of 60, on the other hand, would receive double that amount.

Some of the other highlights of the leaked legislation include:

End of ACA essential health benefits

Obamacare’s essential health benefits mandates require health plans to cover 10 categories of healthcare services, which include:

  1. Ambulatory patient services
  2. Emergency services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and newborn care
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services
  6. Prescription medications
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  8. Lab services
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management, and
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

Under the bill, individual states would make the decisions about what types of services plans must cover — beginning in 2020.

A Medicaid expansion overhaul

The Medicaid expansion under Obamacare that has covered millions of people will be phased out by 2020 under the GOP bill. The replacement proposal: States would receive a set dollar amount for each person.

There would also be variations in the funding amounts based on an individual’s health status. In other words, more money would be allocated for disabled individuals, which is a huge departure from the open-ended entitlement of the current Medicaid program.

Pre-existing conditions, older individuals

One of the most popular elements of the ACA would apparently remain untouched under the GOP bill: the Obamacare provision that prohibits health plans from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

However, the legislation does take aim at older individuals. The GOP would allow insurers to charge older people up to five times more for healthcare than younger individuals. The current ACA limits that difference to three times as much.

The bill does aim to remedy this discrepancy by providing bigger tax credits for older people.

Taxes get axed

There is a slew of taxes built into the ACA — the manufacturer tax, and taxes on medical devices, health plans and even tanning beds — and the Republican bill would repeal those taxes.

But those taxes help cover the cost of the ACA. So to make up for the shortfall that would result in killing those taxes, the GOP is floating the idea of changing the tax treatment of employer-based health insurance. As employers are well aware, employer-sponsored health plan premiums currently aren’t taxed. Under the GOP proposal, this would be changed for some premiums over a certain threshold — although the specifics of such a change remain murky.

Such a move would surely be met by fierce opposition from the business community. In fact, major employer groups are already preparing to fight such a proposition.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 March 01). ACA replacement proposal leaked: some of the finer points for HR [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/aca-replacement-proposal-leaked-some-of-the-finer-points-for-hr/


Employers embrace new strategies to cut healthcare costs

Are you looking for a new solution for cutting your healthcare cost? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about what other employers are doing to cut their cost healthcare cost by Phil Albinus.

As employers await a new health plan to replace the Affordable Care Act and consensus grows that high deductible health plans (HDHPs) are not the perfect vehicle for cutting healthcare costs, employers are incorporating innovative strategies to achieve greater savings.

Employers are offering HSAs, wellness incentives and price transparency tools at higher rates in an effort to cut the costs of their employee health plans. And when savings appear to plateau, they are implementing innovative reward plans to those who adopt these benefits, according to the 2017 Medical Plan Trends and Observation Report conducted by employee-engagement firm DirectPath and research firm CEB. They examined 975 employee benefit plans to analyze how they functioned in terms of plan design, cost savings measures and options for care.

The report found that 67% of firms offer HSAs while only 15% offer employee-funded Health Reimbursement Arrangements. As “use of high deductible plans seem to have (at least temporarily) plateaued under the current uncertainty around the future of the ACA, employer contributions to HSAs increased almost 10%,” according to the report.

Wellness programs continue to gain traction. Fifty-eight percent of 2017 plans offer some type of wellness incentive, which is up from 50% in 2016. When it comes to price transparency tools, 51% of employers offer them to help employees choose the best service, and 18% plan to add similar tools in the next three years. When these tools are used, price comparison requests saw an average employee savings of $173 per procedure and average employer savings of $409 per procedure, according to CEB research.

“What was interesting was the level of creativity within these incentives and surcharges. There were paycheck credits, gift cards, points that could be redeemed for rewards,” says Kim Buckey, vice president of client services at DirectPath. “One employer reduced the co-pays for office visits to $20 if you participated in the wellness program. We are seeing a level of creativity that we haven’t seen before.”

Surcharges on tobacco use has gone down while surcharges for non-employees such as spouses has risen. “While the percentage of organizations with spousal surcharges remained static (26% in 2017, as compared to 27% in 2016), average surcharge amounts increased dramatically to $152 per month, a more than 40% increase from 2016,” according to the report.

Tobacco surcharges going down “is reflective of employers putting incentives in, so they are taking a carrot approach instead of the stick,” says Buckey.

Telemedicine adoption appears to be mired in confusion among employees. More than 55% of employees with access to these programs were not aware of their availability, and almost 60% of employees who have telemedicine programs don’t feel they are easy to access, according to a separate CEB survey.

Employers seem to be introducing transparency and wellness programs because the savings from HDHPs appear to have plateaued, says Buckey. She also noted recent research that HSAs only deliver initial savings at the expense of the employee’s health.

“With high deductible plans and HSAs, there has been a lot of noise how they aren’t the silver bullet in controlling costs. Some researchers find that it has a three-year effect on costs because employees delay getting care and by the time they get it, it’s now an acute or chronic condition instead of something that could have been headed off early,” she says.

“And there is a tremendous lack of understanding on how these plans work for lower income employees, [it’s] hard to set aside money for those plans,” she says.

Educating employees to be smarter healthcare consumers is key. “What is becoming really obvious is that there is room to play in all these areas of cost shifting and high deductible plans and wellness but we can no longer put them in place and hope for the best,” she says. We have to focus on educating employees and their families,” she says. “If we are expecting them to act like consumers, we have to arm them with the tools. Most people don’t know where to start.”

She adds, “we know how to shop for a TV or car insurance but 99% of people don’t know where to start to figure out where to shop for prescription drugs or for the hospital where to have your knee surgery. Or if you get different prices from different hospitals, how do you even make the choice?”

When asked if the results of this year’s report surprised her – Buckey has worked on the past five – she said yes and no.

Given that the data is based on information from last summer for plans that would be in effect by 2017, she concedes that given the current political climate “a lot is up in the air.” Most employers were hesitant to make substantive changes to their plans due to the election, she says. We may see the same thing this year as changes are made to the ACA and the Cadillac Tax, she adds.

“What I was interested in were the incremental changes and some of the creativity being applied to longstanding issues of getting costs under control,” she says.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Albinus P. (2017 March 05). Employers embrace new strategies to cut healthcare costs [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-embrace-new-strategies-to-cut-healthcare-costs?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Employees desperately need more information on health plans, study says

Did you know that a lot of your employees may be unaware of the health care options your company offers? Take a peek at this great article from HR Morning on how to improve your employees knowledge of their healthcare options by Jared Bilski

As an increasing number of employees are being asked to make smarter healthcare spending decisions, communication is more important than ever. Unfortunately, it looks like many firms have a lot of room for improvement.  

That’s one of the alarming takeaways from healthcare administrator Alegeus’ recent “State of Denial” study.

A number of the stats from the study point to a major employee healthcare problem that’s only getting worse. That problem: While employees’ health options are becoming increasingly complex, most workers don’t have the knowledge and/or accountability to make wise decisions involving those options.

Unaware and overwhelmed

Here are some of the most alarming stats from the study:

  • 63% of employees said they don’t know the benefit of an HSA
  • 50% don’t know how to predict current or future out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures and can’t select the best savings vehicle or rate
  • 26% of HSA accountholders don’t know they can use HSA funds beyond the immediate plan year, and
  • 41% of HSA accountholders were unaware they could invest HSA funds.

The study also highlighted some of the contradictions between what employees said they wanted or needed, and how they acted.

For example, although 70% of employees said they’d like to take a more active role in their healthcare decisions, just 50% intend to conduct more due diligence when purchasing healthcare in 2017.

The importance of one on one

One of the most effective ways to improve employees’ benefits understanding is through one-on-one communications.

To help ensure this is effective, here are three things HR pros should keep in mind, according to Winston Benefits, a voluntary benefits plan provider:

1. Prepare the right materials

When you’re doing a large-scale benefits presentation, you generally just hand out the materials, and employees look through and use those materials as they see fit.

But with individual sessions, benefits pros have to be prepared to explain those materials in any way an employee requests.

Example: Walking a worker through a tool or calculator in a step-by-step manner.

2. Look to your broker

In many cases, benefits brokers are willing to go on site for one-on-one sessions, and companies should take advantage whenever possible.

Employees will be comfortable knowing there’s an in-house HR or benefits pro at the broker, and a broker’s expertise can really improve workers’ overall understanding.

3. Allot enough time

The point of these meetings is to give employees all the time they need to understand their options and make informed decisions.

Rushing workers through these meetings will ensure the one-on-one education falls flat.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 February 17). Employees desperately need more information on health plans, study says [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/employees-desperately-need-more-information-on-health-plans-study-says/


Employers adding financial well-being tools for preretirees

Take a peek at this interesting article from Benefits Pro, about the man tools and services employers are starting to offer to pre-retirees by Marlene Y. Satter,

As their employee base ages closer to retirement, employers are adding tools to help those older employees better prepare for the big day.

That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s “2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing” survey, which found that employers are taking action to improve employee benefits and help workers plan for a secure financial footing, not just now but when they retire.

Not only are employers focusing on enhancing both accumulation and decumulation phases for defined contribution plan participants, they’re taking a range of steps to do so—from improved education to encouraging higher savings rates.

Just 15 percent of respondents are comfortable with the average savings rate in their plan; among the rest, 62 percent are very likely to act on increasing that savings level during 2017, whether by increasing defaults, changing contribution escalation provisions, or sending targeted communications to participants.

And only 10 percent of employers are satisfied with employees’ knowledge about how much constitutes an adequate amount of retirement savings, and nearly all dissatisfied employers (87 percent) are likely to take some action this year to help workers plan to reach retirement goals.

In addition, more employers are providing options for participants to convert their balances into retirement income. Currently just over half of employers (51 percent) allow individuals to receive automatic payments from the plan over an extended period of time.

They’re also derisking through various means, whether by adopting asset portfolios that match the characteristics of the plan’s liabilities (currently 40 percent of employers use this strategy, but the prevalence is expected to grow to more than 50 percent by year end), considering the purchase of annuities for at least some participants (28 percent are considering this action) or planning to offer a lump-sum window to terminated vested participants (32 percent are in this camp).

Why are employers suddenly so interested in how well employees are financially prepared for retirement?

According to Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, not only do employees not really understand how to convert a lump sum retirement plan balance into retirement income that they can live on, and employers are also worried that employees will mishandle that lump sum when the time comes and end up broke.

So some employers are tackling the issue by folding in more information about 401(k) plans with the annual enrollment process, in an effort to get employees to think more holistically about their benefits packages.

They're also encouraging them to consider increasing contributions to their retirement plan while they’re already enmeshed in other enrollments.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 February 13). Employers adding financial well-being tools for preretirees [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/13/employers-adding-financial-well-being-tools-for-pr?ref=hp-top-stories


Why wellness needs to be personal

Great article from Employee Benefits News about the importance of employee wellness by Brian M. Kalish,

There is no question that a healthier workforce is a more productive and more engaged workforce. With employers consistently looking to improve effectiveness of wellness programs, advisers agree that making the programs more personal provides a solid road toward increased engagement.

When a wellness program is personal, it is relevant. Employees will see something they are interested in and engage, says Erin Milliken, wellness consultant with EPIC Brokers in Houston.

The benefits of personalized wellness are abundant. Aetna recently ran a pilot program through its innovation lab, in cooperation with personalized health management startup Newtopia, which used a combination of behavioral science and limited genetic testing to build a highly personalized disease prevention and weight management program for Aetna employees at high risk for metabolic syndrome.

Through personalized information, nearly three-quarters of the more than 400 people in the program reported significant weight loss, with an average weight loss of 10 pounds. Additionally, Aetna employees in the programs improved in several of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, including waist size, triglycerides and good cholesterol (HDL) levels.

As a cost savings, average healthcare costs were reduced $122 per program participant per month, according to Aetna.

Making information personal is important because clients and their employees are oversaturated with points of contacts, adds Archana Kansagra, director of health and wellness product and strategy at Aetna in Boston.

Kansagra, who previously worked as a consultant to large employers, says employers are focusing on making access to wellness programs easy for their employees. “It is such a transformational time,” she says. “These [wellness] programs are trying to get pointed to understand the member, what their needs are and how to best communicate with them … with information that is timely and relevant.”

Wellness is becoming personalized through technology, such as through smartwatches and different devices that employees keep with them 24 hours a day, Milliken says.

“Technology will really take wellness and the health management space to another level,” she adds. “We haven’t quite gotten there, but technology will cause this industry to boom and get … employees to engage.”

Working with clients
Although there is little question personalized health programs increase employee wellness and therefore productivity and engagement, it is a fine line for advisers to bring it up with their clients.

Milliken says advisers should be proactive about the conversation because most employers do not know what to do when it comes to wellness. “It is our job to engage them and engage their population,” she says.

But responses remain a mixed bag. “Some employers will come to me or come to my team and say, ‘We want wellness because our claims experience is outrageous,’” she explains. “But some clients don’t know anything about wellness and we [as advisers] have to … build the case.”

It is easier for brokers working with employers who already understand wellness. “For those employer groups who aren’t quite persuaded into believing wellness can work for them, that is a tougher conversation,” Milliken says. “But we can get there and once they understand how wellness can improve their business” they are onboard.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why wellness needs to be personal [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-wellness-needs-to-be-personal?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


Employers prioritizing employee well-being

Are you putting enough priority into your employees' well-being? Take a look at this article from Employee Benefits Advisor   about the importance of employee well-being by Nick Otto

Benefits managers and HR pros alike know the two-fold benefits well-being programs provide: a healthier, more engaged workforce and increased productivity. So it’s no wonder more companies are prioritizing such programs.

A large majority of employers (78%) call employee well-being a key component of company strategy, according to Virgin Pulse’s 2017 State of the Industry report. In addition, 87% say they have already invested, or plan to invest, in some type of employee well-being initiative, and 97% agree with the decidedly uncontroversial statement that worker well-being positively influences engagement.

“Until recently, employee well-being has been viewed as a ‘nice to have,’ but with more and more research directly connecting employee well-being to business productivity and performance, business leaders are recognizing it as a ‘must have’ from a business perspective,” says Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, a wellness technology provider. “The proof is in the data that emerging-companies that invest in employee well-being see lower turnover, less absenteeism, stronger stock performance and higher business productivity. That’s a compelling business case.”

But what programs do employers say are advancing wellness and engagement? Opinions seem to differ. Forty-one percent of the organizations surveyed by Virgin Pulse are still in the process of defining employee engagement or developing a plan to enhance it.

Further, a little less than a third (29%) of respondents have established engagement programs to fit specific needs or offer an integrated solution that links to organizational strategy, the report notes.

One of the more striking differences between the older, or more “mature” organizations, accounting for 29% of those surveyed, and the rest of the employers is that the great majority of the former group conducts annual employee engagement surveys, compared to less than half of other employers.

By completing these surveys, some roadblocks employers say they are encountering in engaging more employees in well-being programs include issues such as organization culture (48%), budgets (47%) and communications (30%), the study notes.

For benefits managers, making sure that all employees have access to benefits and programs that address their full well-being — and having the ability to communicate those programs and measure usage and impact — is critical in proving the value of wellness programs, Boyce notes.

“Today, businesses can and should be looking beyond wellness and health cost savings and evaluating employee well-being programs in the context of the larger cultural and business value they deliver, such as increased employee engagement and retention, reduced safety incidents, decreased absenteeism and higher business productivity,” he adds.

In fact, a large majority of HR leaders view workplace culture as an important part of furthering employee well-being. Eighty percent have programs in place or plan to implement programs aimed at improving culture at the office.

Beginner organizations can jump-start their well-being initiatives by offering well-being programs, experiences and activities that engage all employees, not just a few, Boyce suggests. Social connections and team support are critical in building — and sustaining — cultures of well-being, so the more actively involved employees are in the program, the more successful it will be in driving the changes and outcomes that matter for individuals and organizations.

“As organizations continue to focus on individual well-being as a positive driver of company culture, they are going to see happier, healthier, more engaged employees and better business results, across the board,” he says. “That’s just good business sense.”

The best way to implement a robust program that meets the individual needs of employees —while simplifying management and communication for employers — is to find a well-being vendor that has a hub embedded with their solution, Boyce says.

A hub that provides a one-stop-shop experience by connecting all relevant programs into a single space allows employees to access all their resources in one interface while driving participation and usage. With the right well-being and benefits hub, employers will be able to integrate a broad range of HR and benefits programs and promote them to relevant employees and populations.

“Imagine being able to suggest your financial planning program to employees that are new to the workforce, physical activity programs to those who are most sedentary, and mindfulness programs to departments in the throes of their busy season,” Boyce says. “Simplification, employee engagement and personalization are key to building a robust well-being program.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 January 27). Employers prioritizing employee well-being [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-prioritizing-employee-well-being?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Feds pump out even more Obamacare instructions

Have you heard about the recent changes coming to the ACA? If not take a look at this great article from HR Morning about the recent changes that will be going into effect for the ACA by Jared Bilski

If you believe Republicans on Capitol Hill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) isn’t long for this world. Still, the Obama administration continues to clarify how businesses are supposed to comply with the law’s many provisions. 

The Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) just put their heads together for the 35th time to address questions surrounding Obamacare reforms.

Here’s some of the most useful info to come out of this latest FAQ:

Qualified small employer HRA

As HR Morning reported previously, the 21st Century Cures Act, among other things, allows certain small employers to offer a general purpose stand-alone health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) without violating the ACA. It is also referred to as a “qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement” — or QSEHRA.

The FAQ touches on how this new law jibes with the ACA and clarified that in order to be a QSEHRA, the structure of the plan must:

  • be funded entirely by an eligible employer — one with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees in the prior year and that doesn’t offer a group health plan to any of its employees
  • provide payment to, or reimbursement of, an eligible employee for medical care under Code section 213(d)
  • not reimburse more than $4,950 for eligible expenses for individuals or $10,000 for families, and
  • be provided to all eligible employees of the employer offering the HRA.

One thing the 21st Century Cures Act (and the feds’ FAQ) doesn’t address: Whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) applies to a QSEHRA.

Special Enrollment & HIPAA

The FAQ also addressed special enrollment for group health plans under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Because HIPAA generally allows current employees and dependents to enroll in a company’s group health plan if the employees/dependents lose their previous coverage, they must be offered the same special enrollment option if they lose individual market coverage (i.e., health coverage they obtained through the individual Obamacare marketplace — or “exchanges”).

This could happen to individual market participants if an insurer that was covering an employee/dependent decides to stop offering that individual market coverage. As we saw last year, several major insurers have taken that step.

One exception to this special enrollment: If the loss of coverage is due to a failure to pay premiums in a timely manner — or “for cause.”

Updated women’s preventive services

As you know, under the ACA, non-grandfathered health plans are required to provide recommended preventives services for women without any cost-sharing.

Those services are listed in the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) guidelines, and the guidelines were just updated on December 20, 2016. The updated guidelines bolster many of the existing covered preventive care services for women in the areas of:

  • breast cancer
  • cervical cancer
  • gestational diabetes
  • HIV, and
  • domestic violence.

The services in the updated guidelines must be covered — without cost-sharing — for plan years beginning on or after December 20, 2017 (Jan. 1, 2018 for calendar year plans). Until then, plans can keep using the previous HRSA guidelines.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 6). Feds pump out even more Obamacare instructions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/feds-pump-out-even-more-obamacare-instructions/


How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing

Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees', employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen

Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.

As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.

Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.

Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.

“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”

Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.

Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.

“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”

The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.

“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


HSAs could play bigger role in retirement planning

Did you know that ACA repeal could have and effect on health savings plans (HRA)? Read this interesting article from Benefits Pro about how the repeal of the ACA might affect your HRAs by Marlene Y. Satter

With the repeal of the Affordable Care Act looming, one surprising factor in paying for health care could see its star rise higher on the horizon—the retirement planning horizon, that is. That’s the Health Savings Account—and it’s likely to become more prominent depending on what replaces the ACA.

HSAs occupy a larger role in some of the proposed replacements to the ACA put forth by Republican legislators, and with that greater exposure comes a greater likelihood that more people will rely on them more heavily to get them through other changes.

For one thing, they’ll need to boost their savings in HSAs just to pay the higher deductibles and uncovered expenses that are likely to accompany the ACA repeal.

But for another—and here’s where it gets interesting—they’ll probably become a larger part of retirement planning, since they provide a number of benefits already that could help boost retirement savings.

Contributions are already deductible from gross income, but under at least one of the proposals to replace the ACA, contributions could come with refundable tax credits—a nice perk.

Another proposal would allow HSA funds to pay for premiums on proposed new state health exchanges without a tax penalty for doing so—also beneficial. And a third would expand eligibility to have HSAs, which would be helpful.

But whether these and other possible enhancements to HSAs come to pass, there are already plenty of reasons to consider bolstering HSA savings for retirement. As workers try to navigate their way through the uncertainty that lies ahead, they’ll probably rely even more on the features these plans already offer—such as the ability to leave funds in the account (if not needed for higher medical expenses) to roll over from year to year and to grow for the future, and the fact that interest on HSA money is tax free.

But possibly the biggest benefit to an HSA for retirement is the fact that funds invested in one grow tax free as well. If you can leave the money there long enough, you can grow a sizeable nest egg against potential future health expenses or even the purchase of a long-term care policy. And, at age 65, you’re no longer penalized if you withdraw funds for nonapproved medical expenses.

And if you don’t use the money for medical expenses in retirement, but are past 65, you can use it for living expenses to supplement your 401(k). In that case, you’ll have to pay taxes on it, but there’s no penalty—it just works much like a tax-deferred situation from a regular retirement account.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 January 16). HSAs could play bigger role in retirement planning [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/16/hsas-could-play-bigger-role-in-retirement-planning?ref=hp-news