Less than half of small businesses offer benefits

Source: http://eba.benefitnews.com
By Tristan Lejeune

Less than half of U.S. small businesses offer benefits to employees, according to research from LIMRA released this week. The firm finds that 47% of those with two to 99 employees offer benefits, the lowest level in two decades.

In its survey of 754 private small businesses, LIMRA spoke to the individuals who made or shared decision-making regarding business insurance and employee offerings. Samples were weighed by company size, industry and region based on U.S. Census Bureau data.

Seventy-eight percent of small American businesses are family-owned, LIMRA reports, and such firms had a sharper decline in benefit penetration (47% down to 40%) than non-family-owned ones between 2005 and 2012. Female-owned businesses, which accounted for a quarter of the total, tend to be smaller, produce less revenue and are less likely to offer insurance benefits than male-owned firms (37% versus 50%).

“The recession has had an impact on smaller employers’ ability to offer benefits, particularly those with fewer than ten employees,” says Kim Landry, LIMRA Product Research analyst. “The weak economy caused a lot of small firms to close, while the new firms cropping up to replace them are less likely to offer benefits. Many small businesses are also hesitant to add new benefits until the economy improves.”

Landry says that among those who do still offer benefits, health care and pharmacy remains the most popular by far, as well as the most common.

“These benefits provide an opportunity for small business owners to obtain coverage not only for their employees, but also for themselves and their families,” notes Landry. “We also found dental and vision coverage to be common offerings among small businesses, as these products tend to be very popular with employees.”

Life insurance also is offered frequently, because of its low cost and ease of administration, LIMRA reports. Accident insurance and short- and long-term disability, however, have what LIMRA calls fairly low penetration rates.

Census Bureau data reveal that 35% of the U.S. workforce is in small businesses, which account for 98% of American companies.


5 things on Americans’ 2013 health policy agenda

Source: http://eba.benefitnews.com

By Gillian Roberts

With the 113th Congress up and running and the president’s policy schedule filling up by the day, a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health identified five things Americans would like the government to set as top health care priorities this year:

1. State exchanges. Fifty-five percent of respondents say state-based health insurance exchanges are a top priority for their lawmakers. With only 18 states and Washington, D.C., declaring they will create state exchanges, more information is needed on how federally run exchanges will operate in the remaining states. “This is the year of the health insurance exchange,” said David Colby of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at a luncheon held Thursday at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The panelists, including Drew Altman, CEO of KFF, noted that governors are still split along partisan lines about the creation of exchanges.

2. PPACA opposition. Fifty-two percent, including 78% of Republicans, say the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act opponents in Congress should continue trying to overturn the law. When asked why, a majority of respondents cited overturning the law for “less impact on taxpayers, employers and health care providers.”

3. PPACA complacency. Forty percent think that PPACA opponents in Congress should “accept that it is now the law of the land,” and move on to focus on implementation.

4. Premiums. Increasing state regulation of health insurance premiums should be a priority for lawmakers, 37% of respondents say.

5. Women’s health care. One-fifth of respondents believe lawmakers should limit women’s family planning, reproductive health and other services. A timely topic as PPACA’s birth control mandate seems poised to head to the Supreme Court later this year, according to the Associated Press.


Top 5 issues facing physicians, patients in 2013

Source: http://www.benefitspro.com


By Kathryn Mayer

As health reform continues to changes the landscape of our country’s health system, what’s to watch in this new year? A lot, industry insiders say.

Lou Goodman, president of The Physicians Foundation and CEO of the Texas Medical Association, says 2013 will be “a watershed year” for the U.S. health care system. Most of those changes will have a big impact on both patients and the physicians caring for them.

“It’s clear that lawmakers need to work closely with physicians to ensure we're well prepared to meet the demands of 30 million new patients in the health care system and to effectively address the impending doctor shortage and growing patient access crisis.”

The Physicians Foundation identified five issues that are likely to have a significant impact on patients and physicians in 2013.

1. Ongoing uncertainty over PPACA

Despite the Supreme Court decision upholding most of the provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the re-election of President Obama, considerable uncertainty persists among patients and physicians regarding actual implementation of the act. Much of the law has yet to be fully defined and a number of key areas within PPACA—including accountable care organizations, health insurance exchanges, Medicare physician fee schedule and the independent payment advisory board—remain nebulous, the foundation says. Their research found that uncertainty surrounding health reform was among the key factors contributing to 77 percent of physicians being pessimistic about the future of medicine. In 2013, physicians will need to closely monitor developments around the implementation of these critical provisions, to understand how they will directly affect their patients and ability to practice medicine.

2.  More consolidation

Consolidation means bigger, but is bigger better? Large hospital systems and medical groups continue to acquire smaller/solo private practices at a steady rate. According to the foundation's report pertaining to the future of U.S. medical practices, many physicians are seeking employment with hospital systems for income security and relief from administrative burdens. But increased consolidation may potentially lead to monopolistic concerns, raise cost of care, and reduce the viability and competitiveness of solo/private practice. As the trend toward greater medical consolidation continues across 2013, it will be vital to monitor for possible unintended consequences related to patient access and overall cost of care.

3. A scramble to fix the doctor shortage

In 2014, PPACA will introduce more than 30 million new patients to the U.S. health care system, a provision that has considerable implications relative to patient access to care and physician shortages. According to the Foundation’s Biennial Physician Survey, Americans are likely to experience significant challenges in accessing care if current physician practice patterns continue. If physicians continue to work fewer hours, more than 47,000 full-time-equivalent physicians will be lost from the workforce in the next four years. Moreover, 52 percent of physicians have limited the access of Medicare patients to their practices or are planning to do so. As the 12-month countdown to 30 million continues across 2013, physicians and policy makers will need to identify measures to help ensure a sufficient number of doctors are available to treat these millions of new patients – while also ensuring the quality of care provided to all patients is in no way compromised.

4. Erosion of physician autonomy

The Physicians Foundation believes that physician autonomy – particularly related to a doctor’s ability to exercise independent medical judgments without non-clinical personnel interfering with these decisions – is markedly deteriorating. Many of the factors contributing to a loss of physician autonomy include problematic and decreasing reimbursements, liability/defensive medicine pressures and an increasingly burdensome regulatory environment. In 2013, physicians will need to identify ways to streamline these processes and challenges, to help maintain the autonomy required to make the clinical decisions that are best for their patients.

5. Growing administrative burdens

Increasing administrative and government regulations were cited as one of the chief factors contributing to pervasive physician discontentment, according to the Foundation’s 2012 Biennial Physician Survey. Excessive “red tape” regulations are forcing many physicians to decrease their time spent with patients in order to deal with non-clinical paper work and other administrative burdens. In 2013, physicians and policy makers will need to work closely together to determine steps that will effectively reduce gratuitous regulations that negatively affect physician–patient relationships. According to a recent Foundation report, the creation of a Federal Commission for Administrative Simplification in Medicine could help reduce these regulations by evaluating and reducing cumbersome physician reporting requirements that do not result in cost savings or measurable reductions in patient risk.


Blank Check

Source: United Benefit Advisors
By Holly Parsons

The more employers I talk with, the more I hear the challenge of finding the right balance between encouraging and supporting employees to make healthy lifestyle choices and getting too much into “their business.” This dilemma is understandable. Even the most well-intentioned individuals can overstep boundaries and cause feelings to be hurt, or even worse, privacy to be violated.

However, I can’t think of any organization that would give employees carte blanche opportunity to spend any amount of money they want on products or services for the business and still expect to stay in business. Yet, that’s what employers do when they provide a product, a.k.a. insurance, for their staff and fail to stress the importance of good stewardship in how that product is “spent.” It’s akin to letting employees purchase unlimited printers because the ink runs out.

If the insurance you provide for your employees has become so expensive that you have had to minimize the benefits (ie: higher deductibles) or shift the cost to the employees, effectively lowering their compensation, then it’s time to start figuring out a way to get involved in “their business” because now, it is your business.

Hierl Insurance Hosts HR Webinar Exploring the Best Practices of Top-Rated Benefit Plans

Source: United Benefit Advisors

Reina O'Beck

Webinar reviews how winning companies manage their benefit plans

Indianapolis, IN, February 6, 2013 - In a time when health care costs are at an all-time high, it’s essential to maximize employee benefit investments. Hierl Insurance, in conjunction with The Principal Financial Group, is hosting an HR webinar that will explore top-rated benefit plans, called Making the Right Investment in Benefits: How the Winning Companies Do It.

Normally offered to non-clients for a fee, the event is now available complimentary to all employers and HR professionals and will give inside access to the winners of The Principal® 10 Best Companies that are leading the way in maximizing the return on investment (ROI) of benefits.

“I can’t stress enough how critical it is for employers to learn how to effectively implement a strategic, well-rounded benefits program, given the weighty impact that these programs can have on an organization’s bottom line,” said Thomas Mangan, CEO of United Benefit Advisors. “Whether you are a small or midsize employer — or employ tens of thousands — these companies provide an easy-to-implement template for success when it comes to impacting performance and productivity.”

The Making the Right Investment in Benefits: How the Winning Companies Do It webinar will take place Feb. 19 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EDT. To receive the $149 discount for this webinar, enter the code UBARIB when registering. Participants will learn:

  • The ROI of benefits
  • Best designs for retirement, wellness and voluntary benefits
  • Top communication practices
  • How to evaluate benefit effectiveness
  • How your plans stack up against the 10 Best

About Jerry Ripperger, Director of Consulting for Retirement and Investor Services
Jerry has 25 years of experience developing and implementing employee benefit programs for owners and employees of growing businesses. Ripperger has also consulted on consumer-driven health care, including savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and wellness programs.


Making the right investment in benefits: How the winning companies do it

[button color="blue" link="http://marketing.experience-6.com/acton/form/1515/011f:d-0003/1/index.htm"]Register Here[/button]

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 - 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT

Are the benefits you provide valued by employees and effective in achieving your goals? Fine-tune your benefits program by reviewing these easy-to-use best practices based on recent winners of The Principal® 10 Best Program. These top companies show that when managed well, benefits positively impact performance and productivity.

Attendees will learn:

  • The ROI of benefits
  • Best designs for retirement, wellness and voluntary benefits
  • Top communication practices
  • How to evaluate benefit effectiveness
  • How your plans stack up against the 10 Best

Don't miss this opportunity to benchmark your plan against the 10 Best winners!

HRCI Credit. This webinar has been submitted to the Human Resource Certification Institute to qualify for 1.25 recertification credit hours.



Jerry Ripperger
Director of Consulting for Retirement and Investor Services

Jerry has 25 years of experience developing and implementing employee benefit programs for owners and employees of growing businesses. Ripperger has also consulted on consumer-driven health care, including savings accounts (HSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and wellness programs.


Top 8 Questions Employers Should Ask their Employee Benefits Advisor

by Bill Olson

To receive the PPACA executive summary:

[button color="grey" link="http://marketing.experience-6.com/acton/form/1515/00ff:d-0002/0/index.htm"]Register Now[/button]

United Benefit Advisors recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary in supporting its Partners’ efforts to provide quality employee benefits advisory services to their clients. With a decade of experience responding to the ever-changing health care industry, UBA understands the biggest pain points facing employers offering health care coverage to their employees.

To commemorate this 10th anniversary, as well as continue its tradition of assisting the nation’s employers, UBA Partner Firms have compiled the top eight questions that every employer should ask their benefits advisor. These questions are based on many years of experience working with large and small businesses, across a range of industries:

1. What’s the best way to control health care costs?

Surprisingly, there are still ways to achieve cost-containment and even savings on health care expenditures. It takes careful plan design, carrier negotiations and employee education, but it can be done. In fact, UBA data shows its employer customers save on average 5.2 percent a year.

2. What are my top competitors offering in terms of health care benefits?

When you are looking to balance costs with attracting talent, it is critical to know what other employers in your region, size-range and industry are doing when it comes to offering health care coverage. This granular benchmarking is far more critical then comparing your plan with national or carrier data.

3. Should I move to a consumer-driven health plan?

While the media portrays these plans as the best opportunity to save, UBA advisors have a decade of data that shows this isn’t always the case. Often, adjusting the deductible on a PPO plan provides the same savings without all the disruption of switching to a CDHP plan.

4. With health care reform in full implementation, should I play or just pay?

While on the surface it may seem easy to just wash your hands of health benefits altogether, your benefits advisor should help you fully assess all the tax, reporting, recruitment, retention, financial and other ramifications of this choice.

5. Should I consider self–funding?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is prompting many advisors to talk even more seriously to small and midsize employers about taking the plunge into self-funded health care plans. While the trend has been building for about a decade due to the increased control employers have over plan dynamics, even employers with 100 employees should look at this option because it may offer some compliance and cost relief associated with reform.

6. What do I need to know about private and public exchanges?

With public exchanges largely undeveloped and private exchanges just emerging, not to mention complex rules around coverage through these vehicles, your advisor can help you best determine who in your organization can be best served through these very different types of exchanges.

7. With most of my benefits spend going to health care, which ancillary benefits will give me the biggest bang for my buck?

Whether you are considering wellness programs, dental, short-term disability, long term disability, auto, home, and/or life insurance options, you should base your decisions on solid data around factors such as return-on-investment, individual vs. group, and what other employers are offering in your region, size-range and industry.

8. How do I stay on top of all the changes and obligations under PPACA?

Your benefits advisor should provide a simple checklist of your obligations each year under the law. In addition, they should stay on top of the coverage requirements, grandfathering and supply the latest tools for educating employees about your plans. Your advisor should also keep you informed as new rules and clarifications are issued for review and implementation so you can prepare, lobby and act accordingly.


Premium Blues

The cost of employer-sponsored health coverage increased faster than wages in every state between 2003 and 2011, a new Commonwealth Fund analysis found. Employees' share of premiums of family coverage hit $3,962 in 2011, a 74 percent jump from 2003. The total average premium cost for family coverage reached $15,022 in 2011, an increase of 62 percent from 2003.