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7 Social Security facts Americans need to know

There are millions of  Americans who depend on Social Security to fund their retirement. Many of the people who depend on social security for their retirement funding tend to overestimate how much money they will receive, or how long the money will last. With the many changes that have occurred to Social Security over the years many Americans are out of touch with how the program works and how it fits into their overall retirement strategy.  Here is a great list compiled by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on the top 7 things Americans need to know about Social Security and how it can impact their retirement.

7. Monthly benefits are based on the age at which you collect and the average of your highest 35 years of earnings.

How many years have you paid into Social Security?

The SSA will take your 35 highest paid of those years and average them to come up with what your monthly benefit will be.

Then, depending on whether you decide to go for early retirement (age 62), full retirement age (currently age 66, but rising to 67) or keep working till age 70, that will determine your benefit.

If you retire at age 62, your benefit will be reduced. At the full retirement age you’ll get your full benefit, but if you work till 70 the benefit will keep increasing.

The longer you work and don’t claim, the higher your benefit will be, but it stops growing once you hit age 70.

6. Claiming too early can cut your benefits for life.

If you decide to collect Social Security when you’re 62 (or, for that matter, any time before you hit age 70), your benefit will be paid at the minimum level you earned through your career and won’t rise (except for cost-of-living raises) at all.

If, on the other hand, you can wait till age 66, you’ll get at least a third more in those monthly checks than you would at 62.

But if you wait till age 70, your benefit will be at least 75 percent higher. That’s according to the Social Security Claiming Guide from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Oh, and the same goes for your spouse. If you claim early and die, your spouse will be restricted to that smaller benefit for life as well—unless said spouse has a separate career and benefits to draw on.

5. Widows and widowers can claim on their deceased spouses’ records to delay claiming on their own.

A widow or widower can claim a survivor benefit on their late spouse’s record in order to postpone claiming their own benefit—which can be very helpful should they want to delay claiming till age 70.

And, as the Claiming Guide points out, since most survivors are women and women’s benefits are generally lower—thanks to a range of reasons, including less time in the workplace and lower salaries—a husband’s benefit will generally be higher.

If, however, a woman’s benefit would be higher than her late husband’s, claiming on his record would allow her to delay claiming until age 70 to maximize her own benefit.

That said, survivor benefits are available as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled, but they’re reduced up to 28.5 percent if claimed before the recipient’s full retirement age.

Survivor benefits can also be claimed by a divorced spouse as long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years.

4. Husbands can boost wives’ survivor benefits by delaying claiming.

Since most women survive their husbands—by an average of 6 years, in fact—a husband who wants to maximize his wife’s survivor benefit in the event of his death can delay claiming his own benefit as mentioned earlier.

In fact, a husband can increase the monthly benefit his wife gets as his survivor by more than 20 percent if he delays claiming Social Security until age 66 instead of doing so at age 62, if he waits till age 70 to claim benefits, that rises to 60 percent.

3. Continuing to work after claiming before full retirement age will cost you.

It might seem like a terrific idea to claim Social Security early and just keep working; after all, what’s not to like?

You gain another source of income, you’re still making money and maybe you envision just socking the extra money into savings for later in retirement.

But there’s one (not-so-)little flaw with that idea: Social Security may giveth, but it will also taketh away.

If you did that last year and weren’t already at the full retirement age, you’ve already learned to your sorrow that for every $2 above $15,720 you earned in calendar year 2016, Social Security withheld $1.

And Social Security will do that every year till you hit full retirement age; in that year, it will keep $1 for every $3 you earn above $3,490 each month.

If you wait to pursue that strategy till the year after you’ve hit full retirement age, however, it won’t withhold anything.

The good news is that you don’t actually lose that money; it’s restored to increase your monthly benefits later.

2. Social Security provides half the income for 61% of seniors.

It’s all very well to say that seniors will have Social Security to depend on, but the majority of seniors have few other resources to draw on.

report on Madison.com highlights how essential Social Security is to the majority of seniors, regardless of how long they’ve worked or how much they’ve saved, with some statistics from Social Security itself—and one of those is just how important Social Security is to people’s financial well-being during retirement.

Whether they’ve managed to save more in 401(k)s, IRAs or even an actual pension plan, seniors are still deriving much of their income from those monthly Social Security checks.

1. Social Security provides at least 90% of income for 43% of unmarried seniors.

Lest you think that Social Security is just one leg of the proverbial three-legged stool, keep in mind the statistic above.

Without additional sources of income, unmarried seniors who are almost, or completely, dependent on Social Security checks will almost certainly not have a pleasant retirement—or a healthy one.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 August 29). 7 social security facts americans need to know [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/29/7-social-security-facts-americans-need-to-know?ref=mostpopular&page_all=1


4 Reasons Employers Should Offer Supplemental Life Insurance

Is life insurance included in your employee benefits program? For many employees, their only form of life insurance they have is the basic group life plan provided by an employer. This standard version of life insurance is usually not enough to maintain most employees financial wellness. Supplemental life insurance plans can enhance the standard coverage provided by most employers by providing employee financial security for their futures. While these plans can be a great way to boost an employees financial wellness only about one-half of employers across the nation offer supplemental life insurance with their employee benefits. Take a look at this great list put together by Mike Wozny from Think Advisor and find out the top 4 reasons why you should be offering your employees supplemental life insurance.

Depending on an individual family’s needs, supplemental life insurance can build on the employer-provided life insurance benefit, and helps employers give their employees the future financial security their employees need. For those employers who are not currently offering supplemental life, here are four key reasons they should start:

  • Many employers can offer employees the financial security of supplemental life insurance without increasing their benefits budget. Because supplemental life insurance is opt-in and chosen by individual employees as appropriate for their situations, employers can offer supplemental life insurance as an option at no additional cost to the employer. Employees can then customize their coverage to their needs depending on their financial responsibilities.
  • Many group carriers offer employers help in enrolling employees in supplemental life. Employers can host on-site enrollment sessions lead by a life insurance expert or hold a webinar led by the carrier followed by online enrollment. Many carriers even offer customized enrollment materials for each employee — all without adding to the employer’s human resources teams’ workload.
  • Financial security is tied to employees' productivity. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found that when employees have to spend time and energy worrying about providing for their families, they are more productive. Appropriate life insurance is a key factor in overall financial health, and provides employees with the peace of mind that lets them focus their energy elsewhere.
  • Comprehensive benefits packages contribute to higher employee satisfaction and retention.The Society for Human Resource Management has also found that benefits offerings are important to employees’ decisions about what companies to work for and how long to stay. Offering a benefits package that includes supplemental life insurance coverage allows employees to customize benefits to their own needs.

With the loss of a loved one, many families also lose their income, which can be not only emotionally devastating, but financially devastating as well. When employers offer a complete benefits package, including one that promotes financial wellness, it gives their employees peace of mind, and helps attract and retain top workers.

Though life insurance is rarely a topic that families want to think about, employers can help employees obtain the right amount of insurance to protect their finances by offering supplemental life insurance options. For those employers who are not currently offering these benefits, in many cases they can be added at no expense, with little additional time required to administer them, and at great potential benefit to both the company and its employees.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Wozny M. (2016 October 19). 4 reasons employers should offer supplemental life insurance [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2016/10/19/4-reasons-employers-should-offer-supplemental-life


5 Things Millennials Need to Know About Life Insurance

As millennials grow older and start planning for their futures, one thing they will have to think about is life insurance.  While access to the internet and mobile data has made learning about life insurance easier than before many millennials still have many unanswered questions when it comes to planning for their life insurance policy. Take a look at his great column by Helen Mosher from Life Happens and find out the top 5 thing Millennials need to know about life insurance.

 

1. Life insurance is a form of protection. If you Google “life insurance” you’ll get a slew of ads telling you how cheap life insurance can be, without nearly enough information about what you need it for. That’s probably because it’s not terribly pleasant to think about: this idea that we could die and someone we care about might suffer financially as a result. Life insurance provides a financial buffer for the people you care about in the event something happens to you. Think just because you’re single, nobody would be left in the lurch? Read the next point.

2. College debt may not go away. Did someone—like your parents—co-sign your student loans through the bank? If so, the bank won’t discharge that debt upon your death the way that the federal government would with federal student loans. That means your parents, or others who signed the paperwork, would be responsible for paying the full balance—sometimes immediately. Don’t saddle them with the bill!

3. If you don’t know anything about life insurance, it’s probably better if you don’t buy it off the internet. It’s what we’re used to: You find the thing you need or love on Amazon or Ebay or Etsy, click a few buttons, and POOF. It arrives at your door. But life insurance is a financial planning product, and while it can be as simple as a 20-year term policy for less than a cup of coffee each day (for real!), going through your options with an insurance professional can ensure that you get the right amount for the right amount of time and at a price that fits into your budget. And many people don’t know that an agent will sit down and help you out at no cost.

4. Social fundraising only goes so far. This relatively recent phenomenon has everyone thinking that they’ll just turn to GoFundMe if things go awry in their lives. But does any grieving person want to spend time administering a social fundraising site? The chances of going viral are markedly slim, and social fundraising sites will take their cut, as will the IRS. And there is absolutely no guarantee about how much—if any—money will be raised.

5. The best time is now. You’ll definitely never be younger than you are today, and for most of us, the younger we are the healthier we are. Those are two of the most important factors for getting affordable life insurance coverage. So don’t delay. And if you don’t have an agent, you can also use our Agent Locator. The key is taking that first step.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Mosher H. (2017 July 5). 5 things Millennials need to know about life insurance [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.lifehappens.org/blog/5-things-millennials-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/


SELF-INSURED GROUP HEALTH PLANS

Are you looking to switch your company's healthcare plan to a self-funded option? Take a look at this informative column by the Self-Insurance Institute of America and find out everything you need know when researching the best self-funded plan for your company.

Q. What is a self-insured health plan?

A. A self-insured group health plan (or a 'self-funded' plan as it is also called) is one in which the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees. In practical terms, self-insured employers pay for each out of pocket claim as they are incurred instead of paying a fixed premium to an insurance carrier, which is known as a fully-insured plan. Typically, a self-insured employer will set up a special trust fund to earmark money (corporate and employee contributions) to pay incurred claims.

Q. How many people receive coverage through self-insured health plans?

A. According to a 2000 report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), approximately 50 million workers and their dependents receive benefits through self-insured group health plans sponsored by their employers. This represents 33% of the 150 million total participants in private employment-based plans nationwide.

Q. Why do employers self fund their health plans?

A. There are several reasons why employers choose the self-insurance option. The following are the most common reasons:

  1. The employer can customize the plan to meet the specific health care needs of its workforce, as opposed to purchasing a 'one-size-fits-all' insurance policy.
  2. The employer maintains control over the health plan reserves, enabling maximization of interest income - income that would be otherwise generated by an insurance carrier through the investment of premium dollars.
  3. The employer does not have to pre-pay for coverage, thereby providing for improved cash flow.
  4. The employer is not subject to conflicting state health insurance regulations/benefit mandates, as self-insured health plans are regulated under federal law (ERISA).
  5. The employer is not subject to state health insurance premium taxes, which are generally 2-3 percent of the premium's dollar value.
  6. The employer is free to contract with the providers or provider network best suited to meet the health care needs of its employees.

Q. Is self-insurance the best option for every employer?

A. No. Since a self-insured employer assumes the risk for paying the health care claim costs for its employees, it must have the financial resources (cash flow) to meet this obligation, which can be unpredictable. Therefore, small employers and other employers with poor cash flow may find that self-insurance is not a viable option. It should be noted, however, that there are companies with as few as 25 employees that do maintain viable self-insured health plans.

Q. Can self-insured employers protect themselves against unpredicted or catastrophic claims?

A. Yes. While the largest employers have sufficient financial reserves to cover virtually any amount of health care costs, most self-insured employers purchase what is known as stop-loss insurance to reimburse them for claims above a specified dollar level. This is an insurance contract between the stop-loss carrier and the employer, and is not deemed to be a health insurance policy covering individual plan participants.

Q. Who administers claims for self-insured group health plans?

A. Self-insured employers can either administer the claims in-house, or subcontract this service to a third party administrator (TPA). TPAs can also help employers set up their self-insured group health plans and coordinate stop-loss insurance coverage, provider network contracts and utilization review services.

Q. What about payroll deductions?

A. Any payments made by employees for their coverage are still handled through the employer' s payroll department. However, instead of being sent to an insurance company for premiums, the contributions are held by the employer until such time as claims become due and payable; or, if being used as reserves, put in a tax-free trust that is controlled by the employer.

Q. With what laws must self-insured group health plans comply?

A. Self-insured group health plans come under all applicable federal laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Civil Rights Act, and various budget reconciliation acts such as Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA), Deficit Reduction Act (DEFRA), and Economic Recovery Tax Act (ERTA).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Self-Insurance Institute of America (Date). Self-insured group health plans [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.siia.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageID=4546


The IRS Is Still Enforcing The Individual Mandate, Despite What Many Taxpayers Believe

Did you know that there are many people who still don't believe that they will be hit by tax penalty if they do not have health insurance? Here is an informative article by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs on why everyone should be keeping up with their health insurance in-order to avoid a tax penalty by the IRS.

There has been considerable speculation since President Trump’s Inauguration Day Affordable Care Act Executive Order as to whether the Internal Revenue Service is in fact enforcing the individual and employer mandates. The IRS website has insisted that the mandates are still in force, despite the Executive Order and despite the fact that the IRS decided not to implement for 2016 tax filings a program rejecting “silent returns” that did not indicate compliance with individual mandate requirements.

There is evidence, however, that many taxpayers do not believe it. An April report from the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Services found that as of March 31, a third fewer taxpayers were paying the penalty than had been the case a year earlier. More importantly, insurers seem to believe that the IRS is not enforcing the mandate, or at least that taxpayers do not believe the IRS is enforcing the mandate, and are raising their rates for 2018 to account for the deteriorating of the risk pool that nonenforcement of the mandate will cause.

It is of note, therefore, that Robert Sheen at the ACA Times has identified several letters from the IRS reaffirming that it is still in fact enforcing the individual, and employer, mandates.

One is a letter reportedly sent in April by the IRS General Counsel to Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) in response to an inquiry as to whether the IRS could waive the employer mandate with respect to a particular employer. The IRS replied that there was no provision in the ACA for waiver of the mandate penalty when it applied and that: “The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

In a second letter in June, responding to an individual who had written to President Trump, the IRS similarly responded:

The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law, including the requirement to have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for a coverage exemption for the month, or make a shared responsibility payment.

Of course, whether taxpayers believe it, and whether insurers believe taxpayers believe it, is another question.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 21). The IRS is still enforcing the individual mandate, despite what many taxpayers believe [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/21/the-irs-is-still-enforcing-the-individual-mandate-despite-what-many-taxpayers-believe/


us capitol

ACA Revamp Odds Slip as Senate Gets New Expiration Date

Timeframe to repeal and replace has just shortened. Find out how this new timeline for the repeal of ACA will impact Senate and their plan for healthcare in this informative column by Laura Litvan from Think Advisor.

The Senate parliamentarian told lawmakers that Republicans’ ability to pass an Affordable Care Act change bill with just 51 votes expires at the end of this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders said Friday.

The preliminary finding complicates any further efforts by Republican leaders in Congress to pass a comprehensive GOP-only overhaul of the health care law.

Sanders, a Vermont independent, in a statement called the determination a "major victory" for those who oppose Affordable Care Act de-funding.

Senate Republicans, who control the chamber 52-48, failed to win enough support for their ACA de-funding and change bill in July as three GOP lawmakers joined Democrats to oppose the measure. Republican leaders haven’t ruled out reviving their effort, and some party members — including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Ted Cruz of Texas — say they’re talking to colleagues about a possible broad-based bill.

At the same time, some senators are discussing a scaled-back, bipartisan health measure. It takes 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, and Democrats are united against de-funding of the Affordable Care Act, or the kinds of Affordable Care Act program changes proposed in the bills that have reached the House or Senate floor.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has scheduled four hearings this month to examine bolstering the Affordable Care Act public health insurance exchange system.

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, and the panel’s top Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington, have pledged a bipartisan effort to shore up the exchanges, which provide consumers a place to purchase individual coverage with help from Affordable Care Act subsidies.

Earlier guidance from Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough dogged Republicans in their Affordable Care Act change effort throughout the summer. In late July, she issued a preliminary finding that key parts of a proposal drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t qualify for consideration under the budget reconciliation rules, dramatically complicating the already slimming prospects of passing a bill.

Republicans can still try to use the budget reconciliation process to get an Affordable Care Act change bill through the Senate with just a 51-vote majority, rather than a 60-vote majority, during the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The House Budget Committee has drafted a fiscal 2018 budget that could be used for both de-funding the Affordable Care Act and tax reform. That budget may come to the floor in mid-September, and the Senate Budget Committee hopes to release its version of the budget in the coming weeks. Still, putting a tax overhaul and Affordable Care Act de-funding in the same legislation would be time-consuming and unlikely.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Litvan L. (2017 September 1). ACA revamp odds slip as senate gets new expiration date [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.thinkadvisor.com/2017/09/01/aca-revamp-odds-slip-as-senate-gets-new-expiration?t=health-insurance?ref=channel-top-news


Preparing for 2018 Open Enrollment

As open enrollment season nears, make sure you are staying compliant and up-to-date with everything that is happening in ACA. Here are some great tips by Carl C. Lammers from Benefit News on what you need to know to prepare yourself for open enrollment this upcoming year.

Open enrollment for employer-sponsored health and welfare benefits comes every year; usually with little fanfare as employers generally have a system in place to seamlessly handle enrollments.

This changed with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but now seven years later, employers again mostly have open enrollment standardized. This year brings a new challenge – the Summary of Benefits and Coverage document that was created by the ACA has undergone its first major restructuring since 2012 when employers were first required to provide the SBC.

The new SBC template must be used for open enrollments that occur on or after April 1, 2017. For calendar year plans, the upcoming 2018 open enrollment is the first open enrollment where the new SBC templates must be used.

If you need a quick refresher, the SBC summarizes group health plan coverage for employees, describing many important plan features, such as deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and services covered, so that employees can better understand and make more informed choices about the available coverage options.

SBCs have a required uniform format and must contain certain information and examples, so that employees can compare an employer’s coverage options and options from more than one employer.

The uniform standard definitions of medical and health coverage terms and the required SBC template are distributed by the IRS, DOL, and HHS.

While the insurance carrier or third party administrator normally provides the SBC to an employer for distribution with open enrollment materials, employers are ultimately responsible for the SBC’s accuracy and distribution and for the recently increased penalties – of $1,087 per failure – for failure to distribute the SBC.

Employers should review the SBC’s provided for the upcoming open enrollment to be sure they have changed to reflect the new rules. Employers should also distribute the Section 1557 nondiscrimination notice with the SBC to avoid potential penalties.

The new finalized guidance on SBCs was issued by the Departments in April of 2016. The guidance states that while all prior formatting must still generally be complied with; SBCs can now have certain language and formatting alterations, such as differing font styles and margins in order to maintain the four page requirement. Definitions were also added to the Uniform Glossary, and the Departments state that SBCs may hyperlink the terms to a micro-site that HHS will maintain.

The required content of the SBC has also changed, with some of the most significant changes being:
A description of what an SBC is and where consumers can find more information, located at the beginning of the SBC.

A description of how family members must meet their own individual deductibles before the overall family deductible is met, and what services are covered.

  • Changing of the term "person" to "individual."
  • A statement that copays may not be included in out-of-pocket limits.
  • The removal of the definitions of copayments and coinsurance.
  • Change of the "Limitations & Exceptions" column to "Limitations, Exceptions, & Other Important Information" which must now include:
  • When the plan does not cover a certain service category, or a substantial portion of a service category.
  • When cost sharing for covered in-network services does not factor into the out-of-pocket limit.
  • Visit and/or dollar limits.
  • When services require preauthorization.
  • Note: cross-referencing is allowed if including all information in this section would cause the SBC to exceed four pages.
  • New language about minimum essential coverage, minimum value, and language access services.
  • The addition of a third Coverage Example about costs for a fracture, and slightly altered formatting to the Coverage Examples section.
  • A statement regarding whether abortions are covered by the plan.

One thing that is not part of the new SBC guidance is also important for employers: SBCs are likely considered "significant communications" for purposes of the nondiscrimination rules found in Section 1557 of the ACA, and the notice required by Section 1557 should be included with the SBC.

The Section 1557 notice must be included with all “significant communications” involving the medical plan. It is not clear whether the Departments have considered the addition of the Section 1557 language and its impact on the four page SBC limit.

We suggest including the 1557 notice with the new SBCs, but not as part of the new SBCs, in order to maintain the four-page length. Be sure to review any draft SBCs prepared by your insurer or TPA before distribution to ensure they meet the new formatting requirements.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Lammers C. (2017 July 31). Preparing for 2018 open enrollment [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/preparing-for-2018-open-enrollment


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


Why Self-funded Healthcare is a Great Option for 2017

Have your health care options left you at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new talent? Switching to a self-funded healthcare plan can be a great way to reduce your healthcare cost while increasing your ability to attract new employees to your workforce. Take a look at this interesting article by Paul Johnson from Employee Benefits News and find out why you should switch to a self-funded healthcare plan.

Small- and mid-sized companies using traditional major medical plans are at a competitive disadvantage: either they are paying more in loaded costs than competitors that use smarter healthcare options, or they are finding it more difficult to hire employees because their competitors offer better plans.

With the new year and a new healthcare landscape, HR executives and benefits directors are now reconsidering their options, taking a much harder look at out how they can stop struggling to offer competitive benefits, and actually use their healthcare plans to recruit and retain the best talent, which will ultimately boost employee morale and profitability.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $18,142, with workers paying $5,277 toward their plan in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

While companies still shoulder the lion’s share, worker contributions increased about 80% over the last 10 years; this cost doesn’t even include the employee’s co-pay or deductible.

To balance the scales and create a competitive advantage, more companies are turning to healthcare plans based on a self-funding model that offer more flexibility, customization and cost-savings while still improving the quality of care. Self-funded plans have been almost universal among large employers for quite some time, yet only in recent years have more HR departments at small- and mid-sized companies started to realize the benefits.

Customizing a self-funded model

Federal and state laws incorporate exceptions that enable companies to self-fund healthcare. This move provides for more flexibility while limiting risk for the employer. Companies can also choose to pay their claims directly, or work with third-party administrators to handle claims and administrative responsibilities.

Benefits can include medical, dental, vision, prescription medications and workers’ compensation. Unlike more rigid traditional insurance, companies can customize their offerings to address specific needs, such as investing in injury and chiropractic care in industries that require physical labor to robust maternity benefits for those with younger workforces.

Customized plans offer a win-win scenario — the company saves money while increasing productivity, and employees get access to the most pertinent care at an affordable cost.

To further increase convenience and cost efficiencies, companies can use third-party healthcare concierge services to help employees navigate the system, access the right level of care, and steer them away from needlessly expensive services and facilities. Also, businesses have the option to purchase stop-loss insurance to increase the type of healthcare provided to employees and limit the company’s liability in case of catastrophic illnesses and accidents.

Saving money

Self-funding is generally less expensive — 10% to 25% less, according to the Self Insurance Educational Foundation — than fully funded insurance because it doesn’t include marketing costs or profit margins associated with traditional insurance. As an added benefit, companies that self-insure are exempt from state insurance regulations and premium taxes, and are not subject to many government provisions.

Managing care delivery also has a dramatic impact on costs. For example, many medical services are needlessly performed in hospitals, where costs are higher. A third-party partner can direct employees to comparable lower-cost sites of service. Similarly, while costs of prescription medications can vary widely among pharmacies, understanding cost differentials and making decisions accordingly can bring costs down.

While advantageous for all types of employers, the ability to closely manage care delivery and place of service is especially important for companies with low-wage and young workers who have previously relied on high-cost emergency rooms for basic care or are unaccustomed to navigating the system.

Lowering workers’ comp

Employees often use workers’ comp for minor injuries requiring only first aid or for injuries sustained outside the workplace because they don’t have other options. With a self-funded plan – and with the assistance of a third-party partner to help employees access care through the right channels – businesses can cut such claims.

Likewise, organizations with an Experience Modifier Rate may lower their E-Mod score through a self-funded plan.

Owning healthcare data

Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, health insurance underwriters reviewed the medical data of a specified group of employees. Now, carriers must look at an entire community — often hundreds of businesses — and calculate a community rating based only on age, zip code and smoker status.

Because the ACA requires guaranteed-issue medical insurance, does not allow denial based on preexisting conditions, and precludes annual or lifetime limits, insurers must account for added risks when setting rates that are often detriment to the company and result in higher premiums.

Companies that self-fund have access to every claim, allowing them to benchmark their utilization against industry norms and address red flags, ultimately using insights garnered to better manage benefits and control costs.

Insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, despite what the industry leads business owners to believe. Providing quality healthcare and maintaining profitability should not be mutually exclusive. For many companies, a self-funded plan becomes the gateway to managing skyrocketing healthcare costs while offering competitive benefits.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Johnson P.  (2017 January 9). Why self-funded healthcare is a great option for 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-self-funded-healthcare-is-a-great-option-for-2017