5 ways benefits educators can ease the open enrollment process

Are you prepared for open enrollment? HR professionals are responsible for effectively communicating plan options and changes to employees so they make informed decisions regarding their coverage and healthcare. Continue reading to learn more.


Open enrollment season is on its way, which means that HR’s already full plate just got a bit fuller. In addition to developing competitive health plans that attract and retain top talent – talent of all ages and with varying needs – HR pros are also responsible for effectively communicating plan options to employees to ensure that individuals make informed, cost-conscious decisions about their coverage and care.

See also: Here’s how HR pros can breeze through open enrollment

As the healthcare landscape becomes more complex, so do employee questions around their health care benefits. Many healthcare consumers today don’t feel comfortable navigating the health care system – which is why most roll over the same plan year after year. While HR teams want to manage the influx of employee questions around their benefits options, they struggle to provide the necessary guidance given their current bandwidth. Covering health plans in a large townhall meeting won’t provide the personalized information that employees need to make educated decisions. To deliver a more personal, empowering experience, organizations can look to benefits educators to supplement strapped HR teams.

Benefits educators can help individuals better understand the plan options available to them and select the package that offers the coverage they need at the price that best fits their budget. To ensure that benefits educators are aligned with the organization’s strategy, HR teams should arrange for educators well in advance of open enrollment so they are equipped to best explain the employer’s benefits plan options. Once up to speed, benefits educators can hold one-on-one conversations with employees to:

1. Define healthcare terms that employees don’t understand. With low healthcare literacy rampant across the U.S., disturbingly few employees are comfortable defining basic health terms such as “deductible,” “copay” or “coinsurance.” benefits educators cannot only explain these important terms but also help employees understand their significance in their coverage selection process.

2. Compare different plans to suit each employee’s needs. Benefits educators will work to understand the specific needs of each employee they meet. By taking the time to sit and get to know each employee, the benefits educator can recommend options that provide the coverage that best meets the needs of the employee and his or her family.

See also: Avoid these 12 Common Open Enrollment Mistakes

Third-party, independent benefits educators can be particularly valuable for employees who do not feel comfortable posing personal questions to their coworkers. By meeting one-on-one with an outsider who understands both benefits in general and company options in particular, employees are often more inclined to raise specific health or personal details that should guide their benefits selection. In fact, 45 percent of employees say they would prefer to speak to a benefits expert when choosing their coverage.

3. Equip employees with the information they need to choose their coverage. Left to their own devices, 83 percent of employees spend less than an hour reviewing their plan options before open enrollment – a lack of preparation that does not bode well for educated benefits selection. benefits educators can focus on the details that matter – saving the employee time and effort.

4. Explain voluntary benefits. Despite the increasing popularity of voluntary benefits, many employees are still confused about what they are, how they work and why they might be helpful. In reality, certain voluntary benefits can help control health costs and bridge the gap between medical coverage and out-of-pocket costs – added expenses that concern 61 percent of employees. In today’s multigenerational workforce – where employees have very different priorities when it comes to their health and financial wellness – benefits educators can dispel some of the mystery and suggest options that might meet individual needs.

5. Empower employees to make the most of their benefits year-round. Benefits educators can lay the groundwork for more educated health care consumers by directing employees to resources where they can find more information about their coverage and how their plans work after the open enrollment ends.

See also: 5 tips to make this the best open enrollment ever

More informed employees not only make smarter choices about their coverage and care but also better appreciate their employers – which has the potential to help with retention and business productivity. Ultimately, organizations see a win-win-win: happier employees who save on care, happier HR teams who save on time and happier executives, who see a significant return on their health care investments.

SOURCE: Murdock, G (21 September 2018) "5 ways benefits educators can ease the open enrollment process" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/09/21/5-ways-benefits-educators-can-ease-the-open-enroll/


Medicare: Why an Advisor Makes All the Difference

Often those approaching Medicare eligibility are overwhelmed by the quantity of information available – and understandably so. As a form of insurance, Medicare is fundamentally different from other group/employer, individual, or family plans in that it is centered around the individual, yet any decisions made could potentially affect family members. In order to understand the costs, benefits, plans, and overall structure of Medicare, professional advice is strongly recommended when weighing options. That’s why, in this installation of CenterStage, Rob Glover, our Senior Solutions Advisor at Saxon, provided the following insightful information. Generally speaking, Medicare plans are explored during a significant lifestyle change. Having an insurance sales agent to facilitate retirement planning can help in adjusting Medicare options.

A Two-Way Relationship

Insurance agents are able to conform Medicare options around desired preferences and requirements. Each beneficiary is unique and therefore deserves a plan that delivers a standard of quality that is suited to varying budgets and ways of life. Agents can act as personal advisors and offer close collaboration when sifting through insurance plans. After becoming aware of defined healthcare coverage needs, Medicare advisors can narrow the search and find a solution that will safeguard both the individual and his or her family from looming financial damages.

It’s best to have a licensed agent with years of experience in Medicare. While textual knowledge is certainly important, learned wisdom is paramount in avoiding pitfalls throughout the process. Agents with real experience in the field are the best guides in navigating the processes, policies, and terminology of Medicare. Also, there are benefits in maintaining a relationship with them, since they are well-versed in the details of plans germane to the area. They are likely more familiar with supplier and provider networks and, using this knowledge, can provide guidance on which Medicare plan to choose.

The beneficiary-advisor relationship doesn’t end after the sale. In fact, they are often an advocate for many years after, offering consultations that address subsequent concerns with coverage. Medicare advisors can help review healthcare needs on a yearly basis to ensure the plan is lining up with changing criteria.

Services Worth Using

Independent advisors can offer many options across a multitude of carriers. Some agents are able to compare dozens of providers by contracting many different insurance companies. This method of contracting also aids in eliminating biases during plan research and comparison. The independent advisor can assist in making an informed decision on a Medicare insurance plan that is in line with the individual needs of the beneficiary. There aren’t any fees associated with merely utilizing an advisor. To elaborate, the rates linked to insurance plans already cover advisors’ commissions and thus render the decision on whether or not to employ one free from frugal urges. Therefore, there’s no reason not to seek the advice of a discerning sales agent to make the enrollment process easier. Licensed sales agents in the Medicare field take part in numerous hours of continued education and training annually. They are knowledgeable to pertinent information that could shape the decision-making process in addition to their understanding of a client’s defined parameters. Nevertheless, beneficiaries can only change insurance once within a year and can wind up “stuck” in a chosen plan unless the said beneficiary is eligible for a Special Enrollment Period. Regardless of position in the retirement process, time becomes increasingly more important. Utilizing an informed advisor will lead to time saved on plan comparison and research as they can help pinpoint a solution that fits the circumstances rather than waste time through trial and error. Licensed advisors are able to grant a one-stop shopping experience. Through innovative technology, they can access any and all relevant information at any time. Some create webinars regarding important issues, answer frequently asked questions, and elicit 24/7 assistance. Within some websites, beneficiaries can enroll in Medicare Advantage plans, request proposals, and research and compare options.

If you would like to learn more, contact Rob Glover at 513.703.7720 or rglover@gosaxon.com.


Seeing beyond size in vision care networks

How do you measure the quality of your vision care network? When it comes to the world of vision care, size isn't the only factor to consider when deciding which network best fits the needs of your employees. Read on to learn more.


Most people believe that “size matters” in regards to provider networks, but in the world of vision care, there are other important factors to consider when deciding which network matches the needs of employees. Network members usually see their vision provider for routine services just once per year. When an employer changes vision administrators, employee in-network utilization is more than 90% regardless of the new network size. Why? Employees are not concerned about changing providers to access in-network benefits. Plus, the new vision provider network will always provide access to multiple providers wherever the employee lives and works.

But what about the quality of the vision care network? To properly assess this measurement of competing networks, employers and benefits advisors need to ask several different questions.

Determine the network’s quality
The quality of the network is vital. Start asking these questions: How are vision care providers credentialed? Do they follow the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) guidelines developed to improve healthcare quality? Are there provider audit programs provided on an ongoing basis? Is the vision care provider re-credentialed and how often? How frequently are reviews conducted of the Office of Inspector General and Medicare and Medicaid disbarment lists?

Establish the network’s effectiveness
Once you know you have a quality network, now you must ask how effective the network is. How diverse is the network? Are there ample ophthalmologists, optometrists and optical retailers we can access? Are some private practitioners? You want to make sure that a solid provider mix is available to give employees options when choosing a vision care provider.

It’s critical to know what languages are spoken within the employee population as well as the providers who care for them. If you have a large population who speak a certain language you want to make sure your network gives them access to people who can truly understand them and with whom they feel comfortable.

Finally, look at the hours of operations. With schedules being busier now than ever before, people need flexibility when it comes to visiting hours. Do they offer evening hours? Weekend hours? This is particularly important for single parents who work during the week and need the flexibility to visit an eye care professional with his or her child after work.

Having a diverse, quality vision care provider network with convenient access helps keep employees happy, healthy and in-network.

Other factors to consider
One of the other factors to be cognizant of is network ownership. Today, many managed vision care companies are involved in not only providing coverage for vision care but also in delivering it. This means the vision benefits company you’re considering may own optical laboratories, frame companies or retail locations, which can pose conflicts of interest between you, your employees and the managed vision care company. Their need to produce profits can lead to undo pressure on your employees to purchase expensive and potentially unnecessary lens types, materials and options. Coupled with direct to consumer advertising and the expansion of brands, eyeglasses have become even more expensive.

This leads to another factor for consideration. Does the potential vision benefit administrator provide meaningful information to help your employees make informed decisions about what they really need, when it comes to the myriad of options available for frames, lenses and lens options?

Network matching
Start by remembering two things when matching networks. First, if you’ve changed vision carriers in the past, you selected a network that was not identical to your previous one. Vision networks never match each other. Some have higher proportions of independent providers and lower percentages of large retailer chains. Second, the infrequency with which the vision benefit is available to be used mitigates the impact of changing providers. People don’t have the same attachment to their eye care professional as they do with their physician.

Beyond quality and effectiveness is the important factor of access. The vision industry has grown to a point where there are often many more providers than would ever be necessary to provide convenient access for your membership. The reality is that two networks may be equally sized in an area and yet there may be little overlap, making the selection of the best network with the lowest overall cost a better strategic direction than simply selecting the one with the highest provider match.

The vision industry has long demonstrated that employees are willing to select new providers, especially when costs are more competitive, and services are more convenient.

SOURCE: Moroff, C (22 August 2018) "Seeing beyond size in vision care networks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/seeing-beyond-size-in-vision-care-networks?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most

Conditions that impact plan costs can be problematic. Here is a look into the top 10 health conditions hitting the hardest on employers wallets.


As healthcare costs continue to rise, more employers are looking at ways to target those costs. One step they are taking is looking at what health conditions are hitting their pocketbooks the hardest.

“About half of employers use disease management programs to help manage the costs of these very expensive chronic conditions,” says Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans. “In addition, about three in five employers use health screenings and health risk assessments to help employees identify and monitor these conditions so that they can be managed more effectively. Early identification helps the employer and the employee.”

What conditions are costly for employers to cover? In IFEPB’s Workplace Wellness Trends 2017 Survey, more than 500 employers were asked to select the top three conditions impacting plan costs. The following 10 topped the list.

10. High-risk pregnancy

Although high-risk pregnancies have seen a dip of 1% since 2015, they still bottom out the list in 2017; 5.6% of employers report these costs are a leading cost concern for health plans.

9. Smoking

Smoking has remained a consistent concern of employers over the last several years; 8.6% of employers report smoking has significant impact on health plans.

8. High cholesterol

While high cholesterol still has a major impact on health costs- 11.6% say it's a top cause of raising healthcare costs- that number is significantly lower from where it was in 2015 (19.3%).

7. Depression/ mental illness

For 13.9% of employers, mental health has a big influence on healthcare costs. This is down from 22.8% in 2015.

6. Hypertension/ high blood pressure

This is the first condition in IFEBP's report to have dropped a ranking in the last two years. In 2015, hypertension/ high blood pressure ranked 5th with 28.9% of employers reporting it is a high cost condition. In 2017, the condition dropped to 6th with 27.6% of employers noting high costs associated with the disease.

5. Heart disease

This year's study found that 28.4% of employers reported high costs associated with heart disease. In 2015, heart disease was the second highest cost driver with 37.1% of employers citing high costs from the disease.

4. Arthritis/back/musculoskeletal

Nearly three in 10 employers (28.9%) say these conditions are drivers of their health plan costs, compared to 34.5% in 2015.

3. Obesity

Obesity is still a top concern for employers, but slightly less so than it was two years ago. In 2017, 29% of employers found obesity to be a burden on health plans. In 2015, 32.45 cited obesity as a major cost driver.

2. Cancer (all kinds)

Cancer has become more expensive for employers. Now, 35.4% of employers report cancer increasing the costs of health plans, compared to 32% in 2015.

1. Diabetes

The king of raising health costs, diabetes has topped the list both in 2015 and 2017. In the most recent report, 44.3% of employers say diabetes is among the conditions impacting plan costs.

SOURCE:
Otto. N (18 June 2018) "Top 10 health conditions costing employers the most" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/slideshow/top-10-health-conditions-costing-employers-the-most


Are You And Your Primary Care Doc Ready To Talk About Your DNA?

Knowing your genes could save your life, especially if a genetic mutation is hereditary. See why incorporating DNA testing is a crucial part of your primary care.


If you have a genetic mutation that increases your risk for a treatable medical condition, would you want to know? For many people the answer is yes. But such information is not commonly part of routine primary care.

For patients at Geisinger Health System, that could soon change. Starting in the next month or so, the Pennsylvania-based system will offer DNA sequencing to 1,000 patients, with the goal to eventually extend the offer to all 3 million Geisinger patients.

The test will look for mutations in at least 77 genes that are associated with dozens of medical conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer, as well as variability in how people respond to pharmaceuticals based on heredity.

“We’re giving more precision to the very important decisions that people need to make,” said Dr. David Feinberg, Geisinger’s president and CEO. In the same way that primary care providers currently suggest checking someone’s cholesterol, “we would have that discussion with patients,” he said. “‘It looks like we haven’t done your genome. Why don’t we do that?’”

Some physicians and health policy analysts question whether such genetic information is necessary to provide good primary care — or feasible for many primary care physicians.

The new clinical program builds on a research biobank and genome-sequencing initiative called MyCode that Geisinger started in 2007 to collect and analyze its patients’ DNA. That effort has enrolled more than 200,000 people.

Like MyCode, the new clinical program is based on whole “exome” sequencing, analyzing the roughly 1 percent of the genome that provides instructions for making proteins, where most known disease-causing mutations occur.

Using this analysis, clinicians might be able to tell Geisinger patients that they have a genetic variant associated with Lynch syndrome, for example, which leads to increased risk of colon and other cancers, or familial hypercholesterolemia, which can result in high cholesterol levels and heart disease at a young age. Some people might learn they have increased susceptibility to  malignant hyperthermia, a hereditary mutation that can be fatal since it causes a severe reaction to certain medications used during anesthesia.

Samples of a patient’s blood or spit are used to provide a DNA sample. After analysis, the results are sent to the patient’s primary care doctor.

Before speaking with the patient, the doctor takes a 30-minute online continuing education tutorial to review details about genetic testing and the disorder. Then the patient is informed and invited to meet with the primary care provider, along with a genetic counselor if desired. At that point, doctor and patient can discuss treatment and prevention options, including lifestyle changes like diet and exercise that can reduce the risk of disease.

About 3.5 percent of the people who’ve been tested through Geisinger’s research program had a genetic variant that could result in a medical problem for which clinicians can recommend steps to influence their health, Feinberg said. Only actionable mutations are communicated to patients. Geisinger won’t inform them if they have a variant of the APOE gene that increases their risk for Alzheimer’s disease, for example, because there’s no clinical treatment. (Geisinger is working toward developing a policy for how to handle these results if patients ask for them.)

Wendy Wilson, a Geisinger spokeswoman, said that what they’re doing is very different from direct-to-consumer services like 23andMe, which tests customers’ saliva to determine their genetic risk for several diseases and traits and makes the results available in an online report.

“Geisinger is prescribing DNA sequencing to patients and putting DNA results in electronic health records and actually creating an action plan to prevent that predisposition from occurring. We are preventing disease from happening,” she said.

Geisinger will absorb the estimated $300 to $500 cost of the sequencing test. Insurance companies typically don’t cover DNA sequencing and limit coverage for adult genetic tests for specific mutations, such as those related to the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 or BRCA2, unless the patient has a family history of the condition or other indications they’re at high risk.

“Most of the medical spending in America is done after people have gotten sick,” said Feinberg. “We think this will decrease spending on a lot of care.”

Some clinicians aren’t so sure. Dr. H. Gilbert Welch is a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice who has authored books about overdiagnosis and overscreening, including “Less Medicine, More Health.”

He credited Geisinger with carefully targeting the genes in which it looks for actionable mutations instead of taking an all-encompassing approach. He acknowledged that for some conditions, like Lynch syndrome, people with genetic mutations would benefit from being followed closely. But he questioned the value of DNA sequencing to identify other conditions, such as some related to heart disease.

“What are we really going to do differently for those patients?” he asked. “We should all be concerned about heart disease. We should all exercise, we should eat real food.”

Welch said he was also concerned about the cascading effect of expensive and potentially harmful medical treatment when a genetic risk is identified.

“Doctors will feel the pressure to do something: start a medication, order a test, make a referral. You have to be careful. Bad things happen,” he said.

Other clinicians question primary care physicians’ comfort with and time for incorporating DNA sequencing into their practices.

A survey of nearly 500 primary care providers in the New York City area published in Health Affairs this month found that only a third of them had ordered a genetic test, given patients a genetic test result or referred one for genetic counseling in the past year.

Only a quarter of survey respondents said they felt prepared to work with patients who had genetic testing for common diseases or were at high risk for genetic conditions. Just 14 percent reported they were confident they could interpret genetic test results.

“Even though they had training, they felt unprepared to incorporate genomics into their practice,” said Dr. Carol Horowitz, a professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, who co-authored the study.

Speaking as a busy primary care practitioner, she questioned the feasibility of adding genomic medicine to regular visits.

“Geisinger is a very well-resourced health system and they’ve made a decision to incorporate that into their practices,” she said. In Harlem, where Horowitz works as an internist, it could be a daunting challenge. “Our plates are already overflowing, and now you’re going to dump a lot more on our plate.”

SOURCE:
Andrews, M (12 June 2018). "Are You And Your Primary Care Doc Ready To Talk About Your DNA?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://khn.org/news/are-you-and-your-primary-care-doc-ready-to-talk-about-your-dna/


Benefit change could raise costs for patients getting drug copay assistance

Health plans may change with time. Know what to expect and how to respond with these tips on how to avoid unexpected changes.


Since Kristen Catton started taking the drug Gilenya two years ago, she’s had only one minor relapse of her multiple sclerosis, following a bout of the flu.

She can walk comfortably, see clearly and work part time as a nurse case manager at a hospital near her home in Columbus, Ohio. This is a big step forward; two drugs she previously tried failed to control her physical symptoms or prevent repeated flare-ups.

This year, Catton, 48, got a shock. Her health insurance plan changed the way it handles the payments that the drugmaker Novartis makes to help cover her prescription’s cost. Her copayment is roughly $3,800 a month, but Novartis helps reduce that out-of-pocket expense with payments to the health plan. The prescription costs about $90,000 a year.

Those Novartis payments no longer counted toward her family plan’s $8,800 annual pharmacy deductible. That meant once she hit the drugmaker’s payment cap for the copay assistance in April, she would have to pay the entire copayment herself until her pharmacy deductible was met.

Catton is one of a growing number of consumers taking expensive drugs who are discovering they are no longer insulated by copay assistance programs that help cover their costs. Through such programs, consumers typically owe nothing or have modest monthly copayments for pricey drugs because many drug manufacturers pay a patient’s portion of the cost to the health plan, which chips away at the consumer’s deductible and out-of-pocket maximum limits until the health plan starts paying the whole tab.

Under new “copay accumulator” programs, that no longer happens.

In these programs, the monthly copayments drug companies make don’t count toward patients’ plan deductibles or out-of-pocket maximums. Once patients hit the annual limit on a drugmaker’s copay assistance program, they’re on the hook for their entire monthly copayment until they reach their plan deductible and spending limits.

Catton put the $3,800 May copayment on a credit card. She knows her insurer will start paying the entire tab once she hits the pharmacy deductible. But, she said, she can’t afford to pay nearly $9,000 a year out-of-pocket for the foreseeable future.

“I’m talking to my doctor to see if I can I take it every other day,” she said. “I guess I’m winging it until I can figure out what to do.”

Drug copay assistance programs have long been controversial.

Proponents say that in an age of increasingly high deductibles and coinsurance charges, such help is the only way some patients can afford crucial medications.

But opponents say the programs increase drug spending on expensive brand-name drugs by discouraging people from using more cost-effective alternatives.

Switching to a cheaper drug may not be an option, said Bari Talente, executive vice president for advocacy at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

“Generally the multiple sclerosis drugs are not substitutable,” she said. “Most have different mechanisms of action, different administration and different side effect profiles.” Generics, when they’re available, are pricey too, typically costing $60,000 or more annually, she said.

Most MS drug annual copay assistance limits, if they have them, are between $9,000 and $12,000, Talente said.

Employers argue that the drug copayment programs are an attempt to circumvent their efforts to manage health care costs. For example, employers may try to discourage the use of a specialty drug when there’s a lower-cost drug available by requiring higher patient cost sharing.

There’s also the issue of fairness.

“From an employer perspective, everyone under the plan has to be treated the same,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), which represents large employers.

If someone needs medical care such as surgery, for example, that person doesn’t get help covering his deductible, while the person with the expensive drug might, he said.

According to an NBGH survey of about 140 multistate employers with at least 5,000 workers, 17 percent reported they have a copay accumulator program in place this year, Marcotte said. Fifty-six percent reported they’re considering them for 2019 or 2020.

If there is no comparable drug available, drug copayment programs may have a role to play if they can be structured so that participating patients are paying some amount toward their deductible, Marcotte said. But, he said, assistance programs for drugs that are available from more than source, such as a brand drug that is also available as a generic, shouldn’t be allowed.

In 2016, 20 percent of prescriptions for brand-name drugs used a drug copay assistance coupon, according to an analysis by researchers at the USC Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics. Among the top 200 drugs based on spending in 2014, the study found that 132 were brand-name drugs, and 90 of them offered copay coupons. Fifty-one percent of the drugs with copay coupons had no substitute at all or only another brand drug as a close therapeutic substitute, the analysis found.

Advocates for people with HIV and AIDS say copay accumulators are cropping up in their patients’ plans and beginning to cause patients trouble. Drugs to treat HIV typically don’t have generic alternatives.

The biggest impact for the community their organizations serve may be for PrEP, a daily pill that helps prevent HIV infection, said Carl Schmid, deputy executive director at the AIDS Institute, an advocacy group. A 30-day supply of PrEP (brand-name Truvada) can cost nearly $2,000. Drug manufacturer Gilead offers a copay assistance program that covers up to $3,600 annually in copay assistance, with no limit on how much is paid per month.

“They’re at risk for HIV, they know it and want to protect themselves,” Schmid said. “It’s a public health issue.”

Earlier this month, the AIDS Institute was among 60 HIV organizations that sent letters to state attorneys general and insurance commissioners across the country asking them to investigate this practice, which has emerged in employer and marketplace plans this year.

Compounding advocates’ concerns is the fact that these coverage changes are frequently not communicated clearly to patients, Schmid said. They are typically buried deep in the plan documents and don’t appear in the user-friendly summary of benefits and coverage that consumers receive from their health plan.

“How is a patient to know?” Schmid asks. They learn of the change only when they get a big bill midway through the year. “And then they’re stuck.”

SOURCE:
Andrews M (25 MAY 2018). [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/benefit-change-could-raise-costs-for-patients-getting-drug-copay-assistance/


Eligibility, lack of plans keep millennials from retirement saving

As millennials reach the age to save for retirement, there is a clear lack-of-knowledge in the arena of what plans they need and how to save for them with the continuing costs of their lifestyles. In this article, we take a look at why this is.


Millennials are way behind on retirement savings, but it has nothing to do with self-indulgence or feasts on avocado toast.

Instead, what they actually need are retirement plans, and earlier eligibility to save in them.

A new report from the National Institute of Retirement Security highlights millennials’ precarious retirement futures with the news that only a third are saving for retirement. It’s not because they don’t want to, or are being extravagant, because when the numbers are crunched they actually save at rates equal to or higher than those of their elders—even if not as many of them can do so.

Millennials are getting a raw deal. Not only are traditional defined benefit plans disappearing, with the likelihood that a millennial might actually be able to participate in one, they’re worried that Social Security—which runs way behind the cost of living anyway—will be of even less help to them in the future as an income replacement than it already is for current retirees. Add to that the fact that more than half of millennials are expected to live to age 89 or even older, and they have the added worry of outliving whatever savings they might have managed to stash.

In fact, millennials need to save way more than their elders to stand a chance of having a retirement that honors the meaning of the word. Says the report, “[S]ome experts estimate that millennials will need to make pretax retirement plan contributions of between 15 percent to 22 percent of their pretax salary, which at 22 percent, is more than double the recommendation of previous generations.”

They’re viewed as irresponsible, but 21 percent are already worried about their retirement security, says the report, and while 51 percent of GenXers and boomers contribute to their own retirement plans, just 34.3 percent of millennials participate in an employer’s plan, although 66 percent work for bosses that offer such plans.

In fact, 66.2 percent of millennials have no retirement savings at all. Zip, zilch, zero. And millennial Latinos? A whopping 83 percent have a goose egg, not a nest egg. Latinos have it much worse, incidentally, than any other millennials group, with just 19.1 percent of millennial Latinos and 22.5 percent of Latinas participating in an employer-sponsored plan, compared with 41.4 percent of Asian men and 40.3 percent of millennial white women—who have the highest rates of participation in a retirement plan.

Despite working for an employer who provides workers with a retirement plan, millennials don’t always have a way to save, since said employer may have set barriers in place to prevent participation until an employee has been with the company for at least a year. And millennials are, of course, known as the job-hopping generation—so if they don’t stay in one place they never qualify. Close to half of millennials—40.2 percent—say they’re shut out of retirement plans because of employers’ eligibility requirements, including working a minimum number of hours or having a minimum tenure on the job.

But don’t accuse them of having no desire to participate: when they’re eligible, more than 90 percent do so.

Read the article.

Source:
Satter M. (2 March 2018). "Eligibility, lack of plans keep millennials from retirement saving" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/02/eligibility-lack-of-plans-keep-millennials-from-re/


Apple launching concierge health care centers for employees

Did you know Apple is now offering healthcare centers for their employees? Check out this article from Benefit Pro for further information.


This spring, Apple employees will see the first phase of Apple’s new approach to employee health care: on-site health clinics.

According to Healthcare IT News, Apple plans to launch a group of internal health centers as it moves to boost the health and wellness of its employees. According to the report, the company has already “quietly published a webpage for the program, called AC Wellness Network, which includes a description of the company’s goals as well as information on a number of open positions.”

“AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience,” Apple has said on the webpage. It continues, “The centers offer a unique concierge-like healthcare experience for employees and their dependents. Candidates must have an appreciation for the patient experience and passion for wellness and population health—integrating best clinical practices and technology in a manner that drives patient engagement.”

Apple’s move comes in the wake of an earlier declared partnership among Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway for their own independent health care company intended to bolster employee health at lower cost than conventional providers.

AC Wellness, says the report, will exist as “an independent medical practice,” although the company is a subsidiary of Apple. Job listings include not just physicians but also such positions as workflow designers, and the website listings suggest the first centers will be located in Santa Clara, California and in the company’s Cupertino, California campus.

Other recent health care steps taken by the company, according to an HRDive report, include its January announcement that it is making personal health records accessible on the latest iPhones, as well as its exploration of ways its Apple Watch could have medical applications, like detecting irregular heartbeats in wearers.

According to a CNBC report, some former Stanford Health Care employees have been affiliated with AC Wellness for at least five months. Says Healthcare IT News, “[t]hese sources also said that Apple will use the centers as a testing ground for its upcoming health and wellness products prior to large-scale consumer rollout, and that the company notified third-party vendors this week about its upcoming health clinics.”

Read the article.

Source:
 Satter M. (1 March 2018). "Apple launching concierge health care centers for employees" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/01/apple-launching-concierge-health-care-centers-for/

Is a Health Savings Account Worth Your Time? The Best Advice from an Experienced Group Benefits Consultant.

This month’s CenterStage features Kelley Bell, a Group Benefits Consultant at Saxon. With over 25 years of experience in the financial industry, Kelley knows a thing or two on HSAs or Health Savings Accounts – what they are, who is eligible, how they’re funded, and when they can be used.

Kelley enjoys partnering with business owners and human resources managers to be their Healthcare Consultant. She understands that each business is unique and is dedicated, accessible and proactive in serving the needs of each client.

So, is an HSA a right fit for you? Let’s find out!

The Break-Down

Very similar to personal savings accounts, money in a Health Savings Account (HSA) is used to pay for eligible healthcare expenses (medical, dental and vision). You, not your employer or insurance company, own and control the money in your HSA. To be eligible for an HSA, you must have a special type of health insurance called a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

With an HSA you can make tax-deductible contributions each year to pay for current and future healthcare costs. What you don't use in any given year will stay invested and continue to grow tax-free, assuming you eventually pull it out to use for medical costs. -CNN Money

Saxon offers HDHP group plans from one person on up that can be paired with the HSA. Here are some different highlights you should know if you are considering this type of Health Savings Account:

  • HSA's aren't ideal for everyone. If having a high deductible seems too risky to you – or if you anticipate having significant healthcare expenses – a plan with a lower deductible and lower co-pays might make more sense.
  • There are tax advantages, because deductibles on the HDHP are higher, premiums are generally lower.
  • There is a maximum contribution limit per calendar year of $3,400 for individuals and $6,850 for families for 2018. Sometimes, these maximums do not reach your deductible. A personal tip: “Try to add a small amount via pre-tax payroll.  You can change the amount anytime and if you have a significant procedure, try adding the funds to the account before the payment is due
  • If you’re over the age of 55, you can make an additional “catch-up” contribution of $1,000 to that account.
  • It is your account. You make the decisions about the contributions and its use. If the funds are not used, the money rolls over to the next year and continues to grow over time.
  • If your employer switches to a different plan, your HSA is still your HSA. The money within your HSA is yours and can continue to be used for eligible medical expenses until it runs out.
  • Most banks provide you with access to your HSA through a checkbook and debit card. You can use these to pay your doctor, as well as for prescriptions at the pharmacy.

Whether an HSA is a good fit for you is determined through each of these highlights, but it comes down to personal preference and your overall health. There’s a lot of freedom with HSAs – which is why it’s important to take your time considering every perk and downfall.

Contributions, Withdrawals, Earnings, & Roll Over

The money you deposit into the account is not taxed. The idea is people will spend their healthcare dollars more wisely if they're using their own money.

However, others can contribute to your HSA. Contributions can come from various sources, including you, your employer, a relative and anyone else who wants to add to your HSA. However, if you exceed the maximum contribution limit, you could be penalized by the IRS.

  • Pre-tax contributions. Contributions made through payroll deposits (through your employer) are typically made with pre-tax dollars, which means they are not subject to federal income taxes. In most states, contributions are not subject to state income taxes either. Your employer can also make contributions on your behalf, and the contribution is not included in your gross income.
  • Tax-deductible contributions. Contributions made with after-tax dollars can be deducted from your gross income on your tax return, which means you may owe less tax at the end of the year.

It’s also key to understand withdrawals, earnings, and roll over with HSAs:

  • Tax-free withdrawals. Withdrawals from your HSA are not subject to federal (or in most cases, state) income taxes if they are used for qualified medical expenses.
  • Earnings are tax-fee. Any interest or other earnings on the assets in the account are tax free.
  • Funds roll over. If you have money left in your HSA at the end of the year, it rolls over to the next year.
  • Investment tool. Many people use it as an investment tool, not just for current or future medical expenses, but for long-term retirement planning.

Keep your receipts in the event that you are audited by the IRS to show that you used the funds in your HSA for eligible medical expenses.

Conclusion

A Health Savings Account can be a great choice for people who wish to limit their upfront healthcare costs while saving for future expenses. HSAs go together with HDHPs. In addition, favorable tax treatment means you may owe less in taxes on your income tax return. What’s more, an HSA may allow you to pay in pre-tax dollars for items your employer’s other insurance options don’t cover, such as eyeglasses.

HSAs have the potential to become “more compelling than a 401(k)” due to tax-deductible and tax-deferred incentives. Does it sound like you’re a perfect match for a Health Savings Account? Still not sure if a HSA a good fit for you? Contact Kelley at 513-774-5493 for more information on taking this step towards a better health plan.

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A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act

From SHRM, let's take a look a this innovative approach toward paid leave using WorkFlex.


Do you ever sit in your office and wonder about everyone else? Ponder whether anyone is dealing with the same things that you are in that very moment? The simple fact is that everyone independent of age, gender, race or title, wants to be there to support their family. For myself, that means advocating for clients, while caring for my mother and doing all that I can for my wife and two boys. It is quite a balancing act on the best of days. To be fair, I know that I am not alone in this balancing act. As I write this I am wondering if you know exactly what I mean. Perhaps not for yourself, but a colleague or a friend.

Now since we generally live, work or both in New Jersey and in particular within the Delaware Valley there are some things that impact our ability to balance. For example, if you work for an organization that has offices in Philadelphia, PA; Wilmington, DE; Trenton, NJ; Montclair, NJ and Haddonfield, NJ exactly how do you provide equal paid leave to employees? Why should you care? Because these specific locations differ in how they require paid leave to be provided to employees. Are you concerned about this? You are not alone, clients regularly ask what to do as it relates to dealing with paid leave. Often this is more challenging for us than in most places around the country due to the varying ways that towns as opposed to States or the Commonwealth deal with this issue.

Some time ago I was asked to assist SHRM with the creation of federal legislation to address the issue of varying applications of paid leave laws around the country.  After a significant amount of discussions, revisions and hard work by a host of individuals we came up with a legitimate proposal to address our respective concerns.  Recently the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219) was introduced in the House by Representative Mimi Walters. This bill is designed to support the goals of everyone, not just employers or employees. You can read more about the specifics at: http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/workflex.

For now, allow me to give you three specific reasons (although there are more) that both you and your organization should support this legislation:

First, unlike federal mandates under the FMLA, FLSA, or ADA, this legislation is OPT-IN, which means as an employer in order for your organization to be held responsible under the bill it would have to decide to agree to it first. Put another way, an employer is not required to do it if it chooses to go in another direction.

Second, many federal employment laws bring with them a threshold beyond which every employer is held to the same standard, however that is not the case with the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act.”  It is designed to grow with your organization. As a result the benefit thresholds change based on the number of employees in an organization, so that it supports growth rather than stifling expansion.

Third, contrary to the way things are currently going in our region, this bill provides a level of certainty and flexibility for both employers and employees alike to know the threshold of their leave benefits, which will result in more productive employees and organizations. Part of the reason for this certainty is that the various local leave laws would be preempted by this bill.

What does all this mean? I would suggest that this bill is a good compromise of interests across the spectrum of both employers and employees, as well as unions, who want to do the right thing. Allow for realistic time to care for a child, parent or for yourself. No one needs to change jobs to get a specific type of benefit and employers can choose if it makes sense for their workplace, rather than being dictated to in terms of the benefits to provide their employees.

Now I would like to challenge you to join me. This is the first piece of legislation that SHRM has created for the workplace and as you can see the goal is to address concerns that all workers have, independent of title, so we can all have the balance that we need and want in order to be better contributors in our respective organizations, supportive of our parents, children and ourselves. How can we achieve this together? We can all reach out to our federal legislators and let them know that you support the “Workflex in the 21st Century Act” (HR 4219). You can find more information on http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/workflex or on the SHRM Advocacy App. Let’s take this opportunity to make the workplace better for everyone, together.

Read more.

Source:

Lessig L. (February 8th, 2018). "A New Approach to Paid Leave: WorkFlex in the 21st Century Act" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.advocacy.shrm.org/shrm/app/document/26467137