Algorithmic Bias – What is the Role of HR?

How should HR professionals deal with the forthcoming algorithmic bias issue? Find out in this article.


Merriam-Webster defines ‘algorithm’ as step-by-step procedure for solving a problem…In an analog world, ask anyone to jot down a step-by-step procedure to solve a problem – and it will be subject to bias, perspective, tacit knowledge, and a diverse viewpoint. Computer algorithms, coded by humans, will obviously contain similar biases.

The challenge before us is that with Moore’s Law, cloud computing, big data, and machine learning, these algorithms are evolving, increasing in complexity, and these algorithmic biases are more difficult to detect – “the idea that artificially intelligent software…often turns out to perpetuate social bias.”

Algorithmic bias is shaping up to be a major societal issue at a critical moment in the evolution of machine learning and AI. If the bias lurking inside the algorithms that make ever-more-important decisions goes unrecognized and unchecked, it could have serious negative consequences, especially for poorer communities and minorities.”What is the role of HR in reviewing these rules? What is the role of HR in reviewing algorithms and code? What questions to ask?

In December 2017, New York City passed a bill to address algorithmic discrimination.Some interesting text of the bill, “a procedure for addressing instances in which a person is harmed by an agency automated decision system if any such system is found to disproportionately impact persons;” and “making information publicly available that, for each agency automated decision system, will allow the public to meaningfully assess how such system functions and is used by the city, including making technical information about such system publicly available where appropriate;”

Big data, AI, and machine learning will put a new forward thinking ethical burden on the creators of this technology, and on the HR professionals that support them. Other examples include Google Photos incorrect labeling or Nikon’s facial detection. While none of these are intentional or malicious, they can be offensive, and the ethical standards need to be vetted and reviewed. This is a new area for HR professionals, and it’s not easy.

As Nicholas Diakopoulos suggests, “We’re now operating in a world where automated algorithms make impactful decisions that can and do amplify the power of business and government. As algorithms come to regulate society and perhaps even implement law directly, we should proceed with caution and think carefully about how we choose to regulate them back.”

The ethical landscape for HR professionals is changing rapidly.

Read more.

Source:

Smith R. (15 February 2018). "Algorithmic Bias – What is the Role of HR?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/algorithmic-bias-what-is-the-role-of-hr

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

4 trends in financial education

Having financial wellness within your business is incredibly valuable for its overall growth and success. In this article, we are going to take a look at four trends contributing towards financial wellness in the employee benefits realm. Read more below.


Employees’ financial well-being is a hot topic these days. Right now, it’s top-of-mind with most employees. And it’s becoming more so with employers, not only because they are realizing the effect employee financial stress has on their bottom line, but also because industry surveys are revealing that employees want their employers to help by providing financial education and benefits.

Benefit advisers have a definite role in helping employers take steps toward building a more financially-secure workforce through financial wellness benefits. What should advisers expect to see this year in financial wellness benefits?

Industry research confirms the impact employee financial stress has on a company’s bottom line, including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more healthcare claims. Only about half of employers offered some kind of counseling or instruction about money last year, according to SHRM and IFEBP surveys. Certainly, more employers will want to add financial education benefits this year. Benefit advisers can help by bringing this to the attention of their clients.

Another trend to consider is that financial education benefits are becoming more holistic. Financial education benefits should be more than planning for retirement and having access to supplemental medical benefits. Financial education benefits today should include financial education tools and resources as well as voluntary benefits that are designed to address both physical and emotional struggles while working to help employees with short-term financial needs.

Look for more student loan repayment benefits to become available in the industry this year. In 2017, more Americans were burdened by student loan debt than ever before. It’s a major concern among today’s millennials, the largest generation in today’s workforce. This year we likely will see more student loan repayment benefits appear, including programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.

Increased attention to helping employees with short-term financial issues also will be a focus this year. In spite of the improved economy, employees are still struggling financially. Statistics show the alarming number of employees that continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck and do not have even $1,000 in savings for emergency needs.

While financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, employers should offer additional voluntary benefits that provide employees some financial assistance in the short-term. Benefit advisers should bring short-term financial assistance voluntary benefits to the attention of their clients. Among these are employee purchase programs and low interest installment loans and credit that help employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs such as a broken refrigerator or unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Employers are realizing the important role that financial education plays in an employee’s overall well-being and will look to increase their financial wellness benefits on several levels. Benefit advisers not only can bring the need to the attention of their clients, but can also offer benefit recommendations to round out their clients’ employee benefits programs.

Read the original article.

Source:
Halkos E. (February 9th, 2018). "4 trends in financial education" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/4-trends-in-financial-education

How Are Health Centers Responding to the Funding Delay?

Unfortunately, the funding delay is impacting healthcare centers everywhere - and not in a great way. Get the information you need to know in this article.


Health centers play an important role in our health care system, providing comprehensive primary care services as well as dental, mental health, and addiction treatment services to over 25 million patients in medically underserved rural and urban areas throughout the country. Health care anchors in their communities and on the front lines of health care crises, including the opioid epidemic and the current flu outbreak, health centers rely on federal grant funds to support the care they provide, particularly to patients who lack insurance coverage. However, the Community Health Center Fund (CHCF), a key source of funding for community health centers, expired on September 30, 2017, and has since been extended through only March 31, 2018. The CHCF provides 70% of grant funding to health centers. With these funds at risk, health centers have taken or are considering taking a number of actions that will affect their capacity to provide care to their patients. This fact sheet presents preliminary findings on how health centers are responding to the funding uncertainty.

WHAT FUNDING IS AT STAKE FOR HEALTH CENTERS

The Community Health Center Fund represents 70% of federal grant funding for health centers. Established by the Affordable Care Act, the CHCF increased federal grant fund support for health centers, growing from $1 billion in 2011 to $3.6 billion in 2017.1Authorized for five years beginning in 2010, and extended for two years through September 2017, the CHCF also provided a more stable source of grant funding for health centers that was separate from the annual appropriations process. Prior to the CHCF, federal 330 grant funds were appropriated annually. In fiscal year 2017, federal section 330 grant funding totaled $5.1 billion, $3.6 billion from the CHCF and $1.5 billion from the annual appropriation.

Federal health center grants represent nearly one-fifth of health center revenues. Federal Section 330 grant funds are the second largest source of revenues for health centers behind revenues from Medicaid. Overall, 19% of health center revenues (including US territories) come from federal grants; however, reliance on 330 grant funds varies across health centers. Federal grant funds are especially important for health centers in southern and rural non-expansion states where Medicaid accounts for a smaller share of revenue (Figure 1).2 These funds finance care for uninsured patients and support vital services, such as transportation and case management, that are not typically covered by insurance

Figure 1: Federal Section 330 Grants as a Share of Total Health Center Revenues, 2016

HOW ARE HEALTH CENTERS RESPONDING TO THE LOSS OF FEDERAL FUNDS?

Health centers have taken or are considering taking a number of actions that will affect their ability to serve their patients. Overall, seven in ten responding health centers indicated they had taken or planned to take action to put off large expenditures or curtail expenses in face of reduced revenue. Some of these actions involve delaying or canceling capital projects and other investments or tapping into reserve funds. Other actions, however, have or will reduce the number of staff or the hours they work, which may in turn, affect the availability of services. Already 20% of health centers reported instituting a hiring freeze and 4% have laid off staff. Another 45% are considering a hiring freeze and 53% said they might lay off staff. While health centers seemed to focus on shorter-term actions that could easily be reversed were funding to be restored, 3% of responding health centers had already taken steps to close one or more sites and an additional 36% indicated they are considering doing so (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Actions Taken or Considered by Health Centers in Response to Funding Uncertainty

Health centers are considering cuts to patient services. While most health centers have not yet taken steps to cut or reduce patient care services, many reported they are weighing such actions if funding is not restored (Figure 3). Over four in ten indicated they might eliminate or reduce some enabling services, such as case management, translation, or transportation services. Additionally, over a third of reporting health centers indicated they might have to reduce the dental, medical, and/or mental health services they provide while 29% said cuts to addiction treatment services are being contemplated. Fewer health centers reported that cuts to pharmacy services might be made.

Figure 3: Services Health Centers Are Considering Eliminating or Reducing in Response to Funding Uncertainty

WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FUNDING DELAY?

Continued delays in restoring funding will likely lead to cuts in health center services and staff. To date, health centers have tried to mitigate the effects of the funding delay by forgoing major investments or dipping into reserve funds. However, the longer the funding delay continues, the greater the likelihood health centers will be compelled to cut services and staff, actions they are currently considering but have not yet adopted in large numbers. These cuts could reverse gains health centers have made in recent years in increasing patient care capacity and expanding the range of services they provide, particularly in the areas of mental health and addiction treatment. Health centers play a particularly important role in rural and medically underserved areas. The failure to reauthorize the CHCF and restore health center funding could jeopardize access to care for millions of vulnerable patients.

Read the full report.

SOURCE:
Kaiser Family Foundation (1 February 2018). "How Are Health Centers Responding to the Funding Delay?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/medicaid/fact-sheet/how-are-health-centers-responding-to-the-funding-delay/

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Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work

Sometimes, healthcare is confusing. We know this, which is why today we are focusing on Medicaid and work. Check out the snippet below, and check out the link for the full article.


Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low incomes. Overall, the Medicaid program covers one in five Americans, including many with complex and costly needs for care. Historically, nonelderly adults without disabilities accounted for a small share of Medicaid enrollees; however, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage to nonelderly adults with income up to 138% FPL, or $16,642 per year for an individual in 2017. As of December 2017, 32 states have implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion.1 By design, the expansion extended coverage to the working poor (both parents and childless adults), most of whom do not otherwise have access to affordable coverage. While many have gained coverage under the expansion, the majority of Medicaid enrollees are still the “traditional” populations of children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Some states and the Trump administration have stated that the ACA Medicaid expansion targets “able-bodied” adults and seek to make Medicaid eligibility contingent on work. Under current law, states cannot impose a work requirement as a condition of Medicaid eligibility, but some states are seeking waiver authority to do so.  These types of waiver requests were denied by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has indicated a willingness to approve such waivers. This issue brief provides data on the work status of the nearly 25 million non-elderly adults without SSI enrolled in Medicaid (referred to as “Medicaid adults” throughout this brief) to understand the potential implications of work requirement proposals in Medicaid.  Key takeaways include the following:

  • Among Medicaid adults (including parents and childless adults — the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion), nearly 8 in 10 live in working families, and a majority are working themselves. Nearly half of working Medicaid enrollees are employed by small firms, and many work in industries with low employer-sponsored insurance offer rates.
  • Among the adult Medicaid enrollees who were not working, most report major impediments to their ability to work including illness or disability or care-giving responsibilities.
  • While proponents of work requirements say such provisions aim to promote work for those who are not working, these policies could have negative implications on many who are working or exempt from the requirements. For example, coverage for working or exempt enrollees may be at risk if enrollees face administrative obstacles in verifying their work status or documenting an exemption.

Get the full report and findings.

SOURCE:
Kaiser Family Foundation (5 January 2018). "Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

personalized-health-plans-aided-by-technology

Personalizing health plans with technology

Technology offers advanced opportunities to make your health plan customized to your employees. Check out this article from Employee Benefit Advisor by Cort Olsen for more information.


Many advisers are using digital monitoring to evaluate the status of wellbeing within a given employer’s employee population.

Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC, says one of the ways he is able to identify the companies that are offering strong digital wellness plans is through their ability to integrate such programs with claims data. He utilizes a push style notification to a mobile device to inform individual employees about specific plans that can coordinate well with their conditions as a further enhancement.

Samantha Gardiner, director of product management at Health Advocate, says her company has combined wellness, chronic condition management and client outreach all into one program to improve the health of employees and reduce claims and pharmaceutical costs for employer-provided health plans.

“We take the data and provide alerts via our website, email or mobile push notifications to keep employees informed about their personal health conditions,” Gardiner says. “If we have the data, we can really target and personalize the program toward company goals and members’ personal goals.”

In order to identify the best in class among the programs offered by wellness providers, Schmidt says he looks at the number and quality of interfaces and outcomes from the program as well as success stories that employees can share that can flesh out an employer’s return on investment.

“We can look at results six months or even a year after an employee has participated in the program to see if behavior changes have taken place,” Schmidt says. “If the plan integrates and reacts to the systems the employer has in place for his or her employees, then we will know if the program is a right match.”

Integration

Monica Majors, vice president of marketing and communications of health plan products at Sutter Health, says a digital wellness program needs to integrate with a multitude of personal devices.

“The site must be responsive to all technology, such as a mobile device, a tablet, or for those who are deskbound, from their computer,” Majors says. “The flexibility of offering individual trackers as well as key based activity challenges through a wide range of activities will keep retention.”

The program can then offer a health assessment that can be aggregated into an overall employer report, which can then serve as a basis for customization for that specific workforce.

Marcia Otto, vice president of product strategy at Health Advocate, says her company offers biometric screenings that can be done onsite, which can then factor into an employee’s health risk assessment to further customize the personal health program.

“If we get biometric data from our biometric data collection or if the employee sends us the data from a third party, that is another data source we can look at to determine if they need further attention for diabetes, hyper tension or so on,” Otto says. “We can also collect data on what their last blood test reported, right down to how many fruits or vegetables they eat, which is then prioritized based on how sick the employee is.”

Incentivizing

To influence employees to remain on the wellness plan, employers have offered incentives. These incentives can range from gift cards and cash rewards to funding a HSA or a HRA.

Paul Sterling, vice president of emerging products at UnitedHealthcare, says users who are enrolled in the UnitedHealthcare Motion program – an app programmed to encourage employees to remain active throughout the workday using a smart phone or smart watch – rewards employees by funding money into an HSA or HRA as a way to retain users.

“We have three daily walking objectives through our FIT criteria – frequency, intensity and tenacity – that each of our members try to achieve,” Sterling says. “Each one of those objectives is tied to or associated with an incentive amount.”

For each objective the employee completes, UnitedHealthcare deposits $1 into the user’s HSA or HRA, depending what they have.

Each day, the employee can complete each of the objectives. It resets daily, allowing the employee to continue to receive up to $3 per day.

Over the course of one year, Sterling says participation in the Motion program has held at a steady 67%. “If you think about other products in the health and wellness space, that’s arguably 10 times the level of engagement achieved over that period of time others would achieve,” Sterling says.

While Gardiner says she cannot pin point the number of employees engaged in her program for an extended period of time yet, she thinks incentives do drive continued engagement for some employees who need the extra push to be active or engage in a healthier lifestyle.

“An incentive program that provides at least a $300 incentive to participate is where we see our most engagement,” Gardiner says. “It all depends on the goals of the employer.”

Read more.

SOURCE:
Olsen C. (4 February 2018). "Personalizing health plans with technology" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/personalizing-health-plans-with-technology?feed=00000152-175f-d933-a573-ff5f3f230000

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Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefits revolution?

What will happen if the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition becomes a real thing? Find out in this article from Employee Benefit Advisor.


The announcement that Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase would form an independent healthcare company for their U.S. employees is just one more move in a growing, albeit relatively quiet, revolution inside the benefits industry: Employers banding together for more control over a health system they see as wasteful and inefficient.

Employee medical expenditures have been the driving factor behind these moves. Last year, premiums for employer-sponsored family coverage hit $18,764, up 3% from the previous year, with employees paying an average $5,714 toward the cost, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Frustration with those costs — and the lack of quality that often goes along with them — has resulted in a number of employer initiatives. But the news of the three corporate behemoths’ coalition may propel even more employers to band together, looking for alternatives on how they provide coverage while driving transparency in an industry notorious for obfuscation.

While it didn’t make the same splash as the big three’s news, two years ago 20 of the country’s biggest companies, including American Express, Berkshire’s BNSF Railway, Caterpillar, Coca-Cola, du Pont, IBM, Ingersoll Rand, Marriott and Verizon, joined together to form the Health Transformation Alliance. The goal of the group is to use data analytics, collective leverage and shared expertise to lower costs for all members. The group has grown to almost 40 members.

And at about the same time, health and financial consulting firm Mercer started running employer collectives to help companies save on pharmacy costs. There also are individual efforts. Intel, notes American Benefits Council president James Klein, has been a leader in direct contracting with healthcare providers.

“When large and successful companies come together in this way, it’s potentially disruptive,” says Frank Easley, senior vice president of Aon’s health and benefits group, about the Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan partnership. “The healthcare system is ripe for positive disruption and is in need of new solutions that improve employee satisfaction and reduce costs.”

While the three giants did not detail what their new company would do, they did say in a statement that the entity’s focus will be on technology that will provide employees and their families with “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.”

The collaboration will likely pressure profits for middlemen in the healthcare supply chain. Potential ways to bring down costs include providing more transparency in prices for doctor visits and lab tests, and by enabling direct purchasing of some medical items, a person familiar with the companies’ plans said.

Efforts to increase transparency have been an important focus for employers of late and have “enormous potential” when it comes to transforming employer healthcare, says benefits consultant Jack Kwicien. If employers can explain to employees how and where their healthcare dollars are going, it will not only give workers a better understanding of their own money, but it has the potential to build a better relationship between employer and employee.

In addition, Amazon’s e-commerce operation could be used to send medication direct to patient’s homes, saving them trips to a pharmacy. Its cloud-computing division can store patient healthcare records so they can be easily accessed by doctors anywhere. And its payments system could be used to automate payments with healthcare providers.

If Amazon, Berkshire and JPMorgan are successful in lowering costs, the weight of the big three might kick the transformation engine into high gear, leading to a dramatic shift in the benefits delivery as more employers look to use combined leverage to lower their health costs.

“Any time organizations of this caliber — these are world class organizations — say they are going to tackle healthcare, you have to pay attention,” says Mike Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions. The organization advises around 12,000 organizations that buy health plans for millions of employees.

Thompson says that given Amazon and Berkshire’s records, it’s clear “that they have the potential to truly change the consumer experience for their employees, and frankly, that could become a model that could be used by other employers.”

Some benefits insiders, however, express doubts that the three behemoths will spur a widespread industry disruption. Their two biggest doubts: that corporate America can successfully battle the nation’s largest healthcare players and, even if successful, if they can cut costs in a meaningful way.

“Most health costs are incurred by a small percent of the population with chronic conditions,” Klein says. “So if this initiative is just about how health costs are paid for, and does not promote ways to improve health itself, the impact will be minimal.”

Still, business groups say the potential is there for more employer involvement in controlling costs and delivering healthcare, and the need is real.

“New entrants with fresh approaches like these may be just the prescription our ailing healthcare system needs,” says Brian Marcotte, CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “The collective resources of these three companies, emerging technologies and Amazon’s customer obsession and supply-chain savvy gives me optimism that they will pursue a consumer-focused model that will transcend the fragmented, provider-centric delivery system that we have today.”

Read more.

SOURCE:
Mayer K. (31 January 2018). "Will Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan coalition kickstart a benefitsrevolution?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/will-amazon-berkshire-jpmorgan-coalition-kickstart-a-benefits-revolution?feed=00000152-175f-d933-a573-ff5f3f230000

CenterStage: February is American Heart Month - Are Your Loved Ones Knowledgeable?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Talking with your loved ones about heart disease can be awkward, but it’s important. In fact, it could save a life. At the dinner table, in the car, or even via text, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you care about in conversations about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.

Source: Wellness Layers (27 June 2017). Retrieved from http://www.wellnesslayers.com/june-2017-american-heart-association-launched-its-new-heart-and-stroke-patient-support-network-and-patients-registry-powered-by-rmdy/

Here are three reasons to talk to the people in your life about heart health and three ways to get the conversation started.

Three Reasons You Should Talk to Your Loved Ones About Heart Health

#1. More than physical health is at risk

Millions of people in the US don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can lead to dementia later in life. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.

 

#2. Feel Younger Longer

Just as bad living habits can age you prematurely and shorten your lifespan, practicing good heart healthy habits can help you feel younger longer. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are 7 years older than they should be, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just beginning the conversation with the people in your life that you care about can begin to make changes in their heart health.

 

#3. You Are What You Eat

Even small changes can make a big difference. Prepare healthier versions of your favorite family recipes by making simple ingredient swaps, simply searching the internet is all it usually takes to find an easy ingredient alternative. Find a new
recipe to cook for your family members, or get in the kitchen together and you’ll finish with something delicious and possibly making some new favorite memories as well. When grocery shopping, choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats, and be sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Three Ways to Start the Conversation

  1. Encourage family members to make small changes, like using spices to season food instead of salt.
  2. Motivate your loved ones to incorporate physical activity into every day. Consider a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can achieve the best results.
  3. Avoid bad habits together. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system. This applies to practicing healthier practices as well. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes, chances are they may have a big difference.

The key to heart health is a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to try to let go of bad habits that increase your risk of heart disease. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can possibly extend your life expectancy a little bit each day.

Heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and consciously monitoring health conditions. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.

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Tax Cut Spurs Employers to Boost 401(k) Contributions


Following one after the other, large employers including Wal-Mart, Aflac and SunTrust have announced significant compensation and benefits changes and attributed them to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in December.

Experts expect hundreds of other employers to join suit.

A new study from global consulting and advisory firm Willis Towers Watson found that about half of 333 large and mid-sized companies polled plan on making changes to their employee benefits, compensation, total rewards and executive pay programs within the next year.

All told, 66% of employers surveyed have either made changes to their benefits packages or are considering making changes. The most common changes are expanding personal finance planning (34%), increasing 401(k) contributions (26%) and increasing or accelerated pension plan contributions (19%), according to WTW.

About 22% of employers say they plan on addressing pay gap issues — a hot topic in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the public firings of top CEOs, editors and TV anchors, politicians and chefs — as part of a broad-based approach to compensation, according to the report.

tax-cut-401(k) 

“The tax reform law is creating economic opportunity to invest in their people programs,” says John Bremen, managing director of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “While a significant number have already announced changes to some of their programs, the majority of employers are proceeding to determine which changes will have the highest impact and generate the greatest value.”

Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act slashed the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, one expert says the decision of where to place those extra savings is going to vary by employer.

“Clearly you have that situation where there has been a tremendous amount of activity,” says Jack Towarnicky, executive director for Plan Sponsor Council of America. “I haven’t seen a comparable situation in the past where somebody announced a particular change and so many others have moved in the same direction. I think it would be as varied as the enterprises themselves where they deploy any corporate reduction.”

Some companies, such as Boeing, Disney and MidWestOne Bank, announced one-time bonuses and student loan repayment contributions, respectively, but said those decisions were not made with consideration to the tax reform.

The heavy lift of raising retirement benefits

Any changes to a company’s employee benefits plan require analysis and strategy to determine the predicted costs, which is more time-consuming than giving every employee a one-time bonus, Towarnicky says.

“There have been a handful of employers that have announced changes in 401(k) savings plans, but it’s clearly dwarfed by the number of employers that announced one-time bonus payments,” he says. “There is a difference between a one-time action and a change to your 401(k) match. It is reasonably predictable if you’ve got a match and you’re going to increase it.”

Employers may also apply those extra savings to voluntary or employer-sponsored benefits, a growing trend for 2018, and wellness initiatives that transcend the benefits package.

Companies with larger, campus-like office buildings are beginning to invest in bike trails around the area and ergonomic work stations, says Catherine O’Neill, senior healthcare consultant at Willis Towers Watson.

Employers are “trying to blend their work environment with their benefits strategy or wellness strategy to make it more successful,” O’Neill says.

While the changes will remain to be seen, Towarnicky warns employers faced with reinvesting their tax savings that those rates may not remain in effect indefinitely.

“Too many times, particularly when it comes to retirement, people develop expectations,” he says. “Any reductions [to benefits or compensation] have a negative impact on employee relations.”

Read more.

Source:
Eisenburg A. (28 January 2018). "Tax cut spurs employers to boost 401(k) contributions" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/tax-cut-spurs-employers-to-boost-401k-contributions?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000

Tax Law Fuels Changes to Benefits and Compensation Programs

What changes will your employee benefits embark on with The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed? This article from Employee Benefit Advisor touches on the topic.


The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is fueling changes to corporate America’s employee benefits, compensation and executive pay programs, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson.

Of 333 large and midsize employers who responded, 49% are considering making a change to at least one of these programs either this year or next.

“The tax reform law is creating economic opportunity to invest in their people programs,” says John Bremen, managing director of human capital and benefits at Willis Towers Watson. “While a significant number have already announced changes to some of their programs, the majority of employers are proceeding to determine which changes will have the highest impact and generate the greatest value.”

The most common changes organizations have made or are planning or considering include expanding personal financial planning, increasing 401(k) contributions and increasing or accelerating pension plan contributions.

Beth Ashmore, the senior consultant for retirement risk management at Willis Towers Watson, says when it comes to expanding personal financial planning and increasing 401(k) contributions, for an employer, the value of making adjustments in those areas is to ensure employees they are going to be taken care of.

“Whenever any employer is thinking about making a change in total rewards, they need to be thinking about it from the perspective of the compensation as the benefit,” Ashmore says. “What is the best value and impact I can make for my employees?”

As for increasing or accelerating pension plan contributions, Ashmore says with the tax law change the majority of employers have a short-term opportunity to make a pension contribution and potentially deduct at a higher tax rate at the beginning of 2018. “Going forward, that tax deduction will be less for a lot of employers under the new tax law,” Ashmore says.

Other potential changes to benefit programs include increasing the employer healthcare subsidy, reducing or holding flat the employee payroll deduction, or adding a new paid family leave program in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act’s tax credit available for paid leave for certain employees.

Compensation plans

At least 64% of employers are planning to or considering taking action on their broad-based compensation programs, or have already taken action. The most common changes organization have made or are planning include conducting a review of their compensation philosophy, addressing pay-gap issues and introducing a profit-sharing or one-time bonus payout to all employees.

Steve Seelig, executive compensation counsel at Willis Towers Watson, says when it comes to changing compensation philosophy employers should re-evaluate their pay structure to determine if they want to continue to offer the same compensation.

“Employers may want to consider a more fixed compensation — similar to what Netflix started — where the CEO is paid much more salary and less performance-based compensation,” Seelig says.

Many employers answered questions on addressing pay gaps from the perspective of closing a gender pay gap. However, Seelig says employers could also refer to pay gaps between levels within an organization, such as an associate to a supervisor.

“The CEO pay ratio will be disclosed later on this year and employers could take this time as an opportunity to narrow the gaps between positions before the disclosure,” Seelig says.

Read more.

Source:
Olsen C. (28 January 2018). "New tax law fuels changes to benefits and compensation programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/new-tax-law-fuels-changes-to-benefits-and-compensation-programs?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000