Fresh Brew With Our Newest Employee - Rob Glover

Welcome to our brand new segment, Fresh Brew, where we will be exploring the delicious coffees, teas, and snacks of some of our employees! You can look forward to our Fresh Brew blog post on the first Friday of every month.

“Don’t worry about all the Medicare options. I’ll help make it clear and simple.”

Before joining Saxon Financial, Rob trained and worked as an independent sales agent specializing in UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans. He is excited to be joining Saxon in the Senior Solutions department and build on his experience by serving people with added carrier options.

Rob focuses on listening, understanding and educating his clients since Medicare is not one-size-fits-all. When you meet with Rob, his goals are to help you feel like family and have the confidence and understanding to select the perfect Medicare plan for you.

Favorite Brew

Morning:

“Ethiopian Harrar Coffee made with a French Press, hand ground and prepared at home.”

Afternoon:

“British Blend black tea brewed at home. Cold but no ice!”

Evening:

“Stout, home brewed.”

Rob notes: “If I don’t make it myself, then Cappie’s in Loveland or Jungle Jim’s in Eastgate.”

Favorite Snack

“Forget snacks; give me pizza!”

Give It A Try & Share It!


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.

Download The Full Article


National ACA Marketplace Signups Dipped a Modest 3.7 Percent This Year

In this article from Kaiser Family Foundation, we are going to take a brief look at the ACA sign-ups this year.


Overall ACA marketplace signups for 2018 dropped by 3.7 percent compared to last year’s enrollment period, a new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds.

11,760,533 people signed up for 2018 health insurance coverage on the ACA individual marketplaces, amid steep reductions in federal funding for outreach and navigators, an enrollment period half as long, and a climate of political uncertainty surrounding the law. The federal government also terminated cost-sharing subsidy payments to insurers in advance of the open enrollment period, leading to increases in premiums but also increased premium subsidies for many consumers that in some cases led to reductions in what they had to pay for coverage.

As a group, the 15 states plus the District of Columbia with state-based marketplaces, including those using the Healthcare.gov enrollment platform, exceeded last year’s totals this year by .2 percent, while the 34 states that relied on the federal healthcare.gov marketplace saw total signups drop by about 5.3 percent. State-based marketplaces control their own funding for outreach and consumer assistance.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia exceeded 2017 signups in 2018 – eight of these were state-based marketplaces, three were state-based marketplaces using the Healthcare.gov enrollment platform (KY, NV, and OR), and five were federal Healthcare.gov marketplaces.

Rhode Island (12.1%), Kentucky (10.4%), and Washington State (7.6%) saw the largest share increases in signups, while Louisiana (-23.5%), West Virginia (-19.5%), and Arizona (-15.6%) had the largest drop in shares of signups.

Read the original article here.

Source:
Kaiser Family Foundation (7 February 2018). "National ACA Marketplace Signups Dipped a Modest 3.7 Percent This Year" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/health-reform/press-release/national-aca-marketplace-signups-dipped-a-modest-3-7-percent-this-year/

A Check Up on U.S. Global Health Policy, After One Year of the Trump Administration

From Kaiser Family Foundation, let's take a look at this informative article that reviews healthcare since the beginning of the Trump Presidency.


This month marks one year since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States after winning the election on a populist, “America-First”, platform. Since then, there have been many questions raised about what a Trump Presidency would mean for U.S. global health policy in light of statements on scaling back foreign aid and a skepticism of the value of multilateral institutions and key international agreements. Historically, global health has enjoyed bipartisan support and been highlighted as a major area of success for the United States. Funding for global health rose significantly in the last decade and, although it has leveled off, it still represents the largest component of U.S. foreign assistance (an estimated 24% in FY 2017).

In this brief, we take stock of the U.S. global health response on the occasion of one year of the Trump Presidency and look ahead to the global health policy issues that are likely to be front and center in the coming months and years. Overall, there are a mix of challenges facing the U.S. global health response, some of which pre-dated Trump and others that are the result of decisions and actions of the administration, including proposals to significantly scale back funding. At the same time, global health programs still enjoy strong bipartisan support in Congress and, according to our just-released poll, about half of the public still wants the U.S. to play a major or leading role in improving health in developing countries (see Figure 1 and Appendix).

Figure 1: Half of the Public Sees Leading or Major Role for the U.S. in Improving Health in Developing Countries

DIAGNOSIS

ADMINISTRATION ACTIONS HAVE LED TO FOREIGN POLICY UPHEAVAL

In keeping with the “America First” campaign and promises to re-examine the U.S. role in world affairs, the Trump Administration has made a number of notable changes in broader U.S. foreign policy that affect global health. These include the administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, its criticism of and new demands for U.S. engagement in the context of international trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and skepticism of, and intent to reduce U.S. support for the United Nations and potentially other multilateral organizations. More recently, the administration has proposed to cut foreign aid to countries that voted counter to U.S. government wishes at the UN.  While this threat is not without precedent, it is a departure from U.S. policy over the prior two decades, and underscores the administration’s theme of emphasizing U.S. interests over other considerations.

The Trump Administration has also sought to make its mark on the agencies that carry out U.S. foreign policy, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Following a March 2017 White House Executive Order on reorganizing the executive branch, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has attempted to re-organize and reform these agencies. One potential move that was feared by many was the idea of “merging” USAID and the State Department – the two currently exist as quasi-independent – but to date there is no evidence of such a change being actively pursued. At the same time, budget requests from the White House have demonstrated the administration’s desire to make significant cuts to these agencies’ budgets, and their day-to-day management has been criticized by current and former employees. In addition, there has been decidedly slow progress in nominating and appointing staff for key foreign policy leadership posts, along with a notable exodus of experienced staff over the last year. For example, as of this writing, President Trump had nominated far fewer candidates at the State Department (89) compared to Presidents Obama (137) and George W Bush (153) at the same point in their first terms.

And, whereas human rights has been a component of U.S. foreign policy that the Obama Administration sought to elevate in its foreign policy (even including it prominently in its national security strategy), Trump Administration officials have downplayed the importance of human rights, leading to worries in the foreign policy and development community, and letters of concern from members of Congress.

IMPLICATIONS FOR GLOBAL HEALTH

A lack of ambassadors in some countries, needed staff appointments in some positions, a shifting stance on human rights, and a shrinking foreign policy workforce have concerning implications for planning and carrying out U.S. global health programs. Such difficulties for global health have been compounded by certain policy decisions, including proposals to significantly cut U.S. global health funding (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: U.S. Global Health Funding, FY 2004-FY 2018 Request

The most concrete global health policy change of the administration to date came on the first Monday of President Trump’s term, in the form of a re-instatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy. The Policy, which was in effect and applied to family planning assistance in previous Republican administrations, was not only re-instated but also expanded to encompass almost all global health assistance, increasing the number of organizations and the amount of funding affected by the policy. We found the expanded policy applies to more than $7 billion in funding and likely affects more than one thousand foreign NGOs. In addition, on March 30 the administration invoked the “Kemp-Kasten amendment” to withhold funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the lead U.N. agency focused on global population and reproductive health, as has been done in previous Republican administrations.

The administration’s request to significantly cut global health funding is unprecedented. For FY2018 the White House proposed cuts of over $2B to global health, representing a 23% overall reduction compared to FY2017; these included a proposed reduction to PEPFAR of more than $1 billion and a zeroing out of the family planning budget, among others. Multiple analyses of the potential impacts of such cuts conclude that serious negative health consequences would result, including many more infections and deaths from HIV and TB, and an increase in the number of abortions along with greater maternal mortality. None of these requested cuts have been enacted but this is the first time cuts of this magnitude have been proposed, and they mark a significant shift from the direction and emphasis of prior administrations.

Even as they have implemented more restrictive policies and proposed cuts, Trump Administration officials have publicly stated support for select U.S. global health priorities. In his first major speech to the United Nations in September, for example, President Trump highlighted three major U.S. global health areas of success: PEPFAR, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA).  Secretary of State Tillerson has also spoken about the importance of PEPFAR and the GHSA; the U.S. has signaled its intention to remain engaged in the larger GHSA effort, and has even highlighted the importance of global health security in the newly revised U.S. National Security Strategy, and is expected to do the same in a forthcoming national biodefense strategy. Despite the foreign policy vacancies noted above, some global health and development leaders have remained in their roles since the Obama Administration, including the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and the Director of the National Institutes of Health, while other key positions have been filled by President Trump, including the new USAID Administrator who has a strong record in global health, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and leadership on global health within the White House National Security Council.

CONGRESS PUSHES BACK

Congress has also continued to play a significant role in global health, including bipartisan and bicameral push back against proposed funding cuts.  Funding for global health was kept at FY 2017 levels and, while not yet final, will likely be level in FY2018 as well. Moreover, Congress has asserted its role in directing global health efforts by including, for the first time, language in the FY 2017 budget legislation that prevents the administration from changing global health program funding levels. Congress also included language requiring a report before any reorganization of State and USAID could occur. Many stakeholders, including current and former U.S officials, the faith community, and members of the military, have also pushed back on the administration’s proposed cuts to global health and development.

U.S. PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR GLOBAL HEALTH CONTINUES, THOUGH WITH SOME DECLINES & PARTISAN DIVISIONS

Our latest (January 2018) tracking poll assessed public support for U.S. engagement in global health in the Trump era. The public perceives the Trump Administration as less supportive of global health, with half (53%) saying the Trump Administration has made global health a lower priority than previous administrations.

As mentioned above, about half of the public (54%) say they want the U.S. to play a leading or major role in improving health for people in developing countries. Support for such engagement is strongest among Democrats (73%), who also are more likely to support the U.S. playing “a leading role” (20%), and lower among independents (47%) and Republicans (49%), see Figure 3; Trump supporters are not interested in the U.S. playing a leading role (just 4% say they believe this). However, overall support fell slightly from 2016, when 61% said they think the U.S. should take a leading or major role.

Figure 3: Support for U.S. Role in Improving Health in Developing Countries by Party Identification

Most of the public (59%) believe the U.S. is spending the right amount or not enough on global health programs, but one-third (33%) believe the U.S. is spending too much – a significant jump from the 18% saying we were spending too much in 2016.

For overall global engagement, the poll numbers indicate a greater proportion of the U.S. public (69%) now believes the U.S. should take at least a major role in solving the world’s problems than in 2016 (57%).  The share of Republicans agreeing with this statement grew from 20% in 2016 to 31% in 2018. However, confusion about the amount spent on U.S. foreign aid persists, with half (49%) saying too much is spent in this area but when presented with the actual amount – about 1% of the federal budget goes to foreign aid – people are much less likely (29%) to view that as too much spending (as found in previous polls). See Appendix and poll results for more detailed information.

PROGNOSIS

The push and pull in global health policy will likely continue in 2018 and potentially intensify. On the one hand, actions taken by the administration signal a reduced U.S. engagement in the world and intention to step back further in global health. On the other, U.S. global health programs have so far demonstrated resilience, buoyed by strong support from Congress and key stakeholders.

The tension will likely be tested again in the near term with the soon-to-be released FY 19 White House budget request, which many expect to propose at least the same level of deep cuts to global health. Negotiations will take place within the broader context of greater budget pressures and concerns about the deficit, particularly in wake of recently enacted tax legislation that could tighten discretionary spending, including for foreign assistance, even more.

Beyond that, there will be a number of other issues to watch, including:

  • Mexico City Policy: The expanded Mexico City Policy, which has only begun to be implemented, will likely be felt in a much more pronounced way in these next months and years including potential gaps in services in the field;
  • PEPFAR: The administration, Congress, and other stakeholders are beginning to assess whether they want to move forward to reauthorize PEPFAR – the program’s current authorization expires at the end of FY 2018 (though the program will not end and a new reauthorization is not needed to keep it funded). In addition, PEPFAR’s recently launched new strategy, which aims to focus most efforts on 13 priority countries, raises questions about the larger U.S. global AIDS response in the context of potential budget decreases;
  • Global Health Security Agenda: Key decisions about the next phase of the GHSA, including what to do regarding an impending fiscal cliff as supplemental Ebola funds expire in FY2019, will soon be coming down the pike and the U.S., as a founding and leading member of the partnership, will figure prominently in its future direction; and
  • Replenishment: Two major global health multilateral partners of the U.S. – the Global Fund and GAVI – will soon begin processes for launching their next replenishment conferences, marking an important moment for gauging future U.S. support.

The key question going forward, then, may very well be which vision of global health will end up holding sway in the political back-and-forth in Washington – that of the White House or Congress?  Ultimately, the winners, or losers, of this “battle” will be the people that benefit from U.S. investments around the world.

Source:
Kates J., Michaud J., Kirzinger A., Munana C. (29 January 2018). "A Check Up on U.S. Global Health Policy, After One Year of the Trump Administration" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/global-health-policy/issue-brief/a-check-up-on-u-s-global-health-policy-after-one-year-of-the-trump-administration/

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

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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