Have you been trying to leverage your employee benefits as a way to attract and retain talent? Take a look at this great article from Benefits Pro about how employees still value money over the perks of employee benefits Marlene Y. Satter.
There’s plenty of talk these days about all sorts of employee benefits that might help to attract and retain top talent — but when push comes to shove, it’s the dollar sign that has the most influence.
That’s according to a Paychex.com survey, which finds that in the employment conversation, money still talks the loudest. It’s not that people don’t want or like other benefits, such as health insurance, vacations and 401(k)s, but what they really want, what they really, really want is cold hard cash in the form of bonuses and raises. Regular bonuses, they say, are the most important job incentive.
However, asked about the benefits they do receive, survey respondents list a range of benefits, including health care, dental insurance, 401(k)s, casual dress days and free snacks, but bonuses only come in at eighth place. Least important to them of all are “nomadic days” — days on which they can work away from the office at the location of their choice.
Asked their salaries and which benefits they’d gladly give up in exchange for more money, there are quite a few — with low-cost benefits the most disposable. Millennials, perhaps unsurprisingly, make the least money at less than $47,000 a year, while boomers come in second (despite their longevity on the job) at just over $49,000 annually; GenXers are the best paid, at an average of more than $53,000.
And they all know the value of a buck. The top five most expendable benefits named are free coffee or snacks; casual dress days; company events or outings; discounts on company products; and discounts on other products. In fact, such “benefits” may actually backfire if companies think offering them instead of merit-based compensation or bonuses to induce greater productivity.
There’s certainly a disconnect between what employees say they value most and what employers believe are the most valuable options, with employees saying the most important to them are monetary bonuses, additional paid vacation time, and health and dental insurance.
Bosses, on the other hand, think employee morale benefits more from paid vacations, bonuses and finally paid maternity leave and vision and dental insurance.
To show how out of touch employers can be, employers rate health care just above lunch breaks in terms of morale-boosting importance, despite its value to employees.
Considering that low-wage jobs are associated with higher rates of employee turnover, the study points out that providing employees with a salary increase could cut the costs associated with recruitment and training.
Of course, smaller companies tend to offer fewer, and less expansive, benefits than larger companies, with employers of fewer than 100 more likely to offer employees casual dress days or free snacks than they are to provide them with the considerably more important benefit of health insurance. But on the flip side, smaller companies are also more likely to offer bonuses than are larger companies, and indeed employees rank those bonuses above health care, dental insurance, and 401(k) plans in importance.
And the benefits on offer could depend on the age of the boss, with millennials more willing to offer employees commission and sales bonuses, paid gym memberships and student loan reimbursement while Gen Xers hit on all cylinders in offering bonuses, paid maternity leave and on-site health and wellness services.
Boomers, alas, seem stuck in the dark ages when it comes to modern benefit offerings, reluctant to see the benefit of such perks as bonuses, nomadic days and paid maternity leave; in addition, they’re really resistant to such things as student loan reimbursement and paid professional development.
See the original article Here.
Satter M. (2017 April 28). Employees want money more than perks [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/04/28/employees-want-money-more-than-perks?ref=hp-news&page_all=1
Do you know what is needed to attract new talent to your company? Here’s a great article from SHRM about 5 trends that new hires are looking for in 2017 by Shonna Waters & Alex Alonso
Waters S., Alonso A. (2017 January 5). Five trends in talent [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/five-trends-in-talent
Great article from the Kaiser Family Foundation about Americans thoughts on ACA repeal by Ashley Kirzinger, Bryan Wu, and Mollyann Brodie
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds health care among the top issues Americans want President-elect Donald Trump and the next Congress to address in 2017. When asked which issue they would most like the next administration to act on in 2017, one-fourth of the public mention the economy and jobs (24 percent), followed by immigration (20 percent), and health care (19 percent). Among Democrats and independents, the economy and jobs is the top issue (23 percent and 24 percent, respectively) while the top issues for Republicans are immigration (30 percent) and economy and jobs (29 percent). Among all partisans, health care ranks among the top three issues that the public wants the next administration to act on in 2017.
The top issue for voters who supported President-elect Donald Trump are similar to those among Republicans: economy and jobs (31 percent) and immigration (31 percent), followed closely by health care (27 percent).
When asked to mention which health care issue they would most like President-elect Trump and the next Congress to act on in 2017, about one-third of the public mention the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but attitudes are mixed between wanting the next administration to act on repealing the 2010 health care law (14 percent), improving/fixing the law (11 percent), or keeping/expanding the law (8 percent).
When asked about a series of health care priorities for President-elect Trump and the next Congress to act on, repealing the ACA falls behind other health care priorities. Two-thirds of the public (67 percent) say lowering the amount individuals pay for health care should be a “top priority” for President-elect Trump and the next Congress. This is followed by six in ten (61 percent) who say lowering the cost of prescription drugs should be a “top priority,” and nearly half (45 percent) who say dealing with the prescription pain killer addiction epidemic should be a “top priority.”
Smaller shares say repealing the 2010 health care law (37 percent), decreasing how much the federal government spends on health care over time (35 percent), and decreasing the role of the federal government in health care (35 percent) should be top priorities.
While about two-thirds of Democrats, Republicans, and independents say lowering the amount individuals pay for health care should be a “top priority,” partisans differ in how they prioritize other health care issues. Most notably, while 63 percent of Republicans say repealing the 2010 health care law should be a top priority – this view is shared by much smaller shares of independents (32 percent) and Democrats (21 percent). Similarly, Republicans (50 percent) are more likely than independents (34 percent) or Democrats (26 percent) to place a top priority on decreasing the role of the federal government in health care. By contrast, Democrats and independents are somewhat more likely than Republicans to place a top priority on lowering the cost of prescription drugs (67 percent, 61 percent, and 55 percent, respectively) and on dealing with the epidemic of prescription painkiller addiction (51 percent, 46 percent, and 39 percent, respectively).
Lowering out-of-pocket health care costs is a top priority for Americans, and this was also a campaign promise from Donald Trump during his 2016 presidential campaign. When asked how confident they are in President-elect Trump’s ability to deliver on this campaign promise that Americans will get better health care at a lower cost than they pay now, Americans are split with similar shares saying they are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” (51 percent) as saying they are “very confident” or “somewhat confident” (47 percent).
Confidence in President-elect Trump’s promise that Americans will get better health care at a lower cost is largely divided by party identification and 2016 vote choice with nearly nine in ten Republicans (85 percent) and Trump voters (86 percent) saying they are either “very” or “somewhat” confident in the next administration’s ability to deliver on this campaign promise. This is compared to 81 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of Clinton voters who say they are either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that the next president will deliver on this promise.
Throughout the 2016 presidential election, it became clear that the two major political parties in the U.S. have competing views on the future of health care. When given two competing approaches to the future of health care, six in ten Americans (62 percent) prefer “guaranteeing a certain level of health coverage and financial help for seniors and lower-income Americans, even if it means more federal health spending and a larger role for the federal government” while about one-third (31 percent) prefer “limiting federal health spending, decreasing the federal government’s role, and giving state governments and individuals more control over health insurance, even if this means some seniors and lower-income Americans would get less financial help than they do today.”
There are also partisan differences, with about half of Republicans (53 percent) preferring the approach that Republican leaders have coalesced around – limiting federal health spending, decreasing the federal government’s role, and giving states and individuals more control; this approach is preferred by much smaller shares of independents (27 percent) and Democrats (15 percent). The majority of Democrats (79 percent) and independents (65 percent) prefer guaranteeing a certain level of coverage for seniors and lower-income Americans – even if it means a larger role for the federal government and increased federal spending.
The future of the Affordable Care Act has been at the forefront of the political agenda since the 2016 election with President-elect Trump and Republican lawmakers in Congress saying they will quickly move to repeal the health care law in 2017. The latest survey finds public opinion towards the law is divided with similar shares of the public saying they have an unfavorable opinion (46 percent) as say they have a favorable opinion (43 percent) of the law, which is largely stable from previous months.
As Congressional lawmakers make plans for the future of the ACA, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking survey finds that – similar to overall attitudes towards the law – the public is also divided on what they would like lawmakers to do when it comes to the 2010 health care law.
Overall, 49 percent of the public think the next Congress should vote to repeal the law and 47 percent say they should not vote to repeal it. Of those who want to see Congress vote to repeal the law, a larger share say they want lawmakers to wait to vote on repeal until the details of a replacement plan have been announced (28 percent) than say Congress should vote to repeal the law immediately and work out the details of a replacement plan later (20 percent).
The survey examines the malleability of attitudes towards Congress repealing the health care law and finds that both supporters and opponents of Congress voting to repeal the law can be persuaded after hearing counter-messages. After hearing pro-repeal arguments, the share of the public supporting repeal can grow to as large as 60 percent, while counter-messages against repeal can decrease support to 27 percent.
Among those who originally said Congress should not vote to repeal the 2010 health care law, about one-fifth (22 percent) change their opinion after hearing that some consumers around the country have seen large increases in the cost of their health insurance – which is similar to the share who shifted their opinion after hearing that the country cannot afford the cost of providing financial help to individuals to purchase health insurance.
On the other side of the debate, some of those who originally said they support Congress voting to repeal the health care law are also persuaded by hearing arguments often made by opponents of the repeal efforts. The survey finds that a share shifts their opinion after hearing that some people with pre-existing conditions would no longer be able to get health coverage and after hearing that some of the roughly 20 million Americans who got health insurance as a result of the law would lose their coverage.
Overall, large shares of Americans say their own health care will “stay about the same” if lawmakers vote to repeal the 2010 health care law. More than half of Americans say the quality of their own health care (57 percent) and their own ability to get and keep health insurance (55 percent) will stay about the same if the law is repealed. Fewer (43 percent) say the cost of health care for them and their family will stay about the same if the law is repealed. In each of these cases, about equal shares believe their own situation will get better as say it will get worse.
After being read a definition of “pre-existing condition,” just over half (56 percent) of U.S. adults say that they or someone in their household would be considered to have such a condition. Overall, these individuals are more likely than those without a pre-existing condition to say their access, quality, and cost of health care will get “worse” if the ACA is repealed. However, about one in five of these individuals say their access, quality, and cost of health care will get “better” if the ACA is repealed.
One-third of individuals who have someone in their household with a pre-existing condition say the cost of health care for them and their family will get worse if the ACA is repealed, compared to about one in five of those living in a household without someone with a pre-existing condition. Larger shares of those with a pre-existing condition also say their ability to get and keep health insurance will get worse than those without a pre-existing condition (24 percent vs. 17 percent), and the quality of their own health care will get worse (21 percent vs. 15 percent).
In addition, individuals with a pre-existing condition in their household also report being more worried about health-care related issues than those without a pre-existing condition. Slightly more than half (54 percent) of those with a pre-existing condition say they are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about not being able to afford the health care services they need, compared to 43 percent of those without a pre-existing condition. Similarly, 43 percent of those with a pre-existing condition are worried (either “very” or “somewhat”) about losing their health insurance compared to 30 percent of those without a pre-existing condition.
The latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds President-elect Donald Trump’s transition and cabinet appointments was the most closely followed news story during the past month with seven in ten (68 percent) Americans closely following news about his transition. Other stories that captured the attention of Americans include the conflict involving ISIS in Mosul, Iraq (64 percent), the CIA’s report of Russia interfering in the 2016 presidential election (64 percent), and the top health policy story this month – Republican plans to repeal the ACA (63 percent). Other health policy stories followed by Americans this month include the ongoing heroin and prescription painkiller addiction epidemic in the U.S. (57 percent), Republican plans for the future of Medicare (51 percent), and the passing of the 21st Century Cures Act (37 percent).
See the original article and charts Here.
Krizinger A., Wu B., Brodie M. (2017 January 06). Kaiser health tracking poll: health care priorities [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-health-care-priorities-for-2017/
Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by
Recent research into individuals’ financial resolutions for 2017 can tell you whether your financial wellness initiatives are giving employees what they want. It can also tell you whether to expect employees to increase their retirement contributions next year.
Personal finance company LendEDU recently asked 1,001 Americans about their financial goals for 2017, as well as what their biggest concerns are. The results were published in LendEDU’s “Financial Resolution Survey & Report 2017,” which can help employers determine if their financial programs are on point.
Here are some of the more interesting Q&A’s from the research:
What’s your most important financial resolution in 2017?
Takeaway for employers: Improving savings should be front and center in any financial wellness strategy.
What’s your top financial resolution?
Takeaway for employers: Employees need the most help creating a budget they can stick to.
What’s your top financial concern?
Takeaway for employers: Helping employees manage healthcare costs can be a key add-on to any financial education program.
Do you think you’re better off financially in 2017 than in 2016?
Takeaway for employers: Employees’ financial state of mind is on the upswing, which is good. But it could make increasing participation in wellness initiatives more challenging.
Do you make financial resolutions with your spouse or significant other?
Takeaway for employers: When it comes to finances, very few people go it alone, so invite spouses to be a part of your wellness offerings.
What would make you stick to a financial resolution?
Takeaway for employers: Incremental rewards and incentives, can help drive participation and success in 2017 financial wellness initiatives.
Do you think you’ll increase your retirement savings contributions this year?
Takeaway for employers: This could be a good year to really push employees to bump up retirement plan contributions.
Author (Date). Title [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/financial-wellness-heres-what-employees-want-need-in-2017/
Great article from Benefits Pro by Gil Lowerre and Bonnie Brazzell
A recent Eastbridge survey of employers found that the use of private exchanges continues to be minimal among all size categories and that a positive correlation remains between use and employer size (with use increasing as employer size increases). Many times, it is the broker who influences these employers to adopt the exchange model, and to offer more options to their employees or to move to a defined contribution approach.
Since brokers are often the ones suggesting an exchange for their clients, it makes sense that most employers (74 percent) continue to use a broker for their employee benefits after implementing a private exchange. Only 19 percent of the employers no longer utilize broker services.
While use has been low, employers that have implemented an exchange believe their employees’ experience with the private exchange has been positive. Forty percent indicated the experience was not only positive, but easier than previous enrollments, and 52 percent said it was positive, but not significantly different from previous enrollment.
The survey also pointed to future interest by employers in private exchanges. Over one-quarter of the employers that are not using a private exchange today are open to using this concept in the future, and another one-quarter are still undecided.
Whether or not to offer a private exchange is a decision that should be based on many factors. Nonetheless, it is important for brokers to at least consider broaching the subject with employer clients — or risk the chance that some other broker will. The fact that most employers rate the exchange process positively should provide comfort to those considering this approach to benefits.
Lowerre, G. & Brazzell, B. (2016 November 02). Employers rate private exchanges positively, but use is still low. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/11/02/employers-rate-private-exchanges-positively-but-us
Do you know what millennials are looking for in the workplace? Travel and flexibility are among the top 2 as mentioned in the article below by Marlenen Y. Satter.
Original Article Posted on BenefitsPro.com
Posted: October 7, 2016
Millennials have itchy feet.
In fact, their desire to see faraway places is their main reason to work — after, of course, paying basic necessities. According to FlexJobs survey, a hefty 70 percent of millennials say their “overwhelming desire to travel” is their main motivation on the job — that’s just a tad less than the 88 percent who cite that basic motivator: necessities.
Gen X respondents are fond of travel too, but not as much as millennials; 60 percent ranked it as the fourth most important reason for working. And boomers are apparently settling down; just 47 percent ranked travel as fifth in importance.
Not only are millennials wanderers, they want flexibility — up to a point. Freelance work seems to be going farther than they’d like (particularly since at least some of that “flexibility” is really out of a freelancer’s control and in the hands of clients).
Although millennials tend to be more associated with freelance work than other generations, only 42 percent of millennials are open to freelancing as a flexible work arrangement.
Gen Xers actually view freelance work more favorably than millennials, with 47 percent willing to consider it. Forty-four percent of boomers also expressed interest in freelancing.
Flexibility, on the other hand, is important enough to millennials that 82 percent say it’s a factor in evaluating a potential job, and 34 percent have actually left a job because it did not have work flexibility. In addition, 82 percent say they’d be more loyal to an employer if they had flexible work options.
Yet, although they’re the ones most interested in flexibility, millennials are also the generation most required to be at the office to work than older generations: 34 percent, compared with Gen Xers at 26 percent and boomers at 19 percent. Their work schedule — part of that flexibility — is also important to more millennials (65 percent) than it is to Gen Xers (57 percent) or to boomers (62 percent).
Interestingly, though, none of the generations regard the office during traditional working hours as their location of choice for optimum productivity.
See the Original Article Here.
Satter, M.Y. (2016, October 7) Travel is millennials’ work incentive [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/10/07/travel-is-millennials-work-incentive?ref=hp-top-stories
Original Post from BenefitsPro.com
By: Tom Pohl
There are reports of data breaches in the news every week, impacting a range of organizations and industries. These cyberattacks are costing businesses, both large and small, a great deal to resolve — from financial expenses to IT and legal resources to reputation recovery efforts.
According to a new study by the Ponemon Institute, data breaches are costing the health care industry $6.2 billion annually. Nearly 90 percent of health care organizations were victims of a breach in the last two years, raising concern for patients, employees, and others involved in the health care system.
Today, the leading cause of health care data breaches are targeted criminal attacks that seek to place valuable personal information into the hands of malicious actors. The personal information given out to health care organizations can be some of the most valuable to cybercriminals. For example, when enrolling in benefits, the information submitted can include patient names, family history, Social Security numbers, and billing information.
It’s important to also note that not all breaches are malicious. Human error is often a cause of breaches, asCompTia’s International Trends in Cybersecurity report found the 58 percent of security breaches are typically due to human error.
So what can benefits administration technology providers do to keep sensitive data secure from human error and malicious threats?
Conduct extensive user testing on your security systems
Implementing user testing through a third party vendor allows benefits administration technology providers to discover gaps or holes in their security systems. This can be done via a user testing group, which is comprised of individuals trained to discover the predominant methods that cybercriminals would abuse to compromise web-based applications.
The group is given a platform with authorized access and fake scenarios, all set up to act as if the system was running as usual. As these experts go into the system and know what areas to try and hack, the organization is able to develop plans to combat or repair these issues. User testing is similar to proofreading a paper; getting a second set of eyes on a program allows companies to see the full risks of its security system.
Educate employees on cyberthreats
As data breaches become a daily concern for IT departments, educating employees on the risks and dangers of cyberattacks becomes even more of a priority. Benefits administration technology providers need to prioritize educational resources and programs to teach employees how to spot potential cyberattacks, especially as they are handling their customers’ private information.
An effective and simple way to train employees on how to spot strange activity can be done via an email phishing awareness campaign. This involves delivering emails to employees with mocked up links or downloadable materials that, if real, would have the potential to open users’ accounts up to cyberattacks. Organizations should also consistently remind its employees to report any suspicious activity and to change their passwords regularly for a more secure system.
Automate processes to reduce the risk of human error
Recently, Google was in the news for a suffered data breach via its benefits provider. Yet the reason for this incident was human error, in which an email sender accidentally sent a document to the wrong contact. Fortunately for Google, the damage was limited, but human error is not always so forgiving.
With automation, benefits administration technology providers have the ability to decrease the chances of sensitive information getting into the wrong hands. This can be done by sending dummy files before sending the actual files to contacts. Another option is to implement triggers on email accounts when certain information is involved. For example, if a file is attached to the email, prompt the sender to confirm it is the correct file before sending. Implementing automation is a key factor in combatting human errors that could increase the risk of a cyberattack, especially when it comes to personal data.
Beware of the insider threat
While public perception is that these attacks result solely from the actions of malicious hackers outside of an organization, insider threats are a growing and serious concern. Vormetric’s 2015 Insider Threat Report reveals that over 90 percent of U.S. organizations believe they are vulnerable to insider threats such as stolen passwords or email spam. In fact, the National Association of Manufacturers released a statement in April 2016 stating the theft of trade secrets has cost businesses $250 billion per year.
Benefits administration technology may want to go a step further to ensure employees are operating in the correct space. Requiring background checks and limiting access to sensitive data will provide an extra level of security for patient, employee, and others’ personal information.
Originally posted December 11, 2014 on Insurance Broadcasting
Whether it’s dental insurance or the smartphone, consumers want products that offer simplification and savings. In a new survey, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield asked Americans what products make their lives easier and the findings revealed that integrated products and services are highly valued – for example, the smartphone (74 percent), printer/copier/scanner (64 percent) and the toaster oven (36 percent). And, when it comes to insurance, consumers overwhelmingly (81 percent) said it would be extremely helpful to trust the same carrier to provide their dental, vision and health coverage.
“We’re meeting the needs of both employer and employee by providing affordable and comprehensive coverage benefits, which helps save time and money every step of the way.”
So, what specifically are consumers looking for when it comes to selecting an insurance plan? Survey respondents said a range of factors are important to consider, but they most frequently point to cost as being an extremely important aspect (67 percent), followed by comprehensiveness of coverage (61 percent), customer service (60 percent) and ease of use (58 percent). Additionally, 86 percent would expect to save time, save money or receive improved care if they had the same carrier integrate dental with their vision and medical benefits.
In the current health care environment, employers are looking for products that offer their employees exceptional valuei. The good news is that simpler processes, vast networks and deep discounts offered by multiline carriers like Anthem can provide employers and employees with the exceptional value they are seeking.
“For example, we offer a vast choice of dental benefits that employees want, along with large, reliable provider networks that make it easy and affordable for consumers to maintain good oral health,” said Erin Hoeflinger, President of Anthem in Ohio. “We’ve built strong relationships with the dentists in our network and we have negotiated rates, which saves members on average 25 to 32 percent on their covered dental services.”
In addition to seeing a cost savings, consumers can expect to save time when they select a multiline carrier. Half of the consumers surveyed (50 percent) say that figuring out costs is the most time consuming aspect of health management. Two-in-five also say it’s time-consuming to find health care providers that accept their insurance (41 percent) and to get their doctors to talk with each other to coordinate care (39 percent).
“With all of the advantages available to consumers and employers who get their benefits from a multiline carrier, there’s no reason to settle for the inefficiencies of having multiple benefit providers,” said Hoeflinger. “We’re meeting the needs of both employer and employee by providing affordable and comprehensive coverage benefits, which helps save time and money every step of the way.”
This report presents the findings of a telephone survey conducted among 1,005 adults, 503 men and 502 women 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States. Interviewing for this ORC International CARAVAN® Survey was completed on July 10-13, 2014. 605 interviews were from the landline sample and 400 interviews from the cell phone sample.
The margin of error for the total sample is ±3.0 percent at the 95% confidence level. This means that if we were to replicate the study, we would expect to get the same results within 3.0 percentage points 95 times out of 100.
by saxon financial
According to new research from Unum, a recent survey of more than 1,500 employees shows only half of U.S. employees would rate their employer as excellent or very good. Even less than that, the 47% who were offered benefits by their employer, rated the actual benefits as excellent or very good — some of the lowest ratings for benefits the Unum has seen in recent years.
The data points to a lack of employees getting information needed on the benefits being offered. Only 33% of those surveyed who were asked to review benefits in the prior year rated the benefits education they received as excellent or very good — a drop from 2012 and reversal of the upward trend since 2009.
“Offering employees effective benefits education can contribute to satisfaction with their employer,” says Bill Dalicandro, vice president of the consumer solutions group at Unum. “Even if employees don’t have a particularly good benefits package, those who say they received quality education about the benefits they are offered are far more likely to consider their employer a very good place to work.”
Employers can also get a win when providing educational guidance in choosing the right benefits. Correlation between employee satisfaction with their benefits continues to run parallel with overall employer satisfaction.
More than three-quarters of those employees who rate their benefits package as highly also rate their employer as an excellent or very good place to work. By contrast, only 17% of employees who consider their benefits package to be fair or poor rate their workplace as excellent or very good.
Additionally 79% of employees who reviewed benefits in the past year and rated their education as excellent or very good also rate their employer as excellent or very good — compared to 30% who said the education they received was fair or poor.
The survey also found:
“This research underscores the value of an effective benefits education plan, because when an employee understands their benefits, they tend to value them more and in turn may then value their employers more for providing access to them,” Dalicandro adds.
Originally posted August 20, 2014 by Dan Cook on www.benefitspro.com.
Despite foreseeing record-breaking employee health care costs in the near term, major employers will continue to offer coverage to full and part-time workers. However, coverage for spouses and dependents could be targeted for cutbacks.
That’s the latest from a Towers Watson survey that found employers generally anticipate a 5.2 percent increase next year in health plan costs, which would put coverage cost per employee at an all-time high, Towers Watson said.
However, many employers are planning to make design changes to their plans. Should they occur, employers then project a 4 percent plan increase.
“Despite this cost trend, most (83 percent) employers consider health benefits an important element of their employee value proposition, and plan to continue subsidizing and managing them for both full-time and part-time active employees,” Towers Watson said. Virtually all of these large employers surveyed said they will continue to offer health benefits to employees, with few indicating they were ready to move coverage to a private exchange.
The results were gleaned from the company’s 2014 Health Care Changes Ahead Survey.
Large employers were asked about their health care-related cost concerns for the future. A major one is the excise tax that goes into effect in 2018 as part of the full rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of employers said they are somewhat or very concerned they will trigger the tax based on their current plans and cost trajectory,” Towers Watson said. “More than four in 10 (43 percent) said avoiding the tax is the top priority for their health care strategies in 2015. As a result of the excise tax and other provisions of the health care reform law, CEOs and CFOs are more actively engaged in strategy discussions.”
The objective is not to eliminate or even substantially reduce employee coverage, Towers Watson said, but to continue to manage costs as finely as possible without gutting coverage.
“The emphasis is on achieving or maintaining a high-performance health plan,” said Randall Abbott, senior consultant at Towers Watson. “And CFOs are now focused on a new gold standard: managing health cost increases to the Consumer Price Index. This requires acute attention to improving program performance.”
Other key findings from the study:
Employers continue to study private exchanges, although 77 percent “are not at all confident public exchanges will provide a viable alternative for their active full-time employees in 2015 or 2016.”
Still, 24 percent said private exchanges could provide a viable alternative for their active full-time employees in 2016. They are looking at three key factors to emerge that would push them in that direction:
“The most effective employers are continually evaluating new strategies for improving health plan performance,” Abbott said. “Examples include a steady migration to account-based health plans, action-based incentives, adoption of value-based payment methods with health plan partners and plan designs that drive efficiencies. Other options are technology-based solutions such as telemedicine, fitness devices or trackers, and social media to encourage employees to take a more active role in both their personal health status and how they use health care goods and services.”