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How a Biden Administration Might Impact Employee Benefits, HR and the Workplace

Jeff Griffin

Each presidential transition brings changes to the HR and employee benefits landscape. When President Donald Trump took office in 2016, he overturned or revised many of his predecessor’s federal regulations, a common trend between administrations of opposing parties. It is also something likely to continue under President elect Joe Biden.

With any legislative change - regardless of intent or outcome - employers must adapt quickly or risk penalties. This can mean redrafting internal policies, recategorizing workers, changing organizational priorities, rewriting employee handbooks, and any other HR responsibility. Essentially, the more prepared an HR team is, the easier it will be for them to succeed in a changing landscape.

Some of the policies upon which Biden campaigned may not come to fruition. Moreover, wide-sweeping workplace changes may be stifled due to congressional gridlock, though Biden will retain the ability to affect change through executive orders.

However, thinking about these issues early can help inform operational planning and prevent last-minute scrambling when change arrives. To that end, this week’s blog post discusses potential changes employers can expect during a Biden presidency. Here are nine areas to watch;

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Topics: Legislation

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An Employer’s Guide to the Legalization of Marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota & Mississippi

Jeff Griffin

As of yesterday, Arizona’s new law legalizing recreational marijuana usage began its phased roll-out. Joining Arizona this year in passing less restrictive marijuana laws are Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota, all of whom legalized recreational marijuana, and Mississippi, who voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

While all marijuana use remains illegal under federal law, the approval of recreational/medical marijuana use at the local level in these states impacts the drug use policies and procedures employers have in place for both applicants and employees. These include how employers can approach testing and disciplinary procedures.

These states are not, of course, the first to legalize marijuana. Eleven other states previously voted in favor of recreational marijuana laws, and 22 have passed medical marijuana legislation. It is therefore helpful to use the experiences of employers in these states as an example to follow.

In this post we will discuss federal and state marijuana legislation, employer and employee rights and responsibilities, specifics about the five states enacting new legislation, and steps employers can take now to be prepared as these new laws roll out.

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Topics: Company Culture, Legislation

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Crucial Employee Benefits Trends [2020 Employee Benefits Benchmarking Study]

Jeff Griffin

For the past 15 years United Benefit Advisors® (UBA), of whom JP Griffin Group is a proud member, has surveyed thousands of employers across the nation regarding their health plan offerings, their ongoing plan decisions in the face of significant legislative and marketplace changes, and the impact of these changes on their employees and businesses. 

The UBA Health Plan Survey has become the nation’s largest independent health plan benchmarking survey and the most comprehensive source of reliable benchmarking data for employers. 

In fact, UBA’s survey is nearly three times larger than the nations’ next two largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. The resulting volume of data provides employers of all sizes more detailed—and therefore more meaningful—benchmarks and trends than any other source.

UBA recently released its 2020 Employee Benefits Health Plan Survey. This year’s survey aggregates inputs from over 11,788 employers, 21,980 health plans, and 1.3 million nationwide employees. 

The scope of this year’s survey allows regional, industry-specific, and employee size differentials to emerge from the data. In addition, the large number of plans represented allows for both a broader range of categories by plan type than traditionally reported, and a larger number of respondents in each category.

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Topics: Benchmarking

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Why Your Employees Aren’t Enrolling In Your HDHP

Jeff Griffin

Employers looking to decrease their healthcare costs often rely on workforce adoption of High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs), which offer both employers and employees lower premiums. Unfortunately, if employees are given a choice, this strategy doesn’t always work if enrollment in HDHPs fall short of forecasts.

Rightly or wrongly, HDHPs have been saddled with some baggage. Many people have difficulty making the cognitive leap from traditional healthcare plans to HDHPs for a variety of reasons; in part because change is generally difficult for people, but sometimes, it’s simply a fear of the unknown and a matter of not understanding how they work.

While we certainly aren’t advocating that HDHPs are suitable for everyone, they’re a great fit for some. Particularly, those who are otherwise overpaying for health insurance, meaning that they’re paying high premiums, but rarely using their plans.

Here are some reasons your employees might not be enrolling in your HDHP — and how you can increase HDHP enrollment.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Education, HSAs, High Deductible Health Plans

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Is Your High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) HSA Qualified?

Jeff Griffin

As healthcare costs rapidly started to rise in the 2000s, insurance companies started to push high deductible health plans, which came with lower monthly premiums, but higher than average deductibles. That trend has continued to the present day, where HDHPs (high deductible health plans) are as popular as ever among employers.

According to the
Kaiser Family Foundation, employers offering HDHPs with some kind of savings option has increased 25 percent over the past decade. In fact, 29 percent of workers covered by employer-sponsored health plans are now enrolled in a high deductible health plan.

One of the major perks of being enrolled in an HDHP is the ability for employees to open and contribute to an HSA (health savings account) — but what many employers (and employees) don’t realize is that not all health plans with high deductibles are eligible for this benefit. So how do you know if your high deductible health plan is HSA qualified?

What is an HSA?

An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account designated for qualifying health expenditures. This means that funds which employees, employers (or both) contribute to an HSA are not subject to tax, thereby lowering the participant's taxable income for the year. While participants can contribute any amount they like, the government caps tax-advantaged funds for 2021 at $3,600 for individuals and $7,200 for families. 

For people who have experience with FSAs (flexible spending accounts), the concept is very similar. FSAs, designed to offset health and dependent care expenses, are sometimes made available through employer-sponsored benefit programs. The main difference is that funds contributed to an FSA  “expire” at the end of year in what’s called the “use it or lose it” rule. Net, if FSA participants don’t use their entire contribution, they forfeit whatever is left over.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee benefits broker, HSAs

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The 2020 Employer Health Benefits Annual Survey Results

Jeff Griffin

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) recently published the results of their highly anticipated Employer Health Benefits Survey for 2020. This year’s survey includes data from 1,765 non-federal private and public companies in the United States.

KFF’s annual report provides an in-depth perspective on trends in employer-sponsored health coverage. Their results span everything from medical premiums and funding mechanisms to wellness and health plan design.

The following is a summary of some important trends for you to know, along with a link towards the end of our summary for you to download the full report.

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Topics: Benchmarking

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2021 IRS Contribution Limits For HSA, HDHP, FSA, 401(k), QSEHRA, Adoption and Transportation

Jeff Griffin

The IRS recently finalized adjustments to 2021 contribution limits on various tax-advantaged health and dependent care spending accounts, retirement plans, and other employee benefits such as adoption assistance and qualified transportation benefits. Many of these contribution limits, though not all, are indexed to cost-of-living adjustments.

Together, these annual announcements by the IRS detail any adjusted limits to the amounts employees can tuck away pretax into Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Commuter Benefits, and Retirement Plans such as 401(k)s for the upcoming year.

While IRS limits for HSAs are required, by law, to be announced by June 1st, limits for these other pretax savings vehicles always seem to come so late in the year that many employers have already completed their employee benefits open enrollments.

As frustrating as this is, employers would be well-served to get this information out to their employees so they can take full advantage of these pretax savings vehicles. That said, there are not all that many changes for 2021.

What follows is a summary of limits employers and employees need to know.

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Topics: Compliance, Employee Communications, HSAs, Retirement Planning, HDHPs, FSAs

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Retirement Savings Options: Are HSAs better than 401(k)s?

David Rook

Retirement savings are on everyone’s mind these days, regardless of age or number of years in the workforce. Millennials are concerned they’ll never be able to retire, while baby boomers are choosing to delay retirement — in part because of employer demand for their expertise in the face of a low unemployment rate, but also because many of them haven’t sufficiently saved for retirement. In fact, according to Time’s Money division, 28 percent of boomers and seniors aged 55 and older don’t have any retirement savings whatsoever and just over half have less than $50,000 saved.

Even more surprising, the median amount Americans have saved for retirement is just $5,000, which means we have a long way to go in helping people prepare for their golden years. This number may seem staggeringly low — and it is. The average retirement savings among Americans age 32 to 61 is just under $96,000. However, averages are pulled up by super-savers, so this number seems artificially high.

With the prevalence of high deductible health plans (HDHPs), a lot of people are now enrolled in health savings accounts (HSAs). While people are mostly familiar with the short-term savings opportunities these accounts provide for healthcare expense reimbursement, many are also realizing that HSAs are a viable retirement savings option as well.

This begs the question — if people had to choose between investing in their 401(k) or maxing out their HSA for the year, which one is a better retirement savings option?

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, Retirement Planning

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Five Ways to Support Your Employees This Election Season

Jeff Griffin

Voter turnout in the 2018 election was the highest our country has seen for a midterm election in the last century. Despite this, voter turnout in the U.S. remains lower than in other developed countries. In fact, during the past century, U.S. voter participation has hovered within a 12-percentage point range, from just under 50% in 1924 when Calvin Coolidge won, to over 61.6% in 2008, when Barack Obama won the White House.

While many factors contributed to the record rate of participation in the 2018 midterms, one notable action was that hundreds of companies, including Gap, Patagonia, and Target, encouraged their employees to vote. (Some companies even launched voting programs directed towards their consumers.)

As we've addressed in other blog posts, this dynamic of politics in the workplace requires delicate handling. After all, taking a partisan approach to civic engagement can alienate both employees and customers in today's hyper-partisan environment.

Nevertheless, a Harvard Business Review study suggests a "sweet spot" for companies who want to support the vote: being pro-democracy and pro-voter, without being partisan. Furthermore, there's evidence that companies who support and encourage political engagement derive a multitude of benefits.

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Topics: Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Social Media, Mental Health

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The Growing Incompatibility of Social Media and Workplace Mental Health

Jeff Griffin

A global pandemic. Social unrest. A presidential election. Now a Supreme Court confirmation. A perfect storm if ever there was one. Never before have I seen the country so divided over such a confluence of events, and never before have I seen such tremendous stress placed upon our collective workplace and individual mental health. I see it in my family, my friends, my neighbors, and even my employees.

With this in mind, I sat down over the weekend to watch a new Netflix documentary called The Social Dilemma. Frequent readers of this blog know that I've never really used it in the past to recommend a particular piece of media, except for some excellent Ted Talks related to the workplace and others tangentially related to employee benefits.

Nevertheless, I found The Social Dilemma so riveting, so concerning, and so timely, that I feel compelled to recommend that everyone sit down with their families and watch this film. In fact, I'm asking my entire workforce to do just the same.

This documentary cuts between "conscientious Silicon Valley defectors" from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google to sound the alarm about the incursion of data mining and manipulative technology into our social lives and beyond.

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Topics: wellness, Social Media, Mental Health, COVID-19

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