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Cost of Employee Benefits: What Does the Average Employer Spend?

Jeff Griffin

When helping employers cultivate employee benefits packages, we’re often asked to aggregate insights on what their peers are spending on their benefit programs. The answers vary widely based on multiple factors, including geography, industry, size of the workforce, the overall health of the workforce population, and the health of their respective businesses and the economy.

Employee benefits benchmarking is one of the best ways to figure this out and the best way to get at this data is through a combination of public and proprietary information (the latter of which can be costly, but also quite necessary).

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Audits, CFO, employers, CHRO, Voluntary Benefits, Ancillary Benefits, Worksite Benefits

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Three Ways for Employees & Employers to Save Money on Healthcare

David Rook

Recent news that the rising cost of healthcare in America may actually be slowing is being met with resounding elation by those looking for ways to save money on their medical insurance. For those with high deductible health plans (HDHPs) and other forms of consumer-driven healthcare, this comes as especially welcome news.

If sustained, this tempering of rising medical care costs will hopefully begin to curb an alarming trend, that being dangerous cost-avoidance practices by some covered individuals, which sometimes includes such dangerous practices as skipping medications and postponing necessary medical procedures. (Many have also skipped out on preventative care, despite the fact that most all of it is covered at 100%.)  While in the short-term such actions will indeed bring down healthcare expenses, they are likely to trigger larger problems later on, which cost far more money.

There are much safer and more effective ways to curb healthcare expenses, but it takes a bit of effort and education to capitalize on them. Here are just a few we’ve found. Please feel free to use these money saving strategies with your workforce — and better yet — try them out yourself.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, HSAs, CFO, employers, CHRO, cost management, Consumer Driven Healthcare, FSAs

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What Makes For A Good Health Insurance Renewal?

Jeff Griffin

Group health insurance renewals, a critical part of the employee benefits planning process, are time consuming and stressful for everyone involved — employers, employee benefits brokers, and insurance carriers alike.

We’ve yet to meet an employer who enjoys hearing about how their rates are likely increasing...yet again. And no employee likes to find out their premiums, deductibles, and copays are going up, let alone that they have to choose a new medical plan and a new set of healthcare providers because you’re changing carriers — again.

As an employer, it’s also hard to know if you’re getting a good deal on your health insurance renewal as the components of pricing are complex and seemingly nebulous. It’s not all cloak and dagger though, and with knowledge comes understanding. Therefore, it’s important to understand what goes into a health insurance renewal so you and your employee benefits advisor can negotiate better rates for your business.

The Three Major Purposes of Annual Health Insurance Renewals 

While the process can be tedious, annual health insurance renewals serve three major purposes:

  • First, they provide employers with the opportunity to switch insurance carriers or health plans, as well as adjust contribution levels, prescription drug formularies, eligibility rules, and coverage decisions (just to name a few of the many plan design options which can be modified).
  • Second, they allow insurance carriers the opportunity to update plan options, rules and regulations, and most importantly, reassess the estimated risk of covering your group for the upcoming year.
  • Third, they allow both insurance carriers and employers to renegotiate pricing for the upcoming year.

Health insurance renewals don’t have to mean a change in carriers — in fact, there’s a lot to be said for sticking with the same providers year-after-year. But that being said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to get a better deal, especially if circumstances have changed and most especially if you can make a fact-based case for your appeals. This is much easier to achieve if you work with an employee benefits broker with underwriters on staff who can negotiate on a peer-to-peer basis with carrier underwriters (more on that later.)

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, CFO, CHRO

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What is the Average Employer Contribution to Health Insurance Premiums?

Jeff Griffin

One of the most common questions we receive as an employee benefits broker is how much the average employer contributes to their employees’ health insurance premiums. It’s a tough question because there are a lot of different factors involved, but luckily, there are some excellent resources available to help us source reliable answers.

In addition to our own proprietary client roster, one of our favorite resources is the annual Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Benefits Survey because it succinctly summarizes data from an accurate (and broad) representation of employers across the country and provides charts and graphs to make the information more easily digestible. This allows us to show our clients trends over long periods of time and perhaps help predict what they can expect for the upcoming year.

Here’s what the 2017 KFF Health Benefits Survey reported for employer contributions to health insurance and how the data compares to the previous benefits year.

Employer vs. Employee Contributions to Health Insurance

While these averages vary based upon a number of factors (including, but not limited to, the size of the firm, revenue, and overall cost of premiums) looking at this data can give employers a good idea of what their competitors may be offering. Remember that your employee benefits broker can help you obtain more in-depth, geographically relevant benchmarking data.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, ACA, CFO, CHRO, PPACA

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Employee Benefits Issues in Mergers and Acquisitions

Jeff Griffin

When your company is healthy and growing, it’s not uncommon for the subject of a merger or acquisition to come into play. They can be excellent strategic moves to help you gain additional distribution, capital, access to patented processes, or simply broaden your customer base.

But while the CEOs, CFOs, and COOs are working out the details of the sale, your HR department will be dealing with the day-in-day-out human component. They’ll be fielding questions from concerned employees, figuring out how your employee benefits will be affected, and looking for possible solutions.

CHROs have a tough job ahead of them during mergers and acquisitions and we have some experience in assisting employers through the process. Here’s what we’ve learned and how you can apply it to your own employee benefits issues in mergers and acquisitions.

The Role of HR in Mergers and Acquisitions

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated endeavors, involving an incredible amount of work and attention to detail. Because HR departments are the ones who deal with the human component (arguably the most valuable in any company), they’re tasked with some of the most difficult pieces of the puzzle.

After all, a case can be made that human resources is far more complex than most other departments because every person is different. Each employee has different needs, motivations, and goals, which will cause each person to feel differently about the merger or acquisition. Some may feel apprehensive or scared, while others may be excited at the new possibilities.

As such, the failure to reach objectives after a merger or acquisition is oftentimes blamed on the human resources department. Reasons such as “incompatible cultures, [differences in] management styles, poor motivation, loss of key talent, lack of communication, diminished trust and uncertainty of long-term goals” are typically cited as barriers to success.

But if HR-related issues can be blamed for failure, there’s no reason they can’t be praised for the successful merger of two companies or acquisition of another. We’re willing to bet that the objectives behind such business strategies couldn’t be obtained without talented HR professionals easing the transition.

And of course, one of HR’s biggest responsibilities is employee benefits, which is bound to be at the forefront of employees’ minds during either a merger or an acquisition. Every aspect of employee benefits affects employees’ families, from health insurance and paid time off (PTO) to retirement benefits and childcare subsidies.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, CFO, CHRO

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Employee Benefits Glossary: Insurance Terminology Defined (with downloadable asset!)

Jeff Griffin

Insurance terminology sometimes makes discussions about healthcare feel like we’re all speaking in different languages. The jargon insurance companies use is oftentimes confusing for the average person to understand, only further exacerbated by the legalese in which everything insurance-related is written. It feels like we all need a translator just to figure out what insurance policies cover and what participants will be responsible for.

The truth of the matter is that people understand less about health insurance than they like to believe. A 2016 survey by PolicyGenius found that just 4 percent of those polled could correctly identify four common insurance terms: copayment, copay (some people think they mean something different), deductible, and coinsurance. And while 83 percent of people believed they understood the word “copay,” only 52 percent could actually define it correctly. To make matters worse, only 36 percent of millennials could define any of the four terms properly.

As a member of the human resources team, the responsibility of bridging this knowledge gap and educating your workforce oftentimes falls to you. An educated workforce will make better employee benefit enrollment decisions, and will be less of a burden on your employee benefits hotline.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a glossary of common insurance terminology that you can easily slip into your employee benefits enrollment guide or your employee handbook. While we’ve included 11 of the most common terms here, you can download another 52 by clicking here.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Education, Employee Communications, employee communication, CHRO

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4 Best Small Business Health Insurance Options

Jeff Griffin

As much as we hear about large companies and their impact on the economy, small businesses employ nearly half the workforce. According to data from the Small Business Administration, small businesses employed 58.9 million people (or 47.5 percent of the workforce) in 2015, creating 1.9 million net jobs in 2015 alone.

Small businesses have a major impact on the economy and on the welfare of their employees’ lives, but they don’t typically have the resources (cash or otherwise) that larger employers do, limiting their options when it comes to providing health insurance (which is still the most important employee benefit).

Of course, small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees aren’t held to the employer mandate — it’s up to each employer to decide if they want to offer health insurance to their employees. However, many small business owners view health insurance as one of the most effective ways to attract and retain the best employees and improve productivity (by keeping everyone healthy).

But when the numbers game counts against them, what options are available to small employers?

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Topics: Employee Benefits, self-funding, CFO, CHRO, cost management, Association Health Plans, MEWA, QSEHRA

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What is Stop Loss Insurance?

Jeff Griffin

More and more companies are choosing to forego the traditional method of funding health insurance and are instead opting for a self-funded insurance program. 

For many companies, this is a great way to reduce expenses because the employer gets to drop any collected but unspent premiums to the bottom line. (In a fully-funded scenario that profit would go straight to the insurance company.) That said, self-funding is also a gamble, since an employer can also experience a plan year in which medical claims are higher than collected premiums.

This is where stop loss insurance comes into play.

What is Stop Loss Insurance?

Stop loss insurance is essentially insurance for an employer’s self-funded insurance plan (the technical term is Reinsurance or Excess Insurance). It caps the amount an employer would be responsible for paying in the event of a catastrophic claim, or series of catastrophic claims.

Stop loss caps come in many shapes and sizes and are typically driven by the risk tolerance of the company putting them in place. Stop loss insurance can prevent you from ending up in a number of financially dangerous situations because of employee illness or injury, including:

  • Decimating your budget (or your emergency reserves) for the year out of a need to cover employee healthcare costs.
  • Being unable to pay employee healthcare costs, then finding yourself being sued as a result.
  • Losing great employees due to the fact that you're no longer providing the coverage they expected (and used to receive) from their employer.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Plan Design, self-funding, CHRO, Strategy, Risk Management

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The Best Twitter Hashtags for HR Directors to Follow

David Rook

The #hashtag turned 10 years old in 2017. Like many other internet phenomena, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Although hashtags can be used to entertain and enlighten, they are also incredibly useful for businesses. With 328 million active users, Twitter (much like LinkedIn) offers a great opportunity for Human Resources (HR) Directors and other HR professionals to gather new ideas for their organization and spread useful information. When HR professionals use Twitter hashtags effectively, people can more easily find and share their content.

Here at the JP Griffin Group, we use Twitter hashtags all the time to help us stay abreast of industry specific employee benefit news and to stay plugged into other thought leaders in the employee benefits space. If you’re new to hashtags, here is some of our seasoned advice on how to find the best Twitter hashtags and what makes them so valuable.

6 Ways to Find the Best Twitter Hashtags

Twitter is a social media platform built on real time, rapidly changing news and events. In other words, it’s constantly evolving and new hashtags trend every day. That being said, some hashtags have more staying power than others. Part of incorporating hashtags into your HR-related content is knowing how to find relevant hashtags in the first place.

Here are six ways to find the best Twitter hashtags:

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Topics: CHRO, Best Twitter Hashtags, Corporate Communication

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