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Employers Should Welcome Healthcare Price Transparency, Despite Industry Objections

Jeff Griffin

The Trump administration, hungry to notch a win on healthcare prior to the 2020 election, continues to push ahead on initiatives designed to reign in healthcare costs. We applaud these efforts and are disappointed and dismayed by those in the healthcare industry opposed to these undertakings.

Announced November 15, the White House’s price-disclosure initiative would most certainly upend the $3.5 trillion healthcare industry. In fact, the requirements called for, by executive order, are far more extensive than many industry experts predicted. Somewhat expectedly, they have drawn the ire of hospitals and healthcare delivery providers caught in its crosshairs.

The Executive Order On Healthcare Transparency

Issued jointly by the Department of Labor (DOL), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury Department, the proposal imposes new transparency requirements on group health plans and health insurers in both the individual and group markets.

In the simplest of terms, the proposed rule will force hospitals and insurers to disclose the highly secretive rates they negotiate with each other for an extensive list of services, including doctor and facility fees, supplies, and even drug costs.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Disruption, Legislation, Price Transparency

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Cyber Monday Shopping At Work: 4 Ways To Maintain Productivity

David Rook

Over half of U.S. workers will shop online while on the job this Cyber Monday. That's double the number of "work shoppers" from just a few years ago, according to recent research conducted by Robert Half Technology

Once an activity only those with desk jobs could get away with, experts point to the ease in which retailers have now made shopping from smartphones as one of the primary drivers of this dramatic increase in online shopping while at work. 

And while most workers will browse during their lunch breaks, a surprising number will shop all day long, with 44% admitting that their productivity suffers as they surf for the best deals.

Among 28 U.S. cities in the survey, Phoenix tops the list of cities with employees who admit to this hit in productivity, with San Diego and Austin following close behind.

So what can be done about this workplace productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. In fact, in a separate survey also conducted by Robert Half, 77% of technology leaders said their firms allow "workshopping", but more than half of these same respondents (52%) indicated a preference for employees to not shop from work. (See infographic.)

So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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Take Back Control of Your Employee Benefits Story on Glassdoor and Indeed

David Rook

Every business owner is concerned about their company’s reputation. It not only affects their ability to attract customers, but also the talent they’re able to recruit. And these days, the internet is providing a much louder voice to a much wider audience, making business reputation management both more difficult and more complicated.

Ideally, you want current and former employees to leave shining endorsements of your company and all it has to offer, but the reality is that not everyone will do so. Whether your role in a company is one of ownership, leadership, marketing, or human resources, part of your job is to engage in business reputation management and luckily, the very same internet making the process more difficult has managed to provide some useful tools to help you out.  

The Role the Internet Plays in Company Reputation

One of the most positive things the internet has bestowed upon us is the ability to be more transparent. We don’t buy anything without researching it and reading every review we can find, so why would job-seeking be any different? People can read the company’s website, but let’s face it: what they really want is the inside scoop. They want the dirt. They want to know why employees leave, what they’re upset about, what they wish they could change, and how good the employee benefits really are.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Culture, Reputation Management, Social Media

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A New Theory Emerges On Employee Retention; Its Impact on Wage Growth, Inflation & Productivity

Jeff Griffin

It wasn’t long ago employers feared that the growing popularity of more portable employee benefits such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) might lead to a drop in workforce loyalty and employee retention.

Coupled with the ACA’s provision striking down preexisting conditions, HR professionals were fearful this would cause an exodus of workers who perhaps weren’t loyal out of choice, but rather because of their employer-sponsored healthcare coverage and yet-to-vest retirement benefits.

It turns out that these fears have been mostly unfounded. In fact, the rate at which employed workers move to new jobs has been depressed for more than a decade and has only recently approached levels seen before the 2008 financial crisis, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

More precisely, and according to a Wall Street Journal article published earlier this week, 5.8% of U.S. workers switched jobs in the first quarter of 2018 (the most recent period available), compared to an average of 7% per quarter back in 2000 and 3% per quarter in 2009, the latter of which represents an historic low during this period. 

Today's still relatively low level of job switching has economists calling into question a key economic model of our time, called the Phillips Curve. It predicts that inflation rises as unemployment falls, but that hasn't happened lately. So what's going on? And what does this have to do with employee retention?

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Topics: Employee Retention, Recruitment, Compensation

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IRS Finally Announces Official Contribution Caps For FSAs, 401(k)s, HSAs and More (Includes Comparison Tables)

Jeff Griffin

This afternoon the IRS officially announced the final 2020 election/contribution limits for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), qualified Commuter Benefits, and several retirement savings vehicles. (See comparison tables, below.)

Considering that many employers have already held their employee benefits Open Enrollments for 2020, today’s announcements by the IRS can best be filed under the “better late than never” category.

These IRS statements finally set official contribution limits for Health Care FSAs, Dependent Care FSAs, Limited Purpose FSAs, Qualified Parking and Qualified Transportation Saving Plans, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, most 457 plans, IRAs, SIMPLE Plans, and the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan.

All of these saving plans provide participants with the opportunity to save money, either by paying for qualified expenses with pre-tax savings contributions, or by saving for retirement with pretax elections. 

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

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Employee Benefits Broker: The Value for Your Business

David Rook

Like all business owners, you’re trying to navigate the murky waters of health insurance and other employee benefits. It’s time-consuming, frustrating, and ultimately not a subject you're well- versed in.

In an effort to help, someone recently suggested you use an employee benefits broker. You’re not even sure what they do and you don’t want to spend extra money on them. You've also heard of other options, such as PEOs, payroll vendors, HR software platforms and the SHOP exchange. How do you sort through all of these options and confidently make the right decision?

We're admittedly a little bias on the topic, but we highly recommend you start this process by simply talking to a benefits broker. If you don't know any (and even if you do), gather a few recommendations from your peers within other organizations. Just make sure you initiate your consultation with a trusted broker who is well regarded in the industry and your market. A broker with a solid reputation will help you quickly assess all of your options and will, in all likelihood, be completely upfront with you in the event they aren't your best option.


If requesting proposals from employee benefits brokers, it's important to inquire about specific capabilities of prospect organizations, most especially as they relate to your primary needs.  Download our free guide for 100+ sample questions and scoring template.



Once you decide to move forward with an employee benefits broker, they'll guide you through sound analytical and strategic reasoning for the benefit decisions you are making for your workforce.  Employee benefit brokers are far more affordable than you might think and good ones can be invaluable to a business, paying for themselves many times over in the savings they generate for you. Brokers are especially helpful to small businesses with skeleton HR departments but are equally as useful to well-staffed operations. 

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee benefits broker

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19 Ways to Improve Open Enrollment Meetings

David Rook

With budgets stretched and attendance down, more and more employers seem to be doing away with face-to-face employee benefits open enrollment meetings. That's a shame, especially since healthcare coverage options are more complicated than ever before.

This drop in attendance and lack of interest in holding benefit information sessions is all the more surprising considering that healthcare literacy is still at alarming low rates. One would think that this knowledge gap would trigger anxieties which would motivate more of the workforce to attend these annual benefit presentations.

So what can employers do to help bridge this education divide? After all, if employees aren't educated on things such as HDHPs with HSAs, Limited Purpose FSAs, or even telemedicine, then how will they ever embrace these benefit options - all of which are becoming more and more popular with employers and employees alike.

Here are some employee engagement ideas you might want to try in an attempt to reengage and educate your workforce during open enrollment season;

1. Go Digital.

For better or worse, mobile devices are in our hands throughout the day. Take advantage of this and reach out to your employees through one (or several) streams.

  • Send a text message telling employees that open enrollment is coming and reminding them to read their product literature and talk to their spouses so they’ll be ready to enroll.
  • Ask them questions via email beforehand, as well as during the meeting. Try a Poll Everywhere, Kahoot, or Google Forms format to engage employees and encourage participation. These tools allow employees to answer questions anonymously while you tally responses. This is a great way to find out, in real time, which topics merit more attention, especially if employees demonstrate a lack of understanding about a particular benefit.
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Topics: Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Employee Communications, open enrollment

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Deadline Fast Approaching to Release Employee Compensation Information to EEOC

Jeff Griffin

Companies across the U.S. are chasing a Monday deadline to provide the federal government with full disclosures of how they compensate workers of all genders, races and ethnicities. The data collection exercise, the largest and most detailed ever, is part of an effort by the government to close gaps in earnings.

Subject to the requirement are the more than 70,000 private U.S. companies with more than 100 workers. Collectively these companies employ more than 54 million American workers. These firms must submit their compensation information to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by September 30th.

This deadline comes almost two years after the rule, issued under the Obama administration, was originally scheduled to go into effect. In 2017 the Trump administration pumped the breaks on the rollout of the new rule, arguing that the collection and aggregation of such in-depth salary information was a burden on companies. (Advocacy groups sued the EEOC to get the pay-reporting requirement reinstated.)

EEOC officials say that this detailed compensation data, which will span virtually every industry and region of the county, will help them quickly ascertain which discrimination complaints deserve closer scrutiny, from the tens of thousands that are filed with the EEOC annually. (They received over 75,000 in 2018 alone.)

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Topics: Compliance, Risk Management, Equality

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Is it Time to Fire Your Employee Benefits Broker?

Jeff Griffin

Many companies stick with their employee benefits broker for years on end, not giving too much thought to whether a change is warranted. HR directors always have long to-do lists full of time-sensitive issues, so finding a new broker is typically the last thing on their minds — except maybe during contract renewal season if the news isn’t good (and it never seems to be with health insurance these days).

The issue here is that there is a point when it’s time to fire your broker, but recognizing it when the time comes is difficult because you have a million things on your mind and far more pressing matters at hand.

However, there are some definite signs it’s time to find a new employee benefits broker and it’s important to keep an eye out for them. Here are some of the big ones.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, Education, Disruption, Strategy

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Is Discussing Politics In The Workplace Ever OK?

David Rook

Sex, politics, and religion. That was the list of topics I was taught when growing up to never discuss when we had guests over for dinner. Those were pretty much the ground rules Google set-out to establish last month when it issued new guidelines limiting employee discussion of politics in the workplace.

Google claimed their guidelines were intended to protect a “productive work environment” by corralling what has already become very heated water cooler talk in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Nevertheless, late last week the National Labor Relations Board ordered Google to stand down. In its ruling, it instructed Google to affirm employees’ rights to express their views, within the workplace environment, on political and workplace issues.

The settlement was born less out of Google’s issuance of new guidelines but rather as a result of recent complaints from conservative employees who claim they were fired due to their political views.

According to a recent New York Times article, accusations of political bias at major tech companies has become a powerful rallying cry among conservatives. This includes accusations by President Trump that engineers in Silicon Valley intentionally skewed the way their systems display content online to reflect liberal positions. For their part, major technology companies deny these accusations of bias.

To be fair, Google’s new guidelines didn’t forbid discussing politics at work, but they did require managers to address conversations that became disruptive. The updated guidelines were an attempt to dial back what has historically been the company’s wide open discourse. In addition to politics, Google also advised employees to avoid name-calling, including making blanket statements about groups or categories of people.

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Topics: Compliance, Company Culture, Risk Management, Employee Productivity

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