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The Upside of Auto-Enrolling Your Workforce in Disability Insurance

Jeff Griffin

New this year, per the U.S. Department of Labor, is the ability for employers nationwide to auto-enroll employees in disability insurance coverages for ERISA-covered plans.

The implications of this decision are far reaching and merit serious consideration by employers offering disability benefits, which are designed to prevent income disruption in the event of a qualifying disability. (As with other auto-enrollment options such as 401(k) contributions, employees retain the opportunity to opt-out if they choose not to take the coverage.)

For those employers who don’t yet offer disability coverage, we strongly encourage you to read our blog post from earlier this year on why disability insurance is one of the most valuable benefits you can offer.

The Gap Between Interest and Action

At present, one in four 20-year-olds in the workforce can expect to be out of work for at least a year before they reach retirement, due to a disabling condition - that’s according to probability tables developed by the Social Security Administration.

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Topics: Enrollment, Behavioral Psychology, Long-Term Disability, Short-Term Disability

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Preventive Care Coverage Improves For High Deductible Health Plans

Jeff Griffin

The IRS has added care for a range of chronic conditions to the list of preventive care benefits that can be provided by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) without a deductible.

This expansion of preventive care services is in response to an executive order signed on June 27 by President Trump. The order, designed to improve price and quality transparency in health care, directed the Treasury Department and IRS to improve the attractability of HSA-compatible HDHPs which cover low-cost preventive care, before the deductible.

The IRS issued Notice 2019-45 in response to this executive order. With this order now in place, it now classifies certain medical care services and items, including prescription drugs for chronic conditions, as preventive care for individuals with certain chronic conditions. 

Employers with HDHPs should review their plan documents and consult with their benefits broker, carriers and benefit administrators to determine how their plans might cover these new preventive care benefits on a go-forward basis. 

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

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Common Pitfalls To Avoid With Your High Deductible Health Plan

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, this strategy doesn’t always work out if enrollment in HDHPs (assuming employees are given a choice) 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 — especially those who are otherwise overpaying for health insurance, meaning that they’re paying high premiums, but rarely using their plans.

Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and marketing a high deductible health plan and suggestions on how to avoid them.

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

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How You Can Help Your Employees Make The Most Of The July 4th Holiday

David Rook

Many employees feel like they have to check-in with work even when they’re supposed to be enjoying paid time off. More often than not, this is a cultural issue within a company.

Supervisors might be checking-in and sending emails in the evening or on weekends. This leads their direct reports to believe they need to respond immediately, and they may even start adopting these behaviors themselves. 

Yet, research has shown time and time again that workers need frequent breaks and unfortunately, Americans leave a lot of that paid time off on the table every year. It might seem like workers would be more productive if they aren’t using all their vacation time, but in reality, skipping our vacations actually makes us less productive. To keep employees operating in top shape, we need to encourage them to enjoy their downtime — and perhaps it’s fitting to begin with the July 4th holiday. Here are 5 ways to encourage employees to enjoy their independence...and their paid time off this weekend.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention

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Employee Benefits Built With Employee Retention In Mind

Jeff Griffin

Maintaining a competitive edge often comes down to retaining a talented workforce. The growing popularity of so-called “portable” employee benefits, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), certainly hasn't made this any easier. Employers trying to entice workers to remain loyal may want to focus their efforts on providing benefits which are simply too good to surrender. Offering benefits that accrue significant value over time, or improve with tenure, will help keep employees from abandoning that progress for greener pastures, lest they have to start over someplace else.

How the ACA Impacted Employee Retention

Prior to the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there was considerably less job mobility for many Americans with pre-existing health conditions. The moment insurance carriers were barred from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, the need for individuals to stay with a company for insurance reasons essentially vanished. Many employees who were previously stuck in their jobs for fear of losing benefits were now free to explore other opportunities.

Similarly, many budding entrepreneurs set off to start their own businesses while acquiring individual health insurance via the ObamaCare exchange or through other means. One could argue that this new freedom was a benefit to both employers and employees  after all, who really wants an employee who is sticking around just because of benefits? Nevertheless, this new found “employee mobility” has made the search for "sticky" benefits all the more important.

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Topics: Cost Containment, Retention

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Employee Benefits Automation; Optimizing Online Enrollment Systems

Jeff Griffin

There are countless online employee benefits enrollment systems out there today. While each is designed to make our lives easier (employees, employers, insurance carriers, payroll providers and benefits advisors), some don't quite live up to the hype.

While the initial transition from paper enrollment to any one of these online enrollment systems typically yields tremendous upside from an efficiency, speed and data integrity perspective, it's highly unusual for an enrollment system to be fully optimized for peak performance at first launch.

Tweaking and perfecting the system in the quest to maximize performance and outcomes should be an ongoing activity within your organization. Most agree that the goal of optimizing these systems is to make them as easy and intuitive as possible for your employees to use, while also guiding educated, informed and appropriate employee benefit decisions for your workforce.

Much of what’s considered “best practice” in online benefits enrollment has been adopted from best practices in eCommerce. After all, enrolling in benefits these days isn't that far off from purchasing something off Amazon, comparing cars at AutoTrader, or configuring a laptop at Dell.

While this list is by no means complete, here are some best practices you should consider adopting to optimize the configuration of your online benefits enrollment system for peak performance.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Automation, open enrollment, Strategy, Decision Tools

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The Importance of Paid Time Off (PTO)

David Rook

Paid time off is one of the most commonly provided benefits as well as one of the most highly regarded.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that more than 70 percent of employees have at least one form of paid time off, and the rate is much higher among certain types of employers such as large private companies and local, state and federal government entities.

In fact, in a Glassdoor survey, vacation and paid time off proved to be more important for employees than pay raises. Yet despite the desire for it, the United States remains far behind much of the world in both providing and using this benefit.

Even though there’s been a recent uptick in the number of days U.S. employees are taking off annually, they still take very few days off -- and that’s not good for anyone.

The following is an exploration of why paid time off is important to offer and why it's important to take, along with what’s normal in the U.S. and throughout the world. 

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Topics: Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention, workplace wellness, trends, work life balance, Mental Health, Recruitment

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Some of Our Favorite Resources For HR Professionals

David Rook

HR professionals know the value of staying connected and informed better than almost anyone else in the workplace.

Often asked to stretch resources and "make do" with limited budgets, HR professionals have learned to survive by being resourceful and self-sufficient.

Life-long learners at heart, those who work in the field of human resources often tap into the wide range of information resources now available at their fingertips, thanks to the internet. 

As follow-up to a blog post we published last year, "Best Twitter Hashtags for HR Directors to Follow", here are some of our favorite resources beyond Twitter, spanning associations, books, podcasts and blogs.

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Topics: Education, Employee Retention, Strategy, Culture, Training, Human Resources

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Surprise Medical Billing Reaches a Tipping Point

David Rook

All across the country, a sweeping movement to combat surprise medical bills has been slowly percolating and is now finally gaining traction on a national level.

What began as grievances filed by wronged patients has grown into government officials at both the state and federal level championing legislation against this industry practice.

A law that recently went into effect in Arizona and recent remarks from President Trump are merely the latest in an ongoing trend that has the force to reshape how patients are billed for out-of-network expenses.

Unexpected Out-of-Network Charges Result in Surprise Medical Bills

Surprise medical billing isn’t so much an intentional practice of healthcare companies, as much as it’s a byproduct of the fractured healthcare industry. Specifically, it’s a result of multiple institutions and providers treating patients simultaneously while working for different employers.

In its simplest form, a surprise medical bill is an unexpected medical bill that patients receive for out-of-network services that they thought were in-network. The bill is sent after the services are provided, leaving patients with little recourse and high fees since out-of-network charges tend to be much higher than those in-network.

An all too common scenario shows how easy this can happen to patients. A patient goes to a hospital for a covered surgical procedure. They’ve done their research and have made sure that both the hospital and the surgeon’s practice are within their insurer’s network. In completing this due diligence, they then assume that the entire procedure will be covered as an in-network expense. Seems reasonable, right?

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Topics: Cost Containment, Legislation, trends, Arizona, healthcare costs, Arizona Regulations

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Active vs. Passive Open Enrollment; Weighing the Pros & Cons

David Rook

Employers who offer health benefits are  required each year to hold a benefits enrollment "window", commonly referred to as an open enrollment period. 

During open enrollment, employees can renew, adjust, or waive benefit options. Outside of a Qualifying Life Event, open enrollment is essentially the only time an employee can make changes to most (though not all) of their benefits. 

While an employer is required, by law, to hold an open enrollment, what's not defined is whether the enrollment needs to be structured as "active" or "passive". A passive enrollment period is one where an employee's benefit selections from the previous year simply roll-over and/or auto-migrate (within reason) to similar options. An active enrollment, on the other hand, requires an employee to elect, renew, adjust, and sometimes actively decline benefit elections. (The SPD and other plan documents will usually spell out these rules for employees.)

In a nationwide survey conducted by the JP Griffin Group this April, 2019 amongst full-time, benefit-eligible employees in the U.S., 50 percent (half) reported participating in a passive enrollment this year. Compared to a 2011 survey of employers, where 71% reported holding passive enrollments, these new findings represent a 30% decrease in the number of companies conducting their open enrollments passively.

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Topics: HSAs, passive enrollment, open enrollment, active enrollment, Strategy, FSAs, 401(k)s

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