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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, Consumer Driven Healthcare, cost management, CHRO, CFO, employers, HSAs, FSAs

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6 Reasons Every CFO Needs to Engage In Employee Benefits Decisions

Jeff Griffin

As one of the largest line items on the P&L these days, employee benefit discussions in many organizations have transitioned from the breakroom to the boardroom, with increased scrutiny from several in the C-Suite and beyond.

If your organization's finance department isn't already deeply involved in the discussion, it's time for them to engage. 

Going into these meetings with little employee benefits experience can seem overwhelming, but it's important for your finance team to be involved and in alignment with human resourcesThere are several reasons it's worth your while to take a more active role in the process. 

1. Employee benefits are consuming a larger portion of your company's budget

Healthcare is a crucial part of any company’s employee benefits package. In order to recruit and retain the best and brightest employees, your healthcare offerings need to be competitive, yet not excessive. Annual year-over-year increases in the cost of healthcare, no doubt outpacing your revenue and profit growth, have made this extremely challenging. 

As the leader of the finance team, you can't afford to ignore an expense that big, and often times that out-of-control. You need to understand what's driving these increases, be they external factors, internal factors, or both. Understanding what's controllable and what's not can also help bring focus to an already complex conversation. 

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Topics: CFO, Employee Benefits

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What Does the Average Employer Spend on Employee Benefits?

Jeff Griffin

When we’re helping employers cultivate employee benefits packages for their workforce, we’re often asked to benchmark what their peers are spending on them. The answers vary widely based on multiple factors, including geography, industry, size of the workforce, health plans offered, and the overall health of the workforce population, just to name a few.

Employee benefits benchmarking is one of the best ways to figure this out. The best answer for each employer is determined through public and proprietary information, the latter of which can be quite costly, but it’s also quite necessary. Some of our favorite sources for benchmarking include Truven, Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), Mercer, Windsor, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the International Foundation for Employee Benefits (IFEB), and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, who tracks this information and shares it quarterly).

The BLS report breaks data down into multiple categories, including various components of compensation by sector (public, civilian, government). Let’s take a moment to look at the most recent data from the BLS so you can compare how your employee benefits costs stack up.

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

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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, CFO, CHRO, Cost Containment

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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, PPACA, ACA, Affordable Care Act, CHRO, CFO

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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, CHRO, CFO

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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, MEWA, Association Health Plans, cost management, CFO, CHRO, self-funding, QSEHRA

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Trump's Plan To Reduce Prescription Drug Prices

Jeff Griffin

So it was with great interest that we took note of last Friday’s White House Rose Garden announcement by President Trump to “bring soaring drug prices back down to earth” by promoting competition among pharmaceutical companies, and giving private entities more tools to negotiate better deals on the behalf of consumers, insurers and employers.

Somewhat surprising in his announcement was his abandonment of some of the more populist proposals which he boasted about during his presidential campaign, including his promise to authorize the Feds to negotiate directly with drug companies in an effort to lower Medicare drug prices and disallowing American consumers from importing low-cost prescription drugs from overseas.

Nevertheless, both Republican and Democrats (as well as all of us here at the JP Griffin Group) welcomed the President’s attention on combating high drug prices. The looming question remains just how the President’s promises to lower drug prices will play out and if the concepts proposed will ever come to pass.

We certainly hope the plan gains traction as both employers and employees alike could sure use a break from escalating drug prices which have now become a primary driver of health-related expenditures.

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Topics: CFO, Cost Containment, Prescription Drugs, Legislation, Pharmacy

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Why Level Funded Health Plans are Increasingly Popular Among Small Businesses

Jeff Griffin

As if there weren’t enough questions surrounding the type of health insurance plans you offer your employees, there’s also the question of how to best fund the program. Fully funded, self-funded, and level funded health plans can be found throughout every industry, but small businesses tend to face more funding challenges with health insurance than their larger counterparts.

While they aren’t required by law to offer healthcare to their employees, many small businesses (as defined by the ACA) nevertheless feel inclined to do so. Some choose to do it simply because they want to take care of their employees, while others do it to strengthen their recruitment and retention strategies. Of course, many employers do it for all three reasons.

Regardless of their intentions, small employers who offer healthcare to their workforce know the cold, hard facts: health insurance is still ranked among the most important factors for potential employees in a compensation package. Job-seekers see how volatile the individual marketplace is and understand that the most reliable and cost-efficient way to obtain healthcare is still through an employer.

Because fully funded health insurance plans tend to be expensive for small businesses, many are turning to level funded health plans, which blend the economic advantages of self-funding with the financial predictability of fully funded plans. That said, level funded plans aren’t without their detractors.

What is a Level Funded Health Plan?

A level funded health plan (also known as a partially self-funded plan) is a type of health insurance plan that combines the cost savings and customization of self-funding with the financial safety and predictability of fully funded plans. Employers still contract with insurance companies, but agree to take on more of the financial risk. 

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Topics: Funding, CFO, self-funding, Cost Containment

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What Is Self-Funded Insurance And Is It Right For My Small Business?

Jeff Griffin

Everyone is looking for ways to save money on their healthcare costs — especially employers, who are shouldering a large portion of the burden when it comes to insurance premiums. If you’re looking into self-funded insurance options, you’re certainly not alone. Self-funding is surging in popularity among companies of all sizes, including those with as few as 50 employees.

Employers are drawn to self-funding because of the promise it holds to curtail costs, the freedom it provides to customize plans, and the desire to be unburdened by strict regulation. Regardless of whether or not you choose to move to a self-funded insurance option, it’s worth exploring this funding alternative so you can make the right decision for your business.

What is Self-Funded Insurance?

Self-funded health insurance is a form of employer-sponsored healthcare that doesn’t use traditional insurance carriers as a conduit for medical care. Instead, premiums are paid to the employer, which the company uses to pay for medical claims. Self-funding has traditionally been found in larger businessestypically 1,000 employees or more, because they’re more likely to have larger reserves and cash flow to absorb a bad claim year than a small business.

The financial upside of self-funding is that employers get to keep any premiums which aren’t spent on claims. In a fully-funded environment, those savings are retained by the insurance company as profit.

The downside is that you’re opening yourself up to greater degrees of expense variability. In a low claims year, you’ll save money — but in a high claims year, you'll have to be prepared to absorb any overruns in healthcare expenses. Regardless, in our opinion, employee benefit expenditures should always be looked at over a multi-year time horizon. 

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Administration, self-funding, Funding, CFO, Cost Containment

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