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Cyber Monday Slowdown: 4 Ways To Maintain Worker Productivity

David Rook
Long holiday weekends are typically an excellent opportunity for employees to relax and recharge their batteries. While the first day back is admittedly a bit crazy, the backlog of calls and emails eventually subsidies, with one dreaded exception...Cyber Monday. 
 
According to the research firm Robert Haft Technology , nearly a quarter of your workforce will shop online during their work-hours on Cyber Monday. And while 46 percent will browse during their lunch breaks, almost a third of employees will shop all day long.
 

So what can be done about this employee productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. 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.

Sanction Shopping Time
 
Rather than prohibiting or admonishing online shopping throughout the day (it’s going to happen anyway), bring it out from the shadows. In doing so, you might turn this covert experience into something far more social - an activity which can even perhaps foster some group camradery.
 
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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Black Friday Revolt Continues; Employers Put Family Time First

David Rook
Black Friday has become an enormous "tent pole event" for both retailers and consumers. The day after Thanksgiving has become synonymous with outrageous deals – but also outrageous lines, all-night camp outs, poorly-staffed stores, and sometimes violent confrontations between shoppers vying to be the first to hit the shelves. 
 
For a long time, Black Friday was seen as simply a good day to get a head start on Christmas shopping and save some money. However, in recent years, store openings have crept earlier and earlier, even into Thanksgiving itself, and viral videos of stampeding shoppers, brawls, and even some deaths have contributed to a growing sense that the infamous “holiday” has gone too far. Add to this the numerous complaints from employees on social media and the rise in popularly of online/mobile shopping,  and one gets the sense that the importance of Black Friday is finally waning.
 
As demonstrated by REI for the fourth consecutive year, retailers who take the brave stance of sticking to normal business hours, can not only engender goodwill from their employees by adhering to tenets of their corporate culture, but also, in certain situations, can endear themselves to loyal customers - a true win / win if ever there was one. This year, not only will REI close their physical locations during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but they also plan to take it a step further by not processing online orders during this time either. Though REI is one retailer willing to push the limits by completely closing up shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, countless other retailers have curtailed the practice of opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. In fact, according to BestBlackFriday.com, a record number of stores will remain closed that day.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education

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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, 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 reasons your employees might not be enrolling in your HDHP — and how you can overcome them.

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

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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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Why America's Healthcare System Is Broken

David Rook

According to The Commonwealth Fund’s most recent study of 11 different countries’ healthcare systems, the United States comes in dead last. This study measures overall industry performance and each country is ranked by five factors that contribute to their score: care process (in which the U.S. placed 5th), access (11th), administrative efficiency (10th), equity (11th), and outcomes (11th).

For being one of the richest countries in the world, the U.S. just can’t seem to get a grip on their healthcare system. No matter the proposed solution over the past century, the system has slowly but surely become more and more expensive, which means it’s also becoming less and less accessible.

If you were to ask 10 people why America’s healthcare system is broken, you’re sure to get 10 different answers — and you might even get into a debate about what “broken” means, both of which could help explain why we haven’t been able to fix it yet. Experts have many opinions, but one thing is for sure: the problems with our healthcare system don’t point back to just one cause. There are multiple issues at hand and none of them are easy fixes. 

5 Major Ways Our Healthcare System is Broken

Lack of Cost Transparency

One of the most common complaints among consumers is the lack of cost transparency in our healthcare system. You’d be hard-pressed to find another industry where this is the case. Even in other insurance situations, such as a car repair after an accident, the driver can figure out a fairly accurate estimate before ever paying a dime. The same goes for a homeowners claim.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Cost Containment, Education, ACA

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Healthcare vs. Health Insurance: Why the Difference Matters

David Rook

The term “healthcare” gets thrown around quite a bit these days. As HR professionals, you may have seen “healthcare” used interchangeably with “health insurance,” although it’s the layman doing so, rather than industry professionals. Healthcare and health insurance are two completely different things. They have different definitions, even though we, as a country, have largely co-mingled the two.

This co-mingling has led the county to erroneously focus on health insurance as an equal target of wrath for the rising cost of medical care, when in truth, healthcare has been the driving force. This understanding is critical if we’re to wrestle the ever escalating cost of medical care in this country.

Healthcare vs. Health Insurance

Healthcare

Healthcare is defined asthe field concerned with the maintenance or restoration of the health of the body or mind.” This also pertains to any “procedures or methods” related to the care of a person’s physical or mental health.

The industry in which medical professionals work is often referred to as the “healthcare industry.” Healthcare is provided by doctors, nurses, dentists, therapists, hospital systems, and pharmaceutical companies. The price these providers set for their products and services is the primary driver of health insurance costs.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Cost Containment, Education, PPACA

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What Is Reference Based Pricing?

Jeff Griffin

In the never-ending quest to decrease employee benefits spending on healthcare, some employers are turning to a somewhat revolutionary concept called reference based pricing. This switch is most common among large employers (500 employees or more) who are self-funded, and is gaining popularity rather quickly. For those who may be interested in implementing such a program, it’s important to understand how it differs from traditional healthcare plans, as well as how it will affect those enrolled in it.

What Is Reference Based Pricing?

Reference based pricing (RBP) is a system that some employers have started to use for cost containment purposes. This method is different from more traditional pricing options in that the employer caps the amount they’ll agree to cover for certain non-emergent medical procedures that can vary greatly in price yet not in outcome, such as hip or knee replacements.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, Education, employers

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What Are The Differences Between Group & Individual Health Insurance

David Rook

With healthcare costs continuing to rise, small employers that aren't obligated to offer health/medical insurance per the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) “employer mandate” have been dropping group coverage. This is a trend that started in 2009 during the recent recession. Some larger employers have also considered doing the same (though, they must pay steep ACA penalties if they do). At first glance, it might seem like this would bolster the health and stability of the individual insurance market. Despite the numbers of insured rising, however, increased costs and fewer options have put a serious squeeze on what was once a very healthy marketplace.

Group Health Insurance and Individual Health Insurance by the Numbers

Occasionally, a news piece predicts major shifts in the health insurance landscape, including dire predictions about employers dropping group health plans due to their high costs. However, it’s important to look closely at these numbers, as well as the size of the companies cited in the statistics.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Education, ACA

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The Effect of Chronic Conditions on Employer and Employee Healthcare Costs

Dr. Christine Maxwell

It seems like the only thing we can talk about these days is the rising cost of healthcare. Whether it’s in the news or in the boardroom, healthcare costs are a major topic of conversation — and with good reason. Healthcare costs have been increasing for decades with no apparent end in sight. There are many differing opinions on how exactly to decrease costs and even more debate as to the cause behind them. What is the reasoning behind the drastic increases?

While that question may have many answers, one of the most impactful is the effect of chronic conditions, which require constant care from medical professionals. Chronic conditions range in severity and attention needed to manage them, which can dramatically affect the healthcare costs associated with them.

A recent study by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization committed to making “the world safer and more secure, healthier and more prosperous,” looked into chronic conditions in the United States and their effect on healthcare costs. Their findings were both surprising and disheartening — but they do help explain at least one reason why overall costs are increasing so dramatically.

What Is a Chronic Condition?

A chronic condition is an illness that lasts for a prolonged period, but most definitions do not specify an exact period of time. For the purposes of the RAND study, they defined the term as a “physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment.”

By this definition, we could assume that the term “chronic conditions” includes ailments such as heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma, anemia, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and mood disorders, among many others.

What Causes (and Contributes to) Chronic Conditions?

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), there are four major health risk factors that “cause much of the illness, suffering, and early death related to chronic diseases and conditions.” They are:

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, Education

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Containing Employee Benefit Costs: Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID)

Jeff Griffin

As the cost of healthcare continues to rise with seemingly no end in sight, employers of all sizes across the entire country are looking for ways to cut costs without compromising the quality of care. Many employers have already moved toward consumer directed healthcare, but another strategy some employers are turning toward is value-based insurance design (VBID).

While value-based insurance design is far from a topic discussed at the dinner table, it isn’t a new concept. In fact, one state adopted this plan design in 2008 and some principles of VBID, such as low-cost preventative care and wellness visits, were incorporated into Section 2713 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

VBID takes a very different approach than HDHPs (high deductible health plans)  when it comes to trying to save employers and employees money, so if you’re thinking of making a change to your employer-sponsored health insurance, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re signing yourself (and your employees) up for.

What Is Value-Based Insurance Design?

Value-based insurance design is a cost containment strategy being adopted and tested by some employers. This plan structure is different from traditional health insurance plans in that its purpose is to decrease costs for medical services deemed as “higher value,” while increasing costs for those considered to be “low value.”

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, Education, Plan Design

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