How Does Healthcare in Europe Work?

David Rook

A photo of European currency with a doctor's stethoscope.The American healthcare system functions pretty differently than healthcare in Europe — and most healthcare systems in other first world countries, for that matter. With the ongoing healthcare debate in America (from repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act to Senator Sanders’ Medicare-For-All proposal), many people have begun to ask why we can’t have a system like Canada, the U.K., France, or most other European nations. In order to decide whether or not those types of systems would be suitable for America (a debate we will not delve into here), we first have to understand how healthcare in Europe works.

How Healthcare in Europe Works

Generally speaking, most European nations (in addition to others around the world) have some type of universal healthcare. According to the definition provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), this means that everyone has equal access to quality healthcare that improves the health of patients and that seeking such care would not cause financial harm to those receiving it.

While it’s easy for Americans to generalize European healthcare into one giant conglomerate of universal coverage, there are actually many different systems across the continent. Each country has figured out their own way of organizing their insurance companies, doctors, and hospital systems. But regardless of country, healthcare in Europe is designed with the same goal in mind: to make sure every person has access to basic health services.

Given that European nations have all been around far longer than America, they’ve tried almost every possible scenario and, for the most part, they’ve landed largely on three systems: single-payer, socialized, and privatized, but regulated. Of course, there’s quite a bit of variety between countries and no two systems are alike.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, ACA

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How to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

Jeff Griffin

Being a parent is hard. Being a parent with a full-time job is harder. Being a parent with a full-time job at a company that doesn’t create a family friendly workplace is almost impossible, especially if this is the case for both parents.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “92.8 percent of all men with children under age 18 participated in the labor force,” while the participation rate for women was 70.5 percent. Altogether, this amounted to 34.2 million families with at least one working parent in 2016, which means you’re extremely likely to employ parents — and lots of them.

Creating a family friendly workplace can give employers a major advantage in attracting hard-working employees, and then perhaps most importantly, keeping them long-term. Luckily, some of the most helpful benefits you can offer don’t have to be incredibly expensive.

5 Ways to Create a Family Friendly Workplace

1. Parental Leave

Paid parental leave is a hot topic in America right now. Anyone who has tried to care for a newborn baby knows it’s a full-time job in and of itself — and for the most demanding boss (with the weirdest schedule) you’ve ever had.  

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Employee Retention, Flexible Schedules, Culture

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Telecommuting and Employee Mental Health

Jeff Griffin

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly common in the American workforce. Employees usually enjoy this perk because it means less time in traffic and fewer distractions, which leads to more productivity, in addition to more flexibility in caring for children and elders living in the home. Even if it’s only one or two days a week, telecommuting can decrease stress and actually increase productivity. Some employers even prefer it because they can downsize their offices and save money on property costs.

But one of the possible downfalls of telecommuting (especially when employees spend more time at home than in the office) is a feeling of disconnect from their coworkers and a growing sense of loneliness. Employees who feel this way may end up with more mental health issues, needing medication to help regulate depression, experience decreased productivity, or even switch jobs for one that allows them to be back in an office.

If telecommuting is part of your employee benefits package, it’s important for you to understand the effects of loneliness so you can take measured steps to combat them, as well as to prevent them from occurring in the first place.

Loneliness is a Health Hazard

According to a study conducted by Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, social isolation and the resulting feelings of loneliness are as hazardous to our health as obesity. The study is careful to note that the risk associated with loneliness is from actual social isolation, as well as perceived isolation.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Flexible Schedules, Telecommuting

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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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Office Holiday Parties Rein It In

David Rook

I’ve attended some epic holiday office parties in my life. For the first eight years of my career I worked for Leo Burnett, the storied Chicago ad agency right out of the Mad Men era. They'd hold their holiday breakfast in early December each year at one of Chicago’s historic institutions like the Chicago Theater or the Masonic Temple. The breakfast started at 8:30 AM, and consisted of an annual "state of the business" presentation, and then the much-anticipated unveiling of the “best of reels” representing the company's finest commercial broadcast work that year, both domestic and international. The breakfast always ended with everyone watching Leo Burnett’s now infamous 1967 speech, “When to Take My Name Off The Door”, where he laid out his vision of the company’s enduring values. It’s a guaranteed tear jerker; never a dry eye in the house.

After the official breakfast, Burnetter’s would parade through the streets of Chicago back to HQ to meet with their teams and pick up their annual bonus checks, amounting to anywhere from 10% to 20% of their annual salaries. For a guy who started in advertising making $18,800, a bonus check of $1,880 was like hitting the jackpot. Once the bonus checks were distributed, each account group left the office to celebrate at one of dozens and dozens of luncheons planned at various venues around town. Around 4 PM, most everyone descended on the “producer’s party”, which was always held at the swankiest night club in town.

All this sounds pretty fantastic, and it was, but it was also an alcohol fueled day for many, myself included. Some of us would start the morning with a 5:30 am poker game at an associate's condo downtown, complete with a bloody mary and beer bar. Others would pack flasks for the breakfast meeting, while others would make it their personal goal to go “tip-to-tip”, starting at 5:30 AM and not going to bed until 5:30 the next day. This is not to suggest that everyone’s breakfast experience was like the one I just described (not at all), but as ad types go, I don’t think there’s quite another profession where people work so hard and play even harder. I was also thirty years younger back then and the underpaid peers I hung around with tended to enjoy a free buffet and open bar a bit more than the more seasoned employees.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Culture

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Why Employee Benefits Might Finally Play a Role in Seasonal Hiring

David Rook

When most companies think of hiring seasonal workers, they’re not thinking about employee benefits. Most seasonal hires don’t qualify for benefits beyond that of an employee discount for a variety of reasons — they won’t be working for a long enough period of time (or enough hours) to qualify for healthcare, and employers don’t really need to entice them to stay onboard after the end-of-year shopping season.

That’s all changing this year. With an economy that’s at virtual full employment, seasonal hires may be many companies’ best option to coax some of these works into becoming full-time staff. With this in mind, it makes good sense to take another look at your employee benefits policy when it comes to attracting seasonal workers.

Employee Benefits to Attract Seasonal Hires

Andrew Challenger, vice president of career transitioning firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, believes this year will yield more seasonal-to-permanent hires than in recent years, and if you’re planning to implement this strategy, you’ll need to make sure your employee benefits package is good enough to make those temporary workers want to stay on full-time. But first, you have to figure out how to get them in the door to apply.

Your seasonal hires may be attracted to your company simply because of the employee discount. Perhaps they get 20 or 30 percent off regular priced items in your store (some companies even offer up to 50 percent!), which could help them get through their holiday shopping with a lighter punch to their wallets.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Recruiting, Strategy

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Ducey's Plan for Arizona's CHIP Program

David Rook

Governor Ducey is working on a plan to fund Arizona’s CHIP program until Congress either passes a new budget or finds a way to pass an independent CHIP bill, which would require some legislative maneuvering with very few legislative days left in the year and a tremendous backlog of bills.

On September 30, 2017, the government’s fiscal year ended without passing a new budget, essentially cutting off all federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) across the country. Because 9 million children in the U.S. (and their parents) depend on the insurance CHIP provides, states are trying to find extra cash to sustain the program.

Who Does CHIP Cover?

CHIP was created to fill in the gaps for families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not necessarily enough to pay for private or employer-sponsored health insurance.

Children up to age 19 are eligible for the program, but states have discretion over further eligibility standards, including those related to income. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also expanded CHIP eligibility to children of state employees.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, employee health, Arizona

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How to Choose a Health Insurance Plan for Your Workforce

David Rook

Ask nearly any employee how they feel about the importance of health insurance and they’ll tell you it ranks pretty high on their list of priorities. Research backs this up time and time again. A 2017 Harvard Business Review survey reveals that employees value better health, vision and dental insurance over benefits like additional vacation time and work-from-home options.

As an employer or Human Resources professional, you know that health insurance is a must-have benefit workers want. What you may not know is how to choose a health insurance plan that keeps workers happy and attracts new talent to your organization. Here is a quick guide to selecting a plan that works for everyone.

Choosing What Type of Health Insurance Plan to Offer

Perhaps you’re an employer who has grown to the point where you have to legally start offering healthcare per the ACA, or perhaps you're still classified as a “small business” but would like to offer insurance as a retention and recruitment benefit. But where to start? Selecting health insurance for your employees may seem like an overwhelming decision. By breaking it down and approaching the decision step by step, you can better manage the decision making process.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, employee health

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What is Preventative Care? (And How Does it Decrease Healthcare Costs?)

Jeff Griffin

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, the idea of “preventative care” has been more widely discussed. The law requires insurance companies to provide certain preventative care services at no additional cost to the enrollee (meaning that the insured will not be charged a copay or coinsurance as long as the provider is in-network). 

Many employee benefits brokers, employers, and insurance companies started emphasizing preventative care and maintenance years ago, when they discovered that doing so can decrease their overall costs over time, but the ACA is what put this type of healthcare on the map.

What is Preventative Care?

Preventative care (also known as preventive care) is any health service aimed at the prevention of disease or in support of general health maintenance. Preventative care is also one of the primary focus areas in wellness programs, which are of particular interest to companies who understand the long-term value preventative care can provide in taming runaway healthcare expenditures, including rising premiums.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, Preventative Care, wellness program

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How To Cut Benefit Costs Without Compromising Employee Satisfaction

David Rook

Every employer is looking to cut employee benefits costs, but it can be difficult to do so without compromising employee satisfaction. Employers therefore need to be careful when restructuring their benefit offerings.

Of course the most common way to cut employee benefits costs is to alter medical plan design, since medical coverage makes up a significant portion of benefit expenses. That said, it's not the only way to tame costs. Here are some of the most popular areas for cost savings.

Medical Plan Design

One of the most popular ways to cut employee benefits costs these days is switching to high deductible health plans (HDHPs), which reduces the cost of medical premium while pushing up deductibles. It should be noted, however, that HDHPs must be introduced with a great deal of employee education, since out-of-pocket expenses flow very differently than with those of traditional health plans.

For example, if offered multiple plan choices, some employees may elect an HDHP (in absence of any education), simply in an effort to save on premiums, when another plan was perhaps more appropriate for their particular situation. These employees may then experience buyer’s-remorse as the plan year unfolds, which contributes to the negatively surrounding HDHPs, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons these plans come with mixed reviews.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Cost Containment, Plan Design, Voluntary Benefits, Ancillary Benefits, Worksite Benefits, wellness program

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