Changes to Expect to the Affordable Care Act

There is no doubt changes are coming to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, many are wondering when those changes will occur and what they will look like. Like most acts of government, there will be no major modifications anytime soon. It is easy for GOP leaders to say they plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but this process is harder than it looks. It is also unlikely that congress will repeal the entire law, so the focus will be more on what aspects are changing and how does it affect individuals and businesses.

Changes to the ACA for 2017

So far, President Trump has not changed much of the ACA. He issued an executive order stating that federal agencies should use any means possible to delay the requirements of the ACA should it impose a fiscal burden on individuals, the health industry, or states as a whole. Due to the vague nature of the order, the only federal response from the IRS is they do not plan to enforce the requirement that most individuals must possess health insurance as strictly as they have in the past. However, it is still law.

What Happens to Those Insured via the ACA?

The biggest concern for individuals and businesses alike is what happens when congress replaces the ACA. Individuals want to know if they will be without insurance. Businesses want to know how these changes affect compliance and if they will suddenly be in violation of new regulations.

Thankfully, both President Trump and congressional leaders spearheading the initiative agree that a smooth transition is vital. They have no desire to leave individuals without insurance or cause major interruptions to businesses. Their current plan is to repeal and replace the law simultaneously.

Looking Forward

While many are concerning themselves with the coming year, 2018 holds fewer answers and more uncertainty. Because of this, more and more insurers are pulling out of the individual market. This is an issue as it is how individuals purchase insurance outside of their employer. Employers need to prepare themselves for an influx of individuals requiring insurance.

Until health care reform is complete, the best solution for employers is to invest in a Bronze level high deductible health plan (HDHP) alongside Group Supplement Health (GAP) plans. GAP insurance can provide coverage where HDHPs prove inadequate. This allows employers to offer compliant health insurance that their employees can afford. To stay up to date with the changing face of ACA as well as learn more about GAP solutions, contact Chelten Consulting.

Reexamining HDHPs

A recent assessment by the National Business group on health suggests that two thirds of large employers believe HDHPs are one of the most effective ways to reduce benefits costs. Another by the National Bureau of Economic Research corroborates this assertion, specifically identifying employer spending decreases of 10-15% in the areas of preventive, emergency, outpatient, and pharmaceutical care. This all makes sense as HDHPs leverage higher deductibles – transferring more expenses from employer to employee. Another recent study shows that by 2020, HDHP implementation will have tripled in just 7 years, becoming available through 40% of employers.

But this isn’t the whole story. Higher deductibles logically and experientially discourage plan usage and overall healthcare engagement, dramatically increasing the likelihood of increasingly severe health concerns down the road. A failure to capitalize on inexpensive preventive care frequently causes health issues to exacerbate, inflating long-term costs for employer and employee alike. A survey by Families USA determined approximately 30% of those covered by employer-provided benefits with deductibles upward of $1,500 per individual avoided medical care due to unaffordable out-of-pocket expenses. Other studies, including one by the Commonwealth Fund, reached the same conclusion.

Beyond an aversion to obtaining care, HDHP enrollees are often less engaged in their healthcare plans, leading to a failure to capitalize on the limited but valuable services to which they are entitled at little or no personal expense. Reduced price-consciousness and a lack of plan knowledge both exacerbate the other shortcomings of the High Deductible Health Plan. To learn more about the challenges associated with HDHPs and the variety of alternatives available, contact Chelten Consulting.

New Employee Onboarding Expectations

Finding talented individuals for your business can be a challenge. Retaining new hires can be difficult as well. Many new employees decide within their first year whether they will stay with the company or move on to different opportunities. Employee turnover has a major effect on your company’s bottom line, so it behooves employers to implement an effective onboarding process.

Elements of a Successful Orientation Program

While some of the components outlined below may not seem vital at first glance, this is not the case to new employees. Meeting these expectations is a great way to start the company’s relationship with new hires.

Take a Tour

Socialization is a large part of a positive work environment. Take new hires on a tour of the office and introduce them to their new coworkers. The first day of a new job can be daunting. Meeting coworkers for the first time in the lunchroom can worsen this and make new hires feel isolated. Making new hires feel welcome and comfortable in their workplace goes a long way to retaining them for years to come.

Automate Paperwork

Sitting a new hire down in a cubical with a mountain of paperwork will not make the best first impression. Automating paperwork can help with this issue. Automated files can also help HR track and store the necessary information in an orderly fashion. In addition, automated onboarding can reduce the amount of time new hires spend filling out paper work and increase their focus on other elements of their new job.

Provide a Mentor

Having a meet-and-greet and reducing the amount of physical paperwork new hires have to complete is a good start to the onboarding process. However, there are better methods to retain new hires than leaving them to sink or swim after their first few days. Assigning new hires an experienced mentor can help them assimilate to their new role much faster. They may feel more comfortable asking questions about their new job to a seasoned peer than their new boss. This alleviates workplace anxiety and jitters.

Asking for feedback about your company’s orientation program can help you fine-tune the process. You can locate areas that are working well and where the program needs improvement. Having an effective onboarding process is a type of benefit that is widely appreciated, but rarely discussed. It also does not draw a lot of attention right away but builds loyalty over time. To learn more about what types of benefits give your company an edge over the competition, contact Chelten Consulting.

Atypical Benefits for a Competitive Edge

There are standard benefits most employers offer: healthcare, dental, vision, and retirement planning options. In fact, retirement and healthcare benefits contribute overwhelmingly to employee loyalty. However, these benefits are expected. It is the unconventional, and therefore infrequently offered, benefits that make a company stand out from its competition. Below are some benefits many employers overlook, but employees value.

Continuing Education

Investing in employees’ continued education is a mutual benefit. Further developing an employee’s skill set can help the company grow. Businesses of all sizes can offer continuing education benefits. Large corporations can offer full-tuition coverage for eligible degrees through pre-determined universities. These companies usually require that the employee earn a minimum GPA to qualify for tuition coverage. Small businesses may not be able to afford tuition coverage, but they can offer their employees flextime. This will allow the employee to attend classes and perform their job at times that better suit their schedule.

Volunteer Benefits

With more and more millennials joining the workforce, companies are starting to invest in benefit options that appeal to this generation. For example, millennials have a well-developed social consciousness and often volunteer to make a difference in their community. Offering time off for volunteering purposes can give businesses an edge over other companies that do not.

Commuter Benefits

Commuting to and from work is a hidden expense for many employees. Gas, parking passes, and wear and tear on personal vehicles add up over time. Individuals that take public transportation do not have it much better as they have to pay a bus, cab, or metro fare as well. These expenses add up quickly, which is why employees always appreciate when their company provides commuter benefits.

As the job market continues to grow in competitiveness, employers need to distinguish themselves from their competition. Offering these progressive benefits can improve employee retention and entice new talent. Contact Chelten Consulting for more benefits strategies to improve your competitive hiring practices.

Tips to Engage Employees in Their Healthcare

Many employers struggle with low engagement levels when it comes to healthcare. Part of the problem is a lack of employee enthusiasm, but the majority of the issue lies in confusing benefits communications. Many employees do not know what their healthcare costs will be in the coming year and do not learn of the final costs until after selecting their health services. Meanwhile, over half of employees are not certain they are paying the correct amount for their health services. Below are some tips for employers to improve employee engagement with their healthcare.

Employees Are Not One Size Fits All

Treating employees as one conglomerate when it comes to benefits communications will backfire for employers. Some employees prefer webinars and video tutorials while others prefer one-on-one conversations with a healthcare professional. Offering a variety of benefit communications options and channels will help employers reach their entire audience rather than a select few.

Do Not Presume Employees Understand Their Benefits

Consumer-directed healthcare benefits are nothing new, but this does not mean their intended audience understands them. For example, less than one-third of individuals with a health savings account (HSA) can prove basic proficiency on how their HSA works. Many employers make the mistake of believing their employees have a high level of understanding for their benefits. Studies show employers consistently rate themselves 15 percent higher than employees do for providing clarity, depth, and communications options for healthcare services.

Use Incentives to Drive Engagement

While many employers may think having adequate healthcare coverage should be incentive enough to encourage employee engagement, they are wrong. Employees find their healthcare benefits to be baffling and boring. Another reason employers should consider incentivizing healthcare engagement is to reduce preventable illnesses and injuries. The vast majority of healthcare claims stem from avoidable or manageable causes.

Making use of wellness programs are a major way to incentivize healthcare engagement. Financial incentives also appeal to employees. These do not need to be expensive either. For example, paying for an annual pass for a wellness activity (such as a gym membership) could cost employers as little as $100 per year. If the employee makes use of their membership, they can bolster their health and fitness. Improved health and lifestyle means fewer sick days and less injury-prone employees, so employers can more than make up that $100.

Improving employee engagement with their healthcare benefits goes beyond compliance and healthcare coverage. Ensuring employees understand their benefits can enhance job satisfaction and morale as well. If your business struggles with employee healthcare engagement, contact Chelten Consulting to learn more great methods of effective benefits communications.

Overcoming the Boring Benefits Communication Barrier

There is a lot of information new hires need to know. Onboarding processes are notorious for being dull and resulting in many glazed eyes, lack of attention, and failure to absorb the necessary information. Reducing the duration of this process as well as improving the efficacy has two primary benefits. First, Human Resources (HR) is able to disseminate important information without wasting time. Second, companies can start seeing a faster return on investment from their new hire.

Revamping Orientation Programs

HR has the important but tedious task of communicating a vast amount of information to new hires: performance review procedures, the employee handbook, and so on. HR departments often send out newsletters or create PowerPoints to address this information. Even so, many employees fail to absorb it or cannot find what they are looking for later. To overcome this communication hurdle, HR should make their onboarding process:

  • Death by PowerPoint is alive and well among many HR new hire orientation programs. It is also ineffective. Visual presentations that are not-text-heavy are much more likely to capture an audience’s attention than slides overloaded with dense sentences.
  • Taking a holistic approach can show new hires how all of the information they are seeing relates. This type of approach can connect the dots to elucidate the larger picture.
  • Cross platform. Much of the advice for HR professionals recommends communicating information in small pieces so as not to overwhelm employees. While this may be true, HR departments should also take steps to house all of the information in an easy to access and search location. Employees should also be able to access the information from any device.

Chelten Consulting understands your company needs effective information distribution strategies. Making these changes can accelerate and improve new hire benefits communication. Contact us to ensure your business is using the most effective methods of communication.

Four Critical Strategies in Combating Rising Benefits Costs

employee benefits graphicEmployers are facing ever-increasing challenges in controlling costs while attempting to offer competitive benefits. A recent study indicates that healthcare costs will continue to grow faster than inflation at a rate of over 4%.

While there’s no silver bullet in combating rising healthcare costs, there are a variety of factors that can be identified. Knowing what’s driving up your healthcare costs can help in finding ways to control these costs without gutting your benefits offerings. These include the rising costs of procedures, especially among specialists, the increasing cost and quantity of prescription medications being dispensed, the advent of newer and more refined technological aids, patient inclination to seek out rapid care, and more. But what can we accomplish with this information?

Understanding where these excess costs are coming from will allow you and your benefits advisers to identify specific coverages or elements of a plan that can be reduced or eliminated. Often the amount you save will be significant enough that some of that money can go back into the benefits system for other, less costly services. It’s certainly a strategy of balance, and of finding ways to make your dollars go as far as they can for the company and those who work within it. Four of the key benefits choices to control costs include:

1. Level-funding company healthcare costs.
2. Provide a proactive wellness initiative.
3. Use a flexible contribution arrangement (FSA).
4. Use deductible exposure mitigation vehicles (HRAs).

Does your executive team and/or HR department understand these strategies and what they offer your organization? Are you aware of which ones you’re already using? Do you know which aspects of your benefits program prove least and most effective in terms of dollars spent? These are critical questions that should be asked and answered frequently. To learn more about benefits challenges and strategies to combat them, contact Chelten Consulting Group.

Employers Becoming PPACA Compliance Officers

With the ever-changing healthcare landscape, employers have had to take on a greater role when it comes to Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) compliance. Various government departments including the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Internal Revenue Service are actively tracking small and mid-sized businesses for numerous compliance issues. These include PPACA reporting, wage and hour miscalculations, and more. Human Resource (HR) managers have a full-time job on their hands ensuring their company is PPACA compliant.

Many employers are familiar with PPACA’s requirements, but they do not understand their function. For employers, these requirements are boxes that need checking. What concerns business owners more is finding good health insurance that does not break the bank. They also want their plan to be PPACA compliant to avoid fines for implementing their health care offerings incorrectly. Meanwhile, employees need insurance to avoid penalties come tax season as well as for their own health.

These fines and penalties are a serious matter, especially since the IRS increased them in 2016. The increase for employees is:

  • $695 or 2.5% of income per uninsured adult, whichever is more

While the increases for employers include:

  • $2160 per employee if the employer fails to provide insurance or provides a non-compliant plan
  • $3240 per staff member using a subsidy through the marketplace
  • $1100 per day if the employer is late filing tax forms and documents

Now more than ever, employers need knowledgeable counsel to ensure PPACA compliance. Otherwise, they could be facing thousands of dollars in fees. To learn more about PPACA compliance, contact the experts at Chelten Consulting.

Unconventional Benefits to Reduce Turnover Rate

As the economy recovers and improves, the unemployment rate continues to decline. This means potential employees are being more judicious when it comes to accepting job offers. A competitive salary is no longer enough to attract and retain talent. Employers need to revamp their benefits package if they want to maintain their workforce.

The Cost of Employee Turnover

Losing an employee is more than reduced personnel. The loss affects morale and overall productivity as well—both of which can cut into the company’s profits. Reports show that employee turnover costs the company slightly more than 1/5 of that employee’s annual salary. This includes a loss in efficiency plus the time and cost of hiring and training a new employee.

For an employee making $100,000, this equates to slightly more than a $20,000 loss. That is enough to bring start-ups to the verge of collapse and hinder small to mid-size businesses. Large corporations with employees earning significant salaries face an even bigger financial loss. While they are often robust enough to withstand the financial setback, too many turnovers can become a liability.

Innovative Benefits to Attract and Retain Employees

The obvious solution is to prevent employee turnover whenever possible. However, this can be a difficult task to achieve. One way to put your business above the competition is with a healthy benefits package featuring unique options. An example that is rising in popularity is pet insurance. This may seem like a frivolous expense but consider the facts. About 65 percent of households own a pet. These pets get sick just like humans, except the owner must pay their pet’s medical bills out of pocket. Pet insurance helps pay for these medical bills including preventative care.

Offering unconventional benefits can give your company a competitive edge over those that do not. Optional packages like pet insurance may seem odd, but they are gaining ground in the workplace. One investigative report found that 68 percent of surveyed employers offered pet insurance. Employees are comparing benefits packages, so now is the time to distinguish your benefits from the competition. To learn more about incorporating benefits into your hiring strategy, contact the experts at Chelten Consulting.

Best Practices for Successful Benefits Communication

When it comes to benefits, engaging employees is not a simple task. Adjusting benefits communication methods to address employees’ needs is a great place to start. Some benefits are universal, such as health care, but even that gets tricky. The types of coverage one employee desires can vary drastically from another employee. Fine-tuning your benefits package to tailor it to your employees’ needs is great, but effective communication drives successful employee interaction. Below are some of the best practices when it comes to clear and effective benefits communications.

Fun-Size Benefits Communication

A sure-fire way to guarantee your employees will not understand or use their benefits is to provide benefits information once a year. Mailing a booklet, emailing PDFs, and other cumbersome forms of benefits communication will fail every time. It overwhelms employees and they give up before they even begin. Instead, create year-round opportunities for employees to learn more and engage with their benefits. An online platform to manage benefits can also help. This allows employees to reference information as they need to rather than trying to sift through pages upon pages of materials.

Adapt to a Distributed Workforce

More and more employees are working from home. Some work from home a couple of days per week while other telecommute exclusively. This trend is on the rise, so employers cannot afford to exclude these individuals from their benefits communication efforts. For example, many employers hold in-office benefits seminars, but this does nothing for the employees who do not work in the office. If you have an online platform to manage health benefits, this is an excellent way to involve these employees.

Making Benefits Relevant

In the past, many organizations used a one-size fits all approach to benefits. The problem with this method is not all employees need or want the same things. Personalized benefits would be ideal, but this is too time-consuming for human resource managers to do alone. Harnessing technology can help employees find the benefits that are most relevant to them.

Even if your company offers the best benefits it can all go to waste without effective information dissemination. To ensure your organization is using the most effective methods of benefits communication, contact us.