HR Priorities in a Shifting Benefits Landscape

Priorities for employees and prospective talent are shifting. As healthcare costs increase in cost and benefits regulations increase in complexity, more individuals are using employee benefits as a major factor in job selection. Retaining the best and the brightest in your field means offering benefits solutions that are intelligent, adaptive, and cost-effective for both employees and your organization. The one-two punch of affordable bronze ACA-compliant plans in tandem with customizable gap coverages allows employees to opt into the specific services that they deem most important. Additionally, opting in for specific gap solutions means employees are much more likely to understand which coverages they possess and how to use them.

Though remarkably effective, gap coverages are still woefully underutilized in the marketplace. This presents a golden opportunity for employers to set themselves apart. Additionally, this strategy allows HR departments to control costs while offering everyone suitable coverage. It’s the way forward, and those who fail to adapt will fall farther and farther behind. To learn more about gap strategies for your organization, contact Chelten Consulting.

Case Study: Level Funding Plus Group GAP Saves Organization $232,841.51

Every year, millions of seniors purchase Medigap plans to fill in “high deductible” holes in Medicare parts A&B. When surveyed, 94% either “like or love” their health plans. Using a similar strategy, you can get similar results – improving available resources for both your organization and its employees.

The key is to combine a competitive “Level Funded” High Deductible Health Plan with a Group Supplemental Health or “Insured HRA” GAP plan. With the right fully insured GAP plan, you can offer seamless supplemental deductible/coinsurance coverage to your employees, similar to how Medigap plans work for seniors. Employees even get to choose their level of deductible protection. To illustrate, we’ve created a case study:

Current: 96 Employee Group on a National Carrier $1000 deductible 80/20% plan with max OOP of $2500/person. Renewal: 13% Increase.

Solution: HDHP Level Funded Plan + Supplemental GAP Plan (Insured HRA).

Results: Level Funded + Insured HRA provides coverage similar to the current plan (Max OOP of $2150 per person) while saving the organization in question $232,841.51 over renewal figures: View Summary

To learn more about these and other HDHP solutions, contact Chelten Consulting.

Voluntary Benefits Fall Short as HDHP Solution for Women’s Health

Affordable, comprehensive coverage for women’s medical issues was long considered non-negotiable. Today, HDHPs make no provisions for costs due to pregnancy, including the common and often expensive C-section. A recent study by Castlight Health found that delivery prices alone vary wildly, with some hospitals charging over $25,000 for traditional deliveries and over $40,000 for a C-section.

Hospital indemnity coverages are no better. Unlike group health plans, these VB plans all include benefits limitations based upon pre-existing conditions. An employee or spouse may be pregnant at open enrollment and denied coverage or benefits at a later date.

What is the solution? Where should HR departments turn? Group supplemental health plans (GAP plans) function much like the Medigap plans seniors use to round out their Medicare coverage. When surveyed, 94% either “like or love” their health plans. There are a dozen carriers today selling GAP plans that cover deductible and cost sharing expenses – including prenatal care and delivery.

Your organization can better support employees who expect or intend to have children through elective coverage options: learn more here.

Improved Communication and Adoption of GAP Coverages Critical to Long-Term HDHP Success

High deductible health plans continue to demonstrate broad appeal even as Congress attempts to pass alternative healthcare legislation. While HDHPs have proven quite effective for some of their insured, many fail to get the specific care they need. High-end health plans that offer more coverage cost dramatically more as services are expanded in every direction. But healthcare isn’t a universal issue with a universal solution.

Surprisingly, both employer and employee adoption of GAP coverages remains low. Some of the most significant voluntary benefits such as critical illness, hospital indemnity, and accident insurance are still not regularly offered alongside HDHPs, creating alarming gaps in coverage – especially for those with health issues that require periodic visits to the doctor and/or pharmacy.

Even when they are offered, employee enrollment rates are modest – a challenge for employer and employee alike. Companies that fail to offer gap coverages and leverage their adaptability as a strong employee benefit will fail to remain competitive in the long term – whether legislation changes or remains as it is today. To learn more about HDHPs, gap coverage, and employee benefits communication, contact us.

Benefits to Recruit and Retain Talent

Base pay goes a long way to finding and retaining quality employees. However, many employees are willing to work for a slightly smaller salary for the right set of benefits. Employers cannot afford high employee turnover rates. While health insurance will always be the top benefit, there are multiple other low-cost benefits employers can use to retain their workforce.

  1. Health insurance. Employees want better medical, dental, and vision insurance. One study found almost 90% of respondents would give superior benefits some consideration when looking for a new job.
  2. Work-life balance. Employees want more vacation time and paid time off. However, they are also interested in work from home options and flexible work hours. These types of benefits can sway employees to take a lower paying job for its greater benefits. Consider offering flexible start times or incorporating the option to work from home one to two days per week. This does not cost employers money, but it does earn employee loyalty.
  3. Student loan forgiveness and tuition assistance. It should not surprise employers that more and more employees want help paying back student loans or financing their degree. The current generation entering the workforce has more college debt than previous generations, but they are earning the same salary as their less indebted peers. While this may seem expensive at first glance, it does not have to be. Consider offering to pay $100 a month toward existing student loans. This comes out to $1200 per year. This is often a much easier sum to manage than offering an increased salary to compete with other businesses.

Employers who keep losing talented candidates or existing employees to competitors may need to reevaluate their current benefits package. If rival companies are not proposing exorbitant salaries to lure away workers, they are likely offering them better benefits. To learn more about how benefits can help your business stay competitive, contact the experts at Chelten Consulting.

Dental Benefits Still Key to Competitive Hiring Practices

Many employers are struggling to remain competitive when hiring new employees. Many are adjusting salaries to contend with rival companies, offering modern benefits such as pet insurance, and focusing on employee wellness to stay ahead. However, some benefits will always appeal to prospective and current employees. Affordable health insurance will always top the list of necessary benefits, but dental is another benefit with broad appeal.

Why is Dental Insurance Important?

Almost all employees feel dental insurance is necessary regardless of age. While many companies are trying to balance benefits to suit the needs of multiple age groups, dental insurance is a benefit that bridges generational divides. This has big implications for all businesses, small businesses included.

In fact, small businesses stand the most to gain by adding dental insurance to their benefits package. Many employers erroneously assume that younger employees do not value dental insurance as much as older employees, but this is not the case. Many small businesses with less than 10 employees neglect dental, and it may cost them talented candidates if their competitors provide it.

Below are additional reasons employers should consider adding dental coverage to their benefits package.

  • Preventative care improves morale and reduces absences related to preventable conditions.
  • Employees want nicer looking teeth. Employees appreciate dental plans that include whitening, orthodontia, and other dental procedures.
  • Dental insurance can contribute to employee wellness programs. Employee wellness programs help employees maintain good health; this can include good oral health as well.

Employers should reevaluate their benefits package from time to time to ensure it meets employees’ expectations. If a company’s benefit offerings are lacking or falling behind the competition, they may start to experience retention and hiring problems. To learn more about using benefits as part of an effective hiring strategy, contact Chelten Consulting.

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.

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.