Employee benefits are a major bargaining chip for companies looking to attract talent. The problem is healthcare costs are skyrocketing, and it’s difficult for employers to offer the same level of coverage. Higher costs are either resulting in less coverage or smaller wages for employees.
Find out what’s happening with healthcare and recruitment, and get tips on what companies can do to stay competitive:
The Rising Costs of Healthcare
It’s no secret that healthcare costs have been increasing for years. According to the research, it will continue to increase. One study from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that $3.8 trillion—or $11,582 per person— was spent on healthcare in 2019. By 2028, individual Americans will be spending around $18,000 on healthcare.
While the issue is complex, experts agree that the major factors in this spike include an aging population, a rise in chronic disease, and higher prices for medical services and drugs. Costs are rising so rapidly that insurers are increasing deductibles, not covering certain services, or applying caps. As a result, healthcare packages are playing a larger role when chosen candidates are deciding whether to accept a new job.
How Important Are Competitive Healthcare Packages?
As healthcare costs continue to rise, a new debate has emerged. Should employers or employees take more responsibility for covering healthcare?
One of two things are happening with workplace healthcare. Either employees are leaving their current position for a job with better healthcare coverage or their annual salary increases are being eaten up by higher healthcare premiums being passed on to employees.
A recent survey found that 42% of employees are thinking about leaving their current position because of inadequate benefits.
“The rising price of health care costs families thousands of dollars a year in foregone wages, out-of-pocket costs, and increased taxes,” said Josh Bivens, research director at the Economic Policy Institute, in an interview with MarketWatch.
He said the effect may not be apparent, but it’s one of the main reasons wages have remained stagnant. If you spot a number of paradoxes here, then you aren’t alone. Lower salaries won’t attract top talent, and passing on the costs of healthcare to current employees won’t retain them. This quandary for employers is compounded by the current labor shortage, which is often referred to as the Great Resignation.
What Can Companies Do?
It’s clear that healthcare is important to job candidates. To attract new talent, companies should revolutionize the way they treat wellness in the workplace.
Promoting health and wellness initiatives not only improves employee morale and decreases absenteeism, but a healthier workforce is less likely to use their insurance. This may eventually equate to lower premiums.
Another easy way to curb costs is by communicating with employees about what plans are available. Health insurance is often a complex topic, and some employees may accidentally choose the wrong plan because they don’t understand the difference.
Proactively highlighting available services can assist employees before a medical issue spins out of control. Mental health services are an example of this. Letting employees know about Employee Assistance Programs or low-cost telehealth options could offer help before a more serious intervention is needed.
There are many options available for companies to make their benefit packages more competitive to attract top talent. Some companies are considering Health Savings Accounts or HSAs that help employees pay medical bills while enrolled in cheaper, high deductible plans.
Direct Primary Care is another technique being used by companies to control costs. DPC allows employees to pay fixed monthly, quarterly, or annual fees to cover primary care, consultations, care coordination, and comprehensive care management. Not only does DPC result in cost-savings, but it fosters a better relationship between patient and doctor.
Leveraging Your Benefits
Even though healthcare costs continue to rise, it’s possible for companies to control costs by promoting wellness initiatives and helping employees select the best benefit package for their needs.
Being proactive with healthcare and making smart financial decisions can keep healthcare prices reasonable, and ensure that companies will be able to attract talent.
By Mckenzie Cassidy
Orginally posted on HR Exchange Network
Johnson & Dugan recognized as a 2021 Top Employee Benefits Consultant for the San Francisco Bay Area by Mployer Advisor
Redwood City, CA September 30, 2021 – Johnson & Dugan Insurance Services, an independent employee benefits consultant, is recognized by Mployer Advisor, an independent platform for employers to research, review and evaluate insurance brokers, as a Top Employee Benefits Consultant Award for 2021 for San Jose, California. Mployer Advisor’s Top Employee Benefits Consultant Award recognizes brokers for demonstrating market-leading competencies in several areas.
“Who an employer chooses as their insurance advisor has significantly more impact on the quality and cost of a benefit plan than who they chose as the carrier. We are proud to honor these firms who have demonstrated a wide range of experience in combination with positive employer feedback on service and quality,” said Brian Freeman, CEO of Mployer Advisor.
“I am personally very proud of this industry recognition. We have always strived to provide strategic benefit plans, tailored to each employer partner, with the highest customer satisfaction,” comments Michael Johnson, CEO. “Our team serves over 180 organizations in the Northern California region. We have seen a significant need for our services as organizations continue to reemerge after the pandemic”, Michael Johnson continued.
To determine award winners, Mployer Advisor analyzes each brokerage based on historical data to gauge the range of business experience across employer sizes, industry experience and products, combined with employer ratings and reviews of insurance brokerages across several platforms. Results are a snapshot of Mployer Advisor’s matrices and proprietary M Score on May 31, 2021.
About Johnson & Dugan:
Since 1983, Johnson & Dugan’s highest priority has been to make it easy for any company to expertly plan and administer their employee benefits plans.
Unlike other employee benefits consulting firms, J&D does not deliver one-size-fits-all solutions — our team works with each client to deliver the right mix of expertise, products, services and support based on the scope of their needs — with the flexibility necessary to adapt to organizational changes.
About Mployer Advisor:
Mployer Advisor is changing the way employers search, evaluate and select insurance advisors. Our goal is to connect employers and employees to great benefits and insurance. We do this by providing employers with actionable data to easily evaluate and select the best advisor for a company’s unique needs. Mployer Advisor provides independent ratings of insurance advisors to support employers. The rating is our opinion and should be one of many factors, including when selecting a consultant. An insurance brokerage cannot pay to influence their Mployer Advisor rating. Most brokerages have a profile on Mployer Advisor. Only highly rated brokerages are allowed to advertise on the platform. To learn more about Mployer Advisor visit https://mployeradvisor.com.
When the autumn leaves fall and the weather turns cooler, we know it’s time to start thinking of open enrollment. Open enrollment season can be a confusing time. As you begin your research into which plan to choose or even how much to contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), consider evaluating how you used your health plan last year. Looking backward can help you plan forward to make the most of your health care dollars for the coming year. Here’s what you need to know about your workplace benefits to maximize them:
1). Know the Open Enrollment Dates
It is up to you to make sure you take advantage of the open enrollment period. Be sure you know when your company has open enrollment because it can be your only time to adjust benefits for the coming year.
2). Evaluate Your Current Benefits
Before open enrollment starts, review the benefits you currently are receiving. Your pay stub can be an excellent resource to find this information; you should be able to find the benefits you are paying for under the deductions or withdrawals section. Standard deductions might include medical insurance, dental insurance, 401(k) contributions, life insurance, vision insurance, long- term disability insurance, health savings account or flexible spending account contributions, and accidental death and dismemberment insurance. Review those deductions to make sure you know what you’re paying for and whether you actually used the benefits.
3). Ask These Questions to Decide What Benefits You Need
Everyone’s situation is different, but most employees should have at least medical, dental and vision insurance and make contributions to a 401(k) or similar workplace retirement savings account.
When evaluating your benefits package, consider what your needs will be or what life changes you can expect for the coming year:
- Do you have a medical condition that requires ongoing care such as diabetes or heart disease?
- Are you trying to get pregnant or are expecting a baby?
- Are you getting married (or divorced)?
- Is your child turning 26 and can no longer be covered under your health insurance?
- Does your significant other have coverage, or will you need to include your partner in your health coverage?
- Are you on track for retirement, or do you need to save more? Don’t forget to take advantage of your company match in your retirement account. This is free money for the future.
All of these are essential questions to ask yourself during the open enrollment season because they can make a difference in what benefits you choose to elect. As you browse the different options, analyze the type of treatment and the amount of treatment you have received in the past. You cannot foresee every expense but focusing on the trends will help you make a sound decision.
4). Compare Out-of-Pocket Cost
Much like health networks, out-of-pocket costs are crucial when choosing the right plan for you and your family. Most health benefits summaries should highlight the amount you will pay in out-of-pocket expenses, including the pocket limit.
Your goal in comparing out-of-pocket costs is to narrow down the plans that pay a higher percentage of your medical expenses and offer higher monthly premiums. These types of plans are suitable for you if:
- You need emergency care frequently
- You are planning to have surgery soon
- You often see a primary care physician
- You have a pre-existing condition or have been diagnosed with a chronic disease like cancer or diabetes
- Your household income is sufficient to cover the monthly premiums
5). Do the Math
People focus on the monthly premium, but you also need to look at the deductible. For instance, if you have a choice between a lower silver plan premium of $345 a month for a plan with a $5,500 deductible, and a higher gold plan premium at $465 a month with a $1,750 deductible, you’re better off with the second plan if you anticipate needing more than $1,500 in medical care. With the second plan, your total annual cost for the premium and deductible comes to $7,330, a $2,310 savings over the lower premium plan.
6). Look at Out-of-Pocket Costs
The deductible is just one out-of-pocket expense; you also have copayments and coinsurance. The three together are your maximum out-of-pocket costs. Under the Affordable Care Act, the maximum out-of-pocket limit is $8,550 for a single person and $17,100 for a family policy.
7). Utilize Tax-Free Benefits
Flexible spending accounts (FSAs), health savings accounts (HSAs), and dependent care spending accounts provide wonderful tax advantages because contributions are made with before-tax income. They can be used to pay for deductibles, prescriptions and health-related costs that are not covered by your insurance (braces, eyeglasses, etc.). At the end of the year, you lose any money left over in your FSA so it’s important to plan carefully and not put more money in your FSA that you think you’ll spend. However, with an HSA, funds roll over from year to year which makes it a great way to save for future medical costs.
8). Review the Provider List
Most health plans today have “in-network” providers. If you see those doctors and visit those hospitals, you pay less out of pocket than if you go outside the network. So, if you want to keep your own doctor and go to a certain hospital, make sure they’re on the provider list.
When it comes to choosing the best workplace benefits plan for you, education is your most significant defense against making substantial financial mistakes, including not taking full advantage of your employer’s benefits. If you have questions about any of the benefits offered, ask your HR department for help or clarification. And remember, looking backward on your past habits and expenses can be an important tool to help you plan forward for next year.
Amid the economic panic last year, workers were unwilling to sacrifice job security for a new work environment. Many workers felt it was foolish to re-enter the job market during a shut down. However, in 2021, employers have experienced high turnover rates and experts are now predicting a “turnover tsunami” in voluntary departures and resignations. Current projections estimate that 3.3 million Americans will leave their jobs by December in search of new ones.
Turnover is expensive: the processes of recruiting, hiring, on-boarding and training cost extensive time but is also a considerable investment. When an employee leaves, the company not only loses a valuable resource but also has to re-distribute duties to other team members in the interim of finding a replacement. The team members who absorb the additional responsibilities reach their own tolerance thresholds.
Employers are always looking for ways to sweeten the attain and retain talented employees. For any job offer, salary will remain a crucial aspect but benefits also play an important role in overall employee compensation. This year more than ever, employers have a unique opportunity to show employees how valued they are and may convince those who are seeking a new job to remain through their benefits. So, what are some of the top benefits employees are looking for right now?
This staple benefit is of the utmost importance to job candidates and typically includes coverage for their families. In fact, 46% of U.S. adults said health insurance was the either the deciding factor or a positive influence in choosing their current job. And 56% said that employer-sponsored health coverage is a key factor in deciding to stay in their current job.
The most common type of retirement benefits is the 401(k) plan. This allows employees to deduct a certain percentage of each paycheck to put towards retirement savings. Some businesses choose to match the employee’s deduction or up to a certain percentage.
Employers can offer short -term disability (STD) or long-term disability (LTD) insurance to their employees. If an insured employee is injured or has a lengthy illness, the benefit pays them during the period of time they are unable to work. STD pays a portion of an employee’s salary if temporarily become sick or are unable to work. LTD payments are paid to employees who have a permanent illness or injury preventing them from performing their duties.
Life insurance and accidental death & dismemberment insurance (AD&D) are important as employees look to the future and want reassurance in protecting their families.
Employers should also consider some perks that have become increasingly sought after. Perks are something that is in addition to the employee’s salary and benefits package that may sway an employee to value one employer over another. Some of the most valued perks in 2021 are:
Wellbeing and mental health provisions have taken on a new significance in the last 12 months. Employers can offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which helps employees to solve problems – whether those relate to finances or other non-work stresses. But employers are also offering more comprehensive mental health services such as counseling or therapy. 48% of employees indicated they had experienced high levels of stress over the last year and are looking for support for stress, burnout, and other mental health issues.
- Flexibility/Remote Work Options
Remote work and flexibility have always been popular among employees but their importance soared in light of the pandemic. Flexibility has been a key factor in providing for employees who have had changes in their life such as caring for a chronically ill loved one or those who suddenly had virtual school for their children. In fact, 76% of workers said they would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours.
This past year has served as a reminder that employee’s lives don’t just revolve around work. With pets and children crashing our Zoom calls, and other responsibilities – including eldercare and childcare – on many worker’s minds, it’s evident that employees have other responsibilities and priorities that distract us from work. During the pandemic, one in four women considered leaving the workforce or scaled back their work role because of added family caregiving pressures.
Many employees don’t understand the benefits they chose during open enrollment – which means some employees may be looking for a new job for benefits or perks they already have! Now more than ever, it is critical for employers to start communicating early about open enrollment. Getting the word out about open enrollment and available benefits will help employees weigh the advantages of guaranteed perks and benefits with searching for a new job. Giving employees more time to understand their benefits is crucial to employee retention and contentment.
Many employees have the option to choose between their employer’s plan and another program where they meet the eligibility requirements (i.e., spouse’s, domestic partner’s, or parent’s plan). A Cash in Lieu of Benefits program, or cash-out option, offers an incentive for those employees to waive the employer coverage and instead enroll in the other plan. The incentive is in the form of a cash payment added to their paycheck. Properly implementing a Cash in Lieu of Benefits program is crucial, as unexpected tax consequences could occur otherwise.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires a Section 125 plan be in place to be a qualified cash-out option. If the plan is not set up under an IRC Section 125 plan, the plan will be disqualified and employees who elect coverage under the health plan will be taxed on an amount equal to the amount of cash they could have received for waiving coverage.
The IRS has ruled that when an option is available to either elect the health plan, or to receive a cash-out incentive, then the premium payment to the insurance company becomes wages. The reasoning is that when an employer makes payments to the insurance company where the employee has the option of receiving those amounts as wages, the employee is merely assigning future income (cash compensation) for consideration (health insurance coverage). Therefore, the payment is treated as a substitute for the health insurance coverage. By setting up an IRC Section 125 plan, the employer is offering a choice between cash and certain excludable employer-provided benefits, without adverse tax implications.
There must be a Plan Document in place and nondiscrimination requirements must be followed, including annual nondiscrimination testing, in order to be a qualified Section 125 plan. To meet nondiscrimination rules, Cash in Lieu of Benefits must be offered to all employees equitably. To be sure an employer is not over incentivizing employees to drop the plan, which could impact the nondiscrimination participation requirements, the monthly cash benefit should not exceed $200-$300.
When a Section 125 plan already exists (Premium Payment Plan, Health Care Spending Account, Dependent Care Spending Account), the plan can be amended to add the cash out feature. Where no Section 125 plan is in place, it is standard to have an attorney provide this service. It is important to note that, although the Section 125 plan protects the employees electing coverage from taxation, the cash-out incentive is an after-tax benefit.
As always with any IRS-qualified plan, proper documentation is essential. An employee should only be allowed to waive coverage when there is another plan available, and proof of enrollment is provided. If there is a subsequent loss of that coverage, HIPAA Special Enrollment Rights will allow entry onto the plan, and the cash-out incentive will cease.
Cash in Lieu of Benefits funds cannot be used to purchase individual health coverage. For companies over 20 lives and Medicare is secondary coverage, the plan should not be structured to incentivize employees over 65 to opt out of the employer plan to enroll in Medicare.
Another factor to consider is the impact to employers considered Applicable Large Employers (ALE) and subject to the affordability determination and reporting under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An ALE is an employer averaging 50 or more full-time plus full-time equivalent employees for the preceding 12 months. If a cash out option is offered without an IRS qualified Cash in Lieu of Benefits plan, the payment must be included in the affordability calculation.
There are also Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) implications. Any opt-out payments made by an employer to an employee must be included in an employee’s regular rate of pay and therefore is used in calculating overtime compensation for non-exempt employees.
These considerations should be reviewed with a tax expert and/or ERISA attorney to determine if a Cash in Lieu of Benefits program is the right option for your organization. These professionals, along with a Section 125 Plan Administrator, can provide the necessary guidance to ensure the program will satisfy compliance requirements. For further information on this topic, please contact your Johnson & Dugan team.
By Jody Lee, Johnson & Dugan
According to WebMD, the eyes are the most highly developed sensory organs in your body. They report that more of your brain is dedicated to the sense of sight than to all of the other senses combined. So, it makes sense that you would do all that you can to protect and care for these important organs. Vision insurance can be a great asset as you work keep your eyes healthy.
What is vision insurance?
Vision insurance is an insurance product used to reduce the costs of eye-related care, eye products, and eye surgeries. Group vision plans are typically purchased through employers, associations, or government programs like Medicare or Medicaid. Sometimes, vision plans are part of a value-added benefit that is linked to the subscriber’s health insurance. Plan subscribers usually receive free eye care, like annual eye exams, and a fixed discount on eye wear in exchange for a monthly premium. This type of coverage is recommended for people who need vision correction devices, who have a family history of eye issues, or for those who have a higher risk of eye disease, like diabetics.
What is a vision discount program?
Different from vision insurance, a vision discount program gives users discounts on eye exam services and products. The monthly premium is lower for discount programs but does not generally include free annual eye exams like vision insurance does. When the user buys into the discount program, they become a member of a large group for whom the program administrators have negotiated lower costs. Discount programs are most useful for those without pre-existing eye conditions.
What are the benefits of having vision coverage?
As mentioned before, your eyes are the most complex sensory organ in your body. Because of this, they are important to keep healthy and in good working condition. Vision coverage allows the user to have annual eye exams. At these exams, the optometrist determines if you need corrective lenses to improve your eyesight by means of glasses or contact lenses. The doctor will also check for eye diseases. Exams can even detect hidden medical conditions like brain tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, or thyroid disease. If a medical condition is detected, the optometrist will refer the patient to a medical doctor for further tests and treatment.
Vision insurance and discount programs play a huge part in keeping your eyes healthy. Through regular eye exams, not only are your eyes evaluated, but the health of the rest of your body is, too. By scheduling eye exams, you are also able to obtain corrective eye wear that allow you to see clearer and without eye strain. Healthy vision is a benefit you don’t want to lose!