Inflation is a silent budget killer- it causes everything to go up, from your groceries to your gas, as the purchasing power of money decreases. Americans are feeling the pinch as the U.S. experiences the highest inflation level in 40 years.
Inflation has been particularly frustrating for Americans who are struggling to pay for items such as housing, food, energy, and vehicles. However, consumer goods aren’t the only thing that have increased – employee benefit costs are also on the rise. With rising inflation rates, many employers are struggling with rising healthcare costs. A survey of large employers from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 96% of respondents agree that the high costs of offering healthcare to their employees are excessive.
With inflation increasing, you may be tempted to cut benefits packages, but now more than ever, a generous benefits and perks package is crucial to retaining employees. In fact, 63% of companies say that retaining is harder than hiring them. Amidst the Great Resignation, HR is having to figure out how to alleviate the increasing benefit costs without passing those costs on to their employees and facing even greater turnover. Fortunately, there are some strategies that employers can use to remain competitive in today’s market while still providing quality benefits for their employees:
- Foster a Healthy Workforce – The healthier your employees are, the less likely they are to have extensive healthcare costs. Wellness programs are a great way to promote a healthy lifestyle. A cost-effective way to provide wellness benefits while helping employees through periods of high inflation is through a wellness stipend. With a wellness stipend, you reimburse your employees for their wellness costs such as gym memberships, home exercise equipment and wellness apps.
- Encourage the Use of Virtual Medical Services – With telemedicine, employees can schedule an appointment with your health care provider or specialist. They don’t have to drive to the doctor’s office, park or sit in a waiting room. They can see their doctor from the comfort of their bed or sofa which makes it easier to fit into a busy schedule. Telemedicine appointments are usually short visits, so employees can get back to work more quickly.
- Supplement Your Group Plan With a Group Coverage HRA – One strategy employers can implement to lower costs while extending coverage is to add a high deductible health plan(HDHP) to their group plan offerings and supplement it with a group coverage HRA (GCHRA), also known as an integrated HRA.
- Eliminate Benefits that Employees Don’t Use – Take a microscopic look at all the benefits you provide. Do you see any that aren’t being utilized enough to justify the cost of providing them? A great way to learn which of your benefits your employees are and aren’t using is by sending out an employee benefits survey. Your company can then invest the money from underused benefits to something that your employees value more.
While it may be tempting to simply reduce your benefits offerings during periods of inflation, it doesn’t have to be that way. Comprehensive benefits attract better employees and retain them for the long haul—meaning employers benefit from a more productive and satisfied workforce.
Companies spend a large amount of time and money creating valuable benefits plans for employees. But after all that work, they often get low participation. Good benefit choices require an effort from employers to ensure that employees have help in understanding their benefits options. To make things even more complex, employers are having to consider options for a span of 4 generations in the workplace which can look very different. Providing benefits for a multigenerational workplace can be challenging but it is important for employers to simplify the process by delivering education through the right channels while avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.
Understanding your audience and how to effectively communicate with them is the first step in creating your benefits messaging. For example, what are the demographics of your workplace? Do you need to provide multiple messages across various channels? Does your workplace speak English, or will you need bilingual messaging?
A recent survey indicates that 83% of employers believe that communication, employee education and engagement are key for employee participation.
Here are 5 tips on educating your employees about their benefits to encourage benefits participation:
- Break Down Health Insurance Options
- Distribute a simple guide that explains the key things employees should know about their health insurance and basic terminology
- Explain in simple terms about provider network, covered prescriptions, monthly premiums, deductibles, and additional plan benefits, if applicable
- Have an efficient way for employees to manage benefits and ask questions
- Automate the Process
- Make Plans Customizable
- Provide plenty of benefits options including medical, dental and vision from leading carriers
- Offer a lifestyle benefits program that allows employees to personalize their plan according to their needs
- Consider offering perks like commuter benefits or health club memberships to reduce financial burdens and encourage a healthy lifestyle
- Provide Multiple Communication Strategies
- Offer educational tools and channels preferred by employees so they can stay informed year-round to make better purchasing decisions
- Utilize effective benefits education tools that include in-person and virtual meetings, digital communication or print media
- You can utilize a short video to explain key concepts; use graphs and images or create short quizzes for employees to ensure they have read and understand the material
- Make it Easy to Sign-Up
- Invest in updated HR and Benefits technology that includes easy message capabilities such as email, text message alerts, video support, and live chat integration
- Provide a Benefits mobile app
- Offer a benefits website which houses benefit information, HR information, and enrollment material such as “BenefitsEasy“
Although you may use one or more of the tips above, it is vital to keep the information flowing throughout the year. A fun way to do this is to pose a monthly trivia question to your staff related to the benefits and wellness programs you offer and award a prize to the person who submits the correct answer. Highlighting different features of your benefits or wellness programs each month will keep your employees engaged and informed!
If only everyone valued the same things, benefits planning would be a lot easier. If. Only.
However, most employers have five generations of employees active in the workplace who want different things. With generation gaps spanning more than 75 years, finding a one-size-fits-all benefits package can be challenging. However, there are certain things to consider to tailor employee benefits for each generation.
The Five Generations in the Workforce:
- Generation Z: 1997-2012, (5% of workforce)
- Millennials: 1981-1996, (35% of workforce)
- Generation X: 1965-1980, (33% of workforce)
- Baby Boomers: 1946-1964, (25% of workforce)
- Traditionalists or The Silent Generation: 1928-1945, (2% of workforce)
Regardless of their generation, every employee wants traditional benefits like time off, healthcare insurance, and retirement planning. To create a benefits program with multigenerational appeal, employers should first think about their employees’ shared concerns and varying needs.
One strategy for managing multiple generation is customizing benefits offerings to core demographics. For example, would your staff value on-site child-care? Would a retirement plan that highlights the need for saving early or tuition assistance be relevant for your employees? Think about who your employees are and which benefits are most likely going to support their success.
Many employees are concerned about their financial wellness. Seven out of 10 new college graduates each owe $37,000 or more. These unprecedented levels of student debt make financial concerns a primary concern for Millennials and Gen Z. Gen Xers share financial concerns as they look to pay for their children’s education. While fear of not saving enough for retirement is a concern for all age groups, it is most concerning to Baby Boomers and Traditionalists for whom retirement is around the corner.
Gen X values benefits that support better work-life balance, such as caretaker support, flex time, well-being and support and financial protection. Meanwhile, Gen Zers favor benefits that support career growth, mental health and diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and perks that relate to job security, a key concern for this generation.
While every generation faces uncertainty at different stages of life, Millennials are more likely to purchase legal insurance compared to other generations. Many Millennials started working during a recession which has greatly affected how they view their long-term careers. Millennials have adopted an “anything can happen” mentality and are willing to pay for peace of mind to be financially stable.
To handle the unexpected, health, dental, vision and life insurance are all valued traditional benefits and are especially important to Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. Some Traditionalists and Boomers may not be full-time employees. Companies employing more of this generation of workers should offer some sort of wellness benefits like gym memberships or health services.
Beyond the core offerings like health care and retirement savings plans, employers can offer a menu of non-medical voluntary benefits that employees can select based on their individual needs. Those might include legal insurance, caregiver leave, student debt assistance or tuition reimbursement, on-site child-care, pet insurance, financial counseling, accident insurance and more.
Whether a Boomer or a Gen Xer, all employees want to feel confident and informed about their healthcare decisions. Quality healthcare that is accessible and affordable is a priority for all generations. Creating a customizable benefits experience that recognizes the diversity across the multigenerational workforce will likely result in employee retention and increased job satisfaction as well as making recruiting top talent easier. By focusing on communication, the benefits mix, and understanding what is important to each generation, your company may well be on its way to a successful benefits strategy.
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.