Summary of the 2019 Employer Health Benefits Annual Survey

Each year, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust conduct a survey to examine employer-sponsored health benefit trends. This article summarizes some of its main points. Request a full summary from Arista Consulting Group for more details.

Plan Enrollment Trends

  • Preferred provider organizations (PPOs)—44% of workers covered
  • HDHP/SOs—30% of workers covered
  • Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)—19% of workers covered
  • Point-of-service (POS) plans—7% of workers covered

Health Insurance Premiums

The average premium rose 4% for single coverage and 5% for family coverage—around $7,188 and $20,576 respectively.

Worker Contributions

In dollar amounts, workers contributed $1,242 and $6,015 toward their premiums for single coverage and family coverage, respectively.

Self Funding

Similar to the previous year, 17% of workers with small employers are elected in plans either partially or entirely self-funded, compared to 80% of workers with large employers.

Contact us for more information on benefit offerings or to learn what you can do to control your health care costs.

 

 

It’s That Time: Flu Season Is Here

The arrival of the fall and winter months signals many things, including the beginning of flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity peaks between December and February.

Flu Symptoms

Seasonal influenza can cause serious complications for people of any age, but children and the elderly are more vulnerable. The flu is most often associated with the sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, congestion, cough and sore throat. Most people recover within a few days to less than two weeks. Occasionally, complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or other infections can occur.

Flu Prevention

The flu vaccine is your best chance of preventing the illness. Currently, the CDC recommends that anyone over 6 months of age receive an annual flu vaccine.

While there are many different types of flu viruses, the vaccine protects you against the viruses that experts believe will be most common that year.

In addition to getting your annual vaccine, here are some other tips to stay healthy this season:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and stay away from others when you feel under the weather.
  • Wash your hands often using soap and warm water to protect against germs.
  • Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active and drink plenty of water to keep your immune system strong.
  • Manage your stress and eat a nutritious diet rich in healthy grains, fruits, vegetables and fiber.

The Pros and Cons of Incentive Pay

It’s no secret that top talent expects to be paid top dollar. According to PayScale, 25% of employees said that compensation was their main motivation for quitting a job. Moreover, compensation is consistently reported as one of the top motivators for employees.

That’s where incentive pay can be beneficial. Incentive pay is a type of compensation awarded to employees for results achieved. One common example of incentive pay is commission, where sales professionals are paid a proportion of each sale they make.

Incentive pay programs can be designed in a variety of ways, but their ultimate goal is to encourage and reward employees for working hard and delivering results.

Incentive Pay Advantages

With incentive pay, employees who work hard to produce results will receive the compensation. As such, employees will be motivated to deliver results and go above and beyond in hopes of receiving incentive pay. Typically, productivity and employee engagement will increase too.

Incentive Pay Drawbacks

With incentive pay programs, there’s a risk for increased competition among employees that can lead to resentment and a cutthroat workplace culture. Additionally, as employees push themselves in hopes of receiving incentive pay, they may be putting themselves at risk of burnout.

Making the Decision

Incentive pay programs aren’t right for every organization. Contact Arista Consulting Group to see if this type of program would be right for your company.

Medicare Part D Deadline: What you need to know.

Each year, Medicare Part D requires group health plan sponsors to disclose to individuals who are eligible for Medicare Part D and to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) whether the health plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable. Plan sponsors must provide the annual disclosure notice to Medicare-eligible individuals before Oct. 15, 2019.

What is this notice?

This notice is important because Medicare beneficiaries who are not covered by creditable prescription drug coverage and do not enroll in Medicare Part D when first eligible will likely pay higher premiums if they enroll at a later date. Although there are no specific penalties associated with this notice requirement, failing to provide the notice may be detrimental to employees.

What do employers need to do?

Employers should confirm whether their health plans’ prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable and prepare to send their Medicare Part D disclosure notices before Oct. 15, 2019. To make the process easier, employers often include Medicare Part D notices in open enrollment packets.

Resources

CMS has provided model disclosure notices for employers to use. Employers are not required to use the model notices from CMS. However, if the model language is not used, a plan sponsor’s notices must include certain information, including a disclosure about whether the plan’s coverage is creditable and explanations of the meaning of creditable coverage and why creditable coverage is important.

 

 

Don’t Let These Devices Steal Your Sleep

If you have trouble falling asleep, your phone may be to blame. Researchers at Harvard found that using your phone, or any electronic device, before going to bed can derail your sleep schedule and prevent a good night’s sleep.

More specifically, using your electronic device before bed can disrupt your body’s REM sleep cycle and production of melatonin, a sleep promoting hormone.

To reduce the sleep-stealing effects of electronic devices:

  • Check your device’s settings for a “nighttime” mode, which adjusts the screen lighting to promote sleep.
  • Refrain from using your phone for at least an hour before bed.
  • Set your device’s sound settings to “silent” so that you won’t be woken up by texts or emails while you’re trying to sleep.
  • Try reading a book or meditating to relax before bed instead of using your phone or watching TV.

Hold on to Talent With Stay Conversations

Some people think employment is all about the money, but they’re wrong.

For many, it’s about the opportunities. In fact, Gallup cites “lack of development and career growth” as the number one reason employees leave their workplace.

Employees expect some development opportunities, so ignoring this outright can quickly lead to an exodus. How can you ensure you’re offering suitable opportunities to keep your employees happy? “Stay conversations” are a good way to start.

What They Are

Stay conversations are ongoing, informal meetings between employees and their supervisors. They are intended to provide the employee time to discuss their motivations and attitudes toward their job.

In other words, you’re checking in with employees to make sure they feel fulfilled and working together to find growth opportunities.

Questions you’d ask in a stay conversation might include: What about your work is most exciting? What aspect of your job are you most passionate about? Do you feel like you are getting the recognition you deserve? What are some of your career goals?

Planning for Them

Stay conversations should be informal, but they should also be scheduled in advance, so as to not startle the employee.

They should also be ongoing to show that you truly care about employee growth.

Don’t wait until employees are halfway out the door. Start having these conversations right away!

Open Enrollment: What’s Changing in 2020?

To prepare for open enrollment, plan sponsors should be aware of the legal changes affecting the design and administration of their plans for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2020. Employers should review their plan documents to confirm that they include these required changes.

In addition, any changes to a health plan’s benefits for the 2020 plan year should be communicated to plan participants through an updated summary plan description (SPD) or a summary of material modifications (SMM).

Health plan sponsors should also confirm that their open enrollment materials contain certain required participant notices, when applicable—for example, the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC). There are also some participant notices that must be provided annually or upon initial enrollment.

Important Notices

  • Annual CHIP notice
  • Medicare Part D creditable coverage notice
  • Notice of grandfathered status (if applicable)
  • Annual notice regarding coverage requirements for mastectomy-related benefits (WHCRA notice)

Don’t wait any longer to review your plans. Contact Arista Consulting Group for a full list of 2020 plan changes and requirements.

Hospitals to Publish Retail Prices Under a New Proposed Rule

In July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) proposed rules that would require all Medicare-participating hospitals to post their negotiated prices for standard health care services.

The proposed rule is intended to increase pricing transparency and help consumers understand the charges they may incur before receiving care.

These are just proposed rules at the moment, which means no changes will be made effective until the rules are finalized. The agency is currently asking for comments on the proposed rule. The deadline for submitting comments is Sept. 27, 2019.

We will continue to monitor and keep you updated on these developments.

The Best Way to Boost Your Physical and Mental Well-being

A recent study published in Scientific Reports revealed that spending 120 minutes a week outdoors can improve your health and psychological well-being. Remember, well-being refers to feeling good and living both safely and healthily. And, the concept of well-being can have implications on your overall quality of life, health and happiness.

What are the benefits of spending time outside?

Exercising in nature has been proven to improve one’s mental and physical health. Being outside also helps to promote higher vitamin D levels, a vitamin the body makes when skin is directly exposed to the sun. Many people are deficient in vitamin D, so exercising outside can be a great way to correct that.

In addition, outdoor activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, boost immunity and lower stress. Exercising outside can feel less routine than working out in a gym.

What counts as spending time outdoors?

Visiting town parks, green spaces, woodlands and beaches all count as spending time outdoors. Here are two simple activities that you can do outside:

  1. Walking or hiking—Hiking and walking have been proven to improve heart health and can help you maintain a healthy waistline.
  2. Riding your bike—Riding a bike helps improve balance and endurance, and it’s an exercise that’s easy on your joints.

Be Prepared

Before you head outside and start improving your health today, you need to make sure that you’re properly prepared. This means that you should pack water, first-aid supplies, sun protection and, if you’re spending a significant amount of time outside, a healthy snack to help you refuel.

Reasonable Accommodation: What might you be responsible for?

What kinds of accommodations need to be made for adults with disabilities?

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions. Reasonable accommodation also includes adjustments to ensure that a qualified individual with a disability has the same rights and privileges in employment as employees without disabilities. Some types of reasonable accommodation include:

  • Alternative working schedules
  • Reassignment to a different position
  • Provision of interpreters
  • Physical accessibility and usability
  • Alteration of equipment and/or provision of different equipment
  • Restructuring of job duties
  • Modified examinations, training sessions or policies

Leave from work beyond FMLA leave entitlement may be considered a reasonable accommodation.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), reasonable accommodations are to be determined by an “interactive process.”

The interactive process should consist of an open dialogue between the employer and the qualified individual about what types of reasonable accommodation(s) can be made to ensure that the applicant or employee can perform the essential functions of the position.

Employers should document the interactive process to demonstrate good faith efforts in providing reasonable accommodation(s) to any qualified individuals, should claims of discrimination arise.

Reasonable accommodations must be provided to candidates and employees, unless the accommodation would cause the employer “undue hardship,” as defined under the ADA.

Employers are prohibited from retaliating against a candidate or employee who has requested reasonable accommodations.

Gen Z is Coming: Are You Prepared?

Soon, Generation Z—those born between 1996 and 2010—will be entering the workforce. Is your company somewhere they can thrive? Is it somewhere they would even want to work?

If you want to attract this budding workforce, you need to understand Gen Zers’ motivations.

For instance, Gen Zers have never known a life without technology. This means if your business still touts outdated tech, Gen Zers likely won’t give you a second thought.

Consider areas where your company’s tech falls short and brainstorm how you can improve. Getting new hardware may be sufficient, but another option is hiring a tech expert to conduct an audit and make suggestions. (Hint: This might be a good job for a Gen Zer.)

Beyond prizing their tech, Gen Zers also value their company’s culture. Like their millennial predecessors, Gen Zers want vibrant, collaborative spaces—think bright colors, open workspaces and natural light.

However, Gen Zers also identify as scrappier than millennials. They have a “self-made” attitude and value healthy competition.

With that in mind, your workplace and culture should accommodate some isolated spaces for Gen Zers to hunker down and get things done.

For more tips on attracting this valuable workforce, talk to one of our experts!

Making Emotional Intelligence Work for You

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is the ability to understand and manage your emotions, as well as others’. It’s similar to empathy, but the ability to manage the emotions effectively is key.

Many businesses are flocking to high-EQ individuals for their attractive leadership style.

Leaders with high EQ are able to communicate their feelings effectively, look at a situation from all perspectives and maintain a positive outlook regardless of the situation.

Do We Need EQ Here?

Effective managers tend to have higher EQ than others, so you may already have leaders like them on board. They have good people skills, can self-regulate and lead by example. Managers who operate by more authoritarian practices get a much different view of their workplaces than high-EQ leaders.

Authoritarian managers are identified by their lack of self-awareness, making them hard to confide in. You want employees to feel comfortable talking to their managers.

If your managers have high EQ, they will likely have a better rapport with employees and be able to manage their needs more effectively.

Most importantly, fostering high EQ invites more democratic corporate management, which is critical for effectively managing differences in opinion. You don’t have a shouting match when your leaders are able to have a mature discourse.