Spencer’s Benefits Reports NetNews – October 28, 2016

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October 28, 2016

 

Next Administration will have power to change employee benefits landscape

The next President will have the power to change the employee benefits landscape, and several employee benefits issues have been important during this year’s election, according to a recent survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP). The 2016 Election: Employee Benefits Issues survey contains responses from 486 human resource and benefits professionals and examined several campaign issues impacting American workplaces….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Cost-sharing reductions help low-income families avoid catastrophic health spending levels

Cost-sharing reductions (CSRs) are vital to ensuring that U.S. workers are able to afford health coverage. The Commonwealth Fund (CWF) found that about 57 percent of those enrolled in marketplace coverage have reduced cost-sharing in their plans, which can cause deductibles to be as low as $246 for a silver plan….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

White House celebrates ACA, Republicans refuse to join party

The uninsured rate for people of all ages has dropped to lowest level on record—8.6 percent—in large part due historic coverage gains achieved by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Obama Administration announced in addition to coverage gains, the law has reduced costs, inefficiencies, and put health care spending at a level $2.6 trillion lower than it was projected to be at this time without the ACA. In a separate announcement, Republican lawmakers dismissed the Administration’s praise for the law, calling President Obama a “Cheerleader-In-Chief.” The Republican Lawmakers also promoted a policy that they call “A Better Way.” The announcements came out ahead of the upcoming open enrollment period which runs from November 1, 2016 through January 31, 2017….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

October 27, 2016

 

Informal discussion letter sheds light on employer-sponsored wellness program incentives

The EEOC has released a resource document that, while not considered a formal Commission opinion, nonetheless clarifies the lawful boundaries under the ADA for incentives that employers may offer in wellness programs. Released earlier this month, an informal discussion letter signed by Acting Associate Legal Counsel Christopher J. Kuczynski responds to two issues raised by a member of the public….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Employees are satisfied with their personal health plan, but dissatisfied with health care system as a whole

While over one-half of all workers say they are not satisfied with the U.S. health care system as a whole, they are considerably more positive about their own health plan, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). The 2016 Health and Voluntary Workplace Benefits Survey (WBS) found that 60 percent of American workers rate the nation’s health care system as poor or fair. Just 15 percent rate it as good or excellent. However, almost one-half rate their own plan as good or excellent.…

(Read Intelliconnect) »

October 26, 2016

Employer could have understood employee’s communications to be accommodation request

Reversing the grant of summary judgment against a discharged employee’s federal and state-law disability discrimination claims, a divided Eighth Circuit panel ruled that even though she did not explicitly request a reasonable accommodation for the recertification requirement that led to her discharge, a jury could conclude that her employer should have understood the communications she did make were an accommodation request. The employer was aware of her condition, her surgery, and her ongoing pain, as well as the limitations she experienced because of the condition and she notified it that she could not obtain the necessary certification until she had completed physical therapy. Judge Colloton dissented….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

CDHP enrollees experience lower overall health care costs

Individuals enrolled in consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs) have lower health care costs and lower health care utilization than PPO plan members, according to research from the Health Care Services Corporation (HCSC). The analysis tracked more than 400,000 Blue Cross and Blue Shield members in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, and analyzed health care costs for the first year following migration to a CDHP and continued to monitor those usage patterns for three years after migration….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

$272 billion tied up in accumulated private sector vacation time

The uncertain vacation culture created by America’s managers has led to $272 billion in accumulated vacation time sitting on the balance sheets of U.S. businesses this year, according to a recent Project: Time Off report, The
High Price of Silence: Analyzing the Business Implications of an Under-Vacationed Workforce. Private sector vacation liability has surged 21 percent in the last year. The report, based on survey research by GfK and a review of 10-K financial statements by Oxford Economics, analyzes management’s unique time off viewpoints, pressures, and privileges to uncover contradictions that contributed to 658 million unused vacation days in 2015….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

October 25, 2016

 

Enforcement relief extended for student health plans that might violate ACA

The Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (Departments) have extended enforcement relief on the application of certain provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) to premium reduction arrangements offered in connection with student health plans. Pending further guidance, the Departments will not assert that a premium reduction arrangement offered by an institution of higher education fails to satisfy Public Health Service Act (PHSA) Sec. 2711 or Sec. 2713 if the arrangement is offered in connection with student health coverage (insured or self-insured). The original relief was provided in EBSA Technical Release 2016-01 on February 5, 2016….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

PBGC updates premium rates for 2017

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has updated the premium rates for 2017. The per-participant flat premium rate for plan years beginning in 2017 is $69 for single-employer plans (up from a 2016 rate of $64). For multiemployer plans, the rate is $28 (up from $27 in 2016). The increase in the single-employer rate was provided in The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (P.L.113-67). The increase in the multiemployer rate is the result of indexing….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Leadership support, workplace culture, and effective communication are the keys to successful wellness plans

Successful wellness plans have three things in common: leadership support, workplace culture, and an effective communications strategy, according to data from the HERO Health and Well-Being Best Practices Scorecard. The Scorecard, produced in collaboration with Mercer, also found that a high score correlated with a lower employee attrition rate….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

October 24, 2016

 

Annual survey finds enrollment in consumer-directed health plans jumps nearly 22 percent despite increase in plan costs

Among employer-sponsored health insurance plans, consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) continue to increase in popularity even though they are offering less savings than a year ago, according to the 2016 Health Plan Survey from United Benefit Advisors (UBA). UBA finds 26.4 percent of all U.S. employees are now enrolled in CDHP plans, an increase of 21.7 percent from last year and nearly 70 percent from five years ago. Conversely, CDHP plan costs have risen 2 percent from last year. So while they are still 3.5 percent less costly than the average plan, they offered more savings in 2015 when they were 5.6 percent less than the average plan….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Treasury officials highlight upcoming ACA-related guidance projects

Treasury Department officials spoke at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Health and Welfare Benefit Plans National Institute in Washington, D.C. on October 6 and 7, 2016. The officials previewed some guidance projects related to the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Health and Welfare Benefit Plans National Institute was sponsored by the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits….

(Read Intelliconnect) »