Employee Health Benefits
Employee enrollment in company health plans increases
Wednesday, 03 August 2011 16:00Research by consulting firm Mercer indicates that employee enrollment in company healthcare plans has increased by an average of 2 percent in the year since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed, extending coverage for dependents to include employees' children up to the age of 26. Almost a quarter of companies surveyed indicated that enrollment had risen by 3 percent or more.
“Employers have already been facing average increases in per-employee health benefit cost of about 6 percent annually for the past six years,” said Tracy Watts, a Mercer consultant. “Adding enrollment growth on top of that puts a real strain on their budgets.”
Another provision of the law requires employers to enroll full-time employees when hired or when they meet eligibility requirements, which is projected to cause another 2 percent rise in enrollment.
This change and several others will take effect in 2014, and many employers are anticipating the possibility of a cost increase, although 15 percent indicated they were already in compliance with the new provisions an their costs would be unaffected. Less than 10 percent said they were likely to drop coverage due to the changes.
Many companies have recently begun investing in employee wellness programs and initiatives meant to increase overall staff health, since promoting well-being may decrease insurance and overall costs by emphasizing wellness and preventive measures.
Improved employee health benefits may reduce turnover
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 16:00As the cost of living creeps up, employees may be valuing their pay and benefits more than other job aspects, according to the Chartered Institute of Personal Development's (CIPD) recent Employee Outlook survey.
The research revealed that employees name their health benefits and salaries as the number one reason they would consider moving to another job, with 54 percent citing monetary reasons as a motivator to change companies.
By contrast, last year's survey revealed that the top reason for moving to another position was job satisfaction.
This shift in motivating factors may also reflect an increase in workplace stress.
“Besides being more likely to want to leave for more pay elsewhere, workers with financial difficulties are also more likely to report being under stress at work and are typically less satisfied with their jobs," said CIPD spokesperson Ben Willmott.
He added that chronic stress can potentially increase employee absenteeism as well as harm a worker's mental and physical health.
Results of this survey suggest that employee wellness programs aimed at reducing workplace stress and improving staff health may help retain workers.
Employee health benefits may be key to retention for small businesses
Monday, 25 July 2011 16:00Employees who work for small companies tend to choose such workplaces for various reasons, including a more personal environment and the opportunity to watch a business grow. A new MetLife study reveals that employee health benefits are also an attractive factor for these workers.
The survey found that 72 percent of small business employees who felt they had good benefits also felt a strong loyalty to their employer. Conversely, half of small business staffers who thought their perks were inadequate expressed a desire to change jobs.
"One area small businesses may overlook is whether their benefits programs are designed as strategically as they could be. It is not necessarily about spending more, but optimizing offerings to attain three top objectives: employee retention, increased productivity, and cost control," said Jeffrey Tulloch, VP of U.S. Business at MetLife.
The study also revealed that there has been an 18 percent decline in employee loyalty in the small business sector between 2008 and 2010, from 62 percent to 44 percent of workers reporting a strong sense of loyalty.
Improved employee health benefits may lead to a healthier staff, which could, in turn, improve employee performance and reduce workplace stress.
Experts look at Massachusetts as the canary in the coal mine for healthcare reform
Monday, 18 July 2011 16:00In 2006, the Massachusetts state legislature enacted healthcare reform which mandated that all residents have health insurance, much like the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) aims to do for all Americans.
As a result, experts at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health researched how the legislation has thus far affected healthcare coverage in the state as a possible way to gauge if PPACA may do the same for the country as a whole.
The scientists found that since the 2006 reform, the rate of insured individuals has risen by 7.6 percent. Additionally, 6.6 percent more Massachusetts residents have primary care physicians, and 4.8 percent fewer are foregoing needed care, compared to rates before the healthcare reform.
However, authors of the study noted that the national outcome may not mirror that of Massachusetts given Republican opposition to PPACA, making reform implementation more difficult.
Impending reform may also have implications for organizations and their employee health benefit policies, as they are faced with "play or pay" mandates which may require them to pay penalties if they choose to not offer healthcare benefits.
Organizations are engaging employees in making healthcare coverage decisions
Wednesday, 22 June 2011 16:00As healthcare coverage and costs become a growing issue in the U.S. because of impending reform, organizations are letting workers make more decisions, according to a study by Michigan consulting firm McGraw Wentworth.
Among businesses that have managed to keep healthcare costs low, many choose to adopt consumer driven health plans (CDHP) and focus on employee wellness in order to prevent rising costs, rather than shifting the cost onto staff.
Additionally, the survey revealed that many companies still favor preferred provider organizations (PPOs) or health maintenance organizations (HMOs), since they offer competitive costs and a plan centered around employee wellness.
Organizations are also turning to more flexible prescription plans.
"Employers can hold healthcare benefit costs in check by engaging employees. A leading consumer strategy is three-tier prescription drug co-pay program, where employees choose from either a generic, formulary brand or non-formulary brand drug," said Rebecca McLaughlan, managing director at McGraw Wentworth.
While the 2014 healthcare reform will provide more insurance options to individuals, only 8 percent of respondents said they would discontinue offering employer-sponsored employee health benefits as a result.
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