FMLA Expansion Under Coronavirus Response Act

When President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act into law in mid-March, employers with fewer than 500 employees became responsible for providing paid leave to certain employees through Dec. 31, 2020.

The benefit extends to employees unable to work or telework due to the need for leave to care for a son or daughter under the age of 18 that has been impacted by the closing of a school or place of care as a result of a federal, state or local emergency declaration. According to the law, the first 10 days of this leave may be unpaid but provided with pay after 10 days at a rate no lower than two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay. Paid leave is not to exceed $200 per day or $10,000 in aggregate and employees cannot be required to use available paid time off before receiving the benefit. This expansion applies to employers with fewer than 50 employees even though they are not currently subject to FMLA.

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What Makes a Health Plan “High Quality”?

healthplanA recent survey by a data analytics firm found that benefits objectives often vary based on company size. Results showed that while smaller companies were focused on increasing employee productivity, mid-range employers were more concerned with employee satisfaction levels. Very  large employers identified employee health and well-being as their main objective.

One interesting finding was that regardless of objectives, a high percentage of employers expressed concern that their health benefits were falling behind those of industry peers. If you share that concern, be aware that even though expectations vary by industry and workforce demographics, the days of doing things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” are over.

Stay Open to New Ideas

Top workplaces are committed to innovation in every part of their operation and health benefits are no exception. By self-funding, most use claims data to respond to member needs and take advantage of new opportunities. Health concierge services, price transparency tools, bundled pricing and the trend to low or no deductibles and copays are just a few of the ways health plans are innovating to rein in rising costs and help employees get the care they need – important objectives of a high quality health plan.

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Support for Caregivers

caregivingAccording to a new Harvard University study, 73% of employees surveyed are caring for a child, parent or friend. More importantly, 80% of those admit that caregiving has had a negative impact on their productivity at work and kept them from doing their best work. Employers are beginning to take a more proactive role in helping employees balance these priorities by shaping their benefit programs to accommodate their needs. We’ll take a closer look at some of the steps being taken in our next newsletter.

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Flexibility Means Retention

employer-planResearch reported by the Execu Search Group shows that flexibility may very well be the key to keeping millennials engaged. Allowing more vacation time, better training and a more flexible work schedule, including the ability to work at home when needed, are keys that will make young people happier and more productive. The SHRM says that more companies are offering these benefits in order to retain young workers in today’s competitive labor market.

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Employers Investing More in Benefits

stethescope for healthcareHealth and wellness are integral to employee performance, which helps explain why employers are investing more in their employee benefit offerings.

In June of 2018, the average cost of benefits rose by 2.9%, while wage costs rose by 2.7%, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Also on the rise is paid leave, which has seen a 4% cost per employee increase since 2017. This includes paid parental leave, which allows time off for a birth, adoption or foster placement of a new child.

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Costs to Rise 9%

levelfundingThe global cost of employee healthcare benefits is expected to rise by 9.1% this year according to research by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson. Hospital and inpatient services, many of which are tied to treating chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and respiratory illnesses, are driving the cost increases worldwide.

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Make 2016 Your Best Benefits Year Ever!

2016With the Supreme Court decisions and regulatory challenges of 2015 behind us, it’s time to catch your breath and resolve to take better control of your health care benefit plan. Here are a few things to think about as you contemplate the New Year.

Consider Self-Funding – According to a recent survey by PwC, two-thirds of companies employing 500 to 1,000 were self-funded in 2015, up from 59% in 2014. After trying to cope with the ACA, many smaller organizations have adopted partial self-funding and level-funded designs. If it’s been a while since you’ve examined self-funding, we can help you compare the latest options at no cost or obligation.

Look at TeleHealth – Many companies, large and small, have added telehealth to their health care plans in order to provide plan members with easier access to care. Email, smart phones and video physician consults are being used with increasing frequency to bring patients and physicians together in more cost efficient settings. While telehealth may not be appropriate in all cases, it may be just the thing for today’s busy lifestyles.

Employee Well Being – Concerns about the impact of chronic disease on plan costs and employee well being have encouraged more and more employers to introduce worksite wellness. From various forms of health promotion to disease management, these programs can foster better health, help prevent chronic disease and ensure appropriate medical treatment for those with chronic conditions. To learn more or to determine what type of wellness program can impact your cost drivers, talk to your TPA.

To Network or Not – If providers in your area are comfortable with pricing tied to an index such as Medicare, reference based or “cost plus” pricing is an alternative that can deliver significant savings and true cost transparency. Depending on the makeup of your group and your community, direct contracting with a hospital or provider group could also be a win-win. In certain areas, these options are proving more effective at containing costs than traditional PPO networks. Still looking for that one good idea? Give members a benefit statement to illustrate the value of compensation and benefits in easy to understand terms. Add in a few wellness reminders and you’ve taken one step to extend communication beyond open enrollment.

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