By Linda Rowings
Chief Compliance Officer
United Benefit Advisors
With many employers forced to move employees to part-time schedules, send employees to exchanges, drop spouse/family coverage—or coverage altogether, and/or increase employee costs, employers can’t necessarily rely on their health benefits to attract and retain employees. With everyone trying to thread the needle on minimizing penalties, maximizing tax benefits, controlling health costs, and helping employees qualify for subsidies, let’s face it: the health plan may not be your hallmark anymore. So polices like flextime, corporate and social responsibility charters and voluntary benefits may become the cornerstones of your recruitment and retention strategy. UBA took a preliminary look at voluntary benefit trends in its Ancillary Products Survey, which indicates vast differences in voluntary benefits offered by employer size, region and industry.
Employees these days are more diverse than ever and because of this, each employee has their own unique needs. Ancillary benefits provide employers with the ability to meet these needs on a variety of levels. The first step in crafting a benefits package with voluntary or ancillary choices is knowing what others in your industry or area are offering. With comprehensive benchmarking data you can best identify cost-effective solutions that employees truly want. Auto and home insurance is a main staple in the Northeast for example. In larger companies, group term life is a must-have. Short term disability is critical in the manufacturing industry. Long term disability is most common in the retail industry and much less common in the construction/mining industry. While 2.7% of employers overall offer identity theft insurance, nearly 30% of larger employers include this in their package. Comprehensive data for your size, region and industry are the key to smart decisions.
By Josie Martinez, Senior Partner and Legal Counsel
EBS Capstone, A UBA Partner Firm
Many U.S. employers offer self-funded insurance plans, with most of them purchasing stop-loss coverage from insurance providers. Historically, most of these companies have been large employers. However, given the fact that self-funded companies could avoid many PPACA regulations, more companies, particularly those will less than 100 employees, are considering this alternative strategy. Popularity for self-funding comes at a time when employers, both small and large, are looking for more flexibility and lower costs while at the same time maintaining control in the design and financing of employee benefits. To further this cause, carriers are now providing more self-funding options for smaller groups in an effort to satisfy employers’ interests and provide their clients with creative solutions to control and lower costs.
With all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) regulations, the last thing employers want to do is worry about requirements that don’t apply. One particular regulation that doesn’t necessarily concern employers is the individual responsibility requirement (also know as the individual mandate).
And although the employer shared responsibility requirements have been delayed to 2015, the individual responsibility requirement is still scheduled to take effect in 2014. Under the individual mandate, most people residing in the U.S. will be required to have minimum essential coverage, or they will have to pay a penalty. Many individuals will be eligible for financial assistance, through premium tax credits (also known as premium subsidies), to help them purchase coverage if they buy coverage through the health insurance marketplace (also known as the exchange).
By Mick Constantinou, Advisor, Employee Benefits
Connelly, Carlisle, Fields, & Nichols, A UBA Partner Firm
Provisions under the Affordable Care Act allow health insurers to charge smokers 50 percent higher premiums than nonsmokers for new individual policies sold beginning in 2014. The question now is whether the final ruling on the tobacco surcharge will have the teeth necessary to promote healthier lifestyles.