As Health Reform Continues – Five Strategies for Employers to Consider Now

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Please welcome our guest blogger , Carolyn Lewis, CEO of the Lewis Group. Carolyn has been recognized as an industry leader whose deep insights in the healthcare marketplace and broker channels mark her as a sought-out speaker and consultant. 

  1.  Self-Funding for Smaller Companies.   Beginning in 2016, the Affordable Care Act or ACA will re-define companies with 51-99 employees as “small groups.”  This will essentially eliminate a key risk to self-funding health insurance for mid-sized organizations.  Self-funding a company group plan works by taking the medical premiums paid to a fully-insured medical plan carrier and breaking them into 3 parts:  stop loss insurance, administration, and direct payment of medical claims.  The problem hasn’t been finding stop loss policies for “healthy” self-funded plans; it’s been how to manage exposure when a few claims push the financial limits of the medical plan.   The ACA in 2016 will allow mid-sized companies to move into the fully-insured guaranteed-issue small group market.  That means a self-funded plan with high claims experience will no longer be “stuck” with significantly increased reinsurance premiums.  Some advantages of self-funding for employers are: 
    • Avoidance of ACA premium taxes that range from 1.5% to 3%.
    • Companies can create their own medical plan design and avoid some ACA requirements that apply only to fully-insured plans.
    • Access to group medical claims leads to cost savings and better wellness program impact.
    • Many employers save on annual plan cost compared to fully-insured plan premiums.

 

  1. Avoiding the ACA Cadillac Tax.  In Mercer’s 2013 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, nearly a third of large employers say that concern over the excise tax influenced health plan decisions for 2014.  In 2018, the cost of ACA’s Cadillac tax, a 40% tax on the value of medical benefits over a set threshold amount, will vary depending on the number of enrollees and the plan’s costs.  Companies likely to hit the tax threshold have time to plan for a “soft landing” by phasing in changes that will reset benefit cost a a level below the threshold.   The most common strategies from the Mercer survey are adding, or building enrollment in lower-cost consumer-driven health plans and eliminating the highest-cost plan offered today.

 

  1. Re-Thinking Dependent Coverage Strategies.  New rules have relaxed the requirement for large companies to offer dependent coverage until 2016, but the ACA definition of “dependent” affects both large and small companies.  Since a “spouse” is not included in the ACA definition of dependent, the law does not require that spouses be offered subsidized affordable coverage by large or small companies.  Unfortunately, if any employee has access to coverage that could include their spouse, that spouse is prevented from receiving subsidized coverage through a state or federal healthcare exchange marketplace.  This is known as the ACA “dependent glitch.”   Plan sponsorship strategy should now include analysis of the pros and cons of allowing spouses and/or children for small group, to “peel off” and purchase coverage on an exchange.

 

  1. Next-Generation Company Wellness Strategies.  The best way to stabilize premiums and reduce plan costs is to improve employee health and wellness.  Most large companies have some sort of wellness program in place, and implementation for smaller firms is becoming more accessible and even integrated into small-group fully-insured plan designs.  The ACA allows employers to increase the value of incentives from 20% to 30% of total plan costs, so many companies are planning to expand their programs in 2014.  The Mercer Survey indicates a shift from participatory plans to those that focus on rewarding employees for improvements on measurable health standards.  This means that wellness, as a key way to engage employees, will become more integrated with company culture and will require more structured year-round communications tied to benefits education.

 

  1. Growth in Defined-Contribution Approach & Year-Round Benefits Communication.  Traditionally, companies pay a certain percent or dollar amount towards the cost of a narrow range of medical, dental, vision, and any other ancillary plans. In a defined contribution approach, the employer provides each employee a set amount of dollars to spend on a much-expanded variety of benefit plans.  This allows employees to essentially “go shopping” to design a custom package based on their own needs.   Because the ACA has significantly increased employee interest in learning more about their benefits, many employers are shifting to the new defined benefit strategy that capitalizes on this trend to consumerism.  The ACA rules governing plan designs have also driven benefits to become more commoditized.  One way to keep a group benefit plan attractive and competitive is to expand choice and allow employees to have more control on how they put together their annual elections.  Investing in improved communication is supported by the latest annual Met Life Employee Benefit Trends Study that reports that 54% of Gen Y and 38% of Gen X employees say they need more help understanding how their benefits work and how they help meet their personal and family needs.  Responding to these trends with a defined benefit approach can offer these advantages:   
    • A more predictable, stable benefits budget.
    • Better engaged, happier employees.
    • A more competitive benefits package to recruit and keep top talent.

The Lewis Group is an award-winning team of employee benefit, HR, technology, and compensation specialists committed to delivering unique solutions that are specifically tailored to an organization’s goals.   They analyze and match businesses to exceptional brokers recruited from top agencies in California to boost in ROI on benefits spend and align with company goals for growth and profit.  CEO, Carolyn Lewis, has been recognized as an industry leader whose deep insights in the healthcare marketplace and broker channels mark her as a sought-out speaker and consultant.  She began her career as a senior executive at the innovative Sacramento non-profit now known as WellSpace Health in Sacramento.  She then worked for 10 years at a senior level for a national insurance carrier and spent 8 years as a broker/consultant both at her own company and with the highly-regarded Benefits Done Right Insurance Agency.  Carolyn earned her BS from the College of William & Mary in Virginia and her MBA from the Santa Clara University Leavey School of Business.

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Strategic Workforce Planning – Plan for Your Organization’s Future

Strategic Workforce Planning – Plan for Your Organization’s Future

Join e-VentExe on Wednesday, May 14th, for this informative webinar about Succession Planning Using the Profiles XT Report.

Are You Self-Aware Enough To “Lead By Example?”

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Our guest blogger is Lonnie Martin, Vistage Chair. For more information about Vistage, please visit http://www.vistage.com.

I wonder how many times I’ve been asked what leadership is all about?…many, many times.  My answer always includes that oft spoken yet vague cliché “leading by example” that I picked up along the way of my life and made my own.  I decided to think the other day what that phrase means beyond the obvious.

I played on a lot of sport teams in my life, and probably the first time I heard “lead by example” was from one of my coaches.  You could guess how a coach uses the phrase to mold behavior, e.g. come to practice on time, run hard to 1st base on infield hits, wear my uniform right, etc.  But the phrase stuck with me…and that’s because my leadership style has been to not ask something of an employee that wasn’t both important (in my view) and that I wasn’t willing to do myself.

Plus, when I used that phrase I also hoped my employees would embody all those attributes of myself that I considered to be my “good qualities.”

It was only much later when I realized I might also be unthinkingly setting the example of my less good traits.

In fact, we do lead by example.  People pay attention to what leaders do in ways large, small, and even very small.  The examples and patterns we purposely, or inadvertently or unconsciously, set in their eyes might be good, or less good, or even bad with respect to what’s required to operate a company, to serve customers, to interact with each other, to accomplish individual and team goals, etc.

I do indeed believe leadership is leading by example, and actually, maybe it’s only about that—what part of running a business, or department isn’t encompassed by “leading by example?”

But are you self-aware enough about how you go about your business and personal life so everybody has a chance to observe and mimic what’s important to you?  The list of things we do to set examples, and that people observe about us is endless.  Are you on time?  Do you listen well?  Are you organized or disorganized?  Are you detail oriented?  Do you follow up promptly?  Do your meetings have agendas?  How do you treat customers?  How do you deal with stress?  Etc., etc., etc. ad infinitum.

There are no right answers about the very many best practices in running a business, and different businesses may need or want practices others don’t want.  But as the leader you do need to think deeply about all those practices you believe serve the business the best, and then live all of them all the time to the best of your ability so your employees understand the basis of your expectations.  And you need to always be on the search for “better best practices” than you even know (which is one thing a Vistage CEO peer group is great at uncovering).

There’s been a long running “nature-or-nurture” debate as to whether leaders are born or can be molded/made.  My conclusion is that the best leaders are the most self-aware and think the deepest about all those individual traits (we often call that culture) and practices that a business needs to consistently practice.  And in my view, both can be learned and/or decided…we need not count on Mother Nature to randomly anoint good leaders.

If you’re not a good leader then either you haven’t thought too deeply about what cultural traits/behaviors the business needs to be successful, or your own behavior is not consistent with that culture leading to confusion among the troops.  One of the most important examples for a leader to set is to not let the organization deviate from that culture through benign neglect or compromise.

A Period of Reengineering Your Company

ImageWe have all been touched in some way by the economic downturn in our region, professionally and personally.  Many have felt the cold hand of fate grabbing at our dreams and plans for our future/ business and personal goals.  Companies that stayed open dealt with the uncertain business landscape in a variety of ways.  Some CEO’s laid off long term employees to avoid the negative spiraling bottom line results.  Other CEO’s modified positions, changed responsibilities and tried to right size the operation the best they knew how.  And, there were those CEO’s who closed their doors completely; the burden was just too large to manage.  Those days were very dark, doubtful and relentless.  I am sure many leaders sat at their desks alone and wondered, “Did I make the right decision?  Could I have done something different? Would the business outcome be different?  What if…., Where do I turn?  Who can I talk to?”

Today, hope for our business future is taking shape again.  We are seeing a resurgence of focused energy and innovation from our leaders.  It finally feels like a spring day—the sun is out and the birds are singing. People are smiling again.  However, the economic downturn has left a deep scar that may never fully become invisible.  I like to call this period of new growth a Period of Reengineering.

CEO’s have a fresh start, a new look at their organization and workforce.  They can once again begin to build a thriving and prosperous business and create a positive and engaging employee culture.  Vistage International can become that voice, that resource for executives and business owners who supports and guides them through extremely uncertain business decisions.  The time is now to reach out, seek guidance and support from a confidential, peer advisory group of CEO’s.

Vistage International brings together successful CEO’s, executives and business owners into private advisory groups.  Each group is purpose-built to help members help each other improve the performance and outcomes of their business and personal lives.  Vistage International works with each CEO to be a better leader who can make better decisions and get better results.  In fact, they have helped over 75,000 members since 1957 when they began.  And the support does not look at one dimension of a CEO’s life; the business.  Discussions also center on a person’s health and personal life—it is strongly believed that the “whole person” adds to the strategic direction of a company.  If issues are present in any of the three categories listed above, they are freely discussed inside the confidence of a member meeting.

Although peer advisory groups are a great help towards success, leadership and management trainings and assessments should not be ignored. These tools allow those in management to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses, ultimately allowing them to build upon their skills.

For more information regarding Vistage International and e-VentExe, please call Amelya Stevenson, M.A., SPHR-CA Vistage Chair and owner of e-VentExe, a full service Human Resource Consulting Firm at 916.458.5820.

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About e-VentExe

Founded in 2000 by Amelya and Craig Stevenson, e-VentExe provides businesses with strategic and compliance human resources tips and techniques, organizational effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) and overall strategic and healthy cultural influences in the workplace. We also make HR administration easy for small businesses with our eBasicHR and Compliance package. At e-VentExe, we keep the “Human” in Human Resources. Let us show our dedication to you! For more information, please visit us at www.e-ventexe.com,“LIKE” us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter! 

 

Tidbit of the Week

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Do all employees have the capability of being Creative at work? 

Bruce Nussbaum thinks so. There are 5 categories describing Creative Intelligence. Under the “Playing” category, Nussbaum describes the art of play that employs having fun and being creative in a team environment. Most Creative Intelligent people find working within a team allows them to think outside of themselves. And the discovery of how new information forms is how Creative Intelligence takes shape.

70% of Workers Are Paid to Waste Time—Every Day

70% of Workers Are Paid to Waste Time—Every Day

Interesting article that gives you suggestions on how to boost productivity. 

“The best prepa…

“The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today.” – Elbert Hubbard