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Topical Benefits Issues & Analysis

Engaging Consumers in Changing Health Behaviors

This article from Buck Consultants summarizes relevant concepts and findings from the fields of psychology, decision research, and social marketing and identifies best practices in developing consumer engagement to aid employers  in creating health care programs and tools to control costs and improve workforce health and productivity.

Gallup and Healthways Redefine ‘Wellness’

A February 4, 2015 article in Gallup’s Business Journal highlights a new approach to wellness advocated by Gallup and its partner, Healthways. The two have coined the term “well-being” to supplant wellness and have broadened the definition to encompass five measureable, interdependent elements.

Analysis Shows Upward Trend in U.S. Healthcare Cost Increases in 2014

In 2014, U.S. companies and their employees saw a slight uptick in the rate of U.S. healthcare cost increases, according to an analysis by Aon Hewitt.  The summary includes costs by plan type from 2010-2014, comments on managing dependent eligibility and subsidies and private health exchanges.

2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey

The 2014 Inside Benefits Communication Survey, a collaborative research effort from the National Business Coalition on Health and Benz Communications, is a national survey that explores how companies are making investments in benefits communications and the return on those efforts.  The survey’s data was collected from more than 300 high-level business professionals and provides greater insight into how companies are planning and implementing benefits communication.

Surge in Employees’ Share of Health Costs

An article from the Society of Human Resource Management dissects a 2014 UBA Health Plan Survey and discusses how employers continue to shift more of the financial burden of health coverage to employees through out-of-pocket cost increases and reductions in family benefits.

The Fidelity Investments Millennial Money Study: Facts, Figures and Findings

The results of Fidelity’s “Millennial Money Study”, conducted in April 2014, show many Millennials are fully engaged in their financial futures, and some of the results of its study challenge the common stereotypes about how this generation approaches planning for the future.

American Benefits Council: A 2020 Vision–Flexibility and the Future of Employee Benefits

The American Benefits Council has introduced its strategic plans for health and retirement policy, providing 46 specific regulatory recommendations for Congress to consider in easing the burdens on employees, employers and government agencies.  The strategy suggests the advocacy group will work to achieve public policy reform that more closely unifies healthcare and retirement outcomes.

Private Exchanges and the Rise of Retail Health Coverage

This report from PricewaterhouseCooper’s Health Research Institute is based on data from the organization’s 2014 Health and Well-Being Touchstone Survey. (A link to the full survey is also available on this site under Benefits Research & Surveys.)  The report discusses the four types of private exchanges and names the major players in each. It also illustrates factors that influence a company’s interest in moving to a private exchange and touches on the pros and cons of such a move.

An Examination of Controlling Health Care Costs Through Limited Network Insurance Plans

This September 2014 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at the effect of narrow networks on cost and quality by examining Massachusetts GIC, the insurance plan for state employees, which introduced a major financial incentive to choose limited network plans for one group of enrollees and not another. The report finds that overall spending decreased among those enrolled in narrow networks, although spending for primary care actually rose.

Eighth Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond

Findings from Prudential Insurance’s 8th Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond show that  employers are taking a multichannel approach to meet the needs and preferences of their employees.   Some of the more traditional methods are still reporting in the top five, but there has also been a jump in employers reporting great success with newer communication vehicles.   The survey was conducted online  in August, 2013, and included three distinct groups:  employers, employees and benefits consultants and brokers.

“Crisis” Management: Uncertainty and the Workplace

This August 2014 Issue Brief summarizes EBRI’s 74th policy forum held in Washington, DC, on May 15, 2014. The symposium featured experts who examined the current and projected future of retirement readiness, employment-based healthcare, and the role that approaches like financial wellness can play in alleviating the strains of uncertainty.

Hobby Lobby Decision Breaks New Ground

This alert from Nixon Peabody covers the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in the Hobby Lobby case.  Read background on the case, the ruling and the far reaching effects for the future.

Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2013

This July 2014 report based on survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board in September 2013 captures a snapshot of the financial and economic well-being of U.S. households. The survey also examined the issues they face, their recovery from the Great Recession and perceived risks to their financial stability.

HSA Savings: Potential Accumulations

A July 2014 analysis in EBRI’s Notes shows that a person contributing for 40 years to an HSA could save up to $360,000 if the rate of return was 2.5 percent, $600,000 if the rate of return was 5 percent, and nearly $1.1 million if the rate of return was 7.5 percent, and if there were no withdrawals.

Private Insurance Exchanges Continue to Evolve

This article by Carol Harnett appeared in the April 9, 2014, edition of HR Executive Online. The Q&A format makes for a good “primer” on the topic of private exchanges and explores issues that employers should consider before making the jump to this new model for group benefits.

Incentives to Shape Health Behaviors

This February 2014 article published in the Journal of Workplace Behavioral Health examines the use of incentives to shape health behavior and looks at the differences between “patient-centered” and “person-centered” approaches. The authors conclude that while it isn’t possible to create incentives that will be appealing to everyone, a person-centered approach would  allow individuals to self-match to incentives and engage them in the decision-making process. This could lead to better outcomes.

Explanation of the Affordable Care Act’s December 2013 and January 2014 FAQs

This Aon Hewitt Bulletin discusses the provisions in the December 19, 2013, and January 9, 2014 FAQs released by HHS, DOL and Treasury in connection with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Topics covered include cost sharing, wellness, preventive services and the transitional reinsurance fee.

Healthcare Cost Variations – A Comparison of 24 U.S. Urban Areas

This August 2013 study by the Benefits Services Group and HCTrends examined the cost-per-episode of providing care in 22 different medical practice areas across 24 urban areas in the United States and also looked at the efficacy of treatment. The differences among the cities highlight how difficult it is to make generalizations about costs and effectiveness of medical treatment.

PPACA’s Out-of-Pocket Maximums and Preventive Services

This analysis from Towers Watson examines the implications of the 20 questions included in the DOL’s Frequently Asked Questions #15.  The analysis focuses on out-of-pocket limits for 2014, preventive services without cost sharing and changes that may be necessary for most plans in order to be compliant.

Impact of ACA’s 90-Day Enrollment Waiting Period Rules

This March 2013 commentary from Aon Hewitt discusses the ACA’s proposed regulations limiting enrollment waiting periods for group health plans to no more than 90 days. The article also highlights the fact that after 2014 there will no longer be a need to issue HIPAA Creditable Coverage Certificates.

A Review of the Workplace Wellness Market

This study of employer-sponsored wellness programs was prepared for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor in conjunction with provisions under ACA that expand the use of incentives in nondiscriminatory programs. It is based on a review of the current literature on the topic and summarizes typical program components, the prevalence of wellness programs among employers and their impact, and the use and effect of financial incentives in these programs.

Are Private Health Insurance Exchanges the Wave of the Future?

This EBRI Issue Brief examines the growing interest among employers in private health insurance exchanges as an alternative to the traditional model of employer-sponsored healthcare benefits. The article provides a good explanation of how private exchanges might operate.