As 2017 approaches, many employees will be setting resolutions and goals for their future health, finances and looking for how to improve their lifestyle over the next year. Also heavy on many people’s minds are how their health care may change under new President-elect Donald Trump with his proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act. It is well known that health care costs continue to rise; many employees are looking to their employers to give stability and financial comfort through voluntary benefits. As an employer, the New Year is a great time to start planning which products and services will help meet employee needs more comprehensively — to help ease their concerns and stress related to medical bills and other finances.
Below are a few options to consider when looking at adding new benefits to your offerings:
Part-time and seasonal employee benefits packages may offer some perks that your full-timers have. These packages can include benefits such as discount Rx, wellness programs or limited medical plans and more. Offering benefits to this group can help with recruitment.
Patient Advocacy Services
Many employers are offering patient advocacy services to assist employees through their health care process. This can include bill negotiation to reduce their out-of-pocket expense, doctor referrals and cost comparisons for procedures and medications.
Identity Theft Protection
Identity Theft Protection Programs include credit monitoring, fraud alert and services to help employees restore their identity and fix any damage that has been done. Many pla n tiers are available based on service a price needs.
Financial stress may not be a highly talked about issue, but some employers are starting to provide educational benefits to their employees various financial needs. Outside of 401(k)s and HSAs, services are available including student loan refinancing, debt repayment, credit score improvement and financial education for the future.
With telehealth programs, employees can consult with a doctor via phone or video for medical advice and treatment of minor illnesses with the need to leave work. This can help employers with absenteeism and reduced productivity.
The month of September is Life Insurance Awareness Month coordinated by Life Happens. This is an industry-wide campaign to educate Americans about the importance of life insurance and helping them get the coverage they need. According to the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and the Life Insurance and Market Research Association, 1 in 3 households would have immediate trouble paying living expenses if the primary wage earner died.
Life insurance has many different purposes, more than just helping loved ones handle daily expenses after a death. With life insurance policyholders can leave a legacy. Ways to do this include making a significant donation to a charity or cause, ensuring that children or grandchildren will be able to go to college and create a scholarship fund or other endowment.
There are different types of Life insurance that can be offered to employers and their employees. These include:
• Term-Life Insurance provides protection for a specific period of time, or term. Most often, you will see it offered in 10-, 15-, 20- and 30- year terms. The premium does not change throughout the term. If the insured person dies during this period, the beneficiaries receive the proceeds income tax-free. At the end of each term, the insured may renew the policy, generally with a higher premium.
• Whole Life Insurance builds value which the policy holder will know the exact cash value of your policy on each policy anniversary. The policy holder can choose to take a loan or withdrawal from the policy. However, if they choose to do so, the cash value and death benefit will decrease.
• Universal Life Insurance earns a fixed interest rate on the cash value in the policy. While the interest rate may change over time, it will never dip below a guaranteed minimum rate.
Though many employers and their employees may already have life insurance, this month is a good time to remind everyone to check on their policy to make sure it still fits their needs. Marriage, having or adopting children or other life events can greatly impact the amount of insurance needed. For those who do not already have life insurance, the first step is to get quotes on policies and choose one. Finally, even if the policy holders deem that they have plenty of coverage, they may still want to suggest looking at other policies as they may find similar coverage for less.
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) programs began in the 1940s to assist employees with alcohol problems that were hired by companies with a shortage of skilled workers during WWII. EAPs evolved in the 1970s to be a comprehensive program to address mental health, family problems, child care, elder care, stress management, legal and financial services.
Over the years, EAPs have been widely adopted by companies across the US to help their employees deal with personal problems, which can have adverse effects on their job performance, health and general well-being. EAPs provide services such as short-term counseling and referral services for employees and their household members. EAP services are funded by the employers and 80% are delivered by outside vendors who operate as for-profit companies.
EAPs help with improving employees’ behavioral health, comprising of mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. The programs provide therapy to help employees learn the coping skills to deal with depression, workplace stress and other mental health issues. These programs will help improve employee performance and employers need to show that they have their employees’ best interests in mind. According to experts, when employees are feeling their best they will have better productivity and engagement.
An estimated 43.6 million (18.1%) Americans ages 18 and up experienced some form of mental illness according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. New York-based Towers Watson & Co. found that 85% of employers of all sizes offer stress management services as a part of their EAP, but only 5% of employees choose to utilize the aid.
To help promote EAPs, companies should communicate the benefits of the programs to increase employee utilization. Due to the stigma around mental health and sickness, many people may not want to reach out for help. Employees may also be hesitant to reach out to use the program with worries about employers finding out about illness or their stresses, but they must be educated that all information is private and any transfer of information would be a HIPPA violation. As mental health issues have become more prevalent in recent years (or at least more widely publicized), companies are more likely to encourage their employees to take advantage of these great programs.
Over the last few years, more and more companies have implemented Wellness Programs as part of their benefit programs for their employees. As health care costs continue to rise, primarily due to changes imposed by the Affordable Care Act, many companies are seeing the impact on their bottom lines. The studies referenced below demonstrate a correlation between wellness programs and a reduction in health care costs, as well as evidence the programs boost morale and encourage healthy lifestyles.
Wellness Programs are a great voluntary approach to show employees that their employer is invested in their well-being. Employees take note when their management and executives take the time to show that employees do more than just fill a chair and clock in and out but understand that their lives outside of work and their health are also a priority.
Focusing on building healthy habits such as smoking cessation, exercise, clean eating and stress management, just to name a few, will result in fewer employee health claims, thereby reducing companies overall health care costs. In 2014 Harvard Business Review held a study with 20 companies and found an average annual health care cost increase of 1-2% for companies with wellness programs, compared to the 7% national average.
The 2012 Aflac WorkForces Report found that 92% of the companies with a wellness program in place recognize the effectiveness of the programs. In addition, 44% of employers agree they are able to offer lower health insurance premiums as a result of their wellness program.
Researchers recommend offering voluntary health screenings to help make employees aware of their own health. This will empower them to set goals and make choices to work towards achieving those goals. In order to motivate employees to participate, offering bonuses in the form of cash, vacation days or prizes are good ways to encourage employees to engage in the programs. If your company doesn’t offer the voluntary health screenings, you can offer bonuses for going to the doctor and getting annual check-ups and physicals.