What Employers Say About the Future of Employer-sponsored Health Benefits
By Casey Kirkeby, Strategy Consultant
Employer-sponsored health benefits have faced several threats over the past few decades, but just like hard-working employees they protect, they still endure and remain the primary method of coverage today.
One of the most impactful changes has been the introduction the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) recently published a report examining the ACA’s impact and other government health care solutions on employer-sponsored health plans. The study interviewed 26 benefits executives from various industries whose organizations covered over 1.2 million individuals and spent more than $6.5 billion on benefits in 2021. Their data reflected that both employers and employees still viewed employer-sponsored health benefits as an important feature of the employment relationship. Who would have though, right?! While this public option doesn’t guarantee ongoing success and stability, it will hopefully help shield employers from future challenges like legislative policy changes, economic difficulties and labor market shortages. Just like any good relationship, the employer/employee benefit relationship takes hard work, trust, and transparency.
As health care costs rise, employers are looking at any option to control costs. One arrangement that has been quite popular in the Lower 48 is the ICHRA (Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangement). Since it’s inception in January of 2022, many employers have adopted the ICHRA, directing their employees to private exchanges so that the employee is able to make plan design decisions for themselves apart from the traditional one-size-fits-all model. There are important considerations to take into account before an employer jumps to this model and the process is still clunky, but it can be a good fit for some employers. However, employers and employees have been slow to embrace the ICHRA because it lacks control over healthcare costs and creates additional administrative burdens that the employer has to absorb.
Another survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health concluded that most employers plan to continue offering health benefits to their employees as part of their overall compensation package. Specifically, the survey found that 92% of large employers offer health benefits and expect to continue doing so in the future, with an increasing focus on virtual health and digital solutions.
Employers are always exploring different ways to control costs, such as offering high-deductible health plans, Wellness Programs, Employee Assistance Programs surrounding mental health, and incentivizing employees to use cost-effective providers. But for now, employers remain confident in their ability to provide affordable health benefits to employees as an important attraction and retention tool.
- Published in Blog
To Wage War On Work & Wage
By Kevina “Liz” Mitchell, Employee Benefits Account Specialist
Like many of the other 10 million single mothers in America, I have one beautiful princess who my life revolves around. Yet, whether we be single parents, two parent homes, or even individuals, this past year has likely affected each of our metaphorical family orbits. Once inflation took flight last year and refused to land, I was faced with a hard decision: either leave my current job (which I love) or take on a second part-time gig. Neither choice is appealing, but I have chosen the second. A) Because again, I love my job and B) because although the job market is hawt, the jobs I do qualify for either do not pay what I need, or they just seem really sus.
I do wonder when the last time the State of Alaska updated their assistance eligibility requirement was. Though I have by all accounts a respectable white-collar job, I still struggle to pay my bills, often having to choose between buying food or paying said bills. There’s no extra. The things my daughter and I were able to enjoy before this inflationary period are now unattainable because they cost money that I simply don’t have. As she grows… so do her interests. She wants to take classes that there are no funds for. Even I would like to take a class or two to grow my interests but cannot. But, according to Alaska, I make too much money. So, help is not available to me.
My remaining option then becomes to work more hours, having even less time with my little girl who needs me, and exhausting myself more than I already am. I suppose I could don a nice dress and hunt for a rich man… but I’m anemic so I don’t have the energy for that, hahaha! I do, however, think this is an opportunity for some creativity. My mother has been pestering me to start painting again. Allegedly I have a growing fanbase on JBER that would like to purchase my art pieces. I’ve also decided that this is a wonderful time to monetize my stunningly straight teeth and infectious personality via the Food & Beverage Industry.
Either way, I know I’m going to be just fine. While this isn’t how I envisioned my life going I can’t say that it’s boring. At least I have this life and the wonderful daughter within it. I’m also pretty excited about the possibilities! Especially the part where I will have no excuses to not leave my house anymore…or maybe that part was just anxiety, I don’t know. But darn it all, it’s happening, and life goes on.
- Published in Blog
The Trendiest Benefits for 2023
This article is from RISQ Consulting’s Zywave client portal, a resource available to all RISQ Consulting clients. Please contact your Benefits Consultant or Account Executive for more information or for help setting up your own login.
There’s no denying that employees’ needs have changed over the past few years. As such, employers can offer benefits to meet evolving worker needs shaped by lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a tight labor market and rising inflation. Many workers are paying more attention to their benefits and wondering how to stretch their dollars further.
Benefits have always been crucial for attracting and retaining top performers. For 2023, employers are uniquely positioned to offer more than just a health care plan, including holistic benefits, resources and perks that today’s workers most need. This article highlights benefits that are likely to be popular in 2023.
It’s no secret that health care costs in the United States have risen sharply over the past two decades and will likely continue to increase. Health care affordability is top of mind for employers and employees alike. As employers search for ways to manage their health care costs, some are considering voluntary benefits as a strategy to round off their offerings. A rising number of organizations recognize that voluntary benefits are advantageous to employees and their families—and many come at no cost to the employer.
Consider the following popular secondary benefits employers are offering:
- Accident insurance
- Critical Illness
- Hospital indemnity insurance
- Disability insurance
- Life insurance
- Identify theft protection
- Pet insurance
Voluntary benefits can provide value to employees without raising an employer’s costs, making them powerful tools for attracting and retaining top workers.
Financial Wellness Benefits
Many employees are feeling financially strained due to record-high inflation. Not only will inflation impact employees’ decisions about benefits, but it may also result in a need for financial wellness education and guidance.
However, financial wellness benefits must go beyond only offering educational resources to be impactful. Organizations can boost their attraction to today’s workers by offering the following types of desired financial wellness benefits:
- Retirement plan options with matching contribution
- Health savings account contribution
- Flexible spending account contribution
- Financial planning assistance and coaching
- Lifestyle spending account
- Transportation benefits
- Employee discount or purchase program
- Financial reimbursements (e.g., tuition or student loan repayment plans, caregiving support funds and professional development stipends)
With any of those offerings, education will remain a necessary component to increase employee utilization. Employers are uniquely positioned to help employees understand the importance of these benefits and can help them increase their financial literacy with additional resources and tools.
Health Care Full Premium Coverage
As health care costs continue to skyrocket, some employers choose to pay 100% of employees’ monthly health care premiums. For reference, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports the monthly average for employer contributions in 2021 was 83%. This type of benefit is more common in small organizations. Fully paid health plans could be a key differentiator for workers weighing their employment options.
Family-building benefits are becoming increasingly popular with employees, as they inclusively support the unique and complex ways individuals and couples build their families. Employers are also focusing on ways to support reproductive health care. Such benefits can provide employees peace of mind as employers demonstrate their emotional and financial support for employees’ decisions to build a family.
Additionally, many employers are increasingly prioritizing parental leave. According to Mercer data, 70% of employers are already offering or planning to offer parental leave in 2023, while 53% are providing or planning to provide paid adoption leave. Adoption and surrogacy benefits are also on the rise, in addition to access to fertility treatment coverage.
To round out family-friendly benefits, large employers are also considering on-site childcare or access to backup childcare services.
Organizations can start optimizing benefits packages by evaluating employee preferences and thinking about ways to improve offerings or tailor them for their workforce. To ensure offerings and investments will resonate with employees, organizations should consider surveying them first. It’s important to keep a pulse on employees and see what they find most valuable and necessary for their overall well-being as lives continue to be impacted by COVID-19, inflation and any other personal challenges.
Reach out to RISQ Consulting to learn more about trending employee benefits.
- Published in Blog
By Kevina “Liz” Mitchell, Employee Benefits Account Specialist
Nava sat staring out of the window, some sunny Sunday. The trees had begun to shed their clothing in preparation to sleep in Winter’s embrace. The fallen leaves danced and played at the tickling of the wind. The sky was blue. And her coffee was especially delicious that day.
She cupped her coffee cup in her aged hands. It was her favorite coffee cup. Her son, now 43, had made it for her in his high school art class. It had all the potential of youth and dreaming, but in execution it bore the marks of inexperience, and the clumsiness of growing fingers. The handle was crooked and thin, useful only for aesthetics. The lip was too thick in one place and thin enough to slice her lips in another. She learned that the hard way. There was a spot opposite of the handle that was perfect, and that is where she drank from. He had painted it to look like Robin from Teen Titans.
He had watched that darned show until the DVD’s wore out, and then begged and pleaded that his parents replace them. His room was also covered in merchandise, that fortunately Nava and her husband hadn’t bought. He got good grades in school by day and slung French fries by night to fund his expensive habit.
Art was never her son’s strength, but he had tried so hard. The left eye was proportionate while the right eye was…interesting. Overall, Robin looked like he not only had a lazy eye, but that he had also ingested a cocktail of illicit drugs. Even so, her little boy had presented it to her with defiant pride at making something for his mom. She could still remember the cheap paper mache he had wrapped it in, and how he had made her sit down and listen to a prepared speech. It was a birthday gift. And it was precious.
Nava smiled at the memories, still staring out of the window. These days, her son was busy with four children, two dogs, and a wife. Running a successful business on top of that. There wasn’t much time to visit his mother, although he always made the effort to. Nava was looking forward to seeing them in a month or two. Though they lived 3 hours away, the visits were few and far between, and as she continued to age, her daughter-in-law had become more vocal about her concern that Nava lived alone.
She looked down at her face reflected in the coffee. The eyes were now wrinkled and creased, but still burned with vitality and warmth. She had the same white streak of hair on her hairline as her mother, the rest a glory of gray and salt, falling in waves around her face. Her smile lines were deep from a lifetime of smiling and laughing. Her nose, though barely noticeable was permanently crooked. Still a beautiful woman, even at the ripe age of 79.
She looked up and let her eyes wander around the interior of her home. Her late husband had built it with his own hands, and they had created a piece of heaven within those walls. After 52 years of marriage, her darling Henrich had shed his mortality, and now she lived there alone. Her son and daughter-in-law were becoming more insistent that she move in with them, and it was appealing to Nava. She loved her family tremendously, and they were admittedly all she had left. But every notch, every nail, every corner of her house was full of memories. She couldn’t bear to let them go. She couldn’t bear to forget. First steps and homecomings, the first anniversary and the 52nd. It was all too precious.
Her life had been filled with great difficulty and pain, but there was so much beauty to be found. It was all too precious to say goodbye to. Though the dimming of her mind was imperceptible and slow, a desperation to hold onto the intangible had set in, because these were Nava’s greatest treasures, these memories. Where her Henrich now lived. Where her greatest battles were won. Precious…It was all too precious.
- Published in Blog