Tag Archives: Strategy

Is it Time for a Benefits Administration Technology Solution?

January 30, 2019

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The benefits you offer your employees are valuable.

Your benefits package is also a key factor when attracting – and keeping – top talent. When employees aren’t engaged in their benefit offerings, it can lead to costly turnover and job dissatisfaction. But there is some good news. When it seems like your employees are dissatisfied with their benefits, you may not need to offer richer benefits; you just need to communicate your benefits more effectively.

To reach the modern employee, employers must adapt. Technology is now a critical component in benefits communication.

But with so many technology solutions available, where do you start? MMA can help narrow down your choices by performing a needs assessment specific to your organization to provide you a short list of benefit administration systems that could fit your requirements. Some of the advantages of a benefits administration system can include:

Employee Engagement and Education – You work hard to provide the right benefit choices to your employees – so you want to ensure they have the information they need before, during, and after enrollment. By engaging the employee – you are helping them understand how their benefits fit together and recognize the value of their total benefits package.  MMA can assist in finding the right system for your company that your employees can view benefit education, enroll in their benefits, & provides a confirmation of coverage back after enrollment decisions are made. This will allow your employees to make successful, informed benefit decisions.

Streamlining the Enrollment Process – Technology is playing a growing role in benefits enrollment – and flexible enrollment solutions are more important than ever! Innovative technology solutions make enrollment swift, simple, & successful. You will be able to provide a single source system that allows your employees to enroll in all your benefits – medical, dental, vision, core ancillary benefits, & voluntary worksite products.

Attracting and Retaining Top Talent – Moving into 2019 employees desire to use their phones, computers, & tablets to obtain information about everything! Show them that your company is here to meet their needs from a benefits and communication strategy. Employees that understand their benefits and have easy and informed access to them will appreciate your willingness to provide them with a top tier benefits package and this will in turn create a positive work environment and loyal employees.

Reducing your HR staff’s Time Spent on Benefits Administration – Benefits administration can be time consuming and burdensome for your HR team. Utilizing technology to help free up time for your HR team will allow them to focus on other pressing, important HR activities and be more effective. A technology solution can drive tangible improvements to your day to day business. Some examples of this can be removing paper enrollments, implementing real time evidence of insurability decision making tools, & reduced questions from employees.

In summary – technology moves quickly and communicating your benefits can be difficult, so let a benefits administration system that is focused on streamlining your benefit education and enrollment work for you and your HR team. MMA has a consulting team focused on finding you the right technology solution to help your company, your employees, and the overall vision you are trying to achieve regarding employee engagement and understanding of the total benefits package you are providing.

Author: Vickie Ward
Vickie Ward is the Technology and Voluntary Benefits Consultant providing guidance to clients regarding the right fit for benefits administration for their company. She has over 18 years’ experience in the insurance industry and has specialized in ancillary insurance coverage throughout that time. Her focus now is providing education to employers surrounding technology and how it can help communicate benefits to their employees.

Learn more and stay in touch with Vickie Ward here!

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What do the DOL’s new AHP rules actually mean?

July 25, 2018

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President Trump signed an Executive Order on October 12, 2017 directing the U.S. Department of Labor to consider ways to make it easier to form an Association Health Plan by expanding existing membership rules. After issuing proposed regulations in early 2018 and considering public comments, the DOL issued a set of final regulations intended to make it easier to form AHPs on June 18, 2018.

The final regulations do not replace the existing AHP rules. Instead, they create a three-tier AHP system referred to in this article as the:

Narrow Standard AHP: These AHPs are available under the existing rules, but they can be difficult to form.

Relaxed Standard AHP: These AHPs are created by the new regulations. They are easier to form than a Narrow Standard AHP and can allow self-employed individuals to participate, but they do not allow as much flexibility in terms of plan design and underwriting (discussed in the chart below under “Plan Design and Underwriting”).

Non-Conforming AHPs: These are AHPs that do not meet either the Narrow or Relaxed Standards. We’ll touch on these briefly at the end of this article.

What are the Pros and Cons for Narrow and Relaxed Standard AHPs?

Pros:

  • The combined membership of the member employers may enable the AHP to self-insure
  • Qualify as single employer group health plans for ERISA and other purposes, enabling many fully-insured AHPs to qualify as a large group insured plan based upon the number of covered lives· Self-insured and large group insured AHPs are able to avoid certain requirements applicable to small group and individual plans under federal and state law, including:
  • The requirement to offer all essential health benefits (EHB) mandated by a state’s EHB package (the AHP will still have establish a reasonable definition for EHBs such as selecting a benchmark plan); and
  • Community rating requirements. This may enable AHPs to offer less expensive coverage alternatives to member employers as well as greater flexibility when setting premiums (but see “Plan Design and Underwriting” in the chart below)
  • Greater buying power than individual member employers may have on their own
  • The AHP’s risk pool may be more favorable for smaller employers than the community rating in their applicable small group market(s)

Cons:

  • Not appropriate for many potential member employers and should be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis
  • Do not avoid state regulation, even if self-insured
  • Require a strong ongoing commitment to participate from member employers as turnover can cause AHPs to quickly fail
  • Insurance carriers may be reluctant to insure AHPs that do not meet certain criteria established by the carrier (e.g. The insurance carrier may require a closer relationship between the member employers than the AHP rules require)

AHP odds and ends

AHPs are generally subject to the reporting and disclosure requirements applicable to the underlying benefits, which may include providing summary plan descriptions, summaries of benefits and coverage, and Form 5500 filings. The DOL is still working out how certain other requirements may apply to AHPs. For example, the DOL indicated that existing HIPAA wellness rules apply to AHPs and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act will apply if the member employers of the association have at least 50 employees in the aggregate, but the DOL is still considering how COBRA may apply and intends to issue additional guidance addressing this.

Many AHPs will not qualify as Narrow Standard or Relaxed Standard AHPs, typically because the association fails to meet the formation requirements described above. These Non-Conforming AHPs can still provide the advantages of greater purchasing power and the ability to separately experience-rate member employers like Narrow Standard AHPs, but Non-Conforming AHPs do not qualify for single employer plan treatment and are instead viewed as a separate plan maintained by each member employer. As a result, many member employers will still be subject to the small group and individual plan requirements that Narrow Standard and Relaxed Standard AHPs can avoid.

Effective dates

There are three phase-in effective dates under the final regulations:

  • Sept. 1, 2018: New or existing associations may establish a fully-insured Relaxed Standard AHP
  • Jan. 1, 2019: AHPs in existence on or before June 18, 2018 may establish a self-insured Relaxed Standard AHP.
  • April 1, 2019: All other new or existing associations may establish a self-insured Relaxed Standard AHP.

There are no effective dates specific to Narrow Standard or Non-Conforming AHPs as these existed before the final regulations and are not directly affected by them.

 

Christopher Beinecke

Christopher Beinecke is the Employee Health & Benefits National Compliance Leader for Marsh & McLennan Agency
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The DOL’s new Association Health Plan Rules and What They Actually Mean

June 29, 2018

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The President signed an Executive Order on October 12, 2017, directing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to consider ways to make it easier to form an Association Health Plan (AHP) by expanding existing membership rules.  After issuing proposed regulations in early 2018 and considering public comments, the DOL issued a set of final regulations intended to make it easier to form AHPs on June 18, 2018.

The final regulations do not replace the existing AHP rules and instead create a three-tier AHP system referred to in this article as the:

  1. Narrow Standard AHP – These AHPs are available under the existing rules, but they can be difficult to form.
  2. Relaxed Standard AHP – These AHPs are created by the new regulations.  They are easier to form than a Narrow Standard AHP and can allow self-employed individuals to participate, but they do not allow as much flexibility in terms of plan design and underwriting (discussed in the chart below under “Plan Design and Underwriting”).
  3. Non-Conforming AHPs – These are AHPs that do not meet either the Narrow or Relaxed Standards.  We’ll touch on these briefly at the end of this article.

Some Pros/Cons for Narrow and Relaxed Standard AHPs

Pros:

  • The combined membership of the member employers may enable the AHP to self-insure (but see “MEWA Status and State Regulation” in the chart below)
  • Qualify as single employer group health plans for ERISA and other purposes, enabling many fully-insured AHPs to qualify as a large group insured plan based upon the number of covered lives
  • Self-insured and large group insured AHPs are able to avoid certain requirements applicable to small group and individual plans under federal and state law, including:
    • The requirement to offer all essential health benefits (EHB) mandated by a state’s EHB package (the AHP will still have to establish a reasonable definition for EHBs such as selecting a benchmark plan); and
    • Community rating requirements

This may enable AHPs to offer less expensive coverage alternatives to member employers as well as greater flexibility when setting premiums (but see “Plan Design and Underwriting” in the chart below)

  • Greater buying power than individual member employers may have on their own
  • The AHP’s risk pool may be more favorable for smaller employers than the community rating in their applicable small group market(s)

Cons:

  • Not appropriate for many potential member employers and should be carefully evaluated on a case-by-case basis
  • Do not avoid state regulation, even if self-insured (see “MEWA Status and State Regulation” in the chart below)
  • Require a strong ongoing commitment to participate from member employers as turnover can cause AHPs to quickly fail
  • Insurance carriers may be reluctant to insure AHPs that do not meet certain criteria established by the carrier (e.g. The insurance carrier may require a closer relationship between the member employers than the AHP rules require)

Comparing and Contrasting the Narrow and Relaxed Standard AHPs

The Relaxed Standard AHP information is based on the final regulations.  There is no set of regulations for the Narrow Standard AHP, and the information below is an attempt to summarize decades of DOL advisory opinions and court decisions.

 Narrow Standard AHP Relaxed Standard AHP
Formation  Member employers must:

  1. be within same industry, trade, line of business or profession;
    AND
  2. be located within same geographic location
Member employers must:

  1. be within same industry, trade, line of business or profession (without regard to geographic location);
    OR
  2. have their principal places of business located within the same state or metropolitan area (even if the metropolitan area crosses state lines)
Association Purpose Association must already exist for a business purpose other than solely to provide the AHP to member employers

  • The business purpose does not have to be a for-profit activity
  • Valid business purposes other than providing benefits include marketing/sales support, member education, the development and sharing of business strategies, and lobbying efforts
Association does not have to exist prior to offering the AHP to member employers

Association’s primary purpose can be to offer the AHP to member employers, but the AHP must also have at least one other substantial business purpose

  • The business purpose does not have to be a for-profit activity
  • Valid business purposes other than providing benefits include marketing/sales support, member education, the development and sharing of business strategies, and lobbying efforts
Governance A formal governance structure with a governing body and bylaws must exist enabling the member employers to exercise control

  • Ability to elect or remove directors/officers/trustees who have authority over the AHP; or
  • Member employers must be able to directly vote on actions to form, amend, or terminate the AHP
Participant Eligibility
  • Employees and former employees* of current member employers and their eligible dependents defined under the AHP

*Former employees eligible if they gained eligibility while an employee of the member employer.  This effectively limits participation to COBRA participants and individuals who qualify for retiree coverage under the AHP (if offered)

A sole proprietor or other self-employed individual (e.g. An independent contractor) is not an eligible employee and cannot participate as a member employer if operating a business with no common law employees

  • Employees and former employees* of current member employers
  • Beneficiaries of employees and former employees* defined under the AHP (e.g. Spouses, dependent children, and other tax dependents, if eligible)

*Former employees eligible if they gained eligibility while an employee of the member employer.  This effectively limits participation to COBRA participants and individuals who qualify for retiree coverage under the AHP (if offered)

A sole proprietor or other self-employed individual (e.g. An independent contractor) operating a business with no common law employees can qualify as a member employer and participate in an AHP as an eligible employee by meeting the “Working Owner” test:

  1. Works at least 20 hours/week or 80 hours/month for business
    OR
  2. Has earned income from the business at least equal to the cost of AHP coverage
Plan Design and Underwriting There are limits to an AHP’s ability to vary participant eligibility, covered benefits, and premiums based on health factors, but an AHP may develop and charge different premiums to different member employer groups based on each member employer’s actual health claims experience (i.e. The AHP can separately experience-rate member employers)

Additional state law requirements may apply

 An AHP’s ability to vary premiums is limited to bona fide employment-based classifications that are not specifically related to health factors, including:

  1. Full-time vs. part-time;
  2. Different occupations (e.g. Corporate vs. retail, etc.);
  3. Date of hire;
  4. Geographic location (including urban vs. rural);
  5. Union vs. non-union;
  6. Length of service; and
  7. Current vs. former employees

An AHP may not develop and charge different premiums to different member employer groups based on each member employer’s actual health claims experience (i.e. Experience-rating)

Example:  An AHP could charge higher premiums to member employers primarily located in cities than to member employers primarily located in rural areas so long as the member employers’ actual claims experience is not taken into account.  

Additional state law requirements may apply

MEWA Status and State Regulation  AHPs are considered multiple employer welfare arrangements (MEWAs) for ERISA purposes meaning ERISA pre-emption of state insurance laws does not apply

This can make it very difficult to offer an AHP across state lines:

  • Both self-insured and fully-insured AHPs will generally be subject to state insurance laws where the AHP coverage is issued
  • Self-insured MEWAs may be subject to additional state regulation similar to the regulation of insurance carriers within the respective State(s); these requirements will largely be dealt with by the insurance carrier for fully-insured AHPs
  • Most AHPs will also be subject to the federal Form M-1 filing requirement with the DOL

Note:  The DOL indicated it may seek to limit state authority to regulate self-insured AHPs in the future if it appears that states are over-reaching and interfering with the formation of self-insured AHPs.

Odds and Ends

AHPs are generally subject to the reporting and disclosure requirements applicable to the underlying benefits, which may include providing summary plan descriptions, summaries of benefits and coverage, and Form 5500 filings.  The DOL is still working out how certain other requirements may apply to AHPs.  For example, the DOL indicated that existing HIPAA wellness rules apply to AHPs and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act will apply if the member employers of the association have at least 50 employees in the aggregate, but the DOL is still considering how COBRA may apply and intends to issue additional guidance addressing this.

Non-Conforming AHPs

Many AHPs will not qualify as Narrow Standard or Relaxed Standard AHPs, typically because the association fails to meet the formation requirements described above.  These Non-Conforming AHPs can still provide the advantages of greater purchasing power and the ability to separately experience-rate member employers like Narrow Standard AHPs, but Non-Conforming AHPs do not qualify for single employer plan treatment and are instead viewed as a separate plan maintained by each member employer.  As a result, many member employers will still be subject to the small group and individual plan requirements that Narrow Standard and Relaxed Standard AHPs can avoid.

Effective Dates

There are three phase-in effective dates under the final regulations:

  1. September 1, 2018 – New or existing associations may establish a fully-insured Relaxed Standard AHP.
  2. January 1, 2019 – AHPs in existence on or before June 18, 2018 may establish a self-insured Relaxed Standard AHP.
  3. April 1, 2019 – All other new or existing associations may establish a self-insured Relaxed Standard AHP.

There are no effective dates specific to Narrow Standard or Non-Conforming AHPs as these existed before the final regulations and are not directly affected by them.

The information contained herein is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice regarding any specific situation. Any statements made are based solely on our experience as consultants. Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC shall have no obligation to update this publication and shall have no liability to you or any other party arising out of this publication or any matter contained herein.  The information provided in this alert is not intended to be, and shall not be construed to be, either the provision of legal advice or an offer to provide legal services, nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of the agency, our lawyers or our clients. This is not legal advice. No client-lawyer relationship between you and our lawyers is or may be created by your use of this information. Rather, the content is intended as a general overview of the subject matter covered. This agency is not obligated to provide updates on the information presented herein. Those reading this alert are encouraged to seek direct counsel on legal questions. © 2018 Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC. All Rights Reserved.

About the Author. This alert was prepared by Chris Beinecke, J.D., LL.M.. the Employee Health & Group Benefits National Compliance Leader for Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC

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Telemedicine and Health Savings Accounts

October 12, 2017

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As health care costs continue to rise, so does the demand for cost-control strategies. One such strategy is telemedicine. Telemedicine is a service offered through many health insurance plans by which patients can consult with a doctor over the phone or through videoconference. Telemedicine doctors can often prescribe medication, thus eliminating the need for a trip to the doctor’s office. The trend has been gaining popularity in recent years and many anticipate continued improvements and evolutions of the service in the near future.

But how is telemedicine a cost-control strategy? Telemedicine can eliminate the need for visits to the emergency room, urgent care or the doctor’s office – which could save up to $6 billion annually by one estimate. Without the typical costs associated with in-person consultations such as rent, overhead, nursing staff, etc., telemedicine uses readily available technology to deliver consultations at a fraction of the cost.

How that reduced cost is paid, however, depends on the health plan offering telemedicine service. For a traditional preferred provider organization plan (PPO), co-pays are typically used to offset the cost of a doctor visit. Co-pays for telemedicine consultations would also be appropriate. The rules for high deductible health plans (HDHP), however, are very different.

A HDHP allows subscribers to contribute to a tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA). To be eligible to participate in an HSA, participants in a HDHP cannot receive any employer payment – directly or indirectly – for medical expenses before the deductible is satisfied. Indirect payments would include cost-sharing in the form of co-payments for consultations. The IRS has not directly addressed the issue of HSA eligibility and telemedicine. However, its guidance suggests that an employer offering a HDHP with an HSA and a telemedicine option should require the participants to pay fair market value of the telemedicine consultation. What is the fair market value of a telemedicine consultation? Who knows? It’s likely more than a co-pay but less than the network rate of a doctor’s office visit. Additional IRS guidance on this topic would be helpful, but until it’s issued, employers with HDHPs should be wary of “free” or co-pay telemedicine services.

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Cost Reduction Strategies for the Self-Funded Employer

April 18, 2017

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When evaluating cost savings strategies, employers often find themselves in the cycle of making plan design changes or shifting the cost to their employees. While these tactics may offer savings, they do not deliver the long term results employers are seeking in their efforts to rein in costs. Join us on May 10th to learn about the latest trends that can maximize bottom line savings and support your organization’s employee benefit strategy.

Click here to learn more about this special event!

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Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements

January 18, 2017

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The name is cumbersome but Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (“QSEHRA”) represent a real policy change that could benefit small employers.

On December 13, 2016 President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act, which contained a number of provisions about cancer research, combating opioid abuse and “other provisions.” The other provision was the creation of QSEHRAs. The law is significant because before its passage, the IRS and DOL both warned employers against paying the cost of individual plans for their employees. These so-called premium reimbursement plans were subject to fines of $100 per day and did not meet Affordable Care Act market reforms. QSEHRAs provide a legitimate way for small employers to establish premium reimbursement plans.

Who can create a QSEHRA?

QSEHRAs are only available for small employers – those not subject to the employer mandate (under 50 full time equivalent employees). They are also only available to small employers who do not offer a group health plan to any employees. That may seem counter-intuitive, but remember: the point of a QSEHRA is to offer an alternative to a group health plan, not a supplement to it. Accordingly, the QSEHRA is not a health plan itself; it’s a means for providing plans to employees. Therefore, there are no COBRA obligations associated with a QSEHRA.

How does it operate?

The employer must completely fund the QSEHRA – no employee contributions are allowed. And the employer reimbursements are capped at $4,950 per year for an individual and $10,000 per year for a family. If the arrangement reimburses medical expenses for an employee’s family members, the higher limit applies. These amounts are indexed to inflation and must be applied on a pro-rated basis for employees who participate in the plan for less than 12 months (such as new hires).

The arrangement can be used to reimburse any medical expense as defined in IRS code 213(d), including the cost of individual health plan premiums. Those reimbursements are tax-free to employee as long as the employee is enrolled in minimum essential health coverage.

A QSEHRA must be offered on the same terms to all eligible employees. The arrangement will not be considered to be offered on different terms just because the reimbursement amounts vary, however. The actual benefit an employee receives can vary based on the cost of individual coverage and number of family members who enroll. The employer can also exclude employees from participating who have not completed 90 days of service and those covered by a collective bargaining agreement. The employer can also exclude employees who are under 25 years of age.

Before beginning a QSEHRA, the employer must provide at least 90 days’ notice to employees. The notice must include a description of the amount of the benefit and inform employees that they must disclose the amount of the benefit to the health insurance exchange when applying for a premium tax credit or cost-sharing offset. It must also tell employees that they may be subjected to a tax penalty under the individual mandate if they do not have minimum essential coverage. The notice must be sent to all mid-year hires on the date they become eligible to participate in the arrangement.

If you are interested in establishing a QSEHRA, please contact Shannon Bappert at sbappert@jwterrill.com.

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Life Insurance Awareness Month

October 5, 2016

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Millennials are defining their generation in a number of ways – record student loan debt and deferred marriage, parenthood, and homeownership being some of the most notable trends.

While these trends might convince our younger population that life insurance does not apply to them or shouldn’t be a priority, they could be making a big mistake. With Life Insurance Awareness month coming to a close, we take a look at some of the reasons 20 to 30-somethings should consider taking advantage of the benefits of life insurance.

It’s true, term life insurance is often purchased to cover the cost of a mortgage or a child’s future college tuition. While homeownership is at an all-time low and the mean age at first birth is at an all-time high (U.S. homeownership fell to 62.9% in the second quarter – the lowest since it began being tracked in 1965, and the CDC released data earlier this year showing the mean age at first birth rose to 26.3 years in 2014), millennials are not exempt from leaving behind debt to those closest to them.

Student loan debt borrowed on a private loan could be left to a co-signing parent, or even a spouse who did not co-sign. A term life policy could easily be used to protect against private student loan debt, and can include a decreasing payout over time as many mortgage policies do.  Likewise, the policy could also be used to cover credit card debt and auto loans.

Millennials also have the advantage of being able to lock in lower rates now, for both term and whole life policies.

In the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study, a combined effort from the non-profit Life Happens and LIMRA, the Life Insurance Market Research Association, millennials are, as expected, shown to be the least covered generation – 51% vs. 62%, 67% and 65% respectively for gen x, baby boomers and seniors.

Also noted in the survey, however, ‘burdening dependents if I die prematurely’ was tied for the second greatest financial concern of millennials, after ‘paying monthly bills’.  They also showed the greatest interest in purchasing a combined life and long-term care product, with 40% being very to extremely likely to choose a packaged product, as compared to 25% of gen x and 10% of baby boomers.

Although Millennials may not be covered now, the outlook is a positive one.

Conversation on benefits and affordability will continue to build a more secure financial future for our loved ones. If you have questions or need additional resources, please reach out to your JW Terrill consultant.

You can download the 2016 Insurance Barometer Study here: 2016 Insurance Barometer Study | Life Happens

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Insurance: A Relationship Driven Industry

August 18, 2016

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When going to a restaurant, a waiter who attends to every possible need you may have, while also maintaining a positive and upbeat attitude is more likely to receive a decent sized tip. Likewise, if a waiter at that same restaurant lacks personable skills, or upsets their customer in some way, they are less likely to receive a tip, if at all. The same idea goes for insurance brokers.

When I first started this internship, I had a blurred idea of what the job description of an insurance broker entailed. This pre-made idea came from movies, society’s view of the insurance industry in general, and overheard conversations from the adults in my life who just got the bad end of things. From what I briefly heard about insurance in general, was they basically control the doctors you go to, dentists you schedule, and tell you that, unfortunately, they don’t cover that kind of damage. You could imagine my surprise when I first started working here, of how considerate everyone was. I was seated in a cubicle that was in the midst of the personal lines department. Every time the phone rings around me, I continuously here nothing but “How can I help you”, “How are you”, “I can most definitely do that for you”, and many other conversations that exhibit that each J.W. Terrill employee is honestly putting forth the best they can for their clients. These relationships are what help Terrill thrive.

Insurance brokers often offer similar products. These products can be more than just a single item, and are usually offered as a whole. It could be the development of a plan, the help to implement the plan selected, and ease of the burden on a clients’ time, the achievement of the maximum from available coverage, or the assistance with a renewal process. Because those products are very similar from brokerage to brokerage, the goal is to separate one company from another; to create value. The answer to the question, “how can we differentiate ourselves?” is simple; a healthy, lasting relationship with each client.

At J.W. Terrill, one of the core values is Business Integrity – “adhering to the highest professional standards to make the right decisions on behalf of our clients.” It is crucial that we uphold this value, in order to maintain a thriving company, and to set ourselves apart from the rest. Without solid relationships with clientele, brokerages would cease to exist.  Like the restaurant example I alluded to in the beginning, our employees need to act like the first type of waiter. The insurance industry is a relationship driven industry, and we will only be able to prosper if we add value. That extra value the clientele is looking for is fast, effective, work ethics that benefit any possible need or want.

Despite what society may say about the insurance industry being only out for profit, J.W.Terrill doesn’t fall into this stereotype.  The employees here truly are “adhering to the highest professional standards to make the right decisions on behalf of our client”. If an answer needs to be found, our account administrators will search to find the best result, if a quote needs to be created, our employees will find the best possible rates, and if you need that type of waiter to adhere to your every possible need, J.W. Terrill’s employees strive to be the absolute best.

Article contributed by: Samantha Rynders who was a Marketing Intern in the Employee Benefits Department. Samantha is studying Marketing at the University of Central Missouri.

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Well-being and the Aging Workforce

July 18, 2016

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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2050, roughly 20% of the total U.S. population will be 65 years of age or older. In 2010 the labor force participation rate for individuals ages 65 and older reached 22.1% for men and 13.8% for women, up from 17.7% and 9.4%, respectively in 2000. The aging workforce is due to many factors, but Americans are living longer and working longer. Nearly 7 out of 10 workers plan to work at age 65 and nearly half plan to work into their 70’s and 80’s. The current workplace has four generations working together. These generations are defined by the Pew Research Center as follows:

  • Millennial Generation (Generation Y) born between 1981 and 2000
  • Generation X (Gen X) born between 1965 and 1980
  • Baby Boom Generation born between 1946 and 1964
  • The Silent Generation (Traditionalists) born between 1928 and 1945

With multi generations comes multi challenges and opportunities.

Millennials and Generation X employees experience challenges to well-being that may be different from that of The Baby Boom or The Silent Generation. Although there are many overlaps, Millennials and Generation X may experience more work stress, financial concerns and work/life balance issues. They tend to be more physically healthy, although Generation X may begin to experience physical symptoms of aging. Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation employees tend to have more physical health concerns when it comes to their well-being. Baby Boomers and The Silent Generation employees begin to experience symptoms and changes related to aging. These changes include: loss of muscular strength and flexibility, limited range of motion, balance challenges, vision changes, slower reactive time and slower mental processing.  The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 75% of all workers over the age of 55 have at least one chronic health condition requiring management. These chronic health conditions include diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancers.

Workplaces can address each generation’s well-being needs through a variety of means. A safe work environment, flexible scheduling, appropriate training, detailed job descriptions, modifications to the work environment and a robust well-being program can have a positive effect on multi-generations at the workplace. Let’s look at how a well-being program can address the needs of each of the generations.

Millennials tend to be most challenged with nutrition. They are likely to eat out often, choosing fast foods lacking in nutritional quality. A well-being program that addresses the importance of nutrition through educational presentations and programs can be used. For example, a fruit and vegetable challenge can encourage Millennials to increase their consumption fruits and vegetables while competing against co-workers. This generation can also benefit with hands on programs teaching cooking skills. Providing Millennials with healthy recipes and demonstrating how to prepare healthy food can be very impactful. Offering low cost, nutritious meals at the workplace can also help Millennials make good choices. A well-being program that addresses these issues at the workplace will encourage Millennials to choose healthy options at work and at home.

Generation X employees tend to be the least physically active generation since most are raising a family and trying to make important career moves. They may be working longer hours and trying to balance family and work life can be difficult. A well-being program that offers employees ways to stay physically fit will be important. Fitness center subsidies, onsite fitness centers or onsite fitness classes would be an important addition for Generation X employees. Walking or pedometer competitions can make physical activity competitive and fun. Mobile devices and wearable technology can be added to a well-being program to assist these employees with physical activity efforts.

Baby Boomer employees are often taking care of elderly parents and growing children at the same time. This can cause additional stress and decreased well-being. An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can provide timely resources and tools for this generation. EAP programs provide mental health assistance such as one-on-one counseling, health coaching, elder care resources, financial assistance and more that Baby Boomers would find very useful for their time of life.

Lastly, The Silent Generation employees may require more accommodations to their work environment to assist them with their day-to-day work duties. A well-being program that addresses physical health and ergonomics can aid these employees and decrease risk of injury on the job. Well-being programs that include ergonomic evaluations of the workplace and employees’ career stations can provide very practical means for reducing injury and muscle strain for the employee. Making sure work areas are properly lit, computers and chairs are at proper height and computers are modified to a larger font if needed can be very beneficial to aging workers.

A comprehensive well-being program can meet the needs of all your employees regardless of their generation and help lead them toward improved well-being lasting a lifetime.

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Is Your Advisor Preparing You for the Future?

October 23, 2012

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As a broker I am asked regularly by clients, “How can we continue to stay within the guidelines of the PPACA yet control our costs?” After meeting with many of my clients and understanding their concerns, I engaged in several brainstorming sessions with many of my associates and have decided that putting a strategic plan in place is an essential part of being a consultative broker.

So where do we start, what areas do we address, and what timeframe do we focus on? With there being so many areas of concern I began to focus on the following for our discussion topics; Healthcare Reform, Plan offerings, Contributions, Wellness Initiatives, Employee communications, and Online enrollment. With these topics established as our focus we invited not only the Human Resource staff but felt in mandatory to have senior management involved which included the CFO’s and CEO’s of the organizations. Senior Management buy-in is a must. It is equally as important to review rate and loss ratio history if at all possible. This allows you to establish each firm’s trends and how you can directly impact or change those trends.

Now that the groundwork is in place and the guidelines set we can start with strategic planning sessions and address each area of concern. So let’s start with the PPACA and look at how it will impact an employer over the next 3-5 years. In 2010 legislation mandated 100% coverage for specified preventive services, dependant coverage to age 26, all ER services considered in-network, and grandfathering of health plans. Additional provision will be phased in over the next three years that will have significant impact on the cost of healthcare. Like most comprehensive legislation PPACA has many areas that should concern employers with 50+ employees. Every employer must develop a pro-active strategy and if they don’t they may face a more costly outcome at the hands of PPACA requirements. In 2014 employers will be somewhat limited in their plan design and contribution level options that could expose them to penalties.

In order to be pro-active consultants need to sit down with their accounts to develop a pro-active strategic plan that will take them through 2014 and beyond. Plan offerings will allow the employer to provide the most impact of all of the areas we will discuss. Questions to ask are as follows:

  • Is there a QHDHP in place?
  • What is the deductible on the current plan?
  • What are our options?

Typically our first move is to evaluate plan options and then look at where we are today and where to we need or want to be by 2014. After we have established that goal we then begin to put options together which may be raising the current deductible, implementing a dual option a traditional PPO alongside a QHDHP. Everything we recommend is designed to steer employees into the QHDHP by making the contributions “attractive” to employees, seeding the HSA account, and conducting employee educations sessions on how the Consumer Driven Health Plans work. Our ultimate goal is to have the greater majority of employees on the QHDHP and continue to steer employees away from the traditional plans. When senior management sees the trend of Consumer Driven Plans vs. traditional plans they will work closely with the consultant to achieve the goals established in the “Strategic Plan”.

Contribution strategy is one of the vehicles used to “steer” employee into the QHDHP the other is commitment and support from senior management. It is most affective to have the premium contribution for the employee be significantly less than the traditional plans offered. If at all possible we suggest the QHDHP be no cost to employee and have the premiums for the traditional PPO plan be a “significant” amount higher. This should provide the “steerage” you would be looking for. Not only should renewal begin to come in lower but a flattening out of the trend line should occur as well.

Risk management encompasses pro-active and long-term initiatives relates to behavioral modification that offer significant opportunity for future savings. The primary tool of employer risk management is that of the wellness program. The success of any employee benefits program and wellness initiative is developing and effective communications program. Some initiatives that have proven to be successful are walking programs with a team approach, weight loss contest with teams, smoking cessation programs, and most recently “wellness incentives” for reducing premiums. The focus on all is modifying employee’s lifestyles so they can improve their overall health.

The last step in the strategic planning is to consider the advantages of on-line enrollment. Is it something that would improve the efficiency of the Human Resource and Payroll staff? Would it fit in the budget? How much would it cost and can it be justified? There are many options to explore at all price levels. The hardest part of this questions is does the employer value the fleeing that “time is money”?

Having a Strategic Plan in place can be an extremely efficient way to create a “road map” for the future allowing your employer to develop more accurate forecast and budgets for the future. It will also improve the efficiency and development of their employee benefit portfolio.

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