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Benefits Column

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Benefitting from Community
It takes more than individual and employer efforts to change long-term health outcomes, experts say. It takes community involvement, social-support systems and a sense of purpose. A healthcare and lifestyle initiative in the Beach Cities of California is based on that philosophy.
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Integrating Employee Benefits
Employers are revisiting a mid-'80s concept that integrated health and disability management. While such programs may not result in reduced long-term-disability claims, companies may find their workers more often opting to engage in wellness programs as well as reporting improved experiences and turnaround on claim decisions.
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Is Dental Insurance A Valuable Benefit?
The cost of twice-yearly dental care may be less than the premiums many employees pay for their dental-benefits plans. HR leaders may want to think long and hard, however, before considering eliminating employees' coverage. It's a highly valued benefit -- plus it may drive down some healthcare costs as well.
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Do The Right Thing
Meeting one of my heroes resulted in a values-based discussion about executive compensation. The issue, says Harry Kraemer, may be putting a crimp in creating a "phenomenal workforce." And the most effective strategy should involve HR leaders stepping back to visualize the larger impact on shareholder value -- and doing the right thing.
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Correlating Well-Being to Productivity
Participating in a 26.2-mile endurance hike in the desert offers some insights into the importance of pride, camaraderie and trust in creating a productive environment. It also points to ways HR leaders can optimize their workplaces.
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Home, Sweet, Home
The Patient-Centered-Medical-Home model has the potential to enhance employee healthcare -- and a company's healthcare costs. The model is designed to offer comprehensive, coordinated and timely care.
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The HR Leaders' Benefits Challenge
HR leaders are uniquely positioned to champion both the benefits and challenges of health-related change. But as I was recently reminded during my attempt to eliminate dairy products from my diet, the efficacy of their efforts can be greatly enhanced when they're able to incorporate personal experiences into their communications.
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The Screen Actors Guild Abandons Mental-Health Benefits
With their actuaries projecting a significant increase in healthcare costs to offer mental-health and substance-abuse coverage, the Screen Actors Guild dropped mental-health coverage for its members. Is that a harbinger of things to come?
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Selling the Problem of Absence
Because most people mistakenly associate disability with catastrophic bodily injury, it's difficult to engage HR leaders and employees alike in dialogues about work-related absence and the need for income protection.
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Am I a Wellness Bully?
Instilling shame and guilt when rolling out wellness initiatives -- even if it's unintended -- won't succeed as well as offering incentives, acceptance and an atmosphere of fun. Removing candy and doughnuts from work areas can't hurt, either.
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Crowdsourcing Employee-Benefits Options
Soliciting employee opinions is one thing, but offering employees actual decision-making power on employee benefits could give employers and their HR leaders the ability to craft more popular programs and, in turn, boost employee-satisfaction levels.
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Targeting Trends
Three benefits trends seem to have come to the forefront during the past year -- the importance of innovation and thought leadership, the turn toward customization of benefits, and the growing discussion of adapting benefits to a culturally, racially and globally diverse workforce.
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Diversity and Benefits
The definition of diversity in the workplace has expanded beyond race and gender. As a result, opportunities are opening up for HR leaders to tailor employee-benefits design and communication. But proceeding with caution is necessary.
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Coping with Open Enrollment
HR leaders can help employees make more thoughtful selections and improve health behaviors by crafting communications plans that target workers year-round. Efforts should include ways to personalize health trends for workers, increase trust in the organization and create a community-like atmosphere on the job.
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Feeling Good About Retirement?
A lot has changed in the past 25 years when it comes to company-sponsored retirement programs. In this column, Harnett explores the roots of the current shift from defined-benefit to defined-contribution plans, and notes that innovation in core retirement design is at an ebb point right now.
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Finding Truth in Statistics
The New York Times recently called into question some of the applications of the venerable Dartmouth Atlas of Health to healthcare savings. It's yet another reminder that data is often misused and misunderstood. Here's a primer to help HR leaders judge the value of various benefits programs.
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Simple Solutions that Work
HR leaders can look at the elegant simplicity of the iPhone as a model for seeking out integrated health benefits that offer robust programs as well as cost-effective solutions. Disability claims, in particular, can offer complex coordination problems.
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Why Marathoners Get Fat
While individuals may succeed in altering health-related behaviors for a limited time, it's difficult for many to create lifetime behavior changes. Employer appeals to reason, fear or penalties may only result in short-term changes. A sense of fun, teamwork or creating an emotional connection may provide more lasting results.
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