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FYI: Benefits


Thursday, October 6, 2016
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Benefits Cut Deeper Into Budgets

The Society for Human Resource Management's new Health Care Benchmarking Report finds healthcare-cost increases cutting into more of companies' annual budgets, even with employees paying more for their healthcare benefits. The SHRM report analyzed data from a sampling of 2,124 SHRM members, and found the average cost of providing healthcare was 7.6 percent of an average company's annual operating budget, equating to an average of $8,669 per covered employee. According to SHRM, the average cost per covered employee has increased by nearly $500 over three years, with employers spending an average of $8,171 per employee in the previous fiscal year.

"More and more employers are having to push the increasing cost of healthcare onto employees," says Evren Esen, director of workforce analytics at SHRM, based in Alexandria, Va. "High-deductible health plans such as health-savings accounts and health-reimbursement arrangements are one way that employers are attempting to counter the high costs." 

Top Benefits Draw Top Talent

A majority of employees would consider leaving their current job, with the desire for top-notch benefits being among the most important factors in a worker's decision to pursue other employment, according to new Aon Hewitt research.

The Lincolnshire, Ill.-based consultancy's Workforce Mindset study found 52 percent of more than 2,000 employees were open to leaving their current employers for new opportunities. Among these workers, 44 percent are actively looking for new roles. The study set out to explore what employees are seeking in a work experience. Cited by 61 percent of respondents, "above-average benefits" ranked as the second-biggest workplace differentiator, behind only "above-average pay," at 62 percent.

"Talent can create a competitive advantage for an organization," says Ray Baumruk, employee research leader at Aon Hewitt. "To keep and attract the highest performers, employers need an authentic employee-value proposition that sets them apart from competitors. Even more importantly, organizations must listen to their employees to understand and foster a culture where employees' expectations and desires are closely aligned with the employment experience they offer."

DOL Awards Paid-Leave Research Grants

The U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau has awarded $1.1 million in grants to research and analyze how paid-leave programs can be developed and implemented across the United States.

On the state level, for example, Pennsylvania receives $250,000 to conduct cost-benefit analysis for different paid family-leave > models, perform statistical analysis to determine populations that paid-< family-leave > benefits would help and determine the feasibility of state administrative infrastructure for a paid-< family-leave > program. Hawaii receives $240,000 to conduct economic analysis and eligibility and benefit modeling as well as a feasibility study to determine ways in which the state could implement a paid < family leave program. Among the cities awarded grant funds, Denver receives $126,091 to conduct statistical analysis and financing, eligibility, and benefit modeling to explore and develop a paid family and medical-leave program or other benefit options in adherence with prevailing practices.

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"Too many Americans are forced to choose between the job they need and the family they love. While Congress refuses to take action to make paid leave the law of the land, we have seen tremendous leadership at the state and local levels to expand access to these programs," says U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. "The grants . . . will help innovative state and local officials design paid-leave policies that work for their citizens. These important grants build on our work to make sure that people have the tools to be responsible employees and good caregivers."

HSAs Impact Health-Service Use

Low-income workers switching to high-deductible health-savings accounts are more likely than their higher-paid colleagues to avoid certain types of healthcare, according to research from the Washington-based Employee Benefit Research Institute.

EBRI analyzed actual health claims at a "large Midwestern employer" by workers' income levels, and found significant differences for the use of some health services, but not for others. For example, switching to an HSA-eligible health plan caused a decline in non-preventive outpatient office visits for workers at all income levels, but the decline was twice as large for workers and their dependents with incomes less than $50,000 as compared to those with incomes of at least $100,000.

The HSA-eligible health plan was also associated with a reduction in various preventive services by worker income. For instance, lower-income workers reduced their use of influenza vaccinations more than higher-income workers. Further, the HSA-eligible health plan was linked to an increase in emergency department visits and inpatient hospital admissions among lower-income individuals.

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