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2014 - A Historic Year in Employee Benefits

bigstock-2014Affordable-Care-Act


Now is the time of year for every writer to create their Best Of list or make predictions for the upcoming year. However, for me 2014 was too extraordinary a year in health insurance and retirement plan public policy to reduce to simple lists. This year we witnessed the implementation of historic health insurance legislation reminiscent of the passage of the Social Security Amendments that created the Social Security and Medicare programs. We also saw many states and the federal government focus their policy power on expanding access to workplace retirement plans.

But if I absolutely have to sum up the year in employee benefits and give fellow benefits pros something to think about for next year, I would say don't forget the origins of your field. And if you think there is too much regulation of employee benefit plans then you forget that that is where benefits got its start. You forget that health insurance plan and retirement saving plans are part of state and federal tax code and social policy. And that is why as a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) with a master's degree in public policy, I am excited about the current employee benefits environment and its future.

However, not everything employee benefits related is exciting or good to me. Health insurance plan prices are still too high, even on the exchanges. Health insurance concepts are too complex. The ascension of high deductible health plans is a crisis in waiting. Health care prices are still hidden. Workplace retirement plans are also too complex and risky. Retirement plan fees are too high and employer matches too low. Workplace wellness programs are a failure for nearly everyone except the workplace wellness industry. And public pension plans are under attack due to jealousy as much as economics.
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Employers Are Lousy Purchasers of Affordable Health Insurance

EmployerFail


Employees should take more responsibility for their health care and its costs. Every time I read statements like this I cannot help but add, now that employers have gotten us in this mess of out-of-control health insurance increases.

For decades, employers made all the decisions about what health plans employees would have access to and how much they would pay for it. Employers were the ones sitting down with health insurer representatives and reviewing current years claim data and health plan options for the upcoming year, and negotiating plan renewal costs. I digress, but if you ever participated in a health plan renewal meeting, you know that there isnt much negotiating going on.

Typical Health Plan Renewal Meeting

Insurer reps come armed with a script about why their underwriters are asking for a certain percentage increase. The usual suspects are actual claims, earned but not yet incurred claims, demographics (too many females at child bearing age or too many mature employees), and our good friend, medical trend. Hospitals and doctors are simply charging more for their services. And let
s not even talk about the trend for prescription drug costs.
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