Tag Archives: employee benefits

Trending in parental and family leave benefits

With an increasingly competitive talent market and changing employee demographics, employers are taking a closer look at their total benefits packages to understand what is driving prospective employees’ wants and needs, particularly relating to parental leave. State and local laws are also changing quickly, creating a regulatory maze that can be difficult to navigate. Milliman conducted a What’s Trending benefits pulse survey specific to parental leave benefits to get a sense of what employers are currently doing and considering in this space.

Parental leave benefits: Results

The results of a 2019 Milliman pulse survey confirmed that many employers are experiencing the issues of complex compliance as a result of changing laws and a competitive talent market demanding more robust leave benefits. Despite these pressures, there was little change in action from 2018 to 2019. Similar proportions of employers to those shown in Figure 1 are considering changes in 2020. Both parental leave benefits that are available regardless of employee gender or birth parent status and paid parental leave separate from vacation/sick time are popular for a significant minority among responding organizations.

For those that responded, the number of weeks of available leave increased for both birth and non-birth parents from 2018 to 2019 for the 6-11 weeks and 12+ weeks categories. Yet the percentage of pay decreased slightly.

Family leave benefits

More employers are considering paid family leave benefits in 2020 that are separate from, and in addition to, PTO or vacation/sick time, and above and beyond the care for newborns/newly adopted children. While only 9% of respondents in 2019 (5% in 2018) said they currently offer this benefit, 23% of respondents said they were considering offering it for 2020. Similar to parental leave, the number of weeks offered is trending up while the percentage of pay is trending down.

Conclusion

With competitive and regulatory pressures on employers to shore up parental leave programs, relatively few are taking definitive action. Of those that are, mitigating the potentially significant cost increases by lowering the percentage of pay while increasing the number of weeks of leave is a common strategy. As state and local laws continue to evolve, employers will need to pay special attention in order to ensure compliance.

This article first appeared in the Health and Group Benefits News and Developments: April 2020.

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COVID-19: 8 Tips for improving employee communication in a time of crisis

In uncertain times, clear and consistent communication is more important than ever. Now is not the time to go radio silent ― even if you don’t have all the answers. Frequent touchpoints can help decrease stress and provide reassurance during challenging times.  

Try these tips to stay in touch with your employees.

  1. Be open and honest. If there was ever a time for direct and down-to-earth messaging, it’s now. Provide answers if you have them, and be honest if you don’t.
  2. Update often. Sometimes less is more, but right now employees want―and need―to hear from leadership on a regular basis. Don’t wait until you have all the answers. Give updates as soon as you have them.
  3. Step outside your communication comfort zone. Your tried-and-true communication channels may not work. Look for new ways to reach employees.
    • Podcasts: People like to consume information or entertainment in short bursts. According to the New York Times, about one in three Americans listens to podcasts. Podcasts can be produced quickly, which allows you to respond nimbly to changing conditions. For example, Milliman released a podcast to retirement plan participants in response to recent market volatility.
    • Virtual meetings: With restrictions on group face-to-face gatherings and travel, people are turning to virtual meetings―especially those with a video component―as a replacement. When Milliman clients needed to cancel in-person group meetings and one-on-one consultations with our Retirement Educators, our Meeting Services team provided a virtual solution.
  4. Move quickly. In a rapidly changing situation, your communication needs to keep up the pace. Podcasts and websites are efficient ways to provide updated information. For example, Milliman added a COVID-19 resource page on our financial wellness website, which included:
    • Tips to settle nerves, stay informed, and make wise financial decisions
    • A link to download the “What To Do When … The Market Declines” podcast
    • A video that covered what to remember when the market takes a downturn
  5. Note the date and time. It’s a good idea to date- and time-stamp your materials. When things are changing on an hour-to-hour basis, people need to know what information is the most timely.
  6. Provide resources. Reassure employees that help is available. Direct them to resources like your Employee Assistance Program (EAP), mental health benefits, and financial education. Consider posting Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) updates, such as:
    • Are telemedicine visits covered?
    • How do I change my prescription to mail order?
    • Where can I get help to manage my child’s anxiety?
    • How do I change my 401(k) contributions?
  7. Change course if you need to. You may need to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming. Are the messages timely and do they still make sense in the current environment? Or do employees need to hear something else? In response to the market declines, we replaced the March retirement plan participant email with an email about market volatility.
  8. Cut through the clutter. Make your communication easy to understand and avoid business jargon. Break down complicated concepts by using bullets, charts, and infographics. For example, we helped retirement plan participants understand the impact of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with a chart that organized the details into logical components―what you need to know, the deadline to request relief, and how to apply for help.

This blog post first appeared on Retirement Town Hall.

Seven simple steps to a stress-free enrollment

When it comes to open enrollment, communication matters. But is it working? Many employers don’t think so. A recent survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that 80% of organizations think employees don’t open or read materials. And 49% think employees don’t understand the content. So what’s the solution? Try these tips to get your messages across.

1. Look at last year. Consider the feedback you got on last year’s campaign. Which communication pieces resonated? Which fell flat? Take a look at the questions employees raised and work those into your materials for this year.

2. Define success and then measure it. Determine what a successful campaign looks like. What are your goals? Do you want a certain number of employees to enroll in a medical plan or use the online tools? After enrollment, look at the numbers and gather employee feedback via focus groups or an online survey to guide future campaigns.

3. Cut the clutter. People don’t want to weed through a 50-page brochure to find information. Remember that readers are used to quickly scanning an article for the high points. Break up paragraphs into bullet points, pull important details into callouts, and use infographics in place of long-winded narratives.

4. Know your purpose. Start with what you want your communication piece to do and let that drive the format. For example, if you want to educate, use FAQs and examples. If you want to inspire employees, feature testimonials.

5. Use straight talk. Don’t try to sugarcoat change messages. Clearly explain what’s happening, why it’s happening, and when it’s happening. Change can be hard, but you have to be honest with employees to earn their trust.

6. Start early and communicate often. Give employees a heads-up early on, especially if you’re making major plan design changes. Announce key dates, such as when enrollment will be and when employee meetings will be held. As the deadline approaches, remind employees to take action.

7. Go for variety. Reach your employees with a variety of media to appeal to generational and personal preferences. For example, if you’re explaining a new high-deductible health plan, you might mail employees a print piece to their homes, post a video online, and walk through the new plan at employee meetings.

If you need additional support, be sure to talk with your Milliman communication consultant.

This article first appeared on RetirementTownHall.com.





Managing autism treatment in self-funded plans

Self-funded plans frequently deal with issues at the intersection of physical health, behavioral health, medical science, and government regulation. One emerging issue that relates to each of these areas is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) treatment for autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

ABA is one of the fastest growing state benefit mandates. Today, 46 states mandate some form of autism coverage with varying degrees of benefit coverage and limits. ABA is a prime example of the type of coverage required by state mandates.

The prevalence of ASD has risen precipitously. In the early 1980s, population prevalence was estimated at 0.05% (five of 10,000 children). The most recent studies estimate prevalence to be 1.5% (one in 68 children). Traditionally, commercial insurers excluded or minimally covered treatment for ASD. However, more recent federal mental health parity laws and essential health benefit requirements (EHBs) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) have served to increase access to ASD treatments.

ABA is a behavioral strategy to improve socially significant behaviors to a meaningful degree. Targeted behaviors include adaptive living skills such as gross/fine motor skills, social skills, communication, reading, eating, and dressing. The ABA treatment regimen typically involves highly structured, intensive interventions for up to 30 or 40 hours per week. The course of treatment can last many years, from diagnosis at early ages (e.g., ages 3 to 4) through adolescence (and sometimes beyond).

While self-funded employer-sponsored plans are not required to comply with state mandates under federal law (ERISA), they are not immune from the trend toward greater ABA coverage driven by state mandates for insured plans.

Challenges for self-insured plan sponsors include:

Medical necessity. Medical carriers will often advise that ABA is not medically necessary for its self-insured customers but will cover it for its insured business to meet state mandate requirements. This makes it difficult for plan sponsors to explain to members why it is not covered under their plan.
Cost. Assuming conservatively the average age of diagnosis is 4 years and average age of completion is 15 years, adding this benefit can be a long-term expense to the plan. Cost estimates range between $25,000 and $50,000 per case per year.
Utilization management. If plan sponsors decide to cover ABA, then it is important to make sure members access school-/community-based services, which play a significant and progressive role in offsetting plan costs.
Network management and provider credentialing. As demand for ABA services grows, plan sponsors may want to review credentialing and network utilization to assure ongoing access to qualified providers for these services.
Compliance. Plan sponsors must not run afoul of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), which prohibits plans from restricting mental health benefits more so than physical health benefits.
Related benefits. Even if a plan specifically excludes coverage for ASD treatment and diagnosis, members with autism are most likely already receiving related functional health benefits such as physical therapy and speech therapy (habilitative and rehabilitative). It is important to understand the interconnectedness of benefit administration and the underlying equities.

The increasing prevalence of ASD, the growth in state ASD benefit mandates, and the widespread treatment of ASD through ABA can affect self-funded plan sponsors, requiring them to think comprehensively about balancing member needs and access with care cost and care management.

This article first appeared on LaborPress.org.





Top 15 global articles and reports for 2017

Milliman’s most viewed articles worldwide in 2017 covered topics related to healthcare in the United States, the rise of InsurTech, and the challenges of IFRS 17. (For summaries and links to all of the articles, click here.)

Here is the list of the top global articles and reports for the year:

15. MACRA: Key Considerations for health plans, By Colleen Norris and Mary van der Heijde

14. Multiemployer Pension Funding Study, By Kevin Campe

13. The American Health Care Act, By Jason Karcher

12. MACRA and Medicare Advantage plans: Synergies and potential opportunities, By Christopher Kunkel, Drew Osborne, Lynn Dong, Michael Polakowski, Noah Champagne, and Charlie Mills

11. Effective employee communication: The benefits of best practices, By Jessica Gonchar, Heidi tenBroek, and Sharon Stocker

10. Building blocks: Block grants, per capita caps, and Medicaid reform, By Justin Birrell, Jennifer Gerstorff, Nicholas Johnson, and Brad Armstrong

9. Overview and practical considerations of the new insurance contract standard: IFRS 17, By Gillian Tucker and Andrew Kay

8. InsurTech: Innovation in the P&C insurance space, By Thomas Ryan

7. The employer stop-loss insurance marketplace since the Affordable Care Act, By Mehb Khoja

6. 2017 Public Pension Funding Study, By Rebecca Sielman

5. Summary of individual market enrollment and Affordable Care Act subsidies, By Paul Houchens, Jason Clarkson, and Zachary Fohl

4. Impact of the transition from RAPS to EDS on Medicare Advantage risk scores, By Deana Bell, David Koenig, and Charlie Mills

3. Corporate Pension Funding Study, By Zorast Wadia, Alan Perry, and Charles Clark

2. Pension Funding Index, By Zorast Wadia and Charles Clark

1. Milliman Medical Index, By Christopher Girod, Susan Hart, and Scott Weltz





The power of personalization

tenBroek-HeidiKernich-DanaMaking decisions about health coverage is difficult. Medical jargon, network limitations, and vague pricing contribute to the minefield of confusion experienced by even educated employees. According to a recent survey, only 14% of Americans can accurately define basic healthcare terms such as deductible, copay, coinsurance, and out-of-pocket maximum.1 In order to be smart consumers of healthcare—making the best decisions for themselves and keeping costs in check for employers footing the majority of the bill—employees must be able to understand the coverage offered to them. Personalizing health coverage communications can help employees, and ultimately their employers.

Marketers have demonstrated for years that personalization works:

• Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates (customer actions such as sales or subscriptions) than non-personalized emails2
• 73% of consumers prefer to do business with companies that use personalization to make their shopping experience more relevant3
• 86% of consumers say personalization plays a role in their purchasing decisions4

If it works, use it! Personalized materials provide more focus for better decision making and leave employees feeling less overwhelmed by confusing information. Creating these materials isn’t as difficult as employers might think. Here’s an example of how an employee enrolled in a standard preferred provider organization (PPO) plan could be introduced to the potential cost savings of a high-deductible plan:

The power of personalization

1Lowenstein, G. (September 2013). Consumers’ misunderstanding of health insurance. Journal of Health Economics 32, no. 5: 850-862.
2Experian Marketing Services (December 2013). 2013 Email Market Study: How Today’s Email Marketers Are Connecting, Engaging and Inspiring Their Customers. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.experian.com/assets/marketing-services/white-papers/ccm-email-study-2013.pdf.
3 Nasri, G. (December 10, 2012). Why consumers are increasingly willing to trade data for personalization. DigitalTrends.com. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from http://www.digitaltrends.com/social-media/why-consumers-are-increasingly-willing-to-trade-data-for-personalization/#ixzz2g8dgrqko.
4Infosys (December 2013). Study: Rethinking Retail: Insights From Consumers and Retailers Into an Omni-Channel Shopping Experience. Retrieved February 11, 2016, from https://www.infosys.com/newsroom/press-releases/Documents/genome-research-report.pdf.