While pay and job security remain essential to employee satisfaction, trust, open communication, professional development, and company reputation play an increasingly important role, according to a study by Ultimate Software. In fact, these factors were often ranked of equal or greater importance than compensation or financial motivators.
One of the most interesting findings is the relationship between trust and satisfaction—with 93% of employees saying that having trust in their direct manager is important to remain satisfied at work, an even higher percentage than those who said they must trust company leaders. This is noteworthy because many companies focus their leadership training and development on rising executives, VPs, and senior-level directors rather than line managers and supervisors who have a greater impact on employee satisfaction and retention. The study reveals the following about employees:
- 92% say that having the technology they need to do their job efficiently affects satisfaction at work. Nearly one out of three would quit their job if they had to use outdated technology at work.
- 75% are more likely to stay with a company longer if their concerns are addressed. In fact, more respondents ranked this consideration as more important than getting credit for their ideas.
- 73% say that having the opportunity for professional development is necessary to feel satisfied at work.
- 71% say that open communication with their manager contributes significantly to job fulfillment— even more than having clearly defined tasks.
- 60% say that a lack of emotional safety at work would make them quit a job immediately. More respondents cited the need for an environment free of harassment, intimidation and offensive behavior than those who said that a lack of physical safety would make them quit.
- 85% are likely to stay longer with an employer that shows a high level of social responsibility by supporting charitable causes, volunteering in the community, and/or taking a stand on social issues.
To view the full survey results, visit www.ultimatesoftware.com/happywork.
Supporting Workplace Mental Health
In recognition of World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, the Standard Insurance Company offered these tips on mental health accommodations in the workplace:
- Understand the importance of accommodations: Living with an illness, injury, or chronic condition — like depression — can be challenging and can lead an employee to feel labeled by their diagnosis. Accommodations can put your employees at ease and allow them to be as productive as possible. Stay-at-work accommodations or other workplace modifications can go a long way to help an employee manage their condition. Accommodations may be regulated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. They often help an employee feel supported and valued and be more productive.
- Use your disability carrier for assistance: Some disability insurance carriers provide assistance with an employee’s stay-at-work or return-to-work accommodations. Some provide mental health consultants to help employers develop and implement stay-at-work plans. A mental health consultant can contact the employee and their medical team to understand any limitations or restrictions. By having experts available to assess an employee’s needs and come up with a plan, the employee gets the best assistance and the company stays compliant with regulations.
- Tailor accommodations to each employee: Mental health consultants can analyze the employee’s job role and work environment to help provide the best recommendation to keep them on the job.
Depending on the employee and their condition, effective accommodations can include giving an employee the flexibility to attend appointments, or move their workstation to an area with less distractions, says Dr. Jeff Guardalabene, senior behavioral health case manager from The Standard. He said that some accommodations require the employer to be flexible and creative. For example, an employee with bipolar disorder may find their natural rhythms disrupted. Not all jobs allow for flexible schedules, but if they do, allowing an employee to work when their sleep/wake cycle isn’t disrupted can avoid triggering mania or depression. “An employer that is proactive in how they provide assistance for an employee with a mental health condition can make all the difference between lost time and productivity,” he added.
Disability Sales Are Up
A 2016 Milliman survey reveals that new annual disability premiums are the highest they have been since the 1990s. There was a solid 5.8% growth in new annual premium from 2014 to 2015. Robert Beal of Milliman said, “It’s been a tumultuous 10 years for individual disability income carriers…2016 presents a much healthier picture of the market than in many years past.” New premium from the employer-sponsored multi-life market accounts for more than 40% of total individual new premiums in 2014 and 2015. There was a reduction in the share of new individual premium issued using voluntary guaranteed standard issue (GSI) underwriting. The full report is available from Milliman at http://www.milliman.com/individual-survey.
Voluntary Market Trends
A report by Eastbridge finds that individual voluntary product sales are flat while group voluntary sales products are up 10%. The top two selling lines of business are again term life and dental, but accident rather than short-term disability (STD) follows in the third position. Although STD continues to enjoy a decent share of the product mix at 13%, it saw modest growth of just 2% last year. Critical illness products saw a 25% growth in sales while long-term care sales fell nearly 40%. The benefit broker segment continued to take the largest share of voluntary/worksite sales (at 60%) while the career agent segment had the second highest (but decreasing) share. The top 15 companies in the voluntary/worksite market accounted for about 78% of voluntary sales in 2015, with Aflac, MetLife, Unum, and Colonial Life leading. These carriers and several other key industry players are profiled in the report, including Cigna, Guardian, Transamerica, The Hartford, Lincoln Financial and Prudential. The latest study, “Voluntary/Worksite Marketing Industry Snapshot and Competitor Profiles,” is available for $2,000. For more information call 860-676-9633 or email Eastbridge at email@example.com.
Covered California Urges Members to Shop and Compare
Covered California’s third-ever renewal period began this week. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California said, “Nearly 80% of our consumers will be able to pay less than they are paying now for health insurance, or see their rates go up by no more than 5% if they shop and switch to another plan. Members renewing their coverage will have access to an upgraded shopping tool that enables them to see their plan and 2017 rates highlighted side-by-side with their other insurance plan choices for next year. “This feature will make it much easier for consumers to shop and compare before selecting a plan for 2017. This is particularly important where there is a larger variation in premium increases than we’ve seen in prior years with some plans raising rates by 5% or 6%, and others in the high teens,” Lee said. The new Shop and Compare tool displays health and dental plans separately, showing up to 12 product options on a page instead of three and offering more ways to filter plan choices for the consumer.
In 2017, Covered California will feature coverage from 11 health insurance companies: Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Chinese Community Health Plan, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare, Oscar Health Plan of California, Sharp Health Plan, Valley Health Plan and Western Health Advantage.
In addition, some insurance carriers will be increasing their coverage areas, with Molina expanding into Orange County, Kaiser Permanente available in Santa Cruz County and Oscar offering coverage in San Francisco County. With insurers entering new areas, 93% of consumers will have at least three insurers to choose from in their region, and none will have fewer than two. In addition, more than 93% of hospitals in California will be available through at least one health insurance company in 2017, and 74% will be available in three or more plans.
Covered California has also improved its patient-centered benefit designs by increasing a consumer’s access to care through reducing the number of services that are subject to a consumer’s deductible. In 2017, consumers in Silver 70 plans will save as much as $55 on an urgent care visit and $10 on a primary care visit. In addition, consumers in Silver, Gold and Platinum plans will pay a flat copay for emergency room visits without having to satisfy a deductible, which could mean thousands of dollars in savings. Urgent care costs in every 2017 plan will be same as the primary care visit, resulting in significant consumer savings.
These improvements build on features already in place that ensure most outpatient services in Silver, Gold and Platinum plans are not subject to a deductible, including primary care visits, specialist visits, lab tests, X-rays and imaging. Even consumers in Covered California’s most affordable Bronze plans are allowed to see their doctor or a specialist three times before the visits are subject to the deductible.
Consumers who take no action by December 15 will be renewed into their existing plan. Covered California is Directing consumers to visit coveredca.com, call their certified insurance agent or certified enrollment counselor, or call covered California at (800) 300-1506 for enrollment or renewal assistance. People who have health coverage through Medi-Cal renew their coverage throughout the year when contacted by Medi-Cal.
DMHC Launches Health Plan Dashboard
The Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) launched the Health Plan Dashboard, an online tool to make health plan data more transparent and accessible to the public. It aggregates more than a dozen public data sets reported by health plans and the DMHC, such as enrollment by market type, financial reports, premium rates, consumer complaints, audit reports, and Department enforcement actions. The Health Plan Dashboard also creates easy-to-understand charts and graphs from the data. For more information, visit www.dmhc.ca.gov/HealthPlanDashboard.aspx.
SCAN Offers New preferred pharmacy Network
SCAN’s 2017 benefit plans include a new preferred pharmacy program that offers lower copayments for prescription drugs. In many counties this gives plan members the option to pay $0 for many commonly used generic drugs. Beginning January 1, SCAN members will save money when filling prescriptions at a preferred pharmacy. In the majority of the counties we serve, that will mean no copayment for many commonly used generic drugs while copayments for brand-name drugs will be approximately $5 lower. Preferred pharmacies include such large chains as Albertsons, Costco, Express Scripts, Rite Aid, and Walgreens and select independent pharmacies with more than 24,000 locations nationwide. In addition, members still have access to another 46,000 standard pharmacies, where 2017 copays will remain at 2016 levels. Aside from key enhancements, 2017 benefits remain largely consistent with 2016 benefits.
Former Agent Embezzled From Her Mother
Christine Ann Cooper, 64, a former licensed insurance agent, pleaded nolo contendere to a felony for embezzling about $129,000 from her mother’s trust accounts over a nine-year period. Cooper was sentenced to 18 months in jail, five years’ formal probation, and ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution. After receiving a complaint, the California Department of Insurance Investigation Division launched a joint investigation with the Rocklin Police Department revealing that, as her mother’s trustee, Cooper wrote checks to herself from the trust accounts and falsified trust statements to conceal her thefts. Cooper was arrested at work by the Rocklin Police Department. This case was prosecuted by the Placer County District Attorney’s office. The department has revoked Cooper’s license.
Seniors, It’s Time to Sign Up for Medicare
by Robert Blancato
Today, 10,000 Americans turned 65, thus becoming eligible for Medicare. Starting October 15th, these seniors – along with disabled Americans – can participate in Medicare’s open enrollment period. During open enrollment, seniors shop around the Medicare marketplace, comparing the features of different plans and deciding whether to switch policies. Seniors also can decide to buy a prescription drug plan through Medicare Part D. These plans provide seniors with affordable access to prescription drugs, keeping them and their wallets healthy.
Beneficiaries enrolled in Part D are consistently happy with their coverage. In fact, nearly nine in 10 beneficiaries reported satisfaction in a recent survey. It’s no wonder. Part D provides seemingly limitless options, so everyone can find a plan that best fits their financial and medical needs. In 2016, seniors could choose from 886 prescription drug plans nationwide. These plans cover medicines that seniors need, from cholesterol medications to antidepressants and cancer treatments.
The coverage is surprisingly affordable. Monthly premiums for Part D have been stable for years at around $34. That’s about half of the $60 originally forecasted. The Congressional Budget Office recently said Part D as a whole cost 45 percent less than the initial projections for 2004-2013.
Such savings are a result of Part D’s reliance on competition. The need to attract seniors forces plan providers to cover lots of medicines and keep premiums reasonable. Despite some political rhetoric being tossed around about changes to Part D, this should instead be the time for a bipartisan reaffirmation of the value of Part D. Part D is about choice and access to important drugs. The competition in place now with the program allows older adults to benefit from choice and access along with steady premiums. It allows the industry to make the necessary investments in research and development to bring new drugs to market.
So, let’s keep having millions of seniors sign up for quality, affordable drug coverage this fall with the confidence that the Part D program they are so strongly supportive of will continue onward.
Robert Blancato is the executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs.
Switching Type of Dietary Fat Americans Consume Could Decrease Healthcare Costs
Replacing saturated fats with monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) could save Americans $25.7 billion a year in heart-disease related healthcare costs. Each year, Medicare would save $9.4 billion, private insurers would save $7.9 billion, and patients would save $2.2 billion through reduced out-of-pocket costs. As much as $1.2 billion in productivity could be saved annually from fewer lost work days. “The reduction in heart disease that would result from…substituting MUFAs for saturated fats…could lead to a healthcare cost savings that is four times the size of CDC’s annual budget. Moreover, decreased heart disease risk is associated with reduced job absenteeism, which benefits employers and workers,” said John Cawley, Ph.D., Cornell University, Department of Policy Analysis and Management, and Department of Economics. Dow AgroSciences provided a research grant to support the study. Researchers at Dow created Omega-9 Canola Oil, which provides food-service operators and packaged food companies a healthier alternative to oils that are hydrogenated or high in saturated fats. For more information, visit www.dowagro.com.
Medicaid Plans Experience First Decline since 2009 in Administrative Costs
In 2015, core administrative Medicaid expenses (excluding sales and marketing) declined 5.5% per member, the first time since 2009. Account and membership administration costs increased 4.9%, the fastest rate since 2011. These comparisons eliminate the effects of product mix and universe changes, according to the Sherlock Company. Costs declined for medical and provider management, corporate services, and sales and marketing. The median core expenses for all products offered by these plans was $29.06 per member per month (PMPM) compared to $27.99 in the prior year. The study analyzes in-depth surveys of 10 Medicaid focused plans serving 7.9 million members, of which 4.7 million are Medicaid HMO or Medicaid CHIP members. Additional information is posted at sherlockco.com/navigator.
Insurers Are Failing at Digital Customer Service
Despite the growth of digital channels, U.S. insurers are not responding accurately, quickly, or consistently to customer queries, according to research from software provider Eptica. Insurers answered only 37% of questions that came from e-mails, 30% from their websites, 23% from Facebook messages, and 12% from Tweets. Forty-seven percent of insurers didn’t provide consistent answers among different channels. Just one company replied on all four channels of e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and chat. Even when they did answer, the responses were not always helpful. Sixty-eight percent of responses on email, Twitter and Facebook simply asked the consumer to call the company, even for the most basic queries.
Fifty-seven percent of consumers expect a response on Twitter within half an hour, but only 26% of insurers met this deadline. One long-term care insurer responded to a tweet in under two minutes and 13 companies answered on Facebook within five minutes. At the other end of the spectrum, 20 insurers took over six hours to respond on social media, with three taking a day or more. There were big differences among particular sectors. Pet insurers answered 57% of questions online while long-term care insurers answered only 15.5%. One dental insurer responded to an email in 13 minutes while another took over six days.
Sixty-one percent of consumers said they could not find information on company websites half the time they looked for it. Forty-six percent of consumers say won’t spend more than five minutes searching for information on a company website before giving up. Seventeen percent of insurers claimed to offer chat on their Websites, yet only 5% had it operational when they were evaluated. For more information, visit www.eptica.com
Fiduciary Rule Boosts Fixed Indexed Annuities
Fixed-indexed annuities have had the largest growth in the annuity market thanks to the Dept. of Labor’s (DOL) looming fiduciary rule. There has been a corresponding decrease in variable annuities, according to AM Best. Variable annuity sales were down about 18% in the first quarter of 2016 and further in the second quarter of 2016. Edward Kohlberg, associate director of A.M. Best said, “Companies have looked to de-risk their product portfolios, and they’ve lessened the guarantees on variable annuities, which have lowered sales amounts in the last few years. He noted that the DOL’s fiduciary rule changes will include additional fee disclosures and more level compensation structures. Consumers must also contend with the increased volatility in equity markets. Policyholders are looking for more stable returns from fixed and equity index products, which is why fixed-indexed annuities have seen the largest growth in the annuity market. Companies still have some time to revise their product mix or design since full the fiduciary rule doesn’t go fully into effect until 2018,. Kohlberg says that companies are examining their product portfolios and strategies. The Best Special Report, can be viewed at http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=253525.
Proposed Statutory Changes to Variable Annuities Would Be Positive
Regulators want to U.S. revise the statutory framework for variable annuities (VAs) to reduce volatility, shrink or eliminate the use of captives, promote sound risk management, and improve disclosure. That would be a positive development, according to a new report from Fitch Ratings. The NAIC has recommended changes in requirements for reserves, capital, and disclosures following a quantitative impact study. The proposed changes could become effective as early as Jan. 1, 2018, and are expected to be applied to existing and new business.
The proposed changes in VA statutory reserve and capital requirements are designed to mitigate non-economic volatility and reduce or eliminate incentives to use captive reinsurance. Given the complexity and lack of transparency of existing captive reinsurance arrangements, Fitch would view the proposed changes as a credit positive. According to Fitch ratings, to the unstable interplay between the statutory reserve and capital requirements has led to volatility in VA business. The full report “Variable Annuity Risk Profile Improved: Tail Risk Remains” is available at www.fitchratings.com.
Medicare Benefits Analyzer
Mark Farrah Associates released its 2017 Medicare Benefits Analyzer (MBA). Customers now have access to Medicare Advantage and PDP premiums, co-pays and benefits information for the upcoming 2017 calendar year. In addition to plan premiums and enrollment, the product includes comparisons on co-pays, prescription drug tier costs, and annual out-of-pocket costs. For more information, visit www.markfarrah.com.
Small Business Benefit Solutions
MetLife’s new Simply Smart Bundles provide brokers and small business owners employee benefits that enhance their ability to compete in their local markets. Designed for businesses with 10 to 99 employees, the Bundles product includes a combination of dental and vision insurance. There is also the opportunity to add on an employee-paid group legal services plan. This is the first time MetLife is making this benefit available to small businesses. There are also tiered local options. For more information, visit MetLife.com/SimplySmartBundles.