Eighty-nine percent of workers (from entry-level to executive) prefer to work outside of the office at least one day a week, according to a study by DialPad and Altimeter. The Work from Anywhere movement is fueled by pure-cloud communications technology and productivity platforms. Salesforce enabled the first wave of anywhere sellers, marketers, and service professionals. A massive wave of first-generation cloud apps followed for every industry and role. The second wave was driven by cloud-productivity suites, such as Google Apps for Work and Office365. The third wave comes from pure-cloud communications that enable employees to use HD voice, HD video, messaging, and online meetings from any device. It lets workers and businesses cut the cord from the desk phone.
The following are key findings about workers:
- 82% would join a company based on their ability to work from anywhere.
- 77% work outside the office at least a few hours per week.
- 78% say that it’s important to be able to work from anywhere.
- 83% say that having workplace flexibility would make them happier; 79% say it would make them more creative; and 79% say it would make them more productive.
- 75% prefer a mobile smart phone over a desk phone for business calls.
A previous study by Dialpad reveals that following:
- 84% companies surveyed have remote workers.
- 42% have a workforce that is 50% to 100% remote.
- 83% will increase their reliance on a remote workforce in the next three to five years.
- A slower moving industry, such as education, is more reluctant to rely on a remote workforce, with 74% stating they will increase their reliance on remote workers, compared to 83% for a faster moving industry, such as technology.
For more information, visit http://www.dialpad.com
The New Workplace Wearables
Workplace wearables are expanding rapidly, according to a report by ABI Research. More than 16 million wearables—from activity trackers to healthcare monitors and from 3D motion trackers to head-mounted displays—will ship for business use this year. Corresponding device revenues will reach nearly $3 billion. Jeff Orr, Research Director at ABI Research said, “There is significant market interest in the smart glasses segment for design, quality assurance, workflow optimization, and assistive applications. Initial head-mounted display use cases are delivering new operational efficiencies and safety programs by enabling remote workers to access design and support personnel without major delays.”
Wearable devices allow workers to complete tasks without holding a mobile device. Wearables also address major gaps in employee productivity by enhancing voice and data communications between employees and systems. Some employers use them as a form of identity and authentication as well. For more information, visit www.abiresearch.com.
Millennials and Their Benefits
Millennials represent the largest segment of the U.S. labor force, and they have strong feelings about compensation and benefits. Sixty-five percent expect an annual raise; and 60% expect to be offered major medical insurance coverage, according to an Aflac survey. More than half of Millennials don’t understand how a high-deductible health plan really works, although 60% are enrolled in these plans.
Seventy-two percent of Millennials say they are likely to take a job with lower pay, but better benefits. Sixty-six percent are likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months. Eighty-nine percent of Millennials who are extremely or very satisfied with their benefits are satisfied with their jobs, compared to 27% of those who are not satisfied with their benefits.
Eighty-four percent of Millennials see a growing need for voluntary benefits. And of those, 52% say that the need is driven by the rising cost of medical services. Eighty percent of Millennial employees who’ve been offered voluntary benefits are satisfied with their job compared to 58% of those who aren’t offered voluntary benefits.
Beyond an annual raise and major medical insurance, the following are top benefit choices for Millennials:
- 44% A flexible work schedule:
- 36% Professional training.
- 27% The ability to work from home.
- 31% Annual promotions.
And although student debt is a hot topic, more Millennials expect free food/snacks at work (23%) than student loan payment assistance from their employer (19%).
Millennials struggle with benefit decision-making and enrollment, particularly when it comes to major medical insurance. Just over 70% say that reading about their benefits is long, complicated, or stressful. Millennials’ difficulty in understanding enrollment benefits, such as high-deductible health plans, can have significant financial repercussions if an injury or illness occurs. Not surprisingly, 70% say have they wasted up to $750 because of mistakes they made with their insurance benefits during open enrollment. More than four in five say they need some support to be confident about their next benefit selections. Those needs include more of the following:
- 30% Information.
- 22% Help from a benefit consultant or advisor.
- 18% Money.
- 13% Time.
In spite of being the generation that perfected the text message, 60% prefer to speak face-to-face or over the phone about their benefit choices. More than half say that, in an ideal world, their benefit enrollment process would be more like Amazon.com, with easy-to-compare options online. For more information, visit AflacWorkForcesReport.com.
The Benefit Generation Gap
A study by the Guardian reveals how employees have different financial needs and preferences for benefit communications based on their stage of life. Early entrants (those within the first five years of working) want more choice and education in the workplace while near-retirees (those within five years of retirement) value their benefits and worry about losing them in retirement.
Early entrants have a strong desire for financial education and guidance on their benefit decisions to help them focus on immediate financial needs, such as paying bills, addressing job security and work/life balance, and reducing debt. Nearly two-thirds say that it’s easier to buy insurance and save for retirement through their employer than it is to do it on their own. Fifty-six percent of younger workers prefer learning about financial planning and products at work compared to 44% of those who are near retirement.
Near-retirees are most concerned about maintaining adequate health insurance, having a comfortable retirement, staying healthy, and having sufficient savings. Ninety-three percent say that it’s important to have retirement savings that last as long as needed, but only 62% have achieved this goal. It’s apparent that this group needs more information to optimize benefit packages to meet upcoming lifestyle changes.
All employees find it valuable to have tailored benefit communications. Sixty percent say that it wold be more relevant to have benefit meetings that are based on the employee’s age. Early entrants want more personal advice during enrollment with 70% saying that it is very important to have a trusted source for financial advice. However, only 33% of employers place high importance on tailored communications, and only 13% have implemented such an approach.
Ray Marra of the Guardian said, “Our research reveals that employers are demonstrating a renewed focus on improving employee satisfaction. Marra noted that more employers are looking for customized educational materials and enrollment technology solutions. They are also looking at providing access to benefit counselors and hotlines. “Offering these customized tools will help employees make the best benefit choices for their situation,” he said. For more information visit www.guardiananytime.com.
Kemper’s Death Master File Efforts — Too Little Too Late?
Kemper announced that it is voluntarily making a comprehensive effort to cross-reference its life insurance policies against the Social Security Death Master File and other databases to find beneficiaries and pay claims. But Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says that the effort falls woefully short of Kemper’s legal obligation to identify potential beneficiaries who may be unaware they are due life insurance benefits. “Contrary to the other 27 major insurers, Kemper has fought, at every turn, its obligation to use the Death Master File to search for beneficiaries. Kemper needs to step up and do the right thing. They should cease to litigate this issue, agree to search all of their policy records, and disclose their procedures and records to regulators,” he said.
The following is a summary of the commissioner’s comments: Technology has existed for decades and Kemper continues to fight conducting retrospective searches for beneficiaries. Rather than having sought consensus in the regulatory community, Kemper has sued several insurance commissioners leading a national investigation of Kemper and lobbied in state legislatures to block the passage of new laws that reiterate the obligations of life insurers to use the Death Master File (DMF) to search for beneficiaries of deceased life insurance policyholders.
Twenty-four other major life insurers have agreed to do the right thing by searching for possible beneficiaries on all existing policies and policies that lapsed due to non-payment because the insured was already deceased. Three other insurers were determined to be in compliance with fair claims settlement laws by searching the DMF for deceased policyholders from the moment they began to use the DMF. These insurers have done the right thing and delivered on the promises they made to their policyholders to be there for the loved ones named on life insurance policies.
Consumer Driven Plans Drive Smart Shopping
Adults in CDHPs and HDHPs are more likely to be cost-conscious, according to a survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Greenwald & Associates. Compared to adults in a traditional plan, they are more likely to check whether the plan covers particular types of care; ask for a generic drug; talk to their doctors about prescription options and costs; ask their doctor to recommend a less costly drug; talk to their doctor about other treatment options and costs; develop a budget to manage health care expenses; and use an online cost-tracking tool provided by the health plan.
They are also more likely to talk to friends, family or colleagues about the plans; attend a meeting where health plan choices are explained; and consult with their employer’s HR staff about health plan choices. They are more likely to visit the health plan’s website to learn about their plans; talk to friends, family or colleagues about the plans; use other websites to learn about their choices; and consult with an insurance broker to understand their plan choices.
CDHP enrollees are more likely to take advantage of various wellness programs, such as health-risk assessments, health-promotion programs, and biometric screenings. In addition, financial incentives matter more to CDHP enrollees than they matter to traditional-plan enrollees. For more information, visit ebri.org.
Fewer Prescription Drugs Will Be Covered in 2017
Two hundred drugs may be taken off pharmacy’s formularies in 2107, according to eHealth. In August, the nation’s two largest pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs)—Express Scripts and the CVS Health — published the list of drugs they’re excluding from their formularies for 2017. CVS Health will leave 154 prescriptions off of its formularies and Express Scripts will keep 85 drugs off of its formularies next year. The good news is that these PBMs are still covering bio-similar drugs. In most cases they’re simply not covering the newest or most expensive drug.
CVS will exclude some drugs that treat cancer and some commonly prescribed medications for asthma, including Proventil and Ventolin inhalers. Express Scripts has a policy of not banning drugs for mental health or cancer, but it will stop covering the popular drug, Orencia, which treats people with rheumatoid arthritis. Drugs not covered include treatments for the following:
- Rosacea & Acne
- Nasal Steroids
- Estrogen & Testosterone gels
- Ovulatory Stimulants
- Weight Loss drugs
According to eHealth, PBMs sometimes leave expensive drugs off of their formularies to pressure drug companies to lower their prices or offer the PBM a better discount. So, just because a drug isn’t covered now, doesn’t mean it won’t make its way back onto the formularies. eHealth offers its Rx Drug Saver tool, which allows you to type in the names of any prescriptions you take to find the Obamacare plans that cover your drugs at the lowest price.
Federal Workers Bemoan Premium Increases
The Office of Personnel Management announced that enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program would pay 6.2% more for their insurance premiums starting in January. The government’s share of those premiums will increase just 3.7%. “It’s an unacceptably high increase that will hit millions of Americans in the pocketbook,” said J. David Cox Sr. president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE).
For enrollees, biweekly premiums will increase an average of $5.27 in the self-only plan, $10.32 in the self-plus-one plan, and $12.97 in the family plan. For enrollees insured by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the largest insurer in the federal program, rates will increase $5.81 for self-only, $9.46 for self-plus-one, and $15.99 for family coverage. Premiums also are increasing an average of 1.9% for dental plans and 6.3% for vision coverage. One bright spot for next year is that all health plans in the federal program will cover applied behavioral analysis, the most effective known treatment for Autism Spectrum Disorders. AFGE lobbied OPM for 10 years to require FEHBP carriers to provide this coverage.
Women Risk Losing Mammography Coverage
If Congress doesn’t act, millions of women could lose insurance coverage for annual mammograms. Due to end Dec. 31, 2017, a federal statute bars insurers from basing coverage decisions on recent US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) breast cancer screening recommendations. In 2016, the USPSTF advised against routine screening in women for 40 to 49 and 74 and older. The Task Force encouraged only biennial screening for those 50 to 74. These guidelines conflict with those of every major medical association expert in breast cancer care.
Patient groups, minority health care advocates, and breast cancer experts are urging Congress to extend a federal mandate that requires insurers to fully cover annual screening mammograms for women 40 and older. The statute empowers insurers to consider 2002 USPSTF recommendations for regular screening in women 40 and older. Thus, women 40 to 49 who want to get a mammogram and those 50 to 74 who prefer annual screening may not be guaranteed coverage under the ACA if these USPSTF recommendations become policy. The moratorium on these recommendations, included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (Sec. 229), requires insurers to cover mammograms with no copay.
“We don’t want to see a day where women are not covered for mammograms until age 50 and then only every other year. If we do, late-stage breast cancer diagnoses will rise and breast cancer deaths will increase,” said Carolyn Aldigé, president and founder of the Prevent Cancer Foundation. “Hereditary cancers tend to occur at an earlier age, and like many other cancers, can be more aggressive in women in their 40s and younger. Lives will be lost if we don’t act to assure continued insurance coverage of annual mammography for women in their 40s,” said Sue Friedman, executive director of Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered. Linda Goler Blount, president and chief executive officer of the Black Women’s Health Imperative said, “Black women have a higher incidence of breast cancer before age 40. They are also 42% more likely to die from the disease. Early prevention is key. Without this mandate, Black women’s lives are at risk.”
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), National Comprehensive Cancer Network and the American College of Radiology (ACR) and Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) recommend that women start getting annual mammograms at age 40. The USPSTF, American Cancer Society, ACR and SBI agree that the most lives are saved when women start getting annual mammograms at 40 versus delayed or less frequent screening.
“Annual mammography use cuts a woman’s risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half. That is a tremendous step forward in breast cancer care that should not be cast aside. Lawmakers must ensure that women retain coverage for this lifesaving exam,” said Elizabeth Morris, MD, FACR, FSBI, president of the Society of Breast Imaging. For more information visit MammographySavesLives.
Senate Dismisses Allegations of Falsified Congressional Obamacare Enrollment
The Senate Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) and nine other signatories alleging that senators or Senate employees broke federal laws when they submitted applications to the Washington, D.C. Small Business Exchange, claiming status as a “small business.” Rather than being subjected to the Obamacare healthcare exchange as individuals, they were able to buy insurance and qualify for taxpayer-funded subsidies as employer and employees. The September 21, 2016 response from the committee stated that the allegations had been “carefully evaluated” and “that there had been no violation of Senate Rules.” The committee made clear that it would not reconsider its decision or take any further action.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires members of Congress and their staff to enroll in individual plans through the new healthcare exchanges. As open enrollment approached in 2014, members and staff realized that by enrolling as individuals, they would no longer receive generous taxpayer-funded contributions to help pay their insurance premiums as they had for decades under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. They would only qualify for subsidies if their household income was less than 400% of the federal poverty level, just like tens of millions of other Americans who had to purchase insurance in the individual market.
To get around this problem, senators from both sides of the aisle worked with the White House and the Office of Personnel Management to convince the agency to issue special guidance permitting them and their staffs to enroll in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which was also created under Obamacare. The applications that were submitted to the D.C. Small Business Exchange farcically claimed that the Senate and/or each Senate office is a small business with fewer than 50 employees. The employer was identified as “Twenty Congress,” and the statements were sworn to be true.
CCAGW President Tom Schatz said, “CCAGW joins taxpayers in expressing our outrage at the contempt the Senate Ethics Committee showed for the clearly false documents submitted to the D.C. Small Business Exchange. The Senate and Senate offices are plainly not small businesses. The falsified documents were a blatant attempt by senators to shield themselves from the harmful effects of Obamacare. This committee’s arbitrary and capricious decision is another sad example of why taxpayers have such contempt for their elected officials.”
Insurance Company Defections Could Drive Up the Uninsured Rate
With some insurance companies ending their participation in the exchanges, Obamacare customers are weighing dwindling options. Roughly one-third of consumers who purchased on ACA exchanges don’t expect their present insurer (33%) – or any other carrier (34%) to offer insurance through their exchange in 2017. And 32% don’t think they will find options on the exchange that meet their needs, according to a survey by GfK. Liz Reyer of GfK said, “As a brand, the ACA has taken some hits in 2016.” Most observers expected insurance companies to reassess their offerings on the exchanges. But the outright defections have limited consumers’ choices and eroded confidence in the ACA, she said. She recommends a high-profile campaign that makes it clear what options consumers still have so that no one goes without insurance unnecessarily. There is also a need for and stronger collaboration between the insurance industry and the government to keep the ACA viable, she said.
Thirteen percent of consumers who purchased on the exchanges said they would go without insurance if their current coverage was not offered. This number jumps to an alarming 34% among those who earn less than $25,000 a year. Forty-three percent of exchange users would seek new options through the exchanges – with levels highest among 50 to 64 year olds. Thirty-five percent would go directly to an insurer or agent. Most of those who do return to the ACA marketplace won’t worry about brand loyalty. Sixty-six percent say they would choose the best option to meet their needs, regardless of the insurance company. Only 12% would make a point of staying with their current carrier. For more information, visit gfk.com.
The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism is offering the Certified in HealthCare Consumerism designation. For more information, visit http://www.theihcuniversity.com/chcc-certification.
Fixed Index Universal Life
Allianz Life introduced the Allianz True Balance index to its Allianz Life Pro+ Fixed Index Universal Life Insurance (FIUL) Policy. The Allianz True Balance index was created for those seeking a balance of equity and bond indexes that make up their allocation – 50% S&P 500 Index and 50% Barclays US Aggregate RBI Series I Index. It helps consumers diversify risk and smooth out market volatility. It includes a chronic illness accelerated benefit rider and a premium deposit fund rider. For more information, visit allianzlife.com.
Equifax Workforce Solutions introduced its Affordable Care Act (ACA) Subsidy Management Service. For more information, visit www.equifax.com/assets/WFS/aca_subsidy_appeals_service.pdf.
Symetra introduced GapAssist, a package of accident, critical illness and inpatient hospital benefits designed to complement high-deductible medical plans. GapAssist offers three plan designs—Base, Classic, and Premier. Each plan design offers the same core coverage but the benefit amounts vary. Groups can offer just one plan or any combination of the three. For more information, contact a Symetra representative at 800-426-7784 or visit www.Symetra.com/EmployeeBenefits.
Deloitte developed ConnectMe, an integrated HR platform. It brings HR systems and teams together to help employees make intelligent choices using a personalized, streamlined navigation system on desktop and mobile. For more information, visit www.deloitte.com/humancapital.