LGBT Employees and Benefits: Impact of Marriage Equality

A year after the Supreme Court’s historic marriage equality ruling (Obergefell v. Hodges, June 2015), Lincoln Financial surveyed LGBT employees about their benefits. Since the ruling, 28% of the LGBT community overall, and 35% of those married or in a domestic partnership have reevaluated their workplace benefits, enrolled in a new benefit, or increased their contribution to an existing benefit. Thirty percent are making changes to their workplace benefits as a result of the ruling. But 50% are still unaware of how the ruling affects their benefits. Thirty-eight percent of LGBT employees who are married or in a domestic partnership are not aware how the marriage equality ruling affects their workplace benefits. The study also finds the following:

  • 14% of LGBT employees who are married or in a domestic partnership have enrolled in a new non-medical insurance plan.
  • 11% of LGBT employees have enrolled in a new health insurance plan.
  • 7% LGBT employees have made changes to their retirement plan by enrolling in a new plan or increasing contributions.
  • 51% of LGBT employees would like to speak with someone about their benefits.

For more information, visit http://newsroom.lfg.com/mood-of-america-special-report

Getting on the Track to Financial Wellness

A study by Lincoln Financial finds that 55% of workers in the U.S. say they are on the right track to achieving financial well being. The study looked into the lives of the right-trackers, and found these five factors contribute to their feelings of financial security and financial success:

  1. 71% have created a financial plan.
  2. 98% are focused on the future.
  3. 78% exercise at least once a week.
  4. 63% feel good about themselves, which makes them more optimistic.
  5. 57% are enrolled in more than three non-medical benefits.

Employees define financial wellness in these terms:

  • 29% Being prepared for unforeseen events that could affect my
  • financial situation.
  • 27% Living comfortably and having control over day-to-day finances.
  • 25% Having financial freedom that allows me to enjoy my life.”
  • 19% Other.

Voluntary benefits that improve financial wellness can boost the bottom line

People who are under financial stress are less productive employees, bringing down businesses’ bottom lines, studies show, but employers can help by offering education, tools and voluntary benefits. “In addition to securing online financial education resources, companies can take advantage of value-added programs and financial wellness platforms offered by their current benefit providers, as well as other non-traditional voluntary benefits, such as financial counseling services and employee purchase programs that address further aspects of financial wellness,” Elizabeth Halkos writes.

BenefitsPro.com (8/12)

Making the Most Out of Open Enrollment

OpenEnrollment

Nearly half of employees are stressed by the open enrollment process and only half are confident about the benefit decisions they made last year, according to a study by MetLife. Millennials are the most stressed and confused. When asked about the most effective benefit resources, respondents ranked one-on-consultations well above other resources. In fact, Millennials led their generational counterparts in valuing one-on-one consultations. However, only half of employers offer one-on-one consultations. Sixty percent of Millenials consult with their families and friends on benefits. MetLife says that employers need to help their employees connect the value of non-medical benefits to their day-to-day lives. Employers should also do the following:

  • Make sure that employees fully understand key terms such as “deductible,” “premium,” “PPO,” and “HMO.”
  • Have employees ask themselves, “Do I have a big life event coming up, such as marriage or retirement?” It’s critical to choose benefits based on present and future needs.
  • Make sure that employees review their benefits and fully understand them. Only half of employees said they thoroughly reviewed their benefits choices last year.

The survey also reveals how employees feel about their benefits:

  • Financial uncertainty: In contrast to decreasing unemployment numbers, American workers remain pessimistic about their financial future. Less than half feel in control of their finances. Even fewer expect their situations to improve in the next year (46% in 2015, compared to 52% in 2014). More than half are concerned about having enough money to cover out-of-pocket medical costs as well as meeting monthly living expenses and financial obligations. These worries that have increased every year since 2012.
  • Job Satisfaction: More than half of employees are satisfied with their jobs and are committed to the organizations’ goals. An increasing number plan to be with their companies a year from now.
  • Financial Benefits: 71% of employees consider work to be the foundation of their financial safety net. Sixty-two percent of employees want more financial security benefits. Millennials are more financially vulnerable compared to their counterparts. Gen Xrs say they are less secure than other generations.
  • Appreciation of benefits: Half of employees agree strongly that their benefits help them worry less about unexpected health and financial issues. Seventy percent of employees say that having customizable benefits would increase their loyalty to their employer.
  • Supplemental benefits: Employees continue to ask for a range of solutions, especially for more common benefits, such as medical, prescription, 401(k), dental, life, and vision care. Employers are keeping pace with many of their employees’ top benefit requests. However, there are large gaps in accident insurance, critical illness, and hospital indemnity. Most employers understand how non-medical benefits can provide financial protection, such as offsetting out-of-pocket medical expenses. Yet, only 47% of employees believe that supplemental health benefits can help close these gaps.
  • A streamlined plan design: Plan design, claims management, and implementation rank highly as advantages of streamlining the number of carriers that employers use.
  • Use of enrollment firms: Three-quarters of employers have positive attitudes towards enrollment firms. Seventy-one percent of employers say that working with an enrollment firm helped them improve benefit communications.
  • Wellness plans: More than two thirds of employees are interested in physical well-being programs that reward healthy behavior. This is especially true among Millennials (75%) and female employees (72%).
  • Retirement Benefits: Forty percent of employees say that having retiree benefits is a key reason to stay with their employer. Millennials feel the most strongly about this, probably due to their lack of financial confidence. About a third of employees plan to postpone retirement, an increase of 5% over 2015. Almost 6 in 10 employees plan to work or consult once retired. Of this 60%, 44% plan to work part-time.
  • Older workers: With today’s workers redefining what it means to be a retiree, employers must also redefine what retiree benefits look like in order to appeal to this rich reservoir of talent. For example, 63% of employees say that dental is a must-have retiree benefit while only 42% of employers offer it. Similar gaps can be found across other critical non-medical benefits, such as vision and life insurance. More than half of employees say that their employer does not offer any employer-paid non-medical benefits. With retiree benefits being such an important loyalty factor for many employees, employers have an opportunity to keep pace in 2016 and beyond.

Health Plan Offer Rates Since the ACA

A study by the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI) reveals that large employers have had steady health insurance offer rates since passage of the ACA. In fact, 99% of employers with 1,000 or more workers offer heath insurance as do 93% to 95% of employers with 100 to 999 workers. However, offer rates have been falling since 2009 for employers with fewer than 10 workers, from 36% in 2008 to 23% in 2015. Offer rates for employers with 10 to 24 workers went from 66% in 2008 to 49% in 2015. Offer rates for employers with 25 to 99 workers went from 81% in 2008 to 74% in 2015.

Wellness Plans Need More Personalization

The keys to maximizing a wellness plan is to offer personalization, provide rewards, and understand what employees want, according to a survey by Welltokget and the National Business Group on Health. The study, which is based on the responses of over 1,000 full-time employees at large companies, reveals the following:

  • 81% say their company wellness plan has improved their physical well-being.
  • 60% say that including family in wellness programs is likely to increase participation.
  • 37% of those who did not participate in the company’s wellness program did not find it relevant to them, and 20% didn’t know it was available.
  • 78% of those earning $200,000 more would engage in healthier behaviors if they got rewards as would 98% of all employees under 35 and 85% of those over 55.
  • 86% said the top motivators for improving their health came from colleagues, followed by their direct manager (57%).
  • 64% of Millennials said that their direct manager influenced them to improve their health compared to 51% of those 55 and older.
  • 24% of Millennials said HR influenced them to improve their health compared to 40% of those 55 and older.
  • 63% of households making less than $50,000 want employers to play a role in their financial well-being compared to 44% of those making $200,000 or more.
  • 60% of participants from 18 to 34 say that employers should be involved in financial health compared to less than half of those 45.
  • 58% of women say employers should play a role in employees’ financial health versus 48% of men.
  • 77% of employees say that their employers should play a role in helping them get cost effective care.
  • 74% say the employer should provide emotional/personal support resources.
  • 53% say employers should play a role in helping them stop unhealthy behaviors.
  • 53% say employers should help them manage financial issues.
  • 24% participate in emotional health benefits.
  • 37% participate in financial security programs.
  • 48% of employees participate in programs to help them improve their physical health.

Brian Marcotte, CEO and president of the National Business Group on Health said, “It is clear that employees can benefit from employer-sponsored programs aimed at improving physical, financial and emotional health, along with decision support resources to maximize their health care experience. The one size fits all approach to communications has proven ineffective in engaging employees and engagement is now the number one challenge facing employers. Personalization is the key. Emerging engagement platforms…shows great promise…by leveraging data, predictive analytics, and technology to reach people with personalized, timely, relevant, and actionable information.” For more information, visit welltok.com.

What Employers Need to Know about Transgender Rights

Forty-eight percent of employers showed bias against hiring a transgender person even when the applicant was more qualified than others. Also, nearly 90% of transgender people report workplace harassment, according to a recent survey led by the D.C. Office of Human Rights. Rob Wilson of Employco USA, says that the case of Macy vs. the Dept. of Justice sets a legal precedent that prevents employers from refusing or rescinding job offers when finding out that a person is transgender. Wilson said that employers should also consider the following:

  • Legal documents may not match the applicant’s or employee’s preferred name/pronoun.
  • On official legal forms, you must use the name and gender on the identification the employee gives you, regardless of how they present themselves in person. However, just because you must do so on the legal forms, it does not mean you must do so on the company website or the person’s business cards, etc. Instead, use their preferred name.
  • Ask what pronoun they prefer.
  • Ask if they want the other staff to know any details about their gender identity, and respect their choice.
  • Allow them to use the bathroom of their choice. OSHA recommends that employers permit employees to use the bathroom of their choice, meaning that a transgender female should be allowed to use the female bathroom, or a transgender male should be allowed to use the male bathroom.
  • Have an office-wide meeting to let all managing personnel know about how these issues will be handled.
  • Update employee handbooks to reflect that discrimination against transgender employees will not be tolerated.
  • Update the office dress code policy. Instead of saying, “Men must wear slacks,” or “Women must wear skirts,” say “Business casual is required,” or “No ripped clothing, or logos, etc. are allowed.”

Employees Value Student Loan Payment Benefits

Ninety percent of 400 middle managers say that that student loan debt is creating stress for their employees, according to a survey by IonTuition. Nearly 85% say that employees would appreciate being able to make student loan payments via automatic payroll deductions. Almost 85% say that employees would take advantage of a student loan repayment assistance benefit; nearly 80% say it would help them recruit talent; and 70% say it would improve employee retention and morale. Nearly 75% say that employees contribute less to their 401(k) because of their student loans. More than half of managers say that prospective employees view benefits as the most important aspect of a company, taking priority over company culture, commute, and reputation

Employees Appreciate Voluntary Insurance Benefits

Seventy-nine percent of employees see a growing need for voluntary insurance compared to last year. And of those, 60% say the need is driven by the rising cost of medical services, according to an Aflac survey. Employees who are offered voluntary benefits report higher satisfaction with their jobs and their benefits. Employees whose work site offers voluntary benefits are more likely to say the following:

  • They are prepared to pay for out-of-pocket expenses not covered by major medical/health insurance related to an unexpected serious illness or accident (73% versus 56%).
  • They are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs (73% versus 57%).

Generic Drugs and Multi-Tiers Dominate Employer Plans

Forty-nine percent of employer-sponsored prescription drug plans have three tiers, and 44% have four or more tiers. That’s an increase of 34% from 2014 to 2015 and 58% since 2013, according to a report by United Benefit Advisors (UBA). “The market will continue to adapt. We’re already seeing the advent of six-tier prescription drug plans,” said Scott Deru, president of UBA Partner Firm Fringe Benefit Analysts. The Affordable Care Act will drive changes to plan design. Employers struggle with balancing cost containment and employee retention. The biggest challenges are for employers that are losing their grandmothering or grandfathering protection.

Last Updated 11/1/2017

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