Tag Archives: employee benefits

How Long Commutes Impact Workplace Productivity
20th February 2018 by Fringe Benefits in General

What do all employees have in common? They all have a burning dislike for their morning commute! Let’s face it, it’s not the actual commute that most people dislike, it’s the hassle of dealing with traffic, long lines, and rude people that make the trip so despised.

It doesn’t matter how an employee gets to work — whether it’s by car, train, plane, boat, or just walking, there’s always one or more aspects of a long commute that a person would like to change. How an employee starts the day is an important indicator of his or her attitude for the rest of that day.

You know the ad that proclaims 15 minutes could save you 15% by switching to some insurance? Well, I cut my commute time in half by switching my car’s horn from a beep to sounding like a machine gun. At least I wish I did. My former commute to work was 70 miles each way. While the traffic was always light, that commute still extracted a fair amount of energy from me due to the time spent on the road. Luckily for me, my supervisor allowed me to work from home two days a week.

Managers need to determine what an employee needs to be the most productive while at work. Some things are within their control such as having the best equipment, providing the most up-to-date training, or even a supplying a kick-start of coffee or a snack. However, there are a plethora of items outside their control that can disrupt productivity such as the need for eight hours of sleep, family issues, or even a particularly grueling commute. According to a recent Gallup poll, fourteen percent of all American workers report they spend at least 45 minutes getting to work. Gallup found that commutes of this length are linked to poorer overall wellbeing, daily mood, and health.

If a manager doesn’t have to endure the horrors of a long and demanding commute, it might be difficult for that person to understand the impact it has on an employee’s productivity and overall morale. Considering that the average worker spends five weeks a year commuting, it’s easy to see how someone might not feel motivated when he or she reaches the workplace.

Fortunately, restoring motivation in an employee with a lengthy commuting is relatively easy. That being said, it takes a manager who is willing to make compromises, have a fair amount of trust in his or her employees, and the necessary equipment — or the ability to lay the groundwork — to let them telecommute if the situation arises.

“Commuting can be a major challenge for employees,” says Jason Reeves, MBA, Director of Survey at United Benefit Advisors. “Employers can ease this burden by allowing telecommuting and flexible work schedules to take the burden off of long commutes during the rush hour.”

There is no doubt that a manager assumes a small amount of risk when letting an employee work from home, but if that manager is confident in the employee’s work ethic, then there should not be a reason to worry. In fact, most employees who telecommute report that they actually work harder from home than they do in the office because they felt like they had to “prove themselves” to their colleagues and show that they were pulling their weight.

When telecommuting is not an option, there are plenty of small changes in the workplace that can be made to help ease the pressure on workers who commute long distances:

  • Allow commuting employees to work one day a week from home. The break from the commute will ease their stress and show them that you understand their situation.
  • If employees primarily take public transportation as a way to get to work, then count one hour toward their time in the office as long as they use a laptop or other device to do job-related functions.
  • Have flexible office hours so that employees can arrive, work an appropriate amount of time, then leave so as to avoid both morning and evening rush hours.
  • Offer support (such as moving expenses, paid time off, etc.) to workers who are willing to relocate closer to the office.

Finally, be sympathetic. An employee may not have a choice when it comes to their commute and a little understanding can go a long way in making that person feel as though someone understands their morning struggle.

©Copyright 2018 by Geoff Mukhtar, Communications Manager at United Benefit Advisors.  Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

How to Motivate Employee Participation in Your Wellness Program
5th February 2018 by Fringe Benefits in General

Have you ever heard the quote, “If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your business?” It’s great advice and goes beyond ensuring that they get a paycheck each month. Does your company show that they care about an employee’s total well-being? You should, especially considering that an employee’s physical and mental well-being can affect productivity and consequently cost the company money. One great way to show employees that you are invested in them, and to help them stay healthy, is through a wellness program.

Once you decide to start a wellness program, there are many things that must be considered, but one of the most important is figuring out how you are going to motivate employees to participate and invest in living a healthy lifestyle.

Let’s take a look at the psychology behind motivation. Behavior can be regulated externally (e.g., gift rewards and punishment) or intrinsically (e.g., internal goals). To motivate your staff, the goal should be to leverage both of these methods to help employees develop healthy behaviors that will last a lifetime so that it essentially becomes second nature to them. That lasting change will be felt throughout your organization for a long time to come. Those that haven’t already incorporated healthy behaviors into their lifestyle will need the extra push, and that’s where an organized wellness program comes in.

Here are different types of incentives that wellness programs typically use to give employees that extra push:

  • Financial (gift card or decreased premium)
  • Social recognition (awards)
  • Surprise incentives (every once in a while, surprise employees with an additional award – the element of fun will help keep employees motivated)

To really create a well-designed wellness program, we suggest incorporating these other tips.

Personalization

If you want employees to be engaged and motivated, make the wellness program personalized so that it’s fair for all participants. Understand that not all employees are at the same level. It can often be easy to marginalize those who are already doing everything right. Try to find a way to recognize these employees as well. If employees can participate at their own fitness or readiness level, they will be more likely to participate.

Communication

At times, lack of participation cannot solely be attributed to an unwilling employee. It’s possible that employees are unaware of, or do not fully understand, the wellness program and the benefits of participation. To ensure a greater level of participation, make sure that you are properly communicating with your employees. According to a recent article in Plan Sponsor, Robert Kennedy, Health and Welfare practice leader with Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting business in Boston, says “incentives will get some employees engaged in the programs, but beyond that, communications play a strong role. Communications should set the context for employees—explaining why the employer is offering the programs and what it hopes to accomplish.” The article goes on to suggest, “frequent, short reminders about how to take advantage of incentives, using a variety of channels—emails, the employer’s intranet site or employee meetings. Short messages should contain a click-through for more detail for those employees who want it.”

Peer pressure

No one wants to be known as the only employee who doesn’t participate. Be careful not to call out any employee, but do get employees talking about the wellness program. In March, one of the ways in which our employees could obtain points toward a wellness credit (which decreased premium costs for those on the health plan) was to motivate other employees to participate. This works out great because most people want to demonstrate that they are a positive influence in the company and participating in activities with coworkers is a great way to do that.

Spread incentives out over time

To assist employees in developing a pattern of healthy behaviors, spread incentives out over time. This way they will be less likely to just take the money and run. Some employees will participate for the incentive, but over time the healthy behaviors will become habit. Some may even realize that they enjoy living a healthy lifestyle more than an unhealthy one as they experience the benefits of living well.

Keep in mind that a wellness program is not one size fits all and, while turnkey programs should be easy to implement, companies should carefully think about their culture and what they want to achieve. People are motivated by different things, so what works for one person in your company may not work for another and what works for your company may not work for other companies.

©Copyright 2018 by Sara Saidi, Marketing Coordinator at The Wilson Agency. A UBA Partner Firm.  Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Negotiating over COBRA Coverage-Use EXTREME CAUTION!
31st January 2018 by Fringe Benefits in General

Have you ever overheard the new employee in the break room, bragging about how good their health insurance was with their previous employer, and how much less expensive it was than the coverage they are currently being offered?

You may think ”If it was so good, then why give it up?” There are always a number of factors that can lead to someone making a job change, but what happens when COBRA becomes a part of the negotiating process when they are working out the terms of employment with the new company?

We know that, as of November 2014, the Department of Labor (DOL) made it very clear that an employer cannot pay the premium for an individual plan of an employee or an employee’s dependents, period. If they do, the employer could pay an excise tax of $100 per day they are out of compliance per employee affected. That could be up to $36,500 for ONE employee, for ONE year!

But what if a prospective employee were coming to work for you, and the plan with their current employer had similar coverage but lower premiums because the employer was a larger company, the employees were in very good health overall and the employer had negotiated very low rates with its carrier as a result, or the employer was based in a different state where health care costs were lower? What if that prospective employee tells you that you could pay their COBRA premiums and pay less premium for them than if they enroll in your plan? Many employers would love to save $500 a month for one employee. But the deal is not nearly as sweet as it sounds, and here’s why.

While it is not illegal for an employer to pay for COBRA premiums, if it is for a group plan and not an individual plan, it can create other problems with regard to ERISA and COBRA compliance.

As soon as an employer pays the premium on a pre-tax basis on behalf of an employee for its company policy or another policy, an employer-sponsored plan is created, and is therefore subject to both ERISA and COBRA regulations.

ERISA requires that the plan sponsor distribute notifications to enrollees of the plan, including a Summary Plan Description, and other documents that contain specific plan details. If the employee’s plan benefits were under another employer’s plan, it may be difficult to get that information and distribute it to your employee.

Federal COBRA regulation requires that the employee have access to the same coverage for up to 18 months after he or she loses eligibility for the plan due to termination of employment, for example. What happens if the COBRA plan terminates because that previous company goes out of business and its group plan dissolves? Now the current employer is obligated to continue the employee’s coverage, perhaps without a means to do so.

Or, what if this employee terminates from your company after 12 months? It now becomes your responsibility to provide the employee with 18 months of COBRA coverage, except the employee has already used a portion of his or her COBRA eligibility while under your employment. Since COBRA is an employer obligation, you could be responsible for providing COBRA coverage to an employee who was never enrolled in your company’s group policy in the first place.

It becomes a sticky mess, indeed!

On the flip side, what about negotiating an employee’s severance package? If an employee is leaving your company and you are putting together a severance package, be careful when including paying for the employee’s COBRA continuation coverage. Many employers will offer to pay for three, six or 12 months of COBRA premiums on behalf of the terminated employee.

While this can be done, be careful how you word it in the severance agreement. Most employer sponsored plans are on a 12 month contract. If you make a very general statement saying you will pay to continue the employee’s COBRA coverage at your expense for 12 months, and your premiums skyrocket at renewal, or if you change carriers, and the terminated employee chooses a more expensive plan with richer benefits, you could be on the hook for the increase in premiums.

If you are clear in the severance agreement about the amount you will commit to pay on the employee’s behalf, or clear about the level of coverage to be provided (platinum, gold, silver, or bronze level plan, for example), then you will be better protected.

If you are paying COBRA premiums on a tax-exempt basis for a current employee, or you are concerned about a severance agreement that you made with a terminated employee, please seek advice from your ERISA or employment law attorney.

©Copyright 2018 by Elizabeth Kay, Compliance & Retention Analyst at AEIS Advisors. A UBA Partner Firm.  Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Vision Benefits — Focus On The Important Things
15th December 2017 by fgsiteadmin in Uncategorized

Stay focused on vision health and wellness

Ever heard of “smiling eyes?” We know all about that. It’s what happens when your eyes are healthy and happy.

We’ve re-envisioned the world of vision benefits. In our world, members are at the heart of everything we do, so whether you have an existing vision correction need or you rely on annual eye exams to keep your vision healthy and sharp, you can feel confident knowing you get more to love with FBA.

Employer-sponsored vision plans enhance any chosen medical plan, or provide separate comprehensive coverage.

Designed to Meet Your Needs

At FBA, we provide individual and voluntary policy options to enable customized benefits solutions for a diverse employee base. With the flexibility to choose the correct provider, we provide vision plans designed to meet your needs.

Some of our vision insurance partners include:

  • Eyemed
  • VSP
  • Opticare

Frequent Exams

Routine eye exams are very important — regardless of your age or your physical health and especially if you notice any major vision changes.

During an eye exam, your eye doctor does much more than just determine your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses. He or she will also check your eyes for common eye diseases, assess how your eyes work together as a team and evaluate your eyes as an indicator of your overall health.

Also, eye doctors often are the first healthcare professionals to detect chronic systemic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and other serious diseases.

Why Should You Get Your Eyes Examined?

Taking good care of your eyes is absolutely critical. An eye exam is one of the best ways to protect your vision because it can detect eye problems at their earliest stage – when they’re most treatable. Regular eye exams give your eye doctor a chance to help you correct or adapt to vision changes. Even if you think your eyes are healthy the best way to keep your eyes healthy is to be prepared and plan accordingly, eye exams will let you do this

At Fringe Benefit Analysts, we are just as committed to your and your family’s eye health as you are.

Recommended Eye Exam Frequency For Adults

  • Ages 20-39 – Every five to 10 years
  • Ages 40-54 – Every two to four years
  • Ages 55-64 – Every one to three years
  • Ages 65+ – Every one to two years

People with poor vision, a family history of eye disease or a condition that increases the risk of eye disease, such as diabetes, should have more frequent exams.

Let’s Talk Costs

As far as costs go, it is dependent on what type of plan is selected by your employer however, eye exams typically have a $0 to $25 copay, with a $10 eye exam being the most common. Lenses, contacts and frames are usually expressed in maximum benefit amounts ranging from $100 to $200 per service with $130 to $150 being the most common. In the case where a patient chooses a pair of frames in excess of the maximum amount, the patient pays the difference out of pocket.

Obviously, as co-pays go down and benefits amounts go up, premiums also go up. However, vision insurance plans are relatively inexpensive. Rates for a single employee are usually in the range of $5–$10 per month with full-family rates rarely above $25 per month. Many vision insurance carriers offer a 2, 3 or even 4-year rate guarantee on premiums. This is a great budgeting tool, as you don’t have to guess what your rate increase is going to be.

Although most eye care practices are very knowledgeable about insurance plans, remember that it is not your doctor’s responsibility to know the details of your individual plan. It is to your benefit to be aware of possible deductibles and co-pays that are part of your plan. Your insurance plan may cover routine vision care, but you might end up paying for it anyway if your deductible has not yet been met. Fringe Benefit Analysts has a team of insurance and financial specialists to help answer any questions you might have.

The Perk of Pets
15th October 2017 by fgsiteadmin in News, General

Companies on the leading edge of employee benefits, especially those that want to stand out within an industry, will offer such pet-friendly perks in order to attract top talent. But what exactly are these benefits?

According to an article titled, “Pet-Friendly Perks” in Human Resource Executive Online, employers are offering benefits such as pet insurance, paid pet bereavement leave, pet parental leave, paid leave to take care of a new pet, an on-site dog park, and the ever-popular bring your pet to work day. Most of these would have been unheard of even a few years ago.

On the website of Workforce, their infographic titled, “By The Numbers: Pet-friendly Workplaces,” shows how the popularity of these benefits has skyrocketed, as evidenced by the fact that one in three Fortune 500 companies offer pet insurance. So, why are pet-related perks so popular now?

As mentioned in the Human Resource Executive Online article, the bond between pets and humans appears to be stronger these days. Individuals are placing a greater amount of importance on their pets and spending a significant amount of their disposable income on them. Employers have taken notice of this and even acknowledged that pets can have a positive impact in the workplace.

The Workforce infographic shows that seven out of 10 people say that pets make a positive impact on office dynamics and morale, and bringing a dog to work is preferred three to one over table tennis and foosball tables. Yet, even with those strong statistics, only seven percent of employers allow pets in the workplace.

Obviously, while some job candidates are thrilled with pet-related benefits, others may cringe at the thought of working side-by-side with someone’s dog or cat. They may have allergies, a fear of animals, or some other issue that makes them pet averse.

Employers need to find a balance if they decide to implement a pet-friendly work policy that takes into account everyone’s opinions. Details need to be set in clear language and managers should be made aware of what is and is not allowed. If this trend continues, you may be lucky enough to have a furry, four-legged co-worker sitting next to you.

©Copyright 2017 by Geoff Mukhtar, Communications Manager at United Benefit Advisors. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?
11th October 2017 by fgsiteadmin in News, General

The importance of health and wellness in the workplace is more apparent than ever. It’s obvious why healthy individuals make better employees and the positive impact this has on your bottom line. When thinking about building a program to improve the well-being of your employees, don’t forget about the importance of their financial health.

In recent years, studies show that employees have a wide range of financial concerns that affect their work. Some financial issues are widespread, impacting a large number of employees, while others may be more unique based on an employee’s specific circumstances.

Financial stress in the workplace influences productivity, absenteeism, physical health, emotional well-being, and the overall happiness of employees. Nearly 25 percent of employees confirm personal finance issues are a distraction at work and 39 percent say they spend three hours or more each week at work dealing with personal financial issues.1

Some of the biggest financial stressors impacting employees today include:

  • Student loan debt – 2 million Americans collectively owe $1.3 trillion in student loans – that’s more than credit card and auto loan debt, and second only to mortgage debt 2
  • Retirement savings – 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 in retirement savings 3
  • Emergency funds – 46 percent are unable to cover a $400 emergency 4
  • Other debt – 48 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than savings 5

Unfortunately, financial stress can go unnoticed because it is usually not as openly discussed or addressed. Discussing personal finance with co-workers and even family members is still considered difficult for many. This makes it even more important to have a program in place to educate and empower your employees to make positive financial decisions.
There are a wide variety of financial wellness programs and services available. When developing a program, be sure that you include both educational resources and tools that support behavioral change.

  • Educational resources – Education is the backbone to any financial wellness program. Remember, financial issues can impact anyone in your company and not everyone learns the same way. Offer a variety of resources including workshops, seminars, books, online courses and access to financial consultations. It’s important to assure employees that they are in a safe environment where they can learn and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking more information.
  • Empowering behavioral change – Financial wellness doesn’t stop with education. Worksheets, budgeting tools, financial consultants, loan repayment plans and retirement savings plans are all tools that aid employees in making long-term behavioral changes that improve their financial health. Celebrating the small successes early on will help employees commit to making more long-term changes. Be sure to have programs in place that offer the tools and resources needed for employees to set goals, change their behavior and celebrate their success.

Consult with your Employee Assistance Program about resources they may have to help you develop a financial wellness program and empower your employees to get on the path to financial health.

1 PricewaterhouseCoopers, “Employee Financial Wellness Survey,” 2014, page 11

2 Friedman, Zack, “Student Loan Debt in 2017: A $1.3 Trillion Crisis,” Forbes.com, February, 21, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2017/02/21/student-loan-debt-statistics-2017/#6d7983a05dab

3 GOBankingRates, “How Much Americans Have Saved for Retirement Survey,” 2016

4 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2015,” May 2016, p. 22.

5 Bankrate, “Bankrate Financial Security Index,” 2017

©Copyright 2017 by Nancy Cannon of Workplace Solutions Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company, a UBA Strategic Partner. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

New Benefits Target Employee Debt
1st August 2017 by fgsiteadmin in General

Today, most new full-time hires expect a company to offer certain standard benefits – health, dental, vision, and life insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and a 401(k) or pension. Some companies go beyond this and provide other benefits such as profit sharing, parking reimbursement, mobile phone reimbursement, wellness programs, and even on-site daycare. So what does the future hold for employees when it comes to their expectations of a traditional benefits package?

In an article titled, “Student Loan Repayment Programs Are ‘The Next 401(k)’” on the website Employee Benefit News, it claims that the next big thing in employee benefits is student loan repayment. In fact, they view this as not just a fad, but something that will stick given the high cost of tuition and its appeal to everyone in the workforce. Yes, you read that last part correctly. You may think that tuition reimbursement would only be an attractive benefit to those who are just entering the workforce, but people older than 39 currently have 35% of all student debt. Plus, graduate programs may be covered and so might be loans taken by parents to help pay for their kid’s education.

As of 2015, based on data from the Society for Human Resource Management, only about 3% of employers currently offer the benefit, but that’s expected to increase sharply. According to the article, the reason is that tuition reimbursement is a concept you don’t have to “sell” to decision makers like you would a complicated health plan. They already know today’s graduates are struggling to repay their student debt.

A side advantage of adding tuition reimbursement to a company’s benefits package is that, by removing the stress of repaying a student loan, employees will be more apt to contribute to their 401(k) or other corporate retirement plan. As companies look for ways to differentiate themselves when recruiting new employees, this benefit appears to have significant traction.

©Copyright 2017 by Geoff Mukhtar at United Benefit Advisors. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.

The Pitfalls of Online Enrollment Systems
19th June 2017 by fgsiteadmin in Healthcare Reform, General

Online enrollment platforms are great, but communication and understanding are terribly important for the end-user.

I always say, “technology is great, when it works.” Online enrollment platforms have been around for years, and the technology that powers them has grown and advanced at an exponential rate. Who would have guessed that we would be enrolling in our employee benefits directly from our own phones and tablets, without being given the huge enrollment packets from HR?
In this virtual communication age, you can’t take the “human” out of Human Resources, and you can’t take the confusion out of insurance benefits just because you wrap it in a nice, pretty website with fancy graphics and videos.

An employee’s health concerns and needs are as diverse and different as hair colors are at Comic Con, so while a brief overview of plan details is fine for one person, someone else wants to know how many physical therapy visits they can have in a year, or if their child’s insulin pump will be covered on their plan.

A simple online enrollment platform does not always meet the needs of all employees, and not all platforms will offer the level of detail some will require. Aside from posting the evidence of coverage, or insurance contract, at a place that is easily found on the portal, there may not be a way to achieve that level of detail. However, even for those that don’t need that level of detail, critical information must be communicated easily and effectively.

Costly mistakes can be made when benefits are not communicated effectively, or when important information is simply omitted. For example, since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was implemented, some employers have opted to offer minimum value plans (MVPs), or plans that cover very few procedures such as office visits, preventive care, and hospital room and board, but they do not cover a wide range of other services such as ambulance, surgery, medical devices, physical or occupational therapy, etc.

When an employee sees a number of choices or plans from which to choose, they will likely compare the various plan options by looking at the carrier, if the plans are HMOs or PPOs, and the cost. From there, an employee may look at the office copays, deductibles, prescription drug costs, and coinsurance.

If the comparison shows MVP plans as well as traditional health plans, but does not call out in big, bold letters, all of the items the MVP plan does not cover, one could come away with the understanding that if they choose the MVP plan, they are selecting a plan that is a comprehensive insurance plan just like the other plans shown, or like they have had in the past.

Most of us don’t read our car insurance policy in detail until we get in an accident and the insurance adjustor says, “sorry, your policy does not cover that.” The same is usually true for our health insurance plans.

You could argue that it is the responsibility of the employee to verify that the plan they are choosing meets all of their needs, certainly. But if that information is not easy to locate, you could find fault with the employer, or insurance carrier, if there were to be a problem. Furthermore, an employer would want to show their employees that they want to take care of them, and not set them up for failure in the event of a crisis.

Let’s walk through a scenario. An employee named “Joe” is 28, and is enrolling in his company’s health plans during open enrollment. His company recently merged with another larger company, and so the benefits being offered are slightly different, but look pretty close to what they had been last year. There are four plans offered, two that are HMO plans with Kaiser and two that are PPO plans, one is labeled Silver, the other Gold.

Joe is young and single, and when he was living at home with his parents, he had never had Kaiser and always traditionally had PPO coverage. Last year, Joe enrolled in the Silver PPO plan so he could continue to see the doctors that had been managing his care for all of his adult life, so he elects the same plan this year. The online system shows a $250 deductible, $40 office visit copay, and 30% coinsurance. In addition, the Kaiser premiums have gone up considerably from what he remembered them to be last year, and are higher than the PPO plan options, so he feels comfortable that he has made the choice that is best for him.

Later in the year, he comes down with a bad cold. The pressure in his head that is caused by the cold is so severe that when he sneezed, he blew out his right ear drum. He goes to the doctor, and his doctor orders a CT scan of his ear. The CT scan shows he has perforated his ear drum and will need surgery to repair it. The surgery is scheduled for two weeks after that. He contacts the hospital and surgeon to confirm they are contracted, in-network providers under his health plan, and asks them to do a pre-determination of benefits so he will know up front how much he should expect to pay as his 30% of the cost of the procedure.

While waiting for the surgeon and hospital to get back to him regarding the out-of-pocket costs, he receives the bill for the CT scan and explanation of benefits from his doctor for the office visit and CT scan. They show his office copayment that he paid at the time of service, and his $250 deductible, plus 30% of the remaining cost of the CT scan, which came out to a total of $500. He pays the bills and continues to work even though he is in extreme discomfort from his right ear.

The surgeon and hospital both get back to him and let him know the surgery itself will cost approximately $20,000 because his plan does not cover surgery, period. Joe is not an executive in a large company; he does not have the money to pay for a $20,000 surgery and also afford to take three weeks off of work in order for him to recover. So, what is he to do?

He can’t enroll in another plan offered by his employer for another nine months when they go through open enrollment again. It is March, so he has missed the state Exchange open enrollment window, and he has not experienced an involuntary loss of coverage that would enable him to enroll in a state Exchange plan. If he were to purchase a short-term, comprehensive medical plan it won’t cover any pre-existing conditions, which his perforated ear drum would certainly be considered. So, unless he gets married and enrolls on his new spouse’s plan if they were offered one by their employer, he is out of options. He will simply have to wait until open enrollment next year.

How do you think Joe is feeling about his employer right now? Do you think he is counting his blessings that he only ruptured his ear drum and was not diagnosed with cancer that needed to be removed before it spread any further? Or is he going to be using a few choice words to describe an employer that offers a medical plan to its employees that has a longer list of services not covered than are covered? I can’t say that I know for sure, but I can guess.

Now, the question becomes how does an employer prevent their employees from running into these kinds of pitfalls? It comes down to clear communication—multiple forms of communication that are easily accessible to employees and their family members that may also play a role in making plan decisions. Having someone to partner with your company, such as a UBA Partner Firm that will not only help you develop long-term plan strategies for your employee benefits package, but can be an integral part of developing and implementing online systems, hard copy communications, and give you access to tools such as smartphone applications that not only give employees access to essential information, but also push out important communications that contain relevant information at the appropriate times like open enrollment. Making plan details easily accessible in the online platform, with clear and bold statements if there are essential benefits that are not covered on the plan such as a warning, should be clearly stated so that employees are well informed.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Insurance is a complicated business and you, as an employer, would not want to make decisions about the health care you offer your employees without someone to guide you through the various options and possibilities. As responsible employers, our employees should not have to either.

Are you curious to know more about communication options for your employees? Contact your local UBA Partner Firm!

©Copyright 2017 by Elizabeth Kay at AEIS Advisors, a UBA Certified Solution. Reproduction permitted with attribution to the author.