E to E...by Employers for Employers E to E provides information from a business perspective that will educate regional employers about significant healthcare issues to help them make decisions benefiting their organizations and employees.

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April 2014 Issue

Contents

Nurturing "Healthy" Wellness Programs

ACA News to Know

Quick Poll – Review

April Quick Poll – Vote

April Question

Contact Information

NIHP Home

NURTURING "HEALTHY" WELLNESS PROGRAMS

According to a RAND Health study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about half of U.S. employers offer wellness promotion initiatives. As more employers weigh the benefits of these programs and employees contemplate participation, several key components of healthy wellness initiatives remain clear. Successful programs are:

  • Selected and implemented after considerable research and as part of a long-term, phased-approach strategy.
  • Designed to balance both incentives and disincentives, along with measureable outcomes. (The Affordable Care Act allows for significant outcomes-based incentives.)
  • Introduced with and maintained through well-planned, consistent communication campaigns.
  • Developed after an honest assessment of the company's wellness culture and a review of the business’ willingness to modify that environment.

Food for thought: The health and well-being of workforce members directly correlates to the culture they work within, so simply offering health and wellness programs may not be enough to change your employees' habits. In some scenarios, a workplace "culture overhaul" is required to honestly address the issue. Independent research by a Stanford University professor suggests that European approaches to the work environment, often thought to be extremely generous by American standards, could create vast reductions in health care spending — over 20%. Although most everyone acknowledges that workplace conditions play a role in employee wellness, the extent of that role is up for considerable debate.

The bottom line for you? Wellness programs can be an important piece of your healthcare strategies. Beyond the obvious gym memberships and smoking cessation programs, you may want to ask yourself, "What simple cultural changes could we implement that might positively impact employee health along with our profitability?"


FURTHER READING

5 workplace wellness ideas to implement immediately
B2C, April 19, 2014

Toxic workplaces override wellness efforts: Stanford professor
EBN, April 7, 2014

Wellness programs grow more popular with employers
Work It, Lynchburg, April 23, 2014



ACA NEWS TO KNOW

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its related mandates promise to trigger important topics to share with you in coming months. Here’s a look at what you need to know right now:

  • Trends show that more employers appear to be designing health care plans with ACA requirements in mind. Rising out-of-pocket maximums, increasing use of HSAs, and lower prescription drug deductibles are likely results, according to early reporting.
  • The employer mandate, which will take effect in 2015 and 2016, will require large employers to implement a reliable system for tracking employee hours, dependents, coverage levels, coverage periods, and more. Managing this data will require robust reporting tools and related forms may become as ubiquitous as the famous W2 (coincidentally, both will be due to employees at the same time). Even employers not providing medical coverage will need to file this information, so you may want to start planning now.
  • The Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee is due July 31 if your plan provides accident and health coverage other than through an insurance policy or is established for the benefit of employees, former employees, members, former members, or other eligible individuals. The tiered fee, which is mandated under the Affordable Care Act to help establish a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to help individuals evaluate and select the best treatment plans, must be paid annually until 2019 if your plan meets the identified criteria. Based on the average number of employees and dependents covered under the plan, the fee is $1 per covered life the first year and $2 per covered life the second year. So far, PCORI has approved 279 awards totaling more than $464.4 million to fund patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research projects. (See our detailed article from April 2013.)
  • Determining which employees are considered "full-time" – and who is considered "the employer" – was part of the final regulations published in the Federal Register on Feb 12. These “shared responsibility rules” help determine common law employees and compliance issues tied with payroll tax and withholding, as well as the design and maintenance of tax-qualified retirement plans and welfare plans. The regulations are welcome, but it will likely take some time to sort them all out. Stay tuned.
  • The uninsured rate for the first quarter of 2014 dropped to 15.6%, its lowest level since 2008, according to a new Gallup poll. The current uninsured rate is probably even lower, since uninsured rates kept declining throughout the quarter, including in late March. Over seven million Americans have signed up for health insurance plans through federal and state-run marketplaces.

Feel free to give us at NIHP a call to discuss ramifications of the ACA on your plan. We can help you sort through the detailed specifications and ensure you comply with all necessary plan provisions.


FURTHER READING

Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions for large employers
IRS, February 14, 2014

Countdown to ACA compliance: How to determine your client’s common law employees
EBN, April 10, 2014

Uninsured rate drops to lowest point since 2008
Time, April 7, 2014



A Quick Review of Last Issue's "Quick Poll"

In the February 2014 issue of E to E we asked readers, "Does your benefits team have a good, basic understanding of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act and how it impacts your plan?" Specific survey results are noted in the chart, below.

Aprilr Quick-Poll Summary



April Quick Poll – Vote

Is NIHP helping you stay up-to-date on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) impacts your business?
(Click a response to vote. Answers are strictly anonymous.)

Then, visit the NIHP website to view this issue's quick poll results.



April Question

Tell us what else you need to know about the ACA (check all that apply):

Deadline reminders
Specific mandate overviews
Program/plan design suggestions
Other (please specify):


For more information contact us at:
(800) 723-0202 or NIHPCustomerService@fhn.org

Northern Illinois Health Plan

773 W. Lincoln Blvd., Suite 402, Freeport, IL 61032

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