HR & Health Benefits: A General Overview
Historically, employee health benefits have been viewed as a voluntary benefit. However, with many years of reform, health benefits have now become a mandated benefit for most. This means that the majority of human resources professionals will have some dealings with employee health benefits. Human Resources’ involvement in health benefits consists of being the link for explaining the coverage, assisting employees in retaining their health benefits, and explaining coverage options following certain life events. In this Astronology®, we will review HR’s involvement with employee health benefits. This will include the impact of current events on HR and health benefits, as well as trends in health benefits in 2020.
HR, Health Benefits, and Coronavirus
Globally, we are facing challenging times with the current COVID-19 outbreak. This virus impacts the health of all employers and employees. The Coronavirus has altered how many organizations continue their business or has caused full shutdowns in a number of unfortunate situations. COVID-19 also has presented a number of challenges for human resources. On the benefits side, many human resources personnel are scrambling to understand how to ensure proper health coverage for treatment and testing for potentially infected employees. While several health agencies have stepped forward with help, it is important that HR personnel are aware of the alternatives employees have and make sure those alternatives are accurately & clearly communicated to staff. In order to do so, it is imperative that Human Resources stay aware of any newly enacted legislation (federal and local) and keep close contact with their health insurance companies and brokers.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
According to the DOL’s website, “The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19.” Review the DOL website on the FFCRA for more details.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES)
On March 27th, 2020 the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) became law, with additional impacts on healthcare.
Contacting Your Company Broker
Some health insurance companies have stepped up with provisions for clients in these turbulent times. Contact your benefits broker and your group healthcare provider for available provisions for your organization’s employees.
Health benefits also have played a role in attracting and retaining talent. The 2016 Strategic Benefits—Leveraging Benefits to Retain and Recruit Employees Survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) noted that, “Nearly one-fifth of HR professionals altered their benefits program to aid in the retention of employees over the past 12 months. Of these organizations, about three-fifths altered their health care benefits…”. The survey also noted that 1/3 of survey respondents recognized that wellness initiatives increased productivity. If organizations truly are using health and wellness benefits to attract and retain the best, what trends should organizations look for?
Health Benefits in 2020: What HR Can Expect
What upcoming trends in health benefits should HR professionals keep an eye on? A January 2020 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) online article shared some insights:
- Personalized Benefits: Jeff Oldham, senior vice president of BenefitsPlace at Benefitfocus, explains, “Presenting a broader array of options that address employees’ needs during all stages of life is becoming critical. Progressive employers are beginning to understand this and have begun to offer a spectrum of options across traditional health care, but also financial and lifestyle categories.”
- Health Plan Costs: Family premiums continue to increase, making it difficult for employees to have the quality care they seek for themselves and their loved ones. To help alleviate the cost of coverage, organizations have found ways to help employees. Some organizations are opting out of offering high-deductible health plans as the only option, for instance. Others are developing new plans entirely and keeping in contact with employees to learn if their plan truly covers their needs.
- Health Reimbursement Becoming Group Plan Alternatives: The 2020 SHRM article states, “In 2019, federal agencies finalized a rule permitting employers regardless of size to offer individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs). Starting in 2020, employers can fund ICHRAs with pretax dollars and employees can use them to buy health coverage on a public exchange. In 2018, the agencies finalized a rule limited to employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees, allowing these employers to offer qualified small employer HRAs (QSEHRAs). ICHRAs and QSEHRAs are similar but have some regulatory differences.” Some organizations are considering this alternative to the traditional group plan.
- Mental Health and Well Being Benefits: Now more than ever, employees are concerned with their mental health and well-being. We expect this to increase the longer the COVID-19 pandemic lasts. Larger organizations are responding to these concerns with benefits such as mental health and telehealth offerings. This includes anti-stigma campaigns and training for managers. Some organizations have included stress-management workshops and discounted or free gym services to round out their offerings.
- Caregiving Assistance: Rachel Lyubovitzky, CEO of benefits administration software firm EverythingBenefits, explains that “Aging parents present a new level of anxiety for Millennials.” More than 1/6 of the current workforce also are caregivers…resulting in challenging issues of absenteeism. As a result, benefits such as flexible work options, care-assistance resources, and care subsidies are becoming paramount.
Are any of these popular health benefit trends being offered at your organization? How does human resources communicate its health benefits to its employees? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.