Monthly Archives:
October 2017

Retirement Savings Account Limits to Increase in 2018, as Tax Reform Brings Talk of Capping 401(k) Contributions to Forefront

Retirement Savings Account Limits to Increase in 2018, as Tax Reform Brings Talk of Capping 401(k) Contributions to Forefront

10/27/2017

 

Last week, two notable retirement savings stories made the news: First, the IRS announced that it would increase the annual 401(k) contribution limit to $18,500—up $500 from this year’s limit. To reflect an increase in the cost-of-living index, new contribution limits will also apply to 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. Continue reading

IRS Makes Cost-of-Living Adjustments for HRAs and FSAs

IRS Makes Cost-of-Living Adjustments for HRAs and FSAs

10/26/2017

 

The IRS has announced tax year 2018 cost-of-living adjustments for inflation for more than 50 tax provisions, including increasingly contribution limits slightly for Qualified Small Employer HRAs and FSAs. HSA limits had been announced by the IRS back on May 4, 2017, as part of the  Revenue Procedure 2017-37, which included inflation-adjusted HSA contribution limits effective, along with minimum deductible and maximum out-of-pocket expenses for the high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) that HSAs must be coupled with. Continue reading

Employers, This Is the Comparative Data You Should Use to Evaluate Your Benefit Plans 

Employers, This Is The Comparative Data You Should Use to Evaluate Your Benefit Plans 

 10/23/2017

 

Just as more patients are taking control of their health information by bringing personal data from their cell phones or activity trackers into their doctor’s appointments, more employers are using mobile, data analytics and personalized consumer portals to engage with employees and evaluate the effectiveness of the benefits plans they offer. Continue reading

5 New Findings That Show More Workers and Employers Are Utilizing HSAs

5 New Findings That Show More Workers and Employers Are Utilizing HSAs

10/16/2017

 

A trio of surveys released by separate organizations in the past month indicate that American employers and workers are utilizing HSAs more often and warming to their benefits, especially as deductibles rise, the excise tax looms and healthcare reform now seems unlikely. Here are five of the latest findings from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Health Research & Educational Trust, the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mercer:
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Why the Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

Why The Latest Healthcare Reform Defeat Shouldn’t Be a Distraction from Your Health Benefits Strategy

10/09/2017

by Chris Byrd

 

Now that the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill has failed, Congress will move on. We can expect it to concentrate instead on some pressing items on the calendar—things like agreeing on a continuing resolution to keep the government operating, raising the debt ceiling and reauthorizing programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program. And of course, as we all know, congressional leadership is poised to take on the very complex issue of tax reform. In other words, after a six-month-long healthcare debate during which politicians expended a considerable amount of political and emotional energy, healthcare is largely off the table for now, barring the (unlikely) inclusion of healthcare in a tax reform package.

 

This means the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. While it is far from a perfect framework (and both sides of the aisle agree on that), the employer market has adjusted to it. The repeal and replace efforts of the past six months led some employers to place their benefit strategies on hold pending an understanding of what a new world order might look like. My advice: Don’t put off making decisions about your benefits strategy any longer. The deliberation and debate over a wholesale overhaul of the present system is finished. There will be some targeted efforts, most notably to stabilize the individual market, but the employer market framework is known—more of the same.

 

If there is disappointment among supporters of consumer-directed healthcare approaches, it is over the missed opportunity to pass reforms that would have expanded HSAs, restored the OTC tax benefit, eliminated the cap on FSA contributions and further delayed the implementation of the Cadillac Tax. In the absence of a broad reform bill, these supporters will continue to advocate for these provisions in separate pieces of legislation. But much of that effort may have to wait until after the end of the year, given that the attention of the tax-writing committees is fully focused on tax reform. The industry’s biggest priority continues to be to repeal, reform or delay the Cadillac Tax.

 

The market forces that are causing employers to continue to move toward consumer-directed, higher-deductible healthcare plans haven’t changed, and the trend of consumers having more skin in the game is inexorable because it works. Even without the legislative changes that would have been favorable to consumers with tax-advantaged accounts had the broad healthcare reform bills passed, these accounts will remain a very effective and attractive tool for both employers and consumers. Consumers should be making use of them, as they provide a significant benefit by helping them save money and become wise stewards of their healthcare dollars. Consumer-directed health approaches—and the tools and products that have sprung up around them—continue to be an effective part of the answer to the challenges presented by healthcare’s ever-increasing costs. As Congress gathers its energy for another round of discussion and debate—this time around tax reform—employers and consumers should not be distracted by what’s happening in Washington as it relates to their health benefits strategy.

 


Chris Byrd

Executive Vice President, WEX Health Operations & Corporate Development Officer

Chris Byrd brings more than 25 years of experience in employee benefits and banking to his role at WEX Health. A founder of Evolution Benefits in 2000, Chris played a key role in designing the proprietary architecture for the company’s prepaid benefits card.

Chris oversees the daily execution of WEX Health’s business and leads the company’s operations and service delivery, corporate development, merger and acquisition activity, and legal, industry, and government relations efforts.

He began his career in commercial banking, and prior to 2000, he focused on finance, strategy, and business development for Value Health and two start-up healthcare companies. He joined WEX Health in July 2014.

Chris, who serves on numerous industry boards, is a frequent speaker on emerging trends in financial services and benefits and is active in industry and government relations. He earned a degree in economics from Brown University.  


Tax Reform Is the Next Hot Ticket for Healthcare Regulation

Why Tax Reform Is the Next Hot Ticket for Healthcare Regulation

10/03/2017

In spite of the many headlines and healthcare bills that have centered on repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the healthcare landscape in the United States today looks remarkably similar to the way it did when the ACA was passed seven years ago: The majority of Americans still receive insurance through their employers. Continue reading

Consumers Are Searching for Health Info Via Smartphone

Consumers Are Searching for Health Info Via Smartphone—Meet Them There

10/03/2017

All it takes is one look around a busy subway platform, café or concert to know that Americans are devoted to our smartphones: At any given time, it seems like most of us have one in hand –ready to help us follow a whim or tackle a task. Survey numbers corroborate this: Google found that 80 percent of Americans use a smartphone every day for an average of three hours a day, and while 67 percent use a computer daily, for one in four people a smartphone is the only device they use. This means that companies and healthcare providers that aren’t reaching their employees or customers on mobile are missing an opportunity to connect with a quarter of their audience. Continue reading

Open Enrollment Challenges and Opportunities by Employee Type

Decoding Open Enrollment Challenges and Opportunities by Employee Type

10/03/2017

Open enrollment season is almost upon us: The 2018 open enrollment period will run from Nov. 1, 2017 to Dec. 15, 2017 – representing a shorter enrollment period than in the previous four years. As employers prep for a time that is notorious for being stressful and confusing for employees, it can be helpful to look at the different needs and habits of various employee types so that you can be ready to address their concerns and priorities. It’s also a great time to change the conversation about benefits and to remind employees what they are getting, how much it’s worth and why they need to own their benefits decisions. Continue reading