Effective Uses of Personalization in Healthcare Benefits

Let’s Get Personal: Effective Uses of Personalization in Healthcare Benefits

05/22/2018

by Lisa Goldkamp

 

If you have not read the new WEX Health Clear Insights report, I urge you to take a few minutes to do so. The report is the result of a recently commissioned research study conducted to gain a deeper understanding of employees’ attitudes about healthcare benefits. One of the first things I noticed is that three-quarters of the respondents said they spend less than an hour during open enrollment evaluating the different healthcare options offered by employers. That’s not a lot of time to devote to important decisions that impact both physical and financial wellness. This indicates that there is a very short window of time during open enrollment during which to educate employees about their healthcare benefits and to impact their choices.

 

So, how do we make every one of those minutes count? Our survey respondents indicated that “getting personal” will work best, and they ranked the effectiveness of several types of materials and tools available to aid with personalization. In nearly 13 years at WEX Health, I have had the pleasure of working with hundreds of benefits administrators, consultants and advisors. One of the universal challenges these audiences have talked with me about is the education barrier that exists between consumers and healthcare benefit options. I would argue that, although our findings regarding timeframes spent by employees during open enrollment are likely a contributing factor, they support the theory that benefits education must be highly focused and occur on an ongoing basis.

 

“…benefits education must be highly focused and occur on an ongoing basis.”

 

Personalization Can Give Employees an Ongoing, Guided Tour
Think about the volume of information that employees get during open enrollment. It certainly can be overwhelming. Human nature tells us more is better, but in this case the reverse is true. People can only consume the information that is relevant to them in the present. By thinking about employees’ use of benefits as a journey, or a tour, employers can start creating multi-pronged personalized touchpoints before, during and after the enrollment period, using WEX Health Cloud Advanced Messaging capabilities.

 

Here are some examples to consider:

  1. Prior to and during open enrollment, present employees with engaging graphical images and easy to digest information about benefit options that they are not currently enrolled in, and that might help them to save money.
  2. Use specific criteria to target individuals with “people like me” messaging. For instance, provide information about the benefits of adding a LPFSA (Limited Purpose Flexible Spending Arrangement) exclusively to individuals that are have incurred dental expenses and currently have an HSA that is not paired with a LPFSA.
  3. On an ongoing basis, educate consumers about the benefits that they did select. For example, employees who are age 55 and above can be shown eye-catching reminders that they are eligible to make catch-up HSA contributions.

 

The education component must continue well beyond capturing the enrollment. The key is to find ways to help employees see themselves in the examples they receive. The encouraging news is that, while employees do not spend a great deal of time reviewing materials during open enrollment, they do want and are open to help from their employers in becoming better prepared for healthcare expenses.

 

I am explaining some of the ways WEX Health Cloud can be used to create personalized employee experiences in a webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central Time. I’ll be joined by Jeff Bakke, chief strategy officer at WEX Health, who will share more perspective on our research findings. Register here for this 30-minute webinar. I hope you join us!

 


Lisa Goldkamp

Lisa Goldkamp

Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions at WEX Health

As the Vice President of Partner Development and Sales Solutions, Lisa leads the Pre-sales Enablement and Partner Development teams. Lisa strives to ensure every Partner, whether sales distribution or administrative, has the tools to succeed and grow their business through their partnership with WEX Health. Lisa and her team members consult with prospective and current partners as deep technology and solutions experts regarding how the WEX Health offerings match up with their specific needs. Since joining our team in 2005, Lisa has worked with hundreds of partners as they have evaluated our solutions. She is a passionate member of our community who frequently presents at industry events and has used her technology and healthcare expertise to help WEX Health and our partners optimize their growth potential.

Prior to joining WEX Health, Lisa was a sales executive for a national IT training company, which is where she developed a passion for utilizing technology to solve problems and create new business opportunities.

HDHPs: Good for More than Physical Health

HDHPs: Good for More than Physical Health

05/17/2018

by Chad Wilkins, executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank

 

At HSA Bank, a division of Webster Bank, N.A., our goal is to empower consumers to make the most of their healthcare dollars. We work to inspire consumers to own their health by simplifying the health account experience and utilizing cutting-edge technology and innovation to help them make sure they’re on their way to a healthy financial future.

 

To that end, we recently released the HSA Bank Health & Wealth IndexSM for 2018, a new report that measures consumers’ financial and physical health. More than 1,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about their health plan enrollment status, health practices, ability to pay for health-related expenses, and confidence in their own health and wealth.

 

The results showed that while consumers are taking a more proactive approach to their physical health, that’s not necessarily the case with their financial health. In fact, 41 percent never save money for future healthcare expenses, and 35 percent never consider cost when selecting health services.

 

The good news is that consumers enrolled in high deductible health plans (HDHP) scored in the optimally engaged category. This was largely due to these consumers being more likely to frequently save speci­fically for future healthcare expenses and consider cost when selecting health services.

Consumer-directed health plans can play a role in keeping consumers both physically and financially healthy.

 

Are you enrolled in an HDHP? Do you have a health savings account (HSA)? What is your health and wealth index score? Find out here.

 


Chad Wilkins HSA Bank

Chad Wilkins

Executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank

Chad Wilkins serves as an executive vice president of Webster Bank and president of HSA Bank where he is responsible for leading the organization and its people toward sustainable growth well into the future. Chad joined HSA Bank in 2014, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in the banking and health insurance industries.

 

Read the full HSA Bank Health & Wealth Index here.

Most Consumers Are Enrolling in HSAs to Save for Their Future Healthcare Needs

Most Consumers Are Enrolling in HSAs to Save for Their Future Healthcare Needs

05/16/2018

 

When faced with high deductibles, more women with breast cancer are postponing getting the care they need, according to a recent New York Times article, which profiles a woman named Pam Leonard who put off going to get a lump in her breast looked at for weeks because she feared the cost of both her deductible and medical bills.

 

A study published earlier this year in the Journal of Clinical Oncology supports this, finding that women enrolled in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) experience delays in diagnostic breast imaging, breast biopsy, early-stage breast cancer diagnosis and chemotherapy initiation (by an average of seven months). Dr. J. Frank Wharam, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s authors, told the Times that unlike people with chronic illnesses like diabetes, women diagnosed with breast cancer are usually not prepared for the significant expenses associated with it.

 

Unexpected healthcare costs are a significant concern

WEX Health’s new Clear Insights report supports this; a quarter of our survey respondents said they forgo healthcare services all the time or often due to associated out-of-pocket expenses. It should also come as no surprise that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed are somewhat or very worried about unexpected out-of-pocket costs of current healthcare needs or illnesses, and of those people, nearly half are also worried about the cost of healthcare in retirement.

 

HDHP plan participants feel they make smarter health decisions

More than three-quarters (82 percent) of those who participate in HDHPs told us they either somewhat or strongly agree that managing their health savings account (HSA) helps them make smarter health decisions.

 

HSAs provide relief for some

The primary reason our survey respondents enrolled in an HSAs in addition to their HDHP was to save for future healthcare needs (36 percent) and to have an ability to save for out-of-pocket and/or unexpected medical costs (29 percent). If faced with an unexpected health cost of more than $1,000, a third of the respondents with HDHPs say they would use their HSA account.

 

Education is key: Employees need help figuring out how much money to set aside

Since our survey respondents said they could use help figuring out how much money to set aside for their healthcare expenses, our report also called employers to help their employees set and achieve their financial goals with financial planning and management tools. For example, employers can gauge their employees’ capacity to pay for out-of-pocket expenses at any given time by viewing their overall Health Financial Viability Index on the WEX Health Cloud Employer Portal. And using the HSA Healthcare Savings Goal and Tracker, employees can gain more control over their healthcare finances. The Investment Dashboard, which is available on the WEX Health Cloud Consumer Portal, also makes it easier for workers to track their HSA investments. And since some workers are new to HDHPs and the stress that can accompany unpredictable out-of-pocket expenses, employers may choose to provide a safety net by enabling HSA Advance functionality that allows employees to borrow against future HSA balances to cover unplanned expenses.

 

To learn more about our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report findings, register here for our upcoming 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central Time. We’ll be sharing calls to action based on the types of experiences and communications employees expect and prefer as they work to better manage their healthcare benefits and expenses.

Why Employers Should Care About Their Employees’ Financial Stability

Why Employers Should Care About Their Employees’ Financial Stability

05/10/2018

by Jeff Bakke

 

Last week at WEX Health Partner Conference 2018, I had the opportunity to take part in a very important conversation with the industry’s leading benefits administrators, health plan providers, financial institutions and employers—and it wasn’t about technology. It was about the state of financial health in our nation, why it matters to us and all the tools we have available today to empower employers as they take on a bigger role in helping their employees achieve financial stability.

 

In our new WEX Health Clear Insights report on Easing Workers’ Concerns about the Rising Cost of Healthcare, we found that two-thirds of those surveyed are somewhat or very worried about unexpected out-of-pocket costs associated with their current healthcare needs or illnesses. Nearly half of those people are also worried about the cost of healthcare in retirement. And a quarter of respondents said they forgo healthcare services all the time or often due to out-of-pocket expenses.

 

To help us better understand the financial stressors faced by U.S. workers, we asked Sarah Gordon, chief strategy officer with the Center for Financial Services Innovation, to join our conversation. Sarah revealed a few key findings from their 2017 study on employee financial health.

  • One in three employees reports that issues with personal finances have been a distraction at work.
  • Workers with high financial stress are two times as likely to use sick time when not ill.

 

During his opening keynote at Partner Conference, Jeff Young, WEX’s president of Health, played a video featuring Jan Pynappel, vice president of consumer directed health at Fifth Third Bank, who shared many ways employers find value in the WEX Health Cloud Employer Dashboard. Jan reported that employers like to offer employees tools like the HSA Healthcare Savings Goal Calculator because they want their employees to be successful when they retire in their later years. It’s assuring to them to see that their employees are saving toward their established goals.

 

Other employers may feel that delving into workers’ financial matters is too personal. However, we found in our Clear Insights survey results that employees want and are open to more help from their employers, especially in the areas of determining the amount of money to set aside each month to cover deductibles and to put into their accounts overall.

 

Register for our upcoming 30-minute webinar on Tuesday, June 12, at 1 p.m. Central to learn more about our 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights report findings and calls to action based on the types of experiences and communications employees expect and prefer as they work to better manage their healthcare benefits and expenses.

Register Here

 


Jeff Bakke WEX Health

Jeff Bakke

Chief Strategy Officer at WEX Health

At WEX Health, Jeff oversees corporate strategy, distribution strategy, and strategic partnerships. A specialist at identifying and capturing business opportunities, Jeff has built and led innovative high-performance teams, developed new products and markets, and developed large strategic clients with exceptional recurring revenue results. He has been instrumental in WEX Health’s focus on the emerging exchange market as well as a continued emphasis on HSA market opportunities.

Jeff’s career includes working at SafeNet, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Medica Health Plans, Allianz and American Express. He earned a degree in electrical engineering from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

Wrap-up Post: 2018 WEX Health Partner Conference and Partner Excellence Awards

Wrap-up Post: 2018 WEX Health Partner Conference and Partner Excellence Awards

05/09/2018

by Jeff Young

 

Even though WEX Health’s Partner Conference 2018 and Partner Excellence Awards are behind us, I’m still buzzing from the energy and ideas we generated last week during the more than 60 sessions and countless hallway conversations held between partners.

 

If you made it to Scottsdale this year, I can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to be at our event and for making the most out of the learning opportunities we served up via keynotes, breakout sessions, spotlight sessions, partner panels, our innovation demo stage and our hands-on lab. I look forward to seeing what all this networking and idea-swapping yields in the coming months. (And before we know it, it will be time for next year’s conference in another famously sunny spot—Miami.)

 

I also want to again congratulate the winners of this year’s Partner Excellence Awards. Recipients were recognized for reaching significant milestones across several areas, including growth, evangelism, leadership, innovation and customer service as well as overall outstanding partner successes. The winners span our partner base, with large to mid-sized health plans, banks, payroll providers, private exchanges and leading third-party administrators representing a breadth of leadership, knowledge and expertise across industries.

 

The WEX Health Partner Excellence Award categories and winners are:

 

Growth Excellence

  • Consolidated Admin Services, LLC
  • HealthPartners
  • Optum
  • UPMC Health Plan

 

Evangelist

  • Group Dynamic, Inc.
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medica

 

Innovator

  • BPAS, Inc.
  • PNC
  • Sentinel Benefits & Financial Group

 

Market Maker

  • BenefitWallet
  • HSA Bank, a Division of Webster Bank
  • ThrivePass

 

Sales Excellence

  • Administrative Solutions, Inc. (ASi)
  • Chard Snyder Benefit Solutions
  • Pro-Flex Administrators, LLC

 

Service Excellence

  • Associated Bank
  • Benefit Strategies, LLC

 

Solution Visionary

  • Alerus
  • Benefitfocus, Inc.
  • Paychex

 

Leadership

  • Rob Hayes, BASIC

 

New Partner of the Year

  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch

 

Card Innovation Partner of the Year

  • HealthSCOPE Benefits

 

Billing Partner of the Year

  • Ameriflex

 

CDH Platform Partner of the Year

  • Infinisource Benefit Services

 

Partner of the Year

  • Discovery Benefits, Inc.

 

During this year’s conference, we also released our first WEX Health Clear Insights Report, with guidance on how employers can play an even greater part in enabling their employees to feel confident about managing their healthcare expenses. To gather these insights, we asked approximately 1,100 American workers questions about their employer-sponsored health insurance, decision-making processes, healthcare spending habits and challenges, and preferred tools for learning about plans, among other topics.

Download the 2018 WEX Health Clear Insights Report today.

 


Jeff Young

President, Health | WEX Inc.

Jeff joined WEX in 2014 when the company acquired Evolution1 to expand its healthcare payments business. He spearheads the company’s efforts to simplify the business of consumer-driven healthcare and is responsible for WEX’s growing healthcare business, with a focus on industry-leading technology and a strong partner network. Before joining Evolution 1 as CEO and chairman in 2008, Jeff was the vice president of business applications at Microsoft Corporation in the U.S., and prior to that, he held senior leadership positions at Great Plains Software, helping lead Great Plains through its successful IPO and eventual sale to Microsoft for more than $1 billion. A graduate of the University of Jamestown (N.D.), Jeff serves on the boards of Bell Bank in Fargo and West Fargo (N.D.) Baseball.

The IRS Has Issued Another Change to 2018 HSA Contribution Limits

 

04/27/2018

 

And the saga continues—yesterday the IRS issued its second amendment this year to the 2018 health savings account (HSA) contribution limit.

After announcing in March that it would reduce the maximum amount that a family can contribute to an HSA to $6,850, due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, it has now returned to the original $6,900 contribution limit for family coverage.

What’s the big deal about $50? A Forbes.com article explains, “In the world of tax-advantaged savings accounts, excess contributions come with a price. In this case, a 6% excise tax—or $3. Really. So, taxpayers were stuck with the quandary: Do I leave the extra $50 in the account, and pay the $3 (and apply that $50 towards 2019 funding), or do I deal with pulling out the excess contribution? Enough people complained, that the IRS came up with a common-sense solution to go back to the $6,900 limit for 2018.”

The Treasury Department and the IRS determined that it is in the “best interest of sound and efficient tax administration” to allow taxpayers to treat $6,900 as their annual limitation. All other HSA/HDHP dollar limits for the calendar year 2018 remain the same, including the HSA contribution limit for single coverage for 2018, which is $3,450.

 

Want to know more about HSAs? Read our blog post with frequently asked questions about these triple-tax advantaged accounts.

Must-Listen Podcast: Opportunities for Banks in the HSA Market

Must-Listen Podcast: Opportunities for Banks in the HSA Market

04/23/2018

 

It’s been only 15 years since the first health savings account (HSA) hit the market, but by the end of 2017, there were 22 million open HSAs, totaling $45.2 billion in assets. The trajectory of HSAs continues to climb rapidly: By the end of January 2018, HSA assets had risen to almost $50 billion and are expected to surpass $60 billion by 2019.

 

WEX Health sponsored the most recent episode of the ABA Banking Journal Podcast, through which two experts explore the breadth of opportunities that all banks have with HSAs, including account and revenue growth, interchange, account stickiness, and greater engagement with commercial customers.

 

We invite you to take a listen:

Our Top Takeaways from the State Healthcare IT Connect Summit

4/16/2018

by Christopher Breining and Patrick Forman

 

As part of our ongoing effort to listen to and engage with leaders in healthcare IT, WEX Health attended the 9th Annual State Healthcare IT Connect Summit in Baltimore last week. We joined more than 700 fellow attendees, including public and private sector thought leaders, to share ideas and benchmark implementation strategies for state health IT systems as they move forward with diverse health and human services transformation programs. We were recently sharing our key takeaways from the summit with colleagues and thought WEX Health Trends & Insights readers may be interested in them, too. Here are some of the most interesting things we heard:

 

1. “Health data is our data”: Don Rucker, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, delivered the opening keynote, in which he spoke about the 21st Century Cures Act and the Trump administration’s focus on interoperability. The 21st Century Cures Act, of course, has allotted more than $6 billion to federal agencies and states for research and development of healthcare and medical device innovation. Rucker stated that “health data is our data,” and asserted that information blocking can no longer be accepted. He also challenged the healthcare community from vendors to providers to work collaboratively toward developing and using “Open API’s without special effort”.

 

2. The necessity of a Medicaid-centered platform: A panel on “State Readiness for the Next Phase of Marketplace Reform” offered recommendations and best practices for engaging with the Department of Health and Human Services to design state-based coverage solutions. (That’s something WEX Health has been working with Project Poplin on as we bring our government and commercial experience together to define the open architecture for financial management to the Medicaid Enterprise.) The panel included comments from Jessica Kahn, former director of data and systems for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and emphasized that, as states explore new technology initiatives or the potential to move from the federally facilitated marketplaces (FFM), the marketplaces should start with Medicaid and then connect programs for sustainability, transitions and better health engagement. The focus was on unlocking health data to empower more informed decisions as much as it was on creating a unified marketplace and Medicaid-centered platform that would enable states’ flexibility in designing affordable programs that empower members/consumers to plan for health expenses and pay premiums. Panelists also indicated that the CMS budget allocates less money for Navigators to assist in enrollment so enrollment on FFM is expected to decline; FFM enrollment during 2018 Open Enrollment declined (-10.5 percent) while SBM enrollment increased (+1.5 percent).

Finally, the discussion turned to the use of 1332 Waivers and how the administration wants to give states flexibility with enrollment and benefit design. Panelists explained how both FFM and state-based marketplace (SBM) states should look to 1332/1115 Waiver programs and design integrated/interoperable systems between Medicaid, Marketplace and Locality so that program innovations provide 360-degree connections across populations. Systems should look to maximize Medicaid funding and use data to foster greater collaboration between State, Plan, Provider and Member. Medicaid Plans and Medicaid Buy-in on the Exchange is a direction being explored by states with SBMs.

 

3. States are open to a modular approach to Medicaid: In a session on “Integrating the Modular Medicaid Enterprise: Definitions, Expansion and Traction in the Vendor Marketplace,” panelists discussed the challenges (from the vendor perspective) of selling into a state marketplace that’s difficult for best-of-breed point solutions to penetrate. CSG Government Solutions’ Healthcare and Human Services presented the results of a survey of vendors of how best to decompose the various business processes into a truly modular solution. Financial management, per the survey results, was seen as a loosely coupled solution set. The panel talked through the interoperability demands that a modular approach will impose, and Project Poplin was mentioned as a way to define inputs and outputs for loosely coupled modules. Ultimately, the panel reflected the state community’s openness to a modular approach to Medicaid and financial management, with the key challenges being procurement and interoperability.

 

For more insights from the leaders at WEX Health, explore our Capitol Commentary video series.

 

 


Patrick Forman

Vice President of Healthcare Vertical Sales, Billing and Public Sector at WEX Health

WEX Health is an organization with a mission to simplify the business of paying for healthcare. Patrick is responsible for WEX Health growth in the State and Local government market.

 


 

Christopher Breining

Vice President of Vertical Sales, Billing and Public Sector at WEX Health

Chris Breining Vice President of Vertical Sales, Billing and Public Sector at WEX Health, a leading payments technology company in the healthcare industry.  Chris is an experienced executive with a demonstrated history of consulting and sales in the Global Public Sector focused primarily on Health, Social and Human Services as well as the financial services industry developed during his career at Oracle, Cúram Software, and IBM Watson Health.

Chris led sales of many Integrated Eligibility and State-based Exchanges during the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Chris was global sales leader for IBM Watson Health Care Manager leveraging his 20+ years of progressive experience in the government healthcare space.  Chris brings expertise in government relations, Medicaid/Medicare/Exchange policy, MCO and ACO models, MITA, value-based purchasing, population health management, whole person-centered care, social determinants, care management and consumer engagement with the underserved and vulnerable populations to WEX Health.



Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

Employers, These are the Current Benefits Issues You Need to Know About

3/20/2018

by Chris Byrd

 

We’ve just returned from Capitol Hill, where WEX Health attended the nonprofit Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) 37th annual conference, March 14-16, to promote choice in benefit solutions. Much of the conversation in D.C. this year was around three major issues which affect tax-advantaged health benefit accounts that are a central element of a Consumer-Directed Health strategy:

 

  1. The Excise Tax on High-cost Health Plans.

Commonly known as the Cadillac Tax, this provision of the Affordable Care Act has been delayed yet again until 2022. Although this is helpful for employers concerned by the implications of this tax – especially those in high-cost states – a delay only defers this issue and does not represent a final resolution.  Given that many employers set their benefit strategies years in advance, 2022 is not terribly far away.  Among the actions employers are already taking or evaluating is curtailing or eliminating Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) from their benefit offerings.  Employee contributions to these accounts are counted toward the computation of whether the employee’s benefit plan exceeds the excise tax threshold.  Efforts continue to repeal the tax entirely, but if full repeal cannot be accomplished, to reform the tax by excluding employee contributions to CDH accounts.

 

  1. Strengthening HSAs.

Numerous bills have been introduced in both chambers of Congress to increase the availability and utility of HSAs to help individuals and families plan for and fund their health care needs.  The focal point of discussion is around the HSA “gold standard” bills – S. 403 and H.R. 1175.  These bills include a broad range of important provisions, including an increase in contribution amounts, allowing Medicare-eligible workers to continue contributing to an HSA, and restoring the tax-advantaged treatment of over-the-counter drugs and medicines.  In addition to these bills, there is increased discussion regarding a proposal to allow HSA-qualified health insurance plans to cover certain chronic-care conditions below the deductible.  This idea actually originated with the employer community and is now gaining traction.

 

  1. Supporting and Enhancing FSAs.

As are an important option for employees, particularly since surveys indicate the vast majority of employers offer traditional health insurance that is not HSA-qualified as one of their options in their benefit plans. H.R. 1204 would raise the limit that an employee may contribute to an FSA from $2,650 to $5,000.  This would benefit individuals and families with high healthcare costs, particularly those dealing with chronic conditions.

 

Based on what we heard in D.C., prospects for near-term action on these issues are somewhat limited.  It is, after all, an election year, and as the calendar advances, the ability to move legislation that isn’t “must pass” becomes more challenging.  In the healthcare arena, the biggest issues are the opioid crisis, stabilizing the individual insurance market, and prescription drug pricing/affordability.  In addition, the administration continues to advance regulatory reform, including supporting innovation and flexibility in plan design, distribution, and state regulation and programs (e.g. Medicaid).  With all this said, however, HSAs also continue to occupy an important place in the administration’s healthcare policy, and so there may be an opportunity to advance provisions that would strengthen these accounts.

 

As we have seen in the past, the healthcare landscape in Washington is highly fluid, so the best advice is to stay tuned for updates and developments as they happen

 


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.  


Are Incentives for Participating in Workplace Wellness Programs in Peril?

Are Incentives for Participating in Workplace Wellness Programs in Peril?

01/19/2018

 

The data on workplace wellness programs is in, and they’re a hit with nine out of 10 employers, who now rely on them to address challenges ranging from productivity and absenteeism to health-related costs. However, a new ruling from a federal district court in Washington, D.C., may mandate changes to these programs as early as next January.

 

As it stands now, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)’s rules on employer-sponsored wellness programs allow employers to reimburse employees for up to 30 percent of their cost of health insurance as an incentive for participating in workplace wellness programs. However, in October 2016, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sued the EEOC, objecting to two of its regulations and filing a motion to block them. The AARP argued that the regulations are discriminatory for financially penalizing employees who refuse to provide personal medical and genetic information.

 

Last August, U.S. District Court Judge John D. Bates called the EEOC regulations “arbitrary and capricious.” He ruled that the agency had not adequately demonstrated why workplace wellness program incentives do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act’s requirement that any disclosure of disability-related information must be voluntary. The court directed the EEOC to amend the rules while leaving them in place. In response, the EEOC proposed waiting a minimum of three years before proposing its new rules.

 

Nevertheless, Bates amended his order last month and granted the AARP’s motion to vacate the EEOC’s current wellness regulations as of Jan. 1, 2019. According to the ruling, “Because the Court issued its summary judgment decision in August 2017, EEOC will thus have had a total of over sixteen months to come up with interim or new permanent rules by the time the vacatur takes place. The Court will also hold EEOC to its intended deadline of August 2018 for the issuance of a notice of proposed rulemaking.”

 

While the EEOC could still appeal, Dara Smith, the AARP’s lead attorney in the case, says, “Making the rules ineffective two years sooner than the agency proposed is a major victory for workers and AARP. It means two fewer years of coercive penalties imposed on employees who exercise their civil right to keep private health-related information private in the workplace.”

 

Alternatively, the American Benefits Council, a lobbying group, may “try to convince their legislative allies, like Virginia Foxx (R-NC5), to push her Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act,” according to an op-ed on EmployeeBenefitsAdviser.org. “However, this bill is very controversial and is opposed by her constituents in both parties, largely because it expands the reach of wellness programs to include genetic testing. Consequently, Rep. Foxx may get cold feet about persevering.”

 

In the meantime, the impact of wellness programs continues to ripple across workplaces. Three-quarters of employers now offer wellness programs as a means of improving worker health, in contrast to the quarter of employers who primarily offer them because they improve ROI on healthcare costs, according to findings from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Workplace Wellness Trends 2017 Survey Report. These popular programs dovetail with other employer programs that address employees’ mind-body concerns, including financial wellness and mental health programs.

 

Read our blog post about how today’s workplace wellness offerings emphasize overall employee health and wellbeing.