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Benefits Education

Insights and Actions from AHIP Institute & Expo 2018

Insights and Actions from AHIP Institute & Expo 2018

07/10/2018

by Becky Wagner

 

At this year’s America’s Health Insurance Plans’ (AHIP) Institute & Expo 2018, which I and several of my WEX Health team members attended, one session—“Navigating Uncertainty, Health Reform and Market Transition”—hinted at the great need to simplify the business of healthcare. WEX Health works to do just that—through feedback from real members, it powers CDH account and COBRA administration forms that make managing healthcare engaging and easier to understand.

With sessions like “Technology, Trends and Business Insight,” “Data, Analytics and Actionable Intelligence” and many others, one thing that struck me above all is that technology was part of every conversation. It’s clear that technology sits front and center among the methods and tools to improve healthcare for consumers, payers and providers. Needless to say, its value goes way beyond creating engaging consumer portals and one-to-one journeys. It stretches into how new technologies can help people better manage their health to cut down on the need for unnecessary care and help reduce healthcare costs. And WEX is committed to advancing technology to better serve its customers for all those reasons and more.

 

Some additional highlights we gleaned from the San Diego Convention Center include:

Consumer-health literacy remains a problem. This means that it is more important than ever for health plans to simplify messaging and documents they share with their members. For consumer-directed healthcare to continue on its growth trajectory, consumers must be provided with not just accurate information but information that is presented in ways that are easily understood.

There is a continued desire to slow the growth of and reduce healthcare costs by providing innovative ways to seek care. Some of these methods include telemedicine, cost comparison tools and machine learning. Though the tools are available, they have been met with some resistance from consumers in deploying them. Therefore, the next step is to encourage people to take advantage of tools to make smarter decisions.

Leaders in this industry must learn to build a team of people with a wide array of expertise to ensure organizational success, because the field requires such wide-ranging skills as it expands and seeks to meet the needs of consumers. Successful leadership, in other words, means realizing that it’s not always about being the best and the brightest individually—but it’s more about being the best team for the business.

AHIP CEO Matt Eyles gave an engaging presentation on the growing recognition from payers that social determinants significantly impact chronic disease. These factors must be accounted for—and mitigated, whenever possible—by efforts to address them earlier in the consumer healthcare journey.

 

We left the expo with the conviction that consumer-directed healthcare is on the path to flourish. The businesses and organizations who tend to the industry are engaging in lively conversations and smart and strategic plans to ensure that it does.

It’s no secret that using technology to influence smarter healthcare decisions is top of mind. The WEX Health Clear Insights Report sheds light on how members prepare for open enrollment and saving for healthcare expenses.

Click here to view the report: http://wexhealthinc.com/clearinsights-ahip2018/.

 


BeckyWagner_WEXHealth

Becky Wagner

Senior Marketing Manager at WEX Health

As the Senior Marketing Manager for the Health Plan Vertical, Becky connects market-driven insights to develop campaigns and content that resonate with consumer-directed healthcare account administrators and consumers. She is an experienced marketer with an MBA from the University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management. With over three years in the healthcare industry, Becky has experience in marketing, product development and account management at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and Further.

6 Things I Learned at SHRM’s Annual Conference

Our VP of Human Resources: 6 Things I Learned at SHRM’s Annual Conference

06/26/2018

by Sherry Olson

 

Last week, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) annual conference and expedition brought over 17,000 HR professionals and 3,000 vendors to Chicago for keynotes, sessions and special events. On the exposition floor, 700 exhibitors provided a buffet of HR solutions for every need, with a focus on HR technology, talent acquisition and retention solutions, health, wellness, leadership development and more.

 

In addition to what I learned during the keynotes and sessions, I found significant value in the many opportunities for networking, which gave me a chance to connect personally, share experiences, perspectives and challenges and creatively look at new ways to approach the diverse workforce needs that WEX Health faces every day. I thought these learnings would be valuable for our partners, many of whom work in human resources. What follows are my key takeaways from the conference:

 

  1. Company culture must start in HR: This was reinforced in many of the sessions I attended, with the call to action being that HR must come to understand the strong influence they have on organizational cultures. From recruitment to engagement, the best companies don’t just assess a candidate’s fit; they look for originality (people who challenge others, processes and systems) and focus on assessing and hiring people who can enrich the culture.

 

  1. Change biases through recruiting, benefits/leave and compensation programs: Many initiatives now exist to detect biases in the workplace and to address them, including pay and gender analysis for disparities, enhanced parental and bereavement leave policies, and the use of alternative ways to review and engage candidates in the recruiting process. Human resources professionals need to continue to seek out methods for recognizing and addressing bias.

 

  1. To keep talent, expand your benefit offerings: During the conference, SHRM released its 2018 Employee Benefits survey. Among its key findings, 34 percent of organizations increased their benefit offerings in the last year, with 72 percent citing retention as a reason for doing so and over one-half saying they’ve done it to attract new talent (58 percent) and/or respond to employee feedback (54 percent). Companies are also putting a higher priority on benefits today because of historic low unemployment rates and the number of millennials entering the workforce.

 

  1. Employers are more likely to offer employees additional health-related benefits, including consumer-directed healthcare: A statistic from the 2018 Employee Benefits survey revealed that the share of employers offering consumer-directed healthcare plans linked to health savings accounts (HSAs) increased to 56 percent this year—up from 45 percent in 2014. Given the nature of HSA portability, the tax savings these accounts provide, their use in helping to mitigate first dollar costs and to create retirement accounts for the future, HSAs will continue to be a popular topic.

 

  1. Wellness wins: Of organizations that increased their benefits offerings in the last 12 months, 44 percent increased their wellness benefits, according to the SHRM survey. Many of the sessions I attended demonstrated how wellness is being customized, as employers offer to help their employees manage their stress, miss less work and reduce costly health conditions by providing fitness center subsidies, quiet rooms, online stress management and wellness challenges.

 

  1. The future of employee benefits: Emerging and leading-edge benefits include student debt repayment programs, paid leave benefits (parental leave, expanded VTO, review of PTO limits), work life/convenience benefits, financial/career benefits (incentives, awards) and professional/career development benefits (memberships, certifications, licenses, counseling, coaching)—all aimed at higher employee retention. Of special note, the SHRM survey found that the prevalence of paid parental leave increased significantly between 2016 and 2018 for every type of parental leave assessed, including maternity, paternity, adoption, foster child and surrogacy leave.

 

As an HR leader, I’ve returned to WEX from the SHRM conference feeling much more informed, inspired and equipped with tools to solve my organization’s greatest challenges.

 

For more on benefits administration, read our post about why employers should care about their employees’ financial stability.

 


Sherry Olson WEX Health VP of Human Resources

Sherry Olson

Senior Director of Product Management at WEX Health

Sherry specializes in implementation for human resources policies and practices, benefits, rewards, performance management and HR efficiencies. During her 20-plus years in the corporate world, Sherry has served in HR positions in healthcare, high-technology software development and banking. She holds designations as a SHRM Senior Certified Professional, a Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR), Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), a certified Discovery Insights Practitioner and career advisor, President-Elect for the Agassiz Valley Human Resources Association (AVHRA) organization.


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.



3 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Their Healthcare Expenses

3 Ways to Help Your Employees Manage Their Healthcare Expenses

03/30/2018

 

The United States now spends almost twice as much on healthcare as other advanced industrialized countries, even though just a few decades ago our healthcare spend was closely aligned to that of other countries. As a result of the rising cost of healthcare, changes to employment and benefits laws and the availability of new benefits options, the employee benefits landscape in the U.S. has also been dramatically altered. One in four Americans now report that the cost of healthcare is the biggest concern facing their family, according to a Monmouth University poll. This makes it more important than ever for employers to offer their employees the guidance and tools they need to manage their healthcare plans and costs. Here are three approaches that can be used alone or in combination:

 

  1. Educate your employees about the financial benefits of HSAs, HRAs and FSAs.

Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) are the lowest overall cost option for employees in 65 percent of companies that offer them. They are typically paired with a triple-tax-advantaged health savings account (HSA), a health reimbursement account or a flexible spending account that allows employees to save for out-of-pocket expenses. The National Bureau of Economic Research reports that employees save an average of more than $500 per year by selecting a high-deductible health plan.

The HSA contribution limit for 2018 is $3,450 for singles and $6,850 for families, but employees just getting started with an HSA can be encouraged to save as little as one to three percent of their salaries into their HSA. By building a small amount of health savings, they won’t “feel” incremental healthcare costs as sharply and will be better prepared to handle both expected and unexpected medical expenses in the future. Want more information about HSAs and how to communicate their value to your employees? Read our blog post.

 

  1. Provide your employees with benefits-based incentives related to their health and wellness.

Incentivizing employees to take an active role in improving their poor health behaviors can reduce their health risks and subsequently their healthcare costs. One WellSteps study, for example, found that post-implementation of a corporate employee wellness program there was a dramatic difference in the cost of medical care between program participants and non-participants ($3,280 versus $6,177).

Employers can also help their employees save money by offering them benefits-based incentives for participating in a workplace wellness program. Such incentives may include lower office copays, reduced deductibles or monthly premium discounts in exchange for health risk assessment completion, participation in weight-loss or smoking cessation programs or other workplace wellness activities.

 

  1. Give your employees tools to manage and plan for their healthcare expenses.

Analytics programs such as the WEX Health Cloud Consumer Dashboard make it easy for employees to get an aggregate view of all their healthcare claims, debit card transactions, distributions and expenses. Expenses can be viewed by category, individual or provider, and employees can initiate payments for expenses including reimbursements, pay the provider and bill pay.

A corresponding mobile app also lets employees view, budget, plan, analyze and manage their healthcare-related accounts and expenses, helping them more wisely manage their healthcare spending.

Employers and HR managers who facilitate healthcare consumerism among their employees will help them save money on healthcare costs. As a result, employers stand to gain a real competitive advantage over others in their industry—a workforce that is not only easier to hire and retain but also perhaps better informed and even healthier because of the tools you’ve provided.

 

Related Posts:

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

What You Need to Know About Data Security and Wearable Devices in the Workplace

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

Use Benefits Communication Plan to Increase Open Enrollment Engagement

Use Benefits Communication Plan to Increase Open Enrollment Engagement

It’s a challenging period for companies around open enrollment time. Human Resource professionals and benefit teams may be wondering if they’ve done everything possible to make this a successful event within their organization. They have a long list of goals that must be accomplished and often with limited time and resources.

A solid benefit communications plan can help prepare and engage employees. Today’s health plan and benefit options are often complicated to understand and require breaking information down into bite-size pieces. Benefit professionals must also connect with remote workers, reach spouses and create relevant messaging for a multigenerational workforce. Continue reading

Webcast Recap: Healthcare Benefits Trends to Watch in 2017

The only constant in the healthcare benefits environment is change. As 2017 marks a “changing of the guard” in the political world, a year in which technology is improving, and a year in which you will need to compete aggressively for the best talent; your organization must be able to adapt, evolve, and provide benefits that meet your employees’ unique needs.

In Wednesday’s article, we took a deeper look at the challenges and opportunities that other employer groups are facing in offering healthcare benefits as we looked into the results of our 2017 Healthcare Benefits Trends Benchmark Study, which was given to all attendees of our webcast and provided many insights from nearly 300 benefits professionals at organizations of all sizes.

Trends and Talking Points: 2017 Healthcare Benefits to Watch Webcast

The Healthcare Benefits Trends to Watch in 2017 Webcast brought together three of the leading voices in the community to present their insights on our survey, as well as offering strategies and predictions for the year ahead.

Featuring Tiffany Wirth, Executive Director of the Healthcare Trends Institute and Vice President of Marketing at WEX Health, Sander Domaszewicz, Principal and Senior Consultant at Mercer, and Chris Byrd, Healthcare Operations Officer at WEX Health, these leaders brought decades of combined experience in healthcare benefits, legal policy, and business strategies, condensing a lot of highly valuable information into a brief, one-hour webcast.

Engagement Driving Changes in 2017

With many employer groups already making changes to their strategies over the past few years—implementing a wellness or preventive health program, adjusting cost sharing, or focusing on defined contribution—the top concern for employers in 2017 is employee engagement.

Engaging these employees, however, does pose a challenge as nearly 40% of employees had concerns about benefit communication and education and only 36% felt that benefit cost information was clearly presented, according to our consumer survey completed in Fall 2016.

Five Top Benefits Communication Methods

With engagement being its own issue, employers need to look at the way they communicate. While email may be right for some, other employees have other preferences, with a notable discrepancy between employer methods and employee needs:

Employer Communication Methods Employee Communication Preferences
Email: 77.1% Website: 54.4%
Meetings with HR/Benefits: 51.4% Printed Factsheets: 47.4%
Print: 49.1% Live Presentations: 38.6%
Intranet: 48.6 Email: 38.6%
Meetings with Advisors: 41.1% Videos: 23.7

 

Employers feel confident in their ability to educate employees, rating themselves at a 7.2 out of 10, roughly in line with employees rating their employers at 69% in the consumer survey.

Cadillac Tax Not Changing Many Minds

Even as this survey was completed during the election season, many employers are still in a holding pattern with respect to the Cadillac Tax. As it had already been delayed once from 2018 to 2020, respondents may have expected the threat of the tax to be delayed again, as fewer than 6% of employers have made aggressive changes to prepare, and a vast majority were waiting for definitive guidance:

  • 6% of Employers haven’t taken any actions
  • 7% are unsure what they need to do
  • 7% were not affected

Some Things Change, Others Stay the Same

As much as there have been changes in the way employers look at benefits, many things have remained steady:

  • Dental, Family Coverage, and Vision were the most commonly offered benefits.
  • Three Quarters of Employers in the last two years believe that benefits offerings are critical to their recruitment and retention.
  • In this and last year’s report, nearly 90% are still yet to make changes for the Cadillac Tax

Much, Much More: Healthcare Benefits Trends to Watch in 2017

If all of the information above came from the first ten minutes of the webcast, imagine what you can learn from the remaining 50 minutes.

The entire Healthcare Benefits Trends to Watch in 2017 features proprietary research into health plans, costs, adoption rates, and more from Mercer, presented by Sander Domaszewicz, Principal and Senior Consultant, and an in-depth look at the legal and regulatory outlook under Trump, the importance of the CURES Act passed last year, and the repeal and replace/revise and repair future for the Accordable Care Act, presented by Chris Byrd of WEX Health.

Learn more about what you can expect and how you can prepare in 2017 by watching the entire Healthcare Benefits Trends to Watch Webcast.

Healthcare Benefits in 2017: What Employers Have to Say

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the healthcare benefits community, and as the Trump administration takes office, the changes are just beginning. To address this, the Healthcare Trends Institute recently completed a survey of benefits professionals from across the United States to learn more about the trends, preparations and expectations for the coming year.

Trends in Healthcare Benefits: 2017 Healthcare Benefits Benchmark Study

The 2017 Healthcare Benefits Benchmark Study was completed by over 250 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision makers from organizations ranging in employee size from less than 50 to over 2,500. Below, we will share some of the key insights and what they mean for employer groups in 2017.

Among the notable considerations for employers heading into 2017:

Employers Buying into Healthcare Consumerism

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, employers have been encouraging their employees to take more control of their own healthcare decisions by offering a high-deductible health plan (HDHP).

The Move to HDHP

High deductible health plans are plans that have minimum deductibles of $1,300 for individuals and $2,600 for families. One of the main selling points of an HDHP is that it combats rapid increases to monthly premiums for employers and employees, as shown by the relatively flat Medical Cost Trend over the past 4 years. The increasing popularity of these plans grew as a result of rising healthcare costs and the passing of the ACA, and pose benefits for both employers and employees:

  • For employees, high deductible health plans were designed to help them to lower premiums, focus on preventive care, shop around for affordable care, use emergency rooms only for emergencies, and ultimately take more control of their healthcare decisions.
  • For employers, HDHPs helped to combat rising premiums while shielding them from the Cadillac Tax, which was initially set to begin in 2018.

With all of this in mind, 2016 marked a milestone for healthcare consumerism, with the amount of organizations offering HDHPs jumping from 28% four years ago to 39% in last year’s survey to 53% in this year’s survey.

Pairing HDHP with Consumer-Oriented Accounts (HSA, HRA, FSA)

With this rise in HDHPs came an increase in the number of employees being enrolled in a Health Savings Account, Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangement, or Flexible Spending Account, as this year’s survey found that 51.5% of respondents’ employees are enrolled in one or more of these plans/arrangements.

By offering one or more of these arrangements, employers are demonstrating that they are committed to helping employees afford out-of-pocket healthcare expenses if and when they arise, making people-first decisions rather than money-first ones.

Notably, however, the move to HDHP does require effective communication, as there is a great deal of misunderstanding among consumers about why these plans help them and how they can use them effectively. Learn more about common misunderstandings in 5 Benefits Problems Employees Face and how to address concerns in How to Talk About Healthcare Consumerism with Your Employees.

Focusing on the Advantages

Organizations are relying heavily on their benefits programs to recruit, retain, and engage employees. Even if many employers have moved away from the traditional forms of healthcare benefits that were prevalent in the industry decades ago, the benefits offerings of today still can represent a significant investment in happier, healthier, and more engaged employees. Additionally, a well-defined benefits strategy can play a major role in improving company reputation as a leader and one that cares about its employees. In BenefitsPro’s Analysis of our whitepaper:

Respondents were asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 10 how strongly they agree with the statement “the quality of a benefits package impacts the reputation of my company,” with 10 being “strongly agree.” Not surprisingly, given that such packages are looked upon as recruiting tools, 67 percent put the statement at 7 or higher, with nearly a quarter choosing “strongly agree.”

Learn More: Download the Entire 2017 Healthcare Benefits Trends Benchmark Study

The entire 2017 Healthcare Benefits Trends whitepaper takes a much deeper look into the trends to look out for in 2017, including plans and insights from other employer groups. The national survey went to over 250 human resources executives, benefit specialists and other benefit decision makers from organizations ranging in employee size from less than 50 to over 2,500. Click Here to Download.