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Using Benefits to Navigate the Road Blocks Facing Today’s Human Resource Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for shifting priorities and changing the way we work. The findings from our recent survey helped us understand what HR pain points and challenges professionals face in their daily lives, which will help guide future changes within this industry. Benefit Resource (BRI) conducted an extensive research project among 1000+ hiring managers to discover pain points they deal with day by day. These insights are crucial if you want to meet your company or organization’s performance goals. 

Managing cost increases can be challenging, but the underlying health plan will often be the key to reducing your costs. Position your benefits plans and the opportunities so employees pay for their increasing out-of-pocket costs. This can be achieved by offering a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA), taking advantage of Self-Funded Plans, sharing educational tools that provide cost transparency, like MyMedicalShopper by Talon Health Tech, or connecting employees to health experts. 

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Four essential components of a successful family-building benefit — Including mental health support throughout the journey

Research has shown that women facing infertility have comparable levels of depression and anxiety to women facing cancer, AIDS/HIV, and heart disease. And although discussing infertility has become less taboo in recent years, there is plenty of work to do to continue destigmatizing it. A more recent study looked at infertility patients’ reactions to treatments postponed because of COVID-19 — 66% reported infertility remained the largest stressor in their lives, causing them more distress than the global pandemic. It is no wonder that therapy calls suddenly tripled as well.

Infertility is emotionally taxing and there are many reasons relationships can get strained. Waiting for results, financing treatment, balancing work and office visits, and dealing with the side effects of medications can all add stress to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes family members and friends don’t understand or aren’t sure what to do. Often, the person going through treatment doesn’t want advice or to hear everyone else’s story, so they try to go it alone.

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Employer-sponsored Savings and Spending Accounts and Other Benefits May Minimize "The Great Resignation”

Like everything else, employee benefits, especially healthcare benefits, have been affected by the pandemic. With the extreme focus on health in the public space, consumers and employees are more engaged with their benefits, especially healthcare benefits, than ever before.  While the historic labor shifts across the United States currently being dubbed “The Great Resignation” are driven by a diverse range of factors, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, roughly half of those surveyed cited benefits as either a “major” or “minor” reason why they quit a job during 2021.

Employers should consider this to be an opportunity to reevaluate the benefits they offer. Well-designed health benefits plans can aid businesses in meeting their objectives by improving a company’s bottom line, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent. In this unique environment, here is some valuable information to help you evaluate your benefits offerings.

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Rookie Year: Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave

We are one year into eligible Massachusetts employees being able to apply for paid leave benefits under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program.  Although stats for the MA PFML Rookie Year have not been released yet, the first six months were telling:

  • Over 53,000 applications, with 23% being denied
  • 58% of applications were related to medical leave and the remaining for bonding, given that care for a family member with a serious illness was not yet a covered reason
  • Only 18 applications for military exigency leave and 6 applications to care for a service member
  • Employees aged 30-39 submitted the most applications (35%) and more than twice as many women applied for leave, compared to men
  • Average weekly benefits were $705.98 for family leave and $699.00 for medical leave
  • Turnaround times, once the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) received all data including employer responses, took a median of 12 days to make a claim determination
  • Average duration of leave was 53 days (57 days for medical leave and 51.5 days for family leave)
  • Total benefits paid was equal to about $168 million (about $92 million for medical and $76 million for family leave)

While we await data for season of 2021, let’s dissect the highs and lows and see if MA PFML has a shot at Rookie of the Year!

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How pharmacies can help achieve health equity

Disparities in the U.S. health system have come into sharp focus over the past one and a half years, sounding an undeniable call to action. What steps will we take towards a more equitable health system? 

We must reimagine the future of care and solve the challenges that have hindered health equity in the past. Pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) are in an excellent position to lead the way by embracing the precepts of value-based care.

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How employee financial wellbeing can impact physical and mental wellbeing

Last January, Sam was one of 190 million Americans that made a New Years’ resolution. Her goal? Improve her physical health and get her finances in order. Sam started strong but by summertime, she found that financial issues were keeping her from achieving her goals. Sleepless nights spent anxiously thinking about debt were compounded by stress eating, and Sam avoided visiting the doctor because of the expense. As a result, her overall wellbeing suffered.

Sam’s story is just one example of how financial wellbeing can spill over into an employee’s physical and mental health. In the workplace today, many HR and benefits professionals are looking to address this link.

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The Labor Shortage – The Unfortunate Reality

A virus can be blamed for many current realities, and certainly its impact includes the multi-factorial employment issue that Tom Casey and his colleagues at Discussion Partner Collaborative (DPC) meaningfully explore in this blog that’s been repurposed from their hugely popular July white paper of the same moniker.  As their research conveys, however, the global labor shortage won’t be resolved by the cascading impact that the pandemic-inspired ending to unemployment benefits provides.  This multi-factorial employment issue is fundamentally about talent readiness.  Having said that, let’s avoid the tendency to immediately point to Talent Acquisition for solutions.  Instead, as you reference this blog titled “The Labor Shortage – The Unfortunate Reality,” read with your holistic organizational lens.  Talent readiness is as much about retention (a.k.a. organizational culture, executive leadership, demonstrated inclusion, total rewards, professional development, succession planning, etc.) as it is finding and attracting the best talent.  That’s what I experienced differently about this work by Tom and DPC.  We have a crisis around labor that showcases how important it is for the solutions to be everyone’s responsibility, not strictly those who lead or contribute in Human Resources.  NEEBC, and I personally, are honored by the opportunity to share this important work on an emerging, substantial, universal workforce issue. 

Introduction by Robin Antonellis, Executive Director of NEEBC

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Dependent Care FSAs: How they can support your employees

Working parents have been challenged with safety and health concerns and balancing work and providing care for children whose schools or daycares were closed for extended periods.  

Now that most schools and daycares have resumed in-person education, it might be time to reevaluate benefit options to support employees with dependents. One solution is to offer employees the opportunity to opt into a dependent care flexible spending account, or DC-FSA.

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Worthen Industries Creates a Wellness Culture that Achieves 80% Employee Engagement and Remarkable Outcomes and Savings

With the firm belief that healthy employees are happier, safer, and more engaged workers, Worthen Industries made wellness a top priority over a decade ago.

Worthen wanted a comprehensive wellness program designed to improve individual health and wellbeing, prevent chronic diseases, and positively impact the quality of life of its employees and their families. Worthen also strived to attract and maintain an engaged employee base to promote long-term productivity, employee retention, and health care cost reduction. Being self-insured, Worthen wanted to control insurance costs while also creating a more “adhesive” culture of wellbeing and camaraderie among employees spread out over multiple states. Not only did Worthen want wellness to be the common thread that ties everything together, they also wanted wellness and safety to be seamless and integrated. By any measure, Worthen’s wellness efforts have been successful.

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How a diverse workforce can help to improve employee health

A work culture of diversity brings with it new ideas, ways of thinking and problem solving, and greater creativity and innovation. But, committing to diverse hiring practices alone isn’t enough to fully support a workforce that includes employees of different generations, gender, race, ability, LGBTQ+ community, and socioeconomic status. Your employee benefits also need to reflect this shift.

There is no one-size-fits all approach to health care. By choosing and offering a health plan that’s flexible and features comprehensive benefits, you’ll be able to help all your employees access care and live healthier lifestyles.

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Supporting Your LGBTQ Employees During Pride Month and Beyond

Each year in June, the LGBTQ community and its allies celebrate Pride Month, showcasing the diversity of the LGBTQ community and exploring the past and present of LGBTQ advocacy. While our society has made great strides when it comes to discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, there’s still plenty of work to be done. As an employer, one of the most meaningful ways you can honor Pride Month is by reviewing your health care benefits to ensure that they fully support the health and wellbeing of all of your employees, including those who are LGBTQ.

Understanding LGBTQ health disparities
Health care equity is a real issue when it comes to the LGBTQ population. People who are LGBTQ are at higher risk than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts for a number of medical conditions, diseases, and infections, including cancer, obesity, and behavioral health issues.1 There are also barriers to health care access for LGBTQ individuals, most of which can be traced back to discrimination and oppression.2

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