How A Disability Carrier Can Help You
With Health Care Reform
by Carol Harnett, Chair, Health and Performance Innovation Institute
The changes associated with health care reform began to take effect this month, but the major impact won’t hit until 2014. Consultants can take advantage of this interval by positioning themselves as the experts who can coordinate benefit packages and guide employers through the maze.
"There really is precious little to do immediately, but producers are caught in a maelstrom of information requests so that benefit managers can portray knowledge," says Skip Simonds, the western region absence and disability practice leader for Towers Watson.
Rob Queen, managing consultant and human capital practice leader for Willis in Orange County, California agrees. "Health care reform is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, but employers shouldn’t be so distracted that they lose focus on their overall strategic benefits plan."
Most experts believe health care reform is here to stay despite lawsuits by 21 states regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s constitutionality. According to a July 27th article in The New York Times, these same states, however, are still complying with the act’s requirements while waiting for their lawsuits to be resolved by the courts.1
Jack Bastable, national practice leader for employee health and productivity at CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services, Inc., believes "employers need to zero in on the act’s impact on employee performance and productivity. Reform is focusing on prevention and incenting employees based on outcomes," Bastable says. "That’s a good thing."
"All national account size customers want to get to health and productivity management…but a concise definition of H&P is missing," according to Simonds. "Right now, H equals medical and disease management and P equals disability management and absenteeism."
"Employers have relied on the H part of H&P to get to P," Simonds continues. "By 2014, H is going to have a much smaller footprint on the P side of the equation."
So, if getting employers to keep their eyes on their overall strategic benefits plans is important, how can a disability carrier help producers shift focus back to the big picture?read more
Case Study: Lessons from the University of Alabama’s Approach To Mental Health
In our last issue, Stan Kulesa covered ways you can help your clients "Manage Mental Health Disability In The Workplace." In this issue, we're highlighting a companion case study developed by Laurel Long, Assistant Vice President of Human Resources at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH).
In February of this year, an unfortunate tragedy occurred on the UAH campus. A biology professor shot and killed three colleagues during a routine faculty meeting and wounded three others. While the incident was unprovoked and unpredictable, fortunately the University had a strong benefits program, wellness initiatives and ongoing support for mental health already in place, which were extremely valuable in helping staff and students cope with this tragedy.
The University had formed a system-wide Benefits Committee in 2006, which identified multiple challenges to positive mental health, including staff reductions, leadership changes, delayed retirement and fiscal uncertainty. New wellness initiatives, education and awareness programs were developed and coordinated to address these issues. Updated websites and e-mails made benefits information easier to find and use.
EAP Improves Performance And Provides On-Site Counseling
Utilization of the University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) increased from 17 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2009. Online visits increased 45 percent from 2007 to 2008. Top participant issues include emotional well-being/stress management, addiction and recovery and mandated referrals for work issues. The EAP also offers training programs such as "A Personal Guide to Managing Change.” Following the traumatic February incident, because the EAP was already in place, the provider was able to rapidly respond with on-site counseling.
The program has had a significant impact on work performance:
- Improved productivity – 70.7 percent
- Reduced absenteeism – 71.8 percent
- Reduced stress – 88.2 percent
- More likely to stay employed at UAH – 75.9 percent
New Research Paper Validates Use Of
Behavioral Finance Best Practices
A new research paper, written by Dr. Alessandro Previtero of UCLA's Anderson School of Management and sponsored by The Standard, provides fascinating insights into human behavior that can be applied not only to retirement plans, but also to the way people make choices about other financial products, such as insurance. Titled "Using Behavioral Finance to Help Employees Achieve Their Retirement Savings Goals," the paper also validates Mainspring Managed, a retirement savings and investment planning service offered to The Standard's retirement plan participants, as an example of how to incorporate these best practices. You can download it here or contact a pension consultant at 877.805.1127 for printed copies.
Help Your Clients: Have More
Voluntary Enrollment Success
Enrollment season is upon us! You can help the HR directors you work with increase enrollment in voluntary benefits by promoting the advantages of mandatory enrollment meetings. When a group has contributory coverage, relying on a passive or self-enrollment process is simply not effective. Based on our experience, these methods average less than 15 percent participation rates.
When the employer makes enrollment meetings mandatory, it sends a message to employees to take the meetings seriously. And when employees receive an effective presentation and one-on-one time, they’re in a better position to choose the best benefits for their needs and families.read more
A Case For Saving Time And Money:
The Standard's Health Advocate Program
We’ve all heard the saying, "Time is Money." With Health Advocate, you can help your clients save both, along with lowering employees’ stress levels. Included with The Standard’s Absence Management Services, Health Advocate is also available as an add on to The Standard’s group insurance products.
Health Advocate provides clients and members with a team of Personal Health Advocates (PHAs), typically registered nurses supported by medical directors and benefits specialists. PHAs help clients and members navigate the healthcare system with time- and money-saving solutions for clinical and administrative issues involving medical, hospital, vision, dental, pharmacy and other healthcare needs.
Cutting A National Retailer's Costs*
Based on estimated total productivity savings, Health Advocate saved a national retailer with 2,200 employees more than $44,000 during the seven-month period from November 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010. Those savings are based on the 743 interactions that Health Advocate staff had with the retailer’s employees and the approximately 295 hours of employee time saved. Considering that the PHAs can find resolution faster than the average individual, the time savings are potentially much greater.
* Data source: Health Advocate Group Information Report, Reporting Period November 1, 2009 to May 31, 2010.read more
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Mental Health Disability And Prevalence Trends
- About one third of SSDI claims are for conditions related to mental disorders1
- Mental disorders made up 7.8 percent of new LTD claims in 2009 and 7.2 percent of existing claims1
- Mental disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. and Canada for people ages 15-442
- An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year – approximately one in four adults2
- The 2010 Council for Disability Awareness Long-Term Disability Claims Review
- National Institute of Mental Health, August 6, 2009, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/statistics/index.shtml
Supporting Veterans: The Standard Sponsored "Wounded Warrior" Team In Hood To Coast Relay
The Standard and Disabled Sports USA, a national nonprofit organization, sponsored the first ever "Wounded Warrior" team of military men and women who have been injured in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to take part in the Hood to Coast relay, a grueling 197-mile relay race from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood to Seaside, Oregon held on August 27.
The Standard's sponsorship is a reflection of our commitment to and belief in the abilities of those with disabilities, as well as our deep respect for the brave men and women who have served our country. Learn more about this inspiring group at Disabled Sports USA. To see race results, visit Hood To Coast Relay.
Mark Your CalendarEach month, Building Your Business Webinars from The Standard provide insight and commentary on the issues driving our industry. Check our events calendar for upcoming webinars.