Pregnant Workers Receive Accommodations

Beginning in April of 2018, employers in Massachusetts will need to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, including measures to prevent discrimination against those pregnant workers who request an accommodation. Some of these accommodations will include allowing more frequent or longer breaks, modifying seating or other work-related equipment, temporarily transferring pregnant employees to a less strenuous or hazardous position and providing private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk. According to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, employees must be notified of these rights, in writing, beginning January 1, 2018.

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Employees Need More Health Benefits Education

The article below was published on October 9, 2017 by Plansponsor, written by Rebecca Moore.

The youngest employees especially feel unprepared to decide what plan they should choose, according to a survey from Aflac.

dg-questionsBenefits enrollment findings from the 2017 Aflac WorkForces Report, a national online survey of 5,000 U.S. workers, found that 67% said they are confident they understood everything they signed up for.

However, these results may indicate an underlying false sense of confidence. The survey, conducted between January 26 and February 17 by Lightspeed GMI and released by Aflac, also uncovered that 76% of workers make health benefits decisions without a complete knowledge of their health plan. When asked specifically about understanding its policies, such as concerning deductibles, co-pays and providers in their network, only 24% of these workers could respond that they understood everything. This result has been steadily declining since 2015, when nearly half (47%) believed they knew everything; in 2016,  39% believed they did.

“It’s counterintuitive to see that workers are reporting a positive benefits enrollment experience, but so many are still struggling with a good understanding of the various aspects of their health care coverage,” says Matthew Owenby, senior vice president, chief human resources (HR) officer at Aflac. “Benefits enrollment is one of the most important decisions a worker can make each year. Ensuring workers are more educated will require a sustained effort by employers and employees alike to better understand all aspects of benefits, including coverage options and costs.”

Aflac conducted a separate survey among 1,000 20- to 26-year-olds, employed either full or part time. The Aflac WorkForces Report First-Time Enrollees Survey was conducted from August 24 through 28 and found that more than half (51%) of young workers will choose their health care benefits for the first time this enrollment season. Yet only 19% feel confident, and just 31% say they feel prepared. Their biggest concern about choosing their own health insurance plan is cost (44%), followed by understanding how health insurance works (36%).

Of respondents currently on their parents’ plan (35%), more than half (54%) are leaving that coverage in the next year to purchase their own benefits for the first time. More than two-thirds (69%) of those on their parents’ plan are unaware how much their health insurance coverage even costs; however, 41% indicated they contribute financially to their parents’ plan.

“We know from our experience and past data that fewer people each year say they understand everything about their plans and their options, which means Americans are clearly hungry for answers to insurance questions,” Owenby says.

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Paid Sick Leave Bug Spreading

paid-sickAs if businesses in Illinois don’t have enough concerns, the General Assembly has introduced bills mandating a minimum of five (5) paid sick days per year for Illinois workers. Employees would be able to use the time to care for themselves or a family member, attend a medical appointment for themselves or a family member, miss work due to a public health emergency or because they or a family member has experienced domestic violence abuse. The bills were presented for a second reading earlier this spring, with no resolution to date.

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How to Get Employees to Use Their Preventive Care

The article below was published on July 21, 2016 by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, written by Brenda Hofmann.

Preventive care is vital to keep your employees healthy. The more employees take advantage of available preventive care, the more cost-effective their care becomes. They stay healthy, you save on health care costs—It’s a win-win for employees and employers.

You know that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that health plans cover recommended preventive services at no cost to the individual, but do your employees? If you’re not already doing so, consider communicating to your workforce the free preventive care benefits that are available to them.

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You may want to adjust the language to best fit your plan or workforce, but here are some samples of communication to get you started:

Take Advantage of Free Preventive Care

Who: You! Men, women and children are all covered.

What: Depending on your age, you may have access to—at no cost to you—preventive services such as:

  • Blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests
  • Many cancer screenings, including mammograms and colonoscopies
  • Counseling on topics such as quitting smoking, losing weight, eating healthfully, treating depression and reducing alcohol use
  • Regular well-baby and well-child visits, from birth to age 21
  • Routine vaccinations against diseases such as measles, polio and meningitis
  • Counseling, screening and vaccines to ensure healthy pregnancies

See the full list at Healthcare.gov.

When: Now. These preventive services are already covered under our plan.

Where: Preventive services are free when delivered by an in-network doctor.

Why: Preventive care screening can detect disease in the early stages when it is most treatable. Following preventive care guidelines, along with the advice of your doctor, can help you stay healthy.

How: Know what’s considered preventive care and review the guidelines. For example, although a colonoscopy is a preventive care screening, it’s only covered for people aged 50 or older. Additionally, colonoscopies that are done to evaluate specific problems are usually classified as diagnostic procedures (not screenings) and are not covered.

Avoid unexpected costs by clearly stating when you make your appointment that your visit is for a covered preventive care service. For example, if you’re making your well-woman visit on the phone, say “I’m making an appointment for my free preventive care well-woman visit.”

Also, medical complaints aren’t preventive. If you discuss other issues with your doctor, the visit is no longer preventive and you’ll be charged a fee. For example, if during your well-woman visit, your doctor does blood work for thyroid problems you are having, these additional services won’t be covered under free preventive care. Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor whether screenings he or she recommends will cost you.