Benefits Blog

Addressing the Spike in FSA Forfeitures

Navigating the intricacies of Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) can be challenging for both employers and employees. Typically, there are three types of FSAs:

  1. Traditional Medical FSA
  2. Limited Purpose Medical FSA: For employees with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and an HSA, allowing them to set aside pretax funds for vision, dental, and orthodontia expenses.
  3. Dependent Care FSA: For employees who pay for eligible services such as preschools, summer day camps, or after-school programs.

According to SHRM’s 2023 Employee Benefits Survey, 62% of employers offered an FSA plan to their employees. Despite the popularity of FSAs, a recent report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) reveals a concerning trend: a significant increase in FSA forfeitures, with over 50% of Medical FSA participants leaving unused funds in their accounts by the end of 2022.

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Understanding GLP-1s and their dynamic marketplace and workplace trends

With the availability of newer treatment options for weight management – glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) medications – metabolic health is in the news, shining a light for the public on the impact of weight on overall health.

When evaluating patient well-being, physicians are increasingly reviewing metabolic health as an indicator of future health risk. Metabolic health factors – including a patient’s cholesterol profile, waist circumference, blood pressure and blood glucose – are interconnected. Obesity is a multi-faceted medical condition that typically manifests as a result of several factors, including genetic makeup, use of certain medications, lack of physical activity, excessive calorie consumption and sleep patterns.1 There are over 200 conditions associated with obesity, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease and cancer.2 It is well documented that even a 10% reduction in body weight has health benefits.

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Finding the Employee’s Voice in Mental Health Solutions

Nine years is the average period people live with a mental health condition before seeking help. Why does it take so long? Like so many things related to our emotional wellbeing and mental health, it’s complicated. Some of the reasons people delay seeking help sit outside an employer’s sphere of control. But not all of them. In speaking to over 16,000 individuals in the last 12 months, we’ve heard four themes about seeking support that employers can influence.

1- What to do?  What to say? 
About a third of all emotional/mental health cases start with the individual saying something like,

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Benefits Communication Trends for 2024 and Beyond

In today's ever-changing workforce, benefits are evolving at a rapid pace. From flexible work arrangements to mental health support, employers are recognizing the importance of offering comprehensive benefits packages that will attract and retain top talent. Yet offering these advancements may not be enough.  There is still the challenge of ensuring that employees are fully informed and educated about all their benefit options.

According to Employee Benefit News’ The State of Healthcare 2024, only 31% of employees who took a healthcare literacy quiz (i.e. what is a deductible, copay, etc.) scored over 70%!1 Obviously, employees need more benefits information and education to make better consumers of their benefits. 

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4 Tips to Boost Retention through Total Compensation

Retaining talent is the top organizational concern this year according to an isolved survey of 1,000 HR-decision makers. These same decision-makers say employees’ increasing expectations for the experiences they have at work is the biggest threat facing retention.

Although increasing employee expectations can be driven by external factors (like what employees see on social media and the consumer experiences they have outside of work), total compensation still plays a critical role. In fact, HR decision-makers say competitive compensation and competitive benefits are the top two investments that can be made to deliver employee experiences that matter.

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The NEEBC Mentoring Experience – Cultivating Skills for Career Success

For over ten years, NEEBC’s group mentoring has helped advance early-in-career Total Rewards professionals with their career choices.  While the program is focused on skills development required to succeed in this career, as well as career planning, it is greatly augmented by NEEBC’s in-depth benefits education led by industry thought leaders, conferences, best practices, and networking opportunities.  The group mentoring topics include leadership, public speaking, and communications. In addition, each year mentees decide extra topics most important to the group, which helps make the experience unique and meaningful for all.

The following sentiments were shared by recent mentees about the skill development sessions:

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Reflecting on Innovation in Employee Benefits

Reflecting on an insightful and engaging experience at the New England Employee Benefits Council’s recent conference, “Innovation in Employee Benefits: The Power of Progress,“ which focused on innovative benefits (including a breakdown by many life stages), point solution fatigue,  AI, and strategies to help control expenses without compromising coverage.  It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by a community of brilliant minds, all dedicated to the shared mission of helping our clients – countless organizations around the region and beyond – and their employees navigate the complex landscape of benefits with strategic vision.

The discussions around Point Solution fatigue resonated deeply, highlighting the challenges organizations face in managing an overwhelming array of solutions. In the era of information overload, employers must find a balance between value and confusion, which makes streamlining and optimizing benefits through innovative approaches paramount.  In the quest to tailor benefits packages for employees, employers are increasingly turning to targeted solutions to add a personalized touch. However, they face the delicate task of balancing customization with the risk of inundating employees with an excess of choices leading to less impact, and costs becoming a deterrent without a true ROI.

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Paid Leaves: Key Points for National and Multi-state Employers

National and multistate employers have a lot to think about when it comes to administering paid leave in a compliant manner. In the ever-changing landscape of statutory leaves, employers are forced to monitor new laws and changes to existing laws and be ready to implement those changes around their existing benefits. I previously faced these challenges directly while working on the employer side for two large, national employers, and now focus on analyzing these regulations to help clients operationalize compliant leave and disability processes.

If you are an employer with a national footprint, or even one with employees in multiple states, it can be quite a challenge to keep up. Many mandating states make annual changes that impact employer and employee contribution rates, benefit amounts, notice requirements, and other statutory changes that impact eligibility and entitlements under each state’s program.

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What employers need to know about cancer and health equity

February is Cancer Prevention Awareness Month, and to many employers, that likely sounds like yet another opportunity to highlight standard prevention advice: quit smoking if you smoke, prioritize fresh foods and exercise, and make sure to follow cancer screening guidelines. But the truth is that there is much more to this issue than this one-size-fits-all advice. Increasingly, health experts and employers alike are discovering that no standardized message is enough to adequately solve this persistent problem.

- A little over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and more than 600,000 die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.[1]
- Research suggests that less than half of cancers can be prevented by a healthy diet and lifestyle alone.[2]
- Only 14% of diagnosed cancers in the U.S. are detected by a recommended screening, per research from the University of Chicago.[3],[4]

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Paid Family and Medical Leave Around New England

Paid Family and Medical Leave continues to evolve throughout New England and the country. While most of the activity has been at the state level, proposals have also been put forth federally. The programs passed by states vary in a number of ways, which leads to complexity for employers trying to navigate this landscape. Compliance concerns and complexities have also grown as the trend for remote work has continued, and employers that hire across the nation must comply with laws where employees work.

Massachusetts: Experience Over the Years
We have now completed our third year of the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical (PFML) program! In those three years, the program has seen changes in contributions, benefits, claims experience, as well as changes to how it operates and coordinates with other benefits.

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Health & Welfare Trends & Outlooks 2024

To kickoff 2024, we once again called on our annual corporate partners to share their outlooks and perspectives on industry trends for the NEEBC community to consider in the new year.  The current landscape and workforce have taught us that benefits are more important to employees than ever, and the fight for talent, exacerbated by the labor shortage, has never been more challenging. 

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Supporting Employees Considering Retirement

Retirement is a significant milestone in life, and for many people, it can be an overwhelming experience. After years of working full-time, people's identity becomes closely tied to their careers. They are often unsure of what to do next, which can cause them to put off retirement despite having the financial means to retire.

That's why companies are beginning to expand their talent strategies to include life planning support for employees who are approaching retirement.

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A Holistic Approach to Student Loan Repayment Assistance

Student loan payments are restarting in October 2023, and many borrowers haven’t made payments for over three years. Luckily, changes to income-driven repayment options and one-time account adjustments can have big benefits for borrowers. This article can help you understand how to (1) prepare your employees for student loan payments to restart under the latest rules; and (2) the various repayment assistance programs available to employees to ease the burden of repaying student loans.

I Steps for employees restarting student loan payments:

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Cyber Threats to Retirement Plans and What Plan Sponsors Can Do About It

Cybercrime continues to increase and pose a credible threat both to employers and their employees. According to the FBI’s 2022 Internet Crime Report, losses caused by internet crime rose 48% in the last year to over $10.2B. 
There are four types of threats retirement plan sponsors and their participants should be concerned about:

1. Unauthorized access and acquisition of their personal data.
Over the last year we have seen a number of large data breaches impacting leading social media, telecommunications, and credit reporting businesses resulting in the disclosure of over 800M customer records1.

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Getting Your Money’s Worth From an MSK Care Solution

Every business leader is reaching for the same brass ring: ROI. You need benefits solutions that will move the needle with buy-in-worthy metrics that back up claims of success. And you need them now.

Health benefit costs per employee are projected to jump 5.4% in 2023 and continue to increase in the years ahead, notes Mercer. This is in sharp contrast with the prior decade, during which costs went up only 2.1% to 3.9% every year except 2021.[1]

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Meeting the Moment in Mental Health: 3 Actions to Support the Workforce

In an era where the significance of mental health is finally being acknowledged, a 300-person audience gathered in Las Vegas for a groundbreaking conference titled "Meeting the Moment in Mental Health: Real Community Solutions to the Mental Health Crisis."  Conference host, CareSolace, a trailblazer in mental health care solutions, holistically approached this topic with speakers who were leaders spanning state and local communities, public and private education, corporate and not-for-profit sectors, and, of course, healthcare. I had the privilege of representing NEEBC as a speaker identifying trends in Employee Benefits that focus on mental health.  My remarks aimed to illuminate a crucial aspect of this crisis: how employers can proactively address mental health concerns within their workforce. My focus was on simplifying access, advocating for affordability, and ensuring cultural relevance.  Any trends observed in this space offer insights into how employers can lead the way in nurturing a mentally healthy workforce.

Simplifying Access: The Gateway to Employee Wellbeing
One of the most formidable barriers to mental health care is the complex and often bewildering process of finding the right support. This conference emphasized the pivotal role that employers can play in simplifying access. By partnering with mental health care providers and platforms, employers can create streamlined channels through which employees can seek assistance.

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Promoting Company Culture Through Internal Communications

Many companies have come to realize that creating an inclusive and inviting organizational culture isn’t just the responsible thing to do — it also has a direct impact on the business bottom line. 

That’s because diverse and inclusive workplaces can help companies recruit1 and retain high-quality talent in this ultra-competitive market, create happier and more productive employees, achieve higher revenues and increase innovation2

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Nondiscrimination testing: Simplifying the core concepts

Nondiscrimination testing is a crucial part of sponsoring employee benefits as required by the IRS. In a world of constantly changing rules and regulations, it is crucial that employers remain up to date on how these tests impact their benefits. Nondiscrimination tests work to satisfy the Golden Rule, which dictates that highly compensated employees cannot receive a higher benefit than other employees.

Basics of Nondiscrimination Testing
There are three major tests you should have an understanding of as a plan sponsor Cafeteria Plan testsDCAP FSA tests and Health FSA tests. All the three categories include eligibility tests, which is where we see the Golden Rule at play.

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Evaluating and Strengthening Your Employee Health Benefits Through a DE&I Lens

Employee health benefits are a key area where employers need to focus their DE&I efforts. With three-quarters of employers (76%) ranking health benefits as their top priority to support their workforce1, there will need to be an increased focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) to ensure benefits offerings meet all employees’ needs – especially the under-served.

Why DE&I matters in healthcare benefits

Employees from marginalized communities often face unique health challenges and barriers to healthcare access, which have high long-term costs for employers in terms of medical and disability claims and worker productivity. Deloitte estimated health inequities related to race, socioeconomic status, and sex/gender account for $320 billion annual health care costs2. By tailoring health benefits to under-served populations, companies can bridge the healthcare gap, promote equitable health outcomes for all and help reduce rising healthcare costs.

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Leading by Listening: How to Support the Mental Health Needs of Your LGBTQ+ Employees

The LGBTQ+ community has and continues to bring value and unique perspectives to the workforce. Knowing that their employers stand by them can help employees feel safe in their workplace, which is critical to ensuring that the workforce has the diverse thoughts, perspectives and people we need for today’s world.

Part of standing by your LGBTQ+ employees means helping support their mental health. LGBTQ+ individuals have unique mental health needs. These individuals may face threats, violence, rejection and lack of acceptance in the community, as well as issues with accessing affirming care. We know from our own families and friendships that having an accepting, supportive workspace with validating mental health benefits also helps the loved ones of those in the community who already worry about their safety every day. 

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