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Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - Are employers offering millennials the right benefits?

We live in a society that's all about "bigger," "faster" and "more." But, as we're learning in the workplace benefits arena, "more" doesn't always equal "better." At least that's what we're getting from the new employee research covered in BenefitsPRO, which told us that workers -- specifically millennials -- want more help for all-around wellness. It seems their needs simply aren't being met, even after companies continue to blindly pile on other offerings.

Millennials want more employer support for well-being - Katie Kuehner-Hebert, Benefits PRO

Let's get right to the numbers here. In a recent Welltok report, "Millennials: Raising the Bar for Wellbeing," this much-maligned, often-misunderstood generation isn't asking for the moon. They just want benefits that provide holistic support for physical, mental and financial well-being. Yet, of the 1,000 employees surveyed, 78% think their companies can do more.

In turn, just 23% felt they knew where (and how) to access the well-being resources being offered by their employers. In other words, the answers might actually be there, but employees are having a hard time finding them.

Despite all this automation, millennials have also shown an affinity for personalized experiences. And health and wellness is no exception. More than 60% of surveyed felt that their benefits were uniform across the board, even though employee needs varied widely. And it seems this "one size fits all" approach is preventing them from taking part in company programs, too.

So, how do employers change the story? Well, according to the article, adding incentives that encourage participation would help. These benefits aren't AS surprising, but it makes sense as to why millennials would want them. Here's what respondents seemed to want the most:

  • Extra vacation time (64%)
  • Wellness benefits (56%)
  • Flexible work schedules (53%)

And though it wasn't part of the incentives list, millennials are also (unsurprisingly) very interested in financial stability… and maybe the training to make it happen.

All in all, this was an interesting read that aligns with what we've said about what motivates millennials in the workplace. But it also reintroduces the biggest point -- companies likely need to adapt and evolve their benefits programs to help retain this diverse generation of workers.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - Are you planning to take some VTO?

Time off. We all want it. Some have it. And we'd venture a guess that not many people really make the most of it. Sure, the "ideal" way to spend your time off is subjective, to say the least. But based on this week's article, it seems more people are finding value in a new type of time off -- time off that might even be better for the soul.

Here's Why VTO Is the Next Big Thing in Employee Benefits - Lauren Pope, G2

No, that's not a typo -- VTO is the latest thing to hit employee benefits. To sum it up, VTO is when a company offers paid time off for its employees to volunteer with nonprofit organizations. Volunteer time off is usually paid and is tracked separately from sick days or vacation days and are offered with a use it or lose it policy.

Though some companies are a little more structured than others, typically VTO is done during set periods, with approved charities, and is completely voluntary. (Though we wouldn't want to be the one person who chose not to show up at a charity event.)

Is VTO a real thing? Or just a trend?

Oh, it's real. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), roughly 21% of American companies offer VTO. In turn, CECP says more than 60% of enterprise-level companies are making VTO a big part of their plans.

Why the sudden focus on philanthropy? Looking past the obvious "good press" and PR benefits, research shows that dedicated VTO leads to improvements in:

  • Employee engagement
  • Retention
  • Corporate visibility
  • Recruitment of young, socially minded talent

That last part is particularly important. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of employees quitting their jobs is higher than ever, getting the best young talent to fill (and stay in) those roles is key. These younger employees are more likely to work for a company that is socially active and aware, making VTO a key benefit offering on multiple levels.

The article goes on to explain more statistics about companies that offer VTO as part of a regular benefits package, and even gives some easy ways to manage a VTO program in your own company.

As you read this on a Friday afternoon, possibly getting ready for a few days off, consider how your company allows you to use your time off, and whether or not it can be put to better use. With a dedicated VTO initiative, it might soon be easier to truly make the most of your time away from work.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Accounts

Fridays (with Benefits): SHRM's 2019 Employee Benefits Survey shows shifting wellness trends

In what has become one of our favorite annual traditions, the Society for Human Resource Management released its annual benefits survey at the organization's conference in Las Vegas. While there doesn't seem to be any "major revelations" about the state of employee benefits, the report did turn up some interesting facts that affect some of the things we do here.

But don't take our word for it - here's a direct link to the survey. Go take a look - we'll be here when you're done.

SHRM 2019 Employee Benefits Survey Results

Like we mentioned, there weren't any major surprises in this year's report -- we probably all agree that retirement and health benefits remain top-of-mind to employees across the workforce.

According to the survey, 85% of organizations are steadfast in offering PPO health care plans, but interest in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) is on the rise, with significant growth in the adoption of health savings accounts (HSAs). In fact, 59% of surveyed organizations now offer HDHP options connected to savings. (An additional 19% offer HDHPs without the HSA option, as well.)

One interesting (and probably overdue) development we learned in the survey is that companies offering health insurance to part-time employees is a popular and growing tactic to help recruit and retain talented staff. It's not a fully fleshed-out offering just yet, since roughly ⅓ of companies offering these plans share the cost of coverage, but it's an encouraging step forward for a growing gig economy.

Another development that has us concerned, to be quite honest, is the lack of importance placed on wellness programs in the workplace. While there are concrete results that point to the effectiveness of employee wellness programs, companies aren't seeing it just yet.

The same concern applies to mental health coverage. In the last few years, there has been a precipitous drop in mental health options through employer-sponsored plans -- 91% of surveyed organizations offered this coverage just four years ago. But as of 2019, just 71% maintain the same levels of mental health options within their plans.

To be fair, this is as indicative of changes in health care plan structure (i.e., more plans include mental health as part of a core plan, rather than an extra benefit offered by the employer) but when we see a 20% dropoff in just half a decade, we take notice.

Maybe the 2019 Employee Benefits Survey wasn't entirely without some surprises, after all. But we'll let you determine that for yourself. The entire report is available to download, free of charge (and without any splash page or opt-in required) so we encourage you to check it out.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Basics

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/26/19 - A digital revolution is underway in employee benefits

Employee Benefit News is a publication we reference a lot in this column, because of its ongoing coverage of the benefits industry (and how it might affect FSA and HSA owners). So, when the site's editors highlight the people and companies helping to change the employee benefits landscape, we take notice.

This year's Digital Innovators award recipients shine some light on all the different ways benefits are evolving through connected platforms. From things as simple as online video series and apps aimed at retirement planning, to more complex apps centered on employee accountability, it's clear that the world of benefits is taking a major leap to improve engagement in the workplace.

"Going digital" is hardly a new concept for modern business, but it's still great to see these platforms improve the way we work and live, in and out of the office. Let's take a closer look.

20 digital innovators transforming benefits, HR - Caroline Hroncich, Kathryn Mayer - Employee Benefit News

According to the article, EBN received dozens of nominations from readers, along with some choices from editors and industry experts, to create a comprehensive list of 20 deserving recipients. We obviously can't cover them all here, but let's check out a few of the standouts for 2019.

Rosario Avila and Andrew McNeil, founders of BenefitsTV
Avila and McNeil created BenefitsTV — a series of videos posted to social media —after they couldn't find any benefits content in video form. Since teaming up, the two benefits advisers have posted more than 50 short videos for YouTube and Instagram.

Mike Cardillo, co-founder and president, HandsFree Health
Cardillo's company created the new voice-activated device WellBe, which responds to voice commands like other virtual assistants, but targeted for answering questions based on the owner's individual healthcare and benefits information.

Brian Hamilton, vice president of SmartDollar
SmartDollar is an online and app-based financial program designed to educate employees to proactively take control of their money and get on track for retirement.

These three are really just the tip of the innovation iceberg highlighted in the article, so we strongly recommend taking a few minutes to see the list in full. Even if you're completely happy with your benefits (as an employer or employee) you might just find something to make them even better for everyone involved.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Accounts

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/19/19 - Benefits education could lead to longer-tenured employees

One of the goals of our Learning Centers is to educate readers about their tax-free health care accounts, so they can make the right decisions about which accounts to open, and what opportunities they'll have for the upcoming year. But education about employee benefits needs to start a lot earlier, to make the choices clearer for workers, and to keep them happy long after they sign on the dotted line.

But, as we see in this article from BenefitsPRO, the level of benefits education plays a bigger role than we thought in employee happiness … and it might even affect retention. Let's see why.

Lack of benefits understanding brings low morale, high turnover - Marlene Satter, BenefitsPRO

According to a new Colonial Life study, employees who don't get a thorough picture of their benefits options during open enrollment don't typically understand their choices, even after they make their selections. This isn't that surprising. What caught our attention is that there seems to be a scary correlation between employee understanding and happiness.

Long story short? Data shows that employees who don't fully understand their benefits are more likely to quit within the coming year.

What's even more concerning is that there doesn't seem to be any urgency by employees to change this. Just look at these stats:

  • 33% of workers spend less than a half hour choosing benefits during enrollment.
  • 36% spend less than an hour even researching their options.

The article goes on to explain how this hastiness leads to lower morale, less confidence in their company, and even complete job dissatisfaction. It also highlights how different demographics had some markedly different approaches to selecting benefits.

Now, we can't speculate that the lack of benefits education is directly responsible for turnover. But having a company properly explain options and help employees select an ideal plan certainly seems like it would improve morale.

We're curious to see how the results of the Colonial Life study pan out, and if it will make a difference when open enrollment starts this fall.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 4/12/19 - When great companies unite for a greater good

When people talk about "big box stores" or "mega-corporations" the conversation usually isn't held in a positive light. So whenever we hear about them using their size and clout to promote positive change -- for customers and employees -- we take notice.

This week's headline focuses on how several of the nation's largest companies, including names like Apple, Google, Walmart, Goodyear and Target, came together to help pilot cutting-edge benefits solutions, implementing these ideas separately, then reconvening to share some results.

A few years ago, if you told me Apple and Google were going to combine forces for ANY reason, I probably would have laughed… more than once. But now, with the future of employee benefits on the line, it doesn't seem so funny.

How 60 of the nation's biggest employers are uniting to fight the benefits status quo - Kathryn Mayer, Employee Benefit News

This unexpected collaboration all started the same way as so many other disruptive ideas -- by frustration and necessity. New health-tech startups were beginning to pop up, looking to redefine employee benefits solutions, but no one was testing them at scale. So several of these companies' HR leaders decided to join forces.

Together, these benefits leaders united to try these startups, pilot some of the programs and then discuss what worked and what didn't.

That was in 2014. Today, this collection of heavy HR hitters are known as the Employer Health Innovation Roundtable, now comprised of nearly 60 of the country's biggest employers, representing roughly 8 million employees.

What started as a twice-yearly roundtable seeking solutions to workplace health issues like addiction, mental wellness and child care, among others, is now a large consortium of businesses seeking to reclaim control over a flawed health care system

The short-term goal? Obviously, putting an end to unaffordable health care costs. But there's also a focus on shining light on innovative tech startups that propose significant improvements to the ways companies and employees manage health, from data-driven personal insights to wellness tracking and much more.

If the startups prove successful, the potential for partnership with U.S. industry leaders is plenty of motivation to keep innovating and improving benefits options. Companies have better health offerings. Workers are healthier and happier. New businesses get exposure in the world's biggest arena. Wins all around.

The article goes into great detail to explain the programs in play, the companies that are driving this change, and the longer-term goals of the roundtable. It's a worthy read for anyone looking into the decisions that mold their own health care … not to mention for anyone who enjoys a peek "behind the curtain" of the nation's largest companies.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 3/22/19 - Four centuries of pension plans?

When you reflect on your benefits, you're probably thinking back to the last few plans you had, and leaving it at that. But I highly doubt many of you are looking at employee benefits in a historical context. Because benefit programs just seem like such a "20th century" creation, right?

Well, the people at Fast Company dug a little deeper into history to see just how far back things went. Let's see what a few hours in the books turned up...

Your employee benefits were 400 years in the making - Lydia Dishman, Fast Company

It turns out some of the employee perks and rewards we thought were pretty original, actually date back hundreds of years. Maybe those feudal lords weren't adding gym memberships and free lunches to their workers' plans, but you might be surprised at how forward-thinking employers were, even back then.

Lydia Dishman's article offers a quick and entertaining look at some (very) early benefits offerings, and how they shaped some of the things we still demand in our plans today. Here's a few highlights.

Did you know the very first pension plan was offered in 1636? It seems a little strange, coming from a community that still held actual witch hunts, but the colony of Plymouth, Mass. actually started paying small pensions to colonists disabled during their initial fights for independence.

As the idea evolved over the next 150-200 years, similar offerings were made for all war veterans, and then the concept was adopted by private industry, where it slowly became the pension model we know today.

But what about health care and employee wellness? Well, that didn't turn up until the late 1800s, when the Granite Cutters Union developed the first-ever plan for workers injured on the job. A few (okay 33) years later, retailer Montgomery Ward took the idea to the next level, with the inaugural group wellness policy.

And vacation? Yeah, that started right around the 1940s, when two of the biggest companies in the United States -- Kodak and Dupont -- started rewarding both hourly and salaried employees with well-deserved time off. Some were quicker to adopt than others, but this was a standard-bearer for most modern benefits plans.

After that, things really began to roll, and there were exponential gains in employee wellness. But why spoil it here when Lydia Dishman and Fast Company did it for us? It's a worthwhile read that might shed some light on just how far back employee needs were accommodated.

We imagine a day off in 1640 was probably just as appreciated then as it is now. (Yeah, maybe a little more.)

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

Fridays (with Benefits) - 3/15/19 - The real-world impact of inequity

We know what you're thinking - "isn't this where FSA Friday is supposed to be?" Yes, it's true -- we've decided to change things up a bit. Over the last few months we've noticed that our weekly flex spending coverage has shifted to a broader view of employee benefits.

In other words, the articles we select don't just talk about just tax-free healthcare spending, but also the people affected most by employee benefits trends, policies and changes. Oh, we're still going to talk about flexible spending accounts -- we are FSA Store, after all. But we also see a need to paint the bigger picture, to show how the world is learning to -- as we like to say around here -- benefit better.

Wait, I know what you're thinking again… "Enough of the intro, Brad. Let's get to this week's headlines."

Women Share Harrowing And Heartbreaking Stories About Hiding Their Periods At Work - Jamie Feldman, HuffPost Life

It's rare to sum up the mood of an article in one line, but Jamie Feldman does just that with this all-encompassing gem: "If you're screaming 'that's BS,' you're not alone."

Of course, Feldman is discussing something we've covered once or 10 times around here, menstrual equity and the need for these products, in particular, to be tax-free. But after reading this piece, you'll see the raw emotion about the subject, thanks to quotes and anecdotes from people who struggle with this rule everyday in the workplace.

As a company focused on highlighting the thousands of health products eligible for purchase with an FSA or HSA, we're among the many that wonder why feminine products haven't made the jump to a better classification. But we're still bound by these words:

"A regular menstrual cycle indicates a normal, healthy function of the body…" Because of this, the powers-that-be don't see hygiene products as 'treatment.'" But we're pretty sure millions of people who need these products wouldn't exactly classify them as a "nice to have" luxury.

The article goes on to discuss how Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) has been fighting for years to foster menstrual equity, in hopes that the ruling will finally pass through Congress later this year. But the legislative details are only part of the story -- the emotional power in the article comes from the real-world stories of alienation and discomfort, from the people truly affected.

Can Your Employer Cure Your Money Woes? - Liz Weston, NerdWallet

Onto happier things, NerdWallet reported this week that companies are exploring ways to help employees pay down debts like student loans as part of their benefits packages. The goal? Helping to eliminate the financial worries that can reduce productivity and time away from work.

To put that in perspective, according to a poll by accounting firm PwC in 2017, more than half of the 1,600 surveyed employees polled were stressed about their finances. In related news, human resources company Mercer has estimated financial stress costs U.S. businesses up to $250 billion a year.

To get ahead of this, some companies are trying to empower employees to take bigger steps toward eliminating debt. A few examples from the article:

  • Discounts on medical debt and interest-free loans repaid through payroll deductions.
  • Connecting workers to debt consolidation loans and student loan refinancing.
  • Payday advances or emergency loans so workers can avoid resorting to payday loan services with escalated interest rates.

Another interesting option mentioned in the article was the option to transfer PTO to cash, used to pay down debts directly. It's an interesting option, for sure. But is shifting work/life balance in that direction going to add to stress in different ways?

While these opportunities are making the news, they're not that common. But if companies begin to see happier, healthier, more secure employees -- and increased productivity alongside it -- we'd bet that more of these plan options will start popping up in the very near future.

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

FSA Friday - 3/8/19 - Wearable devices muscling their way closer to eligibility?

We're more connected than ever before. And because of the instant feedback we get from our connected devices, we're also more in touch with our everyday health. Thanks to technology and a renewed national focus on healthier living, we now have the ability to get readings, and share pinpoint health readings with our doctors… in real time!

You'd think such "magical" abilities would automatically qualify wearable health devices (or even multipurpose tech like the Apple Watch) as FSA-eligible. But even after proving their worth to countless health enthusiasts and medical professionals, they're still on the outskirts of the eligibility discussion.

Don't tell that to some forward-thinking companies, though. Because, as wellness programs rise in popularity across the country, so does the importance of wearable devices as part of employee health initiatives. And products like Fitbit are stepping up to be a part of the movement.

Fitbit expands offerings to new employers, health plans - Caroline Hroncich, Employee Benefit News

In response to the growth in corporate adoption of their wearable fitness devices, Fitbit recently released two new products -- the Inspire and Inspire HR, which are designed specifically for health plan clients. Offered as part of 100+ different health plan options, as well as to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, the Inspire series has taken off in a big way.

(More than 100,000 participants received them for one provider's diabetes prevention program alone!)

Though this is a relatively new development, the results are already coming in. Since launching the initiative in 2017, providers are finding that those who received the Fitbits are losing more weight, and staying more active day to day.

Coupled with Fitbit's proprietary wellness app/platform, Fitbit Care, both employees and employers can track individual wellness goals and progress… even collective company sleep information! The result? More motivated, engaged employees, healthier workplaces, and happier employers.

Though this is currently a corporate program, Fitbit plans to make the Inspire devices available to consumers soon, along with additional wearables for different ages and audiences. In short, it's pretty clear that Fitbit is becoming a factor in workplace wellness. And with that level of acceptance, we can only hope that eligibility rules change, allowing more people to benefit from these devices.

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FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Accounts

FSA Friday - 3/1/19 - The end of "one-size-fits-all" benefits packages

Happy March! Not only does today signify that we're just a little bit closer to thawing out from winter, but it also means the 3/15 Grace Period deadline is just two weeks away! If you're sitting on some remaining 2018 funds, now's the time to put them to good use.

(If you're still debating how to spend your leftover FSA dollars -- even if you have a good amount left -- don't stress. Our Deadline Buying Guide has been updated for the 3/15 Grace Period!)

Speaking of options -- some industry voices think that's exactly what's missing from today's employee benefit selection and that the time is right to make it happen. And you know what? We kind of agree...

Employee Benefit Packages Should Permit Personalization - Steff Chalk, 401kTV

Employee benefit packages are shifting toward personalization. And this is because of the people signing up for them. The "one-size-fits-all" approach was never an ideal fit for a contemporary workforce, but these inflexible plans are more out-of-date than ever before, due to so many different generations actively working today.

As the author (and Managing Editor of 401kTV) Steff Chalk reminds us, there are five distinct generations working today, each of which has equally distinct needs and wants. And with so many baby boomers remaining in the workplace, more customized health care and retirement options are at the top of the benefits want list.

In turn, Gen X'ers and millennials are a little more focused on work-life balance and career advancement, with younger millennials and Gen-Z members seeking tuition relief and job flexibility.

Unsurprisingly, this has created some benefits complications -- at least within the old-fashioned, uniform benefits model. Because of all this diversity within the workplace, HR teams have had to think on their feet to create not only more customizable benefits options that meet more needs for more people, but also increase communication and education opportunities for employees, so they know what options to make available.

From old-school focus groups to instant communication on social media, employers are finding out what workers want, and doing their best to appease all audiences on their payrolls. Because, by crafting benefits packages that can be crafted to the needs of more workers, companies can improve employee happiness, reduce turnover, and ensure happier a happier long-term workforce.

We encourage you to check out this opinion piece… and maybe share the link with your own management teams, in case you're looking for a little more customization in your own plans.

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FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well
Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

FSA Friday - 5/25/18 - Recharge over Memorial Day weekend

Admit it, as you read this, you're already watching the clock. It's Friday… the grill is clean… the lawn is mowed… All you need to do is ride out the work week, waiting for a well-deserved long weekend!

Whenever a holiday weekend comes, there's always a sense of relaxation. But is this a normal response? Or are we just working too hard? In this week's FSA Friday, we look at two articles that seem to indicate we're burning those candles a little harder than usual, both at home and in the workplace.

Half of Americans aren't taking a summer vacation. Here's why - Amanda Dixon, Bankrate

Since Memorial Day is considered the beginning of summer, some of you might be planning a vacation. But you might be in the minority these days. According to a new Bankrate survey, about half of Americans (49%) don't plan to take a vacation this summer. And 25% say it's because they can't afford it, due to a paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle, and a lack of adequate savings.

This is an eye-opener because of how all age ranges are affected. The article claims that while older Americans are more likely to say they're not going on vacation this summer due to family obligations, millennials skip vacations because there's too much on their plates. But the one common thread is how these different groups often claim finances play a big role in avoiding necessary time away from work.

It seems like people are working as hard as ever, and are hesitant to take time off, even if they need a little rest. At least today's forward-thinking workplaces make it enjoyable to be there, right? Well, maybe not as enjoyable as some employers think.

4 Employee Benefits Better Than Ping-Pong Tables and Free Food - Heather R. Huhman, Entrepreneur

The idea of seeing an office with ping-pong tables, free snacks, collaborative workspaces and team outings isn't newsworthy in 2018. And these perks might not be as important to workers as they once were. While it's fun to have some workday distraction, these boosts have little impact on employees' lives when compared to more meaningful benefits.

In a January 2017 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 3,227 HR professionals indicated that 32% of their organizations were increasing the benefits they offer, to better compete for talent.

Some of the benefits named as important by the survey?

  • Health concierge services
  • Credit card rewards
  • Travel opportunities
  • Sleep assistance

No, that last one doesn't mean sleeping in the empty conference room at the end of the hall. But employers are beginning to see how proper sleep can benefit workers in and out of the office, and have given them access to sleep therapy (and even paid apps) to improve the quality of their workers' rest schedules.

Speaking of which, you're now 10 minutes closer to your long Memorial Day weekend. Be sure to make it a restful, enjoyable one.

FSA Friday is a weekly roundup of the latest topics, tips and headlines to keep you updated on all things flex spending. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Taxes

FSA Friday with Sean - 1/26/18 - How the Cadillac Tax affects your healthcare

While this week's news centered around the government shutdown, the deal that ended it had an unexpected wrinkle that will affect consumer healthcare for the foreseeable future.

On Monday, President Trump signed a bill to fund the government for another three weeks. In this bill was a provision to delay the effective date of a targeted tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored health plans (the "Cadillac Tax") until 2022.

What's a "Cadillac" Tax?

Let's back up a bit. The Cadillac Tax was an attempt by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to solve a tax subsidy issue that dates back to World War II called Employer Sponsored Insurance (ESI). The point of the Cadillac Tax was to address the impact of ESI, raise additional revenue to fund the Affordable Care Act, and encourage employers to go for more cost-effective healthcare options.

According to Forbes, ESI is a tax subsidy that was a result of wage freezes that took place during WWII, and ESI was a means for employers to use tax-free funds to cover the cost of generous health plans. However, as wages grew and ESI remained in place, this created long-term issues for the American healthcare system.

First, ESI only benefits those enrolled in employer-sponsored healthcare coverage, which accounts for about half of all Americans.

Furthermore, the ESI makes it cost-effective for employers to move more money into healthcare benefits rather than wage increases. In terms of compensation, it became cheaper for employers to provide additional healthcare benefits, as opposed to more pay.

So, the Cadillac Tax was created as a deterrent for employers who offer high-cost health plans, with the idea that more money would be available to cover uninsured individuals. This would make the most expensive plans - which some argued would lead to overuse/abuse of medical care benefits - to be less desirable to employers.

The ACA proposed an additional tax on high-cost health plans -- the "Cadillacs" of their industry. This tax adds 40% additional tax on the value of health insurance coverage they offer. This is determined by these thresholds: $10,200 for individual plans and $27,500 for families. In other words, this is the total cost of the healthcare plans, including vision and dental benefits.

The tax, which applies to health plans including FSAs, HSAs and HRAs, was originally set to begin in 2018 and had been delayed until 2022.

Why is the Cadillac Tax delayed?

While the Cadillac Tax seemed like a good idea on paper, Congress failed to implement the tax several times since the ACA passed. The main issue is that this tax is tied to general inflation -- which simply refers to the price of goods and services in an economy over time -- as opposed to medical inflation, which is roughly 2-3x lower.

Healthcare spending typically outpaces general inflation, so this could inevitably lead to a larger amount of healthcare plans being subject to the Cadillac Tax. Because of this, employers are already faced with tough decisions about whether to continue to provide the same standard of healthcare coverage, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

Modern Healthcare reports that US employers have begun to implement healthcare changes if the Cadillac Tax ever goes into effect. A shift to high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) has been a leading trend with about 24% of workers in employer plans enrolled in a high-deductible option.

HDHPs are the only types of plans that are offer a health savings account (HSA) option, which could be contributing factor to their explosive growth. HSA enrollment has surged in 2017 to 21 million total accounts, a 16% increase year-over-year, according to research firm Devenir.

The Cadillac Tax has been a major sticking point in the world of consumer healthcare for years, and while it could see legislative changes in the future, this debate will most likely have to wait until its new implementation date in 2022.

If you're interested in diving deeper into this topic, you can read the full text of the bill to get a better idea of what it entails.

And of course, for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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FSA Friday with Sean - 1/5/2018 - Key employee benefit trends for 2018

Now the 12/31 FSA deadline has passed, we have a bit of breathing room here at FSAstore.com before we ramp up for the next big deadline, the FSA Grace Period, coming on March 15! But, before we get to that, let's read about the employee benefit trends that may affect you in 2018.

Whether you're a manager or an entry-level employee, knowing what's out there in terms of employee benefits and health coverage can help you make more informed choices in the future and get the maximum bang for your buck. Here's what to look out for in 2018.

20 Companies with the Best Benefits - Nick Otto, Employee Benefit News

Looking for a new job in 2018? You may want to look at these companies first. Employee Benefit News used data from Glassdoor Economic Research to build a list of American companies that go above and beyond for their employees in terms of health/dental/vision insurance, vacation/paid time off, retirement planning, and maternity/paternity leave.

On-Trend: 9 Voluntary Benefit Trends for 2018 - Nick Park, BenefitsPro

Today, health coverage, PTO and retirement planning are common employee benefits. It's voluntary benefits options that have become key for attracting new talent. BenefitsPro compiled a list of the most popular trends to expect in 2018, including student loan assistance, identity theft protection, personal financial planning, and more.

The 15 Biggest HR Challenges of 2018 - Nick Otto, Employee Benefit News

On the other side of the benefits discussion are the concerns faced by HR professionals, who directly communicate changes and updates to workers. Many of these HR trends reflect today's evolving workplace, including placing an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, curbing workplace harassment, and other relevant issues.

Happy New Year from all of us at FSAstore.com/HSAstore.com! For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.

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WATCH: How Open Enrollment Works


Find out why open enrollment is one of the most important dates on any working professional's calendar. Whether yours is weeks or months away, it's never too early to start planning your future health coverage options. To help streamline learning about your options, check out this helpful video from our friends at The SEBO Group:

We hope you find the answers you're looking for, and feel free to check out the rest of our resources on our Open Enrollment page.

Still have Open Enrollment Questions?