Flexible Benefit Plans

Foundation Publication Search Results

These summaries were compiled from Foundation Publications Search, a database of articles, research reports and books published by the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists.


Health Savings Accounts: An Emerging Cornerstone of the Health-Wealth Bridge?
Steinberg, Allen T.; Benefits Quarterly; v32 no4 pp 24-28 4th Qtr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Several trends may help make health savings accounts (HSAs) a ubiquitous part of Americans' financial planning. When one looks at the totality of factors, it is easy to see how HSAs can become a vital connection between active and retiree health care needs and between retirement income and retiree medical needs. However, it is also easy to see the clouds over the horizon that could stall HSA growth in coming years. This article discusses both.
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The HSA in Your Future: Defined Contribution Retiree Medical Coverage.
Towarnicky, Jack M.; Benefits Quarterly; v32 no4 pp 29-37 4th Qtr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : This article shares one plan sponsor's journey to help employees accumulate assets to fund medical costs--while employed and after retirement. It documents a 30-plus-year retiree health insurance transition from a defined benefit to a defined contribution structure and culminating in a full-replacement defined contribution structure using HSA-qualifying high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and then redeploying/repurposing the HSA to incorporate a savings incentive for retiree medical costs.
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Benefit Trends: Benefits a Big Part of Compensation.
Held, Justin; Benefits Magazine; v53 no7 pp 8-10 Jul 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Employee benefit offerings remain a critical component of the employment relationship, providing security for workers, while acting as a recruitment, retention and engagement tool for employers. Benefits comprise a significant percentage of total employee compensation--as much as 60 percent in some organizations, according to the International Foundation's fifth "Employee Benefits Survey."
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Using Employee Benefits to Stay Competitive in China and India.
Kannan, Bharat; Benefits Quarterly; v32 no3 pp 32-36 3rd Qtr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : It appears a talent war is here to stay among employers in Asia. Employers that stay ahead of the trends and make best use of new insights will be better equipped to attract talent, increase loyalty and boost productivity. MetLife research shows there is a huge opportunity in China and India for employers that adopt practices such as offering total rewards packages that include a well-rounded employment deal that factors in flexible working conditions, wellness and career advancement opportunities. This article reviews these research findings and argues that taking the right steps to innovate on employee benefit programs will not only help companies stand apart from the competition but also help foster an engaged and committed workforce.
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Hospital Lacks Standing to File Suit.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no4 p 64 Apr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin reversed itself and finds that the plaintiff hospital lacked standing to file suit against the defendant flexible benefit plan and insurance company because it had not received a benefit assignment permitting it to do so.
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Washington Update: IRS Issues Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage Decision.
Benefits Magazine; v53 no4 pp 66-67 Apr 2016; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued Notice 2015-86 providing guidance for retirement plans and health and welfare plans in response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
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Employee Benefits Survey: 2016 Results
Held, Justin; Mrkvicka, Neil; Stich, Julie; 70 pp 2016; survey

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Results of the fifth comprehensive benchmarking survey conducted by the International Foundation. Includes data on pension and retirement plans, health care benefits and other benefits, such as life insurance, work/life benefits and time off, for three distinct sectors in the U.S.—corporations (including professional service firms), public employers and multiemployer benefit plans. Responses were gathered from members of the Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists during 2016.
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The More Things Change: Benchmarking Collectively Bargained Private Sector Benefits.
St. Jacques, Riley; Petruniak, Jane; Plans & Trusts; v33 no3 pp 14-19 May-Jun 2015; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : A PBI Actuarial Consultants survey of 41 Canadian public and private sector multiemployer plans reveals commonalities and differences useful for benchmarking. Plan designs have changed little since the 1980s, but accelerating technological change challenges the status quo. The PBI survey found most private sector multiemployer plans offered long-term disability to age 65, though some limit benefits to five years. All provide some vision and hearing benefits, though benefit levels are falling, while corporate plans tend toward choice through flexible health spending accounts. Only one in 20 private multiemployer plans have prescription drug dispensing fee limits, in contrast to the majority of corporate and public sector plans. Virtually all private multiemployer plans cover massage, a benefit for about half the other plans. No private sector multiemployer plan surveyed offered a health and wellness spending account, but nearly half of public sector plans did.
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CDHPs: As Enrollment Goes Up, a Time to Tune Up.
Domaszewicz, Sander; Savan, Jay; Benefits Quarterly; v30 no3 pp 19-23 3rd Qtr 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : According to Mercer's 2013 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, the coming of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased employer and employee interest in consumer driven health plans (CDHPs). The ACA has had a significant impact on CDHPs that include health flexible spending accounts. Department of Labor guidance requires health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) to meet Public Health Services Act rules that are at odds with many existing HRA designs. Health savings accounts, a key component of most CDHPs, are largely unaffected by the ACA. Employers need to communicate the benefits of CDHPs to employees and give them the proper tools to manage their health spending.
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Finding the Right Spending Account for Public Plans.
Erickson, Reed; Peterson, Marlo; Benefits Magazine; v51 no5 pp 38-43 May 2014; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Adoption of consumer driven health plans with medical spending accounts is rising, with 59 percent of employers sponsoring some variety in 2013, according to Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health. With six types of account options available for governmental entities, employers must understand the differences while considering their goals, financial needs and workforce characteristics as well as the requirements of GASB Statement 45. Among the factors to consider are the degree of control over accounts the organization wants, union involvement, retiree coverage, necessary flexibility and funding possibilities. A table lays out the pros and cons of a notional health reimbursement arrangement (HRA), a funded HRA, a funded 501(c)(9), a voluntary employees' beneficiary association, a 115 funded governmental trust as an HRA, a health savings account and a flexible spending account.
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The ROI on Employee Benefits.
Harmeling, John T.; Benefits Magazine; v50 no6 pp 48-52 Jun 2013; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : A 2013 Aflac report highlights the importance of good employer-employee relations for retention, and benefits are a major contributor. Employers gain the advantage of a more loyal and productive workforce by promoting employee wellbeing. With stress playing a part in 60 percent of disease conditions according to the American Medical Association, employers should do all they can to encourage effective stress management, use of support resources and avoidance of problem substances. They can promote good nutrition by leading the way to healthier foods and partnering with select food vendors. Over six in ten employees worry about personal finances. Employers can offer some relief by making voluntary benefits available, including financial planning to enhance security and health care flexible spending accounts to manage medical expenses.
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Buying and Selling Vacation Time: Pros, Cons and Key Considerations.
Saperstone, Nancy; Benefits Magazine; v49 no8 p 42-45 Aug 2012; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Since vacation time has economic value, it may be eligible to be bought and sold as a commodity. According to a Zyware, Inc. survey, about two percent of employers allow buying and selling of vacation time, one percent allow purchase only and 11 percent allow selling time, all usually involving some limits. Section 125 plans are the most likely plan design to support the transactions, which can be done as flex credits, a salary reduction or payment system. With a cafeteria plan employers and employees can avoid some tax consequences, though if a year-end cash out option exists, the employee is liable for taxes on the payment. Employers offering the purchase and sale of vacation hours must consider how to deal with employee terminations, leaves of absence and changes in an employee's benefit status.
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HSA Programs for Groups: Employer Versus Employee Responsibilities.
Johnson, Whitney R.; Benefits Quarterly; v28 no3 pp 43-51 3rd Qtr 2012; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Employers and employees of a group health plan with a health savings account (HSA) have shared compliance responsibilities. Employers wanting to allow employees to make pretax deferrals to an HSA need to establish Section 125, or cafeteria, plans, which generally do not require an IRS filing. The most complicated compliance issue for employers is comparability testing, a process similar to 401(k) plan nondiscrimination testing involving a long and complex set of rules. Small business owners have additional rules, based on the type of small business, for contributions to themselves. HSA money must be held by an approved HSA custodian, who tracks distributions and deposits. Individual HSA owners must substantiate the use to which they put their distributions, determine their own eligibility, ensure their contributions do not go over the federal limit, manage their own HSA balances and pay taxes on their HSAs.
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The Global Added Value of Flexible Benefits.
Chow Koo, Rosaline; Benefits Quarterly; v27 no4 pp 17-20 4th Qtr 2011; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The diversity of employee benefit preferences by age, life status and geographic location makes offering flexible benefits a logical choice with strong advantages. In Asia fewer than 20 percent of employers offered flex in 2009, but many plan to start. While best practices in benefit designs differ by country, common features include benchmarking against competitors, cost sharing and limits, defined contribution strategies and removing benefits that do not affect outcomes. Since a Singapore-based global bank with 30 percent annual health cost increases instituted flexible benefits in 2001, it has saved $1 million annually from 2007 to 2011 and enjoyed substantially stronger employee retention and productivity.
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Sizing Up Health Care Reform: What Small and Midsize Companies Need to Know.
Miraglia, Dorothy L.; Benefits Magazine; v48 no2 pp 30-35 Feb 2011; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : With little HR support, small and midsized companies face a heavy administrative burden under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. They must decide about offering health insurance, meet pressing deadlines and consider the pros and cons of grandfathering. Extra reporting requirements take effect in 2011 and 2012. Those sponsoring flexible spending accounts, health reimbursement arrangements and health savings accounts must be aware of changing coverage for over-the-counter drugs. Starting in 2012 employers must provide a summary of benefits and coverage explanation and detail the aggregate cost of health insurance on each employee's W-2 form. Further requirements and penalties take effect in 2014, including vouchers to purchase individual insurance.
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Prospects for Account-Based Health Plans Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
McDevitt, Roland D.; Savan, Jay; Benefits Quarterly; v27 no1 pp 21-25 1st Qtr 2011; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements have been shown to lower costs and engage health care consumers. Yet there is concern the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will undermine the use and effectiveness of these account-based strategies and raise employer costs through mandated benefits. The PPACA requires minimum essential coverage and includes standards for member cost sharing, minimum actuarial value and minimum employer contributions. These requirements are all compatible with account-based plans. The plans also offer advantages over flexible spending arrangements, strong tax protection, opportunity for retiree medical savings and broad support for a consumerist approach to health care.
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Communicating Benefits: The Times They Are A'Changin.
Fosbre, Leanne; Benefits & Compensation Digest; v47 no9 pp 1-3 suppl. Sep 2010; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : The changes brought about by 2010 health care reform laws mean that failing to communicate employee benefits could result in a number of new problems for employees. Employers should implement a health care communications campaign for 2010, letting employees know how they will be affected by health care reform. Employees need to know about major changes, including extended coverage for adult children up to age 26, the elimination of lifetime limits and most annual restrictions, the availability of a public long term care plan, the ineligibility of over-the-counter medications as an eligible reimbursement for health care spending accounts and the need to report health coverage on W-2 forms. Plans which are not grandfathered have an even longer list of issues. Employees should also be informed of the costs, at least in the short term, that reforms will bring.
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Best Practices in Communicating Health Care Payment Card Programs.
Pourfallah, Stacy; Benefits & Compensation Digest; v47 no8 pp 24-27 Aug 2010; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Health care payment cards simplify using flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements. Similar to debit cards, they draw on funds in the personal health accounts, using pretax dollars to pay for qualified services and products. Substantiation is automatic, avoiding the need to submit paperwork and get reimbursement. For employers, the cards lower the administrative burden and provide valuable benefit utilization information. Communication to employees about the payment card program is key before, during and after enrollment. Special attention should be paid to points often misunderstood, such as covered expenses and use-it-or-lose-it provisions.
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Ten Ways to Cut Costs, Improve Health and Welfare Benefits.
Clark, Mary H.; Benefits & Compensation Digest; v47 no6 pp 30, 34-35 Jun 2010; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Immediate cost cutting in health and welfare plans is difficult to achieve, but two starting points are to provide coverage for the right people and to pay only the right claims. The details of vendor contracts must be scrupulously correct. Employers should take advantage of all free or low cost vendor resources and services available. Any variations in plans should be continuously reviewed and justified. Plan sponsors should know the cost drivers and be ready to respond as drivers change. Also helpful are increasing participation in flexible spending account plans, addressing pharmacy costs from multiple angles, reviewing provider networks often and considering different approaches to plan financing.
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Health Savings Accounts: Back to the Future.
Klug, Kathy; Chianese, Lois; Benefits Quarterly; v26 no1 pp 12-23 1st Qtr 2010; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : December 8, 2009 was the sixth anniversary of the health savings account (HSA). In the six years since their creation, adoption of HSAs has been surprisingly robust, beating out medical savings accounts and 401(k) plans. HSAs offer the ability to make pretax contributions, grow assets tax free and receive tax free distributions for qualified medical expenses. Unlike other individual account plans, HSAs are true accounts owned by participants, and unlike a 401(k) account an HSA allows for tax-advantaged withdrawals. While six years is not sufficient time to declare the HSA a success, the performance of HSAs indicates they still have the potential to increase health care cost savings.
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Strategic Benefit Plan Design to Meet Demographic Changes.
Byron, Linda M.; Canadian Benefits & Compensation Digest; v26 no6 pp 10-13 Dec 2008; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : Facing a tightening labor market but broader range of employee needs, employers can redesign benefits for competitive gain. Plan participants want benefits that serve their needs and carry tax advantages. Flexible benefit programs can meet employers' and employees' goals. Employers can meet the funding challenge by redirecting monies, specifically by linking a flex plan to variable pay, wellness initiatives and health care spending accounts. The added complexity must be addressed with effective communication, but the flexibility gained provides important strategic advantage.
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Other Recent Decisions.
Benefits & Compensation Legal & Legislative Reporter; v42 no7 pp 15-16 Jul 2008; journal article

Availability : International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans
Abstract : In Gertjejansen v. Kemper Insurance Companies, Inc. the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's ruling denying permanent disability benefits to the defendant because the defendant did not cooperate in repeated attempts to schedule a case management appointment. In Virga et al. v. Big Apple Construction & Restoration Inc. et al., the court held both the defendant liable and the defendant company's president personally liable for unremitted contributions of $730,280.22 plus interest and statutory damages, costs and attorney fees. In O'Meara v. The Cit Group, Inc. the court concluded that dental work contracted for, dental work begun and payment made for that dental work in a given year is an eligible expense for that year and should be paid by the defendant's flexible spending account.
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