Benefits Communication with Social Media

September 28, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Whether it is promoting open enrollment, explaining plan changes or educating on how to use benefits, communicating benefits information to employees is a perennial challenge for employers. A fast-growing trend among leading companies is to include social media in their benefits communication strategy to extend their reach.

 

The benefits of social media

Social media provides potential solutions to some of employers’ toughest benefits communication challenges.

  • One difficulty employers have is reaching a diverse audience of employees. Social media helps companies expand their reach. Although some employees may still expect printed materials, many would prefer reading a post online or watching a video. Plus, considering the amount of personal time employees spend daily on social networks, it makes sense to target them there.
  • Budget can be another hurdle for benefits communication efforts and social media is a way for employers to do more with less.
  • Benefits information can be overwhelming and complex, making some employees more likely to skim over or ignore it. Using social media, such as posting videos to Facebookor tweeting reminders, makes benefits information more relatable and personable—and employees are more likely to pay attention and understand.
  • Benefits communication must encompass many topics. Employers need to promote open enrollment, educate employees about plan changes, explain how to use the plan, promote consumerism and more. Social media helps break down this overload of information into easy-to-digest posts and reminders—in a place employees are already spending time.
  • Posting updates year-round can provide valuable reminders to employees about using their benefits wisely.
  • Social media offers two-way communication, so employees can easily ask questions about their benefits or interact with other employees.

 

Getting started

To get started, think about how you want to use social media for this purpose. Facebook and Twitter are good places to start, as they are likely the most popular among your employee population.

Whichever platforms you choose, create separate accounts from your external company accounts. Consider using employee-facing accounts not only for benefits communication, but also for wellness and other internal communications.

To get off to a strong start, you need to promote your new social media efforts widely among your employees—your strategy won’t work if your employees don’t follow your online accounts. As you’re getting the message out, promote it in several areas. Add a tagline in email signatures, post links on your intranet, post announcements around the office, etc. Emphasize the benefits for employees, such as the following:

  • Timely benefit enrollment reminders
  • Easy-to-understand information on plan changes that simplify enrollment decisions
  • Plan utilization tips that help save time and money
  • Ability to ask questions about plan changes or benefit details
  • Quick access to information anytime that can be shared with spouses and families

 

Suggestions for content

There are innumerable ways your company can take advantage of social media to communicate your benefits. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Reminders about open enrollment deadlines
  • Short videos, blogs or posts explaining plan changes
  • Tweets or Facebook® posts about frequently asked questions or definitions
  • Health care and prescription money-saving tips (choose generics, only use ER for a true emergency, etc.)
  • Reminders about cost-free preventive care available to them
  • Tips on how to use a health plan (example: How to submit an FSA claim)
  • Retweet or link to relevant documents about consumerism or general benefits education
  • Education about voluntary benefits, such as long-term care or dental

Don’t forget to interact! Encourage employees to ask questions, and ask them to share their own experiences or tips for better plan use. And as with any social media initiative, be sure to reply if an employee contacts you or asks a question—engagement is a vital component of social sites.

 

Written by: Drake Powers, Consultant, The Cornerstone Insurance Group

Posted in Benefits, Blog

Fitness Trackers Gaining Popularity

September 24, 2015 | Leave a Comment

86% of Americans sit all day at work and global studies show, on average, we sit 7.7 hours a day, and some studies estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day.  Wearable fitness technology in the workplace is becoming more and more popular in effort to help people live a more active lifestyle. We used to see pedometers in workplace walking challenges, but today the wearable fitness devices typically go beyond counting steps and have features that can monitor heart rate, stairs climbed and much more.

Many companies want to know if investing in these trackers are worth it as they can be quite costly.  Do fitness trackers really work in wellness programs?   Scientifically, there are flaws and none are 100% accurate, but that doesn’t matter because fitness trackers do work from a motivational stand point. It seems as if almost daily a new tracker or upgrade is available on the market because they work!  We all know what we should be doing, but we aren’t doing it. Fitness trackers work by keeping health and fitness at the front of the mind. It’s a constant reminder to encourage people to be more active throughout the work day.

If you are thinking about adding wearable fitness technology to your wellness program, there are a lot of choices out there. Time Magazine ranked some of the popular ones from best to worst:  http://time.com/516/26-fitness-trackers-ranked-from-worst-to-first/

We are only entering into the world of wearable technology. It will be interesting to look back a few years from now and see how far these devices have advanced.

 

Written by: Gina Starnes, Director of Total Wellness

Posted in Benefits

IRS releases HSA Limits for 2016

September 17, 2015 | Leave a Comment

On May 4, 2015, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2015-30 to announce the inflation-adjusted limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) for calendar year 2016. The IRS announced the following limits for 2016:

  • The maximum HSA contribution limit;
  • The minimum deductible amount for high deductible health plans (HDHPs); and
  • The maximum out-of-pocket expense limit for HDHPs.

These limits vary based on whether an individual has self-only or family coverage under an HDHP.

Only some of the HSA limits will increase for 2016. The limits that will increase are the HSA contribution limit for individuals with family HDHP coverage and the maximum out-of-pocket expense limit for self-only and family HDHP coverage.

 

Type of Limit

2015

2016

Change

HSA   Contribution Limit

Self-only

$3,350

$3,350

No   change

Family

$6,650

$6,750

Up $100

HSA Catch-up Contributions (not subject to adjustment for inflation)

Age   55 or older

$1,000

$1,000

No   change

HDHP Minimum Deductible

Self-only

$1,300

$1,300

No   change

Family

$2,600

$2,600

No   change

HDHP Maximum Out-of-pocket Expense Limit (deductibles, copayments and other   amounts, but not premiums)

Self-only

$6,450

$6,550

Up $100

Family

$12,900

$13,100

Up $200

 

Posted in Benefits, Blog

6056 Reporting…..We Will Never Know the Real Affordable Care Act Costs

September 15, 2015 | Leave a Comment

We all know the added taxes and penalties the Affordable Care Act has imposed on all of us but what about all the intangibles.

As we continue to educate our clients on the new tax forms due in January (6056 reporting), our firm prepares for our third general meeting, on top of countless prior individual sessions, and I begin to wonder what the real cost is.

Insurance carriers, accounting firms, legal firms, brokerage and consulting firms have all hired additional staff not only to decipher the law, but to implement it.  Once that is accomplished, more time is spent explaining it to business owners, executives, and employees, and all their attorneys and accountants.

When the hourly wage increases, so does the cost of our burgers. Who will end up with the intangible expenses of the Affordable Care Act? Unfortunately, we all will, though the added cost to all products and services.

And while I am eating my first burger of 2016, I will wonder how much of the cost is from the Affordable Care Act.

For your next lunchtime reading, open this link,  Section 6056 Reporting Workbook Instructional Guide 3-18-15, to read 18 pages of instructions, required of all employers with over 50 full-time employees, to properly prepare the 6056 statements (1094 and 1095 forms).

 

Written by: Doug Grant, Consultant at The Cornerstone Insurance Group

Posted in Benefits, Blog

How Safe is the Data your Company is Handling?

September 01, 2015 | Leave a Comment

On August 25th 2015, the Identity Theft Resource Center released a report that summarized security breaches, This year alone, there have been 181 breaches in the Medical/Healthcare  arena – impacting 109,740,785 records.  The largest and most notable was Anthem.

As a covered entity (CE) or business associate (BA) that handles Protected Health Information (PHI), it’s important to know that businesses are required to train employees about HIPAA and establish procedures to protect confidential information.

It is no secret that in order to provide timely service to employees, covered members and patients, a large percentage of the transfer of necessary data is being done via email.  HIPAA regulations allow for electronic PHI to be sent over an electronic open network “as long as it is adequately protected”.

Are the emails you are sending “adequately protected”?

Jason Karn, Director of IT at Total HIPAA Compliance has recently provided a review of four email encryption services that meet HIPAA requirements. Click here to read more.

Cornerstone has partnered with Total HIPAA Compliance to assist employers meet their requirement under HIPAA.

 

Written by: David Baughman, Consultant at The Cornerstone Insurance Group

Posted in Blog