Yeah! Employers Are Keeping Employee Health Care Coverage

Most organizations are continuing to offer health care coverage for their employees, according to a survey by Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released last month.

It’s obviously a good sign for employees who fear finding insurance as individuals through state exchange programs (ObamaCare). Those of us who have avoided the bumps in the road during ObamaCare implementation are sympathetic to Americans who have gone through the arduous process.

And sure, it also means employers recognize that offering employee benefits is still key to attracting and retaining employees.

But I am hoping there is another important reason why employers will be compelled to continue offering coverage even in 2018 — when a 40 percent excise tax will apply to the value of more expensive health care plans.

My hope is that employers will see health care coverage as more than employee benefit, but as an integral part of investing in employee health to encourage productivity and presenteeism (or absence management.) By integrating medical insurance with wellness, safety, disease management and return-to-work programs — along with other initiatives — employers will see a return on their investment. Just think about how much it costs to pay a temporary worker or the stress it causes the rest of the team to share a person’s job, not to mention loss of morale.

We’ve known this for a while. Even back in 2002, when I wrote a 16-page booklet for Business & Health magazine, there was evidence that investing in employee health and productivity saves more than double the costs of absence.

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The challenge is to educate employees
about the costs of health care and absence
in their own personal lives.

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In the booklet, the estimates were that the total cost of employee absence equals revenue capacity (assuming employee contribution is worth 150 percent of daily income for organizational profitability) plus wage replacement. So for a worker getting paid $20 per hour, using the formula and assumptions, it would be: ($20 X 1.50) + $15, which would make lost productivity cost about $45 hourly. (To see the article, “Selling the CFO,” click here and go to page 7. Warning: it takes a while to load.) The formulas today are undoubtedly more detailed and complex, but this equation makes the point.

That said, health care costs are ever-increasing at a time when Americans are becoming more unhealthy. The trick is cracking the code of how to motivate people to live safer and healthier lives.

I believe part of the code is educating employees about the costs of health care and absence in their own personal lives. I don’t think employers or insurers, for that matter, do this enough.

People need to see differences in annual claims costs. One comparison, for example, would be looking at a claims for two people of the same age and comparing the cost of individual co-morbidities. They need to understand that preventable contributors to health care costs make it difficult for employers to hire more people or offer additional benefits.

They also need to understand what obesity, for example, will do to their quality of life in the short and long-term. One obvious result is getting Type 2 Diabetes. People hear about the risk of diabetes, but do they know what it means in real life? My school-aged daughter, who has had Type 1 (non-preventable) Diabetes for nearly eight years, can tell you.

The diabetic lifestyle not only means pricking fingers and the risk of insulin dependency (which requires poking an insulin pump tube into the body every three days) but can also lead to organ failure (kidney dialysis anyone?) pain when walking (how about those diabetic nerve drug commercials?) and more difficult recoveries. Sure, this approach will not help everyone, but it at least a start.

They also need to understand that getting back to work as soon as medically possible is the best for them. Stay off too long and long-term income potential decreases.

Finally, I am thrilled that employers are continuing to offer health care. The real key in reducing the costs of health care, however, are up to us. And I say, the less we need health care the better off we are.

 

Reporters Have the Worst Job in America

Ever since I was in 8th grade, I wanted to be a reporter.

It was an easy choice. I like to write, I am naturally curious and I hate math!

The Columbia Journalism Review recently reported that reporting is considered the worst job in America. Had that been written during my college years, it would not have affected my career choice at all!

I worked hard for my journalism degree at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, which was, at the time, among the top ten best. It probably still is.

I knew the competitive difference between me and the other wanna bees was publishing clips.  And publish I did, having my own column in my hometown newspaper while a high school student and getting my first paid freelance gig during my sophomore year at OU.

My career move from journalism to public relations has been more lucrative. I still write articles on occasion because I still love the art of the dig and my editors know it. They tell me it is hard to find old-fashioned reporters who are willing to work hard. And I still cannot resist the thrill of the chase, finding answers to the tough questions or a getting the exclusive. Journalists have always understood branding. Their byline is their brand. (If you want to see my latest articles, please visit Work Samples.

Public relations folks with reporters’ battle scars instinctively cut through the bull. We are friendly skeptics for our clients who ask the tough questions. We instinctively know what readers want to read. And personally, I continue to produce materials that would pass objective journalistic standards. It allows me to maintain my integrity while helping my clients build credibility.

Reporting is the worst job because it is very stressful — deadlines, ensuring accurate information, and sorting through agendas — and it does not pay well. We always say we do not pay our teachers enough but journalists, the educators of current events, make less and generally lack union representation.

At the same time, journalism is a very rewarding career. As the great historian Paul Johnson says, (my paraphrase) the journalist is the historian of the present.  I have had the honor of watching the workers’ compensation industry evolve and improve. Soon, I will be writing about the history of workers’ compensation since my nearly 25 years in the insurance industry. In the meantime, you might enjoy the article I wrote for John Burton’s Workers’ Compensation Policy Review called, “The Evolution of Integrated Benefit Delivery Systems in the United States.”

Be kind to the journalists you know, they have the worst job in America.

Bill Molmen, Workers’ Compensation Visionary, Retires

When Bill Molmen retired at the end of June, the workers’ compensation and benefit integration world lost one of its greatest visionaries.

Before starting the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) with president Tom Parry, he worked for the California Workers’ Compensation Institute and the American Insurance Association. That’s not a resume you would expect from a Berkeley law school grad, but this is part of what makes Bill unique and wonderful.Bill Molmen, one of my favorite workers' compensation colleagues

A small portion of his job included handling media calls, including mine when I was the lead reporter of BNA’s Workers’ Compensation Report and then a contributing writer for Business & Health and other publications. We had incredible discussions about the potential of integrating workers’ compensation with long-term and short-term disability, health care and other programs. Bill’s sharp intelligence, dry Midwestern wit and gut honesty made him one of my favorite colleagues and a trusted friend. He converted me to embrace the concepts around absence management and later, total health and productivity.

Thanks to his work with Tom, a friend since the their Berkeley days in 1966, we now understand the role of employee benefits and workers’ compensation as more than separate programs to address different needs.

Tom and Bill sewed the pieces together, showing us how employee programs and insurance, working in tandem, encourage total employee health and boost productivity. Their vision went beyond cost savings in silos. Unfortunately, their vision remains logistically impossible for most organizations. Just as we were getting our arms around absence management, Bill and Tom were already going the next level to pre-absenteeism.

Says Parry, “It has been my good fortune and pleasure to build the Integrated Benefits Institute over the past 17 years in partnership with Bill Molmen,” said Parry. “Bill is not only a consummate professional but has been my closest friend for over 40 years. We all will miss Bill’s contributions to the Institute and to the broader discussions of health and productivity in the U.S.”

Chuck Reynolds of Benfield offers, “Bill (along with Tom) built an important and sustainable organization around an essential mission—to promote understanding and evidence around the connection between the health and productivity of human capital.

“Bill did it right, resisting what I’m sure were numerous temptations along the way to chase quick cash at the risk of future credibility and clout of IBI as a leader. As a result, IBI became, is, and has the platform to remain an important and credible voice of reason with respect the performance of people within organizations, and the role of health as a factor.  Thank you Bill, for your leadership!”

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“Bill enjoys Kabuki theater. It was great preparation for the ‘kabuki dance’ of workers’ compensation ‘reform’ in California prior to The Governator.”

– Eric Oxfeld
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Others agree. Chris McSwain of Walmart says, “Bill’s commitment and leadership have been a cornerstone of IBI.

“His efforts through the years have influenced everyone to reach for our personal best. It remains my honor to have worked with Bill in various roles supporting IBI. He taught me many things and I count myself as one of the many lives Bill has helped change in his service to IBI.”

Mary Tavarozzi of Towers Watson offered, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside Bill Molmen on the Integrated Benefits Institute Board of Directors. Bill has always brought passion and dedication to the Institute’s mission and the vision of improved employee health and productivity. I will miss Bill’s counsel and wisdom.”

While Bill has not been directly active in workers’ compensation for some time now, his colleagues from CompLand also remember him fondly.

“Bill Molmen is a titan in workers’ compensation,” said Eric Oxfeld, a workers’ compensation public policy expert recalled. “Bill enjoys Kabuki theater. “It was great preparation for the ‘kabuki dance’ of workers’ compensation ‘reform’ in California prior to The Governator.”

Deborah J. Nosowsky, who is retired from Fireman’s Fund, said that there is “hardly anyone in the workers’ compensation/industrial injury world more intelligent, thoughtful, engaged, and innovative than Bill Molmen.

“Bill cared about workers and their employers.  He cared about public policy.  And he was always guided by the data to support change.  He was a top-notch lawyer.  I was fortunate to have worked with him during his days at AIA and at CWCI, to have learned so much from him.  His success, and Tom Parry’s in creating the Integrated Benefits Institute, was not surprising.  He will be missed, terribly.”

I would also offer that Bill is honest, personable and hilarious! I met Bill in person when Roger Thompson, now retired from Travelers Insurance, introduced us at an industry conference. Bill, who is at least six feet tall, looked down at me and said, “You’re short!” I looked back at him and said, “You’re old!” Working with Bill was just fun.

Michael McClain, who now holds Bill’s former position as the general counsel of the California Workers’ Compensation Institute, can also tell stories about Bill.

“Well, there was time when Bill, at a little after midnight while dining on Pete’s Pizza of Sacramento, suggested that we eliminate mandatory vocational rehabilitation altogether.

“There were three of us and three of them and nobody said, ‘That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,’ or ‘Willie Brown would kill that faster than the chef at Fat’s stepping on a cockroach,’ which means the same thing.

“There it was. It was a secret between us and them – six of us – while we put this modest proposal out for the smell test. It lived from 3 to 6 a.m.  (until) various legislators began receiving faxes from every vocational rehabilitation association in California and the applicant’s attorneys.  The results of the smell test were never obtained.  It was an excellent suggestion but well before its time. In the 1990s, it was repealed.”

We all wish you what you deserve – the very best!