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Tag >> benefits
Employers, beware. Your overworked employees may not be around much longer.
Once they sense the job market has improved, they plan to bolt and let the door close on their immediate boss.
Increasingly leading edge companies are adopting benefits policies aimed at gay employees who are in domestic partnerships. The latest wrinkle: addressing a tax on health insurance coverage that gay employees have to pay, but heterosexuals who are married don’t.
Basically companies offering coverage to gay employees with domestic partners face a conundrum. They can’t give such workers equal access to those benefits. The reason: Benefits for domestic partners under federal law have to be taxed as income. The tax owed is based on the value of whatever the employer pays to cover the partner. But married couples don’t pay that tax.
It looks like traditional employee benefits are in the cross-hairs of cost conscious finance execs.
According to a new survey of chief financial officers and senior comptrollers conducted by Grant Thornton LLP, 30 percent are planning to reduce health care benefits, 23 percent are planning on reducing bonuses and 18 percent are prepared to reduce stock options/equity based compensation.
California last week became the first state to pass legislation creating a health insurance exchange as mandated under the new federal health reform law. Some states, like New York, have only begun to pay lip service toward implementing health reform, while others, like Missouri, are still fighting the federal law's legality.
But the legislation is nonetheless expected to serve as a model if it is signed into law as expected.
Employers generally do not like the COBRA program that allows laid-off workers to stay on their company's health plan. The problem is that the program is so expensive that only the sickest workers whose health care costs are higher than what they pay in premiums enroll.
The subsidy in the federal stimulus plan, which paid for 65 percent of the cost of a person's premium, was expected to change that by making it affordable for healthy workers. The subsidy can be used by workers who were laid-off before the end of May for up to 15 months.
Employers are heading into "open enrollment" season when companies decide what kinds of health plans to offer to offer employees. More companies are including health plans with higher deductibles.
Though these plans have been around for nearly a decade, many employers and employees alike have little understanding of them and their impact on costs, a new analysis from the Employee Benefits Research Institute shows.
If you're thinking of dropping health coverage for your employees, think again.
Sure, many employer groused when Democrats passed health reform. They feared new mandates, rules telling them what kind--and how much--health care they needed to provide to employees.
If you live or work in New York City you know how the subway can be both a blessing (when it runs on time) and a curse (when it doesn't) or for reasons that on Wednesday became clear: fare hikes.
If you don't live in New York you can appreciate why the agency responsible for public transit, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, is having such a difficult time making ends meet. At the top of the list is compensation and benefits costs, which account for two-thirds of the MTA's $12 billion operating budget for 2011.
The MTA says its health care costs are going up about 9 percent annually-which is actually in line with national increases. The challenge for a public agency of course is that it is locked into
contracts with its heavily unionized workforce. Making changes is not easy.
The plan the MTA put forward Wednesday was to enter in what it called "net zero" contracts with its unions-contracts in which any raise would be "paid" for by givebacks in productivity, changes in work rules or increased contributions to health care benefits. The unions took exception to this proposal but no one doubts that the compensation structure of government employees needs to come in-line with their private sector counterparts. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, has made reforming this imbalance part of his
Debt service aside (and the MTA's debt service totals $1.8 billion this year, growing to $2.5 billion by 2014), the MTA, like so many government entities throughout the country, has long term health care challenges ahead. Its health care retirement obligation totals $1.4 billion growing to $1.7 billion by 2014. While the MTA continues to pay enough into its retiree health care fund to pay for its current retirees' health care, the authority, citing this year's cash-flow problems, will not pay $57 million this year into a fund for future obligations.
The Great Recession has helped bring the issue of government post-retirement obligations to light. As government revenues shrink and obligations grow, taxpayers sense an inherent injustice between their own grim retirement prospects and the assurances given to public sector workers. Subway service cuts and fare hikes are only meaningful if they address the long-term problems rather than enable government to deal with short term crisis.
Cuomo is banking on this public displeasure, as is the MTA. Next year the MTA's contract with its largest union is up for renewal. The transit authority will be able to test whether it has public support for changing the way the state entity does business with unions. Bringing government into the 21st century by reducing health care and other post-retirement obligations will be good for taxpayers and for businesses, including those with heavily unionized workforces.
It seems like every other day there's a new survey telling you what you already know: providing health care benefits for your employees is increasingly expensive.
The benefit of surveys though from the federal government is the size of the sample they use. In a survey released earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services drew on Census Bureau data to compile employer health care costs of about 40,000 businesses.
This just in from President Barack Obama: employer health care plans can expect a 1.5 percent increase in their costs courtesy of new regulations.
The federal Health and Human Services Department issued its "interim final rule"-a final rule, and in the interim they're asking for comments; send emails here: E-OHPSCA2713.EBSA@dol.gov.
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