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Identifying lost productivity Michael Klachefsky

Midlife career changes Sunny Ainley

Long-term care collaboration Lucinda Jesson Permit No. 2655 Detroit Lakes, MN



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NEWS BRIEFS PEOPLE INTERVIEW Charles Stephens, MD The Heart of New Ulm Project


RECRUITMENT Midlife career changes


LONG-TERM CARE Own your future


LABOR LAW Minnesota unemployment insurance

View your home in a new way.

By Sunny Ainley

By Lucinda Jesson

By V. John Ella, JD


LEGISLATION Politics as usual?


HEALTH MANAGEMENT The iceberg effect




INSURANCE PROGRAMS Voluntary benefits

By Natalie Wyatt-Brown, Esq

By Michael Klachefsky

By Maureen Young

By Kristi Fox PUBLISHER Mike Starnes EDITOR Donna Ahrens ASSOCIATE EDITOR Janet Cass ASSISTANT EDITOR Scott Wooldridge ART DIRECTOR Elaine Sarkela OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR MaryAnn Macedo ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Iain Kane ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Matt Nichols Employee Benefits Planner is published quarterly by Minnesota Physician Publishing, Inc. Our address is 2812 East 26th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55406; phone (612) 728-8600; fax (612) 728-8601; email All views and opinions expressed by authors of published articles are solely those of the authors and do not represent or express the views of Minnesota Physician Publishing, Inc., or this publication. The contents herein are believed accurate but are not intended to replace legal, tax, business or other professional advice and counsel. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced without written permission of the publisher. Annual subscriptions (four copies) are $24.00. Individual copies are $5.00. Reprints of individual articles are available upon request.


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State Coalition Launches Healthy Minnesota 2020 A statewide coalition to improve the health of Minnesotans has approved a plan called Healthy Minnesota 2020. The plan was created by the Healthy Minnesota Partnership, a statewide initiative led by a group of business, academic, nonprofit, and governmental leaders. The coalition has been looking at what factors contribute to health and how to address health issues in the state. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) sponsors the coalition. “Where we live, play, learn, and work has a huge impact on our health,” says MDH Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, MD. “Because of this, our goal is to improve the social, economic, and physical environments of our communities so that all

Minnesotans have the opportunity to be healthy and reach their fullest potential.” The Healthy Minnesota 2020 plan will provide a framework for ensuring that every Minnesotan has a chance to be healthy, officials say. The coalition explored a range of factors that contribute to health, including social, economic, and environmental conditions. The framework it came up with recognizes that good health doesn’t come simply from health care providers or healthy eating, but is a result of many complex factors, including communities that promote healthy workplaces and schools. The Healthy Minnesota 2020 framework stresses three major themes: capitalize on the opportunity to influence health in early childhood; ensure that the opportunity to be healthy is available to all citizens regardless of where they live; and strengthen communities’ ability

to create healthy futures. “It is our hope that this provides a framework for different groups to work together to make sure that every Minnesotan has the opportunity to be healthy,” said HealthPartners executive Donna Zimmerman, a member of the partnership and a member of the Itasca Project, an employer-led alliance addressing metro area quality of life. “We are not only talking about health care or the medical system here but are talking about how we can achieve what we all want, which is to live in communities that help us lead healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Medica Introduces New Joint ACOs Medica and four health systems in the metro area introduced several joint accountable care organizations (ACOs) in 2012, using a “defined contribution”

health insurance product that officials describe as a private health exchange model. Minnetonka-based Medica introduced the My Plan insurance product last year and says it allows employers to establish a set amount in a health care account, while allowing enrollees to customize their health plan to best meet their needs. The ACO component brings in local health systems to work on care coordination, managing costs, and improving quality of care. Since April, Medica and Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services have been offering an ACO called Fairview Health Advantage with Medica. In July, Medica and Ridgeview Medical Center rolled out the Ridgeview Connect ACO, and later that month Medica and St. Louis Park-based Park Nicollet introduced the Park Nicollet First ACO. Earlier this month, Medica and St. Paul-based

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HealthEast Care System announced an ACO called Inspiration Health by HealthEast. According to Scott Reid, vice president of product strategy and development at Medica, his company has been working for several years on the problem of rising health care costs and what that means for employers and enrollees. Reid says the My Plan defined contribution model was developed by Medica and Minneapolis-based Bloom Health to provide more predictability in cost for employers and provide more choice for employees in designing their own health plan, while also giving employees more control over their health care dollars. The My Plan model has been attractive to employees and employees alike, Reid says, with 50 companies now using the product and approximately 15,000 enrollees.

Mayo Clinic Trains Providers on Truck Driver Exams Mayo Clinic in Rochester is offering training for health care providers to become certified medical examiners for truck drivers. Under new federal regulations, by 2014 truck and bus drivers will be required to get medical examinations by specially trained and certified providers. The goal is to prevent medical emergency-related crashes through what officials expect will be more intense health exams. “Often, the medical evaluation is the only opportunity for preventive care that a driver will receive,” says Clayton Cowl, MD, a physician in preventive, occupational, and aerospace medicine at Mayo Clinic. “Granted, it’s more regulatory burden on the drivers and their examiners, but I also view this as an oppor-

tunity for health care providers to make a difference in their lives.” The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates 40,000 qualified medical examiners will be needed to perform roughly 3 million exams a year under the new rules. Cowl is the course director for a new series of training programs offered to examiners across the country.

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Allina, Blue Cross Offer Defined Contribution Plan Allina Health and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota are teaming up to market a new insurance product that uses the defined contribution model and a network of Allina-affiliated providers. The new product, called Blue Choice, provides a defined contribution for each employee of a company with 50+ employees. Employees are given a fixed dollar amount and can choose from up to 20 Blue Choice plan designs. The model has copay plans as well as health savings account-type options. It will be available starting January 2013 to companies in the 11-county Twin Cities metro area. Blue Choice will work with the Allina Health Network, which includes all Allina hospitals and clinics, as well as some affiliated providers. According to David Kanihan, spokesman for Allina, the Allina Health Network will give Blue Choice enrollees a wide option of providers. “The network is not just institutions with the Allina name on the door,” he says. “It’s a very broad network.” Kathy Dunmire, vice president of product management at Blue Cross, says the market is seeing more demand for defined contribution plans. “The defined

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News from page 5 contribution model is a way for employers to get more control over their health care costs while at the same time increasing the amount of choice for their employees,” she says.

State Launches “Own Your Future” Minnesota has launched a campaign to help people become more aware of the need for longterm care planning. The “Own Your Future” initiative has been in the works for some time and was launched by the Dayton administration on Oct. 2, with a new website and phone line where Minnesotans can find information and resources on long-term care planning. State officials say they envision employers playing an important role in the effort. Federal and state officials across the nation see a demo-



graphic tsunami coming as millions of baby boomers begin requiring assistance for daily tasks or to maintain their health. Many Americans believe that Medicare provides for long-term care needs, but that is not the case, state officials note. Medicare and Medicaid pay only for long-term care in limited circumstances; and under Medicaid, individuals must “spend down” their resources until they qualify for assistance. The campaign is not simply about planning for nursing home care, as many other options are now available for seniors. A letter sent to Minnesotans between the ages of 40 and 65 encourages planning now for future needs to give individuals and families more control over their future. Employers, who are regarded as trusted sources of information about topics such as insurance, are being encouraged to share a toolkit—available on the


website—on long-term care with employees. The “Own Your Future” website can be found at State officials say they continue to work on the issue, including efforts to develop more affordable long-term care insurance options, and will consider changes to Medicaid to make financial planning for long-term care easier for Minnesotans.

HealthPartners, Park Nicollet to Merge In one of the largest consolidations seen in the Twin Cities health industry in decades, HealthPartners and Park Nicollet Health Services have agreed to a merger. The move, announced August 30, will make the new organization one of the largest health delivery systems in the state.

Bringing together two large provider groups in the metro area is historic, but not surprising at a time when rural Minnesota is seeing many small health systems being consolidated into larger groups. Health care reform and market pressures have already led metro-based systems such as HealthPartners, Allina Health, and Fairview Health Services to gobble up small to mid-size practices. The agreement will create a 1,500-multispecialty-group practice that is tied to the insurance arm of HealthPartners, although the clinics and hospitals involved will continue to work with other insurers as well. Officials say the two groups will have a combined, consumergoverned board of directors. The overall group will maintain the HealthPartners brand, but clinics and hospitals will continue with their current names for the near future.

PEOPLE Maureen Rehfuss has joined Minneapolis communications firm Padilla Speer Beardsley as vice president of human resources and administration. In addition to her human resources experience, Rehfuss has served as president of the Human Resource Professionals of Minnesota and is an accredited senior professional in human resources. She also is a memMaureen Rehfuss ber of World at Work and the Twin Cities Human Resource Association. Minneapolis-based Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America has promoted Paul Salm to assistant vice president of compensation for human resources. Salm will be responsible for compensation and employee recognition to support client and business strategies. He will also manage compensation programs for more than 4,800 employees across Allianz of America, which includes Allianz Life and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Before this promotion, Salm was a senior director in HR. Allianz also has promoted Bill Ryan to director of human resources. Ryan will lead the people strategy and will work with senior leaders in actuarial, finance, and legal. Ryan joined Allianz Life in 2002 as a client services team manager in the operations division and transitioned to the HR division as a service center manager. John Galarneault has joined Mercer’s Retirement, Risk & Finance business as a principal in the firm’s Minneapolis office. In his new role at the human resources consulting firm, Galarneault will help employers in the Twin Cities market develop and manage retirement programs that help them achieve their employee attraction and retention goals. Galarneault worked at Aon Hewitt for 17 years, where he helped build the company’s global benefits practice. He holds a diploma in international benefits from the International Employee Benefits Association. Minneapolis-based global hospitality and travel company Carlson has appointed Mary Plunkett as vice president of global talent management and development. Plunkett has more than 20 years of talent and organizational development experience, most recently as the global director of people and organizational development at Heineken. She has a doctorate in organizational psychology and a master’s of science degree in applied experimental psychology from St. Louis University. Audrey Ann Fenske, JD, has joined Minneapolis-based Faegre Baker Daniels LLP. She will serve clients as special counsel in the law firm’s ERISA, benefits, and executive compensation group, working from the Minneapolis office. Fenske brings more than 20 years of experience as a compensation and benefits tax/ERISA lawyer, including a broad background in U.S. and international regulatory matters. She has advised large multinational companies and mediumsized U.S. companies in a range of compensation and benefit matters, with a special focus on Audrey Ann companies with globally mobile employees. Fenske, JD Sara Hill, MBA, has been named chief human resources officer at business services company Ceridian. She previously was senior vice president for human resources at U.S. Bank and vice president of management effectiveness at Fidelity Investments.

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Embracing better health ■ How did Hearts Beat Back—The Heart of New Ulm Project get started? Dick Pettingill, who was CEO of Allina at that time, challenged the organization about what they were doing to help communities. Two giant projects were born out of Pettingill’s challenge; one of them was the Backyard Initiative in the area around Allina headquarters in Minneapolis, and the other one was the Heart of New Ulm Project. Kevin Graham, MD, head of the Minneapolis Heart Institute at the time, was a cardiologist who started coming down here to New Ulm more than 20 years ago. New Ulm had become really, really good at treating acute MIs [heart attacks]. The issue became, “What can we do to push the treatment upstream a little bit, to actually try to prevent early heart attacks and to prevent early-onset disease?” New Ulm got in the mix because of Dr. Graham’s familiarity with the community here, but also because it’s a town of 13,000 to 14,000, and over 90 percent of the people here had a medical chart. When the project started in 2009, we were already three or four years into an electronic medical record, which tied into Abbott Northwestern Hospital and to the whole Allina system, so that we had an excellent ability to catch data on people. It seemed like a great place to step in and try to do a project like this.

■ What can you tell us about your role in the project? The idea did definitely came from Minneapolis and from Allina, but from the get-go there was a tremendous amount of community involvement here. Before I even got involved, there was a lot of planning with 30-some people on the community steering committee. Then I was asked to join the project. What I am charged to do is take what goes on at the research office, which is located at the Heart Institute in Abbott Hospital in Minneapolis, and help coordinate that with the primary care and other provider staff here in New Ulm. We also have a staff of four to five people on the ground here who are interacting with businesses, the schools, restaurant folks, and the community.



Charles Stephens, MD The Heart of New Ulm Project Hearts Beat Back—the Heart of New Ulm Project is a campaign to reduce the number of heart attacks in the New Ulm area over a period of 10 years. The project is sponsored by Allina Health, which owns the community’s hospital, the New Ulm Medical Center. The Minneapolis Heart Institute is another partner in the project. As the project’s medical director, Charles Stephens, MD, helps with the design of clinical interventions and serves as a liaison between the project planners and front line practitioners at New Ulm Medical Center. Stephens, a family practice physician, is a graduate of the University of California, San Francisco.

■ The project is in its fifth year now. What are you finding? This program started as a free public screening in 2009. Over the course of about six to eight months we had a free screening program for anybody in the community over 18. We have over 5,000 people of our adult population of 10,000 who came through the screening. We found that, like much of Minnesota and much of America, people were too overweight, too inactive, and smoked too much. We used that as the initial data pool to look at what we set out to do here. The idea was to rescreen every two years, so we did another screening in 2011.


What we have found is that we have been able to make an impact on how many people are smoking, how many people are taking an aspirin a day, how many people at least are involved in doing some kind of thing—whether it is increasing their activity, or increasing the number of fruits and vegetables in their daily diet, or things like that. One of the things that surprised me has been awareness of the project. We had a phone survey a couple of years ago, and 94 percent of people in our area knew about the program. So that was incredible penetration of knowledge of the program. I see this as trying to create critical mass, a change in norms of behavior, be that smoking, general physical activity, choices in eating—both what you eat and how much you eat—to try to push back the big glacier of what seems like inevitably rolling toward increased obesity and higher cardiovascular risk.

■ The name of the community is on the project. Do people buy into it because of that? Yes, they do. This is not a totally insular community, but it’s a small community and it has this strong German heritage—there is still a sense of pride in being part of this community. I think this is an ideal community to try this in. Racially, New Ulm is not diverse, but on the socioeconomic spectrum, it really is quite diverse. We have only one hospital and medical facility, and most of the people have come here at some point. I think in a bigger community, where there are lots of hospitals and lots of different clinic entities and lots of different employers, you’re probably going to be working at finding groups that naturally coalesce, whether that’s a neighborhood community or some other group that somehow identifies itself, where there is already some community closeness. One other surprising thing that I saw in our community was from the person who works specifically with stores and restaurants. With convenience stores, when people come and grab their coffee on the way to work, just making a little change at the checkout helps, having healthy options like apples and bananas right there that are priced the same or cheaper than the candy

bars and power bars. The convenience stores have been really receptive to that and their sales of those things have significantly improved. I think things like that are easily exportable to a community anywhere.

■ How has the business and employer community responded? You see it everyplace. There are a lot of insurance company-driven wellness programs out there, and that’s happening here too. Sometimes we have competitions between businesses, some sort of weight loss program or monitoring. We have J.R. Schugel, a national trucking company with headquarters here. They went nonsmoking at their worksite, which was really a tremendous thing. There are still people who choose to walk to the corner and smoke on their breaks, but I think it’s one of those things that creates a new norm that makes it easier for people to give it up. Whether it’s a small electric motor shop or 3M and Kraft, the larger international types here, everybody has been pretty accepting of the project.

■ How do you work with employers? We are happy to speak to employer groups,

whether it be about physical activity or other aspects of our work. We are not certifying anybody as being a good program or employer, but we have recently started doing something with restaurants in town. We have a silver, gold, and platinum level involvement of the restaurant in terms of their offering lower- calorie, lower-fat choices; businesses get a little placard on their door.

■ What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on this project? The most heartening for me has been the project’s effect on people. You look at a patient that you’re afraid is just a walking time bomb who you’re never going to do anything to help, and then they show up out of the blue and say, “Did you notice that I lost 10, 20, 50, 80 pounds?” You just look at them and say, “Wow.” I have a great story. This fellow, who was maybe in his late 40s, went to one of the screenings and was shocked to find his blood pressure and cholesterol were way out of whack and he was overweight. I saw him after that as a patient, and we started him on medication for blood pressure and for cholesterol and other things. Then he had one follow-up and we saw that the medica-

tions were working, and then I didn’t see him for a long time. I got a note from him saying, “I’m doing well with my weight loss. I’m going to quit taking the medicines and then I want to get retested and see how I’m doing.” In one year, he had lost 98 pounds, he had gone off his cholesterol-lowering medicine and one of his blood pressure pills, his cholesterol numbers were perfect, and his blood pressure was well-controlled on one low dose of an inexpensive daily blood pressure medication. I said, “How’d you do it?” And he said, “You know, I just realized I needed to change, so I eat less when I eat, and I don’t eat between meals, and I just make sure I do something every day.” You hear so many stories of, “Doc, it’s just impossible. There’s no way I can lose weight.” And that’s probably true for some, but then you find a story like that where somebody loses 100 pounds and he loses the need for two medications and says my life is fine, I feel better, and I don’t feel like I’ve had to make any huge sacrifices. To me, that’s what it’s all about, just having people be able to go about their lives and feel a little bit better and not need to do have so much interaction with medications.

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career changes


e’ve all heard the predictions about baby boomers or the aging population as these “second lifers” retire and look forward to the next phase of life. Many employers have hastily designed communication and outreach campaigns to attract and woo this large workforce group, fearing the impending labor shortage. But they often ignore an even larger pocket of capable professionals who may have 20-plus career years ahead of them. Mid-career professionals represent 53 percent of all workingaged adults in Minnesota (2009 U.S. Census Bureau, age groups 35–59) and have much to offer a company, if you know what to look for and how to develop these professionals within your own organization.

Issues to consider about mid-career professionals By Sunny Ainley

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Crisis or calling: What does “mid-career� really mean?

and willingness to tackle unfamiliar projects in the search for development and learning.

Career is defined as a long-term or lifelong job. Perhaps that’s How to identify a mid-career professional old-school thinking, as we can all enjoy multiple careers in our No one will walk in with a Post-it on her forehead with “midworking years, possibly even after our traditional working years careerâ€? written on it, but you will find some commonalities. as “career volunteerism.â€? Whether you are meeting face-to-face or reviewing a paper The key word is “long-term.â€? As we enter the early job years, most of us wander from job to job, often driven by better pay or aimless ladder climbing. We are not “Mid-careerersâ€? tend thinking about long-term career to have practiced and development or lifelong development. Conversely, as we enter the transferable skills. “exitâ€? years, we are certainly not focused on what a long-term new work career might look like. rĂŠsumĂŠ, a mid-career candidate may demonstrate self-confidence Only during our middle work years do we tend to awaken to without arrogance. These professionals are the “sagesâ€? of the this transformational career period. The early and later work workforce, wise because of reflection and experience but with years are the bookends to the meaty mid-career years. These many more years of fruitful and fulfilling work ahead. years can be a time of disruption, discovery, development, clarity, The mid-careerer will tend to inquire about aspects of the job and satisfaction. or company that are outside of typical questions such as salaries, Mid-career is an emotional and purposeful crossroads benefits, and vacation and more about qualitative aspects such as between work life and personal fulfillment. It is the time in life the vision and culture of an organization, professional developwhen you question if the work that you do is meaningful and ment opportunities, management and leadership styles, and hiraligned to your gifts, values, and purpose. Many factors influence ing and retention practices. With these candidates, you will see mid-career change, such as loss of employment, personal/life and hear competencies, passions, gifts, values, and experience changes, greater purpose and satisfaction, and/or closer alignMidlife career changes to page 30 ment of work-life values. It can be either a crisis or a calling that pushes someone forward to investigate what other career options exist and what might be an authentic fit. Michael Smith, 43, had a lucrative six-figure IT job until the day he suffered a debilitating back injury. He struggled with his healing process and experienced limited access to quality care, eventually losing his job, home, wife, and most everything else. Frustrated and depressed, he researched his options, and enrolled in a health IT training program at Normandale Community College. This launched the exciting process of discovering himself, his gifts, and his talents, and mapping those to possible career paths that would allow him to work in his passions: information technology and improved health care. Michael’s journey was driven by crisis but transformed into fulfillment and clarity. Smith is now working for a large integrated health care provider, leveraging his deep IT knowledge to help the organization provide safer and better care for the patients his company serves.

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Why hire a mid-career professional? Most mid-career professionals are seeking companies and jobs that align to personal values and beliefs, naturally establishing a deeper level of commitment and shared mission. With 10–20 years of work experience, “mid-careerers� tend to have practiced and transferable skills that easily translate between industries or disciplines, as well as a large network of contacts and resources that can be leveraged for work. Another benefit of experience is a well-developed emotional intelligence when communicating, dealing with conflict, and relating to others. Since these workers are more in tune with their strengths and interests, self-motivation is high for this type of professional. Hiring managers will also see a natural curiosity

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Own your future A new state/employer initiative By Lucinda Jesson




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his fall, Minnesota launched a first-ever initiative to urge Minnesotans to plan for the help they will need as they grow older or otherwise experience physical or mental disabilities. This initiative is called “Own Your Future,” and it addresses the dramatic increase in the number of Minnesotans who will need long-term care by 2030. Due to the demographics of the baby boom generation, our country will see a tripling in the number of people age 85 or older as the large boomer generation grows old. With this change, state officials are seeking to address the need to increase the number of Minnesotans using private financing options to pay for their long-term care. Without additional private financing, the state could see significant, and unsustainable, increases in Minnesota’s public long-term care budgets in the future. The challenges of addressing long-term care needs have been decades in the making, and will require efforts from a range of sources. Employers have an important role to play in longterm care planning, due to the trust that they have gained by providing health insurance and other benefits to so many Americans.


What is long-term care? More than 70 percent of individuals 65 and older will need longterm care at some point in their lives and increasing numbers of young people need long-term care. Long-term care refers to a spectrum of medical and nonmedical needs of people with a chronic illness or a disability (nonmedical needs include help with bathing and meal preparation). Many people mistakenly think that health insurance or Medicare will cover this assistance. It does not. It covers this type of care only under very limited circumstances. Employers have Minnesota’s Own Your Future an important initiative was created to educate role to play in and encourage individuals to get the facts and plan for their long-term care long-term care. It includes three planning. components: • Implement a public awareness effort throughout the state. • Develop more affordable long-term care products for use by individuals who are not low-income enough to qualify for public programs but are not wealthy enough to self-fund their long-term care. • Evaluate possible changes to Medicaid to better align with and encourage private payment for long-term care. Minnesota’s initiative builds on the federal/state Own Your Future effort implemented by 26 states between 2005 and 2009. In that effort, letters were sent by state governors to state residents in certain age groups, urging them to take action and plan for their long-term care needs. In October, Gov. Mark Dayton and Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon mailed similar letters to Minnesotans, age 40 to 65, urging them to create a plan for their long-term care and directing them to Minnesota’s Own Your Future website,

retirement savings, health, and long-term care issues. Research has shown that individuals are more likely to take action and make decisions when they understand the need for long-term care, the cost of long-term care, and the risks they may face. Employers can play a vital role in providing objective information so workers can discuss these issues with their family or those who will support them when they need care. Employers can engage in activities to inform their employees about the need to plan and the options for doing so. First, ask yourself if you have a long-term care plan. If not, going through the process yourself will give you insights into what types of assistance and information your employees would need. There are a number of actions that employers can consider to partner with the state on the Own Your Future message. Companies can become “early adopters� of the initiative by contacting the state at Indeed, the program has many helpful areas worth exploring, especially the “Get Involved� section that includes employer kits and related materials. Employers also can consider sending emails and providing written material to all employees on planning for the future, not just retirement but long-term care as well. The Own Your Future campaign has brochures available on the website. Employers can also sponsor seminars, perhaps with other local employers, on planning for retirement and long-term care, or explore other benefits related to long-term care, such as group long-term care insurance or the option of adding a long-term care rider to life insurance policies.

Own your future to page 14

How do families plan for long-term care? Steps in this process can include having family conversations, deciding to purchase insurance products, using the equity in homes to pay for services through products such as reverse mortgages, and making modifications in homes to support aging in place. The Own Your Future Advisory Panel convened by the lieutenant governor and me this summer is guiding other public awareness activities, including development of the Own Your Future website, other written materials, statewide community meetings, and other grassroots efforts.

What role do employers play? Employers are an important group for the Own Your Future initiative, as are human resource professionals, who can influence what employers do to address these issues. Because of the current size and anticipated growth of the health care industry in Minnesota, you and your employees are a significant audience for this program. Surveys have told us that Minnesota workers perceive their employer as a credible and reliable source of information on


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Own your future from page 13

Employers can address this by offering benefits related to caregiving in employee wellness programs. Action steps suggested in “A Blueprint for 2010: Preparing Minnesota for the Age Wave,” prepared by the Minnesota departments of Human Services and Health and the Minnesota Board on Aging, include:

The role of caregivers It is also important that we appreciate the critical role caregivers play in long-term care in Minnesota. When older people begin to need help, they naturally turn to their family, a spouse or partner, adult children, or others. And families respond by becoming caregivers. In fact, the vast majority of all care needed by frail elderly in Minnesota is provided by family and close friends. Right now, three of 10 workers are caring for older relatives. By 2030, six of 10 workers will be caring for older relatives. The trend toward smaller families suggests that there will be fewer family members to provide care to older relatives when aging boomers need care. Caregiving also affects the state budget. The agency I lead, the Minnesota Department of Human Services, has long focused on assistance for family caregivers because of their value in contributing to the quality of life of the elderly and in deferring and curbing public costs for long-term care. Research shows that for every 1 percent decline in the percent of elder care provided by family and friends in Minnesota, it costs the public sector an additional $30 million per year in such programs as Medical Assistance.

• Lunchtime seminars for caregivers. • Expanding the definition of who can be cared for using personal sick leave. • Educating workers about Minnesota’s consumer-directed options that pay families, friends, or others to provide care and help to frail elderly on publicly funded programs. • Exploring incentives and benefits for working caregivers, such as use of a flexible spending account for caregiving expenses.

There are a number of actions that employers can consider to partner with the state.

Meeting the changing needs of Minnesotans for long-term care is a tremendous challenge and one that is critical to our state’s quality of life. We can increase the numbers of Minnesotans who, with specific plans for their retirement and long-term care, are in a position to truly own their futures. Lucinda Jesson is Minnesota’s commissioner of human services and the co-chair of the Own Your Future campaign.



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unemployment insurance


ecent changes in Minnesota law regarding unemployment insurance (UI) mean that employers have to consider carefully whether to contest UI applications by former employees. Minnesota’s UI law was recently amended to prohibit employers from contractually agreeing with employees or former employees not to contest the payment of unemployment benefits. The new provision states:

Recent changes in UI regulations By V. John Ella, JD

Section 268.192, subd. 1a. Agreements not allowed. An employer may not make an agreement that, in exchange for the employer agreeing not to contest the payment of unemployment benefits, including agreeing not to provide information to the department, an employee will: (1) quit the employment; (2) take a leave of absence; (3) leave the employment temporarily or permanently; or (4) withdraw a grievance or appeal of a termination. An agreement that violates this subdivision has no effect under this chapter. In the past, some Minnesota employers customarily included an agreement not to contest an application for unemployment benefits in a separation agreement and release of claims. Under the new law, such an agreement would be unenforceable and might risk invalidating the entire agreement.

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Choosing not to contest UI What if an employer chooses not to contest unemployment benefits (outside of a contractual agreement) for a former employee who engaged in questionable activity? In certain circumstances, it may be in the best interests of the employer to not contest an unemployment compensation claim. Difficult employees who are upset about their termination may become even more volatile if their benefits are challenged. Among other things, this could trigger a separate lawsuit for wrongful discharge, defamation, or other claims. Employers often seek to wash their hands of these types of employees rather than “stir the pot.” The answer is that it is not illegal for an employer to elect not to challenge UI benefits. A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) provided the example of an employer of a home health care aide, a very large man with a temper. The employer feared physical retaliation if it took an aggressive stance regarding the aide’s UI eligibility. In this circumstance, the spokesperson explained, it is perfectly acceptable to not contest the application. Eligibility for UI benefits is ultimately up to the state of Minnesota, not the employer. Employers do have an obligation to cooperate and tell the truth in all communications with the state. An employer found to have engaged in collusion with an applicant for the purposes of assisting the applicant to receive unemployment benefits fraudulently is subject to a civil penalty equal to the overpaid benefits or $500, whichever is higher, as well as possible criminal conviction. An employer can also be penalized if any of its employees or agents knowingly or recklessly makes a false statement or representation or fails to disclose a material fact. Despite this requirement, an employer may affirmatively decide to not contest UI benefits, understanding that the consequence is that an award of benefits impacts the employer’s experience rating. This raises its insurance premium and, therefore, costs the employer money. (Many other states fine an employer for not responding, so take caution if you are facing this issue for an employee outside Minnesota.)

may not contractually agree not to contest benefits. An employer may, however, independently decide to contest, or not contest, the application. In all cases, the ultimate decision on eligibility is up to DEED. Claims which an employer might think are questionable may be allowed under UI laws, which are deliberately lenient in order to provide unemployed workers a transitional source of income. Unless

Eligibility for UI benefits is ultimately up to the state of Minnesota. there is strong evidence of extreme conduct, like theft, the employee will often be found to be entitled to benefits. Furthermore, employees are more likely to pursue other legal claims if the employer challenges their right to unemployment because it establishes an adversarial relationship and causes the employee to dwell on the past employment relationship rather than focusing on finding a new job. Employers in Minnesota are, therefore, often well served by not contesting a benefits claim by a potentially litigious former employee.

Recent court decisions In Porten vs. PepprTech, Inc. (Aug. 13, 2012), the Minnesota Court of Appeals addressed the perennial question of who is an employee

Minnesota unemployment insurance to page 18

What does the state require? Employers in Minnesota must respond to an initial questionnaire to confirm dates of employment, rate of pay, and similar data. An employer, however, need not provide a detailed and complete description of the basis for the employee’s termination. If DEED has questions about an applicant’s eligibility based on potential misconduct, it may send a follow-up form. At that point, if the employer does not wish to get involved, instead of ignoring the form, it should return it with a simple notation that it is not contesting benefits. However, even if the employer is not forthcoming with details about the termination, sometimes the applicant discloses facts that might constitute disqualifying conduct. If, based on this information, the state finds ineligibility and denies an award of benefits, the applicant may appeal and invoke his or her right to a telephonic hearing with an unemployment law judge (ULJ). In this circumstance it is again lawful for the employer to default and not show up at the hearing, unless served with a subpoena. In summary, an employer may not collude with an applicant to obtain benefits, it may not make a false statement of fact, and it




Minnesota unemployment insurance from page 17 and who is an independent contractor when it comes to determining eligibility for UI benefits. The claimant in that case, Porten, filed for unemployment insurance after working as a consultant on a project. Because PepprTech believed Porten to be an independent contractor it had not filed any wagedetail reports for her. DEED determined that an employer-employee relationship existed between Porten and PepprTech. In this case, Porten often worked from home and signed an independent contractor agreement, but was still found to be an employee. In upholding the ULJ, the court applied a five-factor test to determine whether Porten was an employee or independent contractor. The factors are: (1) the right to control the means and manner of performance; (2) the mode of payment; (3) the furnishing of material or tools; (4) the control of the premises where the work is done; and (5) the right of the employee to discharge. The court noted that the independent contractor agreement had no penalty for early termination, it did not allow subcontracting, and it contained a covenant not to work for the client for a one-year period after the end of the project, all of which are common contractual provisions in independent contractor arrangements.

Employees are more likely to pursue other legal claims if the employer challenges their right to unemployment.

The Porten case serves as a warning that simply calling someone an independent contractor does not make it so, and that courts apply a broad definition of employee when it comes to UI benefits. In Williams vs. Advanced Auto Transport, (April 23, 2012), however, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reached a different result. It held that Williams, a driver for a “drive away” company that transports commercial vehicles from the manufacturer to purchasers , was an independent contractor and not entitled to UI benefits. The court found that Williams set her own hours, had the right to hire a substitute to handle a delivery, was not required to attend meetings or training, was free to hold herself out for work with other trucking companies, was paid on a per-job basis, was responsible for all incidental expenses, and was in a position to realize a profit or loss, among other considerations.

Conclusion In light of these new developments, employers in Minnesota should consider their response to each application for unemployment benefits separately and evaluate and defend their independent contractor arrangements carefully. V. John Ella, JD, is an employment attorney with the Minneapolis office of Jackson Lewis LLP.

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Politics as usual?


he general focus of the short legislative session in 2012 was on a narrow agenda of jobs, government reform, bonding, property taxes, and the Vikings stadium. In addition, the hot-button political topics of same-sex marriage and voter identification passed, were vetoed, and were then added to the ballot as constitutional amendments.

2012 wrangling sets the stage for the 2013 session By Natalie Wyatt-Brown, Esq

Part of the reason for the lack of other accomplishments was political gamesmanship, but another factor was likely the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court’s pending decision in National Federation of Independent Business vs. Sebelius, in which the Court would rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Court’s decision to uphold most of the law, including the individual mandate, was not issued until June 28, 2012, after the session ended. Although a number of bills related to health insurance were introduced during the session, some with the clear intent of invalidating or interfering with health care reform, almost none of them became law. Only a few of these are discussed below; most bills that did not make it out of committee are excluded from this summary.

State health reform initiatives

125 plan repealer. This bill (S.F. 191) would have repealed a 2008 law intended to encourage employers with 11 or more employees and that do not provide group health coverage to at least offer employees a Section 125 plan (commonly referred to as a cafeteria plan). 125 plans allow employees to set aside pretax dollars for unreimbursed medical expenses, child care, and transportation. The bill was passed by both houses, but the House amended it substantially before it passed. The amendment created a new requirement that a health plan that provides group health coverage to a small employer must provide to every covered employee eligible for continuation health coverage (COBRA), the right to instead obtain from the health carrier an individual policy without first enrolling in and completing continuation coverage. No conference committee was held to resolve the difference between houses, so the bill did not become law, but it’s possible that it could be revived in 2013. Health insurance exchanges. The House introduced a bill that would have authorized the creation of health insurance exchanges, but it essentially died on arrival. Nevertheless, Minnesota is proceeding with creating an exchange. Gov. Dayton has promised to hold off on major decisions on the exchange until after elections in November, and presumably will work with the Legislature on this issue next spring. Health care compact. S.F. 1933 would have allowed Minnesota to form a health care compact with other states, for the purpose of securing the right of the member states to regulate health care within their state and securing federal funding for the member states that choose to invoke their authority under the compact. Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill, presumably because it is incompatible




with the ACA. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling on health care, it is unlikely this bill will be revived.

Regardless of the political makeup of the 2013 Legislature, the main focus of next year’s session will be passage of a new biennial budget. This will undoubtedly reUnified personal health premium open the perennial issue of a continuing accounts. S.F. 2313 would have created budget deficit (February 2012 forecast “unified personal health premium was for a 1.1 billion deficit in fiscal years accounts,” which are trust accounts cre2014–2015. See ated to receive funds from multiple /feb12-general-fund). Depending on the sources for the payment of health insurThe main focus of outcome of the election, we can expect to ance premiums. The bill passed the next year’s session see either an increase in taxes, or a signifiSenate but died in the House. To the will be passage of a cant cut in government spending, or some extent the bill is not incompatible with combination of the two. the ACA, it could be given new life in the new biennial budget. Further, it is also likely there will be next session. more wrangling over implementation of Tax-related bills the ACA. The possibility of a repeal of the law depends on the Both the House and Senate introduced bills to help Minnesota outcome of the presidential race. If the ACA is not repealed, businesses, in part by cutting property taxes. After Gov. Dayton Minnesota has until Jan. 1, 2013, to submit state plans for implevetoed a more generous version, the legislature proposed a more mentation of the Health Insurance Exchange in 2014, but the legismodest set of changes. The second bill would have provided lature will be required to pass legislation based on those plans. In $46 million in tax relief, mostly for businesses. It included jobaddition, the Minnesota Department of Human Services plans to creating tax breaks that the governor liked, but it also contained a submit a bill that provides coverage for the remaining group of statewide business property-tax freeze that would have added uninsured Minnesotans. $73 million to the budget shortfall. As a result, Dayton vetoed the Natalie Wyatt-Brown, Esq, is an MSBA-certified labor and employment entire bill. specialist and is a shareholder of Halleland Habicht. She has been practic-

Employment laws

ing law for 17 years, focusing on management-side employment law for the past 12 years.

USERRA waiver. The House introduced and passed H.F. 56, which provides that the state consents to suit in federal court— it waives its Eleventh Amendment immunity—for claims arising out of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). The waiver would primarily impact the rights of service members who are also state employees. The bill did not pass the Senate and did not become law.

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There will be more wrangling over implementation of the ACA.

Unemployment insurance. H.F. 103 was passed and signed into law. It removes the limitation on payment of unemployment benefits to laid-off employees who are the adult children of a business owner. It also makes a change to the state’s threshold for participating in the federal-state extended benefits program by allowing a comparison between the current level of unemployment in the state and the unemployment rates over the same time period in any of the prior three years, instead of two years. Congress, in enacting the most recent extension in December of 2010, modified the so-called “look-back” to allow for a three-year comparison. This provision is retroactive to Dec. 19, 2010, and expires when federal law no longer allows a three-year look-back period.


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What’s next for the 2013 session? It is difficult to say with any certainty what topics are likely to come up in the state legislature next year. Fallout from both federal and state elections will affect what bills are introduced in Minnesota and whether they pass.

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iceberg effect The hidden costs of absenteeism and presenteeism By Michael Klachefsky

he rising cost of employer-provided health insurance has many employers paying close attention to employee health and its effect on their organization’s profitability. Although health care costs are the subject of much discussion, many employers concentrate on only 30 percent of the total cost of poor employee health: the medical and pharmaceutical costs. The other 70 percent of costs can be attributed to health-related lost productivity—the decline of productivity due to absenteeism and presenteeism. If employers are to truly get a handle on reducing overall costs, these productivity costs will need more attention. Once employers begin to see how the 70 percent can affect their bottom line, they can make an effort to prevent or lessen the impact of health-related lost productivity (HRLP). To help alleviate these costs, employers can introduce a program that aims to identify and eliminate instances of HRLP and, over time, potentially decrease direct health-care costs. An effective model includes an on-site consultant (a nurse or vocational specialist) to help manage absence and disability. The integration of wellness and disability programs in an organization also can help curb costs and improve employee health. An on-site consultant can help with this, too. For example, an employee with obesity may take a future leave of absence for a weight-related condition. A wellness program alone could help with nutrition and weight loss, but it may not be able to help the employee avoid a disability leave. A program that manages absence and disability could use an on-site consultant to assess this person’s workspace and recommend appropriate accommodations to keep the employee at work, more comfortable, and productive.

How health-related lost productivity affects profitability

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Research suggests that, on average, for every $1 employers spend on worker medical or pharmacy costs, they absorb at least $2.30 of HRLP costs due to absenteeism and presenteeism. These two workplace issues are very problematic and costly to employers because they can be difficult to control. To help visualize the cost and impact of HRLP, this concept can be envisioned as an iceberg. The costs from presenteeism and absenteeism—the 70 percent attributed to the decline in productivity—are hidden below the surface. At the same time, health care and pharmaceutical costs—the 30 percent of an employer’s healthrelated hard costs—are more easily visible above the surface. Visualizing that added cost beneath the surface makes it easier for employers to see the impact that health-related lost productivity has on their company, and where more attention should be paid.

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The costs of absence 22



Employees out of work on different types of absence can have an impact on a company’s bottom line. Whether an employee is out on a planned leave for a vacation, an unplanned leave for an illness, or an extended leave of absence due to a disability, the resulting direct and indirect costs are clearly meaningful to an organization. Reducing the frequency and length of disability-related absences is a big opportunity to influence company profitability.

A 2010 survey conducted by Kronos and Mercer concluded that the direct costs of incidental and extended absence averaged 2.6 percent of a company’s payroll. These costs include the pay provided to an employee for time not worked, including short-term disability, salary continuation, and sick leave. In addition, the survey showed indirect costs of incidental and extended absence (those mentioned above) averaged an additional 6.1 percent of payroll. The total cost of incidental and extended absence for the organizations surveyed amounted to 8.7 percent of a company’s base payroll. This number makes it crucial for organizations to take steps to reduce employee absence and disability.

Curbing the costs of presenteeism Presenteeism, or the productivity loss caused by employees working with physical or mental health conditions, also has a direct effect on the employer’s bottom line. Major causes of presenteeism can include musculoskeletal conditions, arthritis, obesity, and allergies. Depression is another common cause of presenteeism. This condition alone is estimated to cost companies $83 billion annually in the U.S., and it is the highest-cost health condition in the country, especially in regard to presenteeism. Employers can curtail the effects of direct and indirect costs of absence and presenteeism by implementing a program that can reduce the frequency and length of disability-related absences, as well as help employees stay at work. These programs aim to boost workplace productivity, curb costs, and keep employees on the job. Many employers have implemented health management or wellness programs with which it has been beneficial to connect at-risk or disabled employees: • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) give employees access to a personal counseling service for themselves and their family members.

Reducing the impact on the bottom line With the changing health care system, now is the time for employers to understand the full costs of poor employee health related to employee absence and presenteeism. Employers should use their broker partners to find the right tailored program to manage absence and disability to overcome these issues—and not just a program that comes at the lowest price. In the days ahead, employers will benefit from a provider’s services and solutions that reduce and

Now is the time for employers to understand the full cost of employee health. prevent workplace issues that have a serious impact on productivity, employee health and wellbeing, and overall profitability. Michael Klachefsky is national practice leader of the Standard’s Workplace Possibilities program and author of several white papers on managing absence and disability, including his latest series of Productivity Insights on health-related lost productivity.

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• Disease management targets specific medical conditions prevalent in a workforce and offers screening, case management, and treatment solutions. • Wellness and health promotion attempts to improve the health of all employees by targeting such broad health-related goals as smoking cessation, weight loss, and nutrition. Employees who are struggling at work with a medical condition (presenteeism) and those who are already on a leave or disability absence (absenteeism) are two groups that can greatly benefit from their employers’ health management programs. These types of health management programs perform better for employers when used in conjunction with innovative programs for managing absence and disability. This powerful combination helps employers reduce the cost and impact of employee absence and disability, improve productivity, and retain and motivate top talent. Offering an integrated approach to managing health, absence, and disability by connecting employees to specific health management programs when the employees need it the most—before or just after a disabling medical condition causes them to leave the workplace—can reduce the instances of employee presenteeism, absence, and disability throughout an organization.

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Drug screening Factors to consider in creating a program


mployee drug screening is frequently a controversial issue. The federal government requires testing of pilots, drivers, and employees using heavy equipment, but outside a specific range of transportation employees and safety or security concerns, many question why employers would want to test current employees or applicants. The question of whether to use drug testing in your employee application process or to monitor employees is not a moral one. It has more to do with safety and productivity than with morality. In the end, this is an issue that impacts your organization’s bottom line.

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Once you have decided that testing would benefit your company, which tests should you use? And when should you test? There are many options, ranging from standard drug panels to customized panels that address specific drugs of abuse that fall outside the range of standard panels. Your organization needs to decide what the objectives of a drug testing policy are in order to select the tests and the timing of the tests. The federal government mandates testing guidelines for executive agencies, uniformed services (excluding the armed forces) and any other employing unit of the federal government except for the U.S. Postal Service, the Postal Rate Commission, and employing units or authorities in the judicial and legislative branches. Members of the intelligence community are only subject to the guidelines as agreed to by the heads of each unit. The Department of Transportation requires testing of safetysensitive employees in the aviation, trucking (including school bus drivers, and certain limousine and van drivers), railroads, mass transit, and pipeline industries. Accidents due to drug use can be catastrophic in these industries and can cost taxpayers a large amount of money, so it is obvious why testing is necessary for these employees.

The effects of drug use Whether you have a belief that using drugs is right or wrong, an employee’s use of drugs can directly impact your company’s profitability in several ways. Employers outside the federal government may want to implement drug testing to ensure lower medical insurance rates. According to a national survey conducted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance abuse costs U.S. employers more than $276 billion each year due to lost productivity, workplace accidents, and increased health care and insurance costs. Whether employees don’t show up for work due to drug use, are susceptible to more illnesses and accidents, or are just less productive when they are at work, a responsible employer will want to prevent these costs. Using drug testing for applicants and employees can also deter drug use and create an environment in which drug use is frowned upon. Workplaces that have negative attitudes toward drug use and abuse are also excellent places for reaching those who are at high

An employee’s use of drugs can directly impact your company’s profitability in several ways.

risk of experimenting with and using illicit drugs or misusing prescription medications. This type of drug-free environment can reach out to those who would benefit from prevention or intervention. National surveys have shown that 65.9 percent of illicit drug users are employed either full- or part-time. Implementing a robust drug-testing program may also qualify a company for significant discounts on workers’ compensation premiums. Finally, employers realize that their reputation in the community is impacted by drug use and related problems. Part of sustaining a positive reputation in the community and, therefore, maintaining good relationships with vendors and clients in order to remain profitable may depend on their ability to keep their workplaces drug-free.

When and how to test Once an organization has decided that it wants to promote a drugfree workplace, improve workplace safety, and keep insurance and health care costs low, the next step is determining when and how to test. Frequent times for testing include: • Preemployment, which decreases the chances that a drug user would be hired in the first place • “For cause” or “reasonable suspicion,” when a current employee displays questionable behavior while at work, misses a lot of work, or shows signs of being unfit or unsafe for work

• At random, which would likely discourage drug use among employees • Post-accident, when an accident or an incident involving unsafe behavior has occurred • Post-treatment, after an employee has completed a drug treatment program and is returning to work

Many employers are familiar with a standard five-drug panel that tests for amphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, opiates, and phencyclidine (PCP). This five-panel screen uses a urine sample that accurately indicates use from within the past six hours to up to one month (depending on the drug) for these five drugs. A more comprehensive test, which indicates use of 10 drugs, screens for prescription drugs that are frequently used recreationally. This 10-panel screen tests for all those in the five-panel, plus abused prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates, methadone, Quaaludes and Darvon. Increasing the test to include 11 drug tests would cover two of the most abused prescription drugs now being prescribed and used: oxycodone and hydrocodone. Abuse of these prescription painkillers has increased tremendously during the last 10 years. The difference in cost between these drug testing panels is usually minimal, so it is important for companies to evaluate their employee base in terms of which drugs may be more likely to be

Drug screening to page 29

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Voluntary benefits


What HR pros need to know By Kristi Fox




ews reports tell us the economy is slowly improving, but human resources professionals are receiving no relief from the pressure to reduce expenses. As health insurance costs rise, employers have less to spend on other employee benefits that have always been part of the package. Added to that challenge is the rising competition for good applicants and the recent approval of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), which could accelerate health insurance premium hikes. The cliché about “doing more with less” becomes a stronger reality for HR professionals every year. As employers look for ways to provide competitive but affordable benefits packages, a familiar but littleused product category rises to the fore—voluntary benefits. Individual voluntary benefits have been around for decades and typically have been sold in the workplace by agents meeting one-on-one with employees. But large employers view on-site sales as inefficient and disruptive to their business. The time is right to

advance the group approach to voluntary benefits that traditionally have been sold on an individual basis.

What are voluntary benefits? Voluntary benefits are optional for employees and at least partially paid by them, usually through payroll deduction. When purchased as members of a specific group, employees typically receive preferential rates, terms, and services. Employers often develop their voluntary benefits portfolios on advice from brokers and third party administrators. Many companies choose to offer benefits that are easy to sell and relatively inexpensive, compared to what it would cost employees to purchase comparable benefits on their own in the open market. Employers can add value and reduce costs by using the size of the employee group to negotiate lower rates. They also can negotiate for only the services that fit their employee group’s specific needs.

First, consider employees’ needs and wants When you start your research into voluntary benefits, ask your employees what they need and want. You may have a good idea of what they’ll say, but why not just ask them? They’ll appreciate it. In this first stage, don’t think about benefits as employee-paid or employer-paid. We see a mindset shift to the concept of integrated benefits—a combination of voluntary and employer-paid. You can identify voluntary benefits appropriate for your workforce by looking at what your employees want, what you currently provide, and identifying the gaps. Voluntary benefits can fill those gaps. You may worry that employees and potential recruits will see your company as less attractive as an employer if you ask them to pay for benefits. Don’t underestimate the value your employees place on the time, effort, and expertise you put into selecting benefits that not only are high quality, but also useful to them. According to the LIMRA 2012 Insurance Barometer Study, employees don’t necessarily evaluate employers on how much the benefits cost them. But they appreciate a thoughtful approach to choosing benefits and the simplicity of payroll deduction.

While portability and reducing employer costs were lower on the list of priorities, employers should consider both. Portability is especially important to today’s employees who value their current benefits and want to keep them if their employment changes. Almost any benefit an employer offers as part of a core program can be offered as a voluntary benefit. The products getting the most attention now are critical illness, life insurance, accident, disability, vision, dental, auto, home, and pet insurance.

Portability is especially important to today’s employees.

Communicate the value

Employee benefits involve multiple sales, first to the employer, and in some cases their benefits broker or consultant, then to the employee. The most important sale in voluntary products is to the employee. A carrier skilled at effective communication helps employees see the value in the voluntary benefit and raises the odds of high participation, which helps control costs over the long run. Actual enrollment is the ultimate indicator of the value employees place on voluntary benefits. Your carrier can help ensure that they understand what they’re getting. Simple, straightforward products are more likely to be understood and selected. Persuading employees to participate is easier when they understand how the benefit will solve a problem or fill a need. The popularity of critical illness coverage is a good example: Employees choose it because it’s

Voluntary benefits to page 28

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Go shopping According to research conducted by Securian Financial Group, employee requests and needs top the list of factors employers consider when developing their voluntary benefits strategies. Next on the list is a desire to remain competitive when hiring new employees.

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Voluntary benefits from page 27

• Provide technology to support enrollment and payroll deduction

easy to understand the product and the gap it fills. Showing how a benefit can adapt to changing needs over time also helps employees decide whether to enroll. One way to make the case is to package benefits according to family status. Single employees are not as interested in benefits that work best for families, but that likely will change as they have families of their own. Helping employees understand how benefits complement each other stimulates participation. Keep in mind that one-size-fits-all products or too many choices can create employee inertia: If you make it difficult for them to choose, they won’t.

Technology that works for every employee every time is of paramount importance. Employees of every age, but especially millennials, expect the convenience of online self-service. They want to be able to enroll, ask questions, and make choices on the Web without having to call someone for help and wait for a return call. Using instant messaging or a chat function gives employees the information they want when they want it. When a carrier’s benefits management technology helps people help Persuading themselves, the result is happier employees—and employees employers. to participate In the final analysis, you want to ensure that all of your employees will have equal ease of access should be easy. to the benefits and the enrollment process regardLook for a provider that makes less of where they are. Enrollment and plan adminit easy for everyone istration must be equally easy for the employer, While there is potential value in managing fewer meaning that you want to look at carriers that can benefit carrier relationships, there is a balance do it all. The online interface should be strong and a proven driver between efficiency and selecting the best provider. Brokers can help of employee self-education and participation. by identifying providers who: Providers whose ultimate goal is to meet employee needs will • Provide competitive, relevant products provide the most employee satisfaction and, ultimately, provide the • Work closely with clients to integrate voluntary benefits into the best value for the employer. Finally, look for a carrier that is finanexisting benefits platform cially strong, with high ratings. • Communicate clearly to employees, transforming them from pasKristi Fox is second vice president of group life insurance-client relationships sive participants into educated buyers who take action, even if that at Securian Financial Group. action is to decline to enroll

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Substance abuse costs U.S. employers more than $276 billion each year.

Drug screening from page 25

abused within specific demographic groups. The typical drug test is a urine test, but there are other testing options that can be used depending on the circumstances. Hair follicle testing has a longer detection window than urine and can be used if a longer history of use (or abstinence) is desired. This could be important if an employee has had a history of drug abuse and has been instructed to attend a drug treatment program and is required to stay clean. Blood serum drug tests are valuable immediately after an incident or accident in which drug use is suspected, because drugs stay in the bloodstream for only several hours after ingestion. Additionally, other drugs that companies may want to discourage may be prevalent among employees, including club drugs like MDMA (Ecstasy or X), GHB, hallucinogens (LSD), or synthetic cannabinoids (Spice or K2). In hospital and medical care settings, it may be desirable to test for drugs that health care workers have access to, such as Tramadol, meperidine, or fentanyl. Although not generally of concern in many workplaces, anabolic steroids may be more of an issue in law enforcement, the personal fitness industry, or in the testing of student or professional athletes.

Other considerations There are a number of factors an organization should consider in setting the scope of its drug-testing program. Companies should define their objectives in creating such programs. Among the

things to consider: Some industries, such as health care, have greater access to drugs. State and federal regulations play a larger role in some industries than others. Because of this, when constructing a drug-testing program, businesses should consult with an attorney on legal issues such as employee privacy rights. The average age of employees may be considered; some age groups see a higher rate of illegal drug use. The scope of job functions is also relevant—is safety or security a concern? And geography can also be a consideration. There may be particular drugs that have a high rate of use in certain areas. The ability to create a safe, drug-free work environment is critical to financial success for most organizations. Letting employees, both current and potential, know that company management takes drug use and abuse seriously can lower costs, increase profit, and help to retain valued employees. Implementing a drug-screening policy shouldn’t be taken lightly but should be a well-considered business decision. Research into the optimum approach for your company will ultimately benefit both the company and your employees. Maureen Young is customer education advocate for ANY LAB TEST NOW, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based company that provides direct-access laboratory testing for consumers and businesses.

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Midlife career changes from page 11

tion’s overall business and mission, and a valuable testing period for the prospective employee. A common pitfall for companies is to ignore the mid-careerer and focus on the newbies, believing the mid-careerer is fully capable of directing and managing autonomously (that’s why you hired her, right?). That is most likely the case, but it presents a missed opportunity to capitalize on untapped potential. Mid-careerers crave attention, acknowledgement, and development, and value mentorship. If nurtured, they will continue to grow and prosper as employees if their contributions are valued. Mid-career transition can be daunting, but with a bit of guidance and structure, very rewarding and possibly life-changing. Hiring managers should not ignore this potential pool of talent when hiring or for professional development and advancement. The return on investment will show itself when employees are purpose-driven, personally aligned to the mission of the work—and happy.

related to the specific work role and how they will help the organization succeed.

How to develop your own mid-career professionals

Either you seek out talented mid-career professionals, develop your employees internally, or wait for them to do the hard work themselves and leave your organization for greener pastures. If you invest in a career-life development program to help individuals discover and actualize who they are while developing the gifts and talents they possess, you enable the company to more quickly weave these into the organizational needs and create a trusted relationship with your employees. One method could be to reinstate or revise the Hiring managers individual development plan. Goals and developshould not ignore ment should be a combination of not only profesthis potential sional goals but also personal growth and fulfillment, instilling an emotional passion for the work pool of talent. employees do and the contributions they make. Many companies are investing in mid-career internship programs because they see the value of offering practiSunny Ainley is the associate dean at the Center for Applied Learning at cal learning for these seasoned workers, providing loyalty, opporNormandale Community College in Bloomington and is a mid-careerer tunity and reinspired employees. These internships also cultivate working in her passion by empowering people and organizations to live enterprise intelligence, a better understanding of an organizaand work in prosperity and purpose.

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Employee Benefits Planner Quarter Four 2012  

Cover: Identifying lost productivity by Michael Klachefsky Midlife career changes by Sunny Ainley Long-term care collaboration by Lucinda Je...

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