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Employee Benefits Partner
 
   
 
Offering a Comprehensive View of Employee Health and Benefits
 

By Kristine Seymour, president of Humana’s Commercial market in Wisconsin

 

Insurance – specifically health insurance – has been a hot topic for several years, and it certainly will remain that way as the health care industry looks to implement reform. Humana has witnessed some employers avoid long-term benefits planning because they are waiting to see how the national policy is implemented. However, due to the number of unknowns, Humana recommends its corporate customers move forward with the creation of an employee health initiative or continue to develop their current strategies.

 

When developing wellness programs, Humana has found that the most successful ones address employees’ total health – physical and emotional – and make an impact on the lifestyle issues that influence health, healthcare costs and productivity.

 

Adding Up the Cost of Employee Health

When business owners and leaders are calculating the costs of employee health, they should consider the following:

-          Absenteeism

-          Presenteeism

-          Disability

-          Workers’ Compensation

-          Turnover

-          Productivity

-          Employee Assistance

 

Even small businesses can follow the best practices of Humana and its corporate customers. These include:

-          Be prepared. Before implementing a wellness program, define the organization’s short-term and long-term priorities; the benefits of a wellness initiative and the potential value of health promotion across the organization; and the leadership styles, pressures, strengths and weaknesses of senior-level executives.

-          Create a supportive environment. Model and support healthy behavior with friendly facilities, such as clean, well-lit stairwells and healthy food choices on site.

-          Integrate resources and activities. Educate and engage the workforce, and weave key activities into the fabric of the organization.

-          Evaluate program impacts, such as enrollment, participation and completion rates as well as satisfaction scores, outcomes and return on investment.

 

Remember that employees’ physical well-being includes all their senses. For example, more than 90 percent of diseases can show up in a mouth first. A dentist is often the first medical person to find health problems or disease. Since some small business cannot afford to sponsor dental insurance for their employees, Humana offers individual plans, which cover preventative services with no waiting periods. Humana also offers an individual vision plan with a $10 co-pay for an eye exam.

 

Beyond Physical Well-Being

Humana knows based on its decades of experience that employees’ good health goes beyond physical well-being. Emotional, financial and intellectual health is also important to a workforce’s productivity.

 

The recent recession impacted both the employed and unemployed. Even those who remained in the workforce could have been distracted by financial or family concerns. For these reasons, Humana has seen increased interest in its financial protection plans. The insurer offers three in Pennsylvania:

-          Humana’s Critical Illness Cash Plan is designed to protect individual or family finances during a serious illness. It can help with healthcare costs in the event of a heart attack, stroke and diagnosis of most forms of cancer.

-          Humana also has a Junior Estate Builder and Memorial Fund. The Junior Estate Builder is a term life insurance policy for children ages two months to 25 years. The Memorial Fund is a whole life insurance policy that can help cover final expenses for those over the age of 45.

 

An individual’s health is made up of as many pieces as each person – mind, body, senses and finances. And greater security in these components equals a healthier person and happier employee. For more information on the plans Humana offers and the best practices of its customers, visit Humana.com.

 

Kristine Seymour is president of Humana’s Wisconsin Commercial market. She is responsible for the strategic growth, performance and direction of all Commercial and Specialty benefit products in the state.

Posted 12/20/2012




Use specialty benefits to recruit and retain employees
 
Employee job satisfaction is at an all-time low, according to a recent report by the Conference Board. Meanwhile, employers are struggling more than ever to afford benefits that help retain talented workers. Specialty benefits – such as vision, dental, life, disability and accident insurance – can be great options to improve employee morale without adding astronomical costs. Combining traditional health insurance with specialty benefits allows companies to meet their employees’ needs while gaining a competitive edge in attracting workers.

In addition to serving as a recruiting tool, there are other great advantages to companies for offering specialty benefits.

  • Companies can expand their benefit options without increasing costs since specialty benefits are 100 percent employee paid.
  • Expanded offerings help keep employees productive and loyal.
  • Companies may be able to reduce their payroll taxes for each employee enrolled.
  • There is no hassle, since a third-party insurer manages enrollment and administration.

As well as benefitting employers, specialty benefits provide important protection to employees, including:

  • Workers can pick and choose the benefits they want and then pay the premiums through payroll deduction, frequently on a pre-tax basis. The cost is typically only a few dollars per month per plan.
  • They offer convenience, as employees can simply manage them through work coverage.
  • Workers can save money on premiums by purchasing these policies through a group rather than on their own.
  • Specialty benefits can protect savings in a crisis. Unexpected illnesses and injuries cause 350,000 personal bankruptcies each year, according to the Council for Disability Awareness.
  • Employees can easily enroll at work.

With these kinds of benefits, it is no wonder that voluntary benefits are quickly gaining popularity. According to Eastbridge Consulting Group, more than half of all employers now offer at least one voluntary benefit. Additionally, 65 percent of workers in businesses with at least 10 employees are covered by at least one voluntary product, and those numbers are climbing.

How to Do it?

Traditionally, employers have had different carriers manage various benefits, simply based on where they got the best prices. However, companies are now exploring the advantages of having one carrier manage all their health and specialty benefits. One factor behind this growing trend is the administrative simplicity it provides. In addition, with all benefits integrated under one carrier, it is easier to design preventive and wellness-focused programs.
About the author:
Kristine Seymour is president of Humana’s Commercial markets in Wisconsin and Michigan. She oversees the strategic planning, direction, growth and management of all Commercial and Specialty Benefits business in both states.
 

Posted 11/26/12

Incentive Programs Can Make a Difference in Your Employees’ Health
 
Some would argue that Americans don’t change behavior easily. That would explain why nearly two-of-three American adults are still overweight or obese, 60 percent don’t exercise and more than 20 percent still smoke. Additionally, 90 percent of those who join health-and-fitness clubs stop going within the first 90 days.
We know that healthier choices are better for individuals, their families, their employers and the U.S. economy as a whole. How can we encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices?
 
Incentives for Well-Being
Research shows that Americans are ready for a health rewards program.
 
The majority of 1,000 adults in a July 2011 survey for HumanaVitality, a comprehensive wellness, reward and loyalty solution, said they should be rewarded for making healthy choices. And 59 percent said they would like to be rewarded for exercising.

Health reward solutions don’t just benefit individual consumers. With rising health care costs and a desire to reduce absenteeism, employers have a significant interest in encouraging their employees’ pursuit of well-being. A growing number of employers are now including non-cash incentives in their wellness solutions. A survey of 157 large employers found that 62 percent offered incentives in 2010, up from 57 percent the previous year.
 
Research shows incentives make a real difference in people’s health. A good weight-loss incentive solution can increase employee participation rates from 12 percent to 35 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, a 2010 study from the American Journal of Health Promotion shows individuals who regularly participated in the Vitality solution experienced shorter and fewer hospital stays than those who didn’t participate.
 
Make it Personal
 
The main drivers of success are personalized plans and the ability of participants to self-select their rewards. In the case of HumanaVitality, this approach works in two ways. First, HumanaVitality provides participants with personal pathways they can follow as individuals to improve their health and well-being. Next, participants who pursue those pathways earn points that allow them to choose among more than 600,000 rewards ranging from electronics to vacations to charitable donations.
 
The key is self-selection: choosing the pathway to follow and working toward redeeming rewards that are personally motivating and significant. HumanaVitality is based on a philosophy that rewarding small, personalized steps today – taking a few extra minutes to exercise, choosing one more healthy meal a day – can add up to meaningful change over time.
 
In a time when companies regularly use rewards to earn brand loyalty of the American consumer, Wisconsin companies should stop to consider if they are doing enough to build loyalty. Solutions like HumanaVitality reward consumers for making healthy choices in the short run, but the real payoff – the biggest reward of all – is sustainable change toward long-term health and well-being.
 
For more information on HumanaVitality or health rewards programs, visit www.Humana.com or call 800.825.9900.

About the author:
 
Kristine Seymour is the president of Humana’s Commercial market in Wisconsin.

Posted 10/24/12

Beyond Discounts: Employer-Sponsored Health Care Coalitions

When faced with escalating health care costs, many of our state's employers have had to consider some hard choices. Pass costs on to employees, relocate, downsize or discontinue health benefits? Alternatively, a number of employers have found value in standing together as a powerful purchasing and collective action group - an employer-sponsored health care coalition.

Instead of searching for a new answer every renewal, coalition member employers enjoy the benefits of a long-term health care strategy that goes way beyond discounts to control the cost of care. Employer-sponsored health care coalitions share a common goal to impact health care costs and quality and resolve health care issues in the communities in which they operate.

Purchasing power

For example, formed in 2003, the Business Health Care Group (BHCG) grew out of the frustration felt by several CEOs of large Milwaukee-based employers concerning health care costs in southeast Wisconsin as compared to their other locations. They knew that no one employer was large enough to influence the health care market and that an engaged business community has the power to drive provider commitment to competitive pricing, optimum performance and quality initiatives.

The group has seen the benefits of the coalition’s efforts to work in partnership with local providers and its administrative partner, Humana. BHCG member employers have experienced lower health care costs as compared with the rest of their market and the Midwest.[1]

The most visible members of coalitions are usually larger employers. However, smaller employers who continue to struggle to offer affordable, quality coverage to their employees find significant benefits through joining forces with hundreds of other organizations to find solutions.

Says DMT Workholding, Inc. chief executive officer and BHCG employer member, Ed Shanley, “As one small company, we are powerless to do anything about rising health care costs. But now we’re part of a large group of employers with shared goals. By banding together, employers large and small can change how health care is delivered and paid for in our community.”

Purchasing power is indeed a defining characteristic of an employer coalition. Most coalitions use that leverage to develop a market-driven solution such as a health plan or preferred provider network to reduce costs. However, that leverage can extend to preferred rates and performance guarantees for a multitude of programs such as claims administration, pharmacy benefit management, wellness and prevention, patient advocacy and care management, employee communications, education and coaching.

Beyond pricing

Employers face a mounting list of issues in their quest to solve the health care dilemma. They are concerned about improving health care delivery and motivating employees to get healthier and make wiser decisions. Coalitions tackle these issues as a group, sharing best practices and resources.

A number of coalitions, including the BHCG, are involved in the effort to develop effective provider cost and quality transparency in our state and find ways to boost consumer accountability. In addition, most coalitions have strategic partnerships with multi-stakeholder health care organizations so employers have a voice at the table and a chance to be on the forefront of initiatives to find solutions.

Says Fond du Lac Area Businesses on Health (FABOH) board president and Mercury Marine vice president, Ray Atchinson, “Cost effectiveness goes far beyond just pricing; it involves a total process of prevention, wellness, user education, and provider quality. We believe that this ongoing process can be best realized through the sharing of information and ideas, development of strategies, and the implementation of programs designed to support this mission.”  (Business Connect, Fond du Lac Area Businesses on Health newsletter, 2011)

Coalition employer members have access to shared research and intelligence on industry issues and regulatory changes as well as the opportunity to network with other employers to share ideas and experiences.

"As a member-owned cooperative, we have the unique opportunity to work toward one common vision. And this year, when members were faced with understanding implications of a newly passed health care reform law, there was a special comfort in knowing that there were more than 160 other employers facing the same challenges and looking toward similar solutions," says The Alliance (a Madison-based employer coalition) board chairman and Foremost Farms USA vice president for human resources, safety and communication, Michael McDonald (The Alliance Annual Report, 2011). 

Employer coalitions in Wisconsin and around the country have produced short and long-term benefits for businesses and consumers. As part of a long-term strategy to address the issues of health care costs and quality, coalition membership can boost employer purchasing power, enhance market and product intelligence and provide opportunities to share valuable information – all good reasons for employers to consider participation.

About the Author
 
Dianne Kiehl is the executive director of the Business Health Care Group (BHCG), a membership organization of nearly 1,200 employers and employer groups in the 11-county region of southeast Wisconsin who share the common goal of moving the health care market through innovative action. She works in partnership with the group and employers, providers and consumers to change the way health care is used, managed and delivered in the region.

[1] Source: Study of 2010 Southeast Wisconsin Community Healthcare Premium Costs, Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health (GMBFH), December 14, 2011 and propriety BHCG data, as provided by Humana.
Posted 9/11/12


 

Define Your Employees' Health with Specialty Benefits

How do your employees define health? Is it being able to run a mile? Is it being able to zip last year’s jeans? Is it feeling happy or fulfilled?

Health can mean something different to each individual. However, to truly achieve well-being, one must be healthy on several levels – physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and financially.

Therefore, when Wisconsin employers are choosing what benefits to offer their workers, it is important for them to realize there is a wide range of specialty insurance products and wellness services available, and each one is designed to help customers achieve lifelong well-being.

Let’s use dental coverage as an example. More than 90 percent of diseases – including heart disease, diabetes and cancer – show up in a mouth first. A dentist is often the first medical provider to find health problems. Good dental care can also lead to savings on medical care. The Journal of Periodontology found that health care costs were 21 percent higher for patients with severe gum disease than for those without gum problems.

Healthy eyes are also an important part of living a healthy and full life. By taking steps to improve your sight and protect your eyes from harm, you have a great chance of seeing and living well for many years.

If a small business cannot afford to sponsor dental or vision insurance for their employees, some benefits providers offer affordable individual plans. Humana, for instance, offers individual dental plans, which cover preventive services with no waiting periods, and an individual vision plan with a $10 co-pay for an eye exam.

The connection between physical health and overall well-being goes beyond a person’s senses. On more than one occasion, you have probably checked your bank account and had an emotional reaction – positive or negative.

During the recent economic downturn, it became increasingly clear that a person’s well-being is tied to financial security. Due to increased interest, health care providers are offering myriad financial protection plans – including critical illness plans that protect individual or family finances during serious illnesses and term life insurance policies for children up to 25 years old – to make financial security a reality.

In addition to simply assisting in your employees’ physical and mental health, these benefits help to reassure them that you are providing a work environment where their well-being and happiness is a priority.

For more information on specialty benefits, visit Humana.com

About the Author:

Kristine Seymour is president of Humana’s Wisconsin Commercial market. She is responsible for the strategic growth, performance and direction of all Commercial and Specialty benefit products in the state.
 
Posted 8/2/12

Beyond Discounts: Employer-Sponsored Health Care Coalitions

When faced with escalating health care costs, many of our state's employers have had to consider some hard choices. Pass costs on to employees, relocate, downsize or discontinue health benefits? Alternatively, a number of employers have found value in standing together as a powerful purchasing and collective action group - an employer-sponsored health care coalition.

Instead of searching for a new answer every renewal, coalition member employers enjoy the benefits of a long-term health care strategy that goes way beyond discounts to control the cost of care. Employer-sponsored health care coalitions share a common goal to impact health care costs and quality and resolve health care issues in the communities in which they operate.

 

Purchasing power

For example, formed in 2003, the Business Health Care Group (BHCG) grew out of the frustration felt by several CEOs of large Milwaukee-based employers concerning health care costs in southeast Wisconsin as compared to their other locations. They knew that no one employer was large enough to influence the health care market and that an engaged business community has the power to drive provider commitment to competitive pricing, optimum performance and quality initiatives.

 

The group has seen the benefits of the coalition’s efforts to work in partnership with local providers and its administrative partner, Humana. BHCG member employers have experienced lower health care costs as compared with the rest of their market and the Midwest.[1]

 

The most visible members of coalitions are usually larger employers. However, smaller employers who continue to struggle to offer affordable, quality coverage to their employees find significant benefits through joining forces with hundreds of other organizations to find solutions.

 

Says DMT Workholding, Inc. chief executive officer and BHCG employer member, Ed Shanley, “As one small company, we are powerless to do anything about rising health care costs. But now we’re part of a large group of employers with shared goals. By banding together, employers large and small can change how health care is delivered and paid for in our community.”


Purchasing power is indeed a defining characteristic of an employer coalition. Most coalitions use that leverage to develop a market-driven solution such as a health plan or preferred provider network to reduce costs. However, that leverage can extend to preferred rates and performance guarantees for a multitude of programs such as claims administration, pharmacy benefit management, wellness and prevention, patient advocacy and care management, employee communications, education and coaching.

 

Beyond pricing

Employers face a mounting list of issues in their quest to solve the health care dilemma. They are concerned about improving health care delivery and motivating employees to get healthier and make wiser decisions. Coalitions tackle these issues as a group, sharing best practices and resources.

 

A number of coalitions, including the BHCG, are involved in the effort to develop effective provider cost and quality transparency in our state and find ways to boost consumer accountability. In addition, most coalitions have strategic partnerships with multi-stakeholder health care organizations so employers have a voice at the table and a chance to be on the forefront of initiatives to find solutions.

 

Says Fond du Lac Area Businesses on Health (FABOH) board president and Mercury Marine vice president, Ray Atchinson, “Cost effectiveness goes far beyond just pricing; it involves a total process of prevention, wellness, user education, and provider quality. We believe that this ongoing process can be best realized through the sharing of information and ideas, development of strategies, and the implementation of programs designed to support this mission.”  (Business Connect, Fond du Lac Area Businesses on Health newsletter, 2011)

 

Coalition employer members have access to shared research and intelligence on industry issues and regulatory changes as well as the opportunity to network with other employers to share ideas and experiences.

 

As a member-owned cooperative, we have the unique opportunity to work toward one common vision. And this year, when members were faced with understanding the implications of a newly passed health care reform law, there was a special comfort in knowing that there were more than 160 other employers facing the same challenges and looking toward similar solutions,” says The Alliance (a Madison-based employer coalition) board chairman and Foremost Farms USA vice president for human resources, safety and communication, Michael McDonald. (The Alliance Annual Report, 2011)

 

Employer coalitions in Wisconsin and around the country have produced short and long-term benefits for businesses and consumers. As part of a long-term strategy to address the issues of health care costs and quality, coalition membership can boost employer purchasing power, enhance market and product intelligence and provide opportunities to share valuable information – all good reasons for employers to consider participation.
 
About the Author:
 

Dianne Kiehl is the executive director of the Business Health Care Group (BHCG), a membership organization of nearly 1,200 employers and employer groups in the 11-county region of southeast Wisconsin who share the common goal of moving the health care market through innovative action. She works in partnership with the group and employers, providers and consumers to change the way health care is used, managed and delivered in the region.

 
Posted 7/20/12


[1] Source: Study of 2010 Southeast Wisconsin Community Healthcare Premium Costs, Greater Milwaukee Business Foundation on Health (GMBFH), December 14, 2011 and propriety BHCG data, as provided by Humana.

 Invest in your employees

Great benefits feel good – and may lower health care costs

When you offer health coverage and specialty benefits, you’ll feel good as an employer knowing you’re helping protect the personal and financial health of your employees and their families. You'll feel even better knowing you don't have to break your budget doing so. And the result will be a healthier and happier workplace. After all, specialty benefits are among the most valued by employees.*

Here's an introduction to some of the most popular specialty benefits offered by employers today.

Dental

Dental plans focus on prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment – helping employees stay healthy and fit. Promoting routine dental care not only encourages good oral health, but may also reduce total healthcare costs over time.

Preventing periodontal diseases may lead to significant savings not only on dental costs but also on medical costs, according to a study in the November 2007 Journal of Periodontology. Periodontal diseases have been linked to health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems.

Researchers examined the effect of periodontal diseases on medical and dental costs in patients aged 40 to 59 over three years. Those with severe periodontal disease had healthcare costs 21 percent higher than those with no periodontal disease.

Vision

Vision health also impacts overall health, making periodic eye examinations important in routine preventive health care. Eye exams can detect symptoms of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, osteoporosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Employees appreciate vision benefits:

  • A vision plan is one of the top five most-desired benefits, after medical insurance, by employees.[1]
  • Vision problems affect 120 million Americans and cost businesses an estimated $8 billion annually because of reduced productivity.[2]
  • More than 70 percent of Americans reported loss of eyesight as “10” on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst thing that could happen to them. It means a loss of independence, mobility and quality of life. [3]

Disability

Protect your employees’ most valuable asset: their ability to earn a living. If one of your employees can’t work due to an injury or illness, disability insurance helps keep a roof over their head, maintain daily routines and pay monthly bills.

By offering disability insurance, you help protect your employees’ financial well-being if they’re unable to work. You can offer long-term disability and short-term disability protection covering accidents, sickness or both. Employees also can select from off-the-job coverage, 24-hour coverage or both.

Life

Securing their incomes with a well thought out life insurance plan is the best security blanket your employees can give their loved ones. And, with a group life insurance plan, you can feel good about helping them protect and provide benefits for their families after a loss.

Life insurance helps families pay off debts and other expenses, but with a group plan from a major carrier like Humana, a specially trained associate will personally guide beneficiaries through the process of delivering the benefits, giving their families one less thing to worry about.

Workplace Voluntary Benefits

You want benefits that fit all the needs of your employees without breaking your budget. The best way to do that is to work closely with your agent and insurer to design a workplace voluntary benefits strategy that works best for you and your employees, and complements other plans you may have. Some things to consider when developing your workplace voluntary benefits strategy include:

  • Voluntary Disability Coverage – The disability payment can cover everyday costs such as housing, food, car payments and even additional medical costs.
  • Accident Insurance – This plan provides supplemental coverage for accidents, injuries, ambulance services and accidental death.
  • Critical Illness Coverage – This coverage helps protect your employees’ assets in a critical illness by coverage everyday expenses as well as some medical costs. It also offers peace of mind when specialized health care is needed.
  • Supplemental Health Insurance – Supplemental health benefit to employees may help mitigate medical expenses because they’re reimbursed for everyday medical costs such as doctor’s office and emergency room treatments.

Offering these benefits can help you attract and retain employees, reduce the cost of absenteeism, and help your employees return to work more quickly after an illness or injury – creating a more satisfied and productive workforce.  

 
* LIMRA - The Employee Benefits Balancing Act, 2008
 
About the Author: 
 
Kristine N. Seymour is president of Humana’s Wisconsin Commercial market. She is responsible for the strategic growth, performance and direction of all Commercial and Specialty benefit products in the state.  
 
Posted 6/18/2012

[1] LIMRA International

[2] Vision Council of America

[3] National Eye Institute and Lions Clubs International Foundation

By Ed Zalewski, editor, J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

 

In cases where employees come from diverse backgrounds and English is their second language, they may feel more comfortable speaking their native language. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically addresses company policies regarding the speaking of languages other than English in the workplace.

 

The EEOC generally takes a hard line against English-only workplace policies, and will presume that an “all English all the time” rule (including breaks and lunch periods) is discriminatory based on national origin. Where employers require that English be spoken at certain times, the policy must be justified by business necessity.

 

Examples of such a necessity include times where safety may be compromised if there is any lack of communication, such as when using dangerous equipment or working with dangerous substances, or working in a laboratory, refinery, mine, construction site or other location where accidents or emergencies are likely to occur. Typically, narrowly drawn rules justified by business necessity apply only to certain employees while they are performing specific duties or under specific circumstances.

 

Other justifications for English-only rules may include communication between employees and English-speaking customers, or communication between employees and supervisors (employers don’t have to hire a translator just so employees can communicate with a supervisor nor require the supervisor to become fluent in another language).

 

If there is business necessity for an English-only rule, the company must provide employees with notice of the rule. This notice should inform employees of the general circumstances in which speaking only English is required and of the consequences for violating the rule.

 

English as a job requirement

If the responsibilities of a job require the ability to read, speak and write in English, an employer can require that candidates possess those skills. For example, if the employee needs to be able to read and understand technical manuals and lengthy procedural documents, and these documents are only available in English, it’s reasonable to require proficiency in English. On the other hand, it is not reasonable to require proficiency in English if an employee will be doing primarily manual labor while having little contact with others.

 

The law does not require making accommodations for non-English-speaking employees in the same way employers are required to do so for qualified individuals under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For example, employers need not have documents translated to another language so the employee can read them, if reading is part of the job. An exception is Summary Plan Descriptions related to benefit plans, which may need to be translated if the company has a certain percentage of non-English speaking employees. The other exception is training.

 

If several employees’ primary language is Spanish and the company knows they are not very proficient in English, it’s a good bet they may not understand policies or procedures. Since the company is responsible for making sure employees are sufficiently trained, it may have to provide training, documents or translation for certain employees in their native language.

 

Consider, for example, a female employee who is being sexually harassed. If she doesn’t understand the procedures for registering a complaint, she has no way to address the situation except, perhaps, to quit. Be assured that the EEOC has a mechanism for Spanish-speaking individuals to file a complaint, however.

 

What the law says

To illustrate how strongly the EEOC addresses English-only rules, the following shows the complete text of the agency’s regulation, found under the national origin discrimination rules.

 

29 CFR §1606.7 Speak-English-only rules

(a) When applied at all times. A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times in the workplace is a burdensome term and condition of employment. The primary language of an individual is often an essential national origin characteristic. Prohibiting employees at all times in the workplace from speaking their primary language or the language they speak most comfortably disadvantages an individual’s employment opportunities on the basis of national origin. It may also create an atmosphere of inferiority, isolation and intimidation based on national origin which could result in a discriminatory working environment. Therefore, the commission will presume that such a rule violates Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] and will closely scrutinize it.

 

(b) When applied only at certain times. An employer may have a rule requiring that employees speak only in English at certain times where the employer can show that the rule is justified by business necessity.

 

(c) Notice of the rule. It is common for individuals whose primary language is not English to inadvertently change from speaking English to speaking their primary language. Therefore, if an employer believes it has a business necessity for a speak-English-only rule at certain times, the employer should inform its employees of the general circumstances when speaking only in English is required and of the consequences of violating the rule. If an employer fails to effectively notify its employees of the rule and makes an adverse employment decision against an individual based on a violation of the rule, the commission will consider the employer’s application of the rule as evidence of discrimination on the basis of national origin.

 

About the author:

Ed Zalewski is an editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Zalewski specializes in employment law issues such as discrimination and harassment, overtime, exemptions, and labor relations. For more information, visit www.jjkeller.com and www.prospera.com.

 

SIDEBAR

Can I stop coworkers from speaking Spanish while on break?

An employee complains that she thinks her coworkers are saying disparaging things about her in Spanish during their break. She wants them to stop speaking Spanish at work. What should the manager do?

 

The EEOC frowns on English-only policies, especially when they include breaks and meal times. Employees can only be required to speak English during working time if the organization has a legitimate business justification for it, which would not normally be the case during breaks. Merely speaking another language does not constitute harassment, so the company can’t require those employees to stop speaking Spanish. A manager might explain to them how others might perceive this as isolating coworkers, but be clear that there is no threat of discipline for speaking another language. It might be a good idea to offer sensitivity training to all employees regarding respect for other cultures.

 

If employees feel uncomfortable when coworkers speak another language, the problem is not the presence of another language in the workplace. Rather, the source of the conflict lies in the mind of the employee who feels offended, even if that employee has no reason to feel targeted. Creating a rule that prohibits employees from speaking other languages only plays to the suspicions or prejudice of the offended employee.

Additionally, with voluntary benefits, you can add employee benefits and maintain your bottom line while helping your employees prepare financially for the unexpected.

For example, an employee can purchase a cancer policy through their employer for just a few dollars a month. If that person is ever diagnosed with cancer, medical insurance will cover most of the doctor and hospital bills. But what about lost income? Living expenses? Cancer insurance can help with those costs, which might otherwise result in personal financial loss.

But what do employers have to gain from offering voluntary benefits?

  • Companies can expand their benefit options without increasing costs since voluntary benefits are 100 percent employee paid.

  • Companies can provide a range of employee benefits, keeping employees productive and loyal.

  • Companies may be able to reduce payroll taxes for each employee enrolled in a voluntary plan.

  • A third-party insurer, such as Humana, manages enrollment and administration.

In addition to helping employers, voluntary benefits provide important protection to employees, including:

  • Benefits are paid directly to employees.

  • Employees don’t have to rely solely upon their savings while recovering from an accident or illness.

  • Employees save money on premiums by purchasing these policies through a group, through their workplace, rather than individually.

  • Premiums are paid through payroll deductions, frequently on a pre-tax basis.

With these kinds of advantages, it’s no wonder that voluntary benefits are gaining popularity. According to Eastbridge Consulting Group, more than half of all employers now offer at least one voluntary benefit, and those numbers are climbing.

To learn about Humana's solutions to managing increasing health benefits costs, talk to your broker or consultant, or e-mail us at milwaukeesales@humana.com or call 800.825.9900.

About the Author:

Kristine Seymour is president of Humana’s Wisconsin Commercial market. She is responsible for the strategic growth, performance and direction of all Commercial and Specialty benefit products in the state.  

 Posted 5/11/2012
Managing Pharmacy Benefits to Reduce Overall Health Care Costs
By Scott A. Greenwell, Pharm.D., Director of Pharmacy Professional Practice, RightSource – Humana Pharmacy Solutions
 
Three years ago, health care expenditures represented 17.3 percent of the United States economy, or $2.5 trillion. By 2017, federal officials project health care spending will reach a staggering $4.3 trillion, or 19.5 percent of the nation’s economy.

What are individuals spending so much money on? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the top three health care expenses are hospital care (31 percent), physician/clinical services (21 percent) and pharmaceuticals (10 percent). From 1990 to 2005, prescription drug spending has quintupled from $40.3 billion to $200.7 billion. Not only did the cost per prescription increase, but people also started taking more drugs – the average prescriptions per person increased from 7.9 to 12.4*.

Employers have seen prescription services become the fastest growing health care benefit they offer. And, since the average individual is managing more than 12 medications, consumers are also seeking support to control their own out-of-pocket costs, while keeping themselves safe and healthy.

The first step in addressing escalating health care costs is understanding prescription drug options. Patients can ask their doctor if a generic will provide the same treatment for a lower cost. They can also research alternatives through Consumer Reports
(http://www.consumerreports.com/). The publication found that many brand-name medications provide no clinical advantage over their generic, and much less expensive, counterparts.

Employers can also work with their insurance provider to develop a prescription drug plan with varying tiered benefits. Instead of a traditional two- or three-option pharmacy benefit, some insurers, including Humana, offer four tier coverage levels. Generic drugs are on the first level, with the lowest cost. Preferred brand-name drugs are on the second level, and non-preferred are on the third tier. Specialty drugs are the final tier. Co-payments increase with each tier, and many plans provide maximum out-of-pocket limits, protecting members in the event highly expensive medications are needed.

In addition to providing tier-based coverage options, most insurers offer a mail-order pharmacy service as part of their benefit solutions. Humana’s RightSourceRx is a prescription home delivery service that focuses on the individual pharmaceutical needs of Humana members. Through RightSource, they can speak directly with a pharmacist or technician on their own time without the distractions that can occur within a retail environment. RightSourceRx will also let members know the status of prescription orders and send refill reminders via phone or e-mail.

Mail-order pharmacies offer potential cost-savings to individuals by allowing them to receive a three-month supply of their medications. Depending on the benefit plan, RightSourceRx offers three-month supplies of generic medications for zero dollar co-pays and discounts off other brands when filled via home delivery.

Regardless of where employees purchase their prescriptions, it is important to find a reputable source for filling prescriptions. A foreign web site may offer a cheaper price, but these sites are not regulated and may provide medications that have been tampered with or even incorrectly formulated.

Mail-order pharmacies owned by insurance providers are also focused on developing specialized services for members that traditional pharmacies may not offer. For example, Humana’s RightSourceRx developed a comprehensive program for diabetic patients, and all the company’s pharmacists have received specialized certification in diabetes management. RightSourceRx will also be adding the ability to purchase common over-the-counter products, vitamins and nutraceuticals along with prescriptions on its web site.

Employers can play a vital role in reducing health care costs for the organization and its employees. Employers must engage their employees in making educated decisions about prescription drugs. Drug safety is critical, and it can help manage costs by potentially reducing care needed for adverse drug interactions or hospital admissions. Employers can also educate their employees about what their prescription drug benefits entail, especially if implementing a new tiered benefit plan.

Prescription drugs are only one part of the health care cost equation, but by managing pharmacy costs, both businesses and their employees can reduce the overall health care cost burden.

Employers can talk to insurance consultants or brokers about the pharmacy benefits available. Brokers or consultants can provide you with not only detailed information about different plans, but will be able to offer advice on how to implement successful benefits programs. More information on Humana and RightSourceRX is available by calling 800-925-9900 or e-mailing milwaukeesales@humana.com.

*From 1994 to 2006 (Kaiser Family Foundation)
 
Posted 4/19/2012
 
 
 
 
     
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