For employers, the traditional New Year adage of “out with the old and in with the new,” will ring true in 2013. Here are some of the top topics that employers should watch in the coming year:
More PPACA Regulations
The national elections in November retained the status quo in Congress and the White House, meaning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) likely is here to stay. Now that the uncertainty about the law’s lasting power has been removed, employers can expect to see a flood of regulations, according to a report in Business Insurance.
The federal government already has released guidance on rules pertaining to wellness (see “Rules May Create Win-Win for Firms, Workers” in this newsletter) and essential benefits (see “In Brief”), and employers should watch for even more announcements, experts say. One particular issue — the “pay or play” penalty — is likely to be tackled by federal agencies in early 2013, if not before, according to the Business Insurance report. The penalty — a $2,000 fine per each full-time employee — will be levied against employers with 50 or more employees that do no not offer adequate health coverage under PPACA starting in 2014. Although the government has noted that the penalty won’t apply to employers that offer coverage to “substantially” all full-time employees, solid guidance has yet to be released.
Getting Personal with Incentives
Employers that sponsor wellness programs are exploring more personalized incentives to convince employees to participate and stick with it, said Mark Hall, co-founder of United Preference, in a recent article for Managed Healthcare Executive eNews. Instead of issuing “one-size-fits-all” incentives, more employers are starting to “tailor the incentives to fit the person, and to provide incentives that motivate while driving program [return on investment],” Hall wrote.
Hall also said that in 2013 he expects more employers to craft incentives that involve health-related services and to keep a closer eye on analytics to ensure they’re getting the most out of their wellness investment.
Keeping the Match
The recession prompted many companies to peel back or cut the company match to their 401(k) plan. That trend now is reversing, and more employers — especially smaller ones — are working on bringing back the match.
According to Workforce, a recent study by the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) revealed that nearly 93 percent of companies with fewer than 200 plan participants made a match to worker contributions in 2011 — a 10 percent jump from 2010.
“We all know small companies are struggling,” said Bob Benish, PSCA’s interim president. “Those [companies] that have made it through the recession are using benefits to demonstrate their commitment to their employees.”
If the economy continues to improve, that trend likely will grow even stronger — although the matching levels may differ from pre-recession times, said Luke Vandermillen of the Principal Financial Group.
“In coming out of the financial crisis, employers see they need to reinstate the match,” Vandermillen told Workforce. “We are at the front end of this discussion, but there is interest in how the match can be structured differently.”