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2019 Forecast: 5 Trends To Expect In

Voluntary Benefits

By PR Newswire -

In a tight job market with employers

vying to recruit and retain top talent,

it’s no surprise that voluntary benefits

are now a “must-have” in the employee

benefits package.

In addition to explosive growth in the

range of available voluntary benefits

in recent years, their popularity

among employees is reaching new

heights as well.

“Gone are the days where voluntary

benefits are simply a ‘nice-extra’ for

employee benefits. In today’s modern

workplace with a diverse, multigenerational

workforce that has varying

characteristics, lifestyles and preferences,

employers can no longer provide

one-size-fits-all benefits even in

the voluntary arena,” said Purchasing

Power Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth

Halkos. “A broad benefits package

positions a business as a company

that listens, cares and is worth working


Voluntary benefits offer employees a

variety of specialized benefits so they

can choose the ones they want.”

Whether it’s benefits that supplement

their “core” benefits such as health, life

and disability insurance, or the plethora

of others that range from identify

theft protection to pet insurance to

employee purchase programs and

even student loan refinancing arrangements

and egg harvesting, voluntary

benefits are a cost-effective method

for employers to provide a broad

benefits package that give employees


“That’s important,” Halkos said, “because

only 60 percent of employees

believe their employer’s benefit plans

are competitive with those offered by

other organizations, according to the

PwC 2018 Employee Financial Wellness


What’s ahead in 2019 for voluntary

benefits? Here are Halkos’ predictions

on the trends for next year.

Continued on Page 3

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Carrier Incentives

2019 Forecast: Voluntary Benefits

Medicare Cuts Payments to Nursing


Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Washington National Offers New Plan

2 3

Continued fron Page 1

2019 Forecast...

1. Addressing Student Loans: Student loan debt continues to

reach record highs and it even exceeds credit card debt and

auto loan debt. More than one-third of employees overall

(and 55% of millennials) said student loan repayment is a

must-have benefit, according to a Unum study. With only 4

percent of employers currently offering employees some

form of assistance to repay student loans, 2019 is going to see

employers and the industry itself finding ways to offer student

loan refinancing and repayment benefits.

Medicare To Cut Payments To Nursing Homes

Whose Patients End Up Back In The Hospital

By Jordan Rau - National Public Radio

The federal government took a new step this week to

reduce avoidable hospital readmissions of nursing home

patients. The move targets the homes’ bottom lines by

lowering a year’s worth of payments to nearly 11,000

nursing homes, and giving bonuses to nearly 4,000 others.

These financial incentives, determined by each home’s

readmission rates, significantly expand Medicare’s effort to

pay medical providers based on the quality of care instead

of just the number or condition of their patients.

Until now, Medicare mostly limited these kinds of incentives

to hospitals, which have gotten used to facing financial

repercussions if too many of their patients are readmitted,

suffer infections or other injuries, or die.

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“To some nursing homes, it could mean a significant

amount of money,” says Thomas Martin, director of postacute

care analytics at CarePort Health, which works for

both hospitals and nursing homes. “A lot are operating on

very small margins.

The new Medicare program is altering a year’s worth of

payments to 14,959 skilled nursing facilities, based on how

often their residents ended up back in hospitals within 30

days of leaving.

Hospitalizations of nursing home residents, while

decreasing in recent years, remain a problem: Nearly

11 percent of patients in 2016 were sent to hospitals

for conditions that might have been averted with better

medical oversight.

These bonuses and penalties are also intended to

discourage nursing homes from discharging patients

too quickly — something that is financially tempting as

Medicare fully covers only the first 20 days of a stay and

generally stops paying anything after 100 days.

Over this fiscal year, which began Oct. 1 and goes through

the end of September 2019, the best-performing homes will

receive 1.6 percent more for each Medicare patient than

they would have otherwise. The worst-performing homes

will lose nearly 2 percent of each payment. The others will

fall in between.

For-profit nursing homes, which make up two-thirds of

the nation’s facilities, face deeper cuts on average than do

nonprofit and government-owned homes, a Kaiser Health

News analysis of the data found.

In Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, 85 percent of

homes will lose money, the analysis found. More than

half in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington state will get


Overall, 10,976 nursing homes will be penalized, 3,983

will get bonuses and the remainder will not experience

any change in payment, the KHN analysis found.

Medicare is reducing payments to 12 of the 15 nursing

homes run by Otterbein SeniorLife, an Ohio faithbased

nonprofit. Pamela Richmond, Otterbein’s chief

strategy officer, says most of its readmissions occurred

with patients after they went home, not while they

were in the nursing facilities. Otterbein anticipates

losing $99,000 over the year.

“We’re superdisappointed,” Richmond says about the

penalties. She says Otterbein has started to follow up

with former patients or with the home health agencies

that send nurses and aides to patients’ houses to care

for them. If there are signs of trouble, Otterbein will try

to arrange care or bring patients back to the nursing

home if necessary.

“This really puts the emphasis on us to go out and

coordinate better care after they leave,” Richmond


Congress created the Skilled Nursing Facility Value-

Based Purchasing Program incentives in the 2014

Protecting Access to Medicare Act. In assigning

bonuses and penalties, Medicare judged each facility’s

performances in two ways: how its hospitalization rates

in calendar year 2017 compared with other facilities

and how much those rates

changed from calendar...

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2. Taking Care of the Caregivers: Next year will see employers

being more comprehensive with benefits that address

the needs of employees who serve as caregivers. Today’s

multigenerational workforce includes employees who care

for parents, adult children and even grandchildren on a

variety of levels -- emotionally, financially and with general

caregiving support. In fact, nearly one in four employees is

providing financial support for parents or in-laws; and among

employees with adult children, 42 percent are providing

financial support to them, according to the PwC study. Elder

care support, childcare, adoption assistance, financial wellness

benefits -- all are increasingly important to the caregivers.

3. Facilitating Savings: The statistics are staggering --

employees are still struggling paycheck-to-paycheck; many

don’t have $1,000 or more in savings to use for emergencies;

and the typical worker has saved $0 for retirement. It’s time

for the industry to help employees start to take control of

their financial future by encouraging savings. Look for more

financial services benefits in 2019 that offer automated

savings plans as a voluntary benefit.

4. Encouraging Utilization of Financial Wellness Benefits:

Financial wellness has been the buzz for a couple of years now

and employers have added a variety of financial wellness and

education voluntary benefits. But only one-third of employees

utilize the financial wellness benefits their employer offers,

according to the 2018 Workplace Benefits Report from Bank

of America Merrill Lynch. It’s a simple fact that when financial

wellness benefits aren’t used, they don’t work. Employers and

the industry alike will be searching for ways to make these

benefits more engaging, personalized and effective in order to

help their employees improve their financial wellness.

5. Communicating Year-Round: With so many benefit

offerings available today, it can be mind-boggling to

employees to be aware of them all and to understand them.

Year-round benefits communications in a multitude of

communication methods that appeal to each generation and

on platforms and devices they pay attention to is mandatory.

2019 will see employers and the industry re-dedicate itself to

benefits communications, understanding and engagement.

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The Best Christmas Movies Of All Time

By David Sim & Eve Watling - Newsweek

50 movies made this list, see if your favorite movie made the cut

or take a gander and find something new. Either way we don’t

think you’ll be disappointed.

50. Prancer (1989)

49. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

48. The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)

47. The Best Man Holiday (2013)

46. Lovely, Still (2008)

45. The Polar Express (2004)

44. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

43. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

42. The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)

41. Frosty the Snowman (1969 TV Movie)

40. Black Christmas (1974)

39. The Ref (1994)

38. Ben Is Back (2018)

37. Better Watch Out (2016)

36. Home Alone (1990)

35. Rise of the Guardians (2012)

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Washington National Offers New

Hospital Indemnity Plan

By Health Insurance Newsletter -

CARMEL, Ind., Nov. 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Washington

National Insurance Company, a national provider of

supplemental health and life insurance products for middle-income

Americans, announced today a new hospital

indemnity insurance policy, Hospital AssureSM.

Hospital Assure helps pay for expenses associated with

a hospital stay that are not covered by employer-provided

health insurance plans, individual major medical

insurance or Medicare. Common uncovered expenses

include deductibles, co-payments and other out-of-pocket

expenses when consumers need a hospital stay, outpatient

hospital care, emergency room visit or rehabilitation

facility care for a covered sicknesses or covered accident.

Additionally, Hospital Assure complements consumers’

existing health insurance plans by paying lump-sum

cash benefits directly to consumers, not to the doctor or

hospital. This gives families the flexibility to use their cash

benefits without


including paying

for everyday bills

and expenses if

the policyholder is

unable to work.

“We designed

Hospital Assure to

address the needs

of middle-income

Americans,” said

Mike Heard, president of Washington National. “According

to recent data from the U.S. Department of Health and

Human Services, the average hospital stay costs more

than $10,700. Expensive hospital stays can force many

consumers to dip into their savings or even pay by credit

card for these out-of-pocket expenses. With Hospital

Assure, policyholders can focus on getting the care they

need, rather than the costs”

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