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Long COVID will be a top 10 medical cost driver within the next 3 years

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID is the persistent presentation of symptoms 4 weeks after a COVID-19 infection. There are over 150 different symptoms of Long COVID, but common symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, loss of smell, difficulty breathing, joint pain, digestive issues.

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Using Absence Programs to Attract & Retain a Flexible Workforce

It sounds counterintuitive — how can programs that enable time away from work possibly help companies dealing with labor shortages? Yet, a 2021 survey conducted by HUB International shows that 40% of participating companies indicated their leave of absence policies needed to be more enticing to attract and retain employees.1 Absence programs are an important part of the employee experience, and organizations can leverage their time-off policies and benefits to stand out among competitors, especially now that workers have more options than ever before.

In a Gallup poll conducted earlier this year, employees identified well-being, including work-life balance, as one of the most important factors when deciding whether to accept a new job.2  Time-off policies and other absence-related benefits help employees achieve work-life balance by providing income protection while taking time to care for themselves and/or their families — from a well-deserved vacation to a healthcare emergency and everything in between.

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Using Benefits to Navigate the Road Blocks Facing Today’s Human Resource Professionals

The COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for shifting priorities and changing the way we work. The findings from our recent survey helped us understand what HR pain points and challenges professionals face in their daily lives, which will help guide future changes within this industry. Benefit Resource (BRI) conducted an extensive research project among 1000+ hiring managers to discover pain points they deal with day by day. These insights are crucial if you want to meet your company or organization’s performance goals. 

Managing cost increases can be challenging, but the underlying health plan will often be the key to reducing your costs. Position your benefits plans and the opportunities so employees pay for their increasing out-of-pocket costs. This can be achieved by offering a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA), taking advantage of Self-Funded Plans, sharing educational tools that provide cost transparency, like MyMedicalShopper by Talon Health Tech, or connecting employees to health experts. 

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Ways you can celebrate Pride Month and practice allyship for the LGBTQIA+ community

Pride month is an opportunity for organizations—and individuals to identify ways to support the LGBTQIA+ community beyond the month of June. To get you started, we invite you to educate yourself about some of the current laws impacting the LGBTQIA+ population along with several supportive resources.

As the U.S. White House noted last year, "Despite our progress in advancing civil rights for LGBTQ+ Americans, too many transgender people — adults and youth alike — still face systemic barriers to freedom and equality." That sentiment still rings true, and some key facts about those barriers and other challenges include:

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Four essential components of a successful family-building benefit — Including mental health support throughout the journey

Research has shown that women facing infertility have comparable levels of depression and anxiety to women facing cancer, AIDS/HIV, and heart disease. And although discussing infertility has become less taboo in recent years, there is plenty of work to do to continue destigmatizing it. A more recent study looked at infertility patients’ reactions to treatments postponed because of COVID-19 — 66% reported infertility remained the largest stressor in their lives, causing them more distress than the global pandemic. It is no wonder that therapy calls suddenly tripled as well.

Infertility is emotionally taxing and there are many reasons relationships can get strained. Waiting for results, financing treatment, balancing work and office visits, and dealing with the side effects of medications can all add stress to interpersonal relationships. Sometimes family members and friends don’t understand or aren’t sure what to do. Often, the person going through treatment doesn’t want advice or to hear everyone else’s story, so they try to go it alone.

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Ten Steps to Prevent the Great CoronEx-it

National Mental Health Month is an opportunity for organizations to analyze a new host of challenges that have manifested since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the "Great Resignation." Since spring 2021, about 33 million Americans have quit their jobs. Some resign from their positions to fulfill their caretaking duties while others are trying to mitigate risks associated with the pandemic. There are also capable workers who simply desire to feel more valued by management and leaders of their organizations, and those who just need a break. For organizations to remain competitive, fill open positions, and retain and engage existing staff, it is critical to recognize the pervasive feeling of burnout experienced by many, especially since the onset of COVID-19. While we have been waiting over the past two plus years for our lives to resume, Americans have experienced an increase of fear, depression, and anxiety.

CoronEx and Burnout
Increased mental health issues may be due to a specific kind of burnout, “CoronEx,” or “COVID exhaustion,” a term coined by behavioral science research regarding the long-term effects of pandemic-induced fatigue. In order to stay competitive, organizations need to recognize and care for the whole health of their employees, most especially their mental health. 

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Employer-sponsored Savings and Spending Accounts and Other Benefits May Minimize "The Great Resignation”

Like everything else, employee benefits, especially healthcare benefits, have been affected by the pandemic. With the extreme focus on health in the public space, consumers and employees are more engaged with their benefits, especially healthcare benefits, than ever before.  While the historic labor shifts across the United States currently being dubbed “The Great Resignation” are driven by a diverse range of factors, according to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, roughly half of those surveyed cited benefits as either a “major” or “minor” reason why they quit a job during 2021.

Employers should consider this to be an opportunity to reevaluate the benefits they offer. Well-designed health benefits plans can aid businesses in meeting their objectives by improving a company’s bottom line, as well as attracting and retaining the best talent. In this unique environment, here is some valuable information to help you evaluate your benefits offerings.

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Retirement Planning Tips for Women in 2022

Women often face special challenges when planning for retirement. For example, if they are the primary caregivers in their families, their careers may be interrupted to care for children or elderly parents, which means they may spend less time in the workforce and earn less money than men in the same age group. And even if they remain in the workforce, women still tend to earn less than men, on average. As a result, their retirement plan balances, Social Security benefits, and pension benefits are often lower.

In addition to earning less, women generally live longer than men, which means having to stretch potentially limited retirement savings and benefits over many years.


To help yourself or the women in your life manage these financial challenges, consider the following tips.


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How Your DE&I Strategy Directly Impacts Employee Caregivers

The majority of family caregivers (61%) throughout history and still today are women. With the Great Resignation upon us, many female caregivers have been forced to leave the workforce due to lack of childcare or to take on additional caregiving duties with aging loved parents. Resignation rates have been even higher among women of color. As such, it’s no secret that the national caregiver crisis is a diversity, equity, and inclusion crisis.

As employers double down on their investments in Diversity Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) in 2022, one of the most equitable ways they can support their workforce is with caregiver support. In our blog post, “It’s Time Employers See Themselves as Caregivers,” we state:

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The Great Opportunity: 3 Ways to Turn The Great Resignation Into Your Advantage

After two full years of COVID-19 adjustments, half-baked return to office plans and experiments in engaging virtual and hybrid teams, ‘The Great Resignation’ is the latest buzzword for collective panic in the business community. It’s everywhere. It’s unavoidable. And it’s also real. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) January 2022 jobs report indicates that while unemployment has remained largely unchanged, the number of job leavers has increased. What does that mean? It means there are more jobs right now than job-seekers, supporting an atmosphere of higher standards for what candidates are looking for in their next position. This is putting pressure on organizations to rethink how they attract talent and how they can stay competitive from the very beginning of the talent funnel. Layer in the changes from remote work and you have a nationwide jobseeker mentality of “what's in it for me?”.

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Rookie Year: Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave

We are one year into eligible Massachusetts employees being able to apply for paid leave benefits under the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program.  Although stats for the MA PFML Rookie Year have not been released yet, the first six months were telling:

  • Over 53,000 applications, with 23% being denied
  • 58% of applications were related to medical leave and the remaining for bonding, given that care for a family member with a serious illness was not yet a covered reason
  • Only 18 applications for military exigency leave and 6 applications to care for a service member
  • Employees aged 30-39 submitted the most applications (35%) and more than twice as many women applied for leave, compared to men
  • Average weekly benefits were $705.98 for family leave and $699.00 for medical leave
  • Turnaround times, once the Department of Family and Medical Leave (DFML) received all data including employer responses, took a median of 12 days to make a claim determination
  • Average duration of leave was 53 days (57 days for medical leave and 51.5 days for family leave)
  • Total benefits paid was equal to about $168 million (about $92 million for medical and $76 million for family leave)

While we await data for season of 2021, let’s dissect the highs and lows and see if MA PFML has a shot at Rookie of the Year!

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HR: Among the most important drivers to achieving equity

As Black History Month dawns, I find it hard not to think and reflect upon the “The Great Migration” — and not the current “great migration,” aka “The Great Resignation,” for which, at times, “Great Migration” has instead been used inappropriately. I mean the real, the original Great Migration, where more than 6 million African Americans fled the rural South for the urban centers of opportunity in the Northeast, Midwest, and Western states from approximately 1910-1970. 

Let’s be clear not to conflate or co-opt these two. Principally, the Great Migration was about Black Americans escaping the South's violence, racism, and oppression by becoming migrants in their own country, while “The Great Resignation/Reshuffle/Reprioritization,” etc., is centrally about expressing and acting on choice — a perceived or given one, at that.

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Is 2022 The Great Reset in Employee Benefits and Rewards?

NEEBC’s Trusted Sources for your 2022 Outlook

Here we are.  2022.  The symphony of voices I heard throughout my NEEBC inaugural year are etched as chords in my brain.  It was a gift to hear from peers throughout 2021 about their challenges and opportunities.  Leaders in Human Resources, Employee Benefits and Total Rewards from across all industries, as well as consultants, advisors, brokers, attorneys, lobbyists, regulatory experts, pharmaceutical giants, authors, and even the editor of a national publication, graciously shared with me their common travails.  As I reflect on those discussions, some themes emerged:

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Unstoppable Healthcare Cost Pac-Man Gobbling Up Valuable Resources

Unstoppable healthcare costs are eating up resources that companies and governments could better use to advance other important priorities. Healthcare rate increases will jump around 5% in 2021, according to a recent SHRM article. Not only does this hamper employers’ abilities to focus on their missions, but it also impacts HR departments’ ability to attract and retain employees by their attractive compensation and wellness offerings.

The go-to strategy of moving employees to high-deductible health plans has inadvertently created adverse financial and health consequences. The Mass Health Policy Commission reports that 46% of the state’s adults skipped needed healthcare in 2019 due to unaffordable out-of-pocket costs. The numbers were especially alarming for low-income and people of color, but even high-income people were not immune. A new study from Gallup and West Health showed similar results.

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How pharmacies can help achieve health equity

Disparities in the U.S. health system have come into sharp focus over the past one and a half years, sounding an undeniable call to action. What steps will we take towards a more equitable health system? 

We must reimagine the future of care and solve the challenges that have hindered health equity in the past. Pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs) are in an excellent position to lead the way by embracing the precepts of value-based care.

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How employee financial wellbeing can impact physical and mental wellbeing

Last January, Sam was one of 190 million Americans that made a New Years’ resolution. Her goal? Improve her physical health and get her finances in order. Sam started strong but by summertime, she found that financial issues were keeping her from achieving her goals. Sleepless nights spent anxiously thinking about debt were compounded by stress eating, and Sam avoided visiting the doctor because of the expense. As a result, her overall wellbeing suffered.

Sam’s story is just one example of how financial wellbeing can spill over into an employee’s physical and mental health. In the workplace today, many HR and benefits professionals are looking to address this link.

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Mythbusting: The Surprising Truth About Your Employee Caregivers

Ask five different people how to describe a family caregiver, and you’ll get five different answers. Whether it’s raising young children or looking after elderly parents and loved ones, caregiving is a difficult task that is frequently combined with an equally challenging day job. Yet despite 53 million1 U.S. adults identifying as caregivers, myths abound about the role, and companies that better understand and support their employees’ caregiving needs can reap significant rewards.

Myth #1: Family caregivers are women with aging parents or children with special needs who live at home with them.

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The Labor Shortage – The Unfortunate Reality

A virus can be blamed for many current realities, and certainly its impact includes the multi-factorial employment issue that Tom Casey and his colleagues at Discussion Partner Collaborative (DPC) meaningfully explore in this blog that’s been repurposed from their hugely popular July white paper of the same moniker.  As their research conveys, however, the global labor shortage won’t be resolved by the cascading impact that the pandemic-inspired ending to unemployment benefits provides.  This multi-factorial employment issue is fundamentally about talent readiness.  Having said that, let’s avoid the tendency to immediately point to Talent Acquisition for solutions.  Instead, as you reference this blog titled “The Labor Shortage – The Unfortunate Reality,” read with your holistic organizational lens.  Talent readiness is as much about retention (a.k.a. organizational culture, executive leadership, demonstrated inclusion, total rewards, professional development, succession planning, etc.) as it is finding and attracting the best talent.  That’s what I experienced differently about this work by Tom and DPC.  We have a crisis around labor that showcases how important it is for the solutions to be everyone’s responsibility, not strictly those who lead or contribute in Human Resources.  NEEBC, and I personally, are honored by the opportunity to share this important work on an emerging, substantial, universal workforce issue. 

Introduction by Robin Antonellis, Executive Director of NEEBC

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Dependent Care FSAs: How they can support your employees

Working parents have been challenged with safety and health concerns and balancing work and providing care for children whose schools or daycares were closed for extended periods.  

Now that most schools and daycares have resumed in-person education, it might be time to reevaluate benefit options to support employees with dependents. One solution is to offer employees the opportunity to opt into a dependent care flexible spending account, or DC-FSA.

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Worthen Industries Creates a Wellness Culture that Achieves 80% Employee Engagement and Remarkable Outcomes and Savings

With the firm belief that healthy employees are happier, safer, and more engaged workers, Worthen Industries made wellness a top priority over a decade ago.

Worthen wanted a comprehensive wellness program designed to improve individual health and wellbeing, prevent chronic diseases, and positively impact the quality of life of its employees and their families. Worthen also strived to attract and maintain an engaged employee base to promote long-term productivity, employee retention, and health care cost reduction. Being self-insured, Worthen wanted to control insurance costs while also creating a more “adhesive” culture of wellbeing and camaraderie among employees spread out over multiple states. Not only did Worthen want wellness to be the common thread that ties everything together, they also wanted wellness and safety to be seamless and integrated. By any measure, Worthen’s wellness efforts have been successful.

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