Liz Rowell

Liz Rowell joined Benz Communications as a senior writer and consultant after spending eight years at Hewitt Associates, where her work received an IABC award along with numerous other internal commendations. Contact her at liz@Benzcommunications.com .

Articles by Liz Rowell

Benefits, HR Basics

Benefits Communication: Why It Matters Now More Than Ever

Photo illustration by istockphoto.com

It’s a wait-and-see year for employers, in part driven by the seemingly endless legal challenges to the Affordable Care Act.

But health care is big this year, like it’s been every other year in recent memory.

Whether or not you believe ACA successfully or unsuccessfully reformed the structure of health insurance in America, you’ll agree costs are still an issue. Cheryl DeMars of The Alliance succinctly said, “The work of bending the cost curve is largely the business of physicians and hospitals, employers and consumers — not regulators.” Read more…

Benefits

What New Federal Regulations Mean For Your Benefits Communications

Health care reform11

I’m all geeked out again. Yes, over regulations.

The U.S. Department of Labor, in partnership with Health and Human Services, has provided new information about the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) regulations, building upon the previously issued final regulations and guidelines for the SBCs. Specifically, they’ve provided:

Benefits, HR Basics

On the Health Care Reform Horizon: New Info on How to Handle W-2s

Income Tax Form

With the slew of other new legal disclosures coming up this summer, adding the full cost of medical coverage on W-2s in January 2013 may have fallen off your radar.

We agree that between 401(k) fee disclosures and the Summary of Benefits and Coverage notices, the new mandated information on W-2s is definitely a blip. Yet, it really is the bright spot. Just a bit of your effort will go a long way.

According to a recent MetLife study, 76 percent of employees who are highly satisfied with their benefits are also satisfied with their jobs. It makes sense. In a salary-focused world, it feels good to see how much bigger your compensation really is when you see pay plus benefits. Read more…

Benefits

What You Need to Start Disclosing to Employees About 401(k) Fees

401k

Hello new 401(k) notices!

As if the new disclosures required under health care reform weren’t enough to juggle this summer, you need to wrap your head around sharing new data to your 401(k) participants. Yes, data about the fees they pay.

You may remember our article last summer suggesting you gear up for a January 1, 2012, implementation. Well, the principles still apply, and in February the final regulations were released. This is complicated stuff. Luckily, Business Legal Resources has done a lot of the legwork for you

Before you start strategizing how you’re going to take your summer vacation in the midst of all this change, let’s start with the basics: Read more…

Benefits, HR Basics

3 Ways You Can Take the Pain Out of FMLA Rules

FMLArequest

Are you crystal clear on FMLA rules?

According to Employers Resource Association, Family Medical and Leave Act rules are the top concern of HR and benefits professionals based on the 8,000 calls to its hotline in 2011. An HR professional, for instance, might struggle with answering, “Can a father with a newborn child take time away, under the law?” or “How can a daughter with an ailing mother go part-time under FMLA?”

Honestly, it’s a rare HR professional who knows the answers by heart. I typically half remember these kinds of legal answers but desperately want to fact check myself before sounding the fool. Where does that leave employees? Hands thrown up in surrender, long before they even open up their SPD (summary plan description)? Read more…

Benefits

Is Health Care Reform Comic Worthy?

healthcarereform

We love innovative ways to educate. Particularly around hairy concepts like health care reform. Check out these two we’ve recently discovered.

Benefits, HR News & Trends

Labor Dept. Delays Summary of Health Care Benefits and Requirements

Health Care Reform

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC) will not be required by March 23, 2012, as originally stated in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

A new deadline has not yet been announced. And the DOL has not shared the target time frame for the final regulations.

You may remember that the ACA mandated a standardized four-page summary of each plan offering. Last summer, we were calling it the summary of medical coverage or a uniform explanation of coverage. Read more…

Benefits

Yes, We Really Do Need One, Single Definition of a Out-of-Pocket Limit

Illustration by Dreamstime

Here’s the conversation that I really hate:

“So, you work with benefits?”

“Yes, health care and retirement benefits primarily.”

“So, you can explain to me what an out-of-pocket maximum is?”

(This totally happens, am I right?) Read more…

Benefits

6 Tips for Getting Employees to Better Utilize Preventive Health Care

Health care communications

“I’m here because my father got cancer,” I said to the doctor at my first annual check up in almost four years. She was running about 40 minutes behind.

“He didn’t get his regular check ups, so they caught his cancer at an advanced stage,” I continued with some conviction. She nodded and told me to come back the next day at 8 a.m. — after fasting — to get blood drawn.

What? Why not right now? Didn’t she know how hard it was to get time off work plus a babysitter so I could get to this appointment? Does it surprise you to know that — two years later — I’m still thinking about the lab work I need to do? Read more…

Benefits

Are You and Your Employees Ready for the New 401 (k) Disclosures?

401k

New 401 (k) disclosures are coming; are your employees ready?

According to a recent AARP study, it’s not likely.

Some 71 percent of Americans who have a 401(k) don’t think they pay any fees. Is that true at your organization? What will your employees feel — about the value of their 401(k) plan, about your efforts to advocate for them, about transparency — if they find out in fact, there are embedded fees?

Come January 1, 2012, when your employees start to receive information about these fees — will you be shaping the employee response or reacting to it? Read more…