US Capitol 24Feb
15 top stories of 2017
Zenefits’ exit, new HSA regulations, financial wellbeing programs and Congress’ attempt to replace the ACA were the top stories of Employee Benefit Adviser this year.
1) Zenefits to exit BOR business, work with agencies to license its technology
The September news that the San Francisco firm would cease being a broker of record and transition into solely providing technology for outside firms was by far Employee Benefit Adviser’s most read story of the year. The firm planned to transfer its existing book of 7,000 accounts to OneDigital, an Atlanta-based brokerage, as Zenefits underwent a transformation “to embracing the broker community and partnering with them in a pretty significant way,” Zenefits Chairman and CEO Jay Fulcher said at the time.

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2) IRS announces bump in 2018 HSA limits
The May news from the Internal Revenue Service that the annual limit on deductible contributions to a health savings account would jump by $50 in 2018 for individuals and $150 for families was the second most-read story. For 2018, the annual contribution limitation for a person with self-only coverage under a high-deductible health plan is $3,450, up from $3,400 in calendar year 2017.

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3) 9 benefit trends to watch in 2018
Student loan assistance, Cadillac-style health coverage, the convergence of healthcare and retirement, handholding guidance, workplace and financial wellness, flexible work schedules, paid leaves of absences and flat fees for brokers are all trends to watch next year, industry experts say.

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4) DOL to increase DB audits
During a webinar conducted by Mercer, Norma Sharara, a principal in the consultancy’s employment practices risk management group said that the Department of Labor plans to audit DB pension plans to ensure plan sponsors are getting benefits paid out to terminated vested participants. It’s something “completely new” that started as a pilot program out of the Philadelphia DOL office, Sharara noted in early October.

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5) What the new GOP healthcare bill means for employers
Although it eventually failed to pass, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act in May, which was sent to the U.S. Senate for debate and amendments and then a vote. A wrap-up on the important parts of the doomed bill for employers, including the plan to end the employer mandate, was the fifth most read story of 2017.

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6) Vacation time can boost employee performance
Employers who want to boost employee performance may want to encourage workers to take a break from working, according to a report from HR technology company Namely. The report analyzed data from more than 125,000 employees and found that high performers take about 19 days of paid time off a year, five more than an average performer under a regular PTO plan.

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7) Financial stability program adds bite to Delta Dental’s benefits
When Helen Drexler took over as CEO of Delta Dental Colorado there was one benefit she felt was missing: financial wellness. So Drexler worked to implement Best Money Moves, a Chicago-based mobile-first financial wellness program that helps employees make better money decisions based on their biggest financial stressors. Delta Dental rolled out the program in May, and has already seen a big impact.

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8) How Fujifilm uses gamification to communicate benefits
Carolyn GordonA 2017 recipient of an EBN Benefits Technology Innovator Award, Carolyn Gordon has leveraged gaming strategies to help her 5,000 employees learn what’s in their benefits package. Fujifilm’s director of benefits says she’s seen the company transform over the last two decades, which brought in a younger workforce and new challenges. In a Q&A, Gordon shared how her company has utilized different technologies to keep her employees up-to-date on the latest benefit offerings.

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9) Why Alera Group brought 24 independent agencies together
In early January, two dozen independent employee benefit, P&C, risk management and wealth management firms across 15 states — with $158 million in annual revenues and 20,000-plus clients — joined together to form Alera Group. In a Q&A, EBA spoke with Rob Leiblein, Alera’s chief development officer, on how the firm came together and where it plans to grow next.

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10) Why OneDigital is partnering with Zenefits
The top story of the year was Zenefits partnering with OneDigital and the tenth most popular was why that happened. In a Q&A, EBA spoke with OneDigital’s Chief Growth Officer Mike Sullivan to understand more about the deal and what it means for both his company and Zenefits.

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11) Zenefits to offer level-funded health plans
Before leaving the broker of record business, Zenefits announce in May that it was launching a level payment self-funded health plan in cooperation with Aetna for groups of two-to-50 lives in 28 states.

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12) Employer-provided benefit costs vary widely by industry
Willis Towers Watson found that healthcare costs are the largest expense across all industries, ranging from 10.4% of pay in the retail sector to 12.7% in the oil, gas and electric sector. But the consultancy found that the price of offering healthcare and retirement benefits varies widely by industry, with retirement benefits experiencing the greatest variation.

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13) 24 brokerages merge to form nation’s 7th largest private employee benefit firm
In early January, 24 independent employee benefit, P&C, risk management and wealth management firms across 15 states — with $158 million in annual revenues and 20,000-plus clients —joined together to form Alera Group. At its launch, Alera was become the nation’s 14th largest private insurance firm and 7th largest private employee benefit firm, with more than 750 employees in 40 offices.

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14) How Aetna eased its employees’ financial worries
Aetna started its Financial Wellness Works program in 2007, back before financial fitness programs became ubiquitous and participation in the company’s fiscal programs has grown year over year.

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15) GOP senators said to be open to taxing employer health plans
In June, Republican senators were reportedly discussing a possible tax on employer-sponsored health insurance plans in order to stabilize the public health insurance market, a move that would have affected the more than 177 million employees who get their health insurance through work.

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