Another 10 percent

A study by Aon Hewitt says the average HMO plan will cost 9.8 percent more next year than in 2010. The increase makes it three straight years that insurers have pushed through premium hikes of at least 9 percent — a trend that may have drastic consequences.
"Employers continue to be successful in reducing HMO rate increases by a few percentage points through aggressive negotiations with health plans, changes in plan designs and employee cost sharing," said Jeff Smith, a principal and leader of Aon Hewitt's HMO rate analysis project. "Still, these increases have been very difficult for employers to absorb, particularly this year when many companies are focused on economic recovery and complying with health care reform. If HMO rates continue to outpace average health care cost increases, employers may elect to take even more aggressive steps in the coming years, such as eliminating HMO plans altogether."
Dec 1, 2010 11:53 AM
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How some employers cope with insurance costs

Some employers that struggling with the ever-rising cost of providing insurance to their employees are turning to tiered systems that pass along the majority of increased premium costs to their company's highest earners. The New York Times had a piece on the trend yesterday, and it noted Vanderbilt University as an example of how such a system might work:
More and more companies in the last year or so have begun signaling their recognition of the added burden shouldered by workers in low- and middle-income jobs by varying the premiums they pay based on salary. Consultants say the trend is likely to continue, as employers devise various ways of spreading increased health care costs among their staff and balancing that side of the ledger against fewer raises and other compensation. Vanderbilt University, for instance, has adopted a wage-based benefit program for 2011 under which premiums will remain the same for employees who make $50,000 or less, while everyone else will pay up to $75 more a month. “We’re trying to help those lower-paid employees cope with hard economic times,” said Jerry G. Fife, the vice chancellor for administration.
Nov 10, 2010 7:01 AM

No signs of '11 deflation in health premiums

A big-business group says large employers expect to pay about 9 percent more for their workers' health insurance in 2011, with this year's massive reform bill will make up about 2 percent of that. Here's an even more sobering thought: These big companies are the ones with some negotiating leverage.
Aug 19, 2010 7:42 AM

Pension funding slides to 74 percent

Stock market declines and lower interest rates led to the lowest funded status of U.S corporate pensions in June since early 2009, according to figures from BNY Mellon Asset Management. The funded status in June fell 6 percent to 74 percent. Through the first half of the year, the typical U.S. corporate plan is down 9.5 percentage points for the year.
"Pension plans experienced pressure from both the asset and liability side in June, and there doesn't appear to be a quick fix on the horizon," said Austin. "Poor asset returns and dropping interest rates are prompting both corporate and public sector plans to consider more active approaches to managing their funding strategies. Interest in Liability-Driven Investing (LDI) strategies remains high, with many sponsors adding objectives such as deadlines to reach specific target funding levels."
Jul 13, 2010 1:49 PM

The return of raises

Two-thirds of executives polled recently by Workscape say they plan to ramp up employee compensation soon, especially for senior managers and executives. A good number of them also could boost their benefit packages.
Jun 21, 2010 12:41 PM

VU to give flooded employees extra paid leave

The largest private employer in Middle Tennessee will pay workers who sustained flood damage up to two weeks of extra leave. More than 400 people have so far come forward with reports of major losses.
May 10, 2010 7:51 AM

BCBSTN adds vision plan

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee said Friday it has created a stand alone vision plan, VisionBlue, for its group health customers. The Chattanooga-based insurance provider said its got 460 Tennessee network locations for the plan subscribers.
Apr 16, 2010 11:20 AM

Government workers are overpaid

"Somewhere in 2004, the world changed, and we didn’t realize it," says economist Mike Mandel, who has crunched a lot of numbers on the compensation of public- and private-sector employees over the past decade. A huge differentiator is retirement costs, which have risen 30 percent for government workers since 2004.
Mar 29, 2010 11:57 AM

Spheris workers taking vacay en masse

If they haven’t already quit, many employees of bankrupt medical transcription company Spheris have been taking their accrued vacation days, putting the company in a precarious position as it tries to hold onto customers before it is sold. According to a motion filed in bankruptcy court yesterday, available here, Spheris’ medical transcription workers have been using their accrued paid time off at a “significantly increased rate” — about 34 percent higher than the norm since the details of its plan to be purchased by stalking horse bidders MedQuist/CBay became public. Under the agreement, the motion states, Spheris’ buyers won’t assume its paid time off liability. So in an apparent rush to use it or lose it, many workers are taking their paid days now. Unfortunately, that’s bad news for Spheris. Given that some employees have already left the company following its bankruptcy, having fewer of its remaining workers available to work on clients’ transcription jobs could lead to longer turnaround times, unhappy customers and lost business. Lost business could hurt the company's chances of fetching a decent price among competing bidders. So Spheris is asking the court to approve a plan that would let it pay employees’ accrued, unused vacation days — up to 40 hours per worker — after its acquisition has closed. As of Feb. 20, the company pegs the value of the plan at $440,000 — about 35,000 hours worth of paid time off. But they think the aggregate payment will be “substantially less” because some employees have taken “numerous days off” since then.
Mar 12, 2010 11:01 AM
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BlueCross BlueShield green-shuttles employees

The Times Free Press is reporting on a new company plan which starts today at the health care company. The firm will shuttle employees on a hybrid-electric bus from its Cameron Hills headquarters to other company locations in Chattanooga.
Scott Wilson of BlueCross said the bus, which seats 19 people and costs about $200,000, runs between Cameron Hill, the Gateway Complex at the bottom of the hill and the Hub Building near Sixth and Broad streets. He said the shuttle is for BlueCross workers who have business at the company's new $299 million headquarters and its other downtown sites. The shuttle runs continuously during regular working hours, Mr. Wilson said.
Jul 13, 2009 9:45 AM