Archive for the ‘UBA Blog’ Category

2015 UBA Health Plan Survey Executive Summary Now Available! | Panama City Benefits Broker

November 6th, 2015 by Clemons

By Bill Olson, Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors

The data are in for the 2015 Health Plan Survey! See our news release with the top cost trends. Download the UBA 2015 Health Plan Survey Executive Summary with more detailed findings. For quick reference, here’s a brief punch list of the top trends:2015 Health Plan Survey

Rates are up modestly, but increases are on the horizon.

  • Factors driving rates higher: Small groups forced into community-rated, high-cost plans that are compliant with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and lack of negotiating power among small groups.
  • Factors temporarily holding costs steady: Large group negotiating power, grandmothered employers avoided ACA-compliant plans, UBA Partners leveraged their bargaining power.
  • Rate outlook: Overall, rates are expected to rise and employers will continue to reduce benefits and pass costs to employees.

Overall costs vary significantly by industry and geography.

  • Retail, construction and hospitality employees cost the least to cover; finance and government employees (the historical cost leader) and finance employees (the new leader) cost the most.
  • Plans in the Northeast cost the most; plans in the Central U.S. cost the least.
  • Retail and construction employees pay the most toward their coverage; government employees pay the least (bad news for taxpayers).

The upcoming Cadillac tax isn’t restricted to “rich” plans alone. In fact, a surprising number of employers are expected to exceed the Cadillac tax threshold.

Employees feel the squeeze financially, but have more shopping options.

  • Employee contributions are up modestly; copays held steady.
  • Deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums are rising rapidly.
  • Health savings account (HSA) plan contributions decreased.
  • Employers are offering more plan options at different price points.

PPOs, CDHPs and 4-tier prescription plans have the biggest impact.

  • Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans cost more than average but still dominate the market.
  • Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) cost less than average and enrollment is increasing.
  • Prescription plans are rapidly moving to four tiers with blended copay/coinsurance models, making it the fastest growing pharmaceutical cost-containment strategy.

Overall, wellness program adoption is up, but program design is changing.

  • Health risk assessments are down while biometric screenings and physical exams are on the rise.

Statistics to watch in 2016:

  • Increase in self-funding for all group sizes.
  • Decrease in dependent coverage.
  • Rate stabilization in groups with 51 to 100 employees as an ACA amendment helps them avoid community rating.
  • Mail order pharmaceutical programs more for convenience than cost savings.

Metal levels are now tracked in the UBA Health Plan Survey.

  • Most plans are gold metal level or higher.


To benchmark your plan against others in your region, industry or size bracket, contact a UBA Partner near you to run a custom benchmarking report..


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Question of the Month: How is PPACA’s “IRS Form W-2 safe harbor” regarding affordability calculated? | Panama City Employee Benefits Broker

May 26th, 2015 by Clemons

By Danielle Capilla, Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors

Answer: Under PPACA, coverage is considered affordable if it costs less than 9.5 percent of an employee’s household income. Because employers are often unaware of an employee’s household income, there are three safe harbors that an employer can use to determine affordability. One is the “IRS Form W-2 safe harbor,” and under it coverage is applicationaffordable if the employee’s contribution for self-only coverage is less than 9.5 percent of his W-2 (Box 1) income for the current year. Box 1 reports taxable income and might be artificially low for an individual with high 401(k), 403(b) or Section 125 deferrals, or who takes unpaid leave. There are no adjustments to account for this.

Employers using the W-2 safe harbor may not change an employee’s contribution level (dollar amount or percentage) during the calendar year, or the plan year for non-calendar year plans.

If the employee is only offered coverage for part of a year, an adjustment to W-2 income is made by multiplying the IRS Form W-2 wages by a fraction equal to the number of calendar months for which coverage was offered over the number of calendar months in the employee’s period of employment during the calendar year. (If coverage is offered for at least one day during the calendar month, or the employee is employed for at least one day during the calendar month, the entire calendar month is counted in determining the applicable fraction.)

The W-2 safe harbor is considered the most flexible, but it is calculated at the end of the year, which does not give an employer the ability to make necessary adjustments. It has shortcomings for employees with significant pre-tax deductions or who take unpaid leave.

Employers may use different safe harbors for different employee groups, so long as the employee groups are based on reasonable classifications such as hourly or salaried employees, geographic location, and job category.

Topics: health care, PPACA Affordable Care Act, Affordability, W-2 safe harbor, affordable health care

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Industry Differences Among Health Savings Accounts | Panama City Benefits Broker

April 23rd, 2015 by Clemons

By Bill Olson, Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors

While recent survey data shows that, on average, employers are decreasing the amount they’re willing to contribute to employee Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), there are some industries that have not seen such trends.

On average, employees saw a 10 percent decrease in their average single HSA employer contribution from the previous year, from $574 in 2013 to $515 in 2014. Employees in the public and government sectors, however, continued to have the most generous HSA contributions, at $791 for singles and $1,431 for families. Conversely, workers in the following industries see the lowest average single employer contributions toward HSAs: food services ($279), retail ($323), wholesale ($398), construction ($434), health care/social assistance ($472), and mining/oil and gas extraction ($831).

Some may see these trends as counterintuitive. However, upon further examination, it becomes clear how employers are using HSAs to supplement plans and drive employees where they ultimately want them, which is toward cost-saving consumer driven health plans (CDHPs). The link between CDHPs and HSAs helps explain industry differences in health plan costs, but demographic differences are also a part of the story.

“Construction companies typically hire young men who demographically don’t place a lot of value in benefits. Government, on the other hand, has traditionally substituted salary for benefits; one way to move those employees off an expensive plan is to fully fund their deductible,” says Brian M. Goff, President & CEO of Insurance Solutions, a UBA Partner Firm. “But carrier motivations can also be at play. Some carriers give a certain premium discount to go to the high deductible plan. So if you have a low premium, i.e., construction because of a young male demographic, the premium may only come down $800 a year to add a $1,500 deductible. On the other hand, take a nursing home that has expensive premiums, the savings may be $1,700 to add a $1,500 deductible, making it a no-brainer to switch to an HSA plan.”

The strategy of attracting employees to CDHP plans with generous HSA contributions has worked in the finance and insurance industry as well, where 32.3 percent of plans are CDHPs (the highest of any industry) and enrollment is 32.1 percent (also the highest enrollment of any industry). HSA contributions in the finance and insurance industry are at $634 for singles and $1,074 for families, 20.7 percent and 18.7 percent above average, respectively.

The opposite trend can be seen in the mining/oil and gas extraction industry, however, where only 16.7 percent of plans offered are CDHPs, and employer HSA contributions are also among the lowest. Correspondingly, CDHP enrollment in this industry is a mere 8.5 percent.


For the latest health plan cost trends, download the UBA Health Plan Survey Executive Summary. To benchmark your plan to others in your region, industry or size bracket, contact a UBA Partner near you to run a custom benchmarking report.

Topics: health savings accounts, HSA, consumer-driven health plan, 2014 Health Plan Survey, HSA funding

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I’m Sorry… Really

March 25th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

There are some people who have no problem saying that they’re sorry. There are some people who rarely, or flat-out refuse, to say they’re sorry. And then there are people who apologize at the drop of a hat and profusely without truly being sorry.

The RFP vs. the Two Step Process — Choosing Group Health Insurance

February 26th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

Many employers look at employee benefits as a commodity, bidding out their plans annually — and who can blame them? Rising health care costs coupled with a challenging economic environment have forced many human resources decision-makers to focus heavily on cost.

Why Buy Group Health Insurance through a Broker?

February 24th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

Employers have a lot of choices when it comes to buying group health insurance, including going directly to a carrier (or one of its agents), buying online, or going through a broker.

2015 Cost-of-Living Adjustments | Employee Benefits Panama City

February 23rd, 2015 by Clemons

By Linda Rowings

Many employee benefit limits are automatically adjusted each year for inflation (this is often referred to as an “indexed” limit). The Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration have released a number of indexed figures for 2015.

Limits of particular interest to employers include the following.Money

For health and Section 125 plans:

  • The health flexible spending account (HFSA) maximum employee contribution is increasing to $2,550.
  • The maximum out-of-pocket limit that applies to non-grandfathered group health plans that are not coupled with a health savings account (HSA) will be $6,600 per individual and $13,200 per family.
  • The maximum out-of-pocket for a high deductible health plan coupled with an HSA will increase to $6,450 per individual and $12,900 per family.
  • The minimum deductible for a high deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account (HSA) will increase to $1,300 per individual and $2,600 per family.
  • The maximum HSA contribution will increase to $3,350 for individual coverage and $6,650 for family coverage. The catch-up contribution (available to those aged 55 and older) remains at $1,000.

 For qualified plans:

  • The annual deferral for 401(k), 403(b), and most 457(b) plans will increase to $18,000.
  • The catch-up contribution limits (available to those aged 50 and older) will increase to $6,000.
  • The threshold for “highly compensated employees” will increase to $120,000.
  • The threshold for an officer to have “key employee” status remains at $170,000
  • The annual compensation limit will increase to $265,000

 Social Security/Medicare Withholding:

  • The taxable wage base will increase to $118,500
  • The OASDI tax rate remains at 6.2%
  • The Medicare tax rate remains at 1.45%

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3 Tips for Developing a Charitable Giving Strategy for Your Company

February 19th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

Just because the holidays are long over does not mean that the giving season has ended. Charitable giving can be incorporated into your company culture so that the joy is spread year-round and busted out of the “season.” Here are three things to consider when developing your corporate charitable giving strategy.

Harvard Professors Fall Out Of the Ivory Tower with Health Care Hikes

January 20th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

The New York Times recently stirred up a media firestorm when it reported about Harvard University professors who were lambasting the health care increases they were facing this year.

Are You Benchmarking Your Health Plan Correctly? – Employee Benefits Panama City

January 8th, 2015 by United Benefit Advisors

Many employers benchmark their health plans against other employers with the same carrier or using nationally available data. But the benchmarking best practice is to compare your plan with others based on plan type, region, employee size, and industry.