Category Archives: Benefits

Pennsylvania’s hybrid plan seen as falling short

Source: James Comtois, Pensions & Investments, July 24, 2017

After many fits and false starts to pension reform, Pennsylvania’s governor has a signed a measure that establishes a hybrid defined benefit/defined contribution plan for new state employees. Although some industry observers believe the new law is a step in the right direction, several others said the switch to a hybrid DB/DC plan does little — if anything — to solve the state’s core underfunding problem…..

…. Both Ms. Childers and Ms. Oakley cited West Virginia and Alaska as two states that decided to switch to a DC plan from a DB plan for state employees — and it didn’t go well for either. In 1991, West Virginia closed its teacher retirement system to new employees to address its underfunding issue, according to a 2016 NIRS survey shared by Ms. Oakley. After 10 years, the replacement DC plan was costing the state twice as much, so it went back to a pension. ….

Secure Choice 2.0: States Blazing a Path to Retirement Security for All

Source: National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS), July 2017

From the press release:
State initiatives aimed at helping millions of Americans retire with improved financial security have the momentum to succeed and overcome setbacks, a white paper released today by the National Conference on Public Employee Retirement Systems (NCPERS) has found.

The 36-page white paper, “Secure Choice 2.0: States Blazing a Path to Retirement Security for All,” marks two milestones in the growing movement among states to expand workplace retirement savings programs for private-sector employees:
– Six years ago, in September 2011, NCPERS laid out the rationale for state-facilitated retirement programs for private-sector workers in a white paper, “The Secure Choice Pension: A Way Forward for Retirement Security in the Private Sector.”
– Five years ago, in September 2012, California became the first state to formally act on the Secure Choice model by passing the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, which established a board and authorized a comprehensive feasibility study. ….

…..The white paper covers three broad topics: A history of how the Secure Choice approach gained popularity, details on various initiatives underway in the states, and perspectives on what challenges and hurdles states face, especially following the withdrawal earlier this year of ERISA Safe Harbor rules that were designed to make it easier for states to develop their own so-called Auto-IRA programs. In addition, it includes appendixes on state and local developments, model legislation, helpful organizations and websites, and models projecting various savings scenarios….

State and Local Pension Plans Funding Sputters in FY 2016

Source: Jean-Pierre Aubry, Caroline V. Crawford, and Alicia H. Munnell, Center for State and Local Government Excellence, July 2017

From the summary:
SLGE’s annual update on the funded status of state and local pension plans outlines the challenging path that plans have been on, especially since 2009.

Key findings:
• Overall, public pensions are in a better position than they were immediately following the recent economic downturn;
• The ratio of assets to liabilities for the 170 plans in the Public Plans Database decreased from 73 percent in 2015 to 72 percent in 2016, as measured by the traditional GASB standard; and from 73 percent to 68 percent, as measured by the new standard;
• These plans, which account for the vast majority of the members and assets of state and local pension plans, have been paying more of their required contributions (92 percent) relative to recent years;
• Payments as a percentage of payroll have increased to 18.6 percent;
• Plans in the PPD have continued to adjust their annual investment return assumptions downward to an average of 7.6 percent in FY 2016;
• In order to return the aggregate funded ratio above 80 percent, plan sponsors will need to increase their contribution efforts and investment returns must consistently meet or exceed expectations over a sustained, longer term.

U.S. slips to 17th in retirement security index

Source: Meaghan Kilroy, Pensions & Investments, July 19, 2017

The U.S. ranks 17th globally in retirement security, down three spots from last year, the Natixis Global Asset Management 2017 Global Retirement Index shows. The index, launched in 2013, assesses how well retired citizens live in various nations across four broad categories — health, finances, material well-being and quality of life. The 2017 index was released Wednesday. Forty-three countries with developed retirement systems were assessed in 2017, the same number as last year. Natixis, in a report accompanying this year’s release, attributed part of the decline in the U.S. ranking to “lagging life expectancy and a growing gap in economic opportunity.”….

Related:
2017 Global Retirement Index
Source: Natixis Global Asset Management, July 2017

Investment Risk-Taking by Public Pension Plans: Potential Consequences for Pension Funds, State and Local Governments, and Stakeholders in Government

Source: Donald J. Boyd and Yimeng Yin, Rockefeller Institute of Government, Pension Simulation Project, July 7, 2017

Public pension plans in the United States have $3.8 trillion of invested assets, more than two-thirds of which are in equities and similar assets. Unlike private pension funds, public pension funds have increased their equity allocations dramatically over the last two decades, making their investment returns and unexpected investment gains and losses far more volatile than before. This means that plan funded status and contributions requested of governments also are more volatile than before, increasing the risks to taxpayers, stakeholders in government services and investments, and workers and retirees.

One important way to examine the impact of investment-return volatility upon plan funded status and contributions is with a stochastic simulation model that draws investment returns from a probability distribution. We have constructed a pension simulation does that, and we use it to examine the interplay between investment return volatility and funding policy, and to examine the potential consequences of different investment return environments….
Related:
PowerPoint presentation

Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Designated Congressional Staff: In Brief

Source: Ada S. Cornell, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43194, January 13, 2017

Many private- and public-sector firms offer employer-sponsored health insurance to their employees and contribute toward the cost of that insurance as part of the employee’s compensation package. The federal government, as an employer, also offers health benefits to its employees and retirees. In general, federal employees receive health benefits through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). However, Members of Congress and designated congressional staff receive employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) through the District of Columbia’s small business health options program (SHOP) exchange, also known as DC Health Link (hereinafter the “DC SHOP”). ….. In addition to health insurance coverage under the DC SHOP, this report describes other health benefits available to Members and congressional staff, including the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS); the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP); the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP); the Office of the Attending Physician; and treatment in military facilities. …..

Making Informed Changes to Public Sector Pension Plans

Source: National League of Cities, March 2017

From the abstract:
Pensions play a critical role in the ability of local governments to attract and retain the workforce needed to meet citizen demands. The costs associated with this employee benefit, however, can be substantial. A recent National League of Cities (NLC) survey revealed that over the past year the cost of pensions increased in more than 70 percent of cities. One in three cities identified these expenses as the factor most negatively affecting their budgets.

The 5 faulty beliefs that have led to Republican dysfunction on health care

Source: JB Silvers, The Conversation, July 12, 2017

…. The latest development has been the inability of Republicans to even agree on their own proposal and, worse yet, what should come next if it fails. Should they repeal the Affordable Care Act and worry about a replacement later or just try to “fix” the ACA now?

But the problem is much deeper than just a policy fix. As a former health insurance CEO and professor of health finance, it seems clear to me that Republicans are making five key implicit assumptions that are inherently problematic:
1. If it’s your own money, you’ll be more careful in how you’ll spend it. ….
2. Many or most poor people (Medicaid recipients) can work and should contribute to pay for insurance. ….
3. Government restrictions are holding back insurers from competition that would drive costs lower. ….
4. Physicians should be the only ones making care decisions (with the consent of their patients) since they know best. ….
5. Government should help people – but not too much. ….

Unlocking the Housing-Related Benefits of Telework: A Case for Government Intervention

Source: W.C. Bunting – research economist in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Date Written: June 29, 2017

From the abstract:
The central claim of the present article is that some form of government intervention is necessary to make telework arrangements sufficiently binding in the long-run for employees living in, or near, city centers to feel comfortable incurring the costs of relocating to more remote, lower-priced areas, and to ensure the long-run financial self-sufficiency of private telework centers, which provide important benefits, not just to employers and employees, but to society generally. The public benefit considered here is the capacity for telework, and telework centers specifically, to provide lower-priced housing alternatives for middle- and high-income earners who choose to live in, or near, the city center to reduce the time spent commuting, but who would otherwise choose to live in more remote, lower-priced areas if commuting costs were lower. As explained, a minimal amount of government intervention is necessary, however, to overcome several key economic challenges that preclude employees from relocating to remote, lower-priced exurban or rural communities, as well as the formation of a new and exciting private-sector enterprise—the privately-operated telework center.

2017 Employee Benefits: Remaining Competitive in a Challenging Talent Marketplace

Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), June 2017

From the summary:
In January and February 2017, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) conducted its annual survey of U.S. employers to gather information on more than 300 employee benefits. The survey asked human resource professionals if their organizations formally offered any of the listed benefits to their employees. This report examines the prevalence of benefits over the past five years to track trends and understand the benefits landscape in the current talent marketplace.

Key Findings:
– Nearly one-third of organizations increased their overall benefits offerings in the last 12 months, and they were most likely to increase health (22%) and wellness (24%) benefits.
– Over the past four years, spousal and domestic partner benefits have increased, but may now be leveling off. These new data show that:
– 95% provide health care coverage for opposite-sex spouses
– 85% provide coverage for same-sex spouses
– Just over one-half provide coverage for domestic partners, regardless of whether they are the same or opposite-sex
– Financial advice benefits are trending upward, going from 28% in 2014 to 49% in 2017.