Category Archives: Benefits

Employee Benefits—Proposed Regulations Provide Employers with More Flexibility in Offering HRAs to Employees

Source: Mark E. Bokert and Alan Hahn, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
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From the abstract:
The Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services jointly issued proposed regulations (the “Proposed Regulations”) providing employers with greater flexibility in offering health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) to employees. Importantly, if the Proposed Regulations are finalized in substantially its current form, employers would be able to offer employees an HRA that “integrates with” individual health insurance coverage. As a result, these Proposed Regulations, in essence, would enable employers to offer HRAs in lieu of a traditional group health plan to their employees. Additionally, the Proposed Regulations set forth conditions under which an HRA can be recognized as a limited excepted benefit HRA, which provides employers with another vehicle to provide employee benefits to their employees.

The Proposed Regulations are set to take effect for plan years beginning on and after January 1, 2020, although this is dependent on the regulations being finalized. The deadline for submitting comments on the Proposed Regulations was December 28, 2018.

Employee Benefits—It’s Time to Start Talking About Annuities in 401(k) Plans

Source: Mark E. Bokert and Alan Hahn, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2, Autumn 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When an employee retires, he or she typically has three sources of income to draw upon: personal savings, Social Security, and a retirement plan (typically a 401(k) plan). These income sources are subject to certain risks. There is “longevity risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree will outlive his or her savings. There is also “inflation risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree’s purchasing power will erode over time. There is also an “incapacity risk,” i.e., the risk that the retiree will have a diminishing capacity to oversee his or her investments as he or she ages.

Annuities can help solve several of these issues because they provide benefits over a retiree’s lifetime. As a result, some employers are adding annuities to their 401(k) plan. Congress is also encouraging 401(k) plan sponsors to offer in-plan annuities. Proposed bipartisan legislation alleviates many concerns that 401(k) plan sponsors have about offering annuities within their plans. This legislation is expected to be enacted into law later this year. As in-plan annuities solve important retirement issues and are far less expensive to participants than those available in the retail market, plan sponsors may wish to consider making in-plan annuities available to their 401(k) plan participants.

Decline in the rate of occupational injuries and illnesses following the implementation of a paid sick leave law in Connecticut

Source: Devan Hawkins, Junli Zhu, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, July 22, 2019
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From the abstract:

Background:
Workers with paid sick leave may have a lower rate of occupational injuries compared with other workers. This study sought to determine whether there was a decline in the rate of occupational injuries and illnesses following the implementation of a paid sick leave law in Connecticut (CT).

Methods:
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics was used to calculate the rate of occupational injuries and illnesses in CT in the 3 years before (2009‐11) and after (2012‐14) the law was implemented. These numbers were compared with New York (NY) and the United States, and between the occupations specified by the CT law and other occupations.

Results:
Among service occupations addressed by the CT paid‐sick‐leave law, the rate of occupational injuries declined more in CT compared to rates for those same occupations in NY and the United States. Within CT, injury and illness rates showed a greater decline in occupations specified by the law (−17.8%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = −15.6‐−19.9) compared with other occupations (−6.8%; 95% CI = −6.6%‐−7.0%) between the two periods.

Conclusions:
A paid sick leave law was associated with an increased decline in occupational injuries and illnesses in affected service workers in the period after implementation. Further research should examine the possible reasons for the associations seen here.

US Public Pension Landscape Series – July 24, 2019

Source: Thomas Aaron, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Sector In-Depth, June 24, 2019
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Many US states and local governments, though certainly not all, face heightened credit challenges stemming from exposure to pension obligations, resulting in a highly varied and complex landscape. The severity of public pension challenges can differ substantially between, and even within, states.

Unfunded liabilities in many cases have reached historic highs, rising costs increasingly pressure some budgets, and aging demographics leave government finances increasingly susceptible to pension asset volatility. Yet in some cases, low or declining levels of pension risk bolster the credit profile of a given state or local government.

Governments grappling with pension challenges must often navigate legal protections for employee benefits that can limit reform options. However, litigation on a variety of pension reforms continues to work its way through courts across the country, offering the potential for precedent-setting decisions.

This series provides a state-by-state, in-depth review of the key issues related to pensions facing state and local governments. ….

State listing:
California
Colorado
Connecticut
Florida
Illinois
Louisiana
Minnesota
New York
Ohio
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Tennessee
Texas
Wisconsin

The Evolution of Private Sector Retirement Income From Defined-Benefit Pensions to Target-Date 401(k) Plans

Source: John G. Kilgour, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, Published July 19, 2019

From the https://doi.org/10.1177/0886368719864480:
Traditional employer-sponsored defined-benefit pension plans in the private sector that provided lifetime benefits have declined precipitously since 1985. They have been largely replaced by Section 401(k) plans in which investment control, market risk and longevity risk have been transferred from the employer to the participant. Most participants opted for the low-yielding money market plan default option, which proved inadequate for providing viable retirement income. The Pension Reform Act of 2006 made two important changes to 401(k) plans: (1) allowed automatic enrollment and (2) allowed target-date funds as a “qualified default investment alternative.” This article examines the evolution from defined-benefit pensions to target-date funds and the closely related collective investment trusts.

Growth Of Public Coverage Among Working Families In The Private Sector

Source: Douglas Strane, Genevieve P. Kanter, Meredith Matone, Ahaviah Glaser, and David M. Rubin, Health Affairs, Vol. 38 No. 7, July 2019
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From the abstract:
Working families have increasingly enrolled their children in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in recent years. Parents’ place of employment affects the availability and cost of family health insurance, making it a determinant of pediatric public insurance enrollment. We examined that enrollment in the period 2008–16 in families working full time and earning more than 100 percent of the federal poverty level at three types of employers. Among low-income families (100–199 percent of poverty), children’s public health insurance coverage was highest for those with parents employed at small private firms, increasing from 53 percent to 79 percent, while the public insurance coverage rate also increased among children with parents working for large private firms (from 45 percent to 69 percent). Among moderate-income families (200–299 percent of poverty) working at small private firms, public coverage increased from 21 percent to 64 percent. Increases in the number of working families with pediatric public insurance were driven by employees of large private firms. Maintaining high pediatric insurance coverage rates will require policies that recognize the changing role of public insurance for working families as the cost of employer-based coverage grows.

Adjustments to US State and Local Government Reported Pension Data: Proposed Methodology Update

Source: Thomas Aaron, Marcia Van Wagner, Timothy Blake, Moody’s, Request for Comment, July 10, 2019
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In this Request for Comment, we propose a number of changes to the Adjustments to US State and Local Government Reported Pension Data cross-sector rating methodology published in December 2017. Under our proposed changes, we would add descriptions of how we calculate the pension asset shock indicator and how we adjust other post-employment benefits (OPEB). The OPEB adjustment relies on information now required to be reported by issuers under Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements 74 and 75. We also propose to make some editorial changes to enhance readability.

Alternative Realities: The Impact of Extreme Changes in Defined Contribution Plans on Retirement Income Adequacy in America

Source: Jack VanDerhei, EBRI Issue Brief, June 13, 2019
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From the summary:
In recent years there have been a number of policy proposals that call into question the value of existing defined contribution plans. However, the suggested alternatives do not provide a detailed analysis of the impact of terminating defined contribution plans on retirement income adequacy for American households. Previous research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has provided some tangential evidence with respect to the potential impact. In 2014 EBRI provided simulation analysis of the serious error introduced by models that ignored future contribution activity from defined contribution plans. In 2017 EBRI produced simulation results showing that, if there were no employer-sponsored retirement plans (defined benefit as well as defined contribution) and individuals were assumed to behave in the manner observed for those with no access to such plans, the aggregate retirement deficits would jump from $4.13 trillion to $7.05 trillion (an increase of 71 percent).

Designing Universal Family Care: State-Based Social Insurance Programs for Early Child Care and Education, Paid Family and Medical Leave, and Long-Term Services and Supports

Source: Benjamin W. Veghte, Alexandra L. Bradley, Marc Cohen, Heidi Hartmann, eds., National Academy of Social Insurance, June 2019

From the abstract:
This report explores strategies that states could pursue to better support families in meeting evolving care needs over the lifespan. The first three chapters of the report explore the challenges families face in the realms of early child care and education (ECCE), paid family and medical leave (PFML), and long-term services and supports (LTSS). For each care domain, the panel identifies policy options along with the tradeoffs associated with specific policy choices; this is done within the context of assuring universal access, affordability, and financial stability through well-defined financing mechanisms. The concluding chapter explores how an integrated approach to care policy might be designed—one offering families a single point of access to ECCE, PFML, and LTSS benefits—under an umbrella program called Universal Family Care. Each chapter outlines challenges that states would need to navigate regarding how a new social insurance program would relate to existing federal and state care programs. Each chapter also addresses implementation considerations.

This analysis was developed over a year of deliberations by a Study Panel of 29 experts in care policy from a variety of perspectives. The report does not include recommendations but instead identifies the building blocks and tradeoffs associated with a range of options in the design of a state-based social insurance program. While there are other approaches for improving care supports, this report focuses specifically on social insurance solutions. As well, while there is nothing that precludes such approaches from being adopted at the national level, the focus of this analysis is on the potential for state action. Although addressed primarily to state policymakers, this analysis should be of interest to providers, advocacy organizations, insurers, administrators, and federal policymakers, as well as to any person interested in these issues.

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