2014 - A Historic Year in Employee Benefits
Now is the time of year for every writer to create their Best Of list or make predictions for the upcoming year. However, for me 2014 was too extraordinary a year in health insurance and retirement plan public policy to reduce to simple lists. This year we witnessed the implementation of historic health insurance legislation reminiscent of the passage of the Social Security Amendments that created the Social Security and Medicare programs. We also saw many states and the federal government focus their policy power on expanding access to workplace retirement plans.
But if I absolutely have to sum up the year in employee benefits and give fellow benefits pros something to think about for next year, I would say don't forget the origins of your field. And if you think there is too much regulation of employee benefit plans then you forget that that is where benefits got its start. You forget that health insurance plan and retirement saving plans are part of state and federal tax code and social policy. And that is why as a Certified Employee Benefits Specialist (CEBS) with a master's degree in public policy, I am excited about the current employee benefits environment and its future.
However, not everything employee benefits related is exciting or good to me. Health insurance plan prices are still too high, even on the exchanges. Health insurance concepts are too complex. The ascension of high deductible health plans is a crisis in waiting. Health care prices are still hidden. Workplace retirement plans are also too complex and risky. Retirement plan fees are too high and employer matches too low. Workplace wellness programs are a failure for nearly everyone except the workplace wellness industry. And public pension plans are under attack due to jealousy as much as economics.
Still surprisingly I see more positives than negatives in the future of employee benefits. I can't predict if Supreme Court may gut the Affordable Care Act by declaring federal subsidies in some states unlawful. Or what a Republican majority in the House and Senate and many state governments will do to limit access to health insurance and pension plans. However I am absolutely certain the employee benefits arena will continue to change and even improve.
And I am also sure that I will continue to write about this mingling of public policy and employee benefits. The year 2015 promises to be just as exciting as this year. Happy New Year!