Employers need updated rules allowing more flexible benefit programs that give employees greater choice and ability to tailor those programs to better meet their individual needs, Mercer CEO and President Martine Ferland told key lawmakers during a series of Feb. 5 visits on Capitol Hill.
Ferland outlined some of the barriers to greater flexibility laid out in a new report from Mercer, “A New Benefits Landscape to Engage a Workforce for the Future.” The report identifies some of the biggest challenges employers face when creating innovative benefit programs to provide “ultimate choice” to employees, where they can tailor a range of health, retirement, financial and wellbeing benefits to meet their own needs and preferences.
Ferland thanked members of Congress for passing legislation in December to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s so-called Cadillac tax on “high-cost” plans and to make an array of retirement reforms bolstering Americans’ retirement security in the SECURE Act. Mercer has worked extensively, independently and with trade and coalition groups, to achieve these legislative wins.
She also met with Department of Labor officials writing regulations to implement the SECURE Act to share Mercer’s insights and suggestions on how to maximize expansion of retirement plan coverage and overall savings.
The importance of diversity and inclusion in the workforce and Mercer’s research and consulting work in this area were a major topic of conversation with lawmakers, and Mercer is set to present related testimony at an upcoming House hearing.
Last but certainly not least, the issue of how to end surprise medical bills was discussed, and Ferland urged lawmakers to support legislation that avoids using arbitration to settle payment disputes with out-of-network providers. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that provider-friendly legislation encouraging arbitration would cost at least $10 billion over the next 10 years. Most of that additional cost would be borne by employers. By contrast, legislation favored by employers that would use a median in-network rate for the service under dispute would save more than $20 billion over the same time period.
Two things employers can do as the policy fight over surprise billing intensifies: let your Congressman know your opinion on this issue and also talk to your health plan vendor about what they are doing to get these providers in network to manage the cost.
Getting the Cadillac tax repealed and the SECURE Act enacted was a lot of work. It is also proof that when employers come together to support a common cause, we can make progress. Your voice is an important one -- make it count!