Before the Turn of the Decade: Important Reminders Regarding Employee Benefits

November 5, 2019

With 2020 on the horizon, many employers are setting a sharp focus on their open enrollment as they prepare for the new plan year to start on January 1. Although educating employees on their new benefits options and how to enroll in them is currently a top priority, we don’t want you to miss out on the opportunity to remind them to make the most of the benefits they are currently enrolled in before they’re gone.

Check out these timely topics to potentially incorporate into your year-end benefits messaging.

  1. Encourage proper preventive care:  Many medical and dental plans cover certain services in full, such as annual exams and routine care. Be sure to prompt employees to review their plan summaries and use their preventive care benefits before renewal season. This is especially key if your coverage levels are changing or if you are no longer offering the same benefits.

  2. Don’t let FSA funds go to waste: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) are an effective way for employees to use pre-tax dollars towards eligible health care expenses and to reduce taxable income. Some employees may not be aware of the consequences of leaving unused funds in their account. Depending on the plan provisions, they may lose the unused balance, have a grace period limit, or have the opportunity to roll over a portion of their unused funds. Even if your plan allows employees to carry over to the following year, be proactive and ensure that employees make the most of every dollar.

  3. Make your HSA go all the way: Health Saving Accounts (HSAs) provide a triple-tax advantage and can be used as a long-term savings vehicle. Higher income employees searching for a means to decrease taxable income appreciate the opportunity to exclude up to $3,500 for individual coverage and $7,000 for family coverage from their 2019 taxes.[1] Unlike FSAs, HSA funds can roll over each year. If employees are financially equipped to make maximum contributions to their HSAs before the plan year ends, they would be positioning themselves to make a positive impact on their long-term retirement savings and income taxes.

  4. Get into vacation mode: For many organizations, paid vacation benefits are a highlight of their overall benefits package. As a valuable component to promote a healthy work-life balance, the idea is that employees would take advantage of their time off. However, oftentimes during busy seasons, paid vacation becomes an underutilized benefit. Did you know that in the United States a total of 768 million vacation days went unused in 2018, with 236 million being completely forfeited? This amounts to a total of $65.5 billion in lost benefits![2] Consider encouraging your employees to plan their time off, especially if your organization does not permit the unused time to roll over to the next year.

  5. Be mindful of mid-year life events: Many organizations conduct open enrollment late in the year with a January 1st  renewal date. This is an ideal time to educate employees that although open enrollment is their one time each year to update their benefits, mid-year life events may arise and also provide an opportunity for them to make changes. Be sure to incorporate this education into your open enrollment strategy so your team can plan for the year ahead.

Marsh & McLennan Agency’s ongoing benefits communication deliverables help you stay connected with your employees all year long. Our team can assist your organization with crafting quarterly or bi-annual messaging to ensure your workforce feels supported every season of the year. Contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency Employee Health & Benefits representative today for assistance or more information.

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[1] Miller, S. (2019, August 16). 2019 HSA Limits Rise, IRS Says. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/2019-hsa-contribution-limits-rise-irs-says.aspx.

[2] A record 768 million US vacation days went to waste last year, a study says. (2019, August 19). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/unused-vacation-days-trnd/index.html.