Wall Street Journal Features Special Report on Employee Health, Other Benefits
The Wall Street Journal on Monday featured a special report on employee benefits and their impact on business finances and management. The series of articles included pieces about reforms to employer-sponsored health insurance and other methods some businesses are adapting to improve employee health. The articles related to health care are summarized below.
- "A Good Idea, But ...: Some Businesses Complain That the Family and Medical Leave Act Should Be More Aptly Named the Slackers Protection Act": The Journal examined the impact of the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, which has left "many employers frustrated" over administrative costs related to the law and the "vague" definition of "serious health condition," which employers say is "hard to verify" (Schaefer Munoz, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).
- "Anybody Want to Take a Nap? Fun Perks Didn't End With the Dot-com Bust: They Just Changed": While many companies have cut so-called "creative benefits" in recent years, several firms say that such perks -- including music, massage recliners, nap rooms, subsidized exercise programs and sporting events -- can "promote employee health" and make workers "relaxed and healthy," the Journal reports (Saranow, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).
- "Keeping Coverage: How Some Small Businesses Offer Health Insurance to Their Employees -- Without Breaking the Bank": The Journal examined how some small businesses are maintaining health coverage for employees despite the "steep upward spiral of health costs" by using tactics such as higher deductible plans, health reimbursement arrangements, health savings accounts and employee incentives to opt out of coverage (Rubenstein, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).
- "Oops! As Health Plans Become More Complicated, They're Also Subject to a Lot More Costly Mistakes": According to the Journal, increasingly sophisticated employer-sponsored health plans designed to cut costs have "in reality" led to "a rash of errors at insurers and claims administrators" and "overpayments" (Fuhrmans, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).
- "Popular ... but Cheap: Companies Are Filling Their Benefits Packages With Perks That Look a Lot More Expensive Than They Really Are": The "most sought-after benefit -- comprehensive health care coverage -- carries a huge price tag," so employers are offering "other perks that look good but don't cost a lot," including "highly cost-effective" flexible-spending accounts, "inexpensive prevention programs to keep workers more fit" and voluntary benefits such as vision care, the Journal reports (Maher, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).
- "Ten Ways Employers Benefit From Benefits Plans": The Journal examined how -- despite companies' "bellyaching" about "rising health care costs and burdensome retirees" -- employers "have been among the biggest beneficiaries of benefits plans" because retiree health coverage is less costly than "many people think," and also because of the new Medicare law and other cost-cutting methods (Schultz, Wall Street Journal, 1/24).