In Brief: DOMA; Health Care Costs; Rx Strategies
SAME OLD DOMA
Although a federal court has ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, the case won't have an immediate impact on employer plans, experts say. In a May 31 ruling, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA violates the U.S. Constitution but also recognized states' right to decide whether or not to allow same-sex marriages. For employers, that means the patchwork of state laws governing marriage remains the same, according to John Iekel of SmartHR Manager.
The overall cost of health care is projected to increase 7.5 percent next year, according to research by PricewaterhouseCoopers. In addition, more than half of the 1,400 employers surveyed said they are thinking about increasing their workers' share of the health care bill and expanding wellness programs next year, the report found.
Cities that crack down on medicinal marijuana dispensers are not violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, a federal court has ruled. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that cities in California have the right to take steps to close dispensing facilities, even if those facilities are legally operating under state law.
Employers have shifted their focus on specialty drugs from coverage to costs, according to new research by Express Scripts, Inc. In 2007, 57 percent of polled employers said their primary goal of a pharmacy benefit management program was "providing the broadest coverage." That figure dipped to only 14 percent in 2012, with 78 percent now saying "balancing cost with care" is most important.
Future controls on the nation's health care costs may be erased if the number of obese Americans balloons by more than one-third in the next 20 years, according to a study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study notes that in 1991, only 12.7 percent of Americans were considered obsess (a body-mass index of 30 or higher). By 2008, that number had grown to 28.6 percent.
DOOR TO DB
Most U.S. firms that currently offer defined benefit (DB) retirement plans expect to continue to do so in the future, a new Towers Watson survey finds. Only 36 percent of polled employers still offer DB plans in 2012 - down from more than 90 percent in 2000. Yet many of those companies that have stuck with DB plans aim to keep them, with 68 percent responding that they remain committed to offering DB options to new hires.
A new report reveals that the government is seeing fewer cases related to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). An analysis by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts found that in the 12-month period ended Sept. 30, 2011, 6,335 FLSA cases had been filed in federal district courts. That compares to 6,825 cases filed in the same period during the prior year.
More executives are saying they are fretting about benefit costs beyond health care. A new report by Prudential Financial and CFO Research finds that 33 percent of respondents said they are considering cuts to benefits other than health care, such as retirement plans. Those benefits were not listed as a major cost concern in the 2009 and 2010 reports. Health care remained the top worry, with 70 percent saying they were concerned about those costs. Seventy-one percent are considering replacing some employer-sponsored benefits with voluntary options within the next two years.
As the weather heats up, more companies are looking to hire summer interns and workers, according to a new poll. Of surveyed U.S. employers, 29 percent said they plan to hire summer workers, up from 21 percent last year. The top sectors include manufacturing (45 percent), hospitality (44 percent), retail (34 percent) and finance (31 percent).
Technology-reliant industries have seen a big jump in the use of teleworking over the past decade, according to a new study by The Conference Board. Advancements in home networking has led to a 275 percent increase in insurance underwriters (4.5 percent) and a 127 percent jump in computer programmers (6.1 percent) working from home compared with 2001-03.