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CUNA Mutual: Employee Benefits' Future 'Clear As Mud'
ANAHEIM, Calif. (4/24/13)--Their presentation was titled, "Employee Benefits Evolution: The Future is Clear," but two presenters speaking Monday at the CUNA Human Resources and Training and Development Council Conference said "clear as mud" might be a better description in predicting the future of employee benefits in the U.S.

Mike Evert, employee benefits product manager with CUNA Mutual Group, and David Martin, managing principal, credit union services with Digital Benefit Advisors, agreed there is nothing clear about the future of employee benefits--and health care coverage in particular.

CUNA Mutual Group and DBA announced in February they were working together to provide compliance resources, expertise to help credit unions navigate the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, and deliver wellness services and enhanced employee education.

Per capita health care spending in 2010 was $8,402 per person, which translates into $2.6 trillion or 17.9% of the nation's total economic activity, or gross domestic product, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In 1960, that amount was just $147 per person, and 5.2% of GDP.

"The availability and cost of health care coverage will play a significant role in employees' decisions on where they choose to work," Martin said.

"How health care premiums get paid is evolving," he added. One trend is a shift toward a defined contribution approach in medical insurance. This transformation will be similar to a previous shift from defined benefits to defined contribution retirement plans. How healthcare coverage is purchased will transform dramatically in the coming years.

"Fewer of us will have access through our employers, causing us to seek coverage via a public or private exchange," Martin said. "Employers who continue to offer coverage will participate in or build an exchange themselves."

Consumer-driven health care plans (CDHPs) are also growing more popular, Martin added. A CDHP is a health insurance plan with lower premiums and features higher deductibles and co-insurance than traditional health plans. The plans incorporate tax-advantaged tools that benefit the consumer and leverage increased personal accountability when purchasing medical services.

"However, a CDHP can't solve the problem alone," Martin said. "Greater emphasis on medical cost transparency is imperative. We can't ask for personal accountability when health care providers aren't willing to share their fees. To sum it up, regardless of what efforts are taken, it will get ugly before it gets better."
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