Providing health care benefits for employees is a complicated affair for most employers, but factoring in those preparing to retire or already retired can make a daunting situation more difficult to navigate.
That brought large employers from public and private sectors to in Bedminster on Wednesday to hear from retirement and health insurance experts on options and opportunities available for employers seeking to provide long-term benefits for their employees.
One of the most talked about topics at the North East Business Group on Health’s summit was how to create plans for retirees that were cost effective, respectful to the employee and within the new health care reform laws, according to the group’s president and CEO, Laurel Pickering.
“There are new opportunities and changes in Medicare and retiree plans that we’ve had in the past, and over 50 percent of large employers are now relooking at their long-term retiree health benefits strategy to take advantage of some of the new opportunities in health reform,” Pickering said. “It’s a time when a lot of decisions need to be made.”
Pickering said a growing population of retirees younger than 65 is putting enormous pressure on companies’ ability to provide benefits. Options like shifting costs, providing a defined contribution for retirees and offering wellness programs all were brought up as ways to curb the growing costs.
“It’s part of a shift that we’re seeing in the way employers offer benefits in general,” Pickering said. The moved to 401(k)s “is about empowering employees to have a greater responsibility and greater decision making in their retiree financial planning. And now we’re seeing it in health care.”
John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey, said usually, he sees retirement benefits offered only by large corporations through early-retirement packages, because of the cost associated with them.
Sarno said the EANJ holds discussions often about what health care looks like now, and what it will look like in future. But “the focus right now is on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and the impact on the insurance market on New Jersey employers,” Sarno said. “That’s the primary focus, and the discussion has really crystallized, because we’re talking about a lot of the reforms that are already applicable.”