September 1, 2011

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HUMAN RESOURCES

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2011

JONES: A few years ago, you knew that you could handle a claim and they would not be getting it. And now when so many people are on it—and we should be holding those funds sacred—it seems like anyone is getting on it, and you work a lot harder to get people that should not be on unemployment off when it should be the other way around.

SUNDER: I’ve won one claim since I’ve been at Nelson, and it’s a lot of work. I had 62 pages of documents. We’re a federally regulated industry, so I have documents and SOPs and federal regulations and everything to back it up. We lost. I think one of the reasons was the judge didn’t understand why it was so important that we did what we did and why, from our federal standing, we had to do what we did. But it’s frustrating because you are doing it the right way, and you are documenting it the whole way through.

And where do you really want to invest your time? If you are losing all the time, I’d rather invest it in training and developing my people to the point that they are performing where they need to perform, because I don’t want to lose people.

PRICE: We operate in multiple states, and we’re grateful that the majority of our employees are located in Utah from a workers comp perspective. Utah does a very good job of managing workers comp, and if you get in with a good workers comp carrier, they will educate you as to the system and the process. Some states are much more employee friendly and don’t allow you to manage the claims as aggressively as we can in Utah.

PRICE: There are some entitlement mind sets that people get into. And bureaucratic administrators have a tendency to lean towards the employee rather than the employer in administering those programs. So by nature, by just the way that the system is set up, unemployment is going to go to the employee.

KING: It comes down to the accountability of the employee. Whether it’s a 401(k), or being terminated and the ability to receive unemployment, or even workers comp for that matter—if employees are doing the things they are supposed to, they don’t have to deal with these issues. It’s often about educating them that you really have control over your future, but you need to take control of it, and you need to have accountability for the decisions that you make.

We’ve had a new healthcare law now for just over a year. Most of the provisions of that law have not taken effect. The major date for most of them is 2014, but there are a few of them that will occur before that, and some of them won’t occur until as late as 2018. What are we seeing at this point?
COTTERELL: We are at 25 employees. We’re a small business, and we just had open enrollment; our premium increase was a little bit below the national average. But about 40 percent of that increase was tied directly back to the legislation—no longer having that maximum cap for lifetime out of pocket and then also the ability to do the preventative healthcare, which was then 100 percent covered by the employer.

I found it interesting that of that increase, a big portion was not because of what we as a firm had done as far as too many CAT scans or trips to the E.R., but rather it was this legislation. For the employees, it’s an added benefit for them to be able to get those, but it costs us money.

Did your company bear the cost, or did you pass some of it on to the employees?
COTTERELL: No, we bore the cost. That’s one of our real attraction and retention tools. For a small business, we’ve got an excellent healthcare plan. To the question about how does that affect the quality of the overall program, there are things that we’d like to change or enhance, but when that cost is going to legislation as opposed to added benefits, we’ve got to make that choice.

LEE: There is a provision in the new law that says if the claims are not a certain percentage of the premiums, insurance companies have to refund some of the premiums to the company. So the insurance companies have to cover themselves for that eventuality, and that is another thing that’s jacked up premiums this year.

I heard the same thing—there is a much larger increase this year and some percentage of that is due to these provisions in the new law, some of which are anticipated, some of which are reality now. And the insurance companies don’t know any more than anyone else what’s going to happen for sure, and they are trying to hedge their bets and protect themselves as well. So the cost is going up and my clients have to pass it on to employees. They just cannot bear it all.

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