Quick Hits - August 24, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - August 24, 2022

Michigan’s unemployment rate is down to 4.2%: A drop of 2% since July 2021.

Healthcare costs are going up: Two industry groups, the American Benefits Council and the Business Group on Health, believe the prescription drug provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) will incentivize health insurance issuers to shift costs onto employers and employees. According to Mercer, health benefit cost growth will accelerate to 5.6% in 2023 and that is without the possible impact of the IRA.  ASE’s own survey has found that the median premium increases (after plan changes) were up slightly compared to data reported in last year’s study. According to this year’s sample, median premium increases were just 4% for 2021. Increases for the 2022 plan year were 5%. Median increases for 2023 are projected to be 6%.

To combat higher costs, high deductible plans limits getting higher: The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) published an Issue Brief entitled, “Recent Trends in Patient Out-of-Pocket Cost Sharing,” revealing that the share of out-of-pocket costs paid by patients increased from 17.4% in 2013 to 19% in 2019. This result appears to be driven by the growing number of workers enrolling in plans with higher deductibles. The study analyzed data from over 45 million patients covered by employer-sponsored health care plans. The increase in the share of expenses paid out of pocket observed between 2013 and 2019 appears to be driven by the growing number of workers enrolling in plans with higher deductibles. Between 2013 and 2019, out-of-pocket expenditures for outpatient services grew faster ($470 to $631) than out-of-pocket expenditures for inpatient services ($109 to $127). The out-of-pocket expenditures for prescription drugs declined during this period ($158 to $148). Patients’ health conditions affect how much they spend out of pocket. For instance, the median patient with high cholesterol had higher expenditures than patients in general ($882 vs. $205) and paid a higher share of their expenditures out of pocket (16.9% vs. 16.2%).  Source: EBRI 8/1/22

Gender dysphoria falls under the ADA:  A federal appeals court said Tuesday that the Americans with Disabilities Act covers individuals with “gender dysphoria,” handing a win to trans people in a case concerning a former inmate who alleged discrimination at a Virginia prison.  In a majority opinion issued by a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, the court wrote, “In light of the ‘basic promise of equality … that animates the ADA,’ we see no legitimate reason why Congress would intend to exclude from the ADA’s protections transgender people who suffer from gender dysphoria.” Gender dysphoria describes an uncomfortable conflict between a person’s assigned gender and the gender with which the person identifies, according to the American Psychiatric Association. The treatment of trans inmates has long been a focus of advocates for trans rights, with stories of abuse fueling calls for reforms and more targeted anti-discrimination laws. Activists hailed Tuesday’s ruling, saying it will be a helpful precedent for future litigation. The case at hand concerned Kesha Williams, a trans woman with gender dysphoria who was held for six months at a Virginia prison.  Source: CNN 8/16/22

It never pays to assume:  An applicant’s job offer for a safety sensitive steel mill position was rescinded when the employer learned of his hydrocodone prescription. Even though he had passed the pre-employment physical, this will proceed to trial on ADA claims. Although the employer claimed the applicant posed a direct threat to himself and others because hydrocodone can cause drowsiness, there was no evidence the nurse practitioner who made the recommendation to exclude him from safety-sensitive work knew anything about the opioid beyond what she had read on a packet insert. And while the employer also argued that the recommended restrictions prevented him from performing essential job functions, the evidence indicated those restrictions, which were based on the drug's sedating effects, were not reasonably derived.  When assessing risk to themselves, an employer needs to do a thorough review of the entirety of the situation and not assume that the risk is real based on scant evidence.  Source: Byrd v. Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC, Case No. 20-cv-0520 (S.D. Ala. June 13, 2022)

Jumping jobs is becoming less likely: Nearly half (48%) of the 604 employees surveyed by Paychex said they plan to stick with their companies for the next 12 months. Outside of higher pay, job stability was their primary reason for doing so; 60% ranked it among their top three motivations for staying, along with meaningful work and a passion for their field of work. Rounding out the top six reasons are a strong support system, company growth, and opportunities for career growth. The findings revealed a gap between what employers believe is critical to retaining employees and why employees really stay, Paychex said in a media release. Employees are making career decisions based on personal goals and values, yet many employers focus their recruiting and retention efforts on what the company views as important, such as corporate culture, company brand and reputation, and services and products, which employees say are the least important reasons they stay, according to the survey.  Source:  HR Dive 8/5/22

But if you need more money, then job hop: Job hoppers have long scored bigger raises than those who stay, but the gap is getting even wider. People who switched saw their wages jump by a record 6.7% on average in the 12 months through July, nearly two percentage points higher than those who remained in their same roles, according to calculations by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. That’s the widest gap in records back to late 1997. Job stayers -- defined as someone who’s stayed in the same industry in the last year or hasn’t changed employers or job duties in the past three months -- saw their wages increase 4.9% over the same time period, matching a series high last seen in 2001. The widening gap between wage gains for those who stay at their jobs compared to those who leave could fuel even more turnover in the labor market as Americans struggle to keep pace with the crushing weight of inflation. If labor demand holds up, that could mean even higher wages, something that could further complicate the Fed’s fight to curb price pressures.  Inflation is blamed partially on these increased wages.  Source:  Bloomberg 8/11/22


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