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Acknowledgements: Intro and outro music generously provided by COPILOT Music + Sound. All rights reserved.

Episode 28: The People Have Spoken: What Do 2018 Election and Polling Results Mean for Employee Benefits?

As a result of the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats will assume control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. And while Republicans still control the White House and the Senate, this one change has the potential to derail the whole legislative process, like when one bulb goes out in a string of Christmas lights. So what does that mean for the rest of 2018 and the next two years?

That’s a good question for James A. Klein, Council president and political prognosticator-in-chief. In this special podcast episode, Jim speaks with host and loyal underling Jason Hammersla about the waning days of Congress’ Lame Duck session, how much gridlock we can expect on health and retirement policy and what to make of the election day polling results commissioned by the Council. Happy Holidays!

 


Episode 27:Cover Me, I’m Going In: Talking Workplace Health Insurance with AHIP’s Adam Beck

On the cusp of the 2018 midterm elections, health care remains a major issue for American voters. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent say that health care policy is “very important” in their decision about how to cast their vote and a plurality – 30 percent – say that health care is the most important issue in the midterm elections. Since more than half of all Americans, 181 million people plus, are covered by health insurance through an employer, policies affecting workplace coverage are of paramount importance.

Enter America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the national association whose members provide coverage for health care and related services. They recently launched a campaign, Coverage@Work, which provides resources to educate policymakers and the public about employer-provided coverage. In this episode, Adam Beck, AHIP’s vice president, employer health policy & initiatives, talks to host Jason Hammersla about workplace coverage from the perspective of the payers – insurers and the insured – and the major policy threats on the horizon.

 


Episode 26: Where Do We Go From Here? Talking Retirement Policy with Mike Barry

Retirement policy is supposed to be a bastion of stability and security, but the history of that policy is characterized by constant change: changing demographics, workforce patterns, plan designs and political priorities – to say nothing of rising financial markets and falling interest rates. The resulting story has unfolded like a drama with an uncertain ending.

Author, attorney and benefits professional Mike Barry has written a new book, Retirement Savings Policy: Past, Present and Future, telling that tale and speculating on how the story might continue. He joins host Jason Hammersla to talk about the fundamental risks of retirement savings, the trouble with tax incentives, exit ramps for employers and how The Office helps explain our idea of the workplace.

 


Episode 25: Scenes from a Webinar: How Employers are Combating the Opioid Epidemic

On average in the United States, 115 people die each day from an opioid overdose. As this epidemic has touched workers, employers have sought to address it through innovative plan design and outreach. Meanwhile, Congress is poised to enact legislation designed to stem the tide of opioid abuse and addiction.

Earlier this year, the American Benefits Council, in partnership with the Midwest Business Group on Health (MBGH), hosted a webinar in which we discussed the efforts and challenges for employers working to make a difference in this area. In this week’s edition of the American Benefits Podcast, we share the audio from that webinar, which is normally provided for Council members only.

The webinar featured moderators Kathryn Wilber, American Benefits Council senior counsel, health policy, and Cheryl Larson, MBGH president and CEO, as well as guest speakers Dr. William Lopez, senior medical director-behavioral health at Cigna Healthcare, [12:42] talking about insurer initiatives to improve plan design and treatment strategies; Jason Parrott, manager of healthcare strategy & policy for The Boeing Company, [23:51] recounting his company’s efforts to that maintain quality of care while ensuring tighter controls for dosing and quantity limits; and Sarah Bassler Millar, partner with Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, [44:56] describing the legislative, regulatory and legal landscape surrounding these issues.

To participate in future webinars, consider joining the American Benefits Council, which offers programs like these at no charge as part of the member company’s annual investment.

Resources:


Episode 24: "Father of the 401(k)" on the Promise and Problems of Today's Retirement System

The defined contribution retirement savings plan is now the preeminent savings vehicle for working Americans. DOL data tells us that two-thirds of all full-time civilian workers have access to a defined contribution plan at work, and 72 percent of those individuals participate in the plan, adding up to nearly 100 million participants nationwide. It accounts for, conservatively, more than $10 trillion in retirement assets.

The most common and well-known type of defined contribution arrangement is the 401(k) plan, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. But just because a guy happens to be the putative “father of the 401(k),” that doesn’t mean he’s averse to issuing a little constructive criticism. R. Theodore “Ted” Benna, is a consultant, an innovator and an author, and in his new book, 401(k), 40 years later – and this episode of the American Benefits Podcast – he talks candidly about the promise and the problems with today’s retirement system.


Episode 23: When You’re Sixty-Four: NCOA’s Jim Firman on ‘Graduations,’ Third Acts and Happy Endings

It’s not just you: the workforce is getting older. Health care advances and increased life expectancies mean people are working longer and later, while low birth rates mean that there are fewer workers to succeed the ones who retire. As of 2016, the median age of the labor force was 42, up from about 38 in 1996. That puts increased pressure on the federal social safety net as well as for workplace health and retirement benefits. The unique needs and desires of older Americans, therefore, takes on increased importance for all stakeholders in the benefits system.

Over more than two decades as president and CEO of the National Council on Aging, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people aged 60 and over, James Firman has sought to lead the conversation on on benefits access and economic security for older adults. In this episode, he speaks with host Jason Hammersla about pervasive misconceptions about aging, the evolving role employers can play preparing workers for retirement and the enduring search for “purpose.”


Episode 22: EBRI Little Thing They Do Is Magic: Lori Lucas and the Role of Benefits Research

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (or “EBRI”) describes itself as the place “where the world turns for facts on employee benefits.” Founded in 1978, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, EBRI is considered the gold standard for authoritative data and research on these critical, complex issues. Today, EBRI is led by Lori Lucas, who took over just four months ago, at a societally auspicious time for the valuation and understanding of fact.

As president and CEO, Lori is responsible for leading EBRI in its mission to provide unbiased, fact-based research and data on retirement, health care, and other benefits that provide financial security for American workers. In this episode, she speaks with host Jason Hammersla about the importance of empiricism, the future of the “employee” in employee benefits and why EBRI membership is more than just good karma.


Episode 21: We Need to Talk About Millennials: Young Americans and the Struggle to Save

Millennials – roughly, those born between 1981 and 1996 – are the most well-educated, most diverse and most populous generation in the workforce today. They told us in our national poll last year that employer-provided retirement benefits would be the most important benefit to them over the next ten years. And yet, a new report suggests that they are lagging behind in their preparedness for retirement.

In this episode of the American Benefits Podcast, host Jason Hammersla speaks with Jennifer Erin Brown, manager of research for the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) and the author of a new study, Millennials and Retirement: Already Falling Short. Jason and Jennifer discuss the economic misconceptions about millennials, the challenge of student debt and how it all comes down to employer coverage. Then, Jason checks in with Ben Brown, founder and leader of the Association of Young Americans, to get his take on the report.


Episode 20: Innovations in Health Coverage: Mercer’s Tracy Watts and the Power of a Good Idea

The American Benefits Council and Mercer, a global human resource consultancy firm, recently released a paper, Leading the Way: Employer Innovations in Health Coverage, which shows how large companies are using their stature and their ingenuity to try and tackle the pervasive problems surrounding health care, including high costs and inconsistent service.

Podcast host Jason Hammersla speaks with Tracy Watts, who spearheaded this project. Tracy is a senior partner in Mercer’s Washington D.C. office and the company’s National Leader for U.S. Health Care Reform. In this episode, Jason and Tracy talk about how to define “innovation” in employer-provided health plans and what that means for working families.


Episode 19: Better Know a Council Staff Member: Meet Ilyse Schuman, Senior Vice President, Health Policy

Even though the Council boasts more than 7,300 members from 440 companies worldwide, the Council staff itself is only 15 individuals strong. The latest addition to the Council family is Ilyse Schuman, the Council’s new senior vice president, health policy. Ilyse succeeds the previous VP, Katy Spangler, and now directs the development and advocacy of all health policy priorities.

In this episode of the American Benefits Podcast, host Jason Hammersla learns about Ilyse’s origin story, her tenure with the Senate HELP Committee and her breakroom snack preferences – and enjoys a friendly game of word association.


Episode 18: Let’s Make It Simple: The American College of Employee Benefits Council and its $10,000 Prize

William Shakespeare’s admonition about lawyers notwithstanding, most employer-sponsored benefit plans could not function without the sage counsel of the attorneys who have devoted their careers to employee benefits law. The “hall of fame” for these skilled attorneys is the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel, which recognizes the small share lawyers who have made lasting contributions to the benefits field.

As part of its mission to advance the public’s understanding of the employee benefits system, the College is now sponsoring the First Annual Employee Benefits Simplification Prize, with a $10,000 prize going to the winner. The deadline for this award is April 1, 2018.

In this episode of the American Benefits Podcast, host Jason Hammersla speaks with Henry Eickelberg, ACEBC treasurer, and Randy Hardock, chair of the simplification award committee, to talk about the privileges of ACEBC fellowship and how to win that grand prize.


Episode 17: Benefits for a Cause: How ‘The Greater Give’ Could Revolutionize Philanthropy

Payroll-deduction, defined contribution plans have changed the way we save for retirement and may yet change the way we pay for health care and pay down college debt. Now the CEO of a large third-party administrator (TPA) has a plan to use it to create a nation of “everyday philanthropists.”

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is likely to reduce the percentage of Americans who itemize – and thereby have access to the charitable giving tax deduction – to less than ten percent, eliminating much of the tax incentive to contribute. Enter Dan Rashke, CEO of TASC, the man behind The Greater Give, a campaign in favor of legislation that would allow employers to set up Flexible Giving Accounts (FGAs). With an FGA, an employee could dedicate a portion of their pre-tax compensation to philanthropy, thereby expanding the federal tax incentive while reducing employers’ payroll tax obligations. In this episode, host Jason Hammersla speaks with Rashke about TPAs, building a corporate culture of philanthropy and the march toward FGA legislation.


Episode 16: Profiles in Paid Leave: A Hallmark Case Study

Health and retirement benefits have long been the twin pillars of the American Benefits Council’s policy agenda. As time has gone on, however, other kinds of employee benefits have arisen – namely, paid leave – posing unique challenges for employers’ benefit programs. Unfortunately, Congress has thus far ceded this issue to the states, spurring a patchwork of state- and municipal-level laws. In response, the Council has advocated for a federal solution in the form of a voluntary minimum standard for paid leave.

In this episode, host Jason Hammersla speaks with representatives from Hallmark, a world-renowned company for which paid leave policy has emerged as an important issue. Then Lynn Dudley, the Council’s senior vice president, global retirement and compensation policy, joins us to provide an update on the current legislative landscape for paid leave.


Episode 15: The Future of the Workplace, featuring an All-Star Employer Panel

In this excerpt from the Council’s 50th Anniversary Symposium on November 30, we find out how companies are reimagining their employee benefit programs to recruit and retain the talented workers of the future. We hear from an all-star panel of employer representatives spanning human resources, benefits, consulting and government relations. They talk extensively about the challenges associated with meeting the needs of the present and future workplace.

Guest speakers:

Tami Simon [Moderator]
Managing Director
Conduent HR Services

Kevin Avery
Manager, Federal Government Affairs
ConocoPhillips

Jennifer Graham-Johnson
Chief Human Resources Officer
WestRock Company

Tom Sondergeld
Vice President HRIS, Global Benefits & Mobility
Walgreens Boots Alliance

Fred Thiele
General Manager, Global Benefits
Microsoft


Episode 14: The Future of the Workforce, featuring Guest Speakers Representing Emerging Employee Populations

A full accounting of the future of employee benefits would be incomplete without the perspectives of employees themselves. If employers are to develop innovative, effective and responsive benefit programs, they must be able to anticipate the needs of the future workforce.

In this excerpt from the Council’s 50th Anniversary Symposium on November 30, we hear from representatives of organizations representing millennials, women and Latinos, each of whom are expected to comprise a larger share of the workforce over the coming decades. These speakers talk about the unique challenges facing their constituencies and the opportunities to design programs that meet their specific needs.

Guest speakers:

Benjamin Brown
Founder & CEO
Association of Young Americans

Anne Hedgepeth
Interim Vice President of Public Policy & Government Relations
AAUW

Abigail Zapote
Executive Director
Latinos for a Secure Retirement


Episode 13: Employee Benefits Past, Present and Future, featuring Council President James Klein and Benefits Legend David Walker

Few, if any, Americans have held as many senior federal government positions with direct responsibility for health and retirement security as David Walker, former Assistant Secretary of Labor, public trustee of Social Security and Medicare, and Comptroller General of the United States.

In this excerpt from the Council’s 50th Anniversary Symposium on November 30, Council President James Klein interviewed Walker on the future of private sector benefit plans, the viability of government health and retirement entitlement programs, and the evolving role of states in regulating employee benefits.

The Council has recently published new polling data on Americans’ attitudes about employer-sponsored benefits.

>>  Results from the Council's National Poll


Episode 12: From Here to Retirement Security, Featuring Bob Reynolds, President and CEO, Great West Financial and Putnam Investments

As lawmakers get closer and closer to tax reform – and have to find a way to pay for it – it is becoming increasingly likely that they will seek to alter the tax incentives supporting workplace retirement savings. Bob Reynolds, president and CEO of Great West Financial and Putnam Investments, sees this as a dangerous and counter-productive change to our national retirement savings policy.

Reynolds’ new book, From Here to Security, describes the history and strengths of the 401(k) savings system and makes the case for building on that system by making wise policy decisions to enhance their effectiveness. In this episode, he talks with host Jason Hammersla about workplace coverage challenges, the power of automatic features and other opportunities to strengthen the system.


Episode 11: Congress and the Tax Reform Tightrope, Featuring Former Rep. Jim McCrery (R-LA), Partner with Capitol Counsel

With the congressional Republicans’ health care “repeal-and-replace” efforts stymied, attention on Capitol Hill now turns to the difficult business of tax reform, where incentives for workplace health and retirement benefit plans continue to hang in the balance.

The Council is working with the Save Our Savings coalition and Capitol Counsel to ensure that Americans’ retirement savings are not affected by comprehensive tax reform legislation. To help us understand that challenge, Capitol Counsel Partner and former Congressman Jim McCrery (R-LA) talks with host Jason Hammersla about lawmakers’ temptation to tap those retirement savings incentives for present-day revenue, and the “budget gimmick” that makes it possible. He also weighs in on other hot-button topics like business tax reform, Social Security and health care reform.


Episode 10: The Council’s Health Policy Priorities, Featuring Katy Spangler, Senior Vice President, Health Policy

The fate of the Affordable Care Act – and legislation to repeal and replace it – is at hand. Whether it succeeds or fails, the Council will continue to advocate for the employer-sponsored system of health insurance, which covers more than 177 million people nationwide.

This seems like an opportune time, then, to revisit the Council’s health policy priorities: those that have guided our advocacy efforts since the beginning of the repeal-and-replace endeavor, and which will be used to evaluate the final product, in the context of an ACA repeal, replace or repair bill, and possibly comprehensive tax reform. Katy Spangler, the Council’s senior vice president, health policy, talks to Jason about these priorities and what they have to do with the jaws of a crocodile, ants at a picnic and the potential dangers of making salad.



Episode 9: The Trouble with Tax Reform with Janice Mays, Former Democratic Chief Counsel and Staff Director, House Ways and Means Committee

If you want to trace the history of employee benefits, one good way to do so is to look at the tax code. Employer-sponsored health and retirement benefits are governed in part by the tax code, and over the years the incentives for these plans have been dialed up and down, often to meet certain revenue goals.

Congress is now toying with the idea of comprehensive tax reform once again. To give us some perspective on that process, host Jason Hammersla talks with Janice Mays, who is currently the managing director of Washington National Tax Services Tax Policy Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers, but recently left Capitol Hill after 40 years, including more than 22 years as the Democratic chief counsel and staff director for the House Ways and Means Committee, from which all tax law must originate. They discuss the personalities, pitfalls and promise behind past and present tax reform efforts.


 

Episode 8: Minding the National Savings Gap with John C. Scott of the Pew Charitable Trusts Retirement Research Project

Public perception and prevailing data suggest the presence of a “retirement savings gap,” the difference between what Americans have saved for retirement versus what they actually need. In this episode, Jason Hammersla talks with John C. Scott, Director of the Pew Charitable Trusts Retirement Savings Project, about the real challenges and potential improvements to building retirement savings, including the rise of state-based programs for private-sector workers.

The mission of the Pew Charitable Trusts Retirement Research project is to “study the challenges and opportunities for increasing retirement savings,” specifically examining “barriers to retirement savings.” Before joining Pew, John was a professor and researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and served for a time as director of retirement policy for the Council, so it seems fitting to have him come by to chat in our 50th anniversary year.


Episode 7: Starting from Scratch on a National Retirement Policy, with the Council's Lynn Dudley

On June 6, 2017, the Council released ten principles for building a national retirement policy. In an effort to forge such a policy, we have gathered the insights of our member companies that sponsor these retirement plans into this one document that summarizes our recommended approach.

In this episode, Jason Hammersla talks with Lynn Dudley, the Council’s senior vice president, global retirement and compensation policy, about the provenance and purpose of these principles as well as the challenges that lay ahead.

Dudley directs the Council's advocacy efforts regarding retirement and compensation policy, including defined benefit and defined contribution plans and executive and non-qualified deferred compensation. Lynn also coordinates the Council's efforts and outreach in the international arena.


Episode 6: The Millennial Workforce & What They Want with Young Invincibles’ Colin Seeberger

Millennials now constitute the largest share of today’s workforce. Colin Seeberger, strategic campaigns advisor for Young Invincibles, sits down with Eunju Namkung to discuss Millennial wants and needs with regard to health benefits, retirement savings and other financial challenges.

Young Invincibles is an advocacy organization founded in 2009 to represent the interests of 18- to 34-year-olds, including matters related to health care, education, jobs and financial security. Colin manages the organization’s health care campaign, as well as its public education and outreach efforts around higher education reform and the 2016 elections.


Episode 5: Building a Secure Retirement for Women with WISER President Cindy Hounsell

What are the unique disadvantages that women face saving for and during retirement? Cindy Hounsell, the president of Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER), sits down with host Jason Hammersla to discuss these challenges, as well as what can be done to build a more secure retirement reality for women.

Cindy Hounsell is the President of WISER, the Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the opportunities for women to secure retirement income and to educate the public about the inequities that disadvantage women in retirement. Hounsell was appointed in 2011 to the ERISA Advisory Council, and in 2008 to the Advisory Panel on Medicare Education (APME) representing the field of retirement and financial planning. She is widely quoted and frequently invited to speak and teach as an expert in securing financial futures for women.


Episode 4: Talking Health Care Costs and Value-Based Insurance with Harvard Professor Michael Chernew

Katy Spangler, the American Benefits Council’s senior vice president, health policy, talks to Harvard Medical School Professor Michael Chernew, PhD, about health care costs, the promise of value-based insurance and what it all has to do with peanut butter and jelly.

Michael Chernew, PhD, is the Leonard D. Schaeffer Professor of Health Care Policy and the director of the Healthcare Markets and Regulation (HMR) Lab in the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Chernew’s research examines several areas related to controlling health care spending growth while maintaining or improving quality of care.


Episode 3: Talking Tax Reform, Retirement Policy and State Plans with former U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy

In the second of a two-part conversation with former U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), host Jason Hammersla asks about the process and politics behind comprehensive tax reform, contemporary retirement policy challenges, and the rise of state-based benefits legislation.

Earl Pomeroy currently senior counsel at Alston & Bird LLP and a member of the American Benefit Council’s Board of Directors. Prior, he was President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives where he was the senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.


Episode 2: A Closer Look at Repeal-and-Replace with former U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy

In the first of a two-part conversation with former U.S. Representative Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), host Jason Hammersla discusses the American Health Care Act, the stalled Republican measure to repeal and replace President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. We talk about the substance and the process behind the bill and what’s next for lawmakers as they consider further efforts to reform health policy or perhaps move on to comprehensive tax reform.

Earl Pomeroy currently senior counsel at Alston & Bird LLP and a member of the American Benefit Council’s Board of Directors. Prior, he was President of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives where he was the senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.


Episode 1: The Future of the Workplace and Employee Benefits with Cam Marston

Cam Marston is the founder and president of Generational Insights, which provides research and consultation on workplace generational issues to companies across the globe. His books, articles, columns and blog describe and analyze the major generations of our time, and how their characteristics and differences affect every aspect of business, including recruiting, retention, management and motivation.

Generational Insights website

Cam Marston official biography