Showing posts from February, 2011

Benefits Education Week March 14 - 18th

March is Open Enrollment month for Thomas Nelson. Every year we have a Benefits Fair in Nashville, and attempt to get local resources to visit Live Events offices to deliver similar information. This year in Nashville we'll devote the entire week of March 14th - 18th for education on some important topics. In addition to raising general awareness on the benefits available to our emplmoyees (i.e. our Benefits Fair and electronic communications), our points of emphasis will be: 1. High Deductible Plans and Health Savings Accounts 2. 401(k) participation and diversification of investments 3. Home ownership and refinancing We chose these points because the medical insurance market is moving toward almost all high-deductible plans. We won't be there this year, but could be by next. With the 401(k) match still suspended, wisely saving and investing your own money is more important than ever. Also, being in the plan is necessary to take advantage of any future restoration of m

Guest Post: "An Accountant Runs the Numbers on the High-Deductible Health Plan" by Darlene Mangrum

I have been enrolled in the HDP insurance plan through Thomas Nelson for two years. The HDP insurance plan is based on the principle of the insured having a deductible and no co pays. Once the deductible is met, the insurance pays 80% of medical costs and the insured pays the remaining 20%. In the HDP plan offered by Thomas Nelson, the deductible for our current year is $2,400 for employee + 1 and family coverage. What that means is that you will pay $2,400 out of your pocket before the insurance pays anything. I know that seems like a big pill to swallow, but consider the cost/benefit of the HDP over the PPO. When thinking about deductibles, there are differences between the PPO and HDP. With the PPO, you pay higher premiums, you pay a $35 co pay each time you visit the doctor, and you pay a co pay of $10, $30, or $50 for each prescription at the pharmacy. In the PPO none of these payments are credited to your deductible. With the HDP, everything counts toward the deductible. So on

Guest Post: "Why I Chose a High Deductible Health Plan" by Mandy Mullinix

I consider starting a Health Savings Account (HSA) in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made. I came to Thomas Nelson in August 2007 after five years of working at a small-business that unfortunately did not have a large enough pool of workers to get good health insurance at a competitive price. As a result, I watched my health insurance premiums and co-pays increase dramatically year after year. By early 2007, I was paying close to $100 a week (or $5,200 annually) just for bare-bones coverage that came saddled with huge out of pockets costs. My “a-ha” moment came that year when I actually sat down and read an Explanation of Benefits letter and saw just how little my insurance at the time paid my doctor. My son had been for a normal visit for some routine kid-sickness he had at the time. He didn’t have an x-ray, blood work or even an injection. It was a simple doctor visit and we received a script for an anti

Guest Post: Strengthen Your “Critical Connections” at Work

Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau are co-authors of Fired Up or Burned Out ( Michael is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training firm. He writes about leadership and employee engagement at his award-winning blog, Jason is president of Life Spring Network, a Christian discipleship and leadership training ministry ( Research has shown that people perform better if they take time to create checklists that break their work down into necessary tasks. Here is an approach we recommend. Make a list of those individuals whom you count on you in order to do your work well and the individuals who count on you in order to do their work well. Think of these people as your “Critical Connections.” Strengthening your relationship with them is, in addition to making checklists, another key to achieving excellence in your work. With each Critical Connection you should strive to develop a “Ratio

Our Benefits Direction

We're pretty much finished with this year's insurance renewal negotiations and, as expected, it was another brutally frustrating year. Our claims experience was outstanding yet again, with claims running between 80 and 90% of premiums. While that would normally mean a flat renewal (as underwriters have to project this trend out 15 - 16 months to reach the end of next plan year), this year it means another set of increases. How could this be? Trust me when I say we've asked that question repeatedly for weeks. The answer lies in three places: (1) the general mess that is the state of American health care, (2) the lack of competition among insurance carriers, and (3) the unfunded mandates of the Health care Reform law. I'll save you my personal views on what's wrong with our health care system, other than to say that we spend a huge amount more than any other nation on earth and rank somewhere around 10th in life expectancy. The lack of competition comes from the f

A Moment to Appreciate Gender Progress

Last Tuesday I hosted a coffee-talk session with our staff members hired one year ago or less. I wanted to get a first-hand view of what we were doing well and not-so-well now that we're hiring with more frequency. I didn't realize until the list spit off the printer that every one of these individuals were young women, almost all in their early-to-mid twenties. This turned the session from a look at "newbies" to a session exploring age and gender issues as well. I had my usual list of questions: from generally how they liked it here to what do they specifically like to what do they specifically not like. I was very pleased with almost all of what I heard. We are doing a very good job connecting mission and people; not just articulating our company mission and values, but in selecting people with a passion for who we are and what we do. Almost everyone in that room appeared to be a really good fit. Most of the negatives revolved around on-boarding, initial tra

Eight Gables and the Lesson of Debt

We are spending a long Valentine's Day weekend once again in Gatlinburg at Eight Gables Inn, a favorite of ours for some years. This year we've met the third owner since we began coming here. The results of this new ownership, in place since November, is significant. The situation here has a lesson to teach for businesses and individuals about debt. The last owner, a dear lady who we liked a lot, simply paid too much for this property. During her tenure prices went up to cover that debt, which was structured pre-recession. During the recession, due in part to the higher prices, occupancy went down as did service and the number of available staff. The new owners, from all indications, paid considerably less. The property had been on the market for some time before it sold. The new owners also operate a string of wedding chapels in Gatlinburg so this property is an adjacency for them; book the chapel and house the wedding party in one package: operate the Inn as normal otherw

Nashville's Anti-Discrimination Issue

Once again the Metro Council has taken up the issue of requiring companies that do business with the city not discriminate against gays and lesbians in matters of employment. Mayor Karl Dean was quoted in today's Tennessean newspaper that if passed, he will sign it. The Nashville Chamber is asking to slow down consideration of the measure for more study; in other words, they don't favor it but need more time to know just why. Its time for this measure to pass. Discrimination is good and necessary so long as its based upon performance and behavior. You should, as an employer, pay more, give more, and advance people who perform in favor of those who don't. The word "discriminate" has a negative connotation based upon its use in the civil rights struggle, but leaders must do it every day to lead an organization. It is discrimination using factors other than performance and behavior that run counter to both Christian and American values. Labor lawyers and traditio

A Simple Solution to Retaliation Charges

Thompson vs. North American Stainless, LP is the latest ruling to send labor lawyers spinning. This US Supreme Court ruling expanded Title VII protections against retaliation to cover third party employees. In Thompson lower courts had ruled that the employer had retaliated against the fiance of a terminated employee who had brought legal action against them. The employer's defense was that Title VII didn't cover third parties. That the Court ruled for the Plaintiff has caused a new selling opportunity for labor law seminars, as law firms want to teach all of us in business how to protect ourselves from third party retaliation claims. This is much hysteria about nothing for a couple of reasons. First Title VII already protects against "affiliative discrimination" i.e. protection against retaliation for whites who worked with and/or are friends with a non-white who brought an EEOC charge. Protection of third parties is not a new theory. Second you can avoid third