Law firm benefit shell game?

mg src=”http://abovethelaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/doctor-saw-e1372862480268-300×251.jpg” alt=”” title=”doctor saw” width=”300″ height=”251″ class=”alignright size-medium wp-image-255856“/>law firms were engaged in what can be called “stealth cost shifting” where the high-profile benefits remained unchanged while the firms subtly reduced the cost of plans through other avenues.

Adam Okun at Frenkely Speaking detailed some of the highlights of the Frenkel Benefits 2013 biennial Law Firm Survey, a survey which included 51 firms, accounting for nearly 25,000 law firm employees and $330 million of healthcare spending. He concluded law firms suffered higher inflation in health care costs than the rest of the nation’s employer-sponsored plans because law firms refused to cut back on benefits, and that these increased costs were paid by staff and associates.

Associates and staff have shared the burden of runaway plan costs, as the majority of firms tether the employee cost to a percentage of the total plan rate (varied by salary and tier). However, 35% of law firms surveyed actually increased the employee share of monthly premium as one of their primary cost control strategies – resulting in contribution increases greater than the plan’s underlying medical trend

Patrice also commented that law firms also seem behind the times when it comes to self-insuring medical claims,

While more firms have embraced self-funding, many law firms remain resistant. Only two-thirds of firms with more than 1,000 employees self-fund their medical claims (compared to over 80% of employers nationally). After considering the additional taxes introduced by the Affordable Care Act, expected savings from self-funding have widened to 7-10% of gross premium rates. It is now commonplace to see employers as small as 50 employees self-insure their programs, although quite infrequently in the law firm sector

and that one significant change from the previous report is that:

Wellness offerings from law firm survey participants have scaled back, with fewer providing newsletters, gym discounts and on-site screenings, but there was an increase in firms offering on-site exercise facilities. Participants offering programs listed the desire to improve the health of employees as the primary driver – nearly double those who said their main reason was reducing healthcare costs. Over 80% of law firms did not know or had not considered the expected ROI on their wellness initiatives – about 15% higher than our non-law firm survey results

The report also notes a few miscellaneous developments ranging from increases in paid time off and movement toward kicking retired partners to the curb when it comes to medical benefits. Disturbing.

I remember my father used to lovingly tease my Mother because she was a teacher for the hearing impaired…not a lucrative position, but one that she found rewarding. Dad is retired, and Mom has passed,  but Mom’s health benefits are still covering my father, and the benefits are tremendous. I wonder if or how benefits/health insurance will work when we retire?

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