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Sure, it’s not always smooth sailing for employee benefits — after all, they can be costly, confusing and difficult to administer. But there are a lot of good things, too.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s consider the positive aspects of employee benefits. From perks that help employees get better medical care and help them pay off student loans to rising balances in health savings accounts, here are 12 benefit trends to be grateful for.
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Empathetic and hard-working corporate employee benefit professionals who never tire of explaining to employees the differences between various medical plan offerings.
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Health savings accounts with their triple tax benefit: Contributions are either pretax or tax-deductible, typically grow tax-free and can be withdrawn without incurring taxes when used toward qualified medical expenses.
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Employee assistance programs that help employees through hard times — and help hard-working benefit professionals recover from open enrollment season.
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Online enrollment systems that provide ease of enrollment, data transmittal and records for all employee choices.
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The arrival of medical and dental insurance cards that reassure all employees that they really are enrolled in the plans.
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Seeing rising balances in health savings accounts. According to research this month from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 95% of HSAs with individual or employer contributions in 2017 ended the year with funds to roll over for future expenses. The average balance at the end of 2017 was $2,764, up from $1,873 at the beginning of the year.
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Caring medical providers and pharmacists who remind participants that they must use the current insurance cards to access their benefits.
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The increase in 401(k) maximum contributions for 2019: The IRS said it is increasing the pre-tax contribution limits for employees who participate in a 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans to $19,000 from $18,500. For participants ages 50 and over, the additional 401(k) catch-up contribution limit, which is set by law, will stay at $6,000 for 2019. Read more here.
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The increase in the maximum contribution amounts permitted to go into a health savings account. The 2019 annual HSA contribution limit for individuals with single medical coverage is $3,500, an increase of $50 from 2018. For HSAs linked to family coverage, the 2019 contribution limit will rise by $100, to $7,000, above the family cap set for 2018.
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The creation of products that address the varied needs of employees — from medical plans to student loan repayment programs to pet insurance.
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Wellness champions who encourage their colleagues to join the wellness program (and help them get healthier in the process!).
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More employees requesting HDHP/HSA plans. Health savings accounts are rising in popularity as more employers turn to high-deductible health plans as a means of saving themselves and their employees’ money on healthcare.