What health, retirement, technology, voluntary, and wellness issues will benefit professionals be wrestling with next year? The editors of Employee Benefit Adviser and Employee Benefit News have put together a web seminar series with top benefit experts to offer insights on the biggest 2015 trends.

The 2015 Benefits Outlook web seminar series takes place Monday, Dec. 15 through Friday, Dec. 19, with multiple events each day. The programs are designed to offer thought leadership and best practices for benefit decision makers, benefit advisers, benefit brokers and other benefit professionals.

The sessions are free, and will begin each day at noon EST. Pre-registration is required. To sign up for any session, visit our sign up page.

The Web Seminar Week schedule is as follows:

Monday, Dec. 15: Voluntary products

Voluntary benefits are part of a growing trend toward consumer-driven health care, in which employees assume more responsibility for their benefits. But both benefit decision-makers and their advisers face a number of challenges in 2015, including understanding the litany of voluntary benefits available, reducing and streamlining the administrative cost of these programs, finding the most cost-effective mix for an employee base and figuring out how to give employees more control over their voluntary-benefit decisions.

Speakers include Nelson Griswold, EBA columnist, author and employee benefit agency consultant; Tinker Kelly, EBA Advisory Board member and president of Voluntary Employee Benefits Advisors; and Rob Shestack, former EBA Voluntary Adviser of the Year and SVP and voluntary national practice leader for AmWINS Group.

Tuesday, Dec. 16: Benefits technology and communications

Employees wrestle to understand the benefits available to them and look to benefit decision-makers, advisers and brokers to provide comprehensive details about their packages and to offer suggestions about how best to adjust health, retirement and other non-wage-compensation offerings.  Employee communication is a critical 2015 issue. Benefit plans don’t succeed unless employees feel adequately informed. But what are the best ways to communicate with employees? What are the best tools? What are the best strategies and practices? Many benefit executives turn to their advisers for technology guidance – and, in some cases, to lead a technology deployment. But, they, too, can struggle to stay current with the latest trends and best practices.

Speakers include Ed Bray, senior vice president, compliance, Ascension Insurance, Inc. and Joe Markland, president, HR Technology Advisors, LLC.

Wednesday, Dec. 17: Private health care exchanges and the ACA

Private health insurance exchanges already offer an attractive alternative for providing benefits, with some 45% of employers having already implemented (or are planning to implement) the use of a private HIX for their full-time employees, before 2018. Another year closer and many employers have had their interest piqued in the positives that private HIXes have for their workers, though there’s still plenty of unknowns when it comes to understanding what they can offer and if they are the right fit. This session will offer a quick overview of private HIXes for foundation-setting, and will also talk about employer and adviser ROI for involvement in a migration to a private HIX. It will also talk about the adviser/broker angle: how employers make decisions, what questions to ask and how to pick if and when which HIX is right for them.

Speakers include Grant Hoffman, general manager with Connecture, and Mike Martocci, Private Exchange Strategy Leader, KTP Advisors Inc.

Thursday, Dec. 18: Health and financial wellness

With the epidemic of chronic diseases, employers in 2015 will increasingly turn to wellness programs under which organizations actively promote healthy lifestyles and engage in disease prevention strategies. The programs can include health screening, monitoring and education; stress management; smoking cessation; weight management; and more. For employers, wellness programs promise to reduce health care costs and sick time. However, benefit decision-makers face a number of challenges. One is sorting through the vast number of programs and picking one that fits best with the organization’s culture. Other challenges include rolling out the program, engaging the workforce, and proving to upper management that the program can produce a tangible return-on-investment.

Speakers will include Joe Ellis, senior vice president, CBIZ Benefits and Insurance Services; Dave Ratcliffe, principal, Health and Productivity Practice, Buck Consultants, LLC, A Xerox Company; and Ralph F. Colao, Health and Performance Officer with HUB International Midwest Limited.

Friday, Dec. 19: Retirement plans

Only about half of today’s workforce is confident about having enough money for a comfortable retirement, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s most recent retirement survey. Still, almost all workers are relying on employer-based retirement plans to give them an opportunity for post-employment financial security. In 2015, how can benefit decision-makers and advisers get employees more involved in setting the right course for their future? Much will depend on providing employees with the right retirement plans, education, advice and tools they need to make good choices.

Speakers will include David C. John, deputy director for the Retirement Security Project with the Brookings Institution and senior strategic policy advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute; Marina L. Edwards, senior consultant, Benefits Advisory and Compliance, Towers Watson; and Alexander G. Assaley, III AIF, lead adviser Retirement Plans, with AFS 401(k) Retirement Services LLC.

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