Employers Share Employee Benefits Success Stories at Mass. Conference

New England Employee Benefits Council (NEEBC) held its annual conference earlier this month, giving its Best Benefits Practices awards to six winners.

The winners shared their success stories at the NEEBC conference in Waltham, Mass., which attracted about 200 participants. Massachusetts-based NEEBC is a nonprofit with 1,400 members, including employers and providers of benefits consulting and services throughout New England.

• Staples — one of six winners– takes an unusual approach. It uses various computer games to make saving for retirement, budgeting and planning more fun and approachable for the office-supply giant’s young associates. One such game is titled “Bite Club,” which shows a toothy vampire with the slogan, “When you’re immortal, retirement is eternal.”

Other award-winners take more traditional approaches.

• The Massachusetts Group Insurance Commission, provider of health insurance to Massachusetts state employees, conducted a spring 2011 reenrollment and premium-incentive drive. By offering employees and retirees incentives to choose limited-network plans, the drive will save employees an average of $1,400 for family coverage and the Commonwealth more than $20 million a year, it said.

• City Year, a nonprofit that partners with schools to keep kids on the graduation track, uses a self-funded health plan that both enhances benefits for its young 1900-plus Corps members and saves money, according to the firm. It designed a health plan for the unique needs of 17-24 year-old Corps members.

• Eastern Bank’s program uses incentives to get employees exercising and living a healthy lifestyle. This community bank said its employees were taking care of their families, but not always themselves. It said early results show greater engagement in wellness.

• Ocean’s Spray’s comprehensive “moms at work” program and “journey through kids and career” program provides a week of paid parental leave for new moms and dads and flexibility around return-to-work options.

• Vicor, a manufacturer with many non-native English speakers among its employees in New England and California, ramped up 401(k) features and communication to boost participation by 20 percent and the deferral rate by 54 percent, and improve employees’ asset allocation. The campaign includes mailings, one-on-one meetings, group seminars, flyers, and emails.

The conference also had a panel discussion on cost-management strategies in the era of healthcare reform. Speakers included Tim Gens, of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, who discussed the importance of thoughtful limitations in cutting cost. Another panelist, Dr. Rob Hockmuth, representing CIGNA, advocated a holistic approach, while Michael Vittoria, of the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, emphasized preventative wellness programs.