Certified Employee Benefits Specialist
Industry Certification Preparation Program
Employee Benefits: Concepts and Health Care Benefits
The first two assignments of Course I set the stage for the study of employee benefits to be pursued in the remainder of Courses I and II by examining the employee benefit environment, the functional approach to benefit planning and risk management and insurance techniques in employee benefits. Much of this introductory material encompasses retirement plans, covered in Courses III and IV of the CEBS program, as well.
The coverage of health care benefits begins with a discussion of the environment of health care and health care plans, followed by health plan designs and cost-control techniques. Two assignments are devoted to managed health care, the first on the managed care spectrum and the second on the health care cost equation. Other assignments cover evaluating and selecting health and managed care plans, maintaining and improving employee health, and purchasing quality health care. Dental plans and specialized benefits mental heath/substance abuse, prescription drugs, vision and hearing care plans also are covered, as are the timely topics of medical benefits for retirees and long-term care. The course concludes with two assignments on insuring and managing employee disabilities, which includes a discussion of workers compensation.
Employee Benefits: Design, Administration and Other Welfare Benefits
Following coverage of the various forms of life insurance benefits provided through the employment relationship, Course II examines a wide variety of other welfare benefits including: dependent care and family leave benefits; work/life benefits (such as financial planning, legal services, property/liability insurance and education assistance); and vacation and other time-off benefits. Two assignments deal with the important topic of flexible benefit plans and flexible spending accounts, and the course then covers various functions associated with welfare plans, such as administration, funding, communication and taxation. One assignment is devoted to multi-employer welfare benefit plans and another to the timely topic of benefits technology and information management. The course concludes with an assignment on contemporary issues in welfare benefit plans.
Retirement Plans: Basic Features and Defined Contribution Approaches
This course is composed of two sections. The first section reviews the historical development of retirement plans, analyzes various sponsor objectives served by the creation of qualified retirement plans, and then provides a detailed analysis of both the tax and nontax qualification requirements.
This course is also designed to give students an understanding of the types of individual account retirement plans available. Subjects discussed include profit-sharing plans, Section 401(k) cash or deferred arrangements, employee stock ownership and stock bonus plans, individual retirement accounts, simplified employee pensions, SIMPLE plans, tax-deferred annuities, and executive retirement arrangements. Along with examining the various types of individual account plans, the course examines issues common to all such retirement planning vehicles, such as participant-directed investing, investment education and distribution planning.
An understanding of these retirement income arrangements, along with the knowledge of pension plans gained from Course IV, should provide the student with an essential foundation in the basics of retirement income arrangements and aid in better servicing retirement plans.
Retirement Plans: Defined Benefit Approaches and Plan Administration
Course IV is designed to teach the contemporary fundamentals of pension plans with particular emphasis on the defined benefit approach to providing retirement income. Retirement plans stressing the individual account or defined contribution approach toward providing postemployment income are covered in Course III. Major subject areas covered in Course IV include plan design, actuarial aspects (costs and funding), investment of plan assets and plan termination insurance. Many aspects of pension plan administration are also covered in Course X.
Course IV also examines such complex retirement issues as the creation of hybrid plans, offering early retirement incentives and structuring retirement plans to meet special needs of executives. Hybrid plan designs combine features from both defined contribution and defined benefit plan types. Structuring incentive programs to induce retirement or to meet the special needs of executives involves specially tailoring elements of the retirement plan to meet employer human resource objectives.
Unless a student has an understanding of the basic qualification requirements for retirement plans, it is suggested that a student take Course III prior to this course.
Contemporary Legal Environment of Employee Benefit Plans
This is a survey course of the legal environment of employee benefits. The nature of the legal system, the relevant legal principles and significant institutional aspects are reviewed.
Matters of government regulation, contract law, property rights, and other issues emerge many times in the administration of employee benefit programs. The course has been designed to provide a general understanding of those legal concepts and principles of significance in employee benefit planning and administration. The general topics covered include: the several different types of property and forms of property ownership; the nature of trusts and trustees responsibilities; the legal structures of the various forms of business organization; the nature of contracts and contract rights; the methods available for resolution of legal disputes and arbitration; the nature and the extent of the power of the federal and state governments to regulate business; and both state and federal mechanisms involving the regulation of employee benefits.
Financial Concepts and Practices
Knowledge of accounting and financial concepts is essential in the administration of employee benefit plans. This courses emphasis is on accounting and financial concepts with an introduction to fundamental economic principles and macroeconomic forces. The economics section provides background necessary to understand the environment in which business activities take place.
The role of accounting as a system of communicating information to users inside and outside the organization is presented. Coverage is given to the four basic financial statements: the balance sheet, income statement, statement of owners equity and statement of cash flows. Concepts, principles and techniques of financial management are presented, beginning with ratio analysis, interest rates and time value of money and continuing with maximizing a firms value through capital budgeting, choice of capital structure and mergers and acquisitions. An understanding of financial analysis and financial management is essential in managing many employee benefit plans, and these analytical tools are applicable in the study of Course VII.
The investment of plan assets is a major function of employee benefit plan management. Every person working with employee benefit plans should have an understanding of investment policies, security markets, asset selection, portfolio theory and evaluation of financial performance. These topics have an impact not just on pension benefits but on the overall management of employee benefit assets (such as self-funded medical plans and VEBA accounts); consequently, these relationships should be understood by professionals in the field.
This course introduces asset management in the context of setting investment objectives for pension plan assets. The course then provides the necessary background on financial markets, how they are organized and how they operate. The concepts of risk versus return and efficient markets and the impact of modern portfolio theory are presented, followed by a detailed discussion on bonds, stocks and derivatives. The discussion is interwoven with the various approaches, some controversial, used by investors in analyzing and evaluating these instruments and the overall performance of specific financial markets. The course also covers mutual funds, managed accounts, and guaranteed investment contracts (GICs) which play a unique role in the administration of pension plans.
Before taking Course VII, the completion of Course VI might be helpful, although not absolutely necessary.
Human Resources and Compensation Management
This is a survey course covering the entire spectrum of human resources and compensation management. Each of the functions within these areas is reviewed. Thus, the subject matter of the course includes an examination of the nature and role in an organization of total compensation, job design, human resources planning and recruitment selection, training and development programs, performance assessment systems, incentive compensation systems, and motivation and leadership. The nature and role of labor relations, labor contract negotiation, and administration and grievance procedures also are reviewed.
A number of institutional and economic issues also are covered. These are such topics as equal employment opportunity laws, seniority, occupational health and safety, discipline, management rights and union security. The final two assignments of the course are devoted to human resources management in multinational corporations and the use of human resources audits.
This course examines health economic issues using various microeconomic tools. The purpose of the course is to provide a theoretical basis for understanding the practical issues in health plan design, management and administration.
The course begins with an introduction on how economic decisions are made. It presents an overview of the health care systems in the United States and other countries and discusses the role of third-party payers and their reimbursement methods. The course examines the determinants of good health in the United States and considers the variables including insurance that affect the demand curve for medical services. Microeconomic principles and concepts show the relationship between medical care cost and firm size and are used to develop a short-run and long-run production theory for medical services. The profit objective of nonhealth care competitive markets is contrasted with the objectives of some not-for-profit health care markets. The governments role in medical markets and its effect on the allocation of medical resources and output are covered in the course. Finally, the underlying structure and resulting performance of various health care industries is analyzed.
Contemporary Benefit Issues and Practices
Course X is designed to keep students abreast of contemporary benefit issues. Many of the topics covered in this course deal with the contemporary challenges employers face as they pursue their human resource objectives and adapt employee benefit plans to changing workforce needs and an evolving global business environment. Topics include employer administrative issues such as fiduciary liability issues under ERISA, accounting for postretirement benefit liabilities, developing international employee benefits programs, outsourcing benefits administration and applying new techniques in delivering benefits services.
The course also looks at new types of employee benefit products, such as long-term care insurance and the consideration of work and family issues in benefit plan design. The course examines the current legal environment for employee benefit plans with an analysis of recent major legislation including The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and The Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996.
The subject matter of this course assumes an understanding of many of the concepts covered in the other nine CEBS courses. Therefore, it is recommended that this course be taken last or concurrently with the last CEBS course(s) taken.