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  • Department of Labor Delays Enforcement of the Fiduciary Duty Rule | CA Benefit Advisor

    April 28, 2017

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    On April 4, 2017, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the applicability date for the final fiduciary rule will be extended, and published its final rule extending the applicability date in the Federal Register on April 7. This extension is pursuant to President Trump’s February 3, 2017 presidential memorandum directing the DOL to further examine the rule and the DOL’s proposed rule to extend the deadline released on March 2, 2017.

    The length of the extension differs between certain requirements and/or components of the rule.  Below are the components and when and how applicability applies:

    • Final rule defining who is a “fiduciary”: Under the final rule, advisors who are compensated for providing investment advice to retirement plan participants and individual account owners, including plan sponsors, are fiduciaries. The applicability date for the final rule is extended 60 days, from April 10 until June 9, 2017. Fiduciaries will be required to comply with the impartial conduct or “best interest” standards on the June 9 applicability date.
    • Best Interest Contract Exemption: Except for the impartial conduct standards (applicable June 9 per above), all other conditions of this exemption for covered transactions are applicable January 1, 2018. Therefore, fiduciaries intending to use this exemption must comply with the impartial conduct standard between June 9, 2017 and January 1, 2018.
    • Class Exemption for Principal Transactions: Except for the impartial conduct standards (applicable June 9 per above), all other conditions of this exemption for covered transactions are applicable January 1, 2018. Therefore, fiduciaries intending to use this exemption must comply with the impartial conduct standard between June 9, 2017 and January 1, 2018 and thereafter.
    • Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (relating to annuities): Except for the impartial conduct standard (applicable June 9 per above), the amendments to this exemption are applicable January 1, 2018.
    • Other previously granted exemptions: All amendments to other previously granted exemptions are applicable on June 9, 2017.

    By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
    Originally Published By www.thinkhr.com

  • Getting the Most Out of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) | CA Benefit Consultants

    April 25, 2017

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    Many employers understand the value of having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) since the heart and soul of organizations are employees. Employees who are physically and mentally healthy, highly productive, engaged in their work, and loyal to their employer contribute positively to their employer’s bottom line. Fortunately, most employees are positive contributors, yet even the best of employees can occasionally have issues or circumstances arise that may inadvertently impact their jobs in a negative way. Having an EAP in place that can address these issues early may mitigate any negative impact to the workplace. This is a win-win for both employees and employers.

    A key component of EAP services lies in “catching things early” by assisting employees and helping them address and resolve issues before they impact the workplace. Most employees will use EAP services on a voluntary, self-referred basis that is completely confidential. Some employers may wonder if services are even being used by employees because it won’t be all that apparent, but most EAPs provide a utilization or usage report that will show the number of people served, and possibly the types of reasons services were requested.

    If employee issues do begin to appear in the workplace—related to performance, attendance, behavior, or safety—it is important for managers, supervisors, and human resources to also have access to EAP services. They may wish to consult with an employee assistance professional that can provide guidance and direction leading to problem identification and resolution. These issues have the potential to become very costly for the organization—and again, the earlier they can be addressed, the greater chance of success for both employee and employer, with minimal negative impact to the company’s bottom line.

    The key to getting the most out of an EAP is to make it easily accessible to employees, safe to use, and visible enough they remember to use it. It is important that employees understand using the EAP is confidential and their identity will not be disclosed to anyone in their organization. Promoting the EAP services with materials such as flyers, posters, or website information with EAP contact information will also increase the likelihood of employees accessing services.

    By Nancy Cannon
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Arrow’s Wellness Initiative CPR/First -aid community classes in the News!

    April 21, 2017

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    As brokerages continue to look for ways to stand out from the competition, two agencies are giving back to their communities and helping those areas become healthier in the process. Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, Calif., created the Arrow Community Wellness Initiative. The initiative each month offers CPR and automated defibrillator (AED) training and certification with first -aid, instructed by the Petaluma Health Care District, free to the community. Read entire article here.

  • Flex Work: Advantages in the New Workforce | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 19, 2017

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    Flex Work. No doubt you’ve heard this term (or some variation) floating around the last decade or so, but what exactly does it mean? Flexible work can vary by definition depending on who you ask, but one thing is for sure, it’s here to stay and changing the way we view the workforce. According to a recent study by Randstad, employer commitment to increase the amount of flex workers in their companies has increased 155% over the last four years. If fact, 68% of employers agree that the majority of the workforce will be working some sort of flexible arrangement by 2025.

    So then, since the landscape of a traditional office setting is changing, what exactly is Flex Work? Simply stated, it’s a practice employers use to allow their staff some discretion and freedom in how to handle their work, while making sure their schedules coordinate with colleagues. Parameters are set by the employer on how to get the work accomplished.  These guidelines may include employees working a set number of hours per day/week, and specifying core times when they need to be onsite. No matter how it’s defined, with a new generation entering the workforce and technology continuing to advance, employers will need to explore this trend to stay competitive.

    Let’s take a look at how this two-fold benefit has several advantages for employers and employees alike.

    Increases Productivity

    When employees work a more flexible schedule, they are more productive. Many will get more done in less time, have less distractions, take less breaks, and use less sick time/PTO than office counterparts. In several recent studies, employees have stated they’re more productive when not in a traditional office setting. In a recent article published by Entrepreneur.com, Sara Sutton, CEO and Founder of FlexJobs wrote that 54% of 1500 employees polled in one of their surveys would choose to undertake important job-related assignments from home rather than the office. And 18% said that while they would prefer to complete assignments at the office, they would only do so before or after regular hours. A mere 19% said they’d go to the office during regular hours to get important assignments done.

    Flexible workplaces allow employees to have less interruptions from impromptu meetings and colleagues, while minimizing the stress of office chatter and politics—all of which can drain productivity both at work and at home. What’s more, an agile setting allows your employees to work when their energy level is at peak and their focus is best. So, an early-riser might benefit from working between the hours of 4:30 and 10 a.m., while other staff members excel in the evening; once children are in bed.

    Reduces Cost Across the Board

    Think about it, everything we do costs us something. Whether we’re sacrificing time, money, or health due to stress, cost matters. With a flexible work environment, employees can tailor their hours around family needs, personal obligations and life responsibilities without taking valuable time away from their work. They’re able to tap into work remotely while at the doctor, caring for a sick child, waiting on the repairman, or any other number of issues.

    What about the cost associated with commuting? Besides the obvious of fuel and wear and tear on a vehicle, an average worker commutes between 1-2 hours a day to the office. Tack on the stress involved in that commute and an 8 hour workday, and you’ve got one tired, stressed out employee with no balance. Telecommuting reduces these stressors, while adding value to the company by eliminating wasted time in traffic. And, less stress has a direct effect – healthier and happier employees.

    Providing a flexible practice in a traditional office environment can reduce overhead costs as well. When employees are working remotely, business owners can save by allowing employees to desk or space share. Too, an agile environment makes it easier for businesses to move away from traditional brick and mortar if they deem necessary.

    Boosts Loyalty, Talent and the Bottom Line

    We all know employees are the number one asset in any company. When employees have more control over their schedule during the business day, it breeds trust and reduces stress. In fact, in a recent survey of 1300 employees polled by FlexJobs, 83% responded they would be more loyal to their company if they offered this benefit. Having a more agile work schedule not only reduces stress, but helps your employees maintain a good work/life balance.

    Offering this incentive to prospective and existing employees also allows you to acquire top talent because you aren’t limited by geography. Your talent can work from anywhere, at any time of the day, reducing operational costs and boosting that bottom line—a very valuable asset to any small business owner or new start-up.

    So, what can employers do?   While there are still companies who view flexible work as a perk rather than the norm, forward-thinking business owners know how this will affect them in the next few years as they recruit and retain new talent. With 39% of permanent employees thinking to make the move to an agile environment over the next three years, it’s important to consider what a flexible environment could mean for your company.  Keep in mind there are many types that can be molded to fit your company’s and employees’ needs. Flexible work practices don’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach. As the oldest of Generation Z is entering the workforce, and millennials are settling into their careers, companies are wise to figure out their own customized policies. The desire for a more flexible schedule is key for the changing workforce—often times over healthcare, pay and other benefits. Providing a flexible arrangement will keep your company competitive.

  • The Trump Effect: Potential Changes on the Employee Benefits Horizon

    April 17, 2017

    Exclusive Webinar Invitation from Arrow!

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017
    11:00 a.m. PT

    As President Trump challenges the status quo in Washington, D.C., CEOs, CFOs and HR decision-makers are preparing for how his administration could impact the employee benefits industry. James Slotnick, AVP, Government Relations, for Sun Life Financial will provide insight into what changes are most likely to make it through Congress. His discussion will focus on the current state of repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the likelihood of corporate and individual tax reform, how federal paid family leave could become a reality, and other important issues.

    Simply fill out the online form by clicking here, and enter Discount Code “UBA465” to waive the associated fee.

     

  • Petaluma teen saves a life with CPR | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 12, 2017

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    We’re proud to be in partnership with the HeartSafe Community, an initiative of the Petaluma Health Care District, and will continue to offer free CPR/First-Aid classes to the open public. What an incredibly impactful program for our community – this is the third reported incident where someone who learned the CPR procedure saved a life!

    Click here for more information.

     

  • What is “the Republican way” – who knows, as they’ve lost their say regarding ACA | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 10, 2017

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    There are now several pieces of draft legislation floating through Capitol Hill that propose a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.  The latest is being written by Darrell Issa of California who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.  What they have in common:

    No mandates
    No subsidies
    A new tax strategy to make coverage more affordable
    More focus on strengthening the value of Health Savings Accounts
    The possibility of a tax on the value of coverage over a certain threshold

  • Employee Benefit Trends of 2017 | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 7, 2017

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    Customization of benefits is becoming more popular.  The process of personalizing employee benefits allows for individuals to choose from an array of options, and increases employee satisfaction.

  • Self-Funding Dental: Leave No Stone Unturned | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 4, 2017

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    With all of the focus that is put into managing and controlling health care costs today, it amazes me how many organizations still look past one of the most effective and least disruptive cost-saving strategies available to employers with 150 or more covered employees – self-funding your dental plan. There is a reason why dental insurers are not quick to suggest making a switch to a self-funded arrangement … it is called profit!

    Why self-fund dental?

    We know that the notion of self-funding still makes some employers nervous. Don’t be nervous; here are the fundamental reasons why this requires little risk:

    1. When self-funding dental, your exposure as an employer is limited on any one plan member. Benefit maximums are typically between $1,000 and $2,000 per year.
    2. Dental claims are what we refer to as high frequency, low severity (meaning many claims, lower dollars per claim), which means that they are far less volatile and much more predictable from year to year.
    3. You pay for only what you use, an administrative fee paid to the third-party administrator (TPA) and the actual claims that are paid in any given month. That’s it!

    Where do you save when you self-fund your dental?

    Trend: In our ongoing analysis over the years, dental claims do not trend at anywhere near the rate that the actuaries from any given insurance company project (keep in mind these are very bright people that are paid to make sure that insurance companies are profitable). Therefore, insured rates are typically overstated.

    Claims margin: This is money that insurance companies set aside for “claims fluctuation” (i.e., profit).  For example, ABC Insurer (we’ll keep this anonymous) does not use paid claims in your renewal projection. They use incurred claims that are always somewhere between three and six percent higher than your actual paid claims. They then apply “trend,” a risk charge and retention to the overstated figures. This factor alone will result in insured rates that are overstated by five to eight percent on insured plans with ABC Insurer, when compared to self-funded ABC Insurer plans.

    Risk charges: You do not pay them when you self-fund! This component of an insured rate can be anywhere from three to six percent of the premium.

    Reserves: Money that an insurer sets aside for incurred, but unpaid, claim liability. This is an area where insurance companies profit. They overstate the reserves that they build into your premiums and then they earn investment income on the reserves. When you self-fund, you pay only for what you use.

    Below is a recent case study

    We received a broker of record letter from a growing company headquartered in Massachusetts. They were hovering at about 200 employees enrolled in their fully-insured dental plan. After analyzing their historical dental claims experience, we saw an opportunity. After presenting the analysis and educating the employer on the limited amount of risk involved in switching to a self-funded program, the client decided to make the change.

    After we had received 12 months of mature claims, we did a look back into the financial impact of the change. Had the client accepted what was historically a well-received “no change” fully-insured dental renewal, they would have missed out on more than $90,000 added to their bottom line. Their employee contributions were competitive to begin with, so the employer held employee contributions flat and was able to reap the full financial reward.

    This is just one example. I would not suggest that this is the norm, but savings of 10 percent are. If you are a mid-size employer with a fully-insured dental plan, self-funding dental is a cost-savings opportunity you and your consultant should be monitoring at every renewal.

    By Gary R. Goodhile
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • TeleMedicine – The NextGen Benefit of Minor Healthcare | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 31, 2017

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    It’s not surprising that 2017 stands to be the year many will have an experience to share using a Telemedicine or a Virtual Doctor service. With current market trends, government regulations, and changing economic demands, it’s fast becoming a more popular alternative to traditional healthcare visits.  And, as healthcare costs continue to rise and there are more strategic pricing options and digital models available to users, the appeal for consumers, self-insured employers, health systems and health plans to jump on board is significant.

    In a recent study conducted by the Aloft Group on the state of Telemedicine, 47.7% of respondents weren’t sure about what Telemedicine meant, but it’s possible they may have experienced it, as 52.4% have had interaction with a physician or clinician via email or text. Further, 78.5% of respondents indicated they would be comfortable talking with a physician using an online method.

    Dr. Tony Yuan, an experienced ER doctor in San Diego, who also consults for Doctor on Demand, provides insight into this increasing trend during a recent Q and A session. Currently, over half of the patients he sees in his ER could utilize a digital healthcare model. In fact, 90% of patients who head to the ER for minor illnesses can be treated through this service. So, the next sinus, ear infection, or other minor health issue just may provide you and your family the chance to try what will become the new standard in minor healthcare.

    Here are few benefits TeleMedicine has to offer:

    It’s Fast and Simple

    There’s no question apps are available for everything to make our lives easier—and TeleMed is no exception. Within minutes, standard first time users can set up an account, complete a few medical profile questions, then create and save a session. Having the ability to log on with a board-certified physician or clinician 24/7/365, using any PC, smart device, and even phone in some cases, saves time and money. Many services, like Teledoc and MDLive, will connect you with a licensed doctor or clinician online in just a few minutes – no scheduling or wait required. Once on, you can discuss your healthcare needs confidentially. After the visit, the doctor will update his/her records, notify your primary care physician of the call, and send an electronic prescription to the pharmacy of your choice, if necessary—all in the time it takes for a lunch break.

    It’s Flexible

    The ability to connect with a professional whether you are at home, work, or traveling makes getting the care you need invaluable. How often have you experienced the symptoms—or the full blown-effect—of getting sick while traveling? Many, no doubt, have had to adjust flight/travel plans to get the help needed from their PCP, in order to avoid getting worse.  By using an app or online service from your smart phone or laptop, you’re able to get the antibiotics you need quicker without cutting trips short or missing work to do so.

    In addition, patients in smaller communities without the resources available of classically- trained, emergency-med physicians, see the benefit and flexibility of tapping into these online doctor services. Not only is it a plus for the patient to access more advanced care if needed, doctors in these rural areas value this as well. These digital healthcare models provide immediate, life-saving tools for both doctors and their patients who may not have access to higher, acute facilities.

    It’s Affordable

    Many TeleMedicine services now accept insurance, making a patient’s visit free, or at minimum the same as most deductible or co-insurance amounts for office visits; around $40. For those on a high-deductible plan, paying $40 for an online doctor service is a much cheaper alternative than paying $150 or more for an Urgent Care visit, or over $1200 for a trip to the ER. For employers, group options are low cost and can be a clear asset when creating solutions EEs will value.

    It’s Beneficial to Employers

    Today, 3 of 5 corporations, or 59% of employers provide digital healthcare benefits to their employees. As an employer, the benefits are straightforward. First, employees can participate in professional consultations for their family members or themselves without taking away from productivity. Second, when employers incorporate these services into their benefit plans, non-emergency care is redirected from expensive ER visits, ultimately saving thousands of dollars or more to the bottom line. Additionally, TeleHealth services offer frequent monitoring from clinicians for those employees who may need regular support due to more chronic issues, reducing trips to the hospital. Reducing these costs have a direct ROI for the employer and relieves the stress on the employee’s pocketbook. Third, many companies are now adding this digital benefit to their packages as a way to recruit new talent.

    There’s no doubt 2017 will see a greater opportunity for all to experience the increasing trend of Telemed. Creating a clear communication strategy to make sure employees know how to find, access and utilize this service to the highest potential is key.

  • North Bay’s Forty Under 40 remarkable young professionals of 2017 | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 29, 2017

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    We’re so proud of our managing partner Stephen McNeil for winning the 40 under 40 accolade from the North Bay Business Journal!

     Stephen truly exudes professional growth and tremendous leadership abilities at such a young age. He is leading our team into the future with his industry expertise, innovation, and ability to communicate across all dividers.  Stay tuned for more on his work and the award when the Journal interviews him in April.   For now you can see him and his 40 under 40 colleagues here…  

     

  • Indecision and delay, it’s becoming the American way…as the ACA is hung out to dry | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 24, 2017

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    OK, the Trump campaign said the first act in office would be the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.  The Republicans, which have since day one asked for its removal, lined up behind this.

    Then reality set in and they decided to determine what a replacement would look like…and they don’t know.  And they still don’t know.  And they’re still discussing it.  In the meantime, there is a lot of jockeying for position.  What the administration did do was issue an Executive Order that suspended enforcement activity (the mandates) and now the debate is over the subsidies.  The most recent notice is from new HHS Secretary Tom Price who said this will require an additional “three months to come to a resolution”.

  • The Overtime Rule Saga Continues… CA Benefit Consultants

    March 21, 2017

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    All the hullabaloo about the potential new Department of Labor overtime rules was for naught as the implementation of the law has been delayed again. President Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ) requested extensions to the appeal process to determine its strategy and finalize its standpoint on the proposed regulations. Some political experts theorize that the need for an extension is the result of delays in President Trump’s appointment of a Secretary of Labor. The President’s first nominee, Andrew Puzder, withdrew and confirmation hearings for his second nominee, Alexander Acosta, have not been scheduled.

    Here’s where we are so far:

    • December 2016 was the effective date, but it was delayed by court order in November 2016.
    • Obama’s DOJ requested expedited review to get the law pushed through but Trump’s DOJ requested an extension; extension granted.
    • Trump’s DOJ requested another extension, unopposed, and it was granted.

    In the legal world the result of these delays is that the appeal will not be fully briefed until May 1, 2017. This means the law is to enactment as Warren Beatty is to envelopes — no one knows what’s going on (at least until May) and the confusion may continue to go unresolved with no clear date of resolution.

    What to Do Now

    In the meantime, employers should be informed about how the rule, if implemented, would impact their workplace. You can read our blog post to learn more. As always, ensure that your company maintains compliance with current overtime rules and regulations, and use this time of legal indecision as an opportunity to review your practices and policies in accordance with state and federal wage payment laws.

    By Samantha Yurman, JD
    Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

  • Long-Awaited Repeal and Replacement Plan for ACA Unveiled | CA Benefit Consultants

    March 17, 2017

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    On March 6, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee released a proposed budget reconciliation bill, entitled the American Health Care Act, to replace portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If enacted, the American Health Care Act would provide some relief from provisions of the ACA for employers and make other significant changes to employee benefits. While the proposal is 53 pages long and covers a range of tax and benefit changes, below is a summary of key provisions impacting employers and employee benefits.

    Employer and Individual Mandates

    The proposal effectively eliminates the employer and individual mandate by zeroing out penalties for an employer’s failure to offer, and an individual’s failure to obtain, minimum essential coverage retroactive to January 1, 2016.

    Health Care Related Taxes

    The proposal extends the applicable date for the “Cadillac tax” from 2020 to 2025 and repeals the medical device tax, over the counter medication tax, indoor tanning sales tax, and Medicare hospital insurance surtax beginning in 2018.

    Reporting Requirements

    Because the proposal is through a budget reconciliation process, employer reporting requirements for reporting offers of coverage on employees’ W-2s cannot be repealed; however, the proposal creates a simplified process for employers to report this information that, according to the House Ways and Means Committee’s section-by-section summary, makes the current reporting redundant and allows the  Secretary of the Treasury to cease enforcing reporting that is not needed for taxable purposes.

    Contribution Limits

    Additionally, the proposal eliminates the cap on contributions to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and almost doubles the maximum allowable contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) by allowing contributions of $6,550 for individuals and $13,100 for families beginning in 2018. This aligns the HSA contribution amount with the sum of the annual deductible and out-of-pocket cost expenses permitted under a high deductible health plan. The proposal also allows both spouses to make catch-up contributions to one HSA beginning in 2018.

    Patient Protection Provisions

    Finally, the proposal retains some key patient protection provisions of the ACA by continuing to prohibit insurers from excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions from obtaining or paying more for coverage and continuing to allow children to stay on their parent’s plan to age 26.

    What Employers Should Know Now

    We are still in the first round of the new government’s strategy to repeal and replace the ACA. The Congressional Budget Office will next review and score the plan before it goes back to the House and the Senate for full votes before making it to President Trump’s desk for approval. This will take time.

    In the interim, the provisions of the ACA still apply. While applicable large employers may not be assessed penalties for failing to offer minimum essential coverage to employees if the proposal is eventually enacted, please note that employers are still obligated to report offers of coverage and should finalize their ACA reporting for the 2016 tax year if they have not completed their e-filing with the IRS (due March 31, 2017).

    By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
    Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

  • The “Line 22” Question: Which Box(es) Do I Check? | CA Benefit Consultants

    March 14, 2017

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    Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals are required to have health insurance while applicable large employers (ALEs) are required to offer health benefits to their full-time employees.

    In order for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that (1) individuals have the required minimum essential coverage, (2) individuals who request premium tax credits are entitled to them, and (3) ALEs are meeting their shared responsibility (play or pay) obligations, employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees and insurers will be required to report on the health coverage they offer. Similarly, insurers and employers with less than 50 full time employees but that have a self-funded plan also have reporting obligations. All of this reporting is done on IRS Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C and 1095-C.

    Final instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B and the 1094-C and 1095-C were released in September 2015, as were the final forms for 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C.

    Form 1094-C is used in combination with Form 1095-C to determine employer shared responsibility penalties. It is often referred to as the “transmittal form” or “cover sheet.” IRS Form 1095-C will primarily be used to meet the Section 6056 reporting requirement, which relates to the employer shared responsibility/play or pay requirement. Information from Form 1095-C will also be used in determining whether an individual is eligible for a premium tax credit.

    Form 1094-C contains information about the ALE, and is how an employer identifies as being part of a controlled group. It also has a section labeled “Certifications of Eligibility” and instructs employers to “select all that apply” with four boxes that can be checked. The section is often referred to as the “Line 22” question or boxes. Many employers find this section confusing and are unsure what, if any, boxes they should select. The boxes are labeled:

    1. Qualifying Offer Method
    2. Reserved
    3. Section 4980H Transition Relief
    4. 98% Offer Method

    Different real world situations will lead an employer to select any combination of boxes on Line 22, including leaving all four boxes blank. Practically speaking, only employers who met the requirements of using code 1A on the 1095-C, offered coverage to virtually all employees, or qualified for transition relief in 2015 and had a non-calendar year plan will check any of the boxes on Line 22. Notably, employers who do not use the federal poverty level safe harbor for affordability will never select Box A, and corresponding with that, will never use codes 1A or 1I on Line 14 of a 1095-C form.

    By Danielle Capilla
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Arrow Wins North Bay Business Journal Philanthropy Award 2017! | CA Benefit Consultants

    March 10, 2017

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    Arrow Benefits Principal Mariah Shields founded her local chapter of 100 Sonoma County People Who Care – She and Arrow won the North Bay Business Journal Philanthropy award for this and all their good charitable work. Mariah is shown here presenting one of the checks for funds raised by the organization in support of local non-profits that support the community. Read the entire article here.

  • Gig Economy 101 | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 7, 2017

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    What is a Gig Economy?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    By Nicole Federico, eTekhnos Benefits Technology

  • Top Five Compliance Assessment Surprises | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 1, 2017

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    Our Firm is making a big push to provide compliance assessments for our clients and using them as a marketing tool with prospects. Since the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) began its Health Benefits Security Project in October 2012, there has been increased scrutiny. While none of our clients have been audited yet, we expect it is only a matter of time and we want to make sure they are prepared.

    We knew most fully-insured groups did not have a Summary Plan Description (SPD) for their health and welfare plans, but we have been surprised by some of the other things that were missing. Here are the top five compliance surprises we found.

    1. COBRA Initial Notice. The initial notice is a core piece of compliance with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and we have been very surprised by how many clients are not distributing this notice. Our clients using a third-party administrator (TPA), or self-administering COBRA, are doing a good job of sending out the required letters after qualifying events. However, we have found that many clients are not distributing the required COBRA initial notice to new enrollees. The DOL has recently updated the COBRA model notices with expiration dates of December 31, 2019. We are trying to get our clients to update their notices and, if they haven’t consistently distributed the initial notice to all participants, to send it out to everyone now and document how it was sent and to whom.
    2. Prescription Drug Plan Reporting to CMS. To comply with the Medicare Prescription Drug Improvement and Modernization Act, passed in 2003, employer groups offering prescription benefits to Medicare-eligible individuals need to take two actions each year. The first is an annual report on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website regarding whether the prescription drug plan offered by the group is creditable or non-creditable. The second is distributing a notice annually to Medicare-eligible plan members prior to the October 15 beginning of Medicare open enrollment, disclosing whether the prescription coverage is creditable or non-creditable. We have found that the vast majority (but not 100 percent) of our clients are complying with the second requirement by annually distributing notices to employees. Many clients are not complying with the first requirement and do not go to the CMS website annually to update their information. The annual notice on the CMS website must be made within:
    • 60 days after the beginning of the plan year,
    • 30 days after the termination of the prescription drug plan, or
    • 30 days after any change in the creditability status of the prescription drug plan.
    1. ACA Notice of Exchange Rights. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) required that, starting in September 2013, all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) distribute written notices to all employees regarding the state exchanges, eligibility for coverage through the employer, and whether the coverage was qualifying coverage. This notice was to be given to all employees at that time and to all new hires within 14 days of their date of hire. We have found many groups have not included this notice in the information they routinely give to new hires. The DOL has acknowledged that there are no penalties for not distributing the notice, but since it is so easy to comply, why take the chance in case of an audit?
    2. USERRA Notices. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment for military service or service in the National Disaster Medical System. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed services. Employers are required to provide a notice of the rights, benefits and obligations under USERRA. Many employers meet the obligation by posting the DOL’s “Your Rights Under USERRA” poster, or including text in their employee handbook. However, even though USERRA has been around since 1994, we are finding many employers are not providing this information.
    3. Section 79. Internal Revenue Code Section 79 provides regulations for the taxation of employer-provided life insurance. This code has been around since 1964, and while there have been some changes, the basics have been in place for many years. Despite the length of time it has been in place, we have found a number of groups that are not calculating the imputed income. In essence, if an employer provides more than $50,000 in life insurance, then the employee should be paying tax on the excess coverage based on the IRS’s age rated table 2-2. With many employers outsourcing their payroll or using software programs for payroll, calculating the imputed income usually only takes a couple of mouse clicks. However, we have been surprised by how many employers are not complying with this part of the Internal Revenue Code, and are therefore putting their employees’ beneficiaries at risk.

    There have been other surprises through this process, but these are a few of the more striking examples. The feedback we received from our compliance assessments has been overwhelmingly positive. Groups don’t always like to change their processes, but they do appreciate knowing what needs to be done.

    Audit-proof your company with UBA’s latest white paper: Don’t Roll the Dice on Department of Labor Audits. This free resource offers valuable information about how to prepare for an audit, the best way to acclimate staff to the audit process, and the most important elements of complying with requests.

    By Bob Bentley
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Keeping Pace with the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 25, 2017

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    Last fall, President Barack Obama signed the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE), which preserved the historical definition of small employer to mean an employer that employs 1 to 50 employees. Prior to this newly signed legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was set to expand the definition of a small employer to include companies with 51 to 100 employees (mid-size segment) beginning January 1, 2016.

    If not for PACE, the mid-size segment would have become subject to the ACA provisions that impact small employers. Included in these provisions is a mandate that requires coverage for essential health benefits (not to be confused with minimum essential coverage, which the ACA requires of applicable large employers) and a requirement that small group plans provide coverage levels that equate to specific actuarial values. The original intent of expanding the definition of small group plans was to lower premium costs and to increase mandated benefits to a larger portion of the population.

    The lower cost theory was based on the premise that broadening the risk pool of covered individuals within the small group market would spread the costs over a larger population, thereby reducing premiums to all. However, after further scrutiny and comments, there was concern that the expanded definition would actually increase premium costs to the mid-size segment because they would now be subject to community rating insurance standards. This shift to small group plans might also encourage mid-size groups to leave the fully-insured market by self-insuring – a move that could actually negate the intended benefits of the expanded definition.

    Another issue with the ACA’s expanded definition of small group plans was that it would have resulted in a double standard for the mid-size segment. Not only would they be subject to the small group coverage requirements, but they would also be subject to the large employer mandate because they would meet the ACA’s definition of an applicable large employer.

    Note: Although this bill preserves the traditional definition of a small employer, it does allow states to expand the definition to include organizations with 51 to 100 employees, if so desired.

    By Vicki Randall
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Top 3 Questions to Make the Most out of your Dental Plan – by Jennifer Wardell & Stephen McNeil

    February 21, 2017

    For many dental patients, dental insurance annual maximums replenish on January 1.  To make sure you get the most bang for your buck on your dental plan, we recommend you ask these three vital questions before having any upcoming procedures.  Read entire article here…

    NorthBayBiz Magazine – February 2017

    Stephen McNeil

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Jennifer Wardell

  • The IRS Clarifies Tax Treatment of Fixed-Indemnity Health Plans | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 16, 2017

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    While many Americans will remember January 20, 2017 as the day the 45th President of the United States was sworn into office, employee benefits experts will also remember it as the day the IRS Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) released this memorandum that clarifies, among other things, the tax treatment of benefits paid by fixed-indemnity plans.

    Fixed indemnity plans are generally voluntary benefits employers offer to complement or supplement group health insurance, such as a hospital indemnity plan that pays a fixed dollar amount for days in the hospital. The plans do not meet minimum essential coverage standards and are exempt from the Affordable Care Act.

    In the memorandum, the IRS clarified that if an employer pays the fixed-indemnity premiums on behalf of employees and the value is excluded from employees’ gross income and wages or allows employees to pay premiums pre-tax through the employer’s cafeteria plan, the amount of any benefits paid to an employee under the plan will be included in the employee’s gross income and wages. On the other hand, if employees pay the premiums with after-tax dollars, then the benefits are not included in the employees’ gross income and wages.

    While this creates a tax burden for the employee, it also creates a burden for employers, as they are tasked with determining whether an employee has received a benefit and the amount of the benefit to determine wages and applicable employment taxes.

    Employers that offer employer-paid fixed indemnity plans or allow employees to pay for plans pre-tax are encouraged to work with their counsel, broker, carrier, or other trusted advisor to address their current practices and determine if any changes should be made.

    By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
    Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

  • Good Sense Guide to Minimum Essential Coverage Forms 1094-C and 1095-C | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 14, 2017

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    If you are an Applicable Large Employer (ALE), you may still be catching your breath from 2015 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting. However, in a couple of weeks the process starts all over again as you prepare for the 2016 reporting cycle. As with all new requirements, the first filing cycle had some bumps as there was little guidance for some of the questions and issues that arose. In preparation for 2017, let’s take a look at the “C” forms and discuss areas of the forms that may have been confusing.

    To refresh, the C forms are used by ALEs to report information about their offers of health coverage as required under Section 6056. For self-insured ALEs, the C forms are also used to report coverage information for individuals enrolled in the ALE’s health plan as required under Section 6055. All ALEs are required to file 1094/1095-C forms regardless of what kind of coverage, if any, they offer. ALEs with self-insured plans or fully-insured plans, as well as, ALEs that offer no plan are subject to Section 6056 reporting. See my blog “Making Sense of Form 1095 Minimum Essential Coverage Reporting.”

    The 1094-C is the transmittal form that goes along with all of your 1095-C forms when you submit them to the IRS. It has four parts and in general, the 1094-C is pretty straightforward. However, Line 22, located in Part II of the form, deserves some discussion. Line 22 is used to indicate when an ALE is eligible for one or more types of reporting relief. A response is not mandatory and is only necessary if an ALE wishes to take advantage of one of the relief options.

    It probably seems obvious, and this will sound a bit like a tongue twister, but it may be helpful to review the relief that is provided prior to going to the effort of determining whether you meet the requirements of the relief. Said differently, if the relief for meeting certain requirements isn’t of value to you, there is little value in taking the time to determine if you qualify for the relief. The table below provides a summary of the relief options available for selection on Line 22.

    Summary of line 22 reporting relief

    The 1095-C is employee/participant specific and one is generated for all full-time employees. In addition, if it is a self-insured plan, a 1095-C is also generated for any non-full-time individual who enrolled in the plan.

    An area of confusion on the 1095-C is Part II. This area requires that you understand the different codes used to report the various “offer” situations that might exist. Deciphering these different situations can be somewhat like playing a game of Twister as multiple codes may be applicable

    Line 14 – Offer of Coverage Code

    This line captures the code that reflects the offer an ALE made to the employee on a month-by-month basis. For some employees, this may be straightforward. For example, the employee may have been employed for the entire year and may have received an offer at the beginning of the year, which covered all 12 months and no changes occurred with regard to that employee’s offer throughout the year. Therefore, one code can be used for all 12 months. However, when an employee is hired or terminated, the code will not be the same for the entire year. Throw in situations where employees go from part-time to full-time, or perhaps you have a rehire situation, and it can become quite complicated.

    In 2016, there were 11 different offer codes. However, one of these codes (1I) is not to be used, so essentially there are 10 options available.

    Offer codes for line 14

    Line 14 is mandatory and should always have a code entered.

    *If used on Line 14, then line 15 must be completed.

    Line 15 – Employee Required Contribution

    This line captures the amount the employee would be required to contribute for the lowest cost minimum value coverage that was offered by the ALE. Note: This is not necessarily what the employee enrolled in. Line 15 is used by the IRS to determine if the minimum value coverage that was offered meets the affordability requirement. NOTE: Line 15 is only to be completed when the code on Line 14 is 1B, C, D, E, J or K. When any of the other codes are used on Line 14, line 15 is to be left blank because the IRS does not need to ascertain affordability.

    Line 16 – Section 4980H Safe Harbor and Other Relief Codes

    This line is used to provide a reason why an ALE member should not be liable for a 4980H(b) penalty. Line 16 provides additional information to substantiate why a penalty should not apply to that particular employee’s offer, or lack of an offer. Line 16 is not mandatory, so depending on the code used on Line 14, you may, or may not, need to provide a code on this line. Examples where you may wish to provide a code include:

    • Codes 2A, B, D, or E could be used to explain why an offer was not required for an employee. For example, Code 2A is used for months in which a terminated employee has COBRA.
    • Codes 2F, G, or H might be used in situations where affordability of the offer is questionable based on the figure on line 15.
    • Code 2C is applicable if the employee enrolled in the coverage for each day of the month and was full-time for at least one month during the year.

    Section 4980H Safe Harbor and Other Relief Codes for Line 16

    Those are the areas of the 1094-C and 1095-C that seemed to be the most confusing for many ALEs. Although the information presented here by no means extinguishes this confusion, our intent was to help explain the purpose of the more confusing parts and how certain responses can prove beneficial so that determining those responses is less frustrating.

    By Vicki Randall
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • National Rising Star Award

    February 10, 2017

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    The entire team at Arrow Benefits Group congratulates our Andrew McNeil, Principal for winning the Employee Benefits Adviser National Rising Star Award! The award is well deserved and Andrew is someone truly concerned with the growth and well-being of all his clients and community at large. His continuous innovations in the industry are being well-recognized and we agree!

  • UBA Health Plan Survey – 2016 | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 9, 2017

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    Employer-sponsored health insurance is greatly affected by geographic region, industry, and employer size. While some cost trends have been fairly consistent since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was put in place, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) finds several surprises in their 2016 Health Plan Survey.

    Based on responses from more than 11,000 employers, UBA announces the top five best and worst states for group health care costs.

    Check out this short video and contact us with how this Survey impacts you and your business!

  • Here’s What You Need to Know About a Long-Term Care Insurance Policy | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 6, 2017

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    So you’ve made the decision to learn more about long-term care insurance. That’s smart, as neither health insurance nor Medicare would pay for extended long-term care services in the event that you needed them in the future. Plus, there’s about a 70% chance you’ll need some type of long-term care after age 65, according to government stats. And given that the cost of long-term care can quickly deplete your life’s savings, it just makes sense to add it your financial plan.

    When you prepare for any upcoming investment or purchase, you probably run into some unfamiliar language or terminology in your research, which can be frustrating and downright confusing.

    Searching for a long-term care insurance policy is no different. A long-term care insurance policy describes coverage under the policy, exclusions and limitations—and can be laden with industry jargon. Here’s a breakdown of the fundamentals:

    There are four primary components that determine your long-term care benefits and influence your monthly cost.

    1. How much. This is the total maximum benefit available under any policy. There are many maximums to choose from, ranging from $100,000 to $250,000, $500,000 or more. Benefits are available until you have received your maximum benefit in total.

    2. How fast. This is the monthly limit you can access from your total maximum benefit. Insurance companies do not pay out your “how much” in a single lump sum. Rather, you access your benefits in smaller amounts on a monthly basis up to a predetermined monthly maximum.

    Depending on the carrier you choose, your monthly maximum could range from $1,500 to $10,000 a month. The “how much” and “how fast” components work together to determine how long your coverage will last. If your monthly maximum (“how fast”) is $5,000 and your total policy maximum (“how much”) is $250,000, it would take 50 months (four years, two months) before your exhaust your policy benefits. If you needed $2,000 a month to pay for home care, as an example, it could take more than 10 years to exhaust a $250,000 policy. The greater your “how much” and “how fast,” are the higher your premium will be.

    3. Growth rate. This determines how your benefit grows over time. The most common growth rate today is 3%. If your policy started with $176,000 in your “how much” and $4,500 in your “how fast,” a 3% annual growth rate would double your benefits in 24 years to $352,000 total maximum benefit and $9,000 monthly maximum respectively.
    You also have the option of choosing a growth rate other than 3% or to increase your maximums upfront and forgo a growth rate all together. A specialist can help you identify the growth rate that best suits your goals and budget.

    4. Deductible. Long-term care insurance has an elimination period that, like a deductible, determines how much you may have to pay out of your pocket before benefits are paid. One distinction to note is that an elimination period is stated in days, not dollars. The most commonly selected elimination period is 90 days. This typically means that you must receive 90 days of care that you pay for out of your pocket before benefits are available.

    Not that difficult when put simply, right? I hope you feel better prepared in your search for the right policy and that I have also remove some of the confusion. Long-term care insurance is here to help you live the lifestyle you want 10, 20, even 30 years down the road.

    By Matt Dean
    Originally published by www.lifehappens.org

  • President Trump Makes First Moves Towards ACA Repeal – What Employers and Plan Sponsors Should Know Now | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 2, 2017

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    One of President Donald Trump’s first actions in office was to make good on a campaign promise to move quickly to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He issued Executive Order 13765, Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal. The one-page executive order (EO) is effective immediately and very light on details, with the goal to minimize the financial and regulatory burdens of the ACA while its repeal is pending. The EO directs the Executive Branch agency heads (those in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury) in charge of enforcing the ACA to “exercise all authority and discretion available to them to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”

    While Congress works on the ACA repeal through budget reconciliation, which allows for quick consideration of tax, spending, and debt limit legislation, President Trump is tackling the regulatory enforcement actions of the law. The practical impact of the EO is limited to agency enforcement discretion and requires agencies to implement the EO in a manner consistent with current law, including assuring that any required changes to applicable regulations will follow all administrative requirements for notice and comment periods.

    The bottom line is that until the agency heads in Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury are confirmed and take charge of their departments, there will probably be little change in agency enforcement action right away. The broader changes to amend or repeal the ACA will take even more time to implement.

    What Employers and Plan Sponsors Should Know Now

    While the EO does not specifically refer to the ACA compliance burdens on employers or plan sponsors, such as the employer or individual mandates, required health benefits coverage, reporting or employee notification requirements, the language addresses the actions that the federal agencies can take to soften enforcement until the repeal is accomplished. It does direct the government to address the taxes and penalties associated with the ACA. So what does that mean for employers and plan sponsors now?

    IRS employer reporting delay? Not yet. The top concern of employers is whether or not those subject to the shared responsibility provisions of the law would need to submit their 1094/1095 reports of coverage to the IRS by February 28 (or March 31, if filing electronically) and provide their employees with individual 1095-C statements by March 2. These reports are essential for the IRS to assess penalties under the law, and this reporting has been a burden for employers. Unfortunately for employers, the order did not mention delaying or eliminating this reporting requirement.

    What employers should do now:

    • Applicable large employers (ALEs) subject to the employer mandate should plan to comply with their 1094/1095 reporting obligations this year.
    • All employers should continue to comply with all current ACA requirements until there is further guidance from the lawmakers.

    We’ve Got You Covered

    We’ll be monitoring President Trump’s actions to reduce regulatory burdens on American businesses along with Congressional legislative actions that can impact your business operations. Look for ThinkHR’s practical updates where we’ll analyze these developments and break them down into actionable information you need to comply with the changing laws and regulations.

    By Laura Kerekes, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
    Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

  • Who Are You Benchmarking Your Health Plan Against? | CA Benefit Advisors

    January 31, 2017

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    Many employers benchmark their health plan against carrier provided national data. While that is a good place to start, regional cost averages vary, making it essential to benchmark both nationally and regionally—as well as state by state. For example, a significant difference exists between the cost to insure an employee in the Northeast versus the Central U.S.—plans in the Northeast continue to cost the most since they typically have lower deductibles, contain more state-mandated benefits, and feature higher in-network coinsurance, among other factors.

    UBA Health Plan Survey Costs by Region

    Drilling down even more, comparing yourself to your industry peers can tell a very different story.

    UBA Health Plan Survey Costs by Industry

    Consider a manufacturing plant in Georgia that offers a PPO. Its premium cost for single coverage is $507 per month. Compare this with the benchmarks for all plans and you can see that it is $2 per month less than the national average. When compared with other PPOs in the Southeast region, this employer’s cost is actually $2 more than the average. This employer’s cost appears to be higher or lower compared with national and regional benchmarks, depending on which benchmark is used. Yet this employer’s cost is actually higher than its closest peers’ costs when using the state-specific benchmark, which in Georgia is $468. Bottom line, this employer’s monthly single premium is actually $39 more than its competitors in the state.UBA Health Plan Survey Plan Comparison

    As our CEO, Les McPhearson, recently stated, “Benchmarking by state, region, industry, and group size is critical. We see it time and time again, especially with new clients. An employer benchmarks their rates nationally and they seem at or below average, but once we look at their rates by plan type across multiple carriers and among their neighboring competitors or like-size groups, we find many employers leave a lot on the bargaining table.”

    By RJ Nelson|
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

     

  • DOL Increases Penalty Amounts to Adjust for Inflation | California Benefit Advisors

    January 25, 2017

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    For the second time in less than a year the Department of Labor (DOL) has increased the civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced by the DOL. The increases were announced in a final rule issued by the DOL on January 18, 2017. The increases were made pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which requires federal agencies to annually adjust their civil money penalties for inflation, based on the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), no later than January 15 of each year. The inflation adjustment for 2017 was based on the percentage change between the October 2016 CPI-U and the October 2015 CPI-U. The penalties were last increased on August 1, 2016.

    The increased penalties apply to a broad range of laws enforced by the DOL including:

    • The Black Lung Benefits Act.
    • The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards (CWHSSA).
    • The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA).
    • The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).
    • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
    • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
    • The Federal Mine and Safety Health Act.
    • The Immigration and Nationality Act.
    • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
    • The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).
    • The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
    • The Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA).

    The new penalties apply to violations that occurred after November 2, 2015, and for which penalties were assessed after January 13, 2017. View the updated penalties for violations of laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL.

     

    By Rick Montgomery, JD – Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • 2017 Annual Limits Card Back by Popular Demand | CA Benefit Advisors

    January 23, 2017

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    Many employee benefit limits are automatically adjusted each year for inflation (this is often referred to as an “indexed” limit). UBA offers a quick reference chart showing the 2017 cost of living adjustments for health and Section 125 plans, qualified plans, Social Security/Medicare withholding, compensation amounts and more. This at-a-glance resource is a valuable desk tool for employers and HR practitioners.

    Here’s a snapshot of a section of the 2017 health plan limits; be sure to request the complete chart from a UBA Partner.

    2017 health plan limits

     

    By Danielle Capilla, Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Department of Labor Form 5500’s Time-Intensive and Expensive Reporting Requirements Painful for Small Employers | CA Benefit Advisors

    January 20, 2017

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    Proposed regulations for revising and greatly expanding the Department of Labor (DOL) Form 5500 reporting are set to take effect in 2019. Currently, the non-retirement plan reporting is limited to those employers that have more than 100 employees enrolled on their benefit plans, or those in a self-funded trust. The filings must be completed on the DOL EFAST2 system within 210 days following the end of the plan year.

    What does this expanded number of businesses required to report look like? According to the 2016 United Benefit Advisors (UBA) Health Plan Survey, less than 18 percent of employers offering medical plans are required to report right now. With the expanded requirements of 5500 reporting, this would require the just over 82 percent of employers not reporting now to comply with the new mandate.

    While the information reported is not typically difficult to gather, it is a time-intensive task. In addition to the usual information about the carrier’s name, address, total premium, and payments to an agent or broker, employers will now be required to provide detailed benefit plan information such as deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, coinsurance and copay amounts, among other items. Currently, insurance carriers and third party administrators must produce information needed on scheduled forms. However, an employer’s plan year as filed in their ERISA Summary Plan Description, might not match up to the renewal year with the insurance carrier. There are times when these schedule forms must be requested repeatedly in order to receive the correct dates of the plan year for filing.

    In the early 1990s small employers offering a Section 125 plan were required to fill out a 5500 form with a very simple 5500 schedule form. Most small employers did not know about the filing, so noncompliance ran very high. The small employer filings were stopped mainly because the DOL did not have adequate resources to review or tabulate the information.

    While electronic filing makes the process easier to tabulate the information received from companies, is it really needed? Likely not, given the expense it will require in additional compliance costs for small employers. With the current information gathered on the forms, the least expensive service is typically $500 annually for one filing. Employers without an ERISA required summary plan description (SPD) in a wrap-style document, would be required to do a separate filing based on each line of coverage. If an employer offers medical, dental, vision and life insurance, it would need to complete four separate filings. Of course, with the expanded information required if the proposed regulations hold, it is anticipated that those offering Form 5500 filing services would need to increase with the additional amount of information to be entered. In order to compensate for the additional information, those fees could more than double. Of course, that also doesn’t account for the time required to gather all the data and make sure it is correct. It is at the very least, an expensive endeavor for a small business to undertake.

    Even though small employers will likely have fewer items required for their filings, it is an especially undue hardship on many already struggling small businesses that have been hit with rising health insurance premiums and other increasing costs. For those employers in the 50-99 category, they have likely paid out high fees to complete the ACA required 1094 and 1095 forms and now will be saddled with yet another reporting cost and time intensive gathering of data.

    Given the noncompliance of the 1990s in the small group arena, this is just one area that a new administration could very simply and easily remove this unwelcome burden from small employers.

     

    By Carol Taylor, Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • 2017: What HR Can Do to Prepare for a Big Year of Change | California Employee Benefits

    January 18, 2017

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    Employers saw unprecedented changes to human resources management in 2016, including Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance, new Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, parental leave laws and a push for equal pay. With a new year and a new president taking office, 2017 is sure to usher in some major changes and HR challenges that could have significant impact on businesses large and small. Here are a few of the hot button issues to keep on your radar and how to prepare for them:

    Keep current on ACA changes
    With President-elect Trump taking office, the ACA finds itself once again in the national spotlight, this time standing on more uncertain ground than ever before. Whether the ACA will be repealed fully, partially, or left as is, it’s important for employers to stay current on compliance to avoid penalties and fees. For more information, seek out the helpful questions and answers on the ACA reporting requirements that the IRS provides here.

    Don’t assume the law is barred
    In November 2016, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction blocking the new overtime regulations slated to go into effect the first of December. This would have doubled the FLSA’s salary threshold for exemption from overtime pay. Despite the injunction, many employers have already adjusted workers’ salaries or reclassified their employees. While we wait to see what comes from the Department of Labor’s appeal, it is a safe bet for employers to leave their decisions in place, and not assume the law will be permanently barred.

    Make a good (and fair) recruitment process a priority
    Finding the best employees is one of the most critical aspects to your business. 2016 saw big pushes with diversity initiatives and blind hiring, a practice which means being hired without disclosing your name, educational background or work experience to your future employer. While we expect these trends to carry over in 2017, we also predict a renewed focus on improving the overall job candidate experience. A recent study found that 60 percent of job seekers have had at least one bad recruitment experience, and 72 percent of those report having shared their experience with a recruiter or career websites. In order to ensure that it’s a productive experience for all, employers should maintain consistent communications during the hiring process and be prepared to share tailored feedback should the candidate request it.

    Consider updating your performance review process
    We’ve all done them, and it’s likely we’ve all dreaded them at least once. One study found that a quarter of employees surveyed found their annual performance reviews were ineffective and didn’t actually help their performance. 2016 saw plenty of conversations about how to improve the outdated process and we expect this to continue in 2017. One strategy that we see gaining popularity in 2017 is building out the review process to include biannual or even quarterly reviews. More frequent reviews may help build rapport between managers and their employees and encourage all parties to stay on track with their goals and objectives for the year.

    Focus on company culture and brand
    In line with recruiting and employee feedback strategies, employee engagement continues to be a hot button issue. Retaining employees is critical to a business’ success and the last year brought this to light—85% of executives surveyed in the 2016 Deloitte Human Capital Trends report ranked employee engagement as a top priority. We expect to see this trend carry over into 2017 with an added emphasis on wellness programs and work-life balance. As a company’s brand and culture becomes more critical than ever, it’s important to make concerted efforts to keep employees happy, healthy, and engaged.

    One of the many keys to a company’s success is being aware of the constantly changing work landscape. As you enter 2017, keep these predictions and actions in mind and we’ll do our best to keep you up to date on the latest.

     

    Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • How Paid Parental Leave is Changing the Benefits Landscape | California Employee Benefits

    January 13, 2017

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    When you hear the term “paid parental leave”, what do you think of? Here in the U.S., paid leave benefits are somewhat of a luxury. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) has made it possible for parents working at companies with 50 or more employees to secure 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the U.S. is one of only three countries on a list of 185 that does not mandate a period of paid parental leave. This leaves the country ranked below Iran and Mexico, who both offer 12 weeks of paid parental leave. On the other end of the spectrum, employees in the UK benefit from up to 40 weeks of paid leave.

    As a result of having no mandated paid parental leave policy, approximately a quarter of U.S. women who become pregnant while employed quit their jobs upon giving birth, one third of women are forced to borrow money or withdraw from savings to cover time off from work, and 15% utilize public assistance. The June 2015 Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was the first legislation to make a case for offering equal parental leave to mothers and fathers, setting a new precedent for the evolution of the paid leave benefit.

    Why Should You Offer Paid Parental Leave to Employees?

    The EY & Peterson Institute for International Economics recently released a study revealing that 38% of millennials would move to a new country if they would be afforded better paid parental leave benefits. Millennials now make up the largest demographic in the American workforce, and companies will need to increasingly take statistics like this into account when building benefit plans that will attract and retain top talent.

    Aside from talent acquisition, the study goes on to show the positive impacts a paid parental leave benefit can have on keeping women in the C-Suite, as men who would usually be considered secondary caregivers take advantage of the time off and allow women to get back to work more quickly. In addition, change.org, who has implemented a generous paid parental leave policy, observed that dads who took leave in their company encouraged other new fathers to take advantage of the benefits as well, creating a culture of safety in which to utilize leave and invest more fully in their family life.

    Ultimately, employees are happier and are empowered to do better work when they are allowed to honor their priorities. Whether this means a new mother is allowed to take stress-free, paid time off to bond with her child, or a father takes advantage of leave to be with his family or allow his partner to return to work, the ability to balance work and life is of the utmost importance to younger generations.

    Case Studies – Top Companies Doing it Right

    American Express

    American Express recently announced that they were changing their paid parental leave policy from three months for primary caregivers and two weeks for secondary caregivers to five months of paid parental leave for all full-time and part-time employees.

    All genders are eligible for the benefit, and employees may become parents via birth, adoption or surrogacy. In addition, American Express offers up to $35,000 for adoption or surrogacy fees with a limit of two events.  A lifetime maximum of $35,000 is also allotted for fertility treatments.

    The company also announced a unique supplemental benefit of 24-hour lactation consultants available to nursing mothers, and a breast milk shipment program available to mothers traveling for business who need to send milk home.

    Bank of America

    Bank of America offers 16 weeks of paid leave for biological and adoptive parents. A unique feature of their policy allows parents to take leave any time during the first year of the child’s life, enabling partners to take overlapping or subsequent time off, whichever best fits their family’s needs. The company values providing this option, as they see almost half of parents in today’s society raising their kids together at home while both holding jobs.

    The banking giant also tries to make life after baby easier for working parents by offering a more flexible work-from-home program and providing $240 in monthly childcare reimbursement for employees whose household income comes in under $100,000 annually.

    Netflix

    Netflix took the spotlight when it comes to paid parental leave benefits when they announced that the company would offer unlimited paid leave with no loss of benefits during the first year after a child’s arrival. Leave can be taken at any time during the year, and employees may choose to work part-time, or come back to work and then leave again if desired.

    Netflix chief talent officer, Tawni Cranz, said of the monumental decision, “Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home.”

    Twitter

    While Twitter offers 20 weeks of paid leave for mothers and 10 for fathers and adoptive parents, the most innovative benefits this company offers come through its pre and post-natal programs for parents. Twitter offers quarterly “New Moms and Moms-To-Be” roundtables, a Mommy Mentor Program, Working Mom lunches and most lately, “Dads on Leave” roundtables. In-house support for employees when it comes to family life provides a safe place to embrace new roles as parents while still progressing in their careers.

    How Can You Adopt This Benefit?

    Job participation by women in peak years is declining, and paid parental leave is a way to help remove barriers in the workplace that leave women in only 5% of CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies. Karyn Twaronite, EY global diversity and inclusiveness officer, said, “Companies that view parental leave as something solely for mothers are becoming extinct, as more modern and enlightened companies are realizing that many people, especially millennials, are even more interested in co-parenting given most are part of dual career couples.”

    If your company is unable to keep up with the generous paid leave packages larger businesses can afford, consider taking a page out of Twitter’s book and offering mentoring programs and support groups for new parents. Budget for childcare reimbursement costs like Bank of America. Even smaller changes that are made thoughtfully, with the employee in mind, will increase the appeal of your benefits package.

    As the benefits landscape changes with shifting demographics, consider carefully how offering paid parental leave could positively impact your employees, and ultimately, your bottom line as workers are motivated to work harder and smarter, knowing things are taken care of at home.

     

    By Kate McGaughey, eTekhnos

  • Identify and Evaluate the Impact of Your Wellness Program | California Benefit Advisors

    January 11, 2017

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    Measuring program value, or return on investment, is critical and imperative in managing a healthy wellness program. Further, clearly identifying and objectively evaluating the impact helps keep the vendor focused on what is critical for the employer. If these programs are not having the impact intended, then the cost of those services is only adding to medical spending waste.

    When adding wellness services to any employer benefits package, it is imperative to clearly identify the intended impact and outcome. Outcomes fall into three general categories:

    1. Employee satisfaction with the employer, which adds to recruitment and retention
    2. Reducing biometric risk and improving the health of the population
    3. Reducing medical spending

    Employee Satisfaction

    In the book, Shared Values, Shared Results by Dee W. Eddington, Ph.D., and Jennifer S. Pitts, Ph.D., the value of employees appreciating the benefits an employer offers is clearly outlined as a win-win strategy. If an employer’s intent in providing wellness services is to improve the support for its employees, then measuring the satisfaction related to those outcomes is critical. Employee surveys are typically the best approach to gather outcomes related to these intended programs. Some key questions to ask may include:

    • Is working at this organization beneficial for my health? (“Strongly Agree” to “Disagree” responses)
    • Do I trust that my organization cares about me? (“Strongly Agree” to “Disagree” responses)
    • Which of the following wellness program initiatives do you find to be valuable? (list all programs offered)

    Collecting employee, or spouse, feedback on these programs will provide insight to allow an employer/ consultant to know if programs are appreciated, or if modifications are required in order to achieve the desired outcomes.

    Reducing Biometric Risk and Controlling Disease

    If the intent of a wellness program is to help improve the health of individuals so that future medical spending will be reduced, then it is critical to determine if the program is engaging the correct members and then measure the impact on their risk. At Vital Incite, we utilize Johns Hopkins’ risk indexing along with biometric risk migration to provide feedback to vendors and employers of the impact of their programs. Some suggested goals may include:

    • Engaging 80 percent of persons with high risk biometrics
    • Reduction in weight of persons overweight or obese by greater than 5 percent in 30 percent of the engaged population
    • Of diabetics with an A1c greater than 7 percent, 80 percent will reduce their A1c by 1 percent in one year
    • Of persons with blood pressure in the high-risk range, 40 percent will have achieved controlled blood pressure without adding medications in one year
    • Of persons who take fewer than 10,000 steps per day, 70 percent will increase their average step count by 20 percent or more

    These goals need to be very specific and targeted to address the exact needs of your population, measuring what is most likely to have an impact on a person’s long-term health. This provides specific direction for your wellness providers, but allows an employer/consultant to monitor the impact throughout the year to continue to redirect communication and services to help provide the best outcomes.

    The first step in any program is to engage the intended audience. UBA’s Health Plan Survey finds that 54.6 percent of employers with wellness programs use components such as on-site or telephone coaching for high-risk employees, an increase of 7.5 percent from last year. Once you target the intended audience, engagement of those at risk is critical. Monitoring this subset of data can make sure the vendor resources are directed appropriately and, many times, identify areas where the employer may be able to help.

    Engagement of High Risk Individuals in CoachingOf course, engagement is only the first step and the intended outcome is to reduce risk or slow down the progression of risk increasing, that is really the final outcome desired. The following illustration allows employers and the vendor solution to monitor the true impact of the program by reviewing the risk control, or improvement based on program participation.

    Participant vs non-participant results

    Reducing Medical Spending

    Although many employers are interested in helping their employees become healthier, the reality is these efforts have to help reduce medical costs or increase productivity so these efforts are sustainable. Since, to date, few employers have data on productivity, the analysis then is focused on reducing medical spending. The correct analysis depends on the size of your population and the targeted audience, but a general analysis to determine if those engaged are costing less than persons who have similar risk on your plan would look something like the analysis below.

    participant engagement chart

    If your program is targeted specifically on a disease state, then the impact on the cost to care for that disease state may be more appropriate. In the example below, the employer instituted a program to help asthmatics, and therefore, the analysis is related to the total cost to care for asthma comparing the year prior to the program to the year of the program. In this analysis, the impact is very clear.

    Impact of Program on Cost for all ID-Asthma

    The employer anticipated first year savings due to high emergency room (ER) utilization for persons with asthma and the report proved that along with ER utilization declining, the total cost of care for asthma significantly declined.

    Summary

    In summary, having a clear understanding of the expectation and desired outcomes and monitoring that impact throughout the year, we believe, drives better outcomes. When we first started analyzing outcomes of programs, the impact of many programs were far less impressive than vendor reports would allow us to believe. That false sense of security is not because they were trying to falsify information, but the reports did not provide enough detail to fully illustrate the impact. Most vendor partners don’t have access to all of the data to provide a full analysis and others will only show what makes them look good. But, if you identify the impact you need in order to achieve success, all parties involved focus on that priority and continually work to improve that impact. We believe that wellness programs can have an impact on a population culture, health and cost of care if appropriately managed.

     

    By Mary Delaney, Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • No On-Call Paid Rest Periods in California | California Benefit Advisors

    January 5, 2017

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    On December 22, 2016, the California Supreme Court, in Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc., held that employers cannot require employees to remain on call during paid rest periods. The court reiterated the standard established in Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court, 53 Cal. 4th 1004 (2012), which clarified that during rest periods employees must be relieved of all duties and be free from employer control as to how they spend their time. However, Augustus went even further by holding that if employees are required to remain on call and available for possible interruption during the break, then it is not a true rest period nor is such a policy compliant with California law. According to the court, the mere requirement of an employee to remain available for interruption invalidates the rest period, regardless of the employee being compensated for his or her time. As a result, employers must review their current workplace policies dealing with paid rest periods and ensure employees are not required to remain on call or on duty during paid rest periods.

    Realistically, rest periods may get interrupted and this interruption necessitates an employer’s remedial action. For instance, after an interruption an employer may allow the employee to restart his or her uninterrupted paid rest period. Or if the rest period is missed then, as required by law, an employer must make sure to pay the employee one hour of pay in his or her next paycheck for each workday that the rest period was not provided. The key to the Augustus decision is that employees cannot be required to remain on call. Of note, the decision does not prevent employers from requiring employees to remain on premises during paid rest periods, but rather that employees cannot be on call.

     

    Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • Officials Provide New ACA Guidance in FAQ #35 | California Benefit Advisors

    January 3, 2017

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    On December 20, 2016, federal officials released FAQs About Affordable Care Act Implementation Part 35 (FAQ #35) in an ongoing series of informal guidance regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This FAQ addresses several topics:

    • Special enrollment rules.
    • Preventive services.
    • Qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements.

    A summary of the key points from FAQ #35 follows.

    Special Enrollment Rules

    Group health plans are subject to rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requiring plans to offer a special enrollment (mid-year enrollment) opportunity for persons who are not enrolled when first eligible but then experience certain events. Examples of qualifying events include acquiring a new dependent through marriage, birth or adoption (including placement for adoption) of a child, or losing coverage under another plan. The requirements are referred to as the HIPAA special enrollment rules.

    One of the events triggering a special enrollment opportunity is the involuntary loss of other coverage, such as losing coverage under the spouse’s plan, unless the loss is for cause or due to failure to pay premiums.

    UPDATE: FAQ #35 confirms that persons are entitled to a special enrollment if they are otherwise eligible for the group plan, had other coverage (including individual insurance obtained inside or outside of a Marketplace) when the group plan coverage was previously offered, and now have lost eligibility for that other coverage. Further, the special enrollment rule applies whether or not the individual is eligible for other individual market coverage, though or outside of a Marketplace.

    Coverage of Preventive Services

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that nongrandfathered health plans provide 100 percent coverage without deductibles or co-pays for certain preventive services. Some exceptions are allowed regarding services received outside the network when they are available from in-network providers and for brand-name drugs when equivalent generics are available (unless the physician determines a medical necessity). See the following current lists of required preventive services:

    For women’s health services, the current list of required preventive services includes prescribed contraceptives (including sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling). At this time, there are 18 FDA-approved contraceptive methods and the plan must cover at least one item in each method at 100 percent. Plans also must have an “exceptions process” to ensure 100 percent coverage of any item within the method based on medical necessity as determined by the physician.

    The preventive services requirements are developed based on recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and others, and are subject to change from time to time.

    UPDATE: FAQ #35 explains that updated HRSA recommendations for women’s preventive services will apply for plan years beginning on or after December 20, 2017 (e.g., January 1, 2018 for calendar-year plans). Plans may adopt the new guidelines earlier if they choose. The updated guidelines address several women’s health services, including breast cancer screening, cervical cancer screening, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding services and supplies, and well-woman preventive visits.

    The new guidelines also will require plans to cover all 18 of the FDA-approved contraceptive methods. Plans may continue to impose cost-sharing requirements on branded drugs for which generic equivalents are available. Note that the ACA provides certain exceptions regarding contraceptives with respect to plans sponsored by religious employers and nonprofit religious-affiliated employers; those exceptions will continue.

    See the HRSA’s Women’s Preventive Services Guidelines for more information.

    Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSEHRAs)

    Section 18001 of the recently-enacted 21st Century Cures Act creates an opportunity for small employers to offer a new type of health reimbursement arrangement for their employees’ healthcare expenses, including individual insurance premiums.

    Employers of all sizes currently are prohibited from making or offering any form of payment to employees for individual health insurance, whether through premium reimbursement or direct payment. Employers also are prohibited from providing cash or compensation to employees if the money is conditioned on the purchase of individual health insurance. (Some exceptions apply; e.g., retiree-only plans, dental/vision insurance.) Violations can result in excise taxes of $100 per day per affected employee.

    The new law does not repeal the existing prohibition, but rather it provides an exception for a new type of tax-free benefit called a Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA). Small employers meeting certain conditions may begin offering QSEHRAs in 2017. Our December 9, 2016 blog post, New Law Allows Small Employers to Pay Premiums for Individual Policies, summarized the requirements for small employers to offer QSEHRAs.

    Separately, the 21st Century Cures Act offers small employers certain relief from excise taxes for violating the existing prohibition against employer payment of individual health insurance. The relief applies retroactively and continues through the 2016 plan year (whether or not the employer offers QSEHRAs in 2017), but certain conditions must be met. FAQ #35 clarifies the conditions for tax relief, as follows:

    • The relief applies only to plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2016;
    • The relief applies only to employers that employed on average fewer than 50 full-time and full-time-equivalent employees. In other words, for the relevant period, the employer must not have been an applicable large employer (ALE) as defined under the ACA; and
    • The relief is limited to employer arrangements that pay or reimburse only individual health insurance premiums (or Medicare Part B or D premiums, in some cases). The relief does not extend to stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements that pay or reimburse medical expenses other than individual health insurance premiums.

    Lastly, note that an employer arrangement that qualifies for relief from excise taxes generally will be considered minimum essential coverage and preclude covered persons from qualifying for premium tax credits (subsidies) at a Marketplace (Exchange).

    More Information

    Employers and their advisors are encouraged to review the complete FAQ #35 to ensure their group health plans continue to comply with the ACA’s requirements. The special enrollment rule merely confirms existing HIPAA requirements. For preventive services, the update regarding women’s health services applies for plan years beginning on or after December 20, 2017 (e.g., January 1, 2018 for calendar-year plans). Lastly, small employers may want to consider the new option for QSEHRAs starting in 2017.

     

    By Laura Kerekes, Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • Department of Labor Delays Enforcement of the Fiduciary Duty Rule | CA Benefit Advisor

    April 28, 2017

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    On April 4, 2017, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the applicability date for the final fiduciary rule will be extended, and published its final rule extending the applicability date in the Federal Register on April 7. This extension is pursuant to President Trump’s February 3, 2017 presidential memorandum directing the DOL to further examine the rule and the DOL’s proposed rule to extend the deadline released on March 2, 2017.

    The length of the extension differs between certain requirements and/or components of the rule.  Below are the components and when and how applicability applies:

    • Final rule defining who is a “fiduciary”: Under the final rule, advisors who are compensated for providing investment advice to retirement plan participants and individual account owners, including plan sponsors, are fiduciaries. The applicability date for the final rule is extended 60 days, from April 10 until June 9, 2017. Fiduciaries will be required to comply with the impartial conduct or “best interest” standards on the June 9 applicability date.
    • Best Interest Contract Exemption: Except for the impartial conduct standards (applicable June 9 per above), all other conditions of this exemption for covered transactions are applicable January 1, 2018. Therefore, fiduciaries intending to use this exemption must comply with the impartial conduct standard between June 9, 2017 and January 1, 2018.
    • Class Exemption for Principal Transactions: Except for the impartial conduct standards (applicable June 9 per above), all other conditions of this exemption for covered transactions are applicable January 1, 2018. Therefore, fiduciaries intending to use this exemption must comply with the impartial conduct standard between June 9, 2017 and January 1, 2018 and thereafter.
    • Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (relating to annuities): Except for the impartial conduct standard (applicable June 9 per above), the amendments to this exemption are applicable January 1, 2018.
    • Other previously granted exemptions: All amendments to other previously granted exemptions are applicable on June 9, 2017.

    By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
    Originally Published By www.thinkhr.com

  • Getting the Most Out of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) | CA Benefit Consultants

    April 25, 2017

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    Many employers understand the value of having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) since the heart and soul of organizations are employees. Employees who are physically and mentally healthy, highly productive, engaged in their work, and loyal to their employer contribute positively to their employer’s bottom line. Fortunately, most employees are positive contributors, yet even the best of employees can occasionally have issues or circumstances arise that may inadvertently impact their jobs in a negative way. Having an EAP in place that can address these issues early may mitigate any negative impact to the workplace. This is a win-win for both employees and employers.

    A key component of EAP services lies in “catching things early” by assisting employees and helping them address and resolve issues before they impact the workplace. Most employees will use EAP services on a voluntary, self-referred basis that is completely confidential. Some employers may wonder if services are even being used by employees because it won’t be all that apparent, but most EAPs provide a utilization or usage report that will show the number of people served, and possibly the types of reasons services were requested.

    If employee issues do begin to appear in the workplace—related to performance, attendance, behavior, or safety—it is important for managers, supervisors, and human resources to also have access to EAP services. They may wish to consult with an employee assistance professional that can provide guidance and direction leading to problem identification and resolution. These issues have the potential to become very costly for the organization—and again, the earlier they can be addressed, the greater chance of success for both employee and employer, with minimal negative impact to the company’s bottom line.

    The key to getting the most out of an EAP is to make it easily accessible to employees, safe to use, and visible enough they remember to use it. It is important that employees understand using the EAP is confidential and their identity will not be disclosed to anyone in their organization. Promoting the EAP services with materials such as flyers, posters, or website information with EAP contact information will also increase the likelihood of employees accessing services.

    By Nancy Cannon
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Arrow’s Wellness Initiative CPR/First -aid community classes in the News!

    April 21, 2017

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    As brokerages continue to look for ways to stand out from the competition, two agencies are giving back to their communities and helping those areas become healthier in the process. Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, Calif., created the Arrow Community Wellness Initiative. The initiative each month offers CPR and automated defibrillator (AED) training and certification with first -aid, instructed by the Petaluma Health Care District, free to the community. Read entire article here.

  • Flex Work: Advantages in the New Workforce | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 19, 2017

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    Flex Work. No doubt you’ve heard this term (or some variation) floating around the last decade or so, but what exactly does it mean? Flexible work can vary by definition depending on who you ask, but one thing is for sure, it’s here to stay and changing the way we view the workforce. According to a recent study by Randstad, employer commitment to increase the amount of flex workers in their companies has increased 155% over the last four years. If fact, 68% of employers agree that the majority of the workforce will be working some sort of flexible arrangement by 2025.

    So then, since the landscape of a traditional office setting is changing, what exactly is Flex Work? Simply stated, it’s a practice employers use to allow their staff some discretion and freedom in how to handle their work, while making sure their schedules coordinate with colleagues. Parameters are set by the employer on how to get the work accomplished.  These guidelines may include employees working a set number of hours per day/week, and specifying core times when they need to be onsite. No matter how it’s defined, with a new generation entering the workforce and technology continuing to advance, employers will need to explore this trend to stay competitive.

    Let’s take a look at how this two-fold benefit has several advantages for employers and employees alike.

    Increases Productivity

    When employees work a more flexible schedule, they are more productive. Many will get more done in less time, have less distractions, take less breaks, and use less sick time/PTO than office counterparts. In several recent studies, employees have stated they’re more productive when not in a traditional office setting. In a recent article published by Entrepreneur.com, Sara Sutton, CEO and Founder of FlexJobs wrote that 54% of 1500 employees polled in one of their surveys would choose to undertake important job-related assignments from home rather than the office. And 18% said that while they would prefer to complete assignments at the office, they would only do so before or after regular hours. A mere 19% said they’d go to the office during regular hours to get important assignments done.

    Flexible workplaces allow employees to have less interruptions from impromptu meetings and colleagues, while minimizing the stress of office chatter and politics—all of which can drain productivity both at work and at home. What’s more, an agile setting allows your employees to work when their energy level is at peak and their focus is best. So, an early-riser might benefit from working between the hours of 4:30 and 10 a.m., while other staff members excel in the evening; once children are in bed.

    Reduces Cost Across the Board

    Think about it, everything we do costs us something. Whether we’re sacrificing time, money, or health due to stress, cost matters. With a flexible work environment, employees can tailor their hours around family needs, personal obligations and life responsibilities without taking valuable time away from their work. They’re able to tap into work remotely while at the doctor, caring for a sick child, waiting on the repairman, or any other number of issues.

    What about the cost associated with commuting? Besides the obvious of fuel and wear and tear on a vehicle, an average worker commutes between 1-2 hours a day to the office. Tack on the stress involved in that commute and an 8 hour workday, and you’ve got one tired, stressed out employee with no balance. Telecommuting reduces these stressors, while adding value to the company by eliminating wasted time in traffic. And, less stress has a direct effect – healthier and happier employees.

    Providing a flexible practice in a traditional office environment can reduce overhead costs as well. When employees are working remotely, business owners can save by allowing employees to desk or space share. Too, an agile environment makes it easier for businesses to move away from traditional brick and mortar if they deem necessary.

    Boosts Loyalty, Talent and the Bottom Line

    We all know employees are the number one asset in any company. When employees have more control over their schedule during the business day, it breeds trust and reduces stress. In fact, in a recent survey of 1300 employees polled by FlexJobs, 83% responded they would be more loyal to their company if they offered this benefit. Having a more agile work schedule not only reduces stress, but helps your employees maintain a good work/life balance.

    Offering this incentive to prospective and existing employees also allows you to acquire top talent because you aren’t limited by geography. Your talent can work from anywhere, at any time of the day, reducing operational costs and boosting that bottom line—a very valuable asset to any small business owner or new start-up.

    So, what can employers do?   While there are still companies who view flexible work as a perk rather than the norm, forward-thinking business owners know how this will affect them in the next few years as they recruit and retain new talent. With 39% of permanent employees thinking to make the move to an agile environment over the next three years, it’s important to consider what a flexible environment could mean for your company.  Keep in mind there are many types that can be molded to fit your company’s and employees’ needs. Flexible work practices don’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach. As the oldest of Generation Z is entering the workforce, and millennials are settling into their careers, companies are wise to figure out their own customized policies. The desire for a more flexible schedule is key for the changing workforce—often times over healthcare, pay and other benefits. Providing a flexible arrangement will keep your company competitive.

  • The Trump Effect: Potential Changes on the Employee Benefits Horizon

    April 17, 2017

    Exclusive Webinar Invitation from Arrow!

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017
    11:00 a.m. PT

    As President Trump challenges the status quo in Washington, D.C., CEOs, CFOs and HR decision-makers are preparing for how his administration could impact the employee benefits industry. James Slotnick, AVP, Government Relations, for Sun Life Financial will provide insight into what changes are most likely to make it through Congress. His discussion will focus on the current state of repealing and replacing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the likelihood of corporate and individual tax reform, how federal paid family leave could become a reality, and other important issues.

    Simply fill out the online form by clicking here, and enter Discount Code “UBA465” to waive the associated fee.

     

  • Petaluma teen saves a life with CPR | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 12, 2017

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    We’re proud to be in partnership with the HeartSafe Community, an initiative of the Petaluma Health Care District, and will continue to offer free CPR/First-Aid classes to the open public. What an incredibly impactful program for our community – this is the third reported incident where someone who learned the CPR procedure saved a life!

    Click here for more information.

     

  • What is “the Republican way” – who knows, as they’ve lost their say regarding ACA | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 10, 2017

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    There are now several pieces of draft legislation floating through Capitol Hill that propose a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.  The latest is being written by Darrell Issa of California who sits on the House Ways and Means Committee.  What they have in common:

    No mandates
    No subsidies
    A new tax strategy to make coverage more affordable
    More focus on strengthening the value of Health Savings Accounts
    The possibility of a tax on the value of coverage over a certain threshold

  • Employee Benefit Trends of 2017 | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 7, 2017

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    Customization of benefits is becoming more popular.  The process of personalizing employee benefits allows for individuals to choose from an array of options, and increases employee satisfaction.

  • Self-Funding Dental: Leave No Stone Unturned | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 4, 2017

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    With all of the focus that is put into managing and controlling health care costs today, it amazes me how many organizations still look past one of the most effective and least disruptive cost-saving strategies available to employers with 150 or more covered employees – self-funding your dental plan. There is a reason why dental insurers are not quick to suggest making a switch to a self-funded arrangement … it is called profit!

    Why self-fund dental?

    We know that the notion of self-funding still makes some employers nervous. Don’t be nervous; here are the fundamental reasons why this requires little risk:

    1. When self-funding dental, your exposure as an employer is limited on any one plan member. Benefit maximums are typically between $1,000 and $2,000 per year.
    2. Dental claims are what we refer to as high frequency, low severity (meaning many claims, lower dollars per claim), which means that they are far less volatile and much more predictable from year to year.
    3. You pay for only what you use, an administrative fee paid to the third-party administrator (TPA) and the actual claims that are paid in any given month. That’s it!

    Where do you save when you self-fund your dental?

    Trend: In our ongoing analysis over the years, dental claims do not trend at anywhere near the rate that the actuaries from any given insurance company project (keep in mind these are very bright people that are paid to make sure that insurance companies are profitable). Therefore, insured rates are typically overstated.

    Claims margin: This is money that insurance companies set aside for “claims fluctuation” (i.e., profit).  For example, ABC Insurer (we’ll keep this anonymous) does not use paid claims in your renewal projection. They use incurred claims that are always somewhere between three and six percent higher than your actual paid claims. They then apply “trend,” a risk charge and retention to the overstated figures. This factor alone will result in insured rates that are overstated by five to eight percent on insured plans with ABC Insurer, when compared to self-funded ABC Insurer plans.

    Risk charges: You do not pay them when you self-fund! This component of an insured rate can be anywhere from three to six percent of the premium.

    Reserves: Money that an insurer sets aside for incurred, but unpaid, claim liability. This is an area where insurance companies profit. They overstate the reserves that they build into your premiums and then they earn investment income on the reserves. When you self-fund, you pay only for what you use.

    Below is a recent case study

    We received a broker of record letter from a growing company headquartered in Massachusetts. They were hovering at about 200 employees enrolled in their fully-insured dental plan. After analyzing their historical dental claims experience, we saw an opportunity. After presenting the analysis and educating the employer on the limited amount of risk involved in switching to a self-funded program, the client decided to make the change.

    After we had received 12 months of mature claims, we did a look back into the financial impact of the change. Had the client accepted what was historically a well-received “no change” fully-insured dental renewal, they would have missed out on more than $90,000 added to their bottom line. Their employee contributions were competitive to begin with, so the employer held employee contributions flat and was able to reap the full financial reward.

    This is just one example. I would not suggest that this is the norm, but savings of 10 percent are. If you are a mid-size employer with a fully-insured dental plan, self-funding dental is a cost-savings opportunity you and your consultant should be monitoring at every renewal.

    By Gary R. Goodhile
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • TeleMedicine – The NextGen Benefit of Minor Healthcare | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 31, 2017

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    It’s not surprising that 2017 stands to be the year many will have an experience to share using a Telemedicine or a Virtual Doctor service. With current market trends, government regulations, and changing economic demands, it’s fast becoming a more popular alternative to traditional healthcare visits.  And, as healthcare costs continue to rise and there are more strategic pricing options and digital models available to users, the appeal for consumers, self-insured employers, health systems and health plans to jump on board is significant.

    In a recent study conducted by the Aloft Group on the state of Telemedicine, 47.7% of respondents weren’t sure about what Telemedicine meant, but it’s possible they may have experienced it, as 52.4% have had interaction with a physician or clinician via email or text. Further, 78.5% of respondents indicated they would be comfortable talking with a physician using an online method.

    Dr. Tony Yuan, an experienced ER doctor in San Diego, who also consults for Doctor on Demand, provides insight into this increasing trend during a recent Q and A session. Currently, over half of the patients he sees in his ER could utilize a digital healthcare model. In fact, 90% of patients who head to the ER for minor illnesses can be treated through this service. So, the next sinus, ear infection, or other minor health issue just may provide you and your family the chance to try what will become the new standard in minor healthcare.

    Here are few benefits TeleMedicine has to offer:

    It’s Fast and Simple

    There’s no question apps are available for everything to make our lives easier—and TeleMed is no exception. Within minutes, standard first time users can set up an account, complete a few medical profile questions, then create and save a session. Having the ability to log on with a board-certified physician or clinician 24/7/365, using any PC, smart device, and even phone in some cases, saves time and money. Many services, like Teledoc and MDLive, will connect you with a licensed doctor or clinician online in just a few minutes – no scheduling or wait required. Once on, you can discuss your healthcare needs confidentially. After the visit, the doctor will update his/her records, notify your primary care physician of the call, and send an electronic prescription to the pharmacy of your choice, if necessary—all in the time it takes for a lunch break.

    It’s Flexible

    The ability to connect with a professional whether you are at home, work, or traveling makes getting the care you need invaluable. How often have you experienced the symptoms—or the full blown-effect—of getting sick while traveling? Many, no doubt, have had to adjust flight/travel plans to get the help needed from their PCP, in order to avoid getting worse.  By using an app or online service from your smart phone or laptop, you’re able to get the antibiotics you need quicker without cutting trips short or missing work to do so.

    In addition, patients in smaller communities without the resources available of classically- trained, emergency-med physicians, see the benefit and flexibility of tapping into these online doctor services. Not only is it a plus for the patient to access more advanced care if needed, doctors in these rural areas value this as well. These digital healthcare models provide immediate, life-saving tools for both doctors and their patients who may not have access to higher, acute facilities.

    It’s Affordable

    Many TeleMedicine services now accept insurance, making a patient’s visit free, or at minimum the same as most deductible or co-insurance amounts for office visits; around $40. For those on a high-deductible plan, paying $40 for an online doctor service is a much cheaper alternative than paying $150 or more for an Urgent Care visit, or over $1200 for a trip to the ER. For employers, group options are low cost and can be a clear asset when creating solutions EEs will value.

    It’s Beneficial to Employers

    Today, 3 of 5 corporations, or 59% of employers provide digital healthcare benefits to their employees. As an employer, the benefits are straightforward. First, employees can participate in professional consultations for their family members or themselves without taking away from productivity. Second, when employers incorporate these services into their benefit plans, non-emergency care is redirected from expensive ER visits, ultimately saving thousands of dollars or more to the bottom line. Additionally, TeleHealth services offer frequent monitoring from clinicians for those employees who may need regular support due to more chronic issues, reducing trips to the hospital. Reducing these costs have a direct ROI for the employer and relieves the stress on the employee’s pocketbook. Third, many companies are now adding this digital benefit to their packages as a way to recruit new talent.

    There’s no doubt 2017 will see a greater opportunity for all to experience the increasing trend of Telemed. Creating a clear communication strategy to make sure employees know how to find, access and utilize this service to the highest potential is key.

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