• How Our Employee Benefits Services Enhance Marin County Employee Productivity

    July 20, 2018

    Enhancing employee productivity is the goal of the leading companies. Making sure that each individual is reaching their potential can help all organizations progress over the long-term. So, within this latest post, we’ll explain a little more about how employee benefits services can help enhance employee productivity for Marin County companies.

    • Gives lower-ranked employees a goal

    Providing your team with employee benefit services and a comprehensive benefits program gives your lower ranked team members a goal to meet within their daily working schedule. If they meet their targets, they can achieve a higher level of coverage and greater benefits. This goal can be achieved by those with talent in the organization, and the organization will benefit by having a driven workforce in which the most effective employees rise to the top effectively.

    • Limits need for in-house specialists

    One of the leading reasons so many companies are now turning to Marin County employee benefits services as a way to outsource their benefits program is to eliminate in-house costs. An in-house specialist will require a high salary and their own benefits to work with the company. Outsourcing to a local specialist can ensure the cost of the program is reduced significantly as the company doesn’t have to spend money on employee overheads and doesn’t have to be concerned with the employee not being available. Hiring an outside team ensures that one specialist is always available to organize the program and answer employee questions.

    • Retain talented individuals

    The use of the employee benefits services offered by Marin County experts will ensure that your most talented individuals are always retained within the company. That’s because talented professionals are looking for the company with the best salary and benefits package. By limiting the cost of an in-house specialist, companies can provide higher salaries to talented staff members, while ensuring staff members have access to a benefits package that has been customized to the individual and for the organization. This process connects companies with driven, talented professionals ready to work for the company over many years.

    We Can Help

    Our team at Arrow Benefits Group has experience building dynamic employee benefits services programs for Marin County firms. To explore our services further, call us today.


  • Leadership, Now with More Humility | CA Benefits Consultants

    July 19, 2018

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    More and more, we are learning that scientists, marketers, programmers, and other kinds of knowledge workers lead office lives very similar to famous innovators like Watson, Crick, and Franklin, who discovered the structure of DNA. How so? All of these people live work lives structured around progress in meaningful work. And when this progress occurs, it boosts emotions, perceptions, and productivity.

    This could be an important key to supporting your employees at their desks, wherever those may be. While recognition, tangible incentives, and goals are important, leading managers must also consider nourishing progress through attention to inner work life, minor milestones, and appropriate modeling.

    When progress is effectively monitored and encouraged, it can lead to a self-sustaining progress loop, which often results in increased success and productivity, especially toward larger, group-based goals. In other words, when managers support inner work life and recognize minor progress, it leads to major accomplishments.

    Seeing employees as growing, positive individuals with a drive to experiment and learn, as opposed to mere means to an end goal, can make all the difference in an office, and over the yearsOne way to do this effectively is to incorporate humility into your leadership style. This doesn’t imply that you have low self-confidence or are yourself servile. Rather, it says you prioritize the autonomy of your office and support your employees to think responsibly for themselves. Ask them what their daily work lives are like, and how you can help them maximize effectiveness. Create low-risk opportunities for growth, and most importantly: follow through.

    Read More:
    “Leading through emotions”
    “Leading with emotional intelligence”


    By Bill Olson, VP, Marketing & Communications at United Benefit Advisors

    Originally posted on

  • Why Hire Sonoma County Employee Benefits Consultants?

    July 18, 2018

    The consultants you hire for your employee benefits programs can help safeguard your organization and ensure that your team has access to the ideal coverage levels at the right price. Our experts at Arrow Benefits Group have significant experience in this area of the marketplace, and in this latest post, we’ll explore the value of hiring Sonoma County employee benefits consultants.

    Bring cohesion to your coverage strategy

    A leading benefit of hiring Sonoma County employee benefits consultants is that it can bring cohesion to your coverage strategy. It can ensure that your strategy matches your budget and your demands over time. One of the leading challenges companies face is optimizing their coverage levels as their teams grow. You must be able to adapt to a growing team and have a coverage policy that supports your organization over the long-term. Working with Sonoma County benefits consultants can help your company ensure the right options are chosen at each stage of organizational growth.

    Minimizing confusion

    It can be difficult to understand all the options available to your company through your benefits providers. Working with a benefits consultant helps ensure that the options are clear, both from a cost perspective and a benefits perspective. The consultant will highlight the various elements of the benefits program and how they might impact your company moving forward. And this can help you get ahead of any challenges that might arise.

    Working with your team

    The benefits consultant will also play a key role in working with your team to help them on how to use the coverage options available to them. For example, they may have questions about their available coverage left within the calendar year. The consultant can help to answer their questions and provide clarity on important program options. This reduces the need to hire in-house coverage experts and helps create a happy and productive workforce.

    Our team at Arrow Benefits Group is here to guide you in choosing benefits options. To speak with our Sonoma County employee benefits consultants today, call us directly.


  • Reminder: Health Plan PCORI Fees Are Due July 31 | California Benefit Advisors

    July 17, 2018

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    Employers that self-insured any group health plans in 2017, including health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), are responsible for determining whether the annual PCORI fee applies to their plan. If so, use Form 720 to calculate, report, and pay the fee by July 31, 2018.

    PCORI stands for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. Federal law imposes a small annual fee on most health plans that include medical benefits in order to raise revenue to finance the Institute’s work. See our blog for details on which employer-sponsored plans are subject to the PCORI fee, how to calculate the 2017 amount, complete Form 720, and make payment.


    By Kathleen A. Berger

    Originally published by

  • California Employment Law Update – July 2018 | California Employee Benefits

    July 13, 2018

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    Milpitas Minimum Wage

    The city of Milpitas updated its official minimum wage notice to reflect an increase to $13.50 per hour effective July 1, 2018.

    See the poster

    Originally published by

  • The Evolution of the Marin County Employee Benefits Broker

    July 5, 2018

    To determine the ideal employee benefits broker for your Marin County business, it’s important that you understand the role of the broker in the current marketplace. To understand the role, you must know how the role has evolved in recent years. And so within this post, we’re highlighting the evolution of the Marin County employee benefits broker.


  • What Are the Advantages of Utilizing Employee Benefits Administration Services in Sonoma County?

    July 2, 2018

    Your employees require protection for the future through company benefits. But managing these benefits on a daily basis and communicating messaging regarding your benefits system with employees can take away from your daily tasks. It’s the reason many are now employing professional employee benefits administration teams in Sonoma County. Let’s explore some of the benefits of outside administration services.


  • The Importance of Health Insurance within the Employee Benefits Provided by Your Marin County Company

    June 28, 2018

    The latest data shows that, over the Americans that have health care coverage, 60% are covered by their employer. Our team at Arrow Benefits Group has great experience in the health insurance marketplace, and in this latest post, we’ll explain why so many are now reviewing the value of health insurance within the employee benefits provided by Marin County companies.


  • Top 5 Social Media Tips | CA Benefits Firm

    June 27, 2018

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    The world is connected nowadays through our screens. Whether it be email, texting, websites, FaceTime, or social media; we all use technology to connect us to others. Check out this short video for more!

  • Opioids in America | California Employee Benefits Firm

    June 27, 2018

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    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

  • What Are Employee Benefits Administration Services?

    June 26, 2018

    By understanding more about the coverage options available to your employees, you can mitigate the cost of insurance and support their coverage requirements for the long-term. Our team at Arrow Benefits Group has significant experience in this area of the marketplace, and in our latest post, we explain more about employee benefits administration services.


  • How to Get the Most Value from Your Sonoma County Employee Benefits Broker

    June 25, 2018

    Maximizing the value achieved through their employee benefits broker can help Sonoma County companies consolidate their insurance costs for the years ahead. In the company’s latest post, our team at Arrow Benefits Group explains how you can get the most from your local Sonoma County employee benefits broker.


  • What Are Employee Benefits Administration Services?

    June 21, 2018

    By understanding more about the coverage options available to your employees, you can mitigate the cost of insurance and support their coverage requirements for the long-term. Our team at Arrow Benefits Group has significant experience in this area of the marketplace, and in our latest post, we explain more about employee benefits administration services.


  • Does the President have a prescription for what ails drug prices? Depends on the dosage

    June 21, 2018

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    There is no doubt that prescription drug prices are a major driver in the overall cost of care.

    The question is what to do about it, and what repercussions would it have on other parts of the market and the manufacturers themselves?  The President has made partial good on his campaign promise, proposing a number of solutions to the problem, but will they work?  Some already say “no” because he is not using the purchasing power of Medicare to drive down prices, instead relying on legalistic prescriptions which will promote transparency and then…

    • Value based purchasing in federal programs
    • Using Medicare to pay different amounts for the same drug depending on the illness
    • Pressure other countries to raise their prices for prescription drugs (oh, sure)
    • Require drug ads to include the price (but if the carriers are paying, who cares?)
    • Ban gag clauses for pharmacists to they can recommend other, less expensive drugs
    • The patent system will change to reward innovation and not protect monopolies
    • Change the existing rebate system (but how, when no one understands how it works)

    That’s what it comes to in the analysis.  What was said in the long White Paper produced by the President and his team were the following goals:


    • Increasing competition – Accelerating FDA approval of generics, focus on FDA improving efficiency of generic development, clarify complex generics, closing loopholes allowing brand names to game the system, modernize Medicare Part D, put an inflation limit on Medicare Part B drugs, increasing the integrity of the Medicaid rebate program


    • Lowering list prices – transparency with Medicare, ACA rebate provisions, FDA evaluation on direct to consumer advertising


    • Reduce patient out of pocket spending – end gag clauses, require Part D providers to show lower cost alternatives on the Explanation of Benefits, evaluate options to alow high cost drugs to be priced differently based on indications



  • Hospitals cry foul over latest Anthem fare…definitions change and definitely cause harm

    June 15, 2018

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    Anthem has changed their policy regarding imaging performed in hospitals on an outpatient basis and will expand this into fourteen states.  Hospitals are not happy, nor amused and have filed suit.  Anthem stakes its claim on the idea of medical necessity, and hospitals are saying that doctors have the right to show necessity, not carriers.  And so the battle continues as carriers continue to try to dictate care but those who are responsible for care are not responsible for the payment.  No winners here…

    And as if that were not enough, Anthem has also begun pushing back on patients who visit the emergency room for ailments the carrier deems minor – called the “avoidable ER program” (as in avoiding payment).  While Anthem has lightened up on their procedures somewhat, they are refusing to pay some ER visits as non emergency (after the fact) which is not making patients and doctors particularly happy.  Stay tuned.

  • Why Hire an Employee Benefits Administration Expert for Your Napa County Business?

    June 14, 2018

    We know that small business owners have a number of challenges within their day-to-day operations. They must handle employee issues and work with customers to respond to their unique requirements. But it’s important that elements such as employee benefits are also managed effectively. This isn’t always a simple process. And so in this post, we’ll look at why so many business owners now hire a dedicated employee benefits administration professional for their Napa County business.


  • Independents may not be so depending on the interdependence of employment status

    June 11, 2018

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    The California State Supreme Court, in the case of a suit against Dynamex Operations West, said simply that “when a worker has not independently decided to engage in an independently established business but instead is simply designated an independent contractor – there is a substantial risk that the hiring business is attempt to evade the demands of an applicable wage order through misclassification.” In short, to be independent they must be, you know, independent.  Businesses must show that the worker is free from the control and direction of the employer, perform work that is outside the hirer’s core business and customarily engage in an independently established trade, occupation or business

    On April 30, 2018 the California Supreme Court determined that California employers must always start with the presumption that a worker is a common law employee.  They may classify them as independent ONLY IF ALL of these criteria are being met:

    Worker is free from control and direction in connection with the performance of the work

    The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business

    Worker customarily engaged in independently established trade, occupation or business

    This gives common sense to what the Department of Labor has long used as their “twenty questions” to determine the independence of an independent contractor.  The only question remaining now is that, if the DOL finds an employer responsible for an “employee” who may have previously been misclassified, if all rights and benefits that apply will be made retroactively

  • The Employee Benefit Services for Napa County Companies

    June 8, 2018

    By learning more about the options available in the Napa County marketplace, you can select employee benefit services designed to support your company in the long-term. Our experts at Arrow Benefits have great experience in the marketplace, and in this latest post, we’re highlighting the employee benefit services available to Napa County companies.


  • Always ask the real price before you pay…prescription drugs need a prescription for action

    June 6, 2018

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    This should be apparent, but apparently it isn’t.  Sometimes prescription drugs, so often dispensed as generics, have a lower price than the copayment stated on the benefit card.  A new study, however, shows that consumers aren’t asking, thus not only paying a higher amount than necessary, but this amount is then “clawed back” by the Pharmacy Benefit Manager (no, the pharmacy does not keep the difference, nor does the insurance carrier) which acts as a middleman between the carrier and the consumer.  During a study period comprising the first half of 2013, a USC study found that overpayments totaled $135 million.  A good example – hydrocodone acetaminophen (that would normally be called “Vicodin”) was prescribed 120,000 times and there was an average overcharge of $6.94.  It is not just generics, moreover.  The brand name drugs of longer standing also often fall under the brand name co payment (Ambien was cited as the most egregious example)  So next time, don’t just reach for the card…

  • Opioids in America | CA Benefit Brokers

    June 5, 2018

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    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

    Opioids are made from the opium poppy plant.  Opium has been around since 3,400 BC and it was first referenced as being cultivated in Southwest Asia. The drug traveled the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Asia to China. Since then, the drug has gained popularity for pain relief but it also has gained notoriety as an abused drug. Morphine, Codeine, and Heroin are all derived from the opium poppy and are all highly addictive drugs that are abused all around the world. As the demand for these drugs has increased, so has the production.  From 2016 to 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 63 percent. In 2016, it killed some 64,000 Americans, more than double the number in 2005.

    We can see that the danger from this drug is growing rapidly. What can we do to recognize potential abuse problems and to get help? Here are some facts about opioid addiction:

    • How do they work? Opioids attach to pain receptors in your brain, spinal cord, and other areas that recognize pain signals. As they attach to the receptors, it reduces the sending of pain messages to the brain and therefore reduces the feelings of pain in your body.
    • Short-acting opiates are typically prescribed for injuries and only for a few days. They take 15-30 minutes for pain relief to begin and this relief lasts for 3-4 hours. Long-acting opiates are prescribed for moderate to severe pain and are used over a long period of time. Relief typically lasts for 8-12 hours and can be used alongside a short-acting drug for breakthrough pain.
    • Dependence is common with long-term use of an opiate. This means that the patient needs to take more of and higher doses of the medicine to get the same pain relieving effect. This does not necessarily mean the patient is addicted. Addiction is the abuse of the drug by taking it in an unprescribed way—like crushing tablets or using intravenously.
    • Americans account for less than 5% of the world’s population, but take 80% of the world’s opioid About 5% of the people who take opiates become addicted to the drug.
    • Help is available through many channels from private recovery centers to insurance providers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline is 1-800-662-HELP. This line is confidential, free, and available 24-hours a day and 7 days a week. Family and friends may also call this number for resources for help. Additional resources can be found at

    Make sure you are educated about the dangers of opioid abuse. But, don’t be discouraged and think that the abuse is incurable! There are many resources that can be used to break the addiction cycle and can make real change in the lives of its victims. Ask for help and offer help.


  • Are retirees given any guarantees? The issue keeps going back and forth

    June 4, 2018

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    The Supreme Court has once again found that retiree benefits are not vested.  So the employer can promise but…     Actually, the Court simply clarified the need for clarity.  In the absence of specific language that vests retiree health benefits, the retirees may no longer assume that silence or ambiguity allows a lifetime contract.  Instead, the contract itself must state the case.  Seems simple, but this has been kicking around, even though the Supreme Court said the same thing in 2015.  Now it will show the unions that what they want needs to be negotiated and then put in writing (we will call this the “common sense” doctrine)

  • What to Expect When Hiring Napa County Employee Benefits Consultants

    June 1, 2018

    Bringing in Napa County employee benefits consultants can help to provide your team with better and more reliable levels of coverage for the years ahead. But it’s important that you know more about the selection process. Our team at Arrow Benefits Group has many years’ experience in the insurance field, and within our latest post, we’re highlighting what to expect when hiring Napa County employee benefits consultants.


  • The new normal – see our White Paper – everyone is buying everyone – can we buy their act?

    May 31, 2018

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    Walmart is in preliminary talks to buy and partner with Humana

    CIGNA is buying Express Scripts

    CVS bought Aetna

    And the list goes on…

  • Disability Insurance & How to Use it! | California Benefit Consultants

    May 30, 2018

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    No one foresees needing disability benefits.  But, should a problem arise, the educated and informed employee can plan for the future by purchasing disability insurance to help cover expenses when needed. Check out this short video for more!

  • What Should My Company Consider When Selecting Benefit Brokers in Napa County?

    May 25, 2018

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    More and more businesses are turning to benefit brokers in Napa County to provide their employee benefits programs and sometimes manage them as well.  For companies, particularly smaller businesses, this makes a lot of financial sense – the brokers have the contacts necessary to wrangle better deals on benefits, as well as the expertise to handle the increasing bureaucratic burdens.  In most cases, companies can afford to offer better benefits programs than they could by handling everything on their own, and that’s critical for attracting the best employees. Read More >>

  • The Surprising Ways a Napa County Benefits Consultant Can Help Your Business

    May 22, 2018

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    Beyond their expertise in the insurance marketplace, and their understanding of complex coverage needs, your Napa County benefits consultant can help support your organization in various other important business areas. In this latest post, we’ll explore more about the surprising ways a Napa County benefits consultant can help support your business. Read More >>

  • Tips to a Successful Annual Exam | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    May 18, 2018

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    Have you ever heard the proverb “Knowledge is power?” It means that knowledge is more powerful than just physical strength and with knowledge people can produce powerful results. This applies to your annual medical physical as well! The #1 goal of your annual exam is to GAIN KNOWLEDGE. Annual exams offer you and your doctor a baseline for your health as well as being key to detecting early signs of diseases and conditions. For more, watch this short video:


  • What to Look for in a Napa County Benefits Consultant

    May 15, 2018

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    A Napa County benefits consultant can help your company to select the right benefits package for its team members. This is a critical element in safeguarding your organization and retaining your most talented staff. But it’s important to understand the process for choosing a benefits consultant in Napa County before you begin. So to help you, we are highlighting the qualities to look for in a consultant. Read More >>

  • Notifying Participants of a Plan Change | California Employee Benefit Firm

    May 15, 2018

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    Curious about when you should notify a participant about a change to their health care plan?

    The answer is that it depends!

    Notification must happen within one of three time frames: 60 days prior to the change, no later than 60 days after the change, or within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    For modifications to the summary plan description (SPD) that constitute a material reduction in covered services or benefits, notice is required within 60 days prior to or after the adoption of the material reduction in group health plan services or benefits. (For example, a decrease in employer contribution is a material reduction in covered services or benefits. So is a material modification in any plan terms affecting the content of the most recent summary of benefits and coverage (SBC).) While the rule here is flexible, the definite best practice is to give advance notice. For collective practical purposes, employees should be told prior to the first increased withholding.

    However, if the change is part of open enrollment, and communicated during open enrollment, this is considered acceptable notice regardless of whether the SBC, SPD, or both are changing. Essentially, open enrollment is a safe harbor for all 60-day prior/60-day post notice requirements.

    Finally, changes that do not affect the SBC and are not a material reduction in benefits must be communicated and summarized within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    By Danielle Capilla

    Originally published by


  • The Questions to Ask When Looking for Napa Benefit Brokers

    May 10, 2018

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    When working with Napa benefit brokers, it’s important that you find a company that is on your side and ready to help guide you in choosing the ideal coverage options. Without experience in the process it can be difficult to make progress, and so within this latest post, we’ll look at the questions you must ask in finding qualified Napa benefit brokers. Read More >>

  • Top 5 Social Media Tips That Can Benefit Every Agency | CA Benefit Consultants

    May 7, 2018

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    The world is connected nowadays through our screens. Whether it be email, texting, websites, FaceTime, or social media; we all use technology to connect us to others. According to Hubspot, an online marketing and sales software provider, consumers are on social networks more than ever before. They wrote:

    In our survey of 1,091 global internet users, we’ve found people have dramatically increased content consumption on the three most popular social networks in the last two years: Facebook (+57% increase), Twitter (25% increase), and LinkedIn (21% increase). These networks have notably doubled down on content in the past few years to capture and retain the attention of their users — and it appears the playbook is working.The Future of Content Marketing: How People Are Changing the Way They Read, Interact, and Engage With Content

    So, how do you harness this tech to strengthen your connectivity to your audience? Here’s the top 5 tips for using social media that every agency can benefit from using.

    1. Consistent Content Posting

    Your followers want to know when they can expect new info to be posted on your website and social media. If you post once a week for 3 weeks and then not post again for another month, your audience will quit paying attention. Consistency is the key! Make a point to post at the same general time on the same days and you will see more interaction from your followers.

    1. Images & Videos

    62% of users thoroughly consume the social media post if it includes video as compared to only 25% consumption of traditional long content posts. That’s a HUGE difference! Grab your audience’s attention when they are scrolling through their social media by posting pictures and videos. They are telling us that they will stop and watch or read more than skimming because of the images they see.

    1. Keep Up with Social Media Trends

    Pay attention to what you are most engaged with on social media. Do you like to watch Facebook Live videos? Do you stop and scroll through pictures from companies when they post what they are doing in the community? Do you prefer to chat with a customer service representative online versus an email? If you are seeing your preferences change, there is a good chance your audience’s preferences are changing. Post pictures of your teams serving their community. Use videos to educate your clients on relevant issues in your field. Social media is constantly evolving so stay up on trends and use them on your pages!

    1. Facebook is Still King

    Consumers are using Facebook for more than just connecting to their high school friends—they are using it to read content from their favorite businesses and groups. This means you MUST keep your Facebook page updated and have new content posted regularly. According to a new Hubspot survey, 48% of consumers use their Facebook feed to catch up on news, business, and lifestyle stories. This ties back to Tip #1 and reiterates that consistent posting is the sweet spot for engaging customers.

    1. Engage Your Audience

    How are you talking to the people who use your business? Are you responding to inquiries on Facebook? When you post pictures on LinkedIn are you responding to the people who are looking and commenting on them? When you engage with your followers, they are more likely to have a stronger relationship with you. Entrepreneur Magazine says, “They are more likely to have a better evaluation of the brands, stay loyal to the brands and recommend the brands to others.”

    By following these tips, your social media pages can grow into healthy sites and you can be more effective as you engage with your audience.  Start using them today!


  • Beware of Tech Overload | Petaluma Employee Benefits

    May 3, 2018

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    Technology has certainly made the workplace faster, smarter and more productive. New apps and systems continuously offer new ways to create, manage and collaborate. However, just as with many good things, workers can get too much of office tech. With each digitization of traditional job and team functions comes a cost in diminishing associated skills. Many forward-thinking companies are taking heed of the potential pitfalls of tech overload. Check out some particular hazards culled from across the Web.

    Loss of Interpersonal Skills — Video chats, group chats, IMs, DMs, texts, pings, not to mention old-fashioned email certainly afford a multitude of ways to communicate, even collaborate. However, there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction. Over-reliance on digital channels can diminish the opportunities and ability to collaborate in the most free-form manner, that being when folks share the same room.

    Inhibits Big Thinking — Unlimited information flow can sometimes turn into overflow. Continuous text alerts, IMs and other pings can inhibit completion of the task at hand. They can also cause mistakes due to lack of concentration. While pressing issues can be quickly resolved, continual interruptions leave little or no time for working through larger projects and long-term planning.

    Impaired Security — It’s an unfortunate fact of business life that the more freely information flows, even behind firewalls, the more susceptible it is to hacking, corruption and theft. As well-publicized incidents have shown, corporate information is not the only data at risk, but also financial and personal data of employees and customers. It’s vital that when companies upgrade their business tech, their security tech and protocols keep pace.

    Time and Maintenance Costs — The only sure bet with a new application or system is that it will require updates. Also, while out-of-pocket expenses can be quantified, less-obvious costs of downtime devoted to system maintenance and training can pose significant drag on productivity, and in some cases job satisfaction. More companies are discovering that not every tech wave is worth catching, especially if it crashes against strained budgets.

    Encroachment on Personal Time — Certainly boundaries of normal working hours have been significantly extended. While tech has indeed freed workers from cubicle and office tethers, it can also tempt managers and team members to infringe, often unknowingly, on the personal lives of their reports. Yes, emergencies may arise. But workers repeatedly besieged with after-hour queries may seek other places to use their devices.

    It May Be Unhealthy — Work is stressful enough. While technology has certainly speeded operations, it’s concurrently raised everyone’s expectations. Some research indicates that over-reliance on devices may increase stress levels with potentially adverse health consequences. For better health, occasionally put down the phone!

    Find out more:
    Small Business Chronicle: Pros & Cons of Technology in Business Today
    CIO: Americans Suffer Technology Overload, But We Want More
    Northeast Valley News: Technology Overload Causing Health Problems

    By Bill Olson

    Originally published by


  • Former foes are trading blows for cooperation – now want to overhaul health care in the US

    April 20, 2018

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    Former acting CMS administrator Andy Slavitt was one of the fiercest defenders of the Affordable Care Act during the recent debates and attempts by Republicans to overturn it.  Now he is leading a new nonpartisan group of politicians, policy makers, executives and other public figures, called United States of Care, that will push for policy changes based on the idea that despite deep political divisions, Americans want many of the same things when it comes to their health.  Mike Leavitt, former HHS Secretary, will also be part of the new group.

  • Will wellness make you sick? Well, no, but it won’t cure you either, say studies

    April 20, 2018

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    The first problem in proving the value of wellness programs, of course, is that the data, while considerable, is also anecdotal.  Further, the use of wellness does not necessarily correlate to some of the results claimed. Finally, though this is one good reason to do it anyway, is that you can’t quantify the results based on what diseases or injuries you would have prevented.  A recent study in Health Affairs, which is the leading journal for health care theory and practice, said care coordination and management initiatives have not been drivers of savings in Medicare, and an earlier study shows that even if 90% of consumers utilized preventive services (much higher than the current takeup rate) the total effect on health care spending would be just under 0.2% – a lot of money overall, but not much money as part of the system.  Cynics also point out that if we let people live longer, they will consume more health care services.  This is, of course, a good societal thing, but if you want to look purely at how to save money and how to improve care, there is always contention with the “law of unintended consequences’  Overall, the argument should be about improving quality and not saving costs. Oh, well.

  • Don’t worry…we’re going to fix it now

    April 20, 2018

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    Well, now the concerns are over.  Jamie Dimon JP Morgan, Jeff Bezos from Amazon and Warren Buffet from Berkshire Hathaway have all teamed up to solve our nation’s health care problems.  There are no details at this point, of course, but they say they plan to hold down costs by bringing “their scale and complementary expertise to this long term effort”  They will create an independent company “free from profit making incentives and constraints” to focus on technology solutions”  This is great, except for the fact that technology is only one part of the problem (but definitely worth fixing) and that the scale these companies bring will really only benefit a narrow slice of consumers – their companies.  By the way, Steve Case of AOL tried this years ago and failed miserably, but who remembers Steve Case any more?

  • A DOL Audit Can Happen to You | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    April 19, 2018

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    Summary plan descriptions (SPDs) are required for all retirement, health, and welfare plans subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). However, misconceptions about this requirement are widespread. ERISA attorney Stacy H. Barrow, partner with Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP, had a chat with ThinkHR about the importance of having proper ERISA documentation and the consequences of failing to do so.

    THR: What types of employers need to have an SPD?

    SHB: We tell all employers — of any size — who offer plans subject to ERISA that they need to have an SPD. This is the first item in every Department of Labor (DOL) audit. If you don’t have one and you get audited or a participant asks for plan documents, you will be scrambling to put documents together and you can’t do them fast enough to avoid an issue. In addition, cafeteria plans can only be adopted prospectively, so if you don’t have a written cafeteria plan in place, you may be jeopardizing the tax qualified status of your plan.

    THR: Won’t my broker or carrier take care of these documents?

    SHB: Employers may think that brokers or carriers take care of all required benefits documentation, but at the end of the day, it’s the employer who is responsible for complying with ERISA’s SPD requirement. Your broker may help you, but they might not be aware of every benefit you offer or your eligibility guidelines. The carrier’s documentation often is missing some of the required language, which is why you use a wrap. You don’t specifically have to use a wrap to develop your SPD, but the carrier document won’t get you there and an wrap is often the best way to comply. If the plan documents aren’t compliant, that’s not the carrier’s or broker’s responsibility, it’s the employer’s.

    THR: Do I really need to be concerned about a DOL audit?

    SHB: Employers can get complacent about documentation, thinking that only large employers get audited, or it won’t happen to them. It’s not only the large corporations that get audited. It can happen to employers of any size or type. It’s important to make sure you have good benefits documentation, because if you don’t, and you do get audited, it might cause the DOL to dig deeper and look for other problems, such as looking into your 401(k) plan.

    Plan documentation is a huge part of every DOL audit. I can’t stress strongly enough that they will want to see the summary plan description and plan documents. If you can get good, compliant documents to the DOL, it increases the chances of a speedy resolution. If you can provide them quickly, it sends a message that you are ready and in compliance.

    THR: What are the consequences of being out of compliance?

    SHB: Not having the proper documents may be an issue if you get audited or there is litigation over a denied claim. You need to be prepared for this possibility. If the DOL audits and imposes penalties, it may not be because the employer didn’t have a wrap document, but rather because the document wasn’t updated, wasn’t compliant, or wasn’t distributed to employees. And the DOL may impose penalties of up to $152 per day for failure to provide an SPD upon request. Also, failure to inform participants of plan changes may invalidate those changes.

    By Rachel Sobel

    Originally published by

  • Higher Satisfaction Through Higher Education | California Benefit Advisors

    April 18, 2018

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    When evaluating employee benefits, essentials such as health and dental plans, vacation time and 401(k) contributions quickly come to mind. Another benefit employers should consider involves subsidizing learning as well as ambitions. Grants and reimbursements toward advanced degrees and continuing education can be a smart investment for both employers and employees.

    Educational benefits are strongly linked to worker satisfaction. A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that nearly 80 percent of responding workers who rated their education benefits highly also rated their employers highly. While only 30 percent of those rating their higher education benefits as fair or poor conversely rated their employer highly.

    These benefits are popular with businesses as well. In a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, nearly five of six responding employers offer some form of educational benefit. Their top reasons are to retain current employees, maintain or raise employee satisfaction, keep skill levels current, attract new talent and boost innovation and productivity. Tax credits offer additional advantages. Qualifying programs offer employers tax credits up to $5,250 per employee, per year.

    At the same time, companies should offer these benefits with care as they do pose potential pitfalls. Higher education assistance can be costly, even when not covering full costs. Workers taking advantage can become overwhelmed with the demands of after-hour studies, affecting job performance. Also, employers would be wise to ensure their employees don’t promptly leave and take their new skills elsewhere.

    When well-planned, educational benefits will likely prove a good investment. Seventy-five percent of respondents to SHRM’s survey consider their educational-assistance programs successful. To boost your employee morale, skill levels and job-satisfaction scores, consider the benefit that may deliver them all, and more.

    Find out more:
    IFEBP: Why Educational Assistance Programs Work
    EBRI: Fundamentals of Employee Benefit Programs

    By Bill Olsen

    Originally published  by

  • Non-profits now may have to show a profit on something from which employees profit

    April 11, 2018

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    Under the new Tax Act, and effective January 1, 2018, non profit employers must pay a corporate tax (defined as 21% under Section 13703 of amended section 512(A) of the Tax Code) for the following benefits made available to employees on a cost free basis:

    • Qualified transportation plan
    • Parking facilities used in connection with qualified parking
    • On premises athletic facilities

  • Disability Insurance and why you need it! | CA Benefit Consultants

    April 9, 2018

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    “Your most valued asset isn’t your house, car, or retirement account. It’s the ability to make a living.”

    No one foresees needing disability benefits.  But, should a problem arise, the educated and informed employee can plan for the future by purchasing disability insurance to help cover expenses when needed.

    When you ask people what is the number one reason disability insurance is needed, most will answer that it is for workplace related injuries. However, the leading causes of long-term absences are back injuries, cancer, and heart disease and most of them are NOT work related.   In addition, the average duration of absences due to disability is 34 months.  So how do you prepare for an unplanned absence from work as a result of an injury or illness? Disability insurance is a great option.

    Disability insurance is categorized into two main types.

    • Short Term Disability covers 40-60% of the employee’s base salary and can last for a few weeks to a few months to a year. There is typically a short waiting period before benefits begin after the report of disability. This plan is generally sponsored by the employer.
    • Long Term Disability covers 50-70% of the employee’s base salary and the benefits end when the disability ends or after a pre-set length of time depending on the policy. The wait period for benefits is longer—typically 90 days from onset of disability. This plan kicks in after the short-term coverage is exhausted. The individual purchases this plan to prevent a loss of coverage after short-term disability benefits are exhausted.

    While the benefits of these disability plans are not a total replacement of salary, they are designed for the employee to maintain their current standard of living while recovering from the injury or illness. This also allows the individual to pay regular expenses during this time.

    There are many ways to enroll in a disability insurance plan. Often times your employer will offer long-term and short-term coverage as part of a benefits package. Supplemental coverage can also be purchased.  Talk with your company’s HR department for more information on how to enroll in these plans.  Individuals who are interested in purchasing supplemental coverage can also contact outside insurance brokers or even check with any professional organizations to which they belong (such as the American Medical Association for medical professionals) as many times they offer insurance coverage to members.

    As you begin planning for your future, make sure you research the types of coverage available and different avenues through which to purchase this coverage. For more information on disability and the workplace, check out:




  • The New Tax Act has some gifts for employers who have employees on leave

    April 3, 2018

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    To encourage employers to provide eligible employees with paid leave under the FMLA, the new tax law provides them with a new business credit equal to 12.5% of the amount of wages paid to “qualifying employees” during any period in which such employees are on family and medical leave as long as the rate of payment under the program is at least 50% of the employee’s normal wages.

  • Price Shop Healthcare | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 3, 2018

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    As the costs of health care soar, many consumers are looking for ways to control their medical spending. Also, with the rise of enrollment in high deductible health plans, consumers are paying for more health care out-of-pocket. From medical savings accounts to discount plans for prescriptions, patients are growing increasingly conscious of prices for their healthcare needs. Price shopping procedures and providers allows you to compare prices so that you are getting the best value for your care.

    Why do you need to look beyond your nearby and familiar providers and locations for healthcare? Here’s a hypothetical example: Chris is a 45-year old male in good physical health. During his last check-up he mentions to his doctor that he’s had some recent shortness of breath and has been more tired as of late. His doctor orders an EKG to rule out any problems. If Chris went to his local hospital for this procedure, it would cost $1150. He instead looks online and shops around to find other providers in his area and finds he can get the same procedure for $450 at a nearby imaging center. His potential savings is $700 simply by researching locations.

    So where do you start when shopping around for your health care?  A good place to begin is by researching your health plan online. Insurance companies will post cost estimates based on facility, physician, and type of procedure. Keep in mind that these are just estimates and may vary based on what coverage you are enrolled in. Another way to shop is by checking out websites that have compiled thousands of claims information for various procedures and locations to give an estimate of costs. However, deciphering whether a site is reporting estimates based on the “medical sticker price” of charges or rates for private insurance plans or Medicare is difficult.  There are huge differences in prices at different providers for the exact same procedure. This is because contracts between insurance agencies and providers vary based on negotiated amounts. This makes it hard to get consistent pricing information.

    Check out these sites that do a great job comparing apples to apples for providers:

    • Healthcare Blue Book
      • What Kelly Blue Book is to cars, Healthcare Blue Book is to medical pricing
    • New Choice Health
      • Reports on pricing of medical procedures, providers, quality of facilities, and customer feedback for healthcare in all 50 states
    • The Leapfrog Group
      • Publishes data on hospitals so patients can compare facilities and costs for treatments and procedures

    After compiling all the information on prices and procedures, you can still call and negotiate costs with the location of your care. Fair Health Consumer has tips on how to negotiate with providers and plan for your healthcare needs.

    Knowledge is POWER and when you spend time researching and comparing healthcare costs, you are empowering yourself!  Exercising due diligence to plan for you and your family’s medical needs will save you money and give you confidence in your decisions for care.



  • Federal Employment Law Update – March 2018 | California Employee Benefit Brokers

    March 28, 2018

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    FLSA Amendments to Tip Sharing Provisions

    On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed legislation (H.R. 1625) amending the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by prohibiting employers from keeping tips received by employees for any purpose. This includes prohibiting managers or supervisors from keeping any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit. Employers in violation of these protections are liable to the affected employee(s) for the sum of any tip credit taken, and all tips unlawfully kept, in addition to an equal amount as liquidated damages. Regarding willful violations of the employment of minors provisions (at 29 U.S.C. § 216(c)), any person in violation of the law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation and will be liable to the affected employee(s) for all tips unlawfully kept and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

    The law is currently effective.

    Read US H.R. 1625

    Postponement of E-Verify Temporary Unavailability

    On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced via fact sheet that E-Verify and E-Verify Services would be temporarily unavailable from 12 a.m. March 23 to 8 a.m. March 26 Eastern Time for system enhancements. However, on March 22 the USCIS released an email stating that the enhancements were “still in the works,” and the modernization launch was postponed. Subsequently, E-Verify will remain available, and all regular employment eligibility verification timelines continue to apply.

    Read about the planned enhancements

    IRS Adjusts 2018 Inflation Amounts for Health Savings Accounts

    On March 5, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced 2018 annual limits on deductions for individuals covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) in Rev. Proc. 2018-18. The deduction limit is $3,450 for an individual with self-only coverage and $6,850 for an individual with family coverage.

    Additionally, for calendar year 2018, an HDHP is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, excluding premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

    Read Rev. Proc. 2018-18

    EEO-1 Reporting and Employees Who Regularly Report to Client Sites

    The portal for 2017 EEO-1 reporting is open and reports must be submitted and certified by March 31, 2018 at the latest.

    The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has addressed the issue that there may be some confusion as to how employers are to report employees working at client sites (a workplace the employer does not own but where the employee reports for work). According to the EEOC’s 2017 EEO-1 User Guide (see page 132), employers must still submit an EEO-1 report under the address of the client site for those employees, as opposed to the employer’s own address.

    See How to File an EEO-1 Report

    IRS Updates Withholding Calculator and Releases New Form W-4

    On February 28, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released an updated Withholding Calculator and a new version of Form W-4 following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December.

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions, and changing the tax rates and brackets.

    If changes to withholding should be made, the Withholding Calculator gives employees the information they need to fill out a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

    More information is available at the IRS page, Withholding Calculator Frequently Asked Questions.

    Read the press release

    NLRB Vacates Hy-Brand and Browning-Ferris Joint Employment Standard Reinstated

    On February 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it vacated its December 14, 2017 decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors regarding the joint employment standard. As a result, the Obama-era, employee-friendly joint employment standard established by Browning-Ferris Industries was reinstated. Under the reinstated Browning-Ferris standard, a company can be found to be a joint employer based on the potential of its ability to exercise control over terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether the actual authority is exercised. This is an “indirect control” standard and is considered the main factor in determining whether a joint employer relationship exists, and thus liability, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

    According to the NLRB, Hy-Brand was vacated due a determination by the board’s designated agency ethics official that member William Emanuel is, and should have been, disqualified from participating in the Hy-Brand proceeding. In a memorandum issued on February 9, 2018, the U.S. Inspector General found that Emmanuel’s former law firm was involved in the original Browning-Ferris decision, and subsequently, he should have recused himself from the Hy-Brand decision.

    Because the Board’s Decision and Order in Hy-Brand has been vacated, the overruling of the Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), is of no force or effect.

    Read the press release and order

  • New Guidance on Tipped Wages | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    March 27, 2018

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    The 2,232-page budget spending bill that was signed by President Trump on March 23, 2018, included an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibiting employers, managers, or supervisors from collecting or retaining tips made by employees, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit.

    This law essentially blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2017 proposed rule which would have allowed tip sharing between employees who directly earn them with “back of the house” employees who “[c]ontribute to the overall customer experience,” but do not traditionally receive direct tips, such as cooks and dishwashers.

    The next step with the DOL’s proposed rule could be that the agency pulls it or conforms the rulemaking to the spending bill. However, experts are concerned that the bill did not go far enough to provide clear and concise definitions. For example, in the restaurant industry employees can wear many hats. So what happens when a food server is the shift lead? Is a shift lead a manager or supervisor because they are granted authority, be it minimal authority, over other food servers? Employers will be looking to the DOL to provide more specifics.

    For the time being, the FLSA standard continues, “[a] valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly received tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors.”

    Get the basics in our Federal Employment Law Update or go more in depth into the background and implications of tipping regulations on Eater.

    Originally published by

  • How Do You Know Which Benefit Consulting Firms Will Meet Your Needs?

    March 26, 2018

    More and more businesses, of all sizes, are discovering the value of benefit consulting firms.  The right benefits partner can be an investment which almost immediately pays for itself with better benefits packages, streamlined administration, and far fewer costly mistakes or legal compliance problems.

    The issue is finding the right employee benefits administration service to meet your needs.  With so many benefit consulting firms out there, each targeting different sectors, it’s vital to find one which aligns with your own goals.

    These are some of the factors our team at Arrow Benefits Group think you should look into when evaluating them.

    Five Aspects to Finding the Right Benefits Consulting Firms for Your Needs

    1 – Experience and track record

    Benefits consulting is not a field easily entered into, and many would-be consultants fold quickly.  Those who survive will have a long track record of success and experience working with a wide variety of businesses.  Ask for case studies or testimonials, so you can evaluate them for yourself.

    2 – Overall size

    When it comes to insurance and related fields, bigger usually is better.  Bigger means better access to a wider variety of plans and services, and more opportunities to leverage economies of scale.  Stability is particularly important if you’re looking at outsourcing key administrative processes.  You need a partner you know will be by your side for years to come.

    3 – Personalization 

    Employee benefits are never a one-size-fits-all proposition.  The best benefit consulting firms will work with you carefully to understand your workforce, their needs, and your overall long-term goals to create fully personalized plans that meet all your needs.

    4 – Are they national or global?

    If your company operates offices overseas, finding a partner who can handle your benefits packages in any company is a must.  There are few who can do this effectively!  If you have global ambitions, pick a benefits consultant with the global expertise to match.

    5 – Employee outreach

    Are they capable of working with your employees, creating training materials, conducting seminars, and otherwise helping in education?  These are services you want since well-educated employees are a crucial component of a well-optimized benefits administration system.

    Choose Arrow Benefits Group to Streamline Your Benefits

    As one of the world’s leaders in benefits administration, we have the reach and the expertise to cut costs and improve quality in your employee benefits administration.  Contact us today for more details.


  • The ACA still makes its way but maybe in the wrong direction

    March 26, 2018

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    Enrollment has dropped nearly 4% in those areas covered by the Federal Exchange, but remained about the same in states that ran their own (e.g. California).  Meanwhile, a“Treasury watchdog” reported that the IRS overpaid the ACA tax credits by $3.5 billion in 2017.  The good news is that the total was actually $5.8 billion but they were able to get recovery on the amounts that can be recovered – but the rest seems to be lost.  Oops.

  • Learn all about Medical Savings Accounts! | CA Benefit Brokers

    March 23, 2018

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    Take control of your health care expenses and save money in 2018!


  • Here’s Where #FOMO Is Doing You a Disservice | Petaluma Benefit Advisors

    March 21, 2018

    Fear of missing out—is more than just a hashtag. Many Millennials admit that #FOMO drives a lot of their decisions on what they wear, what they do, even what they eat and drink. We live in a world of social influence.

    But one area where #FOMO really does you a disservice? No one is afraid of missing out on the benefits of life insurance. And why should you? There are so many other things competing for your dollars. That said, do you know what you’re missing out on by not having it? Are you making one or more of these mistakes?

    You think life insurance is much more expensive than it actually is. Three in four Millennials overestimate the cost of life insurance—sometimes by a factor of 2, 3, or even more! (2017 Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA) Imagine being able to afford life insurance for the cost of that daily latte, and for less money than your avocado toast habit!

    You think you can’t qualify for life insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth, and yet four in 10 Millennials think this is true, according to the same study! Younger candidates have an easier time getting life insurance because they are generally healthier.

    You’ll turn to GoFundMe if something goes wrong. In an era where social networking does all things, it’s natural to think that your loved ones can crowdfund their way to solvency after something happens. But life insurance benefits aren’t taxed like GoFundMe proceeds are, and life insurance has a defined, immediate payout that GoFundMe does not. Plus, your loved ones don’t need the stress or the stigma of having to ask others for help.

    You’d rather spend that money on other things. In fact, one study recently suggested that many Millennials are more concerned about planning their next night out with a significant other than planning for their financial future.  But sensible steps now will make for a better future with that significant other long past tomorrow night’s date.

    You don’t care because you don’t have people depending on you for money. Take a look at your student loans. Were any of them private loans? Who is liable for them—in full, often immediately—if something happens to you? There are other debts you may need to consider as well—anything where you have a co-signer.

    You keep saying you’ll get around to buying insurance, but don’t. Millennials are getting married, having families! Young families have enough to worry about with daycare costs and increased medical costs, right? Well, imagine what your young family would do about those bills if something happened to you. Could your spouse pay the rent or mortgage without your income?

    You tune out when “adulting” gets too hard. One recent college grad recently confessed to me that he hadn’t elected into any of his employee benefits at the dream job he got in his field because “my dad takes care of that.” He was shocked to learn what he was missing out on!

    Yes, adulting *is* hard, but a sound financial plan that includes retirement and insurance coverage (health, life, and disability insurance are all part of that plan) goes a long way to making sure that you don’t look back on your younger years and think, “Oh, why didn’t I start this sooner?” Plus, you don’t have to do it alone—that’s what insurance agents are for. They will sit down with you at no cost, or obligation, to discuss what you need and how to get coverage to fit your budget. But then, signing up—that IS on you. Don’t miss out.

    By Helen Mosher

    Originally published by

  • It ain’t over til it’s over – the mandates may live on in states

    March 20, 2018

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    Insurance carriers are dismayed  that the individual mandate is being repealed for the simple reason that the ability of individuals to opt out of coverage will cause a negative spiral in health care costs, as the pool of covered people devolve into those who are more in need of services.  Some states, however, including California, are fighting back and considering a state mandated mandate. We shall see.

  • How to Recognize A Superior Napa County Employee Benefits Broker

    March 19, 2018

    The right Napa County employee benefits broker can be an invaluable partner –  saving you money, preventing legal problems, and providing quality service when handling your employees’ claims.  However, not all employee benefit services are equal, and the wrong one could just as easily create far more problems than it solves.

    If it’s time for your company to embrace off-site employee benefits administration,

    Five Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Napa County Employee Benefits Broker

    1 – What are your certifications and licensing?

    Always make sure a benefits broker is fully licensed with all state and industry regulatory bodies and certified as competent.  Don’t be afraid to follow up on those licenses, either.  All relevant bodies will be happy to do a records lookup if you have any doubts about the validity of their credentials.

    2 – Have you received any disciplinary actions?

    The occasional mishap doesn’t indicate a bad company – but a coverup certainly does.  Take their answer and then verify it with the state insurance commission to see if they’re honest about their history.

    3 – What services can you provide us?

    There are a huge range of employee benefit consultants out there.  Some are purely insurance brokers.  Others handle claims processing.  Some are able to effectively take over all aspects of your benefits administration.  In most cases, the latter will be your best option – they’ll offer the most cost-savings while taking the most burdens off your internal HR team.

    4 – Do you offer compliance advice and consulting?

    The laws and regulations surrounding employee benefits – and related topics such as data handling – are extremely complex, and only becoming more complex over time.  You want a Napa County employee benefits broker who is deeply familiar with changing regulations, and constantly keeping tabs on new regulations that are on the horizon.

    It’s your own best chance of remaining in compliance, without spending a lot of money hiring or training experts in-house.

    5 – Do you handle open enrollment communication?

    Another area where a benefits consultant can potentially help is in communicating with your workforce.  It’s difficult for even well-educated workers to understand all their insurance benefit options.  The right partner can handle the outreach and education, so employees will pick the best options available.

    Arrow Benefits Group Can Streamline Your Benefits Administration

    We can be your one-stop-shop for benefits administration, from training to processing.  Contact us to learn more about our services.


  • IRS Releases New Form W-4 and Updates Withholding Calculator | California Benefit Consultants

    March 16, 2018

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    Our February 1, 2018 blog post reported on the late February release of the Form W-4 and guidance on the income withholding rules that changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. On February 28, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released the new 2018 Form W-4 and an updated withholding calculator.

    Why a Withholding Calculator?

    The IRS encourages the use of the withholding calculator for a quick paycheck checkup in light of the changes to the tax law for 2018. According to the IRS, employees may be encouraged to use the calculator to ensure the correct tax amount is being withheld from their paychecks. For example, reviewing withholding may help protect employees against having too little tax withheld and facing an unexpected tax bill or penalty during next year’s tax season. Alternatively, with the average refund being $2,800, the IRS anticipates that some employees may have less tax withheld up front and instead receive more in their paychecks. If an employee needs to make changes to his or her withholding, the calculator provides the necessary information to fill out a new W-4.

    Next Steps

    Make sure your employees know about the availability of the calculator. Only employees changing their withholding need to complete a new W-4, and they may use results from the calculator to complete the new form. Encourage those employees to submit updated W-4s as soon as possible to ensure their withholdings are accurate.

    The IRS also suggests that if employees follow the calculator’s recommendations and change their 2018 withholding, they should recheck their withholding at the beginning of 2019 to protect against having too little withheld. This is important where an employee reduces his or her withholding sometime during 2018 because a mid-year withholding change in 2018 may have a different full-year impact in 2019.

    Get it All

    More information is available at the IRS page, Withholding Calculator Frequently Asked Questions.

    Learn more about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

    By Samantha Yurman

    Originally published by

  • California Employment Law Update – March 2018 | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 14, 2018

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    California Supreme Court Rules on Overtime Calculations with Retroactive Application

    On March 5, 2018, the California Supreme Court ruled in Alvarado v. Dart Container Corporation of California (Alvarado) that when calculating overtime in pay periods when an employee earns a flat rate bonus, employers must divide the total compensation earned in a pay period by only the non-overtime hours worked. This means, according to the Alvarado decision, the correct calculation of overtime associated with a flat sum bonus is the amount of the bonus divided by the regular hours worked by the employee, multiplied by 1.5 (not a 0.5 multiplier, which the employer used in the case):

    (Overtime Hours x Regular Rate x 1.5) + (Bonus/Regular Hours Worked x Overtime Hours Worked x 1.5) = Total Overtime Compensation in California

    This decision applies retroactively; thus all California employers who pay flat rate bonuses must ensure immediate compliance with these calculations or risk incurring penalties and liability.

    Read Alvarado

    Originally published by

  • How Employee Benefit Services Save You Money

    March 12, 2018

    For just about any business, employee benefits are a huge expense.  In fact, according to the US Department of Labor, most businesses are spending at least 30% of their payroll on benefits – and that’s a number most businesses want to reduce however they can.  Unfortunately, many look towards cutting benefits, but that’s a poor long-term strategy.  Reducing benefits can lead to the loss of experienced workers, and a shallow hiring pool, creating more problems rather than solutions.

    However, there is an alternative: employee benefit services.  An off-site specialist can streamline your benefits system, saving your company substantial money in the long run and without sacrificing the quality of your benefits package.

    Three Ways Off-Site Employee Benefits Administration Improves Your Bottom Line

    1 – More options in benefits packages

    A dedicated employee benefits broker is going to have access to most or all of the major providers across the country, and that gives them superior ability to create custom-made packages.  In some cases, it’s even possible to improve the overall quality of benefits, while still lowering costs.  Additionally, the larger brokers can also leverage economies of scale to bring you further cost savings you could not possibly achieve as a single business entity.

    2 – Better data for decision-making

    The data for benchmarking almost any benefits plan is out there, but not everyone knows how to access it – and even fewer can interpret the data.  A qualified employee benefits consultant, however, is someone who can.  They can put together easily-understood data sets and improve the decision-making processes within your business.

    3 – Improving regulatory compliance

    As insurance and benefits regulations become ever more complicated, it becomes easier for a business to unknowingly fall out of compliance with the law.  Even a single violation can be a substantial financial blow.  In this way, hiring outside experts becomes a form of insurance – but one which almost immediately pays for itself through avoided problems.

    Cut Your Benefits Costs with Arrow Benefits Group

    We can streamline your benefits packages, processing, and employee outreach – saving you time and money.  Contact us to learn more.


  • Trading it in for next year’s model…the Cadillac tax gets kicked down the road

    March 6, 2018

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    In the swirl surrounding the new Tax Act, there was some good news on the benefits front.

    The Cadillac tax, which was given a lot of time to germinate and grow on everyone, was kept in but the deadline for meeting it was pushed back from 2018 to 2020.  As rates continue to rise, the specter of this tax, which penalizes plans that have a value exceeding a certain dollar threshold, nags at employers, particularly those in high cost states like California.  The tax does not vary based on geographic factors, so once again the left and right coasts get hit.  What’s puzzling is that the tax was supposed to help pay for the ACA, so why don’t they just get to it?

  • How the Right Employee Benefits Services Consultant Improves Your Bottom Line

    March 5, 2018

    Benefits packages may be necessary to attract the best and brightest to your workplace, but they’re an expensive investment for any business.  The plans themselves can be a significant expenditure, which is then compounded by the costs of oversight and administration.  On top of that, there are numerous legal requirements which must be met, and failure to do so could mean extremely costly penalties.

    This is exactly why employee benefit services can also bring big benefits to your business.  With Arrow Benefits Group on your side helping you find the best policies for your needs, implementing those policies, and overseeing the details, you can ultimately save time and money.

    Four Clear Gains from Contacting Employee Benefit Services

    1 – Receive a custom-built benefits package

    Benefit brokers have a distinct advantage when it comes to creating benefits packages because they can usually pick and choose features from across the entire benefits industry.  Rather than having to accept one-size-fits-all benefits packages from single companies, you can have one tailored to your exact needs.

    2 – No longer worrying about compliance issues

    The legal tangles surrounding insurance, HR, employee data, and related topics are already extremely complicated, and only becoming more so over time.  Keeping up with regulations has become a full-time job.  A quality employee benefits administration service will be keeping up with such matters as part of their own jobs, so you gain from their expertise without having to do the legwork.

    3 – Efficient handling of employee needs

    HR departments have enough on their plate already without having to deal with the details of claims reporting, handling employee complaints, and other matters that – realistically – are closer in nature to “customer service.”  With off-site employee benefits administration, your workforce will have a single point of contact dedicated to handling their issues.  They receive more efficient claims processing, and your HR team can focus on more immediate concerns.

    4 – Attract a better caliber of worker

    Most workers today are more concerned with the quality of their benefits than their base pay.  Being able to advertise top-quality benefits and benefits processing can be a major draw in hiring.  If your benefits package stands out, so too will the quality of your hiring applicants.

    Arrow Benefits Group Simplifies Your Benefits

    As one of North America’s leading employee benefit services, we can streamline every aspect of your benefits and processing.  Contact us to learn more.

  • 6 Ways to Keep the Flu from Sidelining Your Workplace | CA Employee Benefit Brokers

    March 2, 2018

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    This year’s flu season is a rough one. Although the predominant strains of this year’s influenza viruses were represented in the vaccine, they mutated, which decreased the effectiveness of the immunization. The flu then spread widely and quickly, and in addition, the symptoms were severe and deadly. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that the 2017 – 2018 flu season established new records for the percentage of outpatient visits related to flu symptoms and number of flu hospitalizations.

    Younger, healthy adults were hit harder than is typical, which had impacts on the workplace. In fact, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. recently revised its estimates on the impact of this flu season on employers, raising the cost of lost productivity to over $21 billion, with roughly 25 million workers falling ill.

    Fortunately, the CDC is reporting that it looks like this season is starting to peak, and while rates of infection are still high in most of the country, they are no longer rising and should start to drop. What can you do as an employer to keep your business running smoothly for the rest of this flu season and throughout the next one?

    1. Help sick employees stay home. Consider that sick employees worried about their pay, unfinished projects and deadlines, or compliance with the company attendance policy may feel they need to come to work even if they are sick. Do what you can to be compassionate and encourage them to stay home so they can get better as well as protect their co-workers from infection. In addition, make sure your sick leave policies are compliant with all local and state laws, and communicate them to your employees. Be clear with the expectation that sick employees not to report to work. For employees who feel well enough to work but may still be contagious, encourage them to work remotely if their job duties will allow. Be consistent in your application of your attendance and remote work rules.
    2. Know the law. Although the flu is generally not serious enough to require leaves of absence beyond what sick leave or PTO allow for, in a severe season, employees may need additional time off. Consider how the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), state leave laws, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may come into play for employees who have severe cases of the flu, complications, or family members who need care.
    3. Be flexible. During acute flu outbreaks, schools or daycare facilities may close, leaving parents without childcare. Employees may also need to be away from the workplace to provide care to sick children, partners, or parents. Examine your policies to see where you can provide flexibility. Look for opportunities to cross-train employees on each other’s essential duties so their work can continue while they are out.
    4. Keep it clean. Direct cleaning crews to thoroughly disinfect high-touch areas such as doorknobs, kitchen areas, and bathrooms nightly. Provide hand sanitizer in common areas and encourage frequent handwashing. Keep disinfecting wipes handy for staff to clean their personal work areas with.
    5. Limit exposure. Avoid non-essential in-person meetings and travel that can expose employees to the flu virus. Rely on technology such as video conferencing, Slack, Skype, or other platforms to bring people together virtually. Consider staggering work shifts if possible to limit the number of people in the workplace at one time.
    6. Focus on wellness. Offer free or low-cost flu shots in the workplace. If your company provides snacks or meals for employees, offer healthier options packed with nutrients.

    Get it all

    AGENCY RESOURCES: Get the latest weekly flu stats from the CDC. Learn more about how the FMLA and ADA may be used during pandemic flu from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    By Rachel Sobel

    Originally posted by

  • California Employment Law Update – February 2018 | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    February 28, 2018

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    Employer Response to Immigration Inspection Notice

    In January 2018, the California Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement (DLSE) released its pre-inspection notice, Notice to Employee Labor Code section 90.2.

    Effective January 1, 2018, and except as otherwise required by federal law, California employers must provide notice to current employees of any inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records conducted by an immigration agency. This notice is completed by posting the DLSE’s Notice to Employee Labor Code section 90.2 in the language the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information to the employee within 72 hours of receiving notice of the inspection.

    A copy of the Notice of Inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms, and any accompanying documents, must be posted or given to employees with the DLSE notice.

    See the notice

    Originally posted by

  • How a San Francisco County Benefits Consultant Can Help Your Business

    February 26, 2018

    In managing the requirements of your employees, you’re likely considering the options in terms of benefits plans. But it’s important that experts are brought in early in this process to help guide you on the available options. A San Francisco benefits consultant can help you make the right choices when determining benefits plan for your firm, and our Arrow Benefits Group team will delve further into the role of the consultant and their services in this blog.

    Keeping Up-to-Date with the Options

    One key advantage of working with a San Francisco County benefits consultant is they can keep you up-to-date on all the options available to your organization. They can help you review health benefits and packages and determine which personal benefits best suit those within your organization. Rather than choosing a one-size-fits-all plan, their benefit brokers can customize the elements within your benefits package so that your team gets the most value from your organizational investment.

    Finding Plan Administrators

    A San Francisco County benefits consultant can also help you with finding plan administrators. They can guide you in choosing an administrator who can manage your company’s retirement benefit accounts for example. Managing this type of plan is essential in ensuring the ideal return on retirement investments over the coming years. Administrators can work to keep plans moving forward and ensure individual accounts meet the return standards required.

    Conducting Surveys within the Company

    Another part of the role carried out by employee benefits consultants is in conducting surveys within the company and finding out more information on employees and their particular requirements. They solicit feedback on the employee’s needs and find out how satisfied they are with their current benefits plans. By doing so, they can help companies maintain a happy and productive workforce and ensure that companies build on the productivity of their staff while retaining talent.

    Our team at Arrow Benefits Group is here to guide you in choosing benefits for your employees. To discover more about the industry and about the work of our qualified team, call us today. Our experts are ready to build customized benefits plans for your organization.


  • The Value of Automation for Employee Benefits Administration in Sonoma

    February 22, 2018

    Automation is now helping companies consolidate costs across the country. Where once administration tasks would take entire teams hours or more to complete, they can now be completed more effectively in minutes. To help guide you on the value of automation as a benefits consultant, we’re highlighting the advantages of the latest automation tools for Sonoma companies in completing employee benefits administration work.

    Simplify Compliance

    One clear advantage of using the latest tools is in simplifying compliance with the latest regulations. Meeting compliance with the ACA and other HIPAA rules now mean administration teams must consider a full range of elements when entering and managing data. Automation tools simplify this process and help support teams in meeting their objectives under the law.

    Improve Decision-Making

    Another clear advantage of the automation of employee benefits administration in Sonoma companies is that it can improve the decision-making process. No longer do companies require months to make a decision about the type of healthcare their employees require. Now software can compare packages directly and drill down on the most important elements in a short timeframe. Online savings calculators and side-by-side comparisons offered by benefits administration software help further support prudent decision making.

    Make the Employees’ Jobs Easier

    In any industry, software that makes your employees’ jobs easier will help improve their job satisfaction. This means companies can better retain their most talented team members and they can also improve their team’s productivity over time. It’s a commitment to team-building that drives organizational success.

    Enhanced Accuracy

    A leading consideration in the administration of employee benefits is data accuracy for Sonoma companies. It’s incredibly important that all data related to health benefits, retirement benefits, and other elements are highly accurate. And working with automation can ensure that each figure is accurately represented in the system.

    Our team here at Arrow Benefits Group has many decades of experience as a benefits consultant employing the latest technology in supporting employee benefits administration. If you wish to speak with a specialist about your organization and its requirements, call our team today. We have professionals ready around the clock to answer your questions and guide you in making decisions.

  • Benefits of an Annual Exam | California Benefit Advisors

    February 22, 2018

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    Have you ever heard the proverb “Knowledge is power?” It means that knowledge is more powerful than just physical strength and with knowledge people can produce powerful results. This applies to your annual medical physical as well! The #1 goal of your annual exam is to GAIN KNOWLEDGE. Annual exams offer you and your doctor a baseline for your health as well as being key to detecting early signs of diseases and conditions.


    The #1 goal of your annual exam is to  GAIN KNOWLEDGE


    According to Malcom Thalor, MD, “A good general exam should include a comprehensive medical history, family history, lifestyle review, problem-focused physical exam, appropriate screening and diagnostic tests and vaccinations, with time for discussion, assessment and education. And a good health care provider will always focus first and foremost on your health goals.”

    Early detection of chronic diseases can save both your personal pocketbook as well as your life! By scheduling AND attending your annual physical, you are able to cut down on medical costs of undiagnosed conditions. Catching a disease early means you are able to attack it early. If you wait until you are exhibiting symptoms or have been symptomatic for a long while, then the disease may be to a stage that is costly to treat. Early detection gives you a jump start on treatments and can reduce your out of pocket expenses.

    When you are prepared to speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP), you can set the agenda for your appointment so that you get all your questions answered as well as your PCP’s questions. Here are some tips for a successful annual physical exam:

    • Bring a list of medications you are currently taking—You may even take pictures of the bottles so they can see the strength and how many.
    • Have a list of any symptoms you are having ready to discuss.
    • Bring the results of any relevant surgeries, tests, and medical procedures
    • Share a list of the names and numbers of your other doctors that you see on a regular basis.
    • If you have an implanted device (insulin pump, spinal cord stimulator, etc) bring the device card with you.
    • Bring a list of questions! Doctors want well informed patients leaving their office. Here are some sample questions you may want to ask:
      • What vaccines do I need?
      • What health screenings do I need?
      • What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
      • Am I on the right medications?

    Becoming a well-informed patient who follows through on going to their annual exam as well as follows the advice given to them from their physician after asking good questions, will not only save your budget, but it can save your life!




  • How an Employee Benefits Administration Offers Value in Marin County Offices

    February 16, 2018

    Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a new employee is the value the employee will bring to the team. It’s no different than when considering service providers. And many are now discovering the unique value that having on-call employee benefits administration can bring to their Marin County offices. In this latest post, we’ll explain more.

    Single Point of Contact

    In some cases, companies find themselves dealing with a large corporation when trying to having their benefits and employee insurance questions answered. This can be difficult when team members need answers to questions on short notice. Having one point of contact through a benefits consultant can mitigate this problem. Team members can simply call their employee benefits administrator and to get information quickly to make informed choices about their benefits options.

    Significant Knowledge Regarding Benefits

    An employee benefits administrator is also likely to have great knowledge on the benefits options available to their clients. And this means they can help companies select customized benefit packages that suit each member of their staff with precision. When staff members feel appreciated by having a custom plan built precisely for them, they can then work more productively, helping the company succeed in the long-term.

    Ongoing Training

    Marin County employee benefits administration professionals receive ongoing industry training as part of their job. And this means that if there are any changes to the industry in terms of new legislation, they can help the organization respond to these changes. With new training taking place regularly, administration experts will also be able to implement new technology within the industry, thereby helping the company manage their benefits packages more efficiently, and reducing the cost of administration significantly.

    When choosing an employee benefits administration specialist, Marin County business leaders must select a benefits consultant with experience and expertise in all areas of the marketplace. It’s why so many are now turning to our team at Arrow Benefits Group when they need guidance on coverage options. Experts with decades of experience are standing by to answer your questions. Talk to an expert today by calling at (707) 992-3780.



  • Federal Employment Law Update – February 2018 | Petaluma Benefit Brokers

    February 16, 2018

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    IRS Releases Publication 15 and W-4 Withholding Guidance for 2018

    On January 31, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 15 — Introductory Material, which includes the following:

    • 2018 federal income tax withholding tables.
    • Exempt Form W-4.
    • New information on:
      • Withholding allowance.
      • Withholding on supplemental wages.
      • Backup withholding.
      • Moving expense reimbursement.
      • Social Security and Medicare tax for 2018.
      • Disaster tax relief.

    Read Publication 15 and further details here.

    EEOC Penalty Increases for Failure to Post Required Notices

    On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a final rule increasing the penalty amount from $534 to $545 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) notice posting requirements.

    The final rule is effective February 20, 2018.

    Read the rule

    Originally published by

  • 2018 W-4 Forms Won’t Be Released Until Late February | CA Employee Benefit Brokers

    February 14, 2018

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    If you’ve been getting questions from your employees about completing new 2018 W-4 forms to take advantage of the tax reform rules, we’ve finally received some answers. You can continue to rely on the current W-4 forms for now until the new 2018 form is released in late February.

    The January 29th Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2018-14 provides additional guidance on the income withholding rules that were changed under the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The guidance:

    • Extends the effective period of Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 until February 28, 2018.
    • Permits employees to claim exemption from withholding for 2018 by temporarily using the 2017 Form W-4. This procedure will expire 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
    • States that employees experiencing a change in status that causes a reduction in the number of withholding exemptions are not required to furnish employers with new withholding certificates until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
    • Provides that employees who have a reduction in the number of withholding allowances solely due to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are not required to furnish employers with new withholding certificates during 2018. However, employees may choose to update their withholding at any time in response to the act. Employees who choose to update their withholding may use the 2017 Form W-4 instead of the 2018 Form W-4 to report changes in withholding allowances until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
    • Confirms that the optional withholding rate on supplemental wage payments is 22 percent for 2018 through 2025.
    • Specifies that, for 2018, withholding under IRC 3405(a)(4) on periodic payments when no withholding certificate is in effect will be based on treating the payee as a married individual claiming three withholding allowances.

    In addition to the guidance, the IRS also released a new Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer Tax Guide, for 2018. Publication 15 includes the 2018 withholding tables and explains an employer’s tax responsibilities, such as withholding, depositing, reporting, paying, and correcting employment taxes.

    ThinkHR will continue to follow developments in this area and report on the availability of the new 2018 W-4 Form and other IRS guidance as it becomes available.

    By Rick Montgomery

    Originally published by

  • Benefits Easy: Intro to Self-Funding | Petaluma Benefit Advisors

    February 9, 2018

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    As the first month of 2018 wraps up, companies have already begun the arduous task of submitting budgets and finding ways to cut costs for the new year. One of the most effective ways to combat increasing health care costs for companies is to move to a Self-Funded insurance plan. By paying for claims out-of-pocket instead of paying a premium to an insurance carrier, companies can save around 20% in administration costs and state taxes. That’s quite a cost savings!

    The topic of Self-Funding is huge and so we want to break it down into smaller bites for you to digest. This month we want to tackle a basic introduction to Self-Funding and in the coming months, we will cover the benefits, risks, and the stop-loss associated with this type of plan.


    • When the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees, this is called Self-Funding.
    • Self-Funded plans allow the employer to tailor the benefits plan design to best suit their employees. Employers can look at the demographics of their workforce and decide which benefits would be most utilized as well as cut benefits that are forecasted to be underutilized.
    • While previously most used by large companies, small and mid-sized companies, even with as few as 25 employees, are seeing cost benefits to moving to Self-Funded insurance plans.
    • Companies pay no state premium taxes on self-funded expenditures. This savings is around 1.5% – 3.5% depending on in which state the company operates.
    • Since employers are paying for claims, they have access to claims data. While keeping within HIPAA privacy guidelines, the employer can identify and reach out to employees with certain at-risk conditions (diabetes, heart disease, stroke) and offer assistance with combating these health concerns. This also allows greater population-wide health intervention like weight loss programs and smoking cessation assistance.
    • Companies typically hire third-party administrators (TPA) to help design and administer the insurance plans. This allows greater control of the plan benefits and claims payments for the company.

    As you can see, Self-Funding has many facets. It’s important to gather as much information as you can and weigh the benefits and risks of moving from a Fully-Funded plan for your company to a Self-Funded one. Doing your research and making the move to a Self-Funded plan could help you gain greater control over your healthcare costs and allow you to design an original plan that best fits your employees.



  • How the Role of a Napa County Employee Benefits Broker Has Evolved

    February 8, 2018

    Benefits brokers are now tasked with guiding companies on their potential benefit options and working with employees to determine the quality of the options available. But the role of Napa County employee benefits broker has evolved considerably over time. And in this latest post, we’ll look more into how the role has evolved, from decades ago to the current industry.

    The Role in the Past

    In past decade, the role of a Napa County employee benefits broker looked very different to how it looks now. The important element to note is that there were many more brokers in the past, with more options for companies to select from. The primary roles of the broker at the time included:

    • Consulting on issues related to HIPAA, COBRA and the FSA.
    • Acting on insurance transactions to connect companies and insurers
    • Handling billing issues such as unpaid claims and incorrect bills
    • Negotiating with the carriers for their clients and marketing work

    The New Environment for the Broker

    The consolidation of the brokerage marketplace means that the broker’s role within the industry has changed significantly, even from just 10-to-15 years ago. Their new role encompasses a range of elements of the trade. Brokers are now considered to be experts in various areas of the insurance marketplace. For example, to become an employee benefits broker in Napa County, you must have a clear understanding of the following:

    • Compliance law
    • Insurance technology
    • Wellness data and programs
    • Cost management
    • Networking
    • Public speaking
    • Employee engagement
    • Client retention
    • Customer service

    In many ways, the Napa benefits consultant of the past has become the business consultant. They’re there to help companies move forward in meeting the needs of employees while maintaining a commitment to the latest regulations and their budgetary requirements. Our team here at Arrow Benefits Group has witnessed this change in the marketplace as benefit brokers, and we’re now offering an expert-led service to help you get a full return on investment from your broker. To learn more about our employee benefits services, call today.

  • Court Modifies Order Regarding EEOC Wellness Rules | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 2, 2018

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    In August 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to adopt 30 percent incentive levels for employer-sponsored wellness programs under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) rules.

    At that time, the court declined to vacate the EEOC’s rules because of the significant disruptive effect it would have. However, the court remanded the rules to the EEOC for reconsideration.

    In September 2017, the EEOC filed a status report indicating its schedule to comply with the court order, including issuing a proposed rule by August 2018 and a final rule by October 2019. It stated that it did not expect to require employers to comply with a new rule before 2021.

    In December 2017, the court found the EEOC’s process of not generating applicable rules until 2021 to be unacceptable. Instead, the court determined that one year was ample time for employers to adjust to new EEOC rules. The court vacated the EEOC rules under the ADA and GINA effective January 1, 2019, and ordered the EEOC to promulgate any new proposed rules by August 31, 2018.

    In January 2018, the EEOC asked the court to reconsider the portion of the court’s order that required the EEOC to promulgate new proposed rules by August 31, 2018. The court vacated that portion of its order. The court’s order to vacate the portions of the EEOC’s wellness rules under the ADA and GINA as of January 1, 2019, remains.

    Current and Upcoming Impact on Employer Wellness Plans

    • Employers are still subject to the EEOC’s wellness rules, including the incentive limits, through 2018.
    • If the EEOC does not promulgate new rules by the end of 2018, then the EEOC’s incentive limit rules will not apply to employers’ wellness programs starting on January 1, 2019. Employers would only be subject to HIPAA’s more lenient incentive limits.

    Originally published by

  • New Tax Breaks for Health Plans | Petaluma Benefits Broker

    January 26, 2018

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    Last week’s drama that shut down the federal government, then un-shut it three days later, was settled when agreement was reached on a Continuing Resolution. Included in the resolution are three tax breaks of particular interest to employers that offer group health coverage to their workers.

    Cadillac Tax: Delayed until 2022

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a 40 percent excise tax on the value of employer-provided health coverage exceeding certain thresholds. This so-called Cadillac tax was scheduled to take effect in 2020 but now is delayed until 2022.

    Efforts to repeal the Cadillac tax are expected to continue. It originally had been scheduled to take effect in 2018, then was delayed to 2020. This additional two-year delay, to 2022, provides further relief to employers while giving Congress time to consider permanent action.

    Health Insurance Providers (HIP) Fee: Suspended for 2019

    Starting in 2014, the ACA has imposed an annual fee on certain health insurers that generally is passed on to their policyholders. It affects insured plans, including medical, dental, and vision insurance, but does not apply to self-funded plans. Most advisors estimate the current fee impacts health insurance costs by 3 to 4 percent.

    The HIP fee was suspended for 2017, then resumed for 2018. Last week’s resolution will provide another one-year moratorium: the fee is suspended for 2019.

    Medical Device Tax: Suspended for 2018 and 2019

    The ACA added a 2.3 percent excise tax on the sale of medical device products, starting in 2013. It was suspended for 2016 and 2017, then scheduled to resume for 2018. Analysts cite the tax as one factor in increased health care expenses that are passed on to health insurers and employers.

    The new resolution suspends the medical device tax retroactively for 2018 and 2019.

    ThinkHR continually monitors legislative and regulatory changes that affect employers and their benefit offerings.

    Originally published by

  • California Employment Law Update – January 2018 | CA Benefit Advisors

    January 24, 2018

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    Workplace Discrimination Poster Updated

    In November 2017, the California Division of Labor and Employment updated its workplace discrimination poster, California Law Prohibits Workplace Discrimination and Harassment, to include the new supervisor training requirements to prevent sexual harassment and a revision date of November 2017. All employers must conspicuously post this document in hiring offices, on employee bulletin boards, in employment agency waiting rooms, union halls, and other places employees gather. Any employer whose workforce at any facility or establishment consists of more than 10 percent of non-English speaking persons must also post this notice in the appropriate language or languages.

    Download the poster

    Oakland Minimum Wage Poster Updated

    The City of Oakland updated its official notice for the city’s minimum wage. Beginning January 1, 2018, employees who perform at least two hours of work per workweek and within the geographic limits of the city must be paid a minimum wage of at least $13.23 per hour.

    Download the poster

    Originally published by

  • Why Offer Employee Health Insurance Benefits to Your Team?

    January 16, 2018

    Health insurance can help your employees to remain protected over the coming years. It’s a consideration that many growing business owners will have to make in the future. Should you offer your employee health insurance benefits? We’ll explain the importance of health insurance in this latest post.

    The Process is Simple

    One of the main reasons many companies don’t offer employee health insurance benefits is that leaders think the selection process is complex. But by working with a benefits broker, they can learn more about the marketplace, and ensure they simply select the best option available. The process doesn’t have to take a considerable amount of time.

    Happy Employees are More Productive

    The studies show that happier employees provide a better return for their company. And health insurance benefits are a great way to make an employee happy. By offering your team health insurance options through an employee benefits broker, you can show them that you value their input and that they are a key element within your organization. This can ensure that your best team leaders are retained and motivated within their job.

    It Can Reduce the Cost for the Employee

    Both the employee and employer can save money when buying group health insurance. Individual health insurance is purchased through after-tax dollars, while group insurance is offered with pre-tax dollars through a business cost. And this means that all members of the group save money on their coverage needs. For business leaders looking to the private insurance marketplace, this can be the ideal way to reduce expenditures.

    Group Insurance Presents Wider Access

    Rather than relying on private insurance plans with only selective access, employees can turn to group insurance through their company for a wider range of coverage options. Group options often come with access to better hospitals and higher quality treatment. It’s the type of service your employees deserve.

    Our team at Arrow Benefits is here to explain your full range of health insurance options as a trusted employee benefits broker. To discover more about the industry and our services, call us today.

  • Oral Health = Overall Health | California Benefit Advisors

    January 12, 2018

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    Have you heard the saying “the eyes are the window to your soul”? Well, did you know that your mouth is the window into what is going on with the rest of your body? Poor dental health contributes to major systemic health problems. Conversely, good dental hygiene can help improve your overall health.  As a bonus, maintaining good oral health can even REDUCE your healthcare costs!

    Researchers have shown us that there is a close-knit relationship between oral health and overall wellness. With over 500 types of bacteria in your mouth, it’s no surprise that when even one of those types of bacteria enter your bloodstream that a problem can arise in your body. Oral bacteria can contribute to:

    1. Endocarditis—This infection of the inner lining of the heart can be caused by bacteria that started in your mouth.
    2. Cardiovascular Disease—Heart disease as well as clogged arteries and even stroke can be traced back to oral bacteria.
    3. Low birth weight—Poor oral health has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight of newborns.

    The healthcare costs for the diseases and conditions, like the ones listed above, can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Untreated oral diseases can result in the need for costly emergency room visits, hospital stays, and medications, not to mention loss of work time. The pain and discomfort from infected teeth and gums can lead to poor productivity in the workplace, and even loss of income. Children with poor oral health miss school, are more prone to illness, and may require a parent to stay home from work to care for them and take them to costly dental appointments.

    So, how do you prevent this nightmare of pain, disease, and increased healthcare costs? It’s simple! By following through with your routine yearly dental check ups and daily preventative care you will give your body a big boost in its general health. Check out these tips for a healthy mouth:

    • Maintain a regular brushing/flossing routine—Brush and floss teeth twice daily to remove food and plaque from your teeth, and in between your teeth where bacteria thrive.
    • Use the right toothbrush—When your bristles are mashed and bent, you aren’t using the best instrument for cleaning your teeth. Make sure to buy a new toothbrush every three months. If you have braces, get a toothbrush that can easily clean around the brackets on your teeth.
    • Visit your dentist—Depending on your healthcare plan, visit your dentist for a check-up at least once a year. He/she will be able to look into that window to your body and keep your mouth clear of bacteria. Your dentist will also be able to alert you to problems they see as a possible warning sign to other health issues, like diabetes, that have a major impact on your overall health and healthcare costs.
    • Eat a healthy diet—Staying away from sugary foods and drinks will prevent cavities and tooth decay from the acids produced when bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar. Starches have a similar effect. Eating healthy will reduce your out of pocket costs of fillings, having decayed teeth pulled, and will keep you from the increased health costs of diabetes, obesity-related diseases, and other chronic conditions.

    There’s truth in the saying “take care of your teeth and they will take care of you”.  By instilling some of the these tips for a healthier mouth, not only will your gums and teeth be thanking you, but you may just be adding years to your life.

  • Ask the Experts: Employee Claims to Not Receive Message of Office Closure | CA Benefit Advisor

    January 9, 2018

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    Question: We are a California employer. If we notify a nonexempt employee of a disaster-related closure via voice mail, text, or email, and they show up saying they never got the message, do we still owe them the half-day pay?

    Answer: The answer depends upon how the company manages its notification process. If the company has communicated to all employees the method that will be used for notifying employees of workplace closures, reinforces that policy prior to or during weather events, and can verify that the message was sent and received by the employee, then the employer would not be liable for the show-up pay.

    As a best practice, we recommend asking employees to respond to the voicemail, text, or email acknowledging that they have received the message. Otherwise, especially with weather emergencies where power, internet, or phone service may be interrupted, the employee’s claims of not getting the message may in fact be true. Consult with counsel prior to denying show-up pay if you cannot prove that the message was received. Paying the employee a few hours of pay costs far less than responding to a state agency if a wage complaint is filed.

    Originally published by

  • What is a Benefits Consultant?

    January 8, 2018

    By understanding more about the benefits options available, companies can choose the right plans for their teams. And this is the reason many are now turning to benefits consultant for guidance about the market options. In this latest post, our team explains the role of a benefits consultant.

    Using Latest Data to Explain Options

    One of the biggest advantages of working with employee benefit consultants is that they can use the latest tools to provide a clear understanding of the latest options. They research the market regularly to provide clients with a comprehensive selection of information on benefits programs and new options supported by the leading firms.

    Independent from Insurers

    While benefits consultants have a full understanding of the marketplace, they remain independent of insurance companies to ensure they can provide their clients with the best information for their unique coverage needs. They take an unbiased approach to the process so that customers have the information they need to make an effective decision.

    Advise on Other Companies

    Employee benefit consultants can also advise their clients on what other companies are doing in terms of their benefits plans. This can ensure that the organization remains competitive within their industry and is able to respond to the needs of their employees when new benefits options arise within the marketplace.

    Analysis of the Business

    An important element of the work completed by benefits consultants is their work analyzing the client business to determine their needs. For example, they work with employees to provide them the information they need to make an informed decision on their plans. They also work with the company owners directly to learn more about their budget and their growth plans for the coming years. This helps them to devise a budget for the benefits package and ensures that companies don’t waste money on coverage options that are not suitable for their organization.

    Working with a benefits consultant can help save thousands of dollars for your company in the coming years. To learn more about the role of a benefits consultant in the current marketplace, call our team today.

  • New Year, New Penalties | CA Benefit Advisors

    January 5, 2018

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    Department of Labor Publishes Updated Penalties for OSHA Violations

    On January 2, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published updated, inflation-adjusted penalties for violations of various laws regulated by the DOL and its internal components or divisions, including the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The DOL is required to adjust the level of civil monetary penalties for inflation by January 15 each year pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act).

    Because of the Inflation Adjustment Act, rates for OSHA penalties have increased three times in the last 17 months (August 1, 2016, January 13, 2017, and January 2, 2018). Therefore, for violations occurring after November 2, 2015, the penalty amounts incurred by employers will depend on when the penalty is assessed, as follows:

    • If the penalty was assessed after August 1, 2016 but on or before January 13, 2017, then the August 1, 2016 penalty level applies.
    • If the penalty was assessed after January 13, 2017 but on or before January 2, 2018, then the January 13, 2017 penalty level applies.
    • If the penalty was assessed after January 2, 2018, then the current penalty level applies.

    The applicable January 2, 2018 penalty levels for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) are as follows:

    • Willful violations: $9,239 – 129,936 (up from $9,054 – $126,749 after January 13, 2017 and $8,908 – $124,709 after August 1, 2016)
    • Repeated violations: $129,936 (up from $126,749 after January 13, 2017 and $124,709 after August 1, 2016)
    • Serious violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
    • Other-than-serious violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
    • Failure to correct violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
    • Posting requirement violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)

    These increases apply to states with federal OSHA programs and states with OSHA-approved state plans. Violations occurring on or before November 2, 2015 are assessed at pre-August 1, 2016 levels.

    Employers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these increased penalties and consult counsel if they have questions about the penalty level applicable to a potential violation.

    By Nicole Quinn-Gato

    Originally published by

  • Why Hire Benefit Consulting Firms?

    January 2, 2018

    Benefit consulting firms are now being used by companies across the country to help provide a guide on benefits options. But it’s important to learn more about the value of these organizations before partnering with a consulting firm directly. Our team has knowledge and experience in this area of the marketplace, and in this latest post, we’re highlighting the importance of benefit consulting firms.

    Providing Insight on Benefit Options

    One of the more difficult challenges for growing businesses is having to choose a benefits package specifically for their organization. Benefits consulting firms have experience working with the insurance companies on benefits packages. They can review the latest options for their client and help them to pinpoint a plan that best suits their organization and their employees. They identify the best plans by reviewing the company budget and employee requirements and then making a selection based on the data available.

    Management of Benefits Technology

    The latest technology for the administration of employee benefits packages can be complex for small businesses to run on-site. Many turn to consulting companies for the management of their plans.  The management process can be completed by a specialist with years of experience in the technology, and this means that any errors can be reduced and questions that employees have can be answered. Maintaining full control of HR systems also means that companies can respond quickly to any changes within their team to ensure that their benefits packages continually provide the best value.

    Streamlining Plan Harmonization

    When businesses grow they often require different employee benefits packages. They must grow to meet the demands of employees that have been with the company several years. Benefits consulting firms can offer a guide on scaling plans to the size of the business. They can help keep costs under control while providing the optimal level of coverage to their client’s staff.

    Our team at Arrow Benefits is here to help you choose the best benefits plan for your organization. To discover more about the options available, call us today!

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