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

    April 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

    April 19, 2017

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

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

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

    Increases Productivity

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

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

    Reduces Cost Across the Board

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

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

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

    Boosts Loyalty, Talent and the Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

    April 17, 2017

    Exclusive Webinar Invitation from Arrow!

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

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

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

     

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

    April 10, 2017

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

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

  • Employee Benefit Trends of 2017 | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 7, 2017

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

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

    April 4, 2017

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

    Why self-fund dental?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Below is a recent case study

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

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

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

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

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

    March 31, 2017

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

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

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

    Here are few benefits TeleMedicine has to offer:

    It’s Fast and Simple

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

    It’s Flexible

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

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

    It’s Affordable

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

    It’s Beneficial to Employers

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

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

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

    March 29, 2017

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

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

     

  • The Overtime Rule Saga Continues… CA Benefit Consultants

    March 21, 2017

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

    Here’s where we are so far:

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

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

    What to Do Now

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

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

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

    March 17, 2017

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

    Employer and Individual Mandates

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

    Health Care Related Taxes

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

    Reporting Requirements

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

    Contribution Limits

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

    Patient Protection Provisions

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

    What Employers Should Know Now

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

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

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

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

    March 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Danielle Capilla
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

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

    March 10, 2017

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

  • Gig Economy 101 | CA Benefit Advisors

    March 7, 2017

    What is a Gig Economy?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    By Nicole Federico, eTekhnos Benefits Technology

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

    February 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

    By Vicki Randall
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

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

    February 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    February 14, 2017

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

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

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

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

    Summary of line 22 reporting relief

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

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

    Line 14 – Offer of Coverage Code

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

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

    Offer codes for line 14

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

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

    Line 15 – Employee Required Contribution

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Vicki Randall
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • National Rising Star Award

    February 10, 2017

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

  • UBA Health Plan Survey – 2016 | CA Benefit Advisors

    February 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

    February 6, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Matt Dean
    Originally published by www.lifehappens.org

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

    February 2, 2017

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

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

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

    What Employers and Plan Sponsors Should Know Now

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

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

    What employers should do now:

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

    We’ve Got You Covered

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

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

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

    January 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

    Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • Where There’s Smoke, There’s Cancer

    January 3, 2017

    Smoke usually rises, but smoking has actually been falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 36.5 million adult Americans smoked cigarettes, which is down from 45.1 million in 2005.
  • Regulations Regarding Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance, Excepted Benefits, and Lifetime/Annual Limits | CA Benefit Advisors

    December 29, 2016

    Recently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (collectively the Departments) issued final regulations regarding the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance, standards for travel insurance and supplemental health insurance coverage to be considered excepted benefits, and an amendment relating to the prohibition on lifetime and annual dollar limits.

    Effective Date and Applicability Date

    These final regulations are effective on December 30, 2016. These final regulations apply beginning on the first day of the first plan or policy year beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

    Short-Term, Limited-Duration Insurance

    Short-term, limited-duration insurance is a type of health insurance coverage designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another plan or coverage. Although short-term, limited-duration insurance is not an excepted benefit, it is exempt from Public Health Service Act (PHS Act) requirements because it is not individual health insurance coverage. The PHS Act provides that the term ‘‘individual health insurance coverage’’ means health insurance coverage offered to individuals in the individual market, but does not include short-term, limited-duration insurance.

    On June 10, 2016, the Departments proposed regulations to address the issue of short-term, limited-duration insurance being sold as a type of primary coverage.

    The Departments have finalized the proposed regulations without change. The final regulations define short-term, limited-duration insurance so that the coverage must be less than three months in duration, including any period for which the policy may be renewed. The permitted coverage period takes into account extensions made by the policyholder ‘‘with or without the issuer’s consent.’’ A notice must be prominently displayed in the contract and in any application materials provided in connection with enrollment in such coverage with the following language:

    THIS IS NOT QUALIFYING HEALTH COVERAGE (‘‘MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE’’) THAT SATISFIES THE HEALTH COVERAGE REQUIREMENT OF THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT. IF YOU DON’T HAVE MINIMUM ESSENTIAL COVERAGE, YOU MAY OWE AN ADDITIONAL PAYMENT WITH YOUR TAXES.

    The revised definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance applies for policy years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

    Because state regulators may have approved short-term, limited-duration insurance products for sale in 2017 that met the definition in effect prior to January 1, 2017, HHS will not take enforcement action against an issuer with respect to the issuer’s sale of a short-term, limited-duration insurance product before April 1, 2017, on the ground that the coverage period is three months or more, provided that the coverage ends on or before December 31, 2017, and otherwise complies with the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance in effect under the regulations. States may also elect not to take enforcement actions against issuers with respect to such coverage sold before April 1, 2017.

     

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

  • Videos Make Everything Better

    December 27, 2016

    You don’t need to look at the success of YouTube to realize that people are naturally drawn to online videos. The same can be said when people are looking for a job.
  • New Law Allows Small Employers to Pay Premiums for Individual Policies | California Employee Benefits

    December 26, 2016

    This week, the U.S. Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act which includes a provision allowing small businesses to offer a new type of health reimbursement arrangement for their employees’ health care expenses, including individual insurance premiums. The act was previously passed by the House and President Obama is expected to sign it shortly. The provision for Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSEHRAs), a new type of tax-free benefit, takes effect January 1, 2017. Further, the act retroactively relieves small employers from the threat of excise taxes under prior rules for plan years beginning before 2017.

    Background

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

    The prohibition, implemented under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was intended to discourage employers from canceling their group plans and pushing workers into the individual insurance market. The rules have been particularly disruptive for small businesses, however, since previously it had been common practice for many small employers to subsidize the cost of individual policies instead of offering group coverage. The new law, passed this week with broad bipartisan support, responds to the concerns of small businesses.

    New Qualified Small Employer HRAs

    The new law does not repeal the ACA’s general prohibition against employer payment of individual insurance premiums. Rather, it provides an exception for a new type of arrangement — a Qualified Small Employer HRA or QSEHRA — provided that specific conditions are met.

    First, the employer must meet two conditions:

    • Employs on average no more than 50 full-time and full-time-equivalent employees. In other words, the employer cannot be an applicable large employer as defined under the ACA; and
    • Does not offer a group health plan to any of its employees.

    Next, the QSEHRA must meet all of the following conditions:

    • It is funded solely by the employer; employee contributions are not permitted;
    • It is offered to all full-time employees, although the employer may choose to include seasonal or part-time employees and/or may exclude employees with less than 90 days of service;
    • For tax-free QSEHRA benefits, the employee must have minimum essential coverage (e.g., medical insurance under an individual policy);
    • It pays or reimburses healthcare expenses (e.g., § 213(d) expenses) and premiums for individual policies;
    • It does not pay or reimburse contributions for any employer-sponsored group coverage;
    • The same benefits and terms apply to all eligible employees, except the benefit amount may vary by:
      • Single versus family coverage;
      • Prorated amounts for partial-year coverage (e.g., new hires); and
      • For premium reimbursements, variations consistent with the age- and family-size rating structure of a representative individual policy; and
    • Benefits do not exceed $4,950 if single coverage (or $10,000 if family coverage) per 12-month plan year. Amounts are prorated if covered for less than 12 months. Limits will be indexed for inflation.

    Coordination with Exchange Subsidies

    Coverage under a QSEHRA will affect the employee’s eligibility for a subsidized individual policy from an insurance Exchange (Marketplace). Any subsidy for which the employee would otherwise qualify will be reduced dollar-for-dollar by the QSEHRA.

    Benefit Laws

    Group health plans are subject to numerous federal laws, including SPD and other notice requirements under ERISA, coverage continuation requirements under COBRA, and benefit mandates under the ACA. The new law specifies that QSEHRAs are not group health plans, so COBRA and other requirements will not apply.

    QSEHRA Notices

    Small employers offering QSEHRAs will be required to provide a notice to each eligible employee that:

    • Informs the employee of the QSEHRA benefit amount;
    • Instructs the employee that he or she must give the QSEHRA information to the Exchange if applying for a subsidy for individual insurance; and
    • Explains the tax consequences of failing to maintain minimum essential coverage.

    QSEHRA notices should be provided at least 90 days before the start of the plan year.

    Employers also will be required to report the QSEHRA coverage on Form W-2, Box 12. The reporting is informational only and has no tax consequences. Although small employers usually are exempt from this type of W-2 informational reporting, apparently it will be required for QSEHRAs starting with the 2017 tax year.

    More Information

    To learn more about QSEHRAs starting in 2017, or for details about the relief from excise taxes for small employers before 2017, see the 21st Century Cures Act. The relevant provisions are found in Section 18001 beginning on page 306.

    Employers that are considering QSEHRAs are encouraged to work with legal counsel and tax advisors that offer expertise in this area. Starting in 2017, employer-funded QSEHRAs can offer valuable tax-free benefits to employees as long as they are designed and administered to meet all legal requirements.

     

    Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • The Holiday Liability

    December 19, 2016

    Some employees may dread the office holiday party, some may look forward to it, but it’s almost a given that the company’s HR department holds its collective breath every year until the next morning.
  • Employer Exchange Subsidy Notices: Should You Appeal? | California Employee Benefits

    December 16, 2016

    Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), all public Exchanges are required to notify employers when an employee is receiving a subsidy (tax credits and cost-sharing reductions) for individual health insurance purchased through an Exchange. According to the final rules published in August 2013, employers have the right, but are not required, to engage in an appeal process through the IRS if they feel an employee should not be receiving a subsidy because the employer offers minimum value, affordable coverage.

    Some states began sending notices from public Exchanges indicating that one or more employees are currently receiving a subsidy in 2015, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that all federally-facilitated Exchanges will begin sending notices in 2016. Just because the employer receives a notice, it does not mean the employer will actually owe a penalty payment under Section 4980H.

    Dan Bond, Principal, Compliancedashboard, offers this important commentary: “I think it’s important for employers to remember that just because they may receive one of these notices from the IRS telling them that one of their employees is receiving a subsidy on the exchange, it does not necessarily mean the employer has exposure to a penalty. There are various reasons that someone might have received a subsidy so the employer can use this notice to determine exactly why and whether or not they have any exposure. In fact, small employers will also receive these notices and they are not even subject to the employer shared responsibility mandate so they will not be subject to penalties, regardless.”

    subsidy appeal chart

    Appeal Form and Process
    So long as the requirements in the final rules are met, each state Exchange is allowed to set up its own process and procedures. Information about how to file an appeal is usually included in the notice, but it may be necessary to check with the applicable Exchange to find out exactly how to handle the appeals process, the particulars of which are managed by each Exchange separately.

    The form currently used by federally-facilitated Exchanges, as well as by eight states, may be found on Healthcare.gov (approximately half of the states are currently using this form and process). The forms and processes for all other states may be found by visiting a state’s Exchange site. The process generally involves filing a paper appeal, providing documentation, and in some cases participating in a hearing.

    Conclusion
    The employer does not have to appeal to avoid a penalty under Section 4980H, and penalties will not apply until after the employer reporting (via Forms 1094-C and 1095-C) is reconciled. There is some speculation that it may be more beneficial to appeal with the Exchange rather than waiting to appeal later with the IRS. This is a fairly new process, so the best approach for employers may remain somewhat unclear until the first year of employer reporting is completed.

    Filing an appeal as soon as possible may help avoid hassles with the IRS and prevent the individual from receiving a subsidy for which they are ineligible. At the same time, although the appeals process does not appear to be a difficult one, it is possible that everything could be cleared up more quickly by simply communicating directly with the employee that they may be receiving the subsidy in error.

     

    By Vicki Randall, Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • The New HSA Under Trump’s Proposed Health Plan | California Benefit Advisors

    December 13, 2016

    piggybankWith the election of a new President, health care plans and the fate of the Affordable Care Act are a hot topic of discussion. As part of his 7-tier health plan, President-Elect Donald Trump has proposed a shift in the way health savings accounts (HSAs) are offered to working Americans. Simply put, an HSA is a savings account for medical expenses. They are tax advantaged accounts an individual can open in addition to their current health plan to pay out-of-pocket expenses ranging from co-pays to surgery deductibles. Typically, HSAs have been offered to individuals with high deductible health plans (HDHPs). However, if the President-Elect’s new health plan strategy is enacted, an HDHP would no longer be an eligibility requirement, significantly impacting healthcare options for millions of Americans.

    HSA vs. FSA – Which one is right for you?

    When choosing a savings account for medical expenses there are two options: HSAs and FSAs. Each type of account is generally non-taxable for qualified medical expenses, except under certain circumstances in which a medical expense was incurred prior to opening an HSA, and each is accumulated by contributions from your paycheck. Some employers offer HSA and FSA matching contributions.

    In the past, there have been some prominent differences between health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Traditionally, FSAs have been the option for those who choose health plans with low deductibles. The money you contribute from your paycheck into your FSA account must be spent within the year, and cannot be rolled over. Conversely, you must have an HDHP to open an HSA, and funds accumulated from paychecks can be rolled over into the next year if left unused.

    Accumulating tax advantages have made HSAs more popular and beneficial in comparison to FSAs. When it comes to changing jobs, HSAs typically are not affected, while FSAs are impacted due to restrictions in rollover of funds. However, FSAs do not have eligibility requirements, which have made them more widely available to individuals.

    What’s Next? How HSAs would change under Trump’s health plan

    Trump’s new health plan would make HSAs readily available to everyone by removing the HDHP eligibility requirements that are currently in place. In addition to this drastic barrier removal, Trump has said he will change policy to allow families to share the accounts between one another. Any contribution or interest-earned by an HSA is tax-deductible, and individuals with HSAs can withdrawal money tax-free for certain medical expenses ranging from transplants to acupuncture. The combination of these three tax-advantages creates an unmatched savings option for those who choose HSAs. While Trump has said he will change some factors of HSAs, he plans to keep these tax advantages.

    Who will benefit from the new HSA model?

    In the past, HSAs have been more attractive for retirees. Health care costs tend to rise in the retirement stage of life, which makes an HSA a more cost-efficient option for retirees. Since individuals are allowed to take out money for medical expenses without being taxed, retirees have the potential to save large amounts of money in the later stages of their life. However, under Trump’s proposed plan, HSAs will also become increasingly attractive for younger people. Because individuals will continue to be allowed to roll over money contributed to their HSA in a given year into the next, young and healthy people will be able to save sizable amounts for use later in life.

    While much remains to be seen about which aspects of President-Elect Trump’s health plan will be enacted when he takes office, take the time now to educate yourself on how an HSA can work for you.

     

    By Nicole Federico & Kate McGaughey, eTekhnos

  • Is A Shorter Workday Better? Only Time Will Tell.

    December 11, 2016

    If you or a coworker is a “clock watcher” when it comes to that five o’clock rush out the door, you may rejoice in not having to watch the clock for as long during the workday.
  • Pawsome Pet Benefits

    December 4, 2016

    Any employer that offers pet benefits to its employees certainly gets a round of appaws from me.
  • Beware of Ransomware

    November 29, 2016

    Ransomware is malicious software that’s designed to encrypt data in order to block access to it, or even access to the computer system itself, until a payment of money is made.
  • Use It Or (Don’t) Lose It

    November 20, 2016

    When it comes to paid time off (PTO), it’s usually “use-it-or-lose-it,” but that practice may be ending with some employers.
  • 2016 Election Results: The Potential Impact on Health and Welfare Benefits | California Employee Benefits

    November 18, 2016

    1114Following the November 2016 election, Donald Trump (R) will be sworn in as the next President of the United States on January 20, 2017. The Republicans will also have the majority in the Senate (51 Republican, 47 Democrat) and in the House of Representatives (238 Republicans, 191 Democrat). As a result, the political atmosphere is favorable for the Trump Administration to begin implementing its healthcare policy objectives. Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will likely remain the Speaker of the House. Known as an individual who is experienced in policy, it is expected that the Republican House will work to pass legislation that follows the health care policies in Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” proposals. The success of any of these proposals remains to be seen.

    Employers should be aware of the main tenets of President-elect Trump’s proposals, as well as the policies outlined in Speaker Ryan’s white paper. These proposals are likely to have an impact on employer sponsored health and welfare benefits. Repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and capping the employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) exclusion for individuals would have a significant effect on employer sponsored group health plans.

    Trump Policy Proposals

    President-elect Trump’s policy initiatives have seven main components:

    • Repeal the ACA. President-elect Trump has vowed to completely repeal the ACA as his first order of Presidential business.
    • Allow health insurance to be purchased across state lines.
    • Allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns.
    • Allow individuals to use health savings accounts (HSAs) in a more robust way than regulation currently allows. President-elect Trump’s proposal specifically mentions allowing HSAs to be part of an individual’s estate and allowing HSA funds to be spent by any member of the account owner’s family.
    • Require price transparency from all healthcare providers.
    • Block-grant Medicaid to the states. This would remove federal provisions on how Medicaid dollars can and should be spent by the states.
    • Remove barriers to entry into the free market for the pharmaceutical industry. This includes allowing American consumers access to imported drugs.

    President-elect Trump’s proposal also notes that his immigration reform proposals would assist in lowering healthcare costs, due to the current amount of spending on healthcare for illegal immigrants. His proposal also states that the mental health programs and institutions in the United States are in need of reform, and that by providing more jobs to Americans we will reduce the reliance of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

    Speaker Ryan’s “A Better Way” Proposal

    In June 2016, Speaker Ryan released a series of white papers on national issues under the banner “A Better Way.” With Republican control of the House and Senate, it would be plausible that elected officials will begin working to implement some, if not all, of the ideas proposed. The core tenants of Speaker Ryan’s proposal are:

    • Repeal the ACA in full.
    • Expand consumer choice through consumer-directed health care. Speaker Ryan’s proposal includes specific means for this expansion, namely by allowing spouses to make catch-up contributions to HSA accounts, allow qualified medical expenses incurred up to 60 days prior to the HSA-qualified coverage began to be reimbursed, set the maximum contribution of HSA accounts at the maximum combined and allowed annual high deductible health plan (HDHP) deductible and out-of-pocket expenses limits, and expand HSA access for groups such as those with TRICARE coverage. The proposal also recommends allowing individuals to use employer provided health reimbursement account (HRA) funds to purchase individual coverage.
    • Support portable coverage. Speaker Ryan supports access to financial support for an insurance plan chosen by an individual through an advanceable, refundable tax credit for individuals and families, available at the beginning of every month and adjusted for age. The credit would be available to those without job-based coverage, Medicare, or Medicaid. It would be large enough to purchase a pre-ACA insurance policy. If the individual selected a plan that cost less than the financial support, the difference would be deposited into an “HSA-like” account and used toward other health care expenses.
    • Cap the employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) exclusion for individuals. Speaker Ryan’s proposal argues that the ESI exclusion raises premiums for employer-based coverage by 10 to 15 percent and holds down wages as workers substitute tax-free benefits for taxable income. Employee contributions to HSAs would not count toward the cost of coverage on the ESI cap.
    • Allow health insurance to be purchased across state lines.
    • Allow small businesses to band together an offer “association health plans” or AHPs. This would allow alumni organizations, trade associations, and other groups to pool together and improve bargaining power.
    • Preserve employer wellness programs. Speaker Ryan’s proposal would limit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) oversight over wellness programs by finding that voluntary wellness programs do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the collection of information would not violate the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).
    • Ensure self-insured employer sponsored group health coverage has robust access to stop-loss coverage by ensuring stop-loss coverage is not classified as group health insurance. This provision would also remove the ACA’s Cadillac tax.
    • Enact medical liability reform by implementing caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and limiting contingency fees charged by plaintiff’s attorneys.
    • Address competition in insurance markets by charging the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the advantages and disadvantages of removing the limited McCarran-Ferguson antitrust exemption for health insurance carriers to increase competition and lower prices. The exemption allows insurers to pool historic loss information so they can project future losses and jointly develop policy.
    • Provide for patient protections by continuing pre-existing condition protections, allow dependents to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, continue the prohibitions on rescissions of coverage, allow cost limitations on older Americans’ plans to be based on a five to one ratio (currently the ratio is three to one under the ACA), provide for state innovation grants, and dedicate funding to high risk pools.

    Speaker Ryan’s white paper also addresses more robust protection of life by enforcing the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortion or abortion coverage) and improved conscience protections for health care providers by enacting and expanding the Weldon Amendment.

    Speaker Ryan also proposes other initiatives including robust Medicaid reforms, strengthening Medicare Advantage, repealing the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that was once referred to as “death panels,” combine Medicare Part A and Part B, repealing the ban on physician-owned hospitals, and repealing the “Bay State Boondoggle.”

    Process of Repeal

    Generally speaking, the process of repealing a law is the same as creating a law. A repeal can be a simple repeal, or legislators can try to pass legislation to repeal and replace. Bills can begin in the House of Representatives, and if passed by the House, they are referred to the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it is sent to the President for signature or veto. Bills that begin in the Senate and pass the Senate are sent to the House of Representatives, which can pass (and if they wish, amend) the bill. If the Senate agrees with the bill as it is received from the House, or after conference with the House regarding amendments, they enroll the bill and it is sent to the White House for signature or veto.

    Although Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, they do not have enough party votes to allow them to overcome a potential filibuster. A filibuster is when debate over a proposed piece of legislation is extended, allowing a delay or completely preventing the legislation from coming to a vote. Filibusters can continue until “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” close the debate by invoking cloture, or a parliamentary procedure that brings a debate to an end. Three-fifths of the Senate is 60 votes.

    There is potential to dismantle the ACA by using a budget tool known as reconciliation, which cannot be filibustered. If Congress can draft a reconciliation bill that meets the complex requirements of our budget rules, it would only need a simple majority of the Senate (51 votes) to pass.

    Neither President-elect Trump nor Speaker Ryan has given any indication as to whether a full repeal, or a repeal and replace, would be their preferred method of action.

    The viability of any of these initiatives remains to be seen, but with a Republican President and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, if lawmakers are able to reach agreeable terms across the executive and legislative branches, some level of change is to be expected.

     

    Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Home Is Where The Office Is

    November 16, 2016

    I don’t mind working, but this eight hour wait to go home is killing me. If that sounds like you, then have you considered working from home?
  • Hold The Sugar, Sugar

    November 6, 2016

    The truth about all sugar is that people are getting too much of it, which leads to being overweight, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • IRS Announces 2017 Retirement Plan Contribution Limits | California Benefit Advisors

    November 4, 2016

    US Currency: Wads of US bills fastened with rubber bands, close-upOn October 27, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2016-62 announcing cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2017. Many pension plan limitations will not change in 2017 because the increase in the cost-of-living index did not meet the statutory thresholds that trigger their adjustment. Some items, though, will see minor increases. The following is a summary of the limits for 2017.

    For 401(k), 403(b), and most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plans:

    • The elective deferral (contribution) limit remains unchanged at $18,000 for 2017.
    • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in these plans remains at $6,000 for 2017.

    For individual retirement arrangements (IRAs):

    • The limit on annual contributions remains unchanged at $5,500 for 2017.
    • The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000 for 2017.

    For simplified employee pension (SEP) IRAs and individual/solo 401(k) plans:

    • Elective deferrals increase to $54,000 for 2017, based on an annual compensation limit of $270,000 (up from the 2016 amounts of $53,000 and $265,000).
    • The minimum compensation that may be required for participation in a SEP remains unchanged at $600 for 2017.

    For savings incentive match plan for employees (SIMPLE) IRAs:

    • The contribution limit on SIMPLE IRA retirement accounts remains unchanged at $12,500 for 2017.
    • The SIMPLE catch-up limit remains unchanged at $3,000 for 2017.

    For defined benefit plans:

    • The basic limitation on the annual benefits under a defined benefit plan is increased to $215,000 for 2017 (from $210,000 for 2016).

    Other changes:

    • Highly compensated and key employee thresholds:
      • The threshold for determining “highly compensated employees” remains unchanged at $120,000 for 2017.
      • The threshold for officers who are “key employees” in a top-heavy plan increases to $175,000 for 2017 (from $170,000 for 2016).
    • Social Security cost of living adjustment: In a separate announcement, the Social Security Administration stated that the taxable wage base will increase to $127,200 for 2017, an increase of $8,700 from the 2016 taxable wage base of $118,500. Thus, the maximum Social Security tax liability will increase for both employees and employers.

     

    Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • 2016 Health Plan Survey: Topline Trends at a Glance | California Benefit Advisors

    November 2, 2016

    1102The 2016 UBA Health Plan Survey contains the validated responses of 19,557 health plans and 11,524 employers, who cumulatively employ over two and a half million employees and insure more than five million total lives. Our data reflects the experiences of 99% of U.S. businesses in rough proportion to their actual prevalence, not just the largest employers who are often the sole focus in other surveys. As a result, our findings are extensive, so we’ve compiled a topline list of the biggest trends below.

    Cost-shifting, plan changes and other protections work to hold rates steady.

    • Increased prevalence and enrollment in lower-cost CDHP and HMO plans.
    • “Grandmothered” employers continue to have the options they need to select cheaper plans (ACA- compliant community-rated plans versus pre-ACA composite/health-rated plans) depending on the health status of their groups.
    • The Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act protects employers with 51 to 99 employees from higher-cost plans.
    • Increased out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, as well as prescription drug cost shifting, are among the plan design changes influencing premiums.
    • UBA Partners leverage their bargaining power.

    Overall costs vary significantly by industry and geography.

    • Retail, construction and hospitality employees cost the least to cover; government employees (the historical cost leader) cost the most.
    • Plans in the Northeast cost the most; plans in the Central U.S. cost the least.
    • Retail and construction employees pay the most toward their coverage; government employees pay the least (bad news for taxpayers).

    Plan design changes strain employees financially.

    PPOs, CDHPs have the biggest impact.

    • Preferred provider organization (PPO) plans cost more than average, but still dominate the market.
    • Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) cost less than average and enrollment is increasing.

    Overall, wellness program adoption holds steady, but program design is changing.

    • Health risk assessments continue to decline, while chronic condition coaching is on the rise.

    Metal levels drive plan decisions.

    • Most plans are at the gold or platinum metal level. In the future, we expect this to change since it will be more difficult to meet the ACA metal level requirements and still keep rates in check.

    Key trends to watch in 2017:

    • Slow, but steady: increase in self-funding for all group sizes, decrease in employees electing dependent coverage, increase in plan options, and mail order pharmaceutical programs more for convenience than cost savings.
    • Cautious trend: increased CDHP prevalence/enrollment.
    • Rapidly emerging: increase of five-tier prescription drug plans, increased out-of-pocket maximums.

     

    Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Free Speech Can Have Consequences

    October 30, 2016

    The Internet never forgives, nor forgets, and most people are aware that posting something violent or sexually offensive, or if they are the perpetrators of cyberbullying, can easily get them in trouble with their family, their friends, and even their employer. But what about posting a seemingly harmless political comment? Same thing.
  • What to Expect in 2016 – Clarifying Some of the Confusion of the ACA | California Benefit Advisors

    October 27, 2016

    1025One thing rings true when it comes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA): “expect the unexpected.” I know this sounds cliché, but it was my best attempt to describe the experience HR professionals encounter as they attempt to comply with this somewhat murky piece of legislation. Last year on December 28, we were alerted a month from the approaching deadline that the forms and filing requirements had moved two and three months out to address challenges. This was a fairly drastic move within a month of a significant compliance deadline.

    As a leading provider of ACA solutions to hundreds of employers, we are finding this concern about uncertainty spills into the 2016 tax season. To provide some useful guidance, I thought it would be helpful to share with you a roll-up of common questions and key issues we are receiving from our clients over the past several months:

    1. Will the ACA be delayed again in 2016? We do not see the filing requirements delayed again in 2016. The delay for 2015 was a one-time delay, and the IRS has signaled this to be the case on their conference calls.
    2. What changes do we need to be concerned with in the 1094-C and 1095-C forms? Overall, the changes to these forms are minor in 2016. The 2015 Qualifying Offer, a form of transition relief, was eliminated from the 1094 form. The biggest changes are with two contingent offer of coverage codes 1J and 1K. The idea behind these new offer codes is that employer coverage is contingent upon not having coverage available elsewhere. If this better describes how you offer coverage, you may want to consider selecting these codes over the traditional 1A or 1E.
    3. Will it be easier to work with name/TIN mismatches flagged through the corrections process? In the first year it was difficult to work with IRS requested corrections because you often could not identify which covered individual generated the error (we didn’t know if it was the employee, a dependent, or both). Several IRS conference calls have signaled they will be providing more detail on the corrections this year. If your ACA solution communicates with the IRS Affordable Care Act Information Returns (AIR) system, you will likely be able to display the detail of this error message and act on it. A side-note: remaining corrections from 2015 do not have a specific due date, but should be addressed as soon as possible.
    4. Why do we still have transition relief in 2016? The expectations for many is that transition relief was simply a 2015 phenomenon. While non-calendar year and 2015 Qualifying Offer Transition Relief have been eliminated, 4980H Transition Relief has remained into 2016 for “non-calendar” plans that meet certain criteria. This means that employers who might be facing shared responsibility penalties in 2016 can still take advantage of one of the two types of relief: 1) if you average 50 to 99 FTEs you are shielded for the 2015 non-calendar year plan for the months that spill into 2016 (e.g., a July 1 plan will be shielded for the first six months of 2016), or 2) the same applies for 100+ clients in terms of being able to leverage the 70 percent offer requirement.
    5. Will it be easier this year? This is a general question that depends on the solution you use. Overall, we believe the answer is a resounding “YES!” With our solution, a large number of clients are able to take advantage of an automated renewal process that transitions setup from 2015 and trends existing employees from December 31, 2015, into 2016. Vendors have learned how to make this process easier for their customers after all the pain they experienced in 2015. Everything from data collection, filing and corrections process should be more automated this year.

     

    Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Are You Feeling (Financially) Well?

    October 23, 2016

    You may be physically healthy, but how is your financial well-being? Employers are discovering that they can save money by helping their employees reduce their stress regarding finances.
  • Time Off To Vote

    October 16, 2016

    Maybe you’re a civic-minded person. Maybe you have strong feelings toward a certain candidate. Maybe you’ve voted in every election since you were 18 and you don’t want to break the streak.
  • Nondiscrimination Rules for Cafeteria Plans | California Benefit Brokers

    October 14, 2016

    1013A cafeteria plan is an employer-provided written plan that offers employees the opportunity to choose between at least one permitted taxable benefit and at least one qualified employee benefit. There is no federal law that requires employers to establish cafeteria plans; however, some states require employers to have cafeteria plans for employees to pay for health insurance on a pre-tax basis.

    To comply with Internal Revenue Code Section 125, a cafeteria plan must satisfy a set of structural requirements and a set of nondiscrimination rules. Violations of the structural requirements will disqualify the entire plan so that no employee obtains the favorable tax benefits under Section 125, even if the plan meets the nondiscrimination rules. Violations of the nondiscrimination rules have adverse consequences only on the group of employees in whose favor discrimination is prohibited.

    A cafeteria plan must pass an eligibility test, a contributions and benefits test, and a concentration test for highly compensated individuals to receive the tax benefits of Section 125. Failure to meet these nondiscrimination requirements has no effect on non-highly compensated cafeteria plan participants.

    The IRS issued proposed cafeteria plan regulations on August 6, 2007. Final regulations have not been issued. According to the proposed regulations, taxpayers may rely on the proposed regulations for guidance pending the issuance of final regulations.

    The proposed cafeteria plan regulations make it clear that the plan must meet the nondiscrimination tests. Also, the plan must not discriminate in favor of highly compensated participants in its operation. For example, a plan might be considered discriminatory if adoption assistance is added to the plan when the CEO is in the process of adopting a child and adoption assistance is dropped when the adoption is final.

    Be aware that Section 125 nondiscrimination rules are separate from and unrelated to Section 105(h) nondiscrimination rules. Further, Section 125 nondiscrimination rules apply to all cafeteria plans regardless of their status as fully insured, self-funded, church plan, or governmental plan.

    As a practical matter, these nondiscrimination rules prohibit executive health plans offered through a cafeteria plan.

    Nondiscrimination testing can help employers avoid rule violations. But there are a number of definitions of key terms used in the tests that must be understood prior to completing the tests:

    Highly Compensated Individuals. Highly compensated individuals are defined as:

    • Officers
    • Five percent shareholders
    • Highly compensated employees (HCEs)
    • Spouses or dependents of any of the preceding individuals

    Highly Compensated Participant. A highly compensated participant is a highly compensated individual who is eligible to participate in the cafeteria plan.

    Officers. Officers include any individual who was an officer of the company for the prior plan year (or current plan year in the case of the first year of employment).

    Five Percent Shareholders. Five percent shareholders include any individual who – in either the preceding plan year or current plan year – owns more than five percent of the voting power or value of all classes of stock of the employer, determined without attribution.

    Highly Compensated. Highly compensated means any individual or participant who – for the prior plan year or the current plan year in the case of the first year of employment – had annual compensation from the employer in excess of the compensation amount specified in the Internal Revenue Code and, if elected by the employer, was also in the top-paid group of employees for the year. For 2016, the applicable compensation amount is $120,000.

    Key Employee. A key employee is a participant who, at any time during the plan year, is one of the following:

    • An officer with annual compensation greater than an indexed amount ($170,000 for 2016)
    • A five percent owner of the employer
    • A one percent owner having compensation in excess of $150,000

     

    Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Health plan opt out options are being considered – new IRS regulations forthcoming

    October 12, 2016

    arrowSome organizations let employees opt out of their medical plan election, in return for which they are given some taxable compensation.  The problem is that if employees are not participating in the plan, there may be a penalty for non-compliance with the ACA.  Now the government has made it simple – or at least clarified appropriate opt outs.  If it is CONDITIONAL – which means an employee may only opt out and receive cash if the employer makes the payment conditional upon proof of having other group coverage (with annual update) then it will pass muster.  IF, however, it does not have any conditions placed upon it…you have a problem.

  • Bring Your Lunch To Work

    October 9, 2016

    We are living in a “grab-and-go” world. Whether we wait in line to get our coffee in the morning or sit in our cars at the drive-thru during lunch, very few of us actually take the time to prepare what we eat and drink.
  • Reporting Minimum Essential Coverage | CA Benefits Broker

    October 7, 2016

    Minimum essential coverage (MEC) is the type of coverage that an individual must have under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Employers that are subject to the ACA’s shared responsibility provisions (often called “play or pay”) must offer MEC coverage that is affordable and provides minimum value.

    In the fall of 2015 the IRS issued Notice 2015-68 stating it was planning to propose regulations on reporting MEC that would, among other things, require health insurance issuers to report coverage in catastrophic health insurance plans, as described in section 1302(e) of the ACA, provided through an Affordable Insurance Exchange (an Exchange, also known as a Health Insurance Marketplace). The notice also covered reporting of “supplemental coverage” such as a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) in addition to a group health plan.

    Recently, the IRS released the anticipated proposed regulations, incorporating the guidance given in Notice 2015-68. These regulations are generally proposed to apply for taxable years ending after December 31, 2015, and may be relied on for calendar years ending after December 31, 2013.

    The proposed regulations provide that:

    1. Reporting is required for only one MEC plan or program if an individual is covered by multiple plans or programs provided by the same provider.
    2. Reporting generally is not required for an individual’s eligible MEC only if the individual is covered by other MEC for which section 6055 reporting is required.

    These rules would apply month by month and individual by individual. Once finalized, the regulations would adopt the same information provided in the final instructions for reporting under sections 6055 and 6056 of the ACA.

    For examples under the first rule and more detail on the second rule, as well as how to avoid penalties, view UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Reporting Minimum Essential Coverage”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Emails Never Sleep

    October 2, 2016

    For some employees, when they leave work, they don’t even think about it until they return the next morning. For others, while they may leave their place of employment, they’re never truly disconnected.
  • Check-Ups: Routine Maintenance For Your Body

    September 25, 2016

    With apologies to rapper Ice Cube, you better check yo self before you wreck yo self! And while I’m sure he wasn’t talking about getting regular health check-ups, his lyrics definitely apply.
  • Acronym Soup

    September 18, 2016

    When it comes to healthcare terminology, some people may feel like they're at a spelling bee.
  • Little Things To Increase Happiness

    September 11, 2016

    Your alarm goes off and the day-to-day drudgery beings. Hurray. It’s often tough to get excited about the daily events, and some days are more challenging than others to get motivated, yet there are a few simple things everyone can do to inject a little happiness and higher productivity into their lives.
  • Automatic For The People

    September 5, 2016

    With apologies to the band R.E.M., this article is not about their music, nor their album, but about how automatic enrollment has significantly helped people.
  • How to Realize the Full Potential of a Private Exchange | California Benefits Broker

    September 1, 2016

    0901In Part 1 of this series, I took a few shots at some of the hype around private exchanges, but I still come down firmly on the “pro” side of the conversation.

    Given the right circumstances, and by taking the right approach, a private exchange can deliver a tremendous amount of value while solving many of the challenges facing employers who wish to offer a sustainable and effective employee benefits program.

    For many large employers, those with thousands of employees, this is not news. By deploying private exchanges, they’ve been able to achieve exceptional cost and performance outcomes while gaining a strategic advantage over their competitors.

    For small to mid-sized employers, this is big news!

    Solutions that were once available only to the largest employers are now available to employers of practically any size. And, if you use your private exchange wisely, you too can enjoy a key strategic advantage over your competitors.

    So, let’s begin by looking at the circumstances indicating that participation in a private exchange may be a wise move for a small to mid-sized employer.

    The Benefit Value Grid

    For nearly 100 years, the primary method for people to access healthcare in the U.S. has been through employer-sponsored benefit plans. Now, we’ve reached a point where strategic thinking has largely been replaced by an annual train wreck of tactical reaction to an ever-increasing cost burden.

    Understanding health care inflation

    Looking back, increases in annual medical spending tracked almost perfectly with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) until 1965. Every year since then, the increase in healthcare cost has exceeded CPI, sometimes by two to three times. What happened in 1965? That’s the year Medicare was introduced. We’ve been trying to tame the beast ever since.

    Most of the subtleties and opportunities have been lost because offering benefits has been turned into a political talking point. No one ever asks if you should be offering benefits. We’re simply being told, “You must offer benefits.”

    So, let’s begin at the beginning by asking, “Does offering benefits make sense for your business?”

    Despite the hype, benefits are simply a tool – one of many tools you can use – for recruiting and retaining employees. Which means the use of benefits has to align with your business strategy. Two factors are key here: Are you competing for employees with other employers and how much work are you willing to do to design, implement and sustain an effective benefits program?

    Using these factors and a couple of others, I’ve plotted a number of benefit solutions on The Benefit Value Grid. Your first task is to decide where your company lands on the grid.

    Benefit Program Value Grid

    What’s right for your company is simply right for your company

    By that I mean, your strategy should dictate your approach. Starting with tactics first (switching carriers or plans to reduce benefits cost or increasing cost sharing or any of a number of tactics used to try to bend the cost curve) is the wrong approach. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

    So, for the sake of argument (and to make the rest of this blog relevant!), let’s assume you fall in the upper right quadrant: benefits are important to your success, you’re willing to do the work, and you have clear outcomes you wish to achieve.

    While learning to connect wisdom to technology, I have observed what does and doesn’t work when it comes to designing and maintaining a successful private exchange. From this, I have developed a very basic “how to” model for you to use if you are considering moving to an exchange or want to get more out of the one you currently use.

    Your first step is to get expert advice

    You’re looking for someone with the experience and knowledge necessary to help you choose and actively manage the best technology available. As I said in Part 1 of this blog, the developers of successful exchanges now know that open, flawless, and fully mobile technology is the cost of entry into the private exchange game. A good advisor can help you find a provider who meets this new minimum standard.

    And, here’s a key distinction: you’re looking for someone who takes responsibility for being much more than a broker. You’re looking for an advisor. This is an important development in the benefits industry. In the traditional world of the benefit drumbeaters, where benefits are seen as a commodity and one carrier is considered to be much the same as another, the broker has an arms-length relationship with vendors. Their job is to solicit bids on your behalf, present the bids to you, and let you decide which fits your needs… or, in far too many instances, which is the lesser of several evils.

    It’s much different with an “open architecture” exchange model; the more intimate the relationship between your advisor and the exchange provider, the greater the opportunity to innovate and improve. The capability to completely customize a solution does not just depend on technology; it also requires a collaborative partnership between you, your advisor, and the exchange provider.

    A good example of this type of capability – one that goes even farther and leverages the collective wisdom of many advisors and the pooled purchasing power of many employers – is the private exchange created by United Benefit Advisors (UBA) called Benefits Passport.

    You then develop a plan that fits your strategy

    If you are making the switch from a fully insured to a self-funded plan hosted on a private exchange, the good news is your basic plan design is most likely going to look very similar to what you’ve done in the past. That’s because offering benefits that fit your strategic needs makes sense regardless of the funding method or technology used (or not used).

    Even better news is that, with an open architecture private exchange, you can weave your strategy into every element of the employee experience. You can purposefully customize each interaction your employees have with the exchange and its associated technology.

    Sound like a lot of work? There’s no denying it does take time, effort, and strategic thinking. But, if you think about the traditional, annual rehash of frustrating cost control tactics that slowly gut the value and effectiveness of your plan without actually controlling costs, then perhaps there is sanity in taking a longer view and doing the work.

    If you do take this on, the big promise you realize is that next year, instead of going back to the drawing board to find new ways to scrimp and save, you can actually use the data and information the exchange provides to build on the foundation your plan has created. The “lather, rinse, repeat” madness of a traditional renewal becomes a thing of the past. The monster that annually emerged from the closet is permanently locked away.

    And there is so much more you can do

    For example, during and after enrollment you can continuously reinforce your company’s commitment to its employees. The opportunity to brand your benefits to achieve greater loyalty and engagement – not to mention greater appeal to would-be employees – can be realized by including education about the why behind your benefits plan. Telling your employees why you think benefits are crucial to their (and their families’) well-being and success, and why you want them to have the best possible plan, can be easily facilitated on an open architecture private exchange platform.

    During enrollment, the best employers provide education, information, and support to empower employees to make the best choices for them and their family. In Part 1 of this blog, I proposed new breakthroughs occur when employers and their advisors adopt an open attitude toward the way they and the employees can put the technology to use. A subtle but important concept here is to be open to the idea that the technology, no matter how functional, may be a poor replacement for real, live human interaction.

    Traditionally, after enrollment, employees contact insurance carriers directly when they use their benefits. With a strategic, purposefully designed plan, one including ongoing employee engagement, you can help employees not only better manage carrier interactions, but also help them become aware of and more discerning in choosing cost-effective care options. You also have a continuous opportunity to nurture and reinforce an overall healthier approach to life. Which, of course, is a wonderful way to reduce plan cost: fewer claims = lower cost!

    A caveat: there is a natural sequence to engaging employees and creating a culture of health and well-being accountability. You must first educate and motivate employees to become active participants in benefit utilization before you can engage them in becoming more active in their own health management.

    There are two additional items to consider while designing your plan.

    First, exchange providers have the opportunity to have better, more aligned relationships with preferred carriers. Similar to the new, more collaborative relationship advisors have with a preferred exchange provider, with carriers, it can lead to preferential products and services being made available on the exchange. Guiding employees to these preferential options helps you control cost while enhancing the perceived and real value of your benefits program.

    Second, private exchange technology can make it a lot easier for you to meet regulatory and reporting requirements. During plan development, be sure to take advantage of as much compliance automation as possible.

    An Open Attitude: Two examples

    Cited earlier, UBA’s private exchange, Benefits Passport, provides two examples of how an open attitude impacts technology utilization.

    First, UBA’s private exchange gives employees access to live human advice, assistance, coaching, and advocacy where it is most needed.

    Second, “openly” acknowledging where their expertise begins and ends motivated the Benefits Passport team to form a strategic partnership with a technology-based employee education firm called Touchpoints. The integrated platforms enable employers and their advisors to fully customize the communication component of every interaction employees have with the exchange and with their benefits.

    It’s your data… use it!

    Finally, modern private exchange technology gives you the information you need to accurately measure the effectiveness, expense, and impact of your plan design and delivery. Instead of being clubbed each year by trend, the carriers’ favorite cudgel, and instead of making decisions based on someone else’s information and opinion, you now have the opportunity to make sound decisions based on facts.

    To do so, you must insist on complete transparency wherever possible. And, perhaps more important, you must be willing to take an open – there’s that word again – and honest approach to accepting what the data is telling you.

    The last word… until Part 3!

    It is important to repeat that this is a long-term strategic process that begins with creating the best possible platform for progress and then working with your advisor and all other key partners to learn as you go. I believe the future of healthcare delivery lies beyond exchanges, but we must walk before we can run.

    Turning the promise of modern, technology-empowered employee benefits programs into reality, now and in the future, requires adopting a modern, three-pronged approach.

    1. Adopt an open attitude to the role technology and expert advisors can play
    2. Step up to the plate when it comes to accessing and utilizing your data
    3. Continuously build on the foundation you create to expand your strategy for benefits delivery and employee engagement (remember, this is not a “set it and forget it” proposition)

    Coming soon

    Part 3: A look at the future of private exchanges

    Originally published by United Benefit Advisors – Read More

  • Summer Perks

    August 28, 2016

    The summer is upon us and that means warmer weather, lots of sunshine, and plenty of opportunities to have some fun outdoor activities. It’s too bad that your office job requires you to be indoors all day, or does it?
  • Prescription Drug Copay Trends | Petaluma Employee Benefits Specialist

    August 23, 2016

    By Bill Olson, Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    MailOrderPic1UBA’s Special Report – Trends in Prescription Drug Benefits explores our Health Plan Survey findings in more detail, particularly examining what’s happening with prescription drug plan design among different group sizes, regions and industries. When it comes to copay amounts, median retail prescription drug copays are $10/$30 for two-tier plans, $10/$35/$55 for three-tier plans, and $10/$35/$60/$100 for four-tier plans. These amounts have remained largely flat from 2014.

    Generic drugs in the lowest tier generally cost less than $10, so employees are paying all or most of the generic cost with the tier 1 copay. This makes it difficult to raise that amount, especially if employers are concerned about medication adherence. But in four-tier models, the tier 3 copay increased 20%. Since this tier covers non-formulary brands, copay increases may continue as drug costs in this category soar.

    MedianRxCopays

    While median copays in four-tier plans see no fluctuation among region, size or industry, three-tier plans show some creative cost management among some groups. For example, the largest employers (1,000+ employees) and Northeastern groups are pushing up the tier 3 copay above average. With employers flocking to 4+ tier plans, copay hikes in three-tier models may become more common for those hesitant to expand drug tiers.

    As five-tier plans emerge, the median copays are $10/$10/$40/$70/$100. This will be an important baseline to watch now that the UBA Health Plan Survey will start to break this out separately. In predictable fashion, small groups tend to set copays higher than average, while the large groups are below average. Regionally, the West is experimenting with driving the fifth tier copay significantly higher than average ($150) while keeping the other copays at or below average. The Central U.S. is pushing most copays in five-tier plans higher than average.

    Read the whole article here …

  • Don’t Subject Yourself or Co-workers to the Five-Second Rule

    August 21, 2016

    If you haven’t heard of the "five-second rule," it's the myth that it's okay to eat a piece of food dropped on the floor if it’s picked up within five seconds.
  • Don’t Subject Yourself or Co-workers to the Five-Second Rule

    August 21, 2016

    If you haven’t heard of the "five-second rule," it's the myth that it's okay to eat a piece of food dropped on the floor if it’s picked up within five seconds.
  • 2016 VETS-4212 Filing Period Is Open | CA Employee Benefits

    August 16, 2016

    0727ssgReminder: the VETS-4212 reporting cycle for 2016 is now open, and the filing deadline is September 30. Filing information is available on the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) website.

    The Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA) (located at 38 U.S.C. § 4212(d)), requires federal contractors and subcontractors subject to the act’s affirmative action provisions in § 4212(a) to track and report annually to the Secretary of Labor the number of employees and new hires that are covered veterans, by job category and hiring location, who belong to the specified categories of veterans protected under the statute. Under the most recent amendments to the statute, those categories are:

    • Disabled veterans;
    • Veterans who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized;
    • Veterans who, while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces, participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 FR 1209); and
    • Recently separated veterans (veterans within 36 months from discharge or release from active duty). The reporting form for this requirement is administered by VETS; generally the reporting cycle begins annually on or around August 1 and ends September 30.

    Note that the threshold for VETS-4212 reporting was increased from $100,000 to $150,000 on October 1, 2015. Accordingly, for the 2016 filing year beginning on August 1, the filing threshold for contracts entered into prior to October 1, 2015, is still $100,000; for contracts entered into on or after October 1, 2015, the filing threshold will be $150,000. The filing threshold for contractors continuing to file their VETS-4212 reports for 2015 is still $100,000.

     Originally published by ThinkHR – Read More

  • Heat Stroke Is No Joke

    August 14, 2016

    With apologies to Buster Poindexter, it’s never good if you’re feeling hot, hot, hot. Heat-related deaths while on the job can happen to anyone, and are completely preventable, but who do you think it happens to most often?
  • The Real Promise of Private Exchanges Is Still Ahead | Benefits Broker California

    August 12, 2016

    By Michael A. Fleck, Vice President, Corporate Development, for Hanna Global Solutions, A UBA Partner Firm

    ChangesAheadThe hype about how private exchanges will revolutionize the successful delivery of employee benefits has quieted as the predicted “explosive growth” has slowed considerably. As I’ve long thought, instead of a revolution, a quiet evolutionary process is taking place.

    As with many of the previous attempts to “reinvent an industry” – think WebVan and Pets.com – there is a growing recognition of the need to insert non-tech wisdom, sound processes and actual live human beings into the private exchange concept.

    In learning how to connect wisdom to technology, the developers of successful exchanges are learning that seamless, flawless and fully-mobile technology is only the cost of entry. Like anteing up in poker, technology gets you into the game, but doesn’t ensure you win the hand. More significantly, the evolution of what is recognized as the most effective approach is shifting toward what we’ve termed “open architecture platforms.” And, the “open” in open architecture doesn’t just describe the platform’s technology; it also includes how employers, their advisors, employees and the exchange designers are actually using this technology.

    Before I go any further, full disclosure and a little history is in order.

    First, the disclosure. I work for an employee benefits agency that is also a hi-tech company and a Partner Firm in United Benefit Advisors (UBA). Our Firm created and manages Benefits Passport, UBA’s private exchange.

    That means I am an employee benefits advisor who believes in technology and the collective wisdom of a large group of independent advisors, their clients and their strategic partners.

    Next, the history. My personal experience goes back to what I count as one of the very first private exchanges in the world. It was started in 1998 by five California brokerages and called BenefitsAlliance. Some of you may remember it. BenefitsAlliance had all the key features of a private exchange – defined contribution, multiple carriers, multiple options and an online tool for selecting and enrolling in benefits. As a principal of one of the five firms, I was a front row witness to a promised revolution that eventually ended in a whimper.

    At the start, the promise of cost containment and improved choice at the employee level was credible and temporarily realized. But, as some of the participating organizations grew and their experience became credible, they moved out of the exchange and went to the market directly. This left the smaller employers, who generally had a poorer quality of experience, as the majority of participants in the exchange. Naturally, the risk in the pool increased and eventually the cost to participate surpassed what many of the individual small members could get on their own. This wasn’t the only challenge, but among the few that signaled the decline of the effort.

    Five years after setting out on what, in hindsight, was a perfect raw market experiment, the five brokerages sold what was left of the book of business to a large MGA, who refocused on the small market and rolled it into their market offering as a part of California Choice. It still exists today.

    So am I saying private exchanges don’t work? Not even close. I’m saying they are one of the tools available, not necessarily THE tool. So, back to the future: as we come to the end of another hype-cycle, one that began around 2011, it is clear the predictions of private exchange participation were beyond ambitious, with only the lowest being remotely accurate. Most optimistic were the designers of the exchanges who suggested everyone would be on one by 2016.

    Perhaps we’re lazy, or just overly optimistic, but it seems to be in our nature to be always looking for a pill to take care of everything. But, as I learned back in the early years of this century, there are no silver bullets, no magic black boxes, and pulling rabbits out of hats is only an illusion. I know I’ve mixed three metaphors, but I’m hoping my redundancy drives home the point that there are no quick fixes; no one-size-fits-all solutions.

    What’s left is an age-old truth; we must do the work to design, manage and sustain a successful benefits program. And, we must be willing to do more work as conditions change.

    So, what does open architecture mean in the evolution of private exchanges? First, it means recognizing openness has two components: the technology itself and how people use it.

    Experience has proven the technology of an open architecture exchange must be able to accommodate many different types of employers, employees, funding models, carriers, service providers and accommodate anytime, anywhere access. What was once thought to be an exceptional level of performance is now the price of entry.
    What’s really new is an open attitude toward how people put the technology to use. This is not, and will never be, a “set it and forget it” marketplace.

    Read more here …

  • Collecting Tech

    August 7, 2016

    Do you have a collection? Some people collect baseball cards, Barbie® dolls, or comic books. Others collect PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and wearable technology. And those with mobile devices often collect apps.
  • What You Need to Know About Student Loan Repayment and the Millennial Workforce | Benefits Specialist California

    August 4, 2016

    millenialMillennials account for the largest demographic in the workforce today (Berman), and by 2025 will make up 75% of our working population (Forbes). With new technologies, more people deciding to branch out and start their own businesses and telecommuting jobs becoming popular, it’s important for employers to understand how they need to adapt previous HR policies for recruitment and retention to fit today’s workforce.

    A promising solution to this change in the playing field is to offer a student loan repayment program as part of an employee benefit package. In a study done by the American Payroll Association, it was found that two-thirds of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. As college tuition costs rise, millennials who graduate and enter the workforce are finding themselves with large amounts of debt while simultaneously facing job scarcity.

    In fact, not only are millennials inhibited from saving due to student loans (Paylocity), they have the lowest retirement savings rate of any demographic at 7.5% (EBRI). Because there is evidence that millennials also are not as responsive to the traditional employee benefit package and instead seek jobs where they are more likely to have work/life balance as well as travel and vacation opportunities, offering a student loan benefit gives employers hope that innovations can be made to attract top young talent.

    Prudential Retirement is partnering with Student Loan Genius to develop a creative solution to the one barrier to this otherwise highly inventive idea: the fact that no current tax breaks exist for loan repayment programs, thus employees could end up being heavily taxed if they receive a loan repayment benefit (Paylocity).

    Prudential Retirement and Student Loan Genius are working to offer a pre-tax 401k contribution whenever an employee makes a payment on their loan (Society for Human Resource Management). This type of contribution would help an employee avoid heavy taxing and simultaneously save for retirement.

    According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, millennials have lower employee benefit participation rates than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. Seventy-six percent of respondents to the American Student Assistance’s recent survey indicated that their choice to take a job would be positively impacted if a student loan repayment program was offered. As employers continue to search for new ways to engage their workforce in these programs and hire new talent, some form of loan repayment program may be the answer.

  • Use Them, Don’t Lose Them

    July 31, 2016

    Work. Work. Work. People work long hours at their jobs only to be rewarded by working long hours when they’re home.
  • Check The Fine Print

    July 24, 2016

    As the saying goes, an oral agreement is as good as the paper it’s written on. However, once it’s in writing, it might as well be written in stone. Such is the case with labor contracts.
  • Check The Fine Print

    July 24, 2016

    As the saying goes, an oral agreement is as good as the paper it’s written on. However, once it’s in writing, it might as well be written in stone. Such is the case with labor contracts.
  • “Stressed” Is “Desserts” Spelled Backward

    July 4, 2016

    Stress eating, sometimes called emotional eating, is where a person feels the need to eat (usually in large amounts) some type of “junk” or “comfort food” in response to an emotional situation rather than due to feelings of being hungry.
  • “Stressed” Is “Desserts” Spelled Backward

    July 4, 2016

    Stress eating, sometimes called emotional eating, is where a person feels the need to eat (usually in large amounts) some type of “junk” or “comfort food” in response to an emotional situation rather than due to feelings of being hungry.
  • Putting A Lock On Cloud-Based Computing

    June 26, 2016

    And like that song from 1969, it appears that most employees really don’t know cloud computing at all.
  • Future Employee Expectations

    June 19, 2016

    Today, most new full-time hires expect a company to offer certain standard benefits – health, dental, vision, and life insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and a 401(k) or pension.
  • Future Employee Expectations

    June 19, 2016

    Today, most new full-time hires expect a company to offer certain standard benefits – health, dental, vision, and life insurance, paid vacation and sick days, and a 401(k) or pension.
  • Department of Labor Audit Triggers

    June 12, 2016

    Nobody wants to be audited--especially by the Department of Labor. Audits usually either arise from a complaint (which leads to an investigation) or are totally random.
  • Department of Labor Audit Triggers

    June 12, 2016

    Nobody wants to be audited--especially by the Department of Labor. Audits usually either arise from a complaint (which leads to an investigation) or are totally random.
  • Student Loan Benefits, Recruitment and Retention

    June 5, 2016

    Eighty-nine percent of job seekers with student loan debt said they believe companies should offer student loan repayment as an employee benefit, according to a survey by Beyond.com.
  • Moving from Employee Wellness to Employee Well-Being

    May 30, 2016

    The terms "wellness" and "well-being" are often used interchangeably; however, they mean very different things when applied to workplace health promotion.
  • Digital Eye Strain and Vision Benefits | Employee Benefits California

    May 30, 2016

    By Geoff Mukhtar
    Communications Manager at United Benefit Advisors

    GlassesEyeChartEighty-one percent of employees have elected vision benefits in 2016, up from 78 percent last year, according to Transitions. This increase moved vision into a tie with dental as the second most popular benefit election behind medical.

    Digital eye strain, which is detailed by a report from The Vision Council, could be a contributing factor to the trend. Some of the Council’s findings include:

    • 65 percent of Americans report experiencing symptoms of digital eye strain, including 70 percent of women.
    • Nearly 90 percent of Americans use digital devices for two or more hours daily and nearly 60 percent do so for five or more daily.
    • 77 percent of those who suffer from digital eye strain use two or more devices simultaneously, with women more likely to do so than men. In comparison, only 53 percent of those who use only one device at a time suffer from digital eye strain.

    The symptoms of digital eye strain include neck/back/shoulder pain, headache, blurred version and dry eyes. In addition to the health concerns they bring, these symptoms can also negatively impact employee productivity.

    An article in Employee Benefit News by Dr. Linda Chous, UnitedHealthcare’s chief eye care officer, titled “Digital Eye Strain Among Workers Causing Employers to Rethink Vision Benefits,” has several prevention tips for reducing digital eye strain in your employees:

    1. Employees should keep computer screens about 30 inches away from their eyes.
    2. Employees should rest their eyes every 15 minutes.
    3. Employees should blink frequently, which reduces dry eye and helps maintain eye health.

    Chous also advocates for regular eye exams, for reasons beyond digital eye strain. She writes, “The eyes are also a window to overall health. Regular eye exams play an important role in identifying and managing serious, chronic conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension, multiple sclerosis and some tumors.”

    She goes on to note how some employers are now “embracing an integrated approach to vision and medical benefits that support patients and health care professionals with information, decisions and outcomes.” These programs have a variety of features, such as:

    • Eye care practitioners can be encouraged to code claims with chronic condition categories, and patients with those diagnoses can be automatically referred to disease management programs.
    • Eye care practitioners can be notified of patients with at-risk conditions during the exam authorization process.
    • Patients with certain conditions (such as diabetes and hypertension) can be notified with a phone call about the importance of their annual eye exam.
    • For patients who may have chronic conditions, eye care practitioners can use specially designed online forms to refer them to primary care providers or specialists.

    As an employer, you have the ability to help protect your employees’ eye health–which, in turn, influences their overall health and productivity. And, with adults under 30 experiencing the highest rates of digital eye strain (73 percent) of all age groups, taking actions and providing benefits that protect employees’ eye health is likely to become even more important.

    Read more here …

  • Same-Sex Marriages and Group Health Benefits | Benefits Broker Petaluma

    May 26, 2016

    By Danielle Capilla
    Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    WeddingRingsFrom 2013 to 2015, a series of Supreme Court cases and government updates have changed the landscape of the way employers must consider same-sex spouses in relation to employee benefits.

    Most recently, in June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges, that the 14th Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex, and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out of state. Prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, approximately two-thirds of states recognized same-sex marriage (whether performed within the state or another state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage).

    In February 2015, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued an updated definition of “spouse” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to make compliance easier, and defined “spouse” as a husband or wife, which refers to a person “with whom an individual entered into marriage as defined or recognized by state law.” The governing state law is that of the celebration state, or where the marriage took place. This definition was set to go into effect across the United States on March 27, 2015, but litigation in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska prevented the new rule from going into effect in those states immediately. After the ruling in Obergefell, which severely undermined the arguments of the objecting states, the injunction was dissolved.

    In June 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which provided that, for federal law purposes, marriage could only be between a man and a woman, was unconstitutional.

    Implication for Employers

    For individuals with a same-sex spouse (validly married in a state allowing same-sex marriage) who reside in a state that did not previously recognize same-sex-marriage, the ruling in Obergefell likely triggered a change in status event for Section 125 plans. That is because, as of June 26, 2015, the individual was considered married under state law, whereas they were not the day before.

    As a result of these changes, employers need to review the eligibility requirements in their group life and health plans, Section 125 plans, and health reimbursement arrangements. The Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA) requires employers to administer their plans according to the terms of the plan, which means that the plan’s definition of a covered spouse is key. A plan that covers “spouses” or “lawful spouses” must offer coverage to same-sex spouses.

    While most practitioners agree that fully insured plans are required to cover same-sex spouses, employers should contact their carrier to verify this approach.

    Download UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “Same-Sex Marriages and Group Health Benefits” for comprehensive information on tax treatment of same-sex spouses, FMLA administration, and whether self-funded plans may exclude same-sex spouses.

    The IRS has issued Frequently Asked Questions that employers and employees may also find helpful. The questions and answers that relate to benefits begin with Question 10.

    Read more here …

  • In Focus: Digital Eye Strain and Vision Benefits

    May 22, 2016

    Eighty-one percent of employees have elected vision benefits in 2016, up from 78 percent last year, according to Transitions.
  • In Focus: Digital Eye Strain and Vision Benefits

    May 22, 2016

    Eighty-one percent of employees have elected vision benefits in 2016, up from 78 percent last year, according to Transitions.
  • When It Comes to Employees’ Financial Wellness, Face Time Matters | Benefits Specialist California

    May 19, 2016

    By Geoff Mukhtar
    Communications Manager at United Benefit Advisors

    employeesMany employers have done an excellent job of integrating financial wellness programs with their employees in order for them to improve their overall financial well-being. However, the most significant progress appears to be when employees actually speak with a qualified human being rather than relying on technology to manage investments. The key, according to an article on the website of Employee Benefit News titled, “Technology Alone Not Enough in Financial Wellness,” is the level of employee engagement.

    The article stresses that people who interacted with a certified financial planner five or more times during the year had a much better grasp on their finances, an emergency fund, retirement contributions, and cash flow management when compared to people who only used online tools. Were employees who talked to a real person getting better advice? Were employees who were more worried about their money doing more to understand and solve their problems by actually talking to someone? This was not known, but what was discovered was that technology can only do so much.

    For example, if you get on a scale, it’s going to give you a number. The scale won’t tell you what to eat, how many calories you’ll need to burn, or what steps you’ll need to take if something unexpected happens. In terms of a person’s financial well-being, technology overload can occur and he or she will get bombarded with information that’s either not understood or unusable.

    Once employers figure out that technology alone is not a viable solution to help employees with their finances, they can shift some of their financial wellness and retirement programs to one-on-one guidance with certified financial planners. Furthermore, they can incorporate education and focused presentations, such as workshops on retirement, student loan repayment, tackling credit card debt, etc., into the mix in order to drive up employee engagement.
    The takeaway is that there is no single solution to help employees with their monetary planning and problems. It takes a combination of technology, education, and personal face time to ensure that a company’s workforce is making progress toward their financial goals.

    Read more here …

  • Know the Difference Between HRAs, HSAs and Health FSAs

    May 17, 2016

    To understand which option is best for your particular situation, it's essential to know the differences between health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and health care flexible spending accounts (HFSAs).
  • Let’s Be Careful Out There

    May 8, 2016

    Corporate disaster plans used to be just weather-related, but in today’s world these plans should include acts of terrorism.
  • There’s Always Time for a Workout

    May 1, 2016

    An often heard excuse for people not exercising is that they don’t have time to do it. We all have time for something, it just depends on whether we want to make time for it.
  • Investors Do Better Interacting With People Instead Of Technology

    April 24, 2016

    Many employers have done an excellent job of integrating financial wellness programs with their employees in order for them to improve their overall financial well-being.
  • Investors Do Better Interacting With People Instead Of Technology

    April 24, 2016

    Many employers have done an excellent job of integrating financial wellness programs with their employees in order for them to improve their overall financial well-being.
  • Investors Do Better Interacting With People Instead Of Technology

    April 24, 2016

    Many employers have done an excellent job of integrating financial wellness programs with their employees in order for them to improve their overall financial well-being.
  • Investors Do Better Interacting With People Instead Of Technology

    April 24, 2016

    Many employers have done an excellent job of integrating financial wellness programs with their employees in order for them to improve their overall financial well-being.
  • The Other Side of Office Politics

    April 17, 2016

    Everyone is aware of office politics, but what about politics in the office? Whether you label yourself as a republican, democrat, independent, liberal, conservative, or anything else, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.
  • The Other Side of Office Politics

    April 17, 2016

    Everyone is aware of office politics, but what about politics in the office? Whether you label yourself as a republican, democrat, independent, liberal, conservative, or anything else, it’s best to keep your opinions to yourself.
  • Don’t Neglect Written Polices and Procedures | California Employee Benefits

    April 14, 2016

    By Elizabeth Kay, Compliance & Retention Analyst
    AEIS Advisors
    A UBA Partner Firm

    EmployeeBenefitsI have worked with my fair share of companies, both large and small, from companies that are just starting out to those that have been well established for 30 or more years. It has been my experience that most companies, no matter how long they have been in business, don’t establish written policies and procedures until they have more than 30 employees.

    Many smaller companies simply don’t have the bandwidth to get them completed. The CEO of a ten-person company is most likely also the HR Manager, CFO, and buyer of office supplies. Smaller companies are also more likely to be more flexible regarding vacation days or paid time off, bringing animals to work, dress code, etc. This can lead to problems if a precedent is set by giving one employee an extra paid day off, or allowing someone to bring their dog to work, but not allowing someone else to bring theirs because of the type of breed, or because they are long haired instead of short haired.

    When companies offer a health and welfare benefit plan to their employees, established processes and procedures become especially important to help avoid confusion and errors.

    For example, what happens when an employee is terminated, or takes a leave of absence? How are insurance premium deductions to be handled? If an employer deducts health insurance plan premiums from an employee’s payroll on a weekly basis, and an employee terminates his or her employment in the middle of the month, but coverage stays in place until the end of the month, how do you deduct the premium from the employee’s payroll for the last two weeks of the month? Can you deduct the entire amount from the final paycheck?

    The answers to these questions all depend on what your state laws will allow, and what the written company policy says regarding premium deductions via payroll.

    In addition to written policies and procedures helping to set standards and best practices for a company, they may also be required to be presented to the Department of Labor (DOL) in the case of an audit for compliance with ERISA, HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

    All employer-sponsored health and welfare benefit plans are subject to ERISA, HIPAA and portions of the Affordable Care Act, no matter the size of the company or the number of employees that participate in the plan. In the past couple of years we have seen groups as small as two lives be audited by the Department of Labor for ERISA and ACA compliance, and the number of groups that have been audited has been increasing. See our breaking news release with information on how to prepare an audit.

    As an example, in an audit letter from 2014, the DOL not only asked for an employer to produce the Women’s’ Health and Cancer Rights Act Notice that it gave to employees, but also asked for evidence to show how and when the notice was distributed when an employee was first enrolled in the plan, and how and when the yearly notice was distributed.

    If an employer has a written policy and procedure in place, it is easy to provide this information in the case of an audit.

    In addition, auditors require proof of compliance as far back as September 23, 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was first enacted. So not only is it important to keep and maintain records of your policies, procedures, and documents related to your current plan year, but it is important to keep them on file for previous plan years.

    Many employer groups are not in compliance with at least one ERISA requirement, so we recommend that all of our clients conduct a mock ERISA/HIPAA/ACA audit to identify areas that need improvement. While it may seem that complying with the alphabet soup of health and welfare plan regulations can be daunting and expensive, former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty put it this way, “If you think compliance is expensive, try non-compliance.”

    Audit-proof your company with UBA’s latest white paper: Don’t Roll the Dice on Department of Labor Audits. This free resource offers valuable information about how to prepare for an audit, the best way to acclimate staff to the audit process, what the DOL wants, and the most important elements of complying with requests.
    If you have a cafeteria plan, take care to understand the distinctions and interplay between ERISA requirements and cafeteria plan requirements. Request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Reporting and Plan Documents Under ERISA and Cafeteria Plan Rules” for comprehensive information on reporting, Form 5500, and requirements for plan documents.

    Read More …

  • Do You Need New Clothes?

    April 10, 2016

    When it comes to business fashion, my two favorite quotes are “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” by Mark Twain and “You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.” by Zig Ziglar. But do clothes really make the man (or woman)?
  • Business Travel Is Seldom Done Leisurely

    April 3, 2016

    To quote singer Warren Zevon, "I've been to Paris and it ain't that pretty at all." Many people often think of business travel as a "free vacation" or that it's all champagne and caviar (and if it is for you, I want to know where you work), but the reality is that it's often very stressful.
  • Top Talent Prefers Being Recruited Via Their Mobile Device

    March 27, 2016

    If you haven’t noticed, newspapers are shrinking in size. Fewer people, especially the younger demographic of 18- to 40-year-olds, read them and this especially applies to when they’re searching for jobs.
  • Don’t Bring Me Down!

    March 20, 2016

    Every workplace has its fair share of slackers and goof-offs, but it’s what an employer does with those employees that solidifies its corporate culture as one of high or low performance.
  • Case Study: Using Data to Identify Healthcare Savings for a Mid-size Manufacturer | California Employee Health Insurance

    March 16, 2016

    Historically, companies have struggled with the best way to package and deliver benefits to attract talent and retain staff. Today, companies understand that they need to leverage a variety of solutions to provide meaningful healthcare coverage, promote wellbeing and mitigate cost. UBA Partners offer innovative product and service solutions to identify medical spend waste and improve efficient spend, allowing employers to reinvest in the correct resources that will improve employee health. For one mid-sized manufacturer, UBA Partner LHD Benefit Advisors used Vital Incite risk scoring tools to coordinate efforts between the employer HR and C-suite, the advisor and the population health consultant.

    Key information unique to this employer:

    • Japanese owned and multiple nationalities employed with little knowledge of the American health care system other than in the HR team
    • Manufacturing company with predominately male employees
    • Onsite clinic opened April 2014 with initial services including primary care, physical therapy, massage therapy, lab, nurse health coaching
    • Increase in medical plan participation due to growing workforce and rich medical plan offered at a low cost to employees.

    Value of what was delivered:

    • Improved risk migration of high/very high risk members (total population and same cohort)
    • Improved efficiency of medical plan utilization and improved unit cost
    • Improved care coordination (decreased ER visits, decrease in multiple medications, increase in number of members with a primary care physician)
    • Targeted outreach from onsite clinic to improve overall health of members

    Problem 1: Increase in medical plan spend

    Prior to the clinic opening, the medical plan saw utilization of ER visits and imaging services along with associated costs above benchmark. The number of covered lives (employees and spouses) was also increasing as well as the average employer paid amount per member due to high cost utilization of an unmanaged workforce. Current medical plans were two low deductible, PPO plans with little consumerism and offered at low cost to employees.

    Problem 2: Low onsite clinic utilization

    The first six months the clinic was open showed low utilization for several services resulting in the employer reducing services effective January 1, 2015, through March 31, 2015, to help reduce costs. The suspended services included patient advocacy, evening clinic hours, reduced health coaching hours and physical therapy. In order to fully recognize the benefit of an onsite clinic, employees needed easier access to the clinic during working hours, a better understanding of services provided (i.e. labs, medications and nurse coaching) and targeted outreach to key members.

    Problem 3: Increase in risk migration of member population

    Data revealed employees carried the majority of the high/very high risk, and risk migration from 2013 to 2014 showed a neutral to slight increase (Figure 1). Further analysis showed a higher than average percentage of untreated chronic conditions, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Cost information from a disease perspective showed the potential impact specific disease programs within the clinic could have on employee health and medical cost.

    Risk Distribution - high to very high riskRisk distribution bar chart

    Analysis of Avoided Costs

    The data reported from the population health team was instrumental in developing a strategy to have an impact on the member population and a successful onsite clinic. Once there was an understanding of the prospective risk and impact of chronic disease management by the employer C-suite, the HR team gained support for the initiatives developed by the population health and HR teams. A key illustration (Figure 2) to this point was showing a cost avoidance calculation for key services provided by the onsite clinic.

    Avoided cost calculation

    To learn about the recommended solutions, the implementation strategies, and how data was used to measure results, download the full case study.

    Read More…

  • Best and Worst Health Savings Accounts for Singles, Families | Benefits Broker Petaluma

    March 7, 2016

    By Bill Olson
    Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    We’ve just released the latest findings from the UBA Health Plan Survey related to how health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) are being used among employers. (Spoiler alert: California employers lead the way with the most generous account-based plans.)

    So which is faring better in the industry, HRAs or HSAs? The answer very much depends on where you are in the country, what industry you’re in, and how many employees you have. See our free special report for all the detailed findings.

    At a glance, here are the winners and losers when it comes to HSA plans:

    HSAPLANS

    A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) and a health savings account (HSA) have many things in common, but also several key differences that define their purpose and benefits. For a closer look at the differences and similarities, see the UBA document HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?

    Read more here

  • The Team That Eats Together Performs Better

    March 6, 2016

    Are you the type of employee who eats alone? You may be doing yourself a disservice according to an article on the Society For Human Resource Management's website titled, "Breaking Bread At Work Boosts Bottom Line, Study Claims."
  • Let’s Face It; I’m Tired!

    February 28, 2016

    Have you noticed a recurring theme that we wish we had more time? In our quest to squeeze more out of the day, we often push sleep aside and humorously tell our friends and coworkers, "I'll sleep when I'm dead."
  • HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference? | Employee Benefits CA

    February 25, 2016

    By Danielle Capilla
    Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    HSA

    Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), health savings accounts (HSAs) and health care flexible spending accounts (HFSAs) are generally referred to as account-based plans. That is because each participant has their own account, at least for bookkeeping purposes. Under the tax rules, amounts may be contributed to these accounts (with certain restrictions) and used for health care on a tax-favored basis.

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) has added new requirements that affect HRAs and HFSAs. Most HFSAs and HRAs will need to be amended to meet the new PPACA requirements. HSAs generally are not affected by PPACA.

    The chart below describes the main characteristics of these types of accounts.

    hsa2

    To help determine the best option for your particular situation, request the UBA PPACA Advisor, “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?” for a comprehensive chart comparing eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of these types of accounts.

    UBA’s Health Plan Survey analyzes a wide range of health care costs trends. To read the full press release announcing the latest findings related to HSA funding, click here. For all the latest health plan cost trends, download the UBA Health Plan Survey Executive Summary. To benchmark your plan to others in your region, industry or size bracket, contact a UBA Partner near you to run a custom benchmarking report.

    Read More …

  • Protect More Than Just Your Employee’s Health

    February 21, 2016

    As competition heats up in the job market, companies are always searching for that one great perk that might sway a potential candidate to choose them over anyone else.
  • Whether Time or Money Is More Important To You Could Mean the Difference in Your Overall Happiness

    February 14, 2016

    This isn't a question of whether you would rather have more time or money, but which do you value most?
  • Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

    February 7, 2016

    It's the beginning of February. Have you already abandoned your New Year’s resolutions?
  • Recognize When You’re Burning Out

    January 31, 2016

    Everyone has a bad or stressful day from time to time and we all deal with that day in various ways.
  • At risk for Cadillac Tax? | CA Benefits Broker

    January 28, 2016

    VideoCadillac

    Are you at risk from the Cadillac Tax?  Even if you are not now, chances are that you will be soon.

  • Searching for Jobs Online

    January 24, 2016

    When it comes to searching for jobs, most Americans go online rather than depend on friends or other contacts for this information.
  • Searching for Jobs Online

    January 24, 2016

    When it comes to searching for jobs, most Americans go online rather than depend on friends or other contacts for this information.
  • Being Hyper Aware of Employee Hypertension

    January 18, 2016

    As wellness programs continue to flourish among employers, a discovery is being made about one of the most important health aspects -- hypertension.
  • Stick With It!

    January 10, 2016

    People who want to get healthy all have good intentions starting out.
  • Stick With It!

    January 10, 2016

    People who want to get healthy all have good intentions starting out.
  • Eat Your Veggies!

    January 3, 2016

    An employer is not a parent, and they have no duty to tell you what you must eat. However, as wellness become more important in the workplace, an employer can certainly encourage good eating habits.
  • Department of Labor Delays Enforcement of the Fiduciary Duty Rule | CA Benefit Advisor

    April 28, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

    April 19, 2017

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

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

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

    Increases Productivity

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

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

    Reduces Cost Across the Board

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

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

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

    Boosts Loyalty, Talent and the Bottom Line

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

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

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

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

    April 17, 2017

    Exclusive Webinar Invitation from Arrow!

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

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

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

     

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

    April 10, 2017

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

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

  • Employee Benefit Trends of 2017 | CA Benefit Advisors

    April 7, 2017

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

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

    April 4, 2017

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

    Why self-fund dental?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Below is a recent case study

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

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

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

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

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

    March 31, 2017

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

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

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

    Here are few benefits TeleMedicine has to offer:

    It’s Fast and Simple

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

    It’s Flexible

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

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

    It’s Affordable

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

    It’s Beneficial to Employers

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

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

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

    March 29, 2017

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

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

     

  • The Overtime Rule Saga Continues… CA Benefit Consultants

    March 21, 2017

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

    Here’s where we are so far:

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

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

    What to Do Now

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

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

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

    March 17, 2017

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

    Employer and Individual Mandates

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

    Health Care Related Taxes

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

    Reporting Requirements

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

    Contribution Limits

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

    Patient Protection Provisions

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

    What Employers Should Know Now

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

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

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

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