Industry News

North Bay brokers form ‘task force’ to lower health insurance costs

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

    April 20, 2018

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

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

    April 20, 2018

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

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

    April 11, 2018

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

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

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

    March 20, 2018

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

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

    March 6, 2018

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

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

  • The Price ain’t right – resignation comes among allegations, but now who leads the charge?

    December 4, 2017

    Tom Price came in with much fanfare as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services, coming in as the administration’s point man to help upend the Affordable Care Act.  He had his own plan and principles, outlined while he was in the House, which would have steered the conversation…had he not found it necessary to book planes at the taxpayers’ expense.  So now the chair sits empty, and the ACA reform attempts in tatters, so now what?

  • We had to make the pun – Donald Trumps expectations and upends the ACA

    November 10, 2017

    We have known this since the beginning.  If Congress failed to act, the President still had the power to change the ACA by either withholding payments, changing jurisdictions or simply, as the President has become so fond of doing, issuing an Executive Order that just does what he wants.  So here we are, in the midst of an Executive Order, that does the following:

    Directs the Department of Labor to consider expanding Association Health Plans.  The idea here is that by letting carriers compete and expand beyond state borders, they will be able to lower costs and offer more options to potential policyholders in a given state.  Sounds good…except that carriers already have substantial pools they insure, may not have the wherewithal to expand, and many of the major carriers in the health care marketplace are already national – and already in California (e.g. CIGNA, Anthem, Aetna and United Health Care).  By the way, how did the multi state Co ops work under the ACA?  That’s right, they no longer exist.  Nice try, though.

    Directs Health and Human Services to expand coverage through low cost short term duration plans.  Which already exist.  Which are already inexpensive.  This simply relieves them of some of the responsibility to act like ACA plans.  Anyway, it’s short term, so whatever…

    Directs HHS and Treasury to consider changes to Health Reimbursement Acconts.  Now we’re talking – these help companies do partial self funding, allow expenses that are not normally tax free to be so, and so, and so.

  • Arrow highlighted in UBA In the News – CA Benefit Advisors

    October 13, 2017

    UBA in the News

    Posted by: Geoff Mukhtar    Oct 9, 2017

    This week’s section showcases UBA Partner Firm Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma, California, for launching a Spanish language division. They were featured on KFMB-CBS and KUAM-NBC.

    To read the story about “Arrow Benefits Group launching a Spanish language division” on KFMB-CBS, click here and to read it on KUAM-NBC, click here.

  • Arrow Benefits Group Launches Spanish Language Division | CA Benefit Advisors

    October 4, 2017

    In a groundbreaking effort to service and provide clear and understandable health benefits information to Spanish speaking employees, Arrow Benefits Group has launched their Spanish Language Division to counter the lack of support, resources, and education in the Spanish speaking community. “We want to break the language and culture barriers. With a division specifically designed to educate, answer questions, and give guidance and resources regarding not only health insurance but employer benefits, we can break down the complexity and make insurance a more usable and valuable benefit,” says SLD Lead Rosario Avila. The employee benefits world can be confusing, and the added obstacle of information being provided in an unfamiliar language makes it much harder to understand and utilize. Even with literature provided in Spanish, the terminology is a language all its own. With their diverse understanding of the industry, and a dedicated team consisting of 6 benefit specialists and 2 HR support members that are not only fluent in Spanish and experienced in the benefits industry, but are also understanding of the culture, Arrow will bridge the gap in education and services to this large, highly valuable, and yet historically underserved demographic.

    For more information on Arrow Benefits Group’s Spanish Language Division, contact Rosario Avila at RosarioA@arrowbenefitsgroup.com by calling (707)992-3795.

    Most benefit carriers understand the importance of having benefits explained in one’s own language, but straight translations are simply not enough. When it comes to education, it is not only important to speak the language, but to explain the terminology. The issue here is if an employee does not understand the program that they are eligible for, it will be underutilized and unappreciated. By being available by phone, email and text, the Arrow Spanish Language team will ensure that employees and their families will understand what benefits they have and how their plan works. This also improves corporate culture, boosts employee morale, and saves HR departments and employers valuable time and resources.

    In many cases, when an employee and their families have questions, they either ask the business owner or the HR manager. If the question is complex, the company representative may have to spend hours researching the answer, which takes them away from their regular tasks. Confidentiality is also a consideration. Especially in a small business, an employee may not feel comfortable going to the business owner or HR manager to discuss personal health matters. In many cases, if there are questions and no resources for the employee to go to, the questions go unanswered. Arrow’s Spanish Language Division will be that resource for Spanish speaking employees to be able to talk to when it comes to the personal subjects they would not feel comfortable disclosing to their employer. Senior Partner and bilingual advisor at New Aspect Financial Services, Karin Alvarado, CFS, CPFA says, “In my experience, employers with a large Spanish speaking population who hire a native Spanish speaking advisor to help educate their employees see a large increase in participation, utilization and appreciation.”

    Arrow’s Spanish Language Division is engaging and encouraging participation and communication, as well as developing partnerships in the Spanish speaking community, creating consciousness of the healthcare industry and compliance issues, as well as building interpersonal relationships with Spanish speaking employees and their families. According to Rosario Avila, “The goal of the Spanish Language Division is to provide hands on, high touch support to the Spanish speaking population of our clients. Those that speak Spanish as their primary language have been largely underserved by the benefits community and it is our goal to change that.”

    About Arrow Benefits Group
    Arrow Benefits Group, the third largest benefits firm in the North Bay, is a proud partner of United Benefit Advisors (UBA), one of the largest benefits consulting and brokerage firms in the country. Arrow Benefits Group is the single-source solution for managing the complexities of benefits with expert advice, customized programs, and personalized solutions. Arrow’s innovative programs control costs and give employees a greater sense of financial and emotional security.

    For straight answers to employee benefits call 707-992- 3780 or visit http://www.arrowbenefitsgroup.com

  • What You Need to Know about Health Flexible Spending Accounts | CA Benefit Advisors

    September 6, 2017

    A health flexible spending account (FSA) is a pre-tax account used to pay for out-of-pocket health care costs for a participant as well as a participant’s spouse and eligible dependents. Health FSAs are employer-established benefit plans and may be offered with other employer-provided benefits as part of a cafeteria plan. Self-employed individuals are not eligible for FSAs.

    Even though a health FSA may be extended to any employee, employers should design their health FSAs so that participation is offered only to employees who are eligible to participate in the employer’s major medical plan. Generally, health FSAs must qualify as excepted benefits, which means other nonexcepted group health plan coverage must be available to the health FSA’s participants for the year through their employment. If a health FSA fails to qualify as an excepted benefit, then this could result in excise taxes of $100 per participant per day or other penalties.

    Contributing to an FSA

    Money is set aside from the employee’s paycheck before taxes are taken out and the employee may use the money to pay for eligible health care expenses during the plan year. The employer owns the account, but the employee contributes to the account and decides which medical expenses to pay with it.

    At the beginning of the plan year, a participant must designate how much to contribute so the employer can deduct an amount every pay day in accordance with the annual election. A participant may contribute with a salary reduction agreement, which is a participant election to have an amount voluntarily withheld by the employer. A participant may change or revoke an election only if there is a change in employment or family status that is specified by the plan.

    Per the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), FSAs are capped at $2,600 per year per employee. However, since a plan may have a lower annual limit threshold, employees are encouraged to review their Summary Plan Description (SPD) to find out the annual limit of their plan. A participant’s spouse can put $2,600 in an FSA with the spouse’s own employer. This applies even if both spouses participate in the same health FSA plan sponsored by the same employer.

    Generally, employees must use the money in an FSA within the plan year or they lose the money left in the FSA account. However, employers may offer either a grace period of up to two and a half months following the plan year to use the money in the FSA account or allow a carryover of up to $500 per year to use in the following year.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

     

  • Strategic benefits communication: Five key steps to success this open enrollment season | CA Benefit Advisors

    August 23, 2017

    In previous posts, I have talked about several aspects of strategic benefits communication. Now it’s time to put those strategies into action. As we approach enrollment season, let’s look at five key steps to ensuring this year’s open enrollment is successful for you and your employees.

    1. Determine your key objectives

    What do employees need to know this enrollment season? As you review your benefit plan designs, think once again about your key objectives, and for each, how you will make employees aware and keep them engaged. What are the challenges employees face when making their benefits decisions?

    • Are you rolling out new medical plan options? Does this include HDHP options? An HSA? Are there changes in premiums and contribution levels?
    • Are there any changes to other lines of coverage such as dental, life insurance, disability insurance?
    • Are you adding new voluntary plans this year? How do they integrate with your medical plans? Do they plug gaps in high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses? Are there existing voluntary plans with low participation?
    • Are there other important topics to share with employees, like new wellness programs, or health-driven employee events?

    Once you’ve gathered this information, you can develop a communication strategy that will better engage employees in the benefits decision-making process.

    2. Perfect your script

    What do you know about your employee demographics? Diversity doesn’t refer only to age or gender. It could mean family size, differences in physical demands of the job, income levels, or simply lifestyle. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all world anymore. As you educate employees on benefits, you will want to give examples that fit their lives.

    You will also want to keep the explanations as simple as possible. Use as much plain language as you can, as opposed to “insurance speak” and acronyms. Benefit plans are already an overwhelming decision, and as we have seen in our research, employees still don’t fully understand their options.

    3. Use a multi-faceted communications strategy

    Sun Life research and experience has shown that the most appreciated and effective strategies incorporate multiple methodologies. One helpful tactic is to get a jump-start on enrollment communication. As enrollment season approaches, try dynamic pre-enrollment emails to all employees, using videos or brochures. Once on-site enrollment begins, set up group meetings based on employee demographics. This will arm employees with better knowledge and prepared questions for their one-to-one meeting with a benefits counselor.

    Consider hard-to-reach employees as well, and keep your websites updated with helpful links and provide contacts who are available by phone for additional support.

    Also, look to open enrollment as a good time to fill any employee data gaps you may have, like beneficiaries, dependents, or emergency contacts.

    4. Check your tech!

    We have talked in previous posts about leveraging benefits administration technology for effective communications. For open enrollment, especially when you may be introducing new voluntary insurance plans, it is important to check your technology. I recommend this evaluation take place at least 6 to 8 weeks before open enrollment if possible.

    Working with your UBA advisor, platform vendor and insurance carriers, some key considerations:

    • Provide voluntary product specifications from your carrier to your platform vendor. It is important to check up front that the platform can handle product rules such as issue age and age band pricing, age reduction, benefit/tier changes and guarantee issue rules. Also, confirm how the system will handle evidence of insurability processing, if needed.
    • Electronic Data Interface (EDI). Confirm with your platform partner as well as insurance carriers that there is an EDI set-up process that includes testing of file feeds. This is a vital step to ensure seamless integration between your benefits administration platform, payroll and the insurance carriers.
    • User Experience. Often benefits administration platforms are very effective at moving data and helping you manage your company’s benefits. As we have discussed, when it comes to your employee’s open enrollment user experience, there can be some challenges. Especially when you are offering voluntary benefits. Confirm with your vendor what, if any, decision support tools are available. Also, check with your voluntary carriers. These could range from benefit calculators, product videos, and even logic-driven presentations.

    5. Keep it going

    Even when enrollment season is over, ongoing benefits communications are a central tool to keeping employees informed, educated, and engaged. The small window of enrollment season may not be long enough for people to get a full grasp of their benefits needs, and often their decisions are driven by what is easily understood or what they think they need based on other people’s choices. Ongoing communications can be about specific benefits, wellness programs, or other health and benefit related items. This practice will also help new hires who need to make benefits decisions rather quickly.

    In summary, work with your UBA consultant to customize benefits and enrollment communications. Leverage resources from your provider, who may, as Sun Life does, offer turnkey services that support communication, engagement, and enrollment. Explore third-party vendors that offer platforms to support the process. The whole thing can seem daunting, but following these steps and considerations will not only make the process easier for you, it will make a world of difference to your employees.

    To help employers communicate their plan’s advantages, UBA Partners can benchmark your plan against others in your industry, region and groups size. Request your free benchmarking report.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Biting the Hand that Pays Them | CA Benefit Advisors

    August 21, 2017

    I was recently asked to speak to a gathering of hospital-sponsored health plans and providers of health care services about our health care system, and trends I see developing which threaten it. I’d planned to talk about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) only targets one-third of the health care system – that being payers (insurance), while mostly ignoring the other two-thirds: providers and patients. Call it a scapegoat, or something else, but of the three players in health care, insurance is the villain. It’s easy, then, to say that what’s wrong with health care is what’s wrong with insurance, and vice versa. As such, fixing health care then becomes fixing health insurance. Rather than assign blame to all three – providers, patients, and payers – it’s politically expedient to point a finger solely at the least popular of the three: the payer. And so, health care reform became health insurance reform; but as I’ve said many times before, insurance isn’t health care – it’s a way to pay for health care. This idea that insurance is to blame for the overall cost of health care, that it can strong-arm providers into taking whatever they want to pay, and thus, the rising cost of insurance is based solely on greed and not at all on the actual cost of the care, is a lie. There is another attitude that it’s easier for insurance to raise premiums than push back on the cost of care, because pushing back on providers is tough, and – for the insured – not having insurance means certain death (and thus they will pay any premium). This holds a little more water; however, it wrongfully assumes that without insurance there is no health care. Yet, the truth is that health care would exist with or without insurance; we’d just need to find a different way to pay for it. People “need” insurance – not for its own sake – but to pay for health care, because health care itself is too expensive.

    Imagine the following scenario: Oil changes for your car jump to $1,000 per oil change. Rather than be outraged with the price, we turn around and demand that auto insurance start paying for it. We then get outraged when auto insurance rates increase. Insurance isn’t without blame. Indeed, I believe that some forms of insurance are too profit driven, and/or force insureds to pay the cost when they make mistakes or act inefficiently. Yet, with that said, blaming those actors (even the bad ones) for all the problems facing health care is a huge mistake. Health insurance is not a behemoth, stomping around, forcing its will on insureds and providers. In fact, the opposite is true. Problems with the status quo arise not from the strength of the insurance market, but rather, its weakness.

    This brings us to the topic I opted to speak about, and the topic about which I write today. That this issue would be abolished by a single-payer system – at the expense of medical service providers, and thus, providers need to take action now to aid our employment based benefit plans, before they cut off their own nose to spite their own face.

    Presently, insurers (try to) negotiate with hospitals and drug companies on their own. To do this, many rely upon preferred provider organization (PPO) networks or other such programs. In exchange for agreeing to the network terms, providers are promised prompt payment, and reductions in (or elimination of) audits and other activities payers otherwise engage in when dealing with medical bills submitted by out-of-network providers. Indeed, benefit plans unilaterally calculate what the covered amount is when paying an out-of-network provider (usually resulting in the “balance” being “billed” to the patient). When paying an in-network provider, however, benefit plans are required to pay the network rate (the billed charge minus an agreed upon discount), regardless of what pricing parameters they’d usually apply to out-of-network bills. This is agreeable to the payer, meanwhile, because it means they get a discount (albeit off of inflated rates), and, more importantly, the payment is payment in full – meaning patients aren’t balance billed.

    Due to the payer’s lack of size and number of payers present, competition between payers and networks, and other elements present in our market, payers cannot “strong arm” providers. Compare this to markets where there is a single payer; when providers must agree to terms controlled by the payer, since it’s their way or no way. In other words, in a pure single-payer system, there is only one payer available – and you play by their rules, or you don’t play at all. Currently, in the United States, Medicare and Medicaid are the two “biggest” payers, and thus, it should come as no surprise that they routinely secure the best rates.

    A 2011 study found that reimbursements to some U.S. providers from public payers, such as Medicare and Medicaid, were 27 percent higher than in countries with universal coverage, and reimbursements from private payers were 70 percent higher than the Medicare payment. This tells you two things – private plans pay way more than Medicare, and Medicare pays way more than “single-payer systems.”

    What does this mean? If providers fail to offer private payers better rates soon, they will bankrupt the system. If that happens, Medicare will go from being the “biggest” payer to the “only” payer, and the rates they pay will drop accordingly.

    Why is this a problem? Because, like it or not, providers are businesses too; and if they suddenly see payments plummet to “single-payer” rates, they will take action to remain profitable. Months to have a lump examined? Hours upon hours sitting in a waiting room? Death panels? The “horror” stories we hear from other nations with single-payer systems are not shocking – they are expected. Yet, those who support a single-payer system do so because the current system is too expensive. Thus, to avoid a single-payer system, we need to make health care less expensive. How do we do that? Reduce the cost of health care, and reduce the cost of health insurance accordingly.

    Ideas for the Future

    First, many have argued (and I tend to agree) that health insurance pays for too many medical services. Routine, foreseeable services should not be “insured” events. Insurance is meant to shift risk, associated with unforeseen catastrophic events. A flu shot doesn’t fall into that category. If people paid for such costs out of their own pocket, hopefully the cost of insurance would decrease (adding cash to the individual’s assets with which they can pay for said expenses). Likewise, hopefully providers would recognize that people are paying for these services out of their own pockets, and reduce their fees accordingly. If an insurance carrier wanted to reimburse insureds for these expenses (promoting a healthy lifestyle and avoiding some catastrophic costs insurance would otherwise pay) or employers want to cover these costs as a separate and independent benefit of employment (distinct from health insurance) so be it; (cough*self-funding*cough).

    Next, we need to refocus on primary care as the gatekeeper. I’ve seen a movement toward “physician only” networks, direct primary care, and other innovative methods by which benefit plans and employers promote the use of primary care physicians, and I applaud the effort. They provide low-cost services, identify potential high-cost issues before they multiply, and steer patients to the highest quality, yet lowest cost, facilities and specialists when needed.

    Lastly, I’ve seen benefit plans attempt to remove themselves from traditional “binding” network arrangements across the board, instead using networks in a much more narrow function (contracting directly with one or two facilities in a given geographic area). By engaging with specific facilities directly, they can find common ground, and identify valuable consideration not previously considered. Between increased steerage, true exclusivity, electronic payment, prompt payment, dedicated concierge, and other services payers can offer hospitals when they limit the scope of who is included – above and beyond dollars and cents – some facilities are able to reduce their asking price to a rate that will allow the plan to survive and thrive.

    From Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to value-based pricing, from direct primary care to carving out the highest cost (yet rarest) types of care, to be negotiated case-by-case, many innovative payers are trying to cut costs and ensure their survival. The next step is getting providers to agree that such survival is good for the provider as well. Compared to the alternative, I hope they will not choose to continue biting the hands that pay them.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • When Grief Comes to Work | CA Benefit Advisors

    August 10, 2017

    Death and loss touch all of us, usually many times throughout our lives. Yet we may feel unprepared and uncomfortable when grief intrudes into our daily routines. As a manager, when grief impacts your employees it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what they are going through as well as ways you can help.

    Experiencing Grief

    Although we all experience grief in our own way, there are behaviors, emotions and physical sensations that are a common part of the mourning process. J. William Worden’s “Four Tasks of Mourning” will be experienced in some form by anyone who is grieving. These tasks include accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing and accepting our emotions, adjusting to life without the loved one, and investing emotional energy into a new and different life.

    Commonly experienced emotions are sadness, anger, frustration, guilt, shock and numbness. Physical sensations include fatigue or weakness, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and dry mouth.

    Manager’s Role

    When employees are mourning, it’s important to create a caring, supportive and professional work environment. In most cases, employees will benefit from returning to work. It allows them to resume a regular routine, focus on something besides their loss and boost their confidence by completing work tasks.

    At the same time, bereaved employees may experience many challenges when returning to work. They may have poor concentration, be extremely tired, feel depressed or have a short temper and uncontrollable emotions.

    As a manager, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the loss and maintain strong lines of communication. Even if you believe someone else is checking in with them, make sure you stay in touch and see if there is anything you can do.

    Developing a Return to Work Plan

    In order to help your employees have a smooth transition back to work you must listen and understand their needs. Some additional questions you’ll want to answer are:

    • What are your company’s policies and procedures for medical and bereavement leave?
    • What information do your employees want their co-workers to have and would they rather share this information themselves?
    • Do they want to talk about their experience or would they rather focus on work?
    • Do they need private time while at work?
    • Does their workload and schedule need to be adjusted?
    • Do they need help at home – child care, meals, house work, etc.?
    • Are there others at work that may be experiencing grief of their own?

    Helpful Responses for Managers

    • Offer specific help – make meals, wash their car, walk their pet, or anything else that will make their life easier.
    • Say something – it can be as simple as, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
    • Listen – be kind but honest.
    • Respect privacy – honor closed doors and private moments.
    • Expect tears – emotions can hit unexpectedly.
    • Thank your staff – for everything they are doing to help.

    Grieving is a necessity, not a weakness. It is how we heal and move forward. As a manager, being there for your employees during this time is important in helping them through the grieving process.

    An Employee Assistance Program is a great resource for both you and your employees when grief comes to work.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Government and Education Employers Offer Richest HSA Plans | CA Benefit Advisors

    August 4, 2017

    Across most industries, HSA contributions are, for the most part, down or unchanged from three years ago, according to UBA’s Health Plan Survey. The average employer contribution to an HSA is $474 for a single employee (down 3.5 percent from 2015 and 17.6 percent from five years ago) and $801 for a family (down 9.2 percent from last year and 13.7 percent from five years ago). Government and education employers are the only industries with average single contributions well above average and on the rise.

    Government employees had the most generous contributions for singles at $850, on average, up from $834 in 2015. This industry also has the highest employer contributions for families, on average, at $1,595 (though that is down from 1,636 in 2015). Educational employers are the next most generous, contributing $636, on average, for singles and $1,131 for families.

    Singles in the accommodation/food services industries received virtually no support from employers, with average HSA contributions at $166. The same is true for families with HSA plans in the accommodation/food services industries with average family contributions of $174.

    Retail employers also remain among the least generous contributors to single and family HSA plans, contributing $305 and $470, respectively. This may be why they have low enrollment in these plans.

    HSA Plans by Industry

    The education services industry has seen a 109 percent increase in HSA enrollment since 2013 (aided by employers’ generous contributions), catapulting the industry to the lead in HSA enrollment at 23.8 percent. The professional/scientific/tech and finance/insurance industries follow closely at 23.3 percent and 22.1 percent, respectively.

    The mining/oil/gas industry sees the lowest enrollment at 3.8 percent. The retail, hotel, and food industries continue to have some of the lowest enrollment rates despite the prevalence of these plans, indicating that these industries, in particular, may want to increase employee education efforts about these plans and how they work.

    For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by group size and region, view UBA’s “Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up”.

    Benchmarking your health plan with peers of a similar size, industry or geography makes a big difference in determining if your plan is competitive. To compare your exact plan with your peers, request a custom benchmarking report.

    For fast facts about HSA and HRA plans, including the best and worst plans, average contributions made by employers, and industry trends, download (no form!) “Fast Facts: HSAs vs. HRAs”.

    For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • So everyone is talking about it – what’s in it? Not much except a lot | CA Benefit Advisors

    July 26, 2017

    California Senate Bill 562 would create the Healthy California program “to provide universal single payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state” with the catch that “this bill would prohibit this act from becoming operative until the Secretary of California (HHS) gives written notice…that the Healthy California Trust Fund has the revenues to fund the costs of implementing the act.”  Which means they need Federal waivers to run their own Medi-Cal and related program reimbursement and also receive federal funds directly for those services, as well as tax revenue, since there will be no premiums charged, copayments, or deductibles to recipients of care under the act.  Essentially “it is further the intent of the Legislature to establish the Healthy California program to provide universal health coverage for every Californian based on his or her ability to pay and funded by broad based revenue”

    What is surprising?

    • That they intend to pay providers on a “capitated” (fixed fee) basis and that they will somehow be able to negotiate not just with all hospital systems but doctors as well. In a later section it discusses payment by fee for service (which by itself has no means of cost control) “until another payment methodology is established by the board”
    • That this includes coverage for Long Term Care – though that is related to taking over Medi-Cal, demands will be made for improvements and thus increased costs
    • “This title does not preempt any city or county from adopting additional health care coverage for residents in that city or county that provides more protections and benefits to California residents than this title”
    • Carriers seem to disappear unless they want to offer coverage that supplements what is offered here. The “good news” however, is that “the board shall provide funds from the Healthy California Trust Fund (or other funds as appropriated) for a program of retraining and assisting job transition for individuals employed or previously employed in the fields of health insurance, health care service plan and other third party payments for health care or those individuals providing services to health care providers to deal with third party payers for health care, whose jobs may be or have been ended as a result of the implementation of the program.”  So…everyone in health insurance – agents, carrier employees, third party administrators – will be given training for new jobs, paid for by taxpayers, while an entirely new bureaucracy is created, again with taxpayer dollars, to administer the new plan?
    • The program is allowed to pay for capital expenditures incurred by any non profit health facilities

    The main line – “every resident of the state shall be eligible and entitled to enroll as a member under the program” and “resident” is defined as “an individual whose primary place of abode is in the state, without regard to the individual’s immigration status”

    Most of the bill is given over the fundamentals of governance, which include appointment of a general board of 9 and then a public advisory committee with 22 assorted members.

    That’s it.  Twenty pages.  The projection of a $400 billion cost to enact and implement.  Details to follow…but when, how and what will they show?  And isn’t it a political truism that any projected cost will almost always double when it is a government project?  Money which, by the way, California does not have.

  • Extension of Maximum COBRA Coverage Period | CA Benefit Advisors

    July 19, 2017

    The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) requires employers to offer covered employees who lose their health benefits due to a qualifying event to continue group health benefits for a limited time at the employee’s own cost. The length of the COBRA coverage period depends on the qualifying event and is usually 18 or 36 months. However, the COBRA coverage period may be extended under the following five circumstances:

    1. Multiple Qualifying Events
    2. Disability
    3. Extended Notice Rule
    4. Pre-Termination or Pre-Reduction Medicare Entitlement
    5. Employer Extension; Employer Bankruptcy

    In this blog, we’ll examine the first circumstance above. For a detailed discussion of all the circumstances, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “Extension of Maximum COBRA Coverage Period”.

    When determining the coverage period under multiple qualifying events, the maximum coverage period for a loss of coverage due to a termination of employment and reduction of hours is 18 months. The maximum coverage period may be extended to 36 months if a second qualifying event or multiple qualifying events occur within the initial 18 months of COBRA coverage from the first qualifying event. The coverage period runs from the start of the original 18-month coverage period.

    The first qualifying event must be termination of employment or reduction of hours, but the second qualifying cannot be termination of employment, reduction of hours, or bankruptcy. In order to qualify for the extension, the second qualifying event must be the covered employee’s death, divorce, or child ceasing to be a dependent. In addition, the extension is only available if the second qualifying event would have caused a loss of coverage for the qualified beneficiary if it occurred first.

    The extended 36-month period is only for spouses and dependent children. In order to qualify for extended coverage, a qualified beneficiary must have elected COBRA during the first qualifying event and must have been receiving COBRA coverage at the time of the second event. The qualified beneficiary must notify the plan administrator of the second qualifying event within 60 days after the event.

    Example: Jim was terminated on June 3, 2017. Then, he got divorced on July 6, 2017. Jim was eligible for COBRA continuation coverage for 18 months after his termination of employment (the first qualifying event). However, his divorce (the second qualifying event) extended his COBRA continuation coverage to 36 months because it occurred within the initial 18 months of COBRA coverage from his termination (the first qualifying event).

    The health plan should indicate when the coverage period begins. The plan may provide that that the plan administrator be notified when plan coverage is lost as opposed to when the qualifying event occurs. In that case, the 36-month coverage period would begin on the date coverage was lost.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Why you can never trust the numbers – they’re in, they’re out, follow the bouncing results | CA Benefit Advisors

    July 14, 2017

    Almost two million people who signed up for health plans on the ACA Exchange during the 2016/17 open enrollment dropped their coverage from January 31 through March 15.

  • Are they serious about Single Payer? It appears to be the case… | CA Benefit Advisors

    July 12, 2017

    It’s not just California, but a number of states are looking to find a solution to the “problem” supposedly caused by The Affordable Care Act.  The ACA didn’t cause the problems – it merely rode the coattails of problems that have always existed.  Some blame the insurance companies, but in fact while they don’t really help they also are not the cause – costs are up, thus rates are up, and carriers have no apparent handle on any of this.  Will the government?  At least carriers are driven by a profit motive (even the nonprofits) while the government is driven more by social motives which, of themselves, aren’t bad, but they can be so inclusive as to drive costs up even more as they accommodate all the claims and demands made on the system.  The alternative, of course, is that the government is less accommodating, in which case you have a situation with cost controls that can’t be appealed and no option if you don’t like them.

    OK, here are the basics in California – the Senate has have passed a bill but now they have to figure how to pay for it (that means replacing premiums with taxes).  Initial estimates are a system cost of $400 billion, which we ain’t got.  There are proponents who counter, however, that the amount of money that will be saved from installing a Single Payer system will counteract these costs – but how?  Thus cost is the ultimate conundrum…and will determine how, if or how well a Single Payer system may work here.

    Oh, and the bill is only twenty pages…the Affordable Care Act was 2,000 (to start).  So…

  • AHCA and the Preexisting Conditions Debate—What Employers Can Do During Uncertainty | CA Benefit Advisors

    June 22, 2017

    Preexisting conditions. While it’s no doubt this term has been a hot topic in recent months—and notably misconstrued—one thing has not changed; insurers cannot deny coverage to anyone with a preexisting condition.  Now that House Resolution 1628 has moved to the Senate floor, what can employers and individuals alike expect? If passed by the Senate as is and signed into law; some provisions will take place as early as 2019—possibly 2018 for special enrollment cases. It’s instrumental for companies to gear up now with a plan on how to tackle open enrollment; regardless of whether your company offers medical coverage or not.

    Under the current proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) insurance companies can:

    • Price premiums based on health care status/age. The AHCA will provide “continuous coverage” protections to guarantee those insured are not charged more than the standard rate as long as they do not have a break in coverage. However, insurers will be allowed to underwrite certain policies for those that do lapse—hence charging up to 30% more for a preexisting condition if coverage lapses for more than 63 days. This is more common than not, especially for those who are on a leave of absence for illness or need extensive treatment. In addition, under current law, insurers are only allowed to charge individuals 50 and older 3 times as much than those under this age threshold. This ratio will increase 5:1 under AHCA.
    • Under the ACA’s current law employers must provide coverage for 10 essential health care benefits. Under AHCA, beginning as early as 2020, insurers will allow states to mandate what they consider essential benefit requirements. This could limit coverage offered to individuals and within group plans by eliminating high cost care like mental health and substance abuse. Not that it’s likely, but large employers could eventually opt out whether they want to provide insurance and/or choose the types of coverage they will provide to their employees.

    It’s important to note that states must apply for waivers to increase the ratio on insurance premiums due to age, and determine what they will cover for essential health benefits. In order to have these waivers granted, they would need to provide extensive details on how doing so will help their state and the marketplace.

    So what can employers do moving forward? It’s not too soon to think about changing up your benefits package as open enrollment approaches, and educating yourself and your staff on AHCA and what resources are out there if you don’t offer health coverage.

    • Make a variety of supplemental tools available to your employees. Anticipate the coming changes by offering or adding more supplemental insurance and tools to your benefits package come open enrollment. Voluntary worksite benefits, such as Cancer, Critical Illness, and Accident Insurance handle a variety of services at no out-of-pocket cost to the employer. HSA’s FSA’s and HRA’s are also valuable supplemental tools to provide your employees if you’re able to do so. Along with the changes listed above, the AHCA has proposed to also increase the contribution amounts in these plans and will allow these plans to cover Over-the-Counter (OTC) medications.
    • Continue to customize wellness programs. Most companies offer wellness programs for their employees. Employers that provide this option should continue advancing in this area. Addressing the specific needs of your employees and providing wellness through various platforms will result in the greatest return on investment; and healthier employees to boot. Couple this with frequent evaluations from your staff on your current program to determine effectiveness and keep your wellness programs on point.
    • Educate, educate, educate—through technology. Regardless if you employ 10 or 10,000, understanding benefit options is vital for your employees; what you have to offer them and what they may need to know on their own. Digital platforms allow individuals to manage their healthcare benefits and stay in the know with valuable resources at their fingertips. There’s no limit on the mediums available to educate your employees on upcoming changes. Partnering with a strong benefit agency to maximize these resources and keep your employees “in the know” during a constantly changing insurance market is a great way to start.

  • HSAs and Employer Responsibilities | CA Benefit Advisors

    June 2, 2017

    It’s no secret that one of the primary agenda items of the new Republican administration is to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and to sign into law a plan that they feel will be more effective in managing health care costs. Their initial attempt at a new plan, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), included an increased focus on leveraging health savings accounts (HSAs) to accomplish this goal. As the plan gets debated and modified in Congress, we do not know whether the role of HSAs will be expanded or not, but they will continue to be a part of the landscape in some shape or form.

    HSAs first came into existence in 2003 and they have been gaining momentum as a way to deal with increasing health care costs ever since. If you, as a plan sponsor, do not already offer a health plan compatible with an HSA, chances are you’ve at least discussed them during your annual plan reviews. So, what exactly is an HSA and what is an employer’s responsibility relating to one?

    An HSA is a tax-favored account established by an individual to pay for certain medical expenses incurred by account holders and their spouses and tax dependents. Anyone can make a contribution to an eligible Individual’s HSA. This includes the individual’s employer. However, if employers contribute to participant HSAs, employers must:

    1. Ensure their health plan meets high-deductible health plan (HDHP) requirements,
    2. Determine eligibility,
    3. Establish contribution method,
    4. Provide W-2 reporting, and
    5. Confirm employer involvement in the HSA does not create an ERISA plan, or cause a prohibited transaction.

    High-Deductible Health Plan Requirements

    Plan sponsors should make sure their plan meets certain HDHP requirements before making contributions to participants’ HSAs.

    Characteristics of an HDHP

    An HDHP is a health plan that has statutorily prescribed minimum deductible and maximum out-of-pocket limits. The limits are adjusted annually for inflation.

    For example, for 2017, the limits for self-only coverage are:

    • Minimum Deductible: $1,300
    • Maximum Out-of-Pocket: $6,550

    The limits for family coverage (i.e., any coverage other than self-only coverage) are twice the applicable amounts for self-only coverage. The limits are adjusted annually for inflation and, for a given year, are published by the IRS no later than June 1 of the preceding year. In addition, an HDHP cannot pay any benefits until the deductible is met. The only exception to this rule is benefits for preventive care.

    Eligibility

    Eligible Individuals can make or receive contributions to their HSAs. A person is an eligible individual if he or she is covered by an HDHP and is not covered by any other plan that pays medical benefits, subject to certain exceptions.

    Employer Contribution Methods

    Employers that contribute to the HSAs of their employees may do so inside or outside of a cafeteria (Section 125) plan. The contribution rules are different for each option.

    Contributions Outside of a Cafeteria Plan

    When contributing to any employee’s HSA outside of a cafeteria plan, an employer must make comparable contributions to the HSAs of all comparable participating employees.

    Contributions Made Through a Cafeteria Plan

    HSA contributions made through a cafeteria plan do not have to satisfy the comparability rules, but are subject to the Section 125 non-discrimination rules for cafeteria plans. HSA employer contributions will be treated as being made through a cafeteria plan if the cafeteria plan permits employees to make pre-tax salary reduction contributions.

    Employer HSA Contribution Amounts

    Contributions from all sources cannot exceed certain annual limits prescribed by the IRS. Although employer contributions cannot exceed the applicable limits, employers are only responsible for determining the following with respect to an employee’s eligibility and maximum annual contribution limit on HSA contributions:

    • Whether the employee is covered under an HDHP or low-deductible health plan, or plans (including health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) sponsored by that employer; and
    • The employee’s age (for catch-up contributions). The employer may rely on the employee’s representation as to his or her date of birth.

    When employers contribute to the HSAs of their employees and retirees, the amount of the contribution is excludable from the eligible individual’s income and is deductible by the employer provided they do not exceed the applicable limit. Withholding for income tax, FICA, FUTA, or RRTA taxes is not required if, at the time of the contribution, the employer reasonably believes that contribution will be excludable from the employee’s income.

    Employer Reporting Requirements

    An employer must report the amount of its contribution to an employee’s HSA in Box 12 of the employee’s W-2 using code W.

    Design and Operational Considerations

    Employers should make sure that their involvement in the HSA does not create an ERISA plan, or cause them to become involved in a prohibited transaction. To ensure that contributions will not cause the health plan to become subject to ERISA, certain restrictions exist that employers should be aware of and follow. Employer contributions to an HSA will not cause the employer to have established a health plan subject to ERISA provided:

    • The establishment of the HSA is completely voluntary on the part of the employees; and
    • The employer does not:
      • limit the ability of eligible individuals to move their funds to another HSA or impose conditions on utilization of HSA funds beyond those permitted under the code;
      • make or influence the investment decisions with respect to funds contributed to an HSA;
      • represent that the HSA is an employee welfare benefit plan established or maintained by the employer;
      • or receive any payment or compensation in connection with an HSA.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Why some companies offer an HRA | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 26, 2017

    In a world of insurance and acronyms, the term “HRA” is thrown around a lot, but it has a variety of meanings.

    HRA can mean health reimbursement account, heath reimbursement arrangement, or health risk assessment, and all of those mean something different. I want to be clear that in the following article I am going to be discussing the use of health reimbursement accounts with fully-insured health plans. We can leave the other meanings of HRA for another time.

    An HRA can be “wrapped” with a high-deductible, fully-insured health plan and this can lead to savings for an employer over offering a traditional health plan with a lower deductible.

    Offering a high-deductible health plan and self-funding, the first $2,000, or $3,000, in claims on behalf of the employees can translate to significant savings because the employer is taking on that initial risk instead of the insurance carrier. Unlike a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) that has a high deductible and can be paired with a health savings account (HSA) where an employer can contribute funds to an employee’s HSA account that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, an employer only has to pay out of the HRA if there is a claim.

    With an HSA that is funded by the employer, the money goes into the HSA for their employees and then those funds are “owned” by the employee. The employer never sees it again. Under an HRA, if there are no claims, or not a high number of claims, the employer keeps those unused dollars in their pocket.

    An HRA component to a health plan is subject to ERISA and non-discrimination rules, meaning everyone that is eligible should be offered the plan, and the benefits under the HRA should be the same for everyone enrolled. It is advisable that an HRA be administered by a third-party that pays the claims to the providers, or reimburse plan enrollees under the terms of the plan, in order to keep employees’ and their dependents’ medical information private from the employer as to avoid potential discrimination.

    The HRA component of a health plan is essentially self-funded by the employer, which gives the employer a lot of flexibility and can be tailored to their specific needs or desired outcomes. The employer can choose to fund claims after the employee pays the first few hundred dollars of their deductible instead of the employer paying the claims that are initially subject to the high deductible. An employer can have a step arrangement, for example, the employer pays the first $500, the employee the second $500, the employer pays the next $500, and the employee pays the final $500 of a $2,000 deductible.

    If an employer has a young population that is healthy, they may want to use the HRA to pay for emergency room visits and hospital in-patient stays, but not office visits so they can help protect their employees from having to pay those “large ticket items,” but not blow their budget. While an employer with a more seasoned staff, or diverse population, may want to include prescription drugs as a covered benefit under the HRA, as well as office visits, hospital in-patient stays, outpatient surgery, etc. Or, if an employer needs to look at cost-saving measures, they may want to exclude prescriptions from being eligible under the HRA.

    Keep in mind, all of these services are essential health benefits and would be covered by the insurance carrier under the terms of the contract, but an employer can choose not to allow the HRA to be used to pay for such services, leaving the enrollee to pay their portion of the claims. In any case, the parameters of what is eligible for reimbursement from the HRA is decided and outlined at the beginning of the plan year and cannot be changed prior to the end of the plan year.

    If you are thinking about implementing a high-deductible health plan with an HRA for your employees, be sure you are doing it as a long-term strategy. As is the case with self-funding, you are going to have good years and bad years. On average, a company will experience a bad, or high claims, year out of every four to five years. So, if you implement your new plan and you have a bad year on the first go-round, don’t give up. Chances are the next year will be better, and you will see savings over your traditional low-deductible plan options.

    With an HRA, you cap the amount you are going to potentially spend for each enrollee, per year. So, you know your worst-case scenario. While it is extremely unlikely that every one of your employees will use the entire amount allotted to them, it is recommended that you can absorb or handle the worst case scenario. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

    HRA administrators usually charge a monthly rate per enrollee for their services, and this should be accounted for in the budgeting process. Different HRA third-party administrators have different claims processes, online platforms, debit cards, and business hours. Be sure to use one that offers the services that you want and are on budget.

    Another aspect of offering a high-deductible plan with an HRA that is often overlooked is communication. If an employee does not know how to utilize their plan, it can create confusion and anger, which can hurt the overall company morale. The plan has to be laid out and explained in a way that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

    In some cases, the HRA is administered by someone other than the insurance carrier, and the plan administrator has to make sure they enroll all plan enrollees with the carrier and the third-party administrator.

    The COBRA administrator also has to offer the HRA as part of the COBRA package, and the third-party administrator must communicate the appropriate premium for the HRA under COBRA. Most COBRA enrollees will not choose to enroll in the HRA with their medical plan, as they are essentially self-funding their deductible and plan costs through the HRA instead of paying them out of their pocket, but many plan administrators make the mistake of not offering the HRA under COBRA, as it is mandated by law.

    Offering a high-deductible plan with an HRA is a way for small employers to save over offering a low-deductible health plan, and can be a way for an employer to “test the waters” to see if they may want to move to a self-funded plan, or level-funded plan, in the future.

    To any employer looking to implement an HRA with a medical plan, you want a seasoned advisor, or consultant, on your side to walk you through the costs, pros, and cons, potential savings, and risks. Your local UBA Partner Firm is a great place to start.

    For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

    For information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans, read our breaking news release.

    For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by industry, region and group size, view UBA’s “Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up”, to understand which aspects of these accounts are most successful, and least successful.

    For fast facts about HSA and HRA plans, including the best and worst plans, average contributions made by employers, and industry trends, download (no form!) “Fast Facts: HSAs vs. HRAs”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • HSAs vs. HRAs: Things Employers Should Consider | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 24, 2017

    With health care costs and insurance premiums continuing to rise, employers are looking for ways to reduce their insurance expenses. That usually means increasing medical plan deductibles. According to the latest UBA Health Plan Survey, the average in-network single medical plan deductible increased from $2,031 in 2015 to $2,127 in 2016. But shifting costs to employees can be detrimental to an employer’s efforts to attract and retain top talent. Employers are looking for solutions that reduce their costs while minimizing the impact on employees.

    One way employers can mitigate increasing deductibles is by packaging a high-deductible health plan with either a health savings account (HSA) contribution or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Either can be used to bridge some or all of the gap between a lower deductible and a higher deductible while reducing insurance premiums, and both offer tax benefits for employers and employees. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach that employers need to consider.

    Health Savings Account (HSA) General Attributes

    • The employee owns the account and can take it when changing jobs.
    • HSA contributions can be made by the employer or employee, subject to a maximum contribution established by the government.
    • Triple tax advantage – funds go in tax-free, accounts grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are for qualified expenses (see IRS publication 502).
    • Funds may accumulate for years and be used during retirement.
    • The HSA must be paired with an IRS qualified high-deductible health plan (QHDHP); not just any plan with a deductible of $1,300 or more will qualify.

    HSA Advantages

    • Costs are more predictable as they are not related to actual expenses, which can vary from year to year; contributions may also be spread out through the year to improve cash flow.
    • Employees become better consumers since there is an incentive to not spend the money and let it accumulate. This can result in an immediate reduction in claims costs for a self-funded plan.
    • HSAs can be set up with fewer administration costs; usually no administrator is needed, and no ERISA summary plan description (SPD) is needed.
    • The employer is not held responsible by the IRS for ensuring that the employee is eligible and that the contribution maximums are not exceeded.

    HSA Disadvantages

    • Employees cannot participate if they’re also covered under a non-qualified health plan, which includes Tricare, Medicare, or even a spouse’s flexible spending account (FSA).
    • Employees accustomed to copays for office visits or prescriptions may be unhappy with the benefits of the QHDHP.
    • IRS rules can be confusing; IRS penalties may apply if the employee is ineligible for a contribution or other mistakes are made, which might intimidate employees.
    • Employees may forgo treatment to avoid spending their HSA balance or if they have no HSA funds available.

    Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) General Attributes

    • Only an employer can contribute to an HRA; employees cannot.
    • The employer controls the cash until a claim is filed by the employee for reimbursement.
    • HRA contributions are tax deductible to the employer and tax-free to the employee.
    • To comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), an HRA must be combined with a group medical insurance plan that meets ACA requirements.

    HRA Advantages

    • HRAs offer more employer control and flexibility on the design of the HRA and the health plan does not need to be HSA qualified.
    • The employer can set it up as “use it or lose it” each year, thus reducing funding costs.
    • An HRA is compatible with an FSA (not just limited-purpose FSA).
    • Depending on the employer group, HRAs can sometimes be less confusing for employees, particularly if the plan design is simple.
    • HRA funds revert to the employer when an employee leaves – which might increase employee retention.

    HRA Disadvantages

    • Self-employed individuals cannot participate in HRA funding.
    • There is little or no incentive for employees to control utilization since funds may not accumulate from year to year.
    • More administration may be necessary – HRAs are subject to ERISA and COBRA laws.
    • HRAs could raise HIPAA privacy concerns and create the need for policies and testing.

    Both HSAs and HRAs can be of tremendous value to employers and employees. As shown, there are, however, a number of considerations to determine the best program and design for each situation. In some cases, employers may consider offering both, allowing employees to choose between an HSA contribution and a comparable HRA contribution, according to their individual circumstances.

    For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor,  “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

    For information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans, read our breaking news release.

    For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by industry, region and group size, view UBA’s “Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up”, to understand which aspects of these accounts are most successful, and least successful.

    For fast facts about HSA and HRA plans, including the best and worst plans, average contributions made by employers, and industry trends, download (no form!) “Fast Facts: HSAs vs. HRAs”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Is Your Wellness Program Compliant with the ACA, GINA and EEOC? | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 20, 2017

    Workplace wellness programs have increased popularity through the years. According to the most recent UBA Health Plan Survey, 49 percent of firms with 200+ employees offering health benefits in 2016 offered wellness programs. Workplace wellness programs’ popularity also brought controversy and hefty discussions about what works to improve population health and which programs comply with the complex legal standards of multiple institutions that have not really “talked” to each other in the past. To “add wood to the fire,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made public some legal actions that shook the core of the wellness industry, such as EEOC vs. Honeywell International, and EEOC vs. Orion Energy Systems.

    To ensure a wellness program is compliant with the ACA, GINA and the EEOC, let’s first understand what each one of these institutions are.

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in March 2010 during the Obama presidency. It has three primary goals: to make health insurance available to more people, to expand the Medicaid program, and to support innovative medical care delivery methods to lower the cost of healthcare overall.1 The ACA carries provisions that support the development of wellness programs and determines all rules around them.

    The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. GINA relates to wellness programs in different ways, but it particularly relates to the gathering of genetic information via a health risk assessment.

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. In 2017, the EEOC issued a final rule to amend the regulations implementing Title II of GINA as they relate to employer-sponsored wellness program. This rule addresses the extent to which an employer may offer incentives to employees and spouses.

    Here is some advice to ensure your wellness program is compliant with multiple guidelines.

    1. Make sure your wellness program is “reasonably designed” and voluntary – This means that your program’s main goal should be to promote health and prevent disease for all equally. Additionally, it should not be burdensome for individuals to participate or receive the incentive. This means you must offer reasonable alternatives for qualifying for the incentive, especially for individuals whose medical conditions make it unreasonably difficult to meet specific health-related standards. I always recommend wellness programs be as simple as possible, and before making a change or decision in the wellness program, identify all difficult or unfair situations that might arise from this change, and then run them by your company’s legal counsel and modify the program accordingly before implementing it. An example of a wellness program that is NOT reasonably designed is a program offering a health risk assessment and biometric screening without providing results or follow-up information and advice. A wellness program is also NOT reasonably designed if exists merely to shift costs from an employer to employees based on their health.
    2. Do the math! – Recent rules implemented changes in the ACA that increased the maximum permissible wellness program reward from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of self-only health coverage (50 percent if the program includes tobacco cessation). Although the final rules are not clear on incentives for spouses, it is expected that, for wellness programs that apply to employees and their spouses, the maximum incentive for either the employee or spouse will be 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage. In case an employer offers more than one group health plan but participation in a wellness program is open to all employees regardless of whether they are enrolled in a plan, the employer may offer a maximum incentive of 30 percent of the lowest cost major medical self-only plan it offers. As an example, if a single plan costs $4,000, the maximum incentive would be $1,200.
    3. Provide a notice to all eligible to participate in your wellness program – The EEOC made it easy for everyone and posted a sample notice online at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/ada-wellness-notice.cfm. Your notice should include information on the incentive amount you are offering for different programs, how you maintain privacy and security of all protected health information (PHI) as well as who to contact if participants have question or concerns.
    4. If using a HRA (health risk assessment), do not include family medical history questions – The EEOC final rule, which expands on GINA’s rules, makes it clear that “an employer is permitted to request information about the current or past health status of an employee’s spouse who is completing a HRA on a voluntary basis, as long as the employer follows GINA rules about requesting genetic information when offering health or genetic services. These rules include requirements that the spouse provide prior, knowing, written, and voluntary authorization for the employer to collect genetic information, just as the employee must do, and that inducements in exchange for this information are limited.”2 Due to the complexity and “gray areas” this item can reach, my recommendation is to keep it simple and to leave genetic services and genetic counseling out of a comprehensive wellness program.

    WellSteps, a nationwide wellness provider, has a useful tool that everyone can use. Their “wellness compliance checker” should not substituted for qualified legal advice, but can be useful for a high level check on how compliant your wellness program is. You can access it at https://www.wellsteps.com/resources/tools.

    I often stress the need for all wellness programs to build a strong foundation, which starts with the company’s and leaders’ messages. Your company should launch a wellness program because you value and care about your employees’ (and their families’) health and well-being. Everything you do and say should reflect this philosophy. While I always recommend companies to carefully review all regulations around wellness, I do believe that if your wellness program has a strong foundation based on your corporate social responsibility and your passion for building a healthy workplace, you most likely will be within the walls of all these rules. At the end, a workplace that does wellness the right way has employees who are not motivated by financial incentives, but by their intrinsic motivation to be the best they can be as well as their acceptance that we all must be responsible for our own health, and that all corporations should be responsible for providing the best environment and opportunities for employees to do so.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Financial Wellness Benefits – Adapting Them In The New Workforce | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 17, 2017

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in Financial Wellness Programs. Actually, as indicated in a recent report by Aon Hewitt, 77% of mid- to large-size companies will provide at least one financial wellness service in 2017; with 52% of employers providing services in more than 3 financial categories. So what are the advantages of these programs and how can the current workforce make the most out of them?

    Program Advantages

    • They educate employees on financial management. It’s no doubt, poor income management and cash-flow decisions increase financial stress. This stress has a direct impact on an employee’s physical, mental and emotional state—all which can lead to productivity issues, increased absenteeism, and rising healthcare costs. Financial wellness tools in the workplace can not only support employees in various areas of their finances by expanding income capacity, but can create long-lasting changes in their financial habits as well.
    • They give a foothold to the employer. As more employers are recognizing the effect financial stress has on their employees in the workplace, they’re jumping on board with these programs. As people are extending the length of their careers, benefits like these are an attractive feature to the workforce and new job seekers alike. In fact, according to a recent survey by TIAA, respondents were more likely to consider employment with companies who provide free financial advice as part of their benefit package.

    Program Credentials

    While financial wellness benefits may differ among companies, one thing is certain—there are key factors employers should consider when establishing a successful program. They should:

    • Give sound, unbiased advice. Financial wellness benefits should be free to the employee—no strings attached. Employees should not be solicited by financial institutions or financial companies that only want to seek a profit for services. Employers should research companies when shopping these programs to determine the right fit for their culture.
    • Encompass all facets. A successful program should cover all aspects of financial planning, and target all demographics. These programs should run the gamut, providing resources for those with serious debt issues to those who seek advanced estate planning and asset protection. Services should include both short-term to long-term options that fit with the company’s size and culture. Popular programs implement a variety of tools. Employers should integrate these tools with other benefits to make it as seamless as possible for their employees to use.
    • Detail financial wellness as a process, not an event. Strengthening financial prosperity is a process. When determining the right fit for your company, continued coaching and support is a must. This may require evaluating the program and services offered every year. Employees need to know that while they have the initial benefit of making a one-time change, additional tools are at their disposal to shift their financial mindset; strengthening their financial habits and behaviors down the road.

    Employees must understand the value Financial Wellness Programs can provide to them as well. If your company offers these benefits, keep a few things in mind:

    • Maximize the program’s services. Utilize your financial workplace benefits to tackle life’s financial challenges. Most programs offer financial mentoring through various mediums. Seek advice on your financial issues and allow a coach/mentor to provide you with practical strategies, alternatives and actionable steps to reduce your financial stress.
    • Take advantage of other employee benefits. Incorporate other benefits into your financial wellness program. Use financial resources to help you run projections and monitor your 401k. Budget your healthcare costs with these tools. Research indicates those who tap into these financial wellness programs often are more likely to stay on track than those who don’t.
    • Evaluate your progress. Strengthening your financial well-being is a process. If your employer’s financial wellness program provides various tools to monitor your finances, use them. Weigh your progress yearly and take advantage of any support groups, webinars, or individual one-on-one counseling sessions offered by these programs.

    As the workforce continues to evolve, managing these programs and resources effectively is an important aspect for both parties. Providing and utilizing a strong, effective Financial Wellness Benefits Program will set the foundation for a lifetime of financial well-being.

     

  • House Passes AHCA Bill in First Step to Repeal and Replace the ACA | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 6, 2017

    On May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1628, a reconciliation bill aimed at “repealing and replacing” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill, titled the “American Health Care Act of 2017” or “AHCA,” will now be sent to the Senate for debate, where amendments can be made, prior to the Senate voting on the bill.

    It is widely anticipated that in its current state the AHCA is unlikely to pass the Senate. Employers should continue to monitor the text of the bill and should refrain from implementing any changes to group health plans in response to the current version of the AHCA.

    The AHCA makes numerous changes to current law, much of which impact the individual market, Medicare, and Medicaid. Some provisions in the AHCA also impact employer group health plans. For example, the AHCA removes both the individual and the employer shared responsibility penalties. The AHCA also pushes implementation of the Cadillac tax to 2025 and permits states to waive essential health benefit (EHB) requirements.

    The AHCA removes the $2,500 contribution limit to flexible health spending accounts (FSAs) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. It also changes the maximum contribution limits to health savings accounts (HSAs) to the amount of the accompanying high deductible health plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket limitation. The AHCA also provides for both spouses to make catch-up contributions to HSAs.

    The AHCA provides for a “continuous health insurance coverage incentive,” which will allow health insurers to charge policyholders an amount equal to 30 percent of the monthly premium in the individual and small group market, if the individual failed to have creditable coverage for 63 or more days during an applicable 12-month look-back period. This provision is slated to begin in 2019, or in the case of a special enrollment period, beginning in plan year 2018. The AHCA also allows states to obtain a waiver and underwrite policies for individuals who do not maintain continuous coverage.

    The AHCA would also return permissible age band rating (for purposes of calculating health plan premiums) to the pre-ACA ratio of 5:1, rather than the ACA’s 3:1. This allows older individuals to be charged up to five times more than what younger individuals pay for the same policy, rather than up to the ACA limit of three times more.

    It is unknown at this time if the AHCA can pass the Senate, or what might be changed in the text of the bill in order to earn votes in an attempt to pass the bill.

    By Danielle Capilla
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • 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.
  • Why some companies offer an HRA | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 26, 2017

    In a world of insurance and acronyms, the term “HRA” is thrown around a lot, but it has a variety of meanings.

    HRA can mean health reimbursement account, heath reimbursement arrangement, or health risk assessment, and all of those mean something different. I want to be clear that in the following article I am going to be discussing the use of health reimbursement accounts with fully-insured health plans. We can leave the other meanings of HRA for another time.

    An HRA can be “wrapped” with a high-deductible, fully-insured health plan and this can lead to savings for an employer over offering a traditional health plan with a lower deductible.

    Offering a high-deductible health plan and self-funding, the first $2,000, or $3,000, in claims on behalf of the employees can translate to significant savings because the employer is taking on that initial risk instead of the insurance carrier. Unlike a consumer-driven health plan (CDHP) that has a high deductible and can be paired with a health savings account (HSA) where an employer can contribute funds to an employee’s HSA account that can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses, an employer only has to pay out of the HRA if there is a claim.

    With an HSA that is funded by the employer, the money goes into the HSA for their employees and then those funds are “owned” by the employee. The employer never sees it again. Under an HRA, if there are no claims, or not a high number of claims, the employer keeps those unused dollars in their pocket.

    An HRA component to a health plan is subject to ERISA and non-discrimination rules, meaning everyone that is eligible should be offered the plan, and the benefits under the HRA should be the same for everyone enrolled. It is advisable that an HRA be administered by a third-party that pays the claims to the providers, or reimburse plan enrollees under the terms of the plan, in order to keep employees’ and their dependents’ medical information private from the employer as to avoid potential discrimination.

    The HRA component of a health plan is essentially self-funded by the employer, which gives the employer a lot of flexibility and can be tailored to their specific needs or desired outcomes. The employer can choose to fund claims after the employee pays the first few hundred dollars of their deductible instead of the employer paying the claims that are initially subject to the high deductible. An employer can have a step arrangement, for example, the employer pays the first $500, the employee the second $500, the employer pays the next $500, and the employee pays the final $500 of a $2,000 deductible.

    If an employer has a young population that is healthy, they may want to use the HRA to pay for emergency room visits and hospital in-patient stays, but not office visits so they can help protect their employees from having to pay those “large ticket items,” but not blow their budget. While an employer with a more seasoned staff, or diverse population, may want to include prescription drugs as a covered benefit under the HRA, as well as office visits, hospital in-patient stays, outpatient surgery, etc. Or, if an employer needs to look at cost-saving measures, they may want to exclude prescriptions from being eligible under the HRA.

    Keep in mind, all of these services are essential health benefits and would be covered by the insurance carrier under the terms of the contract, but an employer can choose not to allow the HRA to be used to pay for such services, leaving the enrollee to pay their portion of the claims. In any case, the parameters of what is eligible for reimbursement from the HRA is decided and outlined at the beginning of the plan year and cannot be changed prior to the end of the plan year.

    If you are thinking about implementing a high-deductible health plan with an HRA for your employees, be sure you are doing it as a long-term strategy. As is the case with self-funding, you are going to have good years and bad years. On average, a company will experience a bad, or high claims, year out of every four to five years. So, if you implement your new plan and you have a bad year on the first go-round, don’t give up. Chances are the next year will be better, and you will see savings over your traditional low-deductible plan options.

    With an HRA, you cap the amount you are going to potentially spend for each enrollee, per year. So, you know your worst-case scenario. While it is extremely unlikely that every one of your employees will use the entire amount allotted to them, it is recommended that you can absorb or handle the worst case scenario. Don’t bite off more than you can chew!

    HRA administrators usually charge a monthly rate per enrollee for their services, and this should be accounted for in the budgeting process. Different HRA third-party administrators have different claims processes, online platforms, debit cards, and business hours. Be sure to use one that offers the services that you want and are on budget.

    Another aspect of offering a high-deductible plan with an HRA that is often overlooked is communication. If an employee does not know how to utilize their plan, it can create confusion and anger, which can hurt the overall company morale. The plan has to be laid out and explained in a way that is clear, concise, and easy to understand.

    In some cases, the HRA is administered by someone other than the insurance carrier, and the plan administrator has to make sure they enroll all plan enrollees with the carrier and the third-party administrator.

    The COBRA administrator also has to offer the HRA as part of the COBRA package, and the third-party administrator must communicate the appropriate premium for the HRA under COBRA. Most COBRA enrollees will not choose to enroll in the HRA with their medical plan, as they are essentially self-funding their deductible and plan costs through the HRA instead of paying them out of their pocket, but many plan administrators make the mistake of not offering the HRA under COBRA, as it is mandated by law.

    Offering a high-deductible plan with an HRA is a way for small employers to save over offering a low-deductible health plan, and can be a way for an employer to “test the waters” to see if they may want to move to a self-funded plan, or level-funded plan, in the future.

    To any employer looking to implement an HRA with a medical plan, you want a seasoned advisor, or consultant, on your side to walk you through the costs, pros, and cons, potential savings, and risks. Your local UBA Partner Firm is a great place to start.

    For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

    For information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans, read our breaking news release.

    For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by industry, region and group size, view UBA’s “Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up”, to understand which aspects of these accounts are most successful, and least successful.

    For fast facts about HSA and HRA plans, including the best and worst plans, average contributions made by employers, and industry trends, download (no form!) “Fast Facts: HSAs vs. HRAs”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • HSAs vs. HRAs: Things Employers Should Consider | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 24, 2017

    With health care costs and insurance premiums continuing to rise, employers are looking for ways to reduce their insurance expenses. That usually means increasing medical plan deductibles. According to the latest UBA Health Plan Survey, the average in-network single medical plan deductible increased from $2,031 in 2015 to $2,127 in 2016. But shifting costs to employees can be detrimental to an employer’s efforts to attract and retain top talent. Employers are looking for solutions that reduce their costs while minimizing the impact on employees.

    One way employers can mitigate increasing deductibles is by packaging a high-deductible health plan with either a health savings account (HSA) contribution or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Either can be used to bridge some or all of the gap between a lower deductible and a higher deductible while reducing insurance premiums, and both offer tax benefits for employers and employees. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to each approach that employers need to consider.

    Health Savings Account (HSA) General Attributes

    • The employee owns the account and can take it when changing jobs.
    • HSA contributions can be made by the employer or employee, subject to a maximum contribution established by the government.
    • Triple tax advantage – funds go in tax-free, accounts grow tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free as long as they are for qualified expenses (see IRS publication 502).
    • Funds may accumulate for years and be used during retirement.
    • The HSA must be paired with an IRS qualified high-deductible health plan (QHDHP); not just any plan with a deductible of $1,300 or more will qualify.

    HSA Advantages

    • Costs are more predictable as they are not related to actual expenses, which can vary from year to year; contributions may also be spread out through the year to improve cash flow.
    • Employees become better consumers since there is an incentive to not spend the money and let it accumulate. This can result in an immediate reduction in claims costs for a self-funded plan.
    • HSAs can be set up with fewer administration costs; usually no administrator is needed, and no ERISA summary plan description (SPD) is needed.
    • The employer is not held responsible by the IRS for ensuring that the employee is eligible and that the contribution maximums are not exceeded.

    HSA Disadvantages

    • Employees cannot participate if they’re also covered under a non-qualified health plan, which includes Tricare, Medicare, or even a spouse’s flexible spending account (FSA).
    • Employees accustomed to copays for office visits or prescriptions may be unhappy with the benefits of the QHDHP.
    • IRS rules can be confusing; IRS penalties may apply if the employee is ineligible for a contribution or other mistakes are made, which might intimidate employees.
    • Employees may forgo treatment to avoid spending their HSA balance or if they have no HSA funds available.

    Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) General Attributes

    • Only an employer can contribute to an HRA; employees cannot.
    • The employer controls the cash until a claim is filed by the employee for reimbursement.
    • HRA contributions are tax deductible to the employer and tax-free to the employee.
    • To comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), an HRA must be combined with a group medical insurance plan that meets ACA requirements.

    HRA Advantages

    • HRAs offer more employer control and flexibility on the design of the HRA and the health plan does not need to be HSA qualified.
    • The employer can set it up as “use it or lose it” each year, thus reducing funding costs.
    • An HRA is compatible with an FSA (not just limited-purpose FSA).
    • Depending on the employer group, HRAs can sometimes be less confusing for employees, particularly if the plan design is simple.
    • HRA funds revert to the employer when an employee leaves – which might increase employee retention.

    HRA Disadvantages

    • Self-employed individuals cannot participate in HRA funding.
    • There is little or no incentive for employees to control utilization since funds may not accumulate from year to year.
    • More administration may be necessary – HRAs are subject to ERISA and COBRA laws.
    • HRAs could raise HIPAA privacy concerns and create the need for policies and testing.

    Both HSAs and HRAs can be of tremendous value to employers and employees. As shown, there are, however, a number of considerations to determine the best program and design for each situation. In some cases, employers may consider offering both, allowing employees to choose between an HSA contribution and a comparable HRA contribution, according to their individual circumstances.

    For a comprehensive chart that compares eligibility criteria, contribution rules, reimbursement rules, reporting requirements, privacy requirements, applicable fees, non-discrimination rules and other characteristics of account-based plans, request UBA’s Compliance Advisor,  “HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?”.

    For information on modest contribution strategies that are still driving enrollment in HSA and HRA plans, read our breaking news release.

    For a detailed look at the prevalence and enrollment rates among HSA and HRA plans by industry, region and group size, view UBA’s “Special Report: How Health Savings Accounts Measure Up”, to understand which aspects of these accounts are most successful, and least successful.

    For fast facts about HSA and HRA plans, including the best and worst plans, average contributions made by employers, and industry trends, download (no form!) “Fast Facts: HSAs vs. HRAs”.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Is Your Wellness Program Compliant with the ACA, GINA and EEOC? | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 20, 2017

    Workplace wellness programs have increased popularity through the years. According to the most recent UBA Health Plan Survey, 49 percent of firms with 200+ employees offering health benefits in 2016 offered wellness programs. Workplace wellness programs’ popularity also brought controversy and hefty discussions about what works to improve population health and which programs comply with the complex legal standards of multiple institutions that have not really “talked” to each other in the past. To “add wood to the fire,” the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made public some legal actions that shook the core of the wellness industry, such as EEOC vs. Honeywell International, and EEOC vs. Orion Energy Systems.

    To ensure a wellness program is compliant with the ACA, GINA and the EEOC, let’s first understand what each one of these institutions are.

    The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in March 2010 during the Obama presidency. It has three primary goals: to make health insurance available to more people, to expand the Medicaid program, and to support innovative medical care delivery methods to lower the cost of healthcare overall.1 The ACA carries provisions that support the development of wellness programs and determines all rules around them.

    The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) is a federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. GINA relates to wellness programs in different ways, but it particularly relates to the gathering of genetic information via a health risk assessment.

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that administers and enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. In 2017, the EEOC issued a final rule to amend the regulations implementing Title II of GINA as they relate to employer-sponsored wellness program. This rule addresses the extent to which an employer may offer incentives to employees and spouses.

    Here is some advice to ensure your wellness program is compliant with multiple guidelines.

    1. Make sure your wellness program is “reasonably designed” and voluntary – This means that your program’s main goal should be to promote health and prevent disease for all equally. Additionally, it should not be burdensome for individuals to participate or receive the incentive. This means you must offer reasonable alternatives for qualifying for the incentive, especially for individuals whose medical conditions make it unreasonably difficult to meet specific health-related standards. I always recommend wellness programs be as simple as possible, and before making a change or decision in the wellness program, identify all difficult or unfair situations that might arise from this change, and then run them by your company’s legal counsel and modify the program accordingly before implementing it. An example of a wellness program that is NOT reasonably designed is a program offering a health risk assessment and biometric screening without providing results or follow-up information and advice. A wellness program is also NOT reasonably designed if exists merely to shift costs from an employer to employees based on their health.
    2. Do the math! – Recent rules implemented changes in the ACA that increased the maximum permissible wellness program reward from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of self-only health coverage (50 percent if the program includes tobacco cessation). Although the final rules are not clear on incentives for spouses, it is expected that, for wellness programs that apply to employees and their spouses, the maximum incentive for either the employee or spouse will be 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage. In case an employer offers more than one group health plan but participation in a wellness program is open to all employees regardless of whether they are enrolled in a plan, the employer may offer a maximum incentive of 30 percent of the lowest cost major medical self-only plan it offers. As an example, if a single plan costs $4,000, the maximum incentive would be $1,200.
    3. Provide a notice to all eligible to participate in your wellness program – The EEOC made it easy for everyone and posted a sample notice online at https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/ada-wellness-notice.cfm. Your notice should include information on the incentive amount you are offering for different programs, how you maintain privacy and security of all protected health information (PHI) as well as who to contact if participants have question or concerns.
    4. If using a HRA (health risk assessment), do not include family medical history questions – The EEOC final rule, which expands on GINA’s rules, makes it clear that “an employer is permitted to request information about the current or past health status of an employee’s spouse who is completing a HRA on a voluntary basis, as long as the employer follows GINA rules about requesting genetic information when offering health or genetic services. These rules include requirements that the spouse provide prior, knowing, written, and voluntary authorization for the employer to collect genetic information, just as the employee must do, and that inducements in exchange for this information are limited.”2 Due to the complexity and “gray areas” this item can reach, my recommendation is to keep it simple and to leave genetic services and genetic counseling out of a comprehensive wellness program.

    WellSteps, a nationwide wellness provider, has a useful tool that everyone can use. Their “wellness compliance checker” should not substituted for qualified legal advice, but can be useful for a high level check on how compliant your wellness program is. You can access it at https://www.wellsteps.com/resources/tools.

    I often stress the need for all wellness programs to build a strong foundation, which starts with the company’s and leaders’ messages. Your company should launch a wellness program because you value and care about your employees’ (and their families’) health and well-being. Everything you do and say should reflect this philosophy. While I always recommend companies to carefully review all regulations around wellness, I do believe that if your wellness program has a strong foundation based on your corporate social responsibility and your passion for building a healthy workplace, you most likely will be within the walls of all these rules. At the end, a workplace that does wellness the right way has employees who are not motivated by financial incentives, but by their intrinsic motivation to be the best they can be as well as their acceptance that we all must be responsible for our own health, and that all corporations should be responsible for providing the best environment and opportunities for employees to do so.

    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • Financial Wellness Benefits – Adapting Them In The New Workforce | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 17, 2017

    Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in Financial Wellness Programs. Actually, as indicated in a recent report by Aon Hewitt, 77% of mid- to large-size companies will provide at least one financial wellness service in 2017; with 52% of employers providing services in more than 3 financial categories. So what are the advantages of these programs and how can the current workforce make the most out of them?

    Program Advantages

    • They educate employees on financial management. It’s no doubt, poor income management and cash-flow decisions increase financial stress. This stress has a direct impact on an employee’s physical, mental and emotional state—all which can lead to productivity issues, increased absenteeism, and rising healthcare costs. Financial wellness tools in the workplace can not only support employees in various areas of their finances by expanding income capacity, but can create long-lasting changes in their financial habits as well.
    • They give a foothold to the employer. As more employers are recognizing the effect financial stress has on their employees in the workplace, they’re jumping on board with these programs. As people are extending the length of their careers, benefits like these are an attractive feature to the workforce and new job seekers alike. In fact, according to a recent survey by TIAA, respondents were more likely to consider employment with companies who provide free financial advice as part of their benefit package.

    Program Credentials

    While financial wellness benefits may differ among companies, one thing is certain—there are key factors employers should consider when establishing a successful program. They should:

    • Give sound, unbiased advice. Financial wellness benefits should be free to the employee—no strings attached. Employees should not be solicited by financial institutions or financial companies that only want to seek a profit for services. Employers should research companies when shopping these programs to determine the right fit for their culture.
    • Encompass all facets. A successful program should cover all aspects of financial planning, and target all demographics. These programs should run the gamut, providing resources for those with serious debt issues to those who seek advanced estate planning and asset protection. Services should include both short-term to long-term options that fit with the company’s size and culture. Popular programs implement a variety of tools. Employers should integrate these tools with other benefits to make it as seamless as possible for their employees to use.
    • Detail financial wellness as a process, not an event. Strengthening financial prosperity is a process. When determining the right fit for your company, continued coaching and support is a must. This may require evaluating the program and services offered every year. Employees need to know that while they have the initial benefit of making a one-time change, additional tools are at their disposal to shift their financial mindset; strengthening their financial habits and behaviors down the road.

    Employees must understand the value Financial Wellness Programs can provide to them as well. If your company offers these benefits, keep a few things in mind:

    • Maximize the program’s services. Utilize your financial workplace benefits to tackle life’s financial challenges. Most programs offer financial mentoring through various mediums. Seek advice on your financial issues and allow a coach/mentor to provide you with practical strategies, alternatives and actionable steps to reduce your financial stress.
    • Take advantage of other employee benefits. Incorporate other benefits into your financial wellness program. Use financial resources to help you run projections and monitor your 401k. Budget your healthcare costs with these tools. Research indicates those who tap into these financial wellness programs often are more likely to stay on track than those who don’t.
    • Evaluate your progress. Strengthening your financial well-being is a process. If your employer’s financial wellness program provides various tools to monitor your finances, use them. Weigh your progress yearly and take advantage of any support groups, webinars, or individual one-on-one counseling sessions offered by these programs.

    As the workforce continues to evolve, managing these programs and resources effectively is an important aspect for both parties. Providing and utilizing a strong, effective Financial Wellness Benefits Program will set the foundation for a lifetime of financial well-being.

     

  • House Passes AHCA Bill in First Step to Repeal and Replace the ACA | CA Benefit Advisors

    May 6, 2017

    On May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 1628, a reconciliation bill aimed at “repealing and replacing” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill, titled the “American Health Care Act of 2017” or “AHCA,” will now be sent to the Senate for debate, where amendments can be made, prior to the Senate voting on the bill.

    It is widely anticipated that in its current state the AHCA is unlikely to pass the Senate. Employers should continue to monitor the text of the bill and should refrain from implementing any changes to group health plans in response to the current version of the AHCA.

    The AHCA makes numerous changes to current law, much of which impact the individual market, Medicare, and Medicaid. Some provisions in the AHCA also impact employer group health plans. For example, the AHCA removes both the individual and the employer shared responsibility penalties. The AHCA also pushes implementation of the Cadillac tax to 2025 and permits states to waive essential health benefit (EHB) requirements.

    The AHCA removes the $2,500 contribution limit to flexible health spending accounts (FSAs) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017. It also changes the maximum contribution limits to health savings accounts (HSAs) to the amount of the accompanying high deductible health plan’s deductible and out-of-pocket limitation. The AHCA also provides for both spouses to make catch-up contributions to HSAs.

    The AHCA provides for a “continuous health insurance coverage incentive,” which will allow health insurers to charge policyholders an amount equal to 30 percent of the monthly premium in the individual and small group market, if the individual failed to have creditable coverage for 63 or more days during an applicable 12-month look-back period. This provision is slated to begin in 2019, or in the case of a special enrollment period, beginning in plan year 2018. The AHCA also allows states to obtain a waiver and underwrite policies for individuals who do not maintain continuous coverage.

    The AHCA would also return permissible age band rating (for purposes of calculating health plan premiums) to the pre-ACA ratio of 5:1, rather than the ACA’s 3:1. This allows older individuals to be charged up to five times more than what younger individuals pay for the same policy, rather than up to the ACA limit of three times more.

    It is unknown at this time if the AHCA can pass the Senate, or what might be changed in the text of the bill in order to earn votes in an attempt to pass the bill.

    By Danielle Capilla
    Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

  • 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.

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