Yearly Archives: 2015

  • Don’t Let Spooky Pests Haunt Your Home This Fall | Arrow Benefits Group

    October 5, 2015

    www.newsusa.com

    SpookyPestsWith Halloween and cooler weather right around the corner, sightings of creepy creatures indoors are sure to be on the rise as they search for cozy places to hole up for the winter. Rats, bats and spiders are the stuff nightmares are made of, and for good reason; these creepy critters are capable of spreading disease, and incurring serious harm to people, and even causing property damage.

    The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers the following guide on three common, creepy fall invaders, along with a few tips for preventing your home from turning into a true haunted house!

    Rats

    These primarily nocturnal pests are known to gnaw through almost anything to obtain food or water, including plastic or lead pipes. Rats are able to fit through an opening the size of a quarter, and once inside they are capable of spreading diseases such as plague, jaundice, rat-bite fever, trichinosis and salmonellosis.

    Tip: Before bringing decorations out of storage and into the home, inspect all boxes for signs of infestation such as gnaw marks and rodent droppings. When it’s time to put away decorations, store them in a plastic, sealed box to keep rodents out.

    Bats

    Bats are frequently associated with vampires and haunted houses, causing an unfounded fear in many people. However, it is important to note that bats are common carriers of rabies, a disease that can be fatal in humans, and their droppings can lead to histoplasmosis, a lung disease.

    Tip: Screen attic vents and openings to chimneys, and install door sweeps this fall to keep bats out of the home. If an active bat infestation is suspected, it is important to contact a licensed pest control professional because bats are protected by law in most states.

    Spiders

    While most spiders that invade homes are simply an annoyance, albeit a creepy one, the brown recluse and black widow spiders will bite when threatened and can cause painful — possibly fatal — reactions. Prompt medical attention is required if you’ve come into contact with one of these venomous spiders.

    Tip: Avoid coming in to contact with spiders by keeping garages, attics and basements clean and clutter-free. Be sure to wear heavy gloves when moving items that have been in storage, such as Halloween decorations.

    For more information on preventing pests this fall, please visit www.pestworld.org.

    Read More …

  • How to Get Employees’ Attention during Open Enrollment | Arrow Benefits Group

    October 2, 2015

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    By Matthew Augustine, GPHR, REBC
    CEO of Hanna Global Solutions, a UBA Partner Firm

    EmployeeAttentionIt’s that time of the year – open enrollment season is here! Insurance carriers are presenting renewals and brokers are presenting ways to alleviate the cost pressure with innovative cost management strategies. HR and benefits professionals are under pressure to think out of the box and come up with new and improved benefit programs to engage employees. Benefits administration companies are busy getting staffed, trained and ready for long hours and last-minute client decisions. And employees are getting ready for the barrage of benefits-related communications that are coming their way.

    Are employees really looking forward to this?

    My daughter was recently hired by a global pharmaceutical company and had to complete her benefits enrollment online. She was definitely was not looking forward to this part of her onboarding process. For her, it was one of those necessary ”to do” items that had to be checked off, and the less time it took, with the least bit of engagement or attention required from her, the better. That is, until I intervened and pointed out the possibility of higher costs and money being left on the table if she ignored some of the attractive benefit programs.

    Employees comparison shop for other purchases, so why aren’t they curious about the price differences between plans and ways they could save money with the right choices? HR and benefits professionals have been looking for better ways to engage employees in the enrollment process for many years, especially as costs have escalated, and employers have had to scale back their share of costs.

    Online enrollment systems with attractive presentations of benefit programs and ”engaging” user experiences in enrollment are one method. Forcing employees to select from a portfolio of plans using a combination of their own and employer money is another way. Add to all this a big dose of communications, both in print and online, that attempt to educate employees on their benefit options.

    Within a couple of months of her starting her job, my daughter received an award for her contribution to work on a project. The reward was in the form of points that she could redeem for items offered on a rewards website. She was much more interested in browsing the ”stuff” that she could get with her rewards, or with rewards she could earn in future, than in browsing for something as important as insurance coverage.

    Maybe a creative blend of shopping for rewards and shopping for insurance and other traditional employee benefits is what we need to get employees engaged in benefits enrollment. Many employers already offer enrollment rewards – gift cards for attending an open enrollment meeting, credits for completing a health risk assessment, and other such ideas. The next step is to integrate the benefits enrollment process with the employee reward program in a seamless experience, using one portal for comparing and enrolling in benefit plans, and offering payroll deduction options for purchases made with reward points.

    With added reward products and programs on the shelves, employee benefits enrollment systems will become online marketplaces that attract employees to shop there.

    Learn more about UBA’s online private insurance exchange platforms.

    For information on how your health plan stacks up against other employers, pre-order the 2015 Health Plan Executive Summary, which highlights the latest findings of the UBA survey, the largest health plan cost survey in the industry.

    Read More …

  • Attention Shoppers – California joins the crowd of web sites to help you figure medical costs

    September 30, 2015

    The Department of Insurance, fulfilling their promise of providing consumers meaningful information, have launched a new web site in conjunction with UCSF to provide quality ratings and other information about area physicians and hospitals – www.cahealthcarecompare.org
    This is not the only site to provide valuable information. Others include Hospital Compare from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and, in California, www.calqualitycare.org and new entrants include the Health Care Blue Book and Price Check

  • IRS Proposes Minimum Value Rule Change to Mesh IRS and HHS Rules | CA Benefits Broker

    September 29, 2015

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    Posted by Danielle Capilla

    ChangesAheadBeginning in 2015, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), large employers must offer affordable, minimum value coverage to their full-time employees or potentially pay a penalty. Some companies have or had been marketing a plan that they state satisfies the minimum value requirement (an actuarial value of 60 percent), based upon a calculator provided by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), even though the plan does not cover inpatient hospital charges. New information provided by the IRS and HHS in 2014 and recently in 2015 should be considered as employers review their benefit offerings.

    What’s the practical impact? Employers that are subject to play or pay requirements of providing minimum essential and affordable, minimum value coverage should ensure that the plans they are offering provide substantial coverage of inpatient hospitalization and physician services. If they do not, their employees will be eligible for a premium tax credit to subsidize the cost of health insurance.

    An employee who was offered an employer plan that was minimum essential, affordable coverage, and offered (in addition to meeting actuarial value standards) substantial inpatient and physician services, would not be eligible for the premium tax credit if the acceptable employer coverage began on or after November 3, 2014.

    Employers who offer affordable, minimum essential coverage that meets actuarial value but does not offer substantial inpatient and physician services will be subject to the play or pay penalty for plan years beginning on or after March 1, 2015, unless they meet the exception requirements relating to the inpatient and physician services.

    For a complete review of the changes, including when the exception can be used and the most recent 2015 changes, download UBA’s ACA Advisor, “IRS Proposes Minimum Value Rule Change to Mesh IRS and HHS Rules”.

    Read More …

  • 2015 UBA Health Plan Survey: Preliminary Findings Are Out! | CA Benefits Broker

    September 24, 2015

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    By Bill Olson
    Chief Marketing Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    UBA’s annual Health Plan Survey, the largest of its kind, provides data on 10,804 employers sponsoring 18,186 health plans. While the full findings will be released soon, preliminary data on average health plan costs, premiums, and contributions is now available.

    The average annual health plan cost per employee for all plans in 2015 is $9,736, a 2.4 percent increase from the previous year; employees picked up $3,333 of that cost, while employers covering the balance of $6,403.

    2015SurveyResults

    The average premium for all employer-sponsored plans was $509 for single coverage and $1,211 for family coverage.

    20.6 percent of all plans required no employee contribution for single coverage (a 5.1 percent decrease since 2014), and 7.3 percent required no contribution for family coverage (a 3.9 percent decrease since 2014).

    For plans requiring contributions, employees contributed an average of $140 for single coverage and $540 for family coverage, which is only a slight increase from 2014 results – 3.7 percent and 5.5 percent respectively.

    Employer Coverage

    Among all employers surveyed, more than half (53.7 percent) offer only one health plan choice to employees, with 28.7 percent offering two choices. As far as plan choices, preferred provider organizations (PPOs) continue to dominate the market (46.8 percent of plans offered and 54.8 percent of employees enrolled), and health maintenance organization (HMO) plans continue to decrease, as they’ve done since 2012 when they accounted for 19.1 percent of the market but now account for only 17.3 percent. Consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) continue to show the greatest increase in growth, up 10 percent from 2012 through 2015.

    Most employers (72.5 percent) define full time work as 30 hours per week, and 7.6 percent define it as 40 hours per week. Only 9.9 percent of employers require fewer than 30 hours per week.

    Read UBA’s full press release announcing the initial findings.

    Pre-order a copy of the 2015 UBA Health Plan Survey Executive Summary which will be published soon with comprehensive data.

    Read More …

  • Cadillac Tax | California Benefits Broker

    September 21, 2015

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    Investigate how your employer is going to address the Cadillac Tax issue!

    A quick and easy to follow video which highlights the financial implications of the new excise tax and what you should be aware of now. This video (from a blog post on www.accountingaccidentally.com) has been written from the accounting view and not the insurance view, and as such gives you a few more things to think about. This “Cadillac” excise tax is eventually going to affect us all and the more aware and informed we are – the more prepared we will be.

    YouTube

    AccAccIf you would like to view the blog post directly, please click here.

  • Affordable Care Act Information Returns | California Employee Benefits

    September 17, 2015

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    By Danielle Capilla
    Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    FinancialPaperworkUnder 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. (If ALEs are not offering coverage, they will have to report on that, too).

    Reporting will first be due early in 2016, based on coverage in 2015. All reporting will be for the calendar year, even for non-calendar year plans. Mid-size employers (those with 50 to 99 employees) will report in 2016, despite being in a period of transition relief in regard to having to offer coverage. The reporting requirements are in Sections 6055 and 6056 of the ACA. Sections 6055 and 6056 reporting is done on IRS Forms 1094-C, 1095-C, 1094-B, and 1095-B.

    For calendar year 2015, the required forms must be filed by February 29, 2016, or March 31, 2016, if filing electronically. Employers with 250 or more 1095 Forms must file electronically with the “Affordable Care Act Information Returns” or AIR. The IRS is encouraging all entities to file electronically. Employers utilizing a vendor service should confirm that the service they are using can handle the act of reporting, electronic or otherwise. Employers using a vendor should confirm that their chosen vendor is set up to file the returns for them, and have or will have successfully completed the testing phase. Employers who wish to use a vendor instead of filing themselves should be aware that many of the reporting vendors have a capped amount of clients they can assist.

    Employers who are doing their own electronic filing should ensure they are ready to use the AIR system. Being ready to use the system is a time-consuming process; ample time should be given to ensure an employer is up and running.

    For detailed information on the steps employers should follow to use AIR, download UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Affordable Care Act Information Returns”

    Read More …

  • Arrow Wins Best Places to Work 2015!

    September 17, 2015

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    We are proud to announce that we have won North Bay’s Best Place to Work award from our community and team nominations. This is especially important to us because the criteria for the award is also based on individual independent rankings from our own team members. We look forward to continuing our commitment to our community by serving those in it to our very best. Thank you team Arrow!

  • Arrow Benefits Group just featured in North Bay Biz Magazine article – Health Care Check-up

    September 15, 2015

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    Arrow team members just interviewed and featured in an article about healthcare and the affordable healthcare act. “The business of making health care available and affordable to all Americans is a laudable—but complicated—task. The main issue, these days, is how to make the Affordable Care Act (ACA) work in tandem with employer plans; it’s a puzzle that’s leaving everyone overwhelmed by the administrative burden and worried about the cost of premiums.”

    Read entire article here…

  • IRS Releases Draft 2015 Instructions for 6055/6056 Reporting | Petaluma Employee Benefits

    September 14, 2015

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    By Danielle Capilla
    Chief Compliance Officer at United Benefit Advisors

    IRSUnder 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. Reporting will first be due early in 2016, based on coverage in 2015. All reporting will be for the calendar year, even for non-calendar year plans. Mid-size employers (those with 50 to 99 employees) will report in 2016, despite being in a period of transition relief in regard to having to offer coverage. The reporting requirements are in Sections 6055 and 6056 of the ACA. Draft instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B and the 1094-C and 1095-C were released in August 2015.

    Draft 2015 Instructions

    Following the June release of the draft forms, the IRS has issued draft 2015 instructions, which include a variety of changes from the 2014 instructions. For the 1094-C and 1095-C forms, the following important clarifications were provided: (1) who must file, (2) information on extensions and waivers, (3) how to correct returns, (4) an example and further information on the 98% offer method, (5) information on the new plan start month box, (6) multiemployer plan reporting, (7) offers of COBRA coverage, (8) reporting on employee premiums, and (9) break in service information. For the 1094-B and 1095-B forms there were fewer updates, with information regarding penalties for not reporting and how to file for an extension.

    There is no target date for the final versions of either the forms or instructions, however it is generally anticipated they will be released in the fall of 2015.

    Who Must File

    The draft instructions clarify that all ALEs (employers with 50 or more employees) must file one more 1094-C forms (including the designated authoritative transmittal) and a 1095-C for each employee who was a full-time employee for any month of the year.

    Extensions and Waivers

    The draft instructions provide information on requesting extensions and waivers. Automatic 30-day extensions will be given to entities filing Form 8809, and no signature or explanation is needed. Form 8809 must be filed by the due date of returns in order to be granted the 30-day extension. Waivers may be requested with Form 8508, and are due at least 45 days before the due date of the information returns.

    Corrections to Forms 1094-C and 1095-C

    The draft instructions provided detailed instructions on correcting returns. Separate instructions are given for correcting authoritative 1094-C and 1095-C forms. Steps are given for a variety of mistakes, including incorrect full time employee counts, premium amounts, and covered individual information.

    Extensions to Furnish Statements to Employees

    Employers may request an extension of time to furnish statements to recipients by mailing a letter to the IRS with information including the reason for the delay. If the request is granted, the maximum extension that will be given is 30 days.

    Penalties

    The draft instructions incorporate the new penalties for failing to file information returns, which are now $250 for each return that an employer fails to file. The IRS again noted that, for 2015 reporting, penalties will not be imposed for filing incorrect or incomplete information so long as the employer can show it made a good faith effort to comply with the requirements. The “grace period” does not apply to employers who fail to file or who file late.

    98 Percent Offer Method

    The draft instructions provided clarification of the 98 percent offer method. This method requires employers to certify that they offered affordable health coverage providing minimum value to at least 98 percent of their employees. The instructions clarify how to report on an employee in a limited non-assessment period. The instructions make clear that an individual in a limited non-assessment period does not count against the employer’s 98 percent calculation.

    Plan Start Month Box

    The draft instructions provide information on the new “plan start month” box, which is optional for 2015. This box is intended to provide the IRS with information used to calculate an individual’s eligibility for premium tax credits, which is based on the employer plan’s affordability, calculated by plan year.

    Multiemployer (Union) Plan Relief

    The 2014 instructions had told ALEs not to enter a code in Part II, Line 14 of Form 1095-C for coverage that is not actually offered, as the information must reflect the coverage offered to the employee. In 2015 ALEs with multiemployer plans are instructed to enter code 1H on line 14 for any month in which an employer enters code 2E on line 16. Code 2E indicates an employer is required to contribute to a multiemployer plan on behalf of the employee for that month, and is eligible for multiemployer interim relief. This is intended to assist with reporting challenges for multiemployer plans.

    COBRA Coverage

    The draft instructions provide information on how to handle offers of COBRA coverage. If COBRA is offered to a former employee upon termination, it is only reported as an offer of coverage if the employee enrolls in coverage. If the former employee does not enroll (even if his or her spouse or dependents enroll), employers should use code 1H (no offer of coverage) for any month in which the COBRA offer applies. If an employee is offered COBRA (due to loss of eligibility), that coverage is reported in the same way and with the same code as an offer of coverage to any other active employee.

    Line 15 Calculations

    The draft instructions clarify how to calculate employee contributions: by dividing the total employee share of the premium for the plan year by the number of months in the plan year to determine the monthly premium.

    Break in Service

    The draft instructions note that in certain circumstances an employee may have a break in service (which may be due to termination) during which he or she does not earn hours of service, but upon beginning service, is treated as a continuing employee rather than a new hire. The instructions clarify that the individual should only be treated as an employee during the break in service for reporting purposes if the individual remained an employee (was not terminated). An employee on unpaid leave would be treated as an employee for reporting purposes.

    Read More …

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