Yearly Archives: 2019

  • How can you save for retirement when debt is a current reality? Study of 401(k) plans vs. Student Debt Paydowns show that millennials prefer the latter

    July 15, 2019

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    Of the recent college graduating class, nearly 70% took out some form of student loans, and the average student debt upon graduation is $29,800.  The total student debt equates to about $1.5 trillion spread out among 44 million borrowers.  At least the unemployment rate is low.

    Concern about debt will make it difficult for employees to participate in a 401(k) plan, so employers are starting to look at setting up a student loan repayment program.  There are some innovative ideas being put forward that even allow some of the repayment to be treated the same as a 401(k) contribution.

  • Is Wellness Doing Well Even When It is a Good Idea?

    July 10, 2019

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    The evidence has always been anecdotal.  The evidence has also sometimes been pointed in the right direction, but not the direction researchers want to see – they want to see proof that participation in wellness programs actually improves blood pressure, sugar levels, etc.

    The latest “downer” is a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which looked at the experience of 33,000 employees at BJ’s Wholesale Club over a year and a half.  The findings were that, despite exercise and weight watching, the employees experienced no significant long-term outcomes like lower blood pressure or improved sugar levels.  This adds to the recent Illinois Workplace Study, which also questioned the value of workplace wellness programs.  Proponents, of course, say that the JAMA study did not focus on enough variables, that not all programs are the same, and that education is not sufficient, especially given the often-irrational behavior attributed to everyone that can also defy measurement.

     

    So what happens to all the dollars spent on FitBits, Apple Watches and all the other buddy systems we need to keep us healthy?  It will require more research!

  • Of course, retirement doesn’t look good when you don’t have any savings

    July 8, 2019

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    The reports and the anecdotal stories of bankruptcy are piling up.  Some are blaming the Affordable Care Act, some the insurance carriers, some simply the high cost of medical care and of course the employers for cutting back on the level of coverage they provide (when they are not cutting back the amount they allow for premium payments).  In a new report titled “The US Healthcare Cost Crisis,” which surveyed more than 3,500 adults, it was estimated that seniors have pulled an estimated $22 billion from their long-term savings for healthcare-related expenses, an average of $3,789.  Major findings from the report are:

     

    10% of those 65 and older did not seek needed treatment in the past year due to cost

    About 7 million seniors could not afford to pay for prescriptions in the last year

    80% of the prescriptions that seniors can’t afford are used to treat serious conditions

    92% of seniors believe the cost of healthcare will not improve or will get worse

    45% are afraid they will have to file for bankruptcy if faced with a healthcare crisis

  • Failing to Save with No One Left to Save them if they Fail – 401(k) is up but not enough

    July 3, 2019

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    Almost half of Americans approaching retirement have nothing saved in their employer sponsored 401(k) or an individual account.  If there is any good news, this number has improved over a few years earlier.  Still, of those 55 or older, 48% had nothing put away, according to a recent GAO estimate.

  • Telemedicine Virtually Getting Better

    July 1, 2019

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    Doctors on Demand, currently the largest virtual care provider, has announced the launch of Synapse, a first-to-market and fully-integrated platform that can integrate into health plans’ existing networks and provide patients with improved access to full mind and body care.  Thus they will have “digital medical home” expanded clinical capabilities and “smart referrals.”

  • Moans and Groans: About Student Loans

    June 28, 2019

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    The statistics are startling:

    • The total burden of student debt in the United States is $1.4 trillion.
    • In 2017 the median millennial wage was $43,000.
    • In the same year, the median millennial debt was $37,000.
    • 59% of employees 22 to 44 have student debt.

    Debt is the #1 financial challenge to all Americans, and by a wide margin. This lack of fiscal health has a negative effect on both mental and physical health, both of which affect employee performance and motivation.

    In a time of reduced unemployment, the battle for talent and its retention is increasing. How do we get quality employees? What can we offer to keep them? If they stay, how can we help maximize appreciation and thus loyalty? The simple answer is to offer a meaningful compensation and benefits package. The more relevant, and complex, answer is to address specific employee needs and thus create a more meaningful employee experience.

    Medical and retirement may be a given, but how valued are those benefits if debt prevents participation or forestalls fulfilling medical needs? Do employees even know the risks of refusal? What will they deny themselves later by not attending to their long term wellbeing?

    Greater attention is thus being paid to employee education in the basics of finance, while offering products, tools, and services under the rubric of “financial wellness.” One of the key components of such a program is instruction in debt management. New offerings in the student loan sector allow employers to go even further.

    Paying off debt is expensive, with the “load” exceeding the interest earned on savings and potentially the tax and accumulation value of a 401k or other retirement instruments Thus, finding a way to alleviate the stress of a financial burden paves the way to take advantage of a significant savings opportunity.

    A burgeoning cottage industry has developed to help those with student loans, primarily through the channel of employer sponsorship. These services offer:

    • Employer payments to employees to reduce loan balances

    (example – PwC gives employees $100 per month for up to 72 months).

    • Access to lenders who will refinance the loan.
    • Education and counseling, not just on existing debt but how to finance a child’s college education (e.g. using 529 plans).

    For a modest fee, these companies expand the resources for employees, streamline services, help reduce debt, and also create a simplified method of repayment through payroll deduction.

    Various studies have cited:

    • 61% of employers polled said they believe student loan worries have hampered retirement plan participation.
    • 81% of millennials, and 65% of those over 50, want their company to offer student loan tools and resources.
    • A similar percentage of both populations would be more inclined to accept employment with a company that offered student loan tools – or stay with a company if they received student loan benefits.

    Granted, specific studies are skewed to favor the sponsoring student loan services, but there is little doubt that student loans place financial, and thus mental and emotional, stress on employees. Just ask them – and then ask how you can help. The more you can offer, the more appreciative they will be. Recognition and appreciation of a benefit’s value is the cornerstone of a successful compensation and benefits program, after all, so now is a good time to see how you can expand yours in a meaningful way.

  • Tech Wreck Puts Brokers on Deck

    June 26, 2019

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    Clover Health, which is backed by Alphabet (Google), is a major play for the Medicare Advantage market, but the company just laid off 140 tech employees in favor of beginning to hire those with a background in health insurance and clinical care.

  • States May be Given More Responsibility, but some are Taking it now

    June 24, 2019

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    Virginia has become the first state to require that health insurers count coupons for prescription drugs and copayments as applying to health plan deductibles.  Fair Health Care VA, an advocacy group, said “patients should not be denied one of the key benefits of copay assistance programs, particularly since insurers are already getting the value of negotiated drug price discounts while withholding these benefits from patients.”

  • Connecting Agility, Culture and Change Management

    June 20, 2019

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    Every company wants to lead their industry, and doing so means remaining competitive. With the rate of speed the world experiences change in this age that is a very difficult proposition. For an HR professional, it is increasingly more difficult to stay ahead of the curve.

    So, what are the critical pieces to the strategy?
    • Agility
    • Change Management
    • Culture
    Knowing that, how do the three concepts tie to one another?

    We start with agility.

    When it comes to this part of the strategy, what HR professionals really want is to be able to adjust at a moment’s notice. But it’s not enough to just be able to make the change. The HR professional wants to effectively implement the change in the organization.

    Of course, that change doesn’t just happen at the drop of the hat. It requires leadership and even some maintenance.

    That’s where change management comes into the mix. HR Exchange Network contributor John Whitaker says:
    “Change can and will come quickly. Change management is a helpful (and sometimes hopeful) way to plan the actions and responses needed during a change process. But you must take advantage of those times where you are thrown into a chaotic situation without the benefit of planning.”

    Finally, that brings us to culture.

    In addressing this concept, CultureIQ worked with Bloomberg to survey 300 senior executives about the Future of Work. In that research, one of the first things they learned is work is becoming more complex. How? Consider first that companies are becoming more agile either by force or organically. Executives know they have to do this in order to remain competitive. Optimizing a talented workforce, predicting talent needs and keeping retention rates high are critical to sustaining your organization’s competitive advantage.

    In fact, CEOs recognized that one of the most important factors in their organization’s performance for the next three years was ensuring their organization was agile.

    CultureIQ says agility ranked higher than other attributes like collaboration, engagement, or innovation.
    A company’s culture is imperative to its strategy especially when you consider this fact: culture influences whether talent is attracted or not attracted to the company. It’s also significant in the company’s ability to retain their best employees.

    According to Gallup, 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree their organization’s mission and purpose makes them feel their job is important. Furthermore:

    “By doubling that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 33% improvement in quality, or in the case of healthcare, even a 50% drop in patient safety incidents.”
    Gallup has studied organizational culture and leadership for years. They find some organizations have difficulty in successfully establishing their “ideal” culture and attribute that to the fact that culture is constantly in flux and is not the same one moment to the next.

    Earlier this year, researchers looked specifically at how HR leaders fit into the process of changing culture.
    “Our analytics show that in the world’s highest performing organizations, HR leaders play a central role in creating and sustaining the culture their organization aspires to have. As the stewards and keepers of the culture, HR leaders are responsible for inspiring desired employee behaviors and beliefs — and in turn, realizing the performance gains of a thriving culture.

    By owning their pivotal strategic and tactical roles in shaping work culture, HR leaders can cultivate exceptional performance and prove to senior leadership that they deserve a seat at the table.”

    For HR, Gallup set forth three roles that explain how leaders influence culture.
    1. Champion – Executive leaders create the vision of the perfect culture, but HR leaders champion it. They are responsible for turning words into deeds.
    2. Coach – HR leaders, as coaches, make sure managers and employees are on the same page and help the two entities take ownership of the culture.
    3. Consultant – HR leaders here consistently check culture metrics such as employee engagement, customer outlines and performance indicators. In this way, HR leaders can make sure the culture strategy stays on track.

    By Mason Stevenson
    Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com

  • Some Insurance Carriers are Less Nervous than Others over Single Payer

    June 19, 2019

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    Centene, which owns a number of carriers already, is buying WellCare Health Plans for $17 billion.  A smart bet unless it isn’t, as Single Payer threatens carrier health.

  • While Proposals are Pushed, those Previously Promoted are being Pulled

    June 17, 2019

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    The Trump administration promoted Association Health Plans as an option to help bring down costs with employers banding together with another form of “collective bargaining” The House Ways and Means Committee has pulled this from a health care bill, which simply amplifies the negative feelings about it.  A Federal judge also struck down the plan in late March, saying that association health plans were clearly an end run around the consumer protections promised under the Affordable Care Act.  This was done right in Trump’s backyard, with a DC judge making the ruling, in response to a suit filed by 11 Attorneys General.  At the same time, President Trump said at a rally, “We are going to get rid of Obamacare…the Republican Party will become the party of great health care.”

  • Why the Concern? One Statistic Shows Americans Borrow Heavily to pay for Health Care

    June 12, 2019

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    According to a survey by Gallup/West Health, Americans borrowed an estimated $88 billion over the last year to pay for health care.  The survey also showed 1 in 4 Americans have skipped treatment because of the cost and that nearly half fear bankruptcy in the event of a health emergency.  Both Republican and Democrat identified respondents said they lacked confidence in the ability of political leaders to solve the problem (70%).

  • Meanwhile, Insurance Carriers are Nervous but Investors are Elated with Inflated Hopes

    June 10, 2019

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    At a time when some would rather be out of the business under the onslaught of Medicare for All proponent, venture funding for insurance and insurtech companies hit all-time highs in 2018.  In 2014, funding was roughly $800 million.  In 2018, funding was up to $2.5 billion.  The leaders on the health insurance front are Oscar and Bright Health.

    The “insurtech” play, while not related to health insurance, is also interesting and worth noting.  Wefox Group is in the digital insurance market, Root Insurance will have auto insurance rates based on driver testing and Metromile will charge premiums based on miles driven.

  • Running Up the Middle – Let’s Keep the Affordable Care Act

    June 5, 2019

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    Well remembered for urging the House to “pass the bill so we can see what’s in it,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged caution on Medicare for All, believing that the Affordable Care Act is still the best path to ‘quality, affordable care’  She clarified in an interview that Medicare for All, for most people, simply means “coverage for all” which then does not necessitate using a single payer system as advocated by Bernie Sanders.

    President Trump, meanwhile, got support to drop the ACA when a District Court judge in Northern Texas said that ACA was unconstitutional.  There is an appeal filed from a group of Attorneys General protesting this move.  The administration continues to side with the court, with the Justice Department writing it had “determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed” and will file a brief. This in spite of the opposition of HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr.

  • What’s the Plan? Republicans Respond to Medicare for All but Stall

    June 3, 2019

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    Republicans have a counter, though no one yet knows what it is.  President Trump has promised…to show what it is after the 2020 elections.  He has endorsed some proposals already, which may be included in his more comprehensive plan.  One (Graham-Cassidy) shows the elimination of the ACA Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, with the money being reallocated to the states, who would also be able to override some ACA benefit standards.  The 2020 White House budget points to this by creating block grants to the states for a similar purpose.  Conservatives also have a plan, which follows a similar path.  In short, everyone is against having the Federal government run it – they are all passing to the states.

    Of course, Trump really does need a plan, given that his 2020 budget calls for a cut of more than $845 billion in Medicare, purportedly to “cut waste, fraud and abuse.”  The OMB director said “he’s not cutting Medicare in this budget” so…so how can we have Medicare for all when Medicare itself is always under attack?

    The general grouping of proposals are:

    • Passing block grants and funding to the states
    • Adding public plan features to private insurance
    • Giving people a choice of public plans alongside private plans (e.g. Medicare for those age 50 to 64 while still being able to buy private insurance instead)

  • Medicare for All: a Free for All Among Politicians and Insurers are Worried

    May 30, 2019

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    It’s not just Bernie Sanders’ vision any more.  Even more centrist Democrats have taken the pledge, with Senators Harris, Gillibrand and Booker having cosigned Sanders’ bill.  The basics? Health insurance would now no longer be paid directly by employers, but indirectly through a 7.5% payroll tax and a contribution by employees of 4%.  Medicare and Medicaid would be eliminated and everyone would be covered.  Insurance companies would still exist, but only to sell supplemental or ancillary plans; they may not compete directly with the government plan.  Insurers are, of course, worried and publicly pledging to come up with a way to build upon the existing system.

    As if the bill for expanded coverage is not large enough, the Medicare for All proposal has been expanded further to include Long Term Care.  This provision, which had been part of the initial Affordable Care Act, was abandoned almost as soon as it began once lawmakers saw the potential size of that coverage bill.

    Things recently got more interesting when Seema Verma, the director of CMS (which runs Medicare) went on Fox News and said “Medicare for all is the biggest threat to the American health care system.”  She noted that socialized health care systems in other countries have problems of their own, including long wait times and poor care, which leads citizens to travel to the U.S. for drugs and care they can’t secure at home.  More to the point, she said “the reality is we’re having problems today paying for the Medicare program and the trustees have warned about solvency, so adding more people to the program is only going to exacerbate it.”

    Arguments pro and con – why and why not:

                Pro      Advocates say the change is simple – money spent on private health insurance and health care would be shifted to the federal government in the form of taxation

                            The federal government would set prices and force health care providers to accept current Medicare payment rates, which is roughly 40% below what private insurers pay

                            The government run system would mean everyone would be insured and people would access health care services more frequently because they would be free (maybe copayments would be required, though this has not yet been decided)

                Con     “Trust US” – 70% say they are satisfied with their coverage, but all 181 million Americans now covered by employers would have to make a move to a program that is unexplained, unproven and about which the results are unsure

                            There are those who are not crazy about centralized big government in any aspect of our lives – and then, of course, there are the additional taxes

                            No matter how they slice it, hospitals, physicians and affiliated providers are going to take a big pay cut, and there won’t be much room for negotiation when the government is the only game in town (think Walmart)

                            Patients will have to make a shift in expectations – seen the waiting list and lines in Canada lately?

                            The Sanders plan would increase federal spending by about $32 trillion over its first ten years, or $3 trillion per year.  The Congressional Budget Office projects federal spending for the entire 2019 fiscal year at $4.4 trillion

  • Democrat Proposals for 2020: Medicare for All…and Other Proposals that Lean Left and Lefter

    May 28, 2019

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    Medicare for All:  Bernie Sanders has introduced the plan in the Senate, and it is supported by Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren, who have all sponsored these bills, along with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the House.  Mayor Pete Buttigieg is also on record as being in favor of such a system.  The proposed plan would eliminate private insurance and transform Medicare into a single-payer system run entirely by the federal government.  Opponents, even within the Democratic Party, are wary, however, of banning health insurers from selling anything, as well as the total price tag.  The general estimate is a whopping $32 trillion.

    Medicare for America:  Supported by Beto O’Rourke and possibly Kirsten Gillibrand.  This aims for universal coverage while giving workers the option of keeping their employer-sponsored plan or switching to a new and expanded version of Medicare.  The proposal rolls in anyone now on Medicare, Medicaid, ObamaCare-subsidized plans and the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program.  Plans offered by employers would have to match standards set under the proposed new program.

    Medicare X Choice Act:  Sponsored by Senators Michael Bennet and Tim Kaine and in the House by Antoniuo Delgado, John Larson and Brian Higgins.  Among candidates, the plan is also supported by Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker. The proposed plan leaves in the existing system and creates a public option (this was proposed during the debate over the Affordable Care Act and ultimately rejected).  The proposal, if approved, would also expand tax credits for purchase.

    Medicare at 50 Act:  Supported by Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand.  The proposal essentially allows U.S. citizens between the ages of 50 and 64 to buy a Medicare plan, and can use Obamacare subsidies to do so.

  • Spring Clean Your Life | California Benefits Agency

    May 28, 2019

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    The winter doldrums have left most of the country and we are witnessing the arrival of spring. Just like the budding trees and baby animals signify a new start, so does a fresh cleaning of your home. But don’t let the spring cleaning stop with the physical place where you live—extend it to all corners of your life. Give your life a good spring cleaning by organizing, decluttering, and setting goals.

     

    ORGANIZE

    By now everyone knows who Marie Kondo is—the master of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”  What began a worldwide phenomenon of “sparking joy” in your home can be applied to your work life as well. Start by organizing your thoughts. Write down the tasks you want to accomplish whether it be daily, monthly, or yearly. Calendar the tasks so you know when you want them completed and prioritize them so you know what importance you assign to each item. Prioritizing tasks helps you accept a request or confidently say “no” when someone asks you to do something knowing it doesn’t fit in with your priorities.  Organizing tasks works for both your personal and work life.

     

    DECLUTTER

    A good decluttering session is good for the soul! Step back and look at your workspace—are there piles of paper stacked on your desk? What about that mound of things you keep saying you’ll take upstairs in your house? Do you have relationships that are cluttering up your life? Take an hour each week to sort through your workspace piles. Choose to save only the papers/magazines/notes that you need to complete your job or that you want to save for sentimental reasons. Toss the rest of those papers in the recycle bin! After you are able to pare down the piles, begin asking yourself if the next paper that comes across your desk needs to be saved, trashed, or recycled so that those mounds don’t grow into mountains again. The same goes for stuff around your house. Start that garage sale box, begin a keepsake box, and trash the rest. Finally, kick those toxic relationships to the curb. You know the ones—the relationships that suck the life out of you. If you have someone whose values and priorities don’t align with yours, choose to keep them at arm’s length so you can spend more time with the people who hold priority in your life.

     

    SET GOALS     

    Goals are unlike resolutions.  Resolutions are a firm decision to do or not to do something. “I resolve not to eat dessert after every meal.” Goals give direction to follow to achieve a desired outcome. For instance, a career goal may be to finish your college degree or obtain a special certification. A relationship goal could be to have weekly date night or to start a family. Financial goals may include paying down debt, setting aside money from each check for a summer vacation, or to begin regularly giving to a non-profit dear to your heart. Set goals as you spring clean your life to give yourself direction in how you spend your time and effort this year.

     

    As you begin spring cleaning your life, you will be surprised what good things are able to flow into those corners that were previously inhabited by disorganization, clutter, or lack of focus. By giving yourself a chance to have a fresh start in your life, you are encouraging new growth. And new growth is always exciting!

  • Single Payer has its Layers – California may Adopt Even if the Feds Don’t

    May 23, 2019

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    Governor Gavin Newsom has released details on his overhauled “Healthy California for All Commission,” which will start meeting in September.  It will also increase in size from 5 to 13 members, all appointed by legislative leaders including the governor, and headed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The Commission would be required to deliver its final report to the governor and Legislature by February 1, 2021.

  • Insuring the Times of Your Life | CA Benefits Group

    May 20, 2019

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    Preston Newby was a youth minister. He and his wife, Tara, were driving with their son to visit family—excited to announce a new baby on the way. In the keeping with the kind of person Preston was, he stopped to help at the scene of an accident. That’s when he was struck by another car and killed. He was only 24.

    Fortunately, this young couple had done their planning and had bought life insurance. So despite the emotional upheaval that Preston’s death caused, Tara, a stay-at-home mom, and her two sons were able to carry on financially as they had before. You can watch their story here.

    How many other people have prepared like this for the unexpected? Unfortunately, not enough: 43% of adult Americans don’t have life insurance, according to the 2019 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA.

    Many people think, “I’m young. That won’t happen to me.” Statistically they may be right. However, they could be up being one of the statistics. You just don’t know—and that’s the problem. The solution is life insurance.

    If you have people you love and who depend on you, or you have financial obligations to meet, you need life insurance to protect against the “what ifs”—at every stage in life. Here are just a few reasons you may need life insurance, or more of it, throughout your life.

    Single with no children: You may think you don’t need life insurance, since you have no dependents, but if you owe money, you need it. It ensures that your debts, including student loans and funeral expenses, won’t be passed on to your family. Additionally, if you are taking care of aging parents or a special-needs sibling, or know you will in the future, life insurance is a smart way to make sure that care can continue uninterrupted.

    Married or partnered: As you begin your lives together, you’ll likely incur joint financial obligations like buying a home, in addition to monthly bills. It makes sense to protect your spouse or partner with adequate life insurance. It’s also a smart move to get coverage in place now if you plan on having a family in the future.

    Parents with children: If you’re in the midst of this stage, financial obligations abound. Many couples rely on two incomes to make ends meet and single parents may be their children’s one-and-only. Life insurance is critical at this point. When figuring out how much you need, remember that the economic impact you have on your family can be measured not just by how much you earn now, but by how much you’ll earn over the course of your working life. Life Happens’ Human Life Value Calculator can help you figure out what that will be.

    Empty-nesters/retirees: Your kids are on their own and your mortgage is paid off, so you may think you don’t need life insurance. However, if you are still building your retirement nest egg, life insurance ensures that if something happens to you that your spouse or partner can still live comfortably in retirement, despite any shortfalls.

    Keep in mind, life insurance is a simple answer to an important question: Would anyone suffer financially if I were to die. If the answer is yes, it’s time to sit down with an insurance professional.

    By Maggie Leyes

    Originally posted on lifehappens.org

  • Millennials are HR’s biggest challenge in the multi-gen workplace | California Benefits Agency

    May 16, 2019

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    Dive Brief:

    • Almost half of HR professionals (48%) reported millennials as their largest non-desk work group, but 32% said they are the hardest generation among Gen Z, Gen X and baby boomers to engage, according to research from Speakap. The corporate social platform surveyed 250 HR professionals in the U.S. and U.K. on their use of technology to retain and engage employees and their biggest workforce challenges.
    • The survey uncovered that millennials value products less than meaningful experiences; are idealistic rather than pragmatic; are continuously searching for personal fulfillment, rather than just a job; and don’t tolerate subpar experiences — from brands delivering a customer experience to employers delivering an employee experience.
    • Almost three-fourths of the survey respondents said their organizations currently use technology-driven HR initiatives, and 75% said they have turnover rates averaging up to 30% a year. Socially engaging experiences, real-time feedback and mobile access positively impact engagement with millennial and Gen Z workers, according to the feedback, and reducing turnover and improving employee-manager relationships are bigger HR priorities with Gen Z workers than with boomer and millennial workers.

    Dive Insight:

    Attracting and hiring talent is only the start of establishing a positive employee experience. Employers must first make employee engagement a priority, especially among millennials, who are apt to job hop when they feel underutilized. Because millennials were born into the tech age, between 1981 and 1996, employers that keep up with technological advancements and provide the latest digital tools may engage them better at work. Employers that don’t will have a harder time competing for talent in general, according to a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report.

    “First and foremost, companies should tap into millennials’ intrinsic desire for personal fulfillment and a sense of purpose,” Erwin Van Der Vlist, Speakap​’s co-founder and CEO, said in a statement.

    Personalization reportedly has high appeal among millennials, especially when the concept is applied to benefits. Emily Bailey, managing principal at OneDigital, told HR Dive in a 2018 interview that there are major differences in how millennials select benefits. She said younger workers are more likely to pass on voluntary benefits and opt for those that meet a more immediate need, such as tuition reimbursement or remote-work options.

    Employers might consider myriad options to engage millennials, such as connecting their organization to a cause through corporate social responsibility initiatives, prioritizing career development and providing meaningful work experiences.

    By Valerie Bolden-Barrett

    Originally posted on hrdive.com

  • They still won’t be making house calls, but there is a changed future for healthcare

    May 8, 2019

    A recent White Paper on the future of health care delivery in the United States has outlined a “blueprint” on what awaits us:

    • The experience may begin with a technology enabled, concierge like outreach to connect the patient to resources based on their profile. This may include establishing a relationship with a primary care provider they can reach virtually or in person with safeguarded data.
    • There should be one consolidated place for digital app reminders, pharmacy connectivity and other sources of online support to help them take care of themselves on a daily basis. There may be different costs for different types of services, and they may work with a more exclusive set of providers.
    • To optimize the health of workers and the sustainability for employer plan sponsors, health care benefit offerings need to evolve in terms of design, delivery, decision support and value, taking advantage of technology and leveraging local market solutions in new and meaningful ways.

  • Who Can I Name as a Beneficiary on My Life Insurance Policy? | California Benefits Advisors

    May 7, 2019

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    First off, great job on buying life insurance! You took an important step by protecting the ones you love.

    Every life insurance policy requires you to name a beneficiary. A life insurance beneficiary is typically the person or people who get the payout on your life insurance policy after you die; it may also be a trust, charity or your estate.

    You can also name more than one beneficiary, as well as the percentage of the payout you want to go to each one—for instance, you could designate 50% to a spouse and 50% to an adult child.

    You’ll typically be asked to pick two kinds of beneficiaries: a primary and a secondary. The secondary beneficiary (also called a “contingent beneficiary”) receives the payout if the primary beneficiary is deceased.

    Providing for Kids
    A big reason why people buy life insurance is to provide for children left behind. Usually this is done by making the surviving spouse or partner who cares for and is raising the kids the beneficiary. But what if you’re widowed or—God forbid—-both you and your partner pass away at the same time?

    First, know that it’s not a good idea to name a minor as a beneficiary. That’s because the law forbids life insurance payouts to anyone who has not reached the age of majority, which is 18 to 21 depending on your state. If a child were to be named, then it would be turned over to probate court. The court will name a guardian who has oversight of the money/estate until the child comes of age.

    Fortunately, there are two options. The first is to name an adult custodian. The custodian should be someone you can trust to use the money for things like housing, health care, and education until the child reaches the age of majority. At that point, any remaining money gets turned over the child and they can spend it any way they want.

    The second option is to work with an attorney to set up a trust. In this scenario, the trust is the beneficiary and a trustee is named to manage and distribute the funds. The main advantage of a trust over naming a custodian is having more control.

    A trust lets you specify how you want the money distributed—and it lets you do so even when your kids are adults. (One quick word of caution: Definitely consult with an attorney if you’re setting up a trust for a special needs child. They can help you create one that doesn’t impact your child’s eligibility for government assistance like Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.)

    Naming a Charity
    Do you have a cause that’s near and dear to your heart? If so, you might consider naming a charitable organization as the beneficiary of your life insurance.

    There are several ways to do this. They include naming the charity as a beneficiary on a new or existing life insurance policy, making the charity both the owner and the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, adding a charitable-giving rider to a life insurance policy, or working with a community foundation to figure out the best way to distribute a payout.

    Final Tips
    Think carefully about naming your estate as a beneficiary. This can trigger a long and costly legal process known as probate. A faster and more efficient solution is to name specific individuals or organizations as beneficiaries.

    1. Get specific. Instead of naming “my spouse” or “my children” as beneficiaries, list their names along with their addresses and Social Security numbers. This saves a lot of time since the insurance company doesn’t have to track down information.

    2. Always name a contingent beneficiary. Passing away and leaving behind life insurance without a living beneficiary could mean the payout goes to someone you never wanted your policy to benefit. It could also require a court-appointed administrator to sort things out.

    3. Pick trustworthy custodians and trustees. Really consider who’d you trust your child’s financial well-being with if you weren’t in the picture. Your kids may love their uncle or aunt, but is he or she mature and responsible with money? If not, pick someone else who is.

    4. Regularly review your beneficiaries. It’s a good idea to review your beneficiaries about once a year and after major life events like a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or a death in the family.

    5. Communicate your wishes. Let your beneficiaries know your intentions and how to find the policy.

    6. Be aware of special situations. There are some situations that could trigger a tax on the life insurance benefit—for instance, when the policyholder and the insured aren’t the same person. Likewise, things can get sticky if you live in a community property state and don’t name your spouse as a beneficiary. An insurance agent can give you life insurance advice on this and much more.

     

    By Amanda Austin

    Originally posted on lifehappens.org

  • The Big Three get together – to form a safe “Haven”

    May 1, 2019

    They have found a leader, and he has made his first public statement.  They are putting together a team, named Haven.  They are going to reform healthcare – but start with their own companies and their own employees.  CEO Atul Gawande, M.D. has stated that Haven “will be an advocate for the patient and an ally to anyone” who wants to improve patient care and costs.  The company will “create new solutions and work to change systems, technologies, contracts, policy and whatever else is in the way of better care” – a tall order.  But with several hundred thousand employees between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and CitiGroup as the founders, this is a pretty big laboratory.  More news to come…

  • Hot Trends in HR | California Benefits Agency

    April 29, 2019

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    2019 has ushered in many new trends such as retro cartoon character timepieces, meatless hamburgers, and 5G networks to name a few. Not surprisingly, trend-watching doesn’t stop with pop culture, fashion, and technology. Your company’s human resources department should also take notice of the top changes in the marketplace, so they are poised to attract and retain the best talent. These top trends include a greater emphasis on soft skills, increased workforce flexibility, and salary transparency.

    SOFT SKILLS

    Gone are the days of hiring a candidate solely based on their hard skills—their education and technical background. While the proper education and training are important factors in getting the job completed, a well-rounded employee must have the soft skills needed to work with a team, problem solve, and communicate ideas and processes. According to Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP and president of HRU Technical Resources in Michigan, “Employers should be looking for soft skills more and training for hard skills, but we struggle with that.” While hard skills can be measured, soft skills are harder to quantify. However, soft skills facilitate human connections and are the one thing that machines cannot replace.  They are invaluable to the success of a company.

    WORKFORCE FLEXIBILITY

    As millennials begin to flood the workplace, the traditional view of the workweek has changed. Job seekers report they place a high importance on having the flexibility of when and where to work. The typical work day has evolved from a 9am – 5pm day to a flexible 24-hour work cycle that adjusts to the needs of the employee. Employers are able to offer greater flexibility about when the work is completed and where it takes place. This flexibility has so much importance that job seekers say remote work options and the freedom of an adaptable schedule have an higher priority to them over pay.

    SALARY TRANSPARENCY

    In the wake of the very public outing of the gender and race pay gaps, companies are opening up conversations about wages in the workplace. Once a hushed subject punishable by termination, salary information is now often being shared in the office. Employers have found that the more transparent and open that they are about the compensation levels in their organization, the more trustworthy they appear to their workforce. One way to stay educated on the welcome trend of pay equality is to visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’ website to review wage ranges across the nation. Another great resource is the Department of Labor’s free publication called “Employer’s Guide on Equal Pay.”

    By watching the trends in the marketplace, employers can focus on what is important to their staff. Honest discussions about salary and compensation, when and where to work, and developing the employee as a whole, including soft skills, sets your company up for success. When you listen to what the market is saying, you show you are sensitive to what their priorities are—and this is always on trend.

  • Cadillac, Cadillac…first it was a big deal, and now?

    April 23, 2019

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    One of the aspects of the Affordable Care Act, which was supposed to occur in the distant future (now the recent past of 2018), was the so called “Cadillac Tax,” which would tax those who had “rich” plans for the “excess” over a basic determined level – just 40%.

    The reason for its enactment was to ensure that there was some funding that would cover some of the anticipated deficits in the ACA.  Unfortunately, no one realized how many people it would affect, as it was not adjusted for area (the Bay Area generally runs above the limits, but Arkansas and more rural states do not), income, or other area adjusted factors.  Now the tax has been delayed twice, with the latest incarnation set to appear in 2022.  Now new bills have been proposed to repeal it altogether, but without a replacement for the income loss it represents.  We may see this in our rear view mirror soon…

  • Federal Employment Law Update — April 2019

    April 22, 2019

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    EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2018 Enforcement and Litigation Data

    On April 10, 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released detailed breakdowns for the 76,418 charges of workplace discrimination the agency received in fiscal year 2018. The comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for FY 2018, which ended September 30, 2018, are posted on the agency’s website, which also includes detailed breakdown of charges by state.

    The EEOC resolved 90,558 charges of discrimination and secured $505 million dollars for victims in private sector, state and local government, and federal workplaces. The agency handled over 519,000 calls to its toll-free number, 34,600 emails, and more than 200,000 inquiries in field offices.

    The FY 2018 data show that retaliation continued to be the most frequently filed charge filed with the agency, followed by sex, disability, and race. The agency also received 7,609 sexual harassment charges — a 13.6 percent increase from FY 2017 — and obtained $56.6 million dollars in monetary benefits for victims of sexual harassment. Specifically, the charge numbers show the following breakdowns by allegations, in descending order:

    • Retaliation: 39,469 (51.6 percent of all charges filed)
    • Sex: 24,655 (32.3 percent)
    • Disability: 24,605 (32.2 percent)
    • Race: 24,600 (32.2 percent)
    • Age: 16,911 (22.1 percent)
    • National Origin: 7,106 (9.3 percent)
    • Color: 3,166 (4.1 percent)
    • Religion: 2,859 (3.7 percent)
    • Equal Pay Act: 1,066 (1.4 percent)
    • Genetic Information: 220 (.3 percent)

    These percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.

    EEOC legal staff filed 199 merits lawsuits alleging discrimination in fiscal year 2018. The lawsuits filed by the EEOC included 117 individual suits and 45 suits involving multiple victims or discrimin­atory policies and 37 systemic discrimination cases. At the end of the fiscal year, the EEOC had 302 cases on its active docket. The EEOC achieved a successful outcome in 95.7 percent of all district court resolutions.

    The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination.

    Read the press release

    EEOC Proposes September 2019 for Submission of EEO-1 Component Two data

    On March 3, 2019, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a submission (in response to the court’s questions raised during the March 19, 2019 status conference) and declaration (from its Chief Data Officer and Director of the Office of Enterprise Data) proposing that employers be required to submit their EEO-1 Component 2 pay data for 2018 by September 30, 2019. The EEOC also proposed that employers not be required to submit 2017 data.

    Therefore, the following are the deadlines for covered employers:

    • Set deadline: Submit Category 1 EEO-1 data for year 2018 by May 31, 2019.
    • Proposed deadline: Submit Category 2 EEO-1 data for year 2018 by September 30, 2019. Category 2 information consists of 12 pay bands for each of the 10 EEO-1 categories (race, ethnicity, and sex).

    The September date is unconfirmed and, at this time, is only a proposal.

    Read the submission and declaration

    DOL Issues Three New FLSA Opinion Letters

    On April 2, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) announced that it issued three new opinion letters addressing the following compliance issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

    • FLSA2019-3, addresses whether a youth residential care facility may implement an “8 and 80” overtime pay system;
    • FLSA2019-4, addresses the application of the teacher exemption to Nutritional Outreach Instructors employed by a public university; and
    • FLSA2019-5, addresses the application of the agricultural exemption to the freezing, cutting, packing, storing, and/or transportation of a farm’s own fruit, vegetable, or meat products.

    An opinion letter is an official, written opinion by WHD on how a particular law applies in specific circumstances presented by the person or entity requesting the letter.

    See the general FLSA opinion letter index page

    Joint Employer Status Under the FLSA

    On April 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule to revise and clarify the responsibilities of employers and joint employers to employees in joint employer arrangements. The Fair Labor Standards Act allows joint employer situations where an employer and a joint employer are jointly responsible for the employee’s wages. This proposal would ensure that employers and joint employers clearly understand their responsibilities to pay at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

    The DOL proposes a four-factor test that would consider whether the potential joint employer actually exercises the power to:

    • Hire or fire the employee;
    • Supervise and control the employee’s work schedules or conditions of employment;
    • Determine the employee’s rate and method of payment; and
    • Maintain the employee’s employment records.

    The proposal also includes a set of examples for comment that further clarify joint employer status.

    The proposed rule was submitted to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) for publication, and is currently pending placement on public inspection at the OFR and publication in the Federal Register. The proposed regulations may vary slightly from the published document if minor technical or formatting changes are made during the OFR review process. Only the version published in the Federal Register is the official proposed regulation. The DOL encourages any interested members of the public to submit comments about the proposed rule electronically at www.regulations.gov, in the rulemaking docket RIN 1235-AA26. The public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed regulation; the comment period will begin on the date of publication in the Federal Register.

    Read the proposed rule and more

    Notice of Proposed Rule Regarding Employee’s Regular Rate

    On March 28, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule to amend 29 C.F.R § 778 to clarify and update regular rate requirements under § 7(e) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA generally requires overtime pay of at least one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per workweek. Regular rate requirements are the forms of payment employers include and exclude in the “time and one-half” calculation when determining workers’ overtime rates.

    Under current rules, employers are discouraged from offering more perks to their employees as it may be unclear whether those perks must be included in the calculation of an employees’ regular rate of pay. The proposed rule focuses primarily on clarifying whether certain kinds of perks, benefits, or other miscellaneous items must be included in the regular rate. Because these regulations have not been updated in decades, the proposal would better define the regular rate for today’s workplace practices.

    The DOL proposes clarifications to the regulations to confirm that employers may exclude the following from an employee’s regular rate of pay:

    • The cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes, and employee discounts on retail goods and services;
    • Payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave;
    • Reimbursed expenses, even if not incurred “solely” for the employer’s benefit;
    • Reimbursed travel expenses that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation System and that satisfy other regulatory requirements;
    • Discretionary bonuses, by providing additional examples and clarifying that the label given a bonus does not determine whether it is discretionary;
    • Benefit plans, including accident, unemployment, and legal services; and
    • Tuition programs, such as reimbursement programs or repayment of educational debt.

    The proposed rule also includes additional clarification about other forms of compensation, including payment for meal periods, “call back” pay, and others.

    The DOL encourages the public to submit comments about the proposed rule electronically at www.regulations.gov, in the rulemaking docket RIN 1235-AA24. Comments must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. on May 28, 2019 to be considered.

    Read the announcement and proposed rule

    Penalty Increase for Posting Violations

    On March 21, 2019, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published a final rule in the Federal Register increasing the civil monetary penalty from $545 to $559 for violations of the notice-posting requirements in all of the following federal laws:

    • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    • The Americans with Disabilities Act.
    • The Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.

    The final rule is effective April 22, 2019.

    Read the final rule

     

    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • 5 Simple Tips to SPRING into Fitness! | California Benefits Team

    April 17, 2019

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    Spring is here! That means it’s time to ditch those winter layers, and even that excess winter weight. No matter what your current fitness level, spring is a great time to refocus your habits and spruce up your routine.

    Get a Check Up or a Physical

    Before starting any new fitness regimen, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor. Your medical professional will be able to assess any potential risks associated with starting a new fitness routine and may advise you on the types of activities you should try or avoid. For example, if you suffer from low back pain, your doctor can suggest the types of activities that will strengthen your muscles without extra risk of injury, and they may even suggest avoiding certain types of workouts.

    Hit the Trails

    If you enjoy walking, jogging, or biking, it’s time to take your workouts into the great outdoors. Indoor workouts are convenient, not to mention climate controlled, but it’s time to take advantage of the spring weather and enjoy those activities out of doors for a nice change of pace. While you’re at it, change your pace! Try increasing your speed or adding in some hills and add the extra challenge your current fitness level.

    Sign Up for a Race

    Spring is a great time to walk, jog, or run in a charity race. Whether it’s a cause close to your heart, or an event close to home, there are lots of 5K’s and fun-runs to choose from. Try searching on Facebook events for upcoming races. Sometimes the simple act of paying a registration can be all the motivation needed to get your running or walking back on track–figuratively and literally.

    Join a Local Team

    All work and no play can make for a very boring fitness routine. Try joining a local recreational sports league. Check with your local parks and recreation office for adult leagues. It can be a great way to get fit while making new friends. Soccer, softball, volleyball and even dodgeball are common. If you can find coworkers to join you, consider starting an office team of your own. Bragging rights can be very effective motivational tools!

    Start a Fitness Challenge at Work

    Start a sports team isn’t the only way to get the office involved. Consider starting an office fitness challenge. It could be something as simple as a “30-Day Water Challenge” or a “Biggest Loser” weight loss contest. The most important part of a fitness challenge at work is the opportunity to motivate one another, to challenge one another, and even to hold each other accountable.

    Start by assessing your current fitness level, consult a medical professional as needed, and set realistic goals for improvement. From there, the possibilities are endless.

  • 5 Things to Think About Before Adding Outside-of-the-Box Benefits

    April 16, 2019

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    According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the North Bay’s unemployment rate for the month of January 2019 was 3.3%. With the unemployment rate being so low, employers are now forced to get creative with how they attract and retain employees. As benefits advisors, we get an up-close view as to what makes a company’s staffing goals successful. We see that the employers who are winning the talent war use outside-of-the box benefits that target the workforce that the employer needs. Here are five things that we advise clients to think about before they look to add and use outside-of-the-box benefits as a way to attract and retain employees:

    SURVEY

    It’s important to engage your workforce and find out what benefits they would value most before investing in a benefit that will have little or no return on investment. We have had several discussions with employers over the past 18 months where the employer thinks of a benefit that they would value and therefore assumes the employees will value it too. You won’t if you’re correct until you ask.

    WHO ARE YOU TRYING TO ATTRACT?

    It’s important to strategically think about the type of employee you are looking to hire and retain. Employers often hire to fill a spot without thinking about the type of person they need and whether the new hire will fit seamlessly into the organization.

    WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES

    The wants and needs of the workforce are changing. For example, younger people tend to see their careers not solely as income, but as a driver of fulfillment and an expression of their values, interests and skills. We like to highlight corporate values because we have found that to be a main driver for a younger employee’s decision on whether or not to work for a company. Company values are the beliefs upon which a business and its behaviors are based. We suggest that employers determine and make their values public. This will help attract employees who align with an employer.

     WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH AND WHY?

    Do you want to create a better employee experience and make employees feel more engaged or are you looking to attract more talent to your organization? Maybe it’s both. Either way, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this puzzle. Our suggestion is to target the demographic you are looking to attract or retain. Understand them and then focus on what brings them value.

    ENGAGE EMPLOYEES ON AN INDIVIDUAL LEVEL

    By understanding deeper motivations, employers can develop strategies that better engage their workforce. Having a benefits program customized to meet individual employees’ increases loyalty to an employer (MetLife Benefit Trends Study).

     

     

    ABOUT US

    Andrew McNeil and Rosario Avila are employee benefit advisors who collaborate with their clients as team, using their different perspectives to deploy one solution. Both have been recognized nationally by Employee Benefit Advisor magazine (Andrew: 2017 Rising Star in Advising. Rosario: 2018 Top Women in Benefit Advising).

  • It’s Intern Season | CA Benefits Group

    April 8, 2019

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    Summer internships offer students opportunities to gain real-world experience and hands-on career development. Conversely, internship programs give employers access to highly motivated and educated young workers and give junior managers more experience training and supervising. There are benefits for everyone involved.

    However, there are some people risks that many employers overlook. One of the largest issues is determining what interns should be paid – or not paid.

    The Department of Labor issued new guidance on January 5, 2018, that gives employers more flexibility in deciding whether to pay interns. A seven-criteria test is now used to determine if an internship may be unpaid, but the biggest change is that not all factors need to be met – no single factor is decisive, and the determination is made on the unique circumstances of each case.

    If the job training program primarily provides professional experience that furthers a student’s educational goals, a student may not be considered an employee entitled to compensation. However, if students are doing work usually done by employees and are not receiving training and close mentoring, they should be paid wages. If there is any doubt, the best approach is to pay the student.

    4 Reasons to Pay Interns

    However, while it’s now legally permissible to classify more interns as unpaid, there are still compelling reasons to pay interns even when the internship does meet the criteria for unpaid status.

    Unpaid internships tend to exclude students from lower- and middle-income backgrounds, who cannot afford not to work at paid jobs during the summer. In addition, they may need to pay up to several thousand dollars for course credit, in addition to coming up with funds for housing, clothing, and transportation related to the internship. This can put internships out of reach for some of the students who can benefit from them the most.

    Unpaid internships may devalue the work paid employees are doing. After all, interns are working alongside regular employees — often doing some of the same tasks — and not being compensated for that work. This may send the message to employees that their work, or time, is not valued.

    Unpaid internships can create a negative impression of your company. Customers or the community may see you as taking advantage of these students, which is not the message you want to portray. It’s a good community relations move to offer youth paid opportunities.

    The work the unpaid intern is doing may actually be work that should be compensable. Improperly classifying an internship and not paying the student could result in wage claims that include back pay, penalties, and fines. To mitigate those risks, once again, the best approach is to pay the student.

    Hiring summer students is a great way to help youth learn what it takes to be successful in business while helping employers get special projects completed. Plan ahead and structure your program so that your summer internship program is a great experience for everyone.

     

    by Rachel Sobel
    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • Court Blocks New DOL Rules on Association Health Plans | CA Benefits Group

    April 4, 2019

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    In March, a federal district court struck down a Department of Labor (DOL) Rule on Association Health Plans (AHPs). Issued in 2018, the DOL rule aimed to expand the availability of AHPs to a greater number of small businesses as an alternative to standard ACA-compliant small group insurance policies. For details, see our June 2018 blog post.

    AHPs, also known as Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWAs), have been around for years but, under DOL rules before 2018, they generally were limited to associations formed by employers in the same trade, industry, or profession. Traditionally, this meant employers that had employees and that also shared a “commonality of interest.” The 2018 DOL rule expanded the meaning to include employers without a shared interest if they were merely located in the same state or metropolitan area, including businesses without any employees. The key concern of states that objected to the new DOL rule was that disparate businesses, and even individuals with no employees, could form AHPs to avoid the ACA’s consumer protections. State insurance laws control the type of policies issued in each state (and various states already prohibit or restrict AHPs) but self-funded plans that are subject to ERISA may be able to avoid state law.

    The 2018 DOL rule was quickly challenged by 11 different states and the District of Columbia, led by the Attorney General of New York. On March 28, 2019, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court agreed with the states, saying the DOL rule “was intended and designed to end run the requirements of the ACA, [and] it does so only by ignoring the language and purpose of both ERISA and the ACA.”

    In State of New York, et al v. DOL, Judge Bates went on to say the “DOL unreasonably expands the definition of “employers” to include groups without any real commonality of interest and to bring working owners without employees within ERISA’s scope despite Congress’s clear intent that ERISA cover benefits arising out of employment relationships. Accordingly, these provisions are unlawful and must be set aside.”

    To recap, the 2018 DOL rule on AHPs has been vacated by the federal district court. The DOL may choose to seek a stay of the ruling, appeal the ruling, or rewrite its rule. In the meantime, the DOL pre-2018 rules continue to apply.

    Lastly, on a separate note, the name Judge John D. Bates may ring a bell with those in the employee benefits field. He is the same judge who vacated the EEOC rules on voluntary wellness programs in AARP v EEOC. The D.C. District Court, to which Judge Bates was appointed by President Bush, often hears cases involving federal laws, including ERISA and the ACA.

    by Rachel Sobel

    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • The Advantages of Automation | California Benefits Partners

    March 27, 2019

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    As schedules continue to get more and more packed with work, health, and personal responsibilities, prioritizing and organizing our lives becomes increasingly crucial. When you look at your daily to-do list, some tasks are obviously more important than others, but the significance of other tasks may be less apparent. Automating certain things, like paying bills, is a no-brainer, but there are other areas of our lives that can benefit from automation as well. Consider the benefits of taking automation beyond your Netflix subscription renewal to other important parts of your daily life.

    Automate Your Finances

    So many of us have automatic drafts for various accounts that we don’t even bat an eyelash at automating our finances. But think about those other bills stacking up on your desk. Have you ever forgotten to pay a utility bill only to discover the lights don’t come on when you get home from work? Automate your finances by setting up payments for everything from utilities to credit cards. If you give out of the generous pocket of your heart, you can even set up autopayments for donations to your favorite charities. And don’t miss out on the regular deposit you make into your 401k at work. If your company matches your contributions, make sure you automatically deposit the amount that they agree to match so that you are maxing out this benefit. Not only do you avoid late fees and added charges, but you gain the peace of mind that comes from planning ahead.

    Automate Your Health

    Few things in life are more important than our physical health, but so many of us put off taking care of ourselves. Be proactive and schedule tasks related to your health. Get your annual physical and annual dental exams on the calendar early in the year. Women need to schedule their routine breast cancer exam, and doctors recommend everyone 50 years and older, having routine colon cancer screening. By automating these health exams, you aid in early detection of diseases and reduce the impact should concerns arise.

    In addition to annual health exams, you can schedule your family’s weekly meals. Planning out your menu of meals for the week saves time in deciding what to fix as well as time running to the grocery store for just one meal’s ingredients. Having a meal-prep day can be a weekly task that may end up saving you time in the kitchen every single day of the week. If planning and cooking aren’t things you enjoy, consider a meal kit service that delivers all the ingredients, recipes, and instructions to your door. There’s a meal kit service for every palate imaginable from vegan to kid-friendly to family style!

    Automate Your Relationships

    The most important part of our lives is whom we spend them with, so automating time with people is a great way to make them a priority in your schedule. Try starting each new month by looking at your calendar and planning relationship-building time. For instance, once a month schedule date night with your spouse. Book the babysitter, make a reservation, or whatever you both enjoy. You’ll have the added bonus of anticipating the fun, plus the ability to plan around what really matters rather than trying to “fit it in” after the fact. Maybe once a month, or every other month, you plan a girls’ night or get together with the guys every Monday to watch the football game. If you’re a parent, try scheduling one-on-one time with each of your kids.

    Don’t stop there, though. Schedule a set time each week or month where you unplug from electronics and do something you enjoy. Read, spend time outdoors, take a class. When you automate investing in your relationships—with yourself and others—you are able to prioritize how you spend your extra time each day. You’ll also re-evaluate which relationships are truly important to you so that you can give them the time they deserve.

    Automating your life doesn’t mean that you are stuck to a strict schedule with every minute accounted for or planned out. Instead, it means that you are looking at the things that hold the most value to you and devoting the time and resources you desire to make that part of your life healthy. Whether it’s finances, health, or relationships, you can save time and money and build stronger connections by adding simple automations to your life. Now get your calendar and computer out and automate what you appreciate!

  • 5 Ways Employers Can Attract and Retain a Hispanic Workforce

    March 22, 2019

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    According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the national unemployment rate for the Hispanic population is 4.9%. Here in the North Bay, that number is even less as you have the wine industry, cannabis industry, construction industry, and manufacturers all competing for this valuable workforce. So how do you compete for the workforce you need? We have identified five important things to consider when looking to attract new Hispanic workers and create loyalty with current ones.

    Cultural Understanding
    It is important for employers to familiarize and understand Hispanic culture. This will allow you to better understand, interact and appreciate your Hispanic employees and their culture. This will create a welcoming atmosphere and help build trust between the employer and the employees.

    Flexibility
    Like the non-Hispanic workforce, offering flexibility is crucial to attracting and retaining your employees. But what does flexibility mean? To non-Hispanics, flexibility relates to the broader term “work-life balance”. To Hispanics, the term flexibility relates to family and the ability to take time to care for family members both in and out of the country.

    Benefits and Communication
    Do your Spanish speaking employees understand the benefits and financial investment you have made in them? Employee benefits, particularly health insurance, are not common in Latin America, so just providing a benefits program with no explanation will likely go unappreciated. Many employers are under the impression that just translating these benefits is enough for a Spanish speaking employee to understand them. They may understand the words, but not necessarily the meaning. If your benefits program is going to make an impact on attracting and retaining your Spanish speaking workforce, your organization needs to be equipped with the personnel necessary to not just translate but educate your employees on your benefits program.

    Develop and Engage
    Developing your Hispanic workforce with things like different training programs and mentorship programs will help keep employees engaged with your organization for the long term. People want to help people who are helping them. Further, you can create avoluntaryEmployee Resource Group which is an employee-led group that is meant to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organization’s mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives.

    Recruit
    Happy employees will ultimately lead to more job applicants. Develop an employee referral program to incentivize employees to refer their friends and family.

     

     

    by Rosario Avila & Andrew McNeil

  • The Risks are Real | California Employee Benefits

    March 20, 2019

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    Even when you proactively anticipate all the people risks that have the potential to impact your workplace, it’s easy to convince yourself there is no risk to youthat it will never happen here.

    You may think no one at your workplace will harass anyone, no one will sue you over an honest mistake made in administering workers’ comp, no one will accidentally cause a data breach, or no one will ever bring a weapon to the office. You might think managing people risk is extremely time consuming and not worth the effort. Rationalizations like this may lead you to believe you don’t need to do anything to prevent these risks.

    However, these risks are very real and can happen anywhere, at any time. It’s imperative you cover all of your bases, and it’s actually very straightforward, especially if you have a partner on your side.

    Ideally, you will integrate people risk management (PRM) with your business practices so it’s not something extra to do; it’s a way of doing things you already do. PRM can be a lens through which you look through when evaluating your policies, procedures, and other aspects of how you run your company.

    Acknowledging and Preventing Risk: A Four-Step Plan

    When you are anticipating risk, you are thinking about what might happen. Then you need to look at what you should do when something actually happens and it’s time to acknowledge the risk.

    Maybe a law passes or regulation is finalized, you realize your pay policies are not in compliance with the law, or an employee informs you they have been prescribed medical marijuana but you have a very strict drug use policy. What tools to do you have to deal with that?

    Once you acknowledge the risks inherent in these issues, there are four steps to putting a plan of action into place to prevent the risks from causing damage to your company’s bottom line, its reputation, or to its level of employee engagement:

    1. Understand when and how the risk will impact you. If it’s a law or regulation, when does it go into effect? Is it an ongoing issue or something that can be addressed and then set aside? What are the potential penalties or pitfalls presented by the risk?
    2. Determine the best course of action. Does the situation require simple changes to operations or a more complicated approach? Where do changes need to be implemented — in handbook policy updates, procedural documentation, or new training programs?
    3. Craft communication strategies around the risk. Who needs to know what, and how much information should be given to people at each level? What information should be held back to preserve confidentiality? What information is only relevant to a handful of people (such as when an OSHA report is due) and what information is relevant to everyone (such as who needs sexual harassment training in your state)?
    4. Decide what change management activities are required to get buy-in. It’s one thing to decide to do something but getting people ready to embrace the change is another thing. If change management is good, then the changes will take hold, the implementation will be smooth, and the risks will be lower.

     

     

    by Larry Dunivan, CEO of ThinkHR
    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • Opioid Addiction in the Workplace | California Benefits Agency

    March 11, 2019

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    The opioid crisis has driven overdose deaths in America to all-time highs. By 2017, the opioid mortality rate was five times higher than the rate in 1999. This crisis is not limited to one socio-economic class or one geographic area. Opioid addiction affects those in suburban homes, high-rise office buildings, and schools in every state in America.  Employers must address this epidemic in their workplace through education and services for employees, so that the tide of this crisis can recede, and their workforce can march ahead undeterred by addiction.

    Opioid Addiction Explained

    Opioid addiction most often results from the misuse of and addiction to prescription pain medication. It has become an epidemic that affects not only the patient, with implications in the workplace, as well. Many patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain don’t believe they will become addicted to them. But, with prolonged use, their need for more medication to achieve the same level of pain-relief increases, as does their dependence on these drugs.

    Education Is Key

    Educating your employees on how opioid addiction happens and what can be done to overcome it is essential in the workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have many resources to help you with education that you can post around your office and workplace. Their website is also a great resource on educating the employer on what opioid misuse looks like and how to address it with your employees.

    Resources for Employees

    With an estimated 1.7 million Americans addicted to opioids, you can be assured you will encounter someone in your workplace who has been affected by this crisis. How can you help your employees to overcome this addiction? Your company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a wonderful resource to offer. Each EAP will be different based on the service to which your company has subscribed. According to a recent survey, 91% of work organizations offer some type of EAPs for their employees. Most EAPs offer assistance in matching employees to local treatment resources, as well as short-term counseling and support/recovery groups. Also, EAP professionals are knowledgeable on treatment options and suggested ways to intervene when abuse is suspected.

    The opioid crisis is real—now, more Americans are likely to die from an opioid overdose than an automobile accident. This epidemic has sieged neighbors, co-workers, and family. The workplace is feeling this crisis through lowered productivity of employees as well as increased healthcare costs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. As an employer, you have the ability to help turn the tide of this addiction crisis by offering education and employee assistance programs for your workforce. The right resources can help your workforce become educated on and overcome this addiction.

  • March Madness 2019: The Ball is in Your Court | California Benefits Agents

    March 6, 2019

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    March Madness is upon us, and there is no avoiding it. Selection Sunday, when the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee announces which 68 teams made the 2019 tournament, is March 17. Games begin with the First Four on March 19 and 20 and culminate with the Final Four April 6 and 8.

    While this annual event can impact productivity, employers may find that the positive effects it has on team engagement and camaraderie outweigh any negatives. Consider these facts from both sides of the coin:

    • An estimated $1.9 billion is lost in workplace productivity during a typical March Madness tournament. (Challenger, Gray & Christmas)
    • Employees will spend 25.5 minutes per workday on March Madness, for a total of 6 hours spread over the 15 workdays when games will be played. (OfficeTeam) This includes time spent by 76 percent of employees who admit to checking scores during work hours and 53 percent who watch or follow sporting events on their computers while at work. (Randstad)
    • As much as $3 billion will be bet on workplace bracket pools during March Madness this year. (FordHarrison) About 40 percent of workers say they have participated in college basketball brackets in their offices, with an average of $22.44 contributed to the pools. (Randstad)
    • Nearly 9 in 10 employees said participating in NCAA brackets at work helped build team camaraderie, and 73 percent said they look forward to going to work more when they are part of an office pool. (Randstad)

    So how can an employer embrace the fun of March Madness while enforcing the rules it may push the limits of? Whether you view the tournament as a minor distraction that creates an opportunity to boost morale, or as a potential pitfall of legal liability, missed deadlines, and dissatisfied customers, the ball is in your court. Here are five ways to maximize the positive aspects of March Madness while minimizing disruptions.

    1. Have fun: Make it clear to your employees that you want them to enjoy work and March Madness while not letting the tournament put a full court press on their work. Encourage employees to wear their favorite team’s clothing and/or decorate their workspace in their team’s colors.
    2. Watch together: Put televisions in break rooms so that employees have somewhere to watch the games other than the internet. That way, connectivity is not slowed and productivity lost even for those not participating in the Madness activities. Provide snacks for the viewers.
    3. Be careful with brackets: Organize a company-wide pool with no entry fee to avoid ethical or legal issues surrounding office gambling. Give away a company gift to the pool winner that is not cash. Keep the brackets posted and updated in the break room.
    4. Be flexible: Allow workers to arrive early so they can work a full shift and still leave in time to see big games that overlap the end of their shift. Conversely, allowing employees to delay their start time the morning after big games may help reduce absenteeism.
    5. Follow the rules: Review applicable company policies—such as gambling, use of personal electronics and company computers, and work and break hours—with your employees before engaging in any March Madness activities at work, so it will be clear to all what is considered acceptable.

    Determine how March Madness fits with your business culture and customer deliverables. If employees are getting their work done, customers are happy, and the biggest problems are reduced internet bandwidth or a little more noise in the cubicles or lunchroom for a couple of days, it’s nothing but net. (See what we did there?) Decide how you’ll be playing this before the opening tipoff and the Madness begins!

    by Rachel Sobel
    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • Negotiations are now possible, if you can figure out the numbers

    February 28, 2019

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    A new rule went into effect January 1 requiring hospitals to publish their online price lists for all the medical services they provide.  This was required under the ACA, but now they must be published online in a format that can be downloaded.  The central website for California hospitals for the most common outpatient procedures is www.oshpd.ca.gov/data-and-reports/cost-transparency/hospital-chargemasters/2018-chargemasters

     

  • 3 Ways to Build a Thriving Company Culture

    February 27, 2019

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    When you are a business owner, you know how important it is to create a thriving culture at the workplace for your employees. But how do you define company culture? The concept means different things to different people. First off, it is about leadership, so the most important thing you, as the leader of your company, need to do is set an example to follow. Once you do this, you can begin the process to build an inspiring and thriving company culture. You can seek the help of the top benefit brokers in San Francisco County for expert advice and tailor-made HR solutions for your company’s employee benefits needs.

    3 Tips to Help You Build a Thriving Culture in Your Company

    Here is a look at 3 ways to build a company culture that is both inspiring and thriving.

    1. Hire Character Before Talent: Most companies look at talent before anything else when they hire employees. However, it is extremely important to engage and hire people with character over mere talent. Character creates culture, which in turn supports character – meaning that they are mutually supportive. With character, you can not only create a thriving company culture, but also a successful business.
    2. Provide Opportunity: If you want the culture in your company to thrive, you need to make room for an opportunity within the world you have created. You must make sure that your team feels like that they can grow and rise within the space they are in. If they feel like they cannot contribute or are limited, they will eventually stop feeling inspired, and get tired of being part of your organization.
    3. Build a Community: Your company is made up of different people from different backgrounds who have different skills. You need to call them to work in unity in spite of all these differences. It is important to make your employees feel like they are part of a community and play a key role within it. You should also make sure to reward individuals as well as groups for breakthroughs in your company.

    Manage the Complexities of Benefits with the Leading Benefit Brokers in San Francisco County

    When you need expert help in managing employee benefits, you should look no further than Arrow Benefits Group, the top benefit brokers in San Francisco County. The company provides expert advice, tailor-made programs and customized HR solutions for companies across the county and the U.S. Call us today at 707-992-3780 to get expert counsel about employee benefits and much more.

  • ACA won’t go away…and the courts are courting further argument

    February 27, 2019

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    California’s Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading the charge of other Attorneys General to appeal a ruling by a conservative Texas federal judge saying that the ACA is unconstitutional.  Even that judge has already said he would reconsider, but for now the rule stands.  The appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is joined by 16 states and the District of Columbia.  “In this particular case we believe the stakes are not only great, but compelling” Becerra, who voted for the ACA when he was a House representative, said.  Ellen Rosenblum from Oregon said “really, this is an absurd interpretation of the law and an overreach of the federal court that will hopefully be stopped at the appellate level”  Of course, others disagree “The court’s decision was about restoring the rule of law and federalism by eliminating an illegal, unconstitutional federal power grab” said a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General.

  • Heart Disease Risk and Prevention | Petaluma Employee Benefits

    February 27, 2019

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    Heartbreaks are painful, but did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 630,000 people dying from the condition each year. This equates to one in four deaths attributed to this awful disease. The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is what can cause heart attacks.

    CAD is caused when a substance called plaque builds up in a person’s arteries. As the buildup grows, the opening of the arteries gradually closes until blood flow is blocked and the patient experiences a heart attack. While these statistics are sobering, there are several ways we can prevent heart disease. Knowing the “why” about this disease can aid in prevention. First, let’s learn about the big three risk factors of heart disease:

    High Blood Pressure

    High blood pressure (HBP) is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. This is what your nurse checks when she puts the blood pressure cuff on your arm and pumps air into it at your check-up. She is listening for the pressure when your heart beats and the pressure for when your heart is at rest between beats. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms so it is very important to keep your annual physical appointments with your doctor and to follow her recommendations if she diagnoses you with HBP.

    High Cholesterol

    High cholesterol is when you develop fatty deposits in your blood vessels. These deposits can lead to narrow vessels and increase your chance of a heart attack. It is determined through blood tests. While high cholesterol can be inherited, it can also be prevented through medication, diet and exercise.

    Smoking

    Smokers are four times more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers. The nicotine in smoke reduces your blood flow, raises your blood pressure, and speeds up your heart. Quitting smoking will not reverse the damage done to your heart, but it greatly reduces the damage going forward to your heart and arteries.

    In addition to the three key risk factors, it’s important to explore what we can do to prevent it. Prevention behaviors can take you from the danger zone of heart disease and put you on the path to a healthy heart.

    Heart Disease Prevention

    Healthy Diet

    According to the Mayo Clinic, simple tips to prevent heart disease by diet include tips like these:  controlling portion size, eating more vegetables and fruits, selecting whole grains, limiting unhealthy fats, choosing low-fat protein, reducing sodium intake, and limiting treats.

    Healthy Weight

    Being overweight increases your risk for heart disease. One measure used to determine if your weight is in a healthy range is body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website. When in doubt, consult a physician who can help in calculating whether your health is at risk due to weight.

    Physical Activity

    Among the many benefits to getting enough physical activity can, it can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. From walking, to swimming, to cycling, adding even moderate activity to your routine can have a great impact on your heart health. Just remember, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

    Quit Smoking

    Smoking cigarettes greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit, and you can find many other helpful resources, including creating a tailored plan to help you quit at SmokeFree.gov.

    Limit Alcohol

    There’s a good reason your doctor asks about routine alcohol consumption at each check-up. Drinking too much alcohol can drastically raise blood pressure and binge drinking can increase heart rate. For heart health, the medical guidelines state that men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. Talk to your doctor if you aren’t sure whether or not you should drink alcohol or how much you should drink for optimal heart health.

    Check out these great resources to better educate yourself and others on heart health:

    American Heart Association—Healthy for Good

    American Heart Month Toolkit

    Heart Health Information

    Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease

  • Despite state support, Medicare for all isn’t playing nationally

    February 26, 2019

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    The seven California Democrats who flipped Republican seats in the midterms campaigned for more government funded health care, are facing roadblocks.  They were greeted by a statement from the senior California statesperson, “We need to do the things that are doable – that aren’t pie in the sky” said Senator Dianne Feinstein.  She got pushback from the junior Senator Kamala Harris, who supports Medicare for all, calling it “the moral and ethical thing to do.”

  • Further Mergers – lick your wounds and come back for more

    February 25, 2019

    Walgreens, fresh off a massive fine for general malfeasance, has decided to partner with Microsoft to take on Amazon in everyone’s new favorite sport – fixing health care.  Microsoft is ceding Cloud dominance to Amazon, and Walgreens to CVS (which just bought Aetna), so now they want to leapfrog them and own the market.  Walgreens will open up 12 digital health corners in stores that will sell health care related tools and instruments, while also gaining a lot more data about their customers.

  • How gruesome is the Newsom model going to be? Or will it be at all…in California

    February 23, 2019

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    On his first day in office, the new California governor unveiled a sweeping health plan that would prop up the ACA, expand health care for undocumented immigrants and give the state new powers to negotiation drug prices.  It would fall short of what was indicated in his campaign, however, where he hinted at a Single Payer Health Plan (adored by some, reviled by others).  His plan would reinstate the individual mandate by taxing those who do not have coverage.  While stopping short, Newsom did write to President Trump and congressional leaders asking for permission for California to pursue a government funded health care system.

  • ACA may be here to stay – the judge rules against it, but says it is in place for now

    February 21, 2019

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    There has been lots of excitement over the Texas decision ruling the ACA is unconstitutional. Judge Reed O’Connor has now issued a stay of his own opinion, which means the law remains in effect while the inevitable (and already filed) appeals go forward.  Now that the Democrats are in charge of the White House, there will be some other action on this as well, we’re sure.

  • Arrow Benefits Group, Leading Employee Benefits Firm in North Bay, Announces Major Expansion

    February 21, 2019

     

     

     

     

     

    New National Partnership Promises Continued Growth

    Petaluma, CA – Arrow Benefits Group, the third largest benefits firm in the North Bay, announces a series of expansions and status as a founding agency in a new national brokerage. Says Stephen McNeil, Managing Partner, “Arrow has tripled in size in just four years, and the creation of our new national partnership promises continued expansion of our size, strength and capabilities. It also allows us to deepen our already substantial commitment to our North Bay communities.” The expansion includes a merger with Scarborough Insurance of San Francisco and the addition of their principals Fred Naranjo, Kathleen Lemke and Barb Hendricks to the Arrow team. Arrow has also acquired four well-established independent agencies:

    • Advanced Benefits of Santa Rosa, Til West, Principal
    • Mission Benefits of Sunnyvale, Matthew Sohn, Principal
    • Copeland Insurance of San Rafael, Bob Copeland, Principal
    • Ahern Insurance of Novato, Michael Ahern, Principal

    Click here to read entire release:

    https://www.prweb.com/releases/arrow_benefits_group_leading_employee_benefits_firm_in_north_bay_announces_major_expansion/prweb16108671.htm

     

  • How Human Resource Professionals Can Enhance the Efficiency of Employee Benefits Communication

    February 20, 2019

    A lot of people have revealed that work-life benefits have a crucial impact on their performance at work. But how do you ensure performance and productivity when most employees do not know as much as they should about employee benefits? The key is efficient communication on employee benefits. The human resource professionals in your company need to know how they can better communicate with team members so that they learn about the benefits your company provides, and thereby boost efficiency and productivity among employees. You can get some of the best employee benefit services in Sonoma County from a leading company to provide expert advice and personalized HR solutions.

    How HR Professionals Can Improve Communication about Employee Benefits

    Here is a look at some of the best ways that help HR professionals to enhance the efficiency of employee benefits communication.

    • Reward Employees for Consuming Benefits Messages: The truth is that benefits messages are not exactly the most entertaining, which is why employees do not consume them. Building incentives into communications is a great way to get employees to learn about benefits. Rewarding staff members for doing something can go a long way in getting them to do it well.
    • Use Various Channels: Using a mix of channels to communicate messages about employee benefits is an effective way for HR professionals to improve the efficiency of communication. There are a number of innovative ways to communicate with employees about benefits, including emails that are combined with quizzes, interactive employee benefits software, and mobile HR apps. Although some companies have success using just one channel, using multiple channels increases the chances of your HR department succeeding with year-round communications.
    • Consult Professional Employee Benefit Services: Another great way to enhance communication on employee benefits is to seek the help of professional employee benefit services in Sonoma County. These firms can provide not just expert advice and customized HR solutions, but also tailor-made programs to meet the needs of your company. When your HR department is struggling to improve benefit communication with employees, a reputed company can help you find effective solutions by providing personalized service.

    Get the Best Employee Benefit Services in Sonoma County

    When you need to enhance benefits communication with employees or improve the efficiency of the human resources department in your company, there is one name you can trust for unmatched employee benefit services in Sonoma County – Arrow Benefits Group. You can gain superb services to help you in managing the complex area of employee benefits. To find out more, contact us today at 707-992-3780.

  • You Can Reduce the Risk of Workplace Violence | California Benefits Agency

    February 20, 2019

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    On Friday, February 15, 2019, five employees of a manufacturer in Aurora, Illinois, were killed by an employee they were about to terminate as they met in a conference room. Among the victims were the human resources director and a young HR intern at his first day on the job. This is just the latest incidence of gun violence at a workplace.

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that every year, nearly two million U.S. workers are victims of workplace violence. According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Census, homicide accounted for 10 percent of all fatal workplace injuries in 2016. And an FBI study found that businesses were the setting for nearly half of 160 active-shooter incidents over a 13-year-period the agency examined.

    Workplace violence takes many forms, including homicide, assault, stalking, threatening words, threatening conduct, and harassment. It results in a decline in employee morale, management inefficiencies, and decreased productivity. Employers also bear the burden of workplace violence because its consequences include significant costs in lost wages, employee absences, and increased benefit payments.

    Employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace and must prevent workplace violence to protect their employees and avoid liability.

    How a Policy Can Help

    A well-written and implemented workplace violence prevention policy — combined with engineering controls, administrative controls, and training — can reduce the incidence of workplace violence. This policy can stand on its own or be incorporated into an injury and illness prevention program, employee handbook, or operations manual.

    The goals of any workplace violence prevention policy are two-fold:

    • Reduce the probability of threats or acts of violence in the workplace.
    • Ensure that any incident, complaint, or report of violence is immediately addressed and properly managed.

    The primary components of a workplace violence prevention policy include clearly defined reporting and response procedures, a workplace security risk evaluation, prevention tools, mandatory training, and other necessary support services. Employers must inform employees of the requirements of applicable state and federal law, the risk factors in their workplace, and the location of the written workplace violence prevention program.

    It’s important that all workers are informed of the policy and understand that management strives to keep all employees safe in the workplace and will take all concerns seriously.

     

    by Rachel Sobel
    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • New Year Resolutions by HR Professionals & Employers That Can Help to Enact Change in Company Culture

    February 13, 2019

    Every business, big and small, needs a solid company culture. It determines how engaged the members of staff are, and for how long the business can retain them. It is the responsibility of employers and human resources professionals to help employees shape the company culture to ensure long-term sustainability. Whether you are the employer or an HR professional, it is important to understand what your role is, and how you can improve company culture. This can help in creating an environment that your employees enjoy going to every day. You should consult a top brokerage firm for quality services in employee benefits health insurance in Sonoma County and more.

    New Year Resolutions to Help You Change Your Company Culture

    Here is a look at important New Year resolutions that employers and HR professionals can make to bring about change in company culture.

    • Foster an Inclusive Environment: It is important to foster an inclusive environment by putting more resources behind it. Experts say that it is easy to conduct diversity hiring, but it will always be challenging to maintain the inclusion part. Ultimately, an inclusive environment will act as a tool for diversity, and this will consequently help in enacting change in company culture.
    • Begin Retention Efforts: You need to recognize the importance of reaching out to more employees before they actually begin working so that you can make sure that you retain them. This will also make them feel like they are part of the team right from the very start. For this resolution, you can have them participate in trainings, and get to know other new staff members. You can also have a peer mentor to help them in getting ready for their first day at work, and also set up a meeting with all new employees about their salary, employee benefits, and employee benefits health insurance in Sonoma County, retirement plans, and more.
    • Have More Fun: No one likes to work in a dull, dreary environment. Experts say that a New Year resolution that employers and HR professionals can make to change company culture is to bring in more fun and joy into their place of work. Organizing team challenges that incorporate wellness, giving back to the community, and using more GIFs in messages are just some of the few ways that you can make employees look forward to coming to work every day.

    Get Excellent HR Solutions for Your Business

    When it comes to services for employee benefits health insurance and HR solutions in Sonoma County, there is one name you can always trust – Arrow Benefits Group. For more information, call us at 707-992-3780.

  • New Year’s Resolutions That Stick | California Employee Benefits

    February 13, 2019

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    Ever wonder why the resolutions you make in January don’t stick around after March? You aren’t alone! Studies show that only 8% of people keep their New Year’s resolutions. Only 8%! Why? And how do people achieve their goals set at New Year’s? We’ve broken it down for you so you can identify your goal-breaker as well as give you some tips on how to make those resolutions stick.

    There are three main reasons that New Year’s resolutions fail. The first goal-breaker is taking on too much (too big of a goal) and expecting it to happen too fast. Researchers have found that it takes 66 days to break a habit. That’s much higher than the previously published 21 days. It conversely means that it also takes 66 days to form a new habit. So, battle your goal-breaker by setting smaller goals and not expecting to master those resolutions by the end of the month.

    The second reason you fail to keep your resolution is you don’t have anyone supporting you. This could be because you simply didn’t tell anyone that you have new life goals. It could also be due to fear of accountability. You need some life-cheerleaders that root you on to victory. These cheerleaders also call you out when you are riding off the tracks. Their support isn’t tied to your achievement of your goals but instead their support is firmly tied to you and they want to see you succeed.

    The last goal-breaker is that you don’t believe in yourself! When you make New Year’s resolutions that are super unattainable, and then you fail, you doubt yourself. When this cycle persists, time and again, you fill your head up with negative thoughts and begin believing you aren’t capable of accomplishing anything. Self-doubt is powerful.

    Now, let’s steer this ship back on course with some tips on KEEPING your New Year’s resolutions.

    Remember that bigger isn’t always better.

    Set your resolutions as small, attainable, goals.  With those small goals, set realistic timelines to achieve them. Avoid “I want to run the Ironman by November” if you’ve never run more than 2 times a month. Set your goal as “I want to run a 5K by Christmas” and work towards increasing your endurance each week.

    Reward yourself along the way.

    If exercising is your goal, reward yourself with a trip to the movies if you go to the gym 3 times a week. When you look forward to rewards, and you feel like they are attainable, you are more likely to work hard to get them!

    Tell others about your resolutions.

    Finding an accountability partner helps keep your ship on course as they can encourage you for achievements as well as guide you back to the course when you start to stray.

    Write your goals down on paper.

    Mark Murphy says Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your goals absolutely should qualify as truly important stuff.”

    Identify your purpose.

    Knowing your “WHAT” (goal) is important, but knowing “WHY” can be just as important when it comes to following through on your intentions. Why do you want to lose weight in 2019? When you put the why to the what, you are truly focused on what matters. “I want to lose weight so that I can play with my children without getting tired and show them that hard work is worth it.”  Now, THAT’S a great goal.

    Identifying goal-breakers and goal-makers are equally important pieces to achieving what you set out to accomplish, especially with regards to New Year’s resolutions. Make this the year your goals become reality by focusing on these five simple tips.

  • The Evolving State of Employee Benefits Broker

    February 6, 2019

    More and more employers are turning to benefit brokers for help, and a change in the role of the employee benefits broker is occurring due to these new expectations. Leaders of companies are looking to brokers for communication materials pertaining to employee benefits as well as a wide range of new and innovative services that they can provide as consultants. When you need assistance with issues involving benefits, it is wise to hire the top employee benefits broker in San Francisco County. Your business is sure to see many of the benefits.

    How the Employee Benefits Broker has Evolved

    In the past, the resources needed for an employee benefits broker in San Francisco County to succeed were simple and scalable. The primary roles of brokers included:

    • Insurance Transactions: The foundation for most employee benefits brokers was insurance transactions. Many smaller brokerage firms could flourish because they had access to a lot of carriers on the market.
    • Answering Phones: It was extremely important for brokers to answer the phone, or read faxes, and handle service issues like incorrect bills or unpaid claims. These tasks are still important today. The difference is that they now include replying to emails and texts, checking apps, etc.
    • Being Complaint: Brokers had to make sure that they were in compliance with all of the rules of the industry. This included making sure that they understood COBRA, FSA and HIPAA rules.
    • Bringing a New Approach: In the mid-1990s, the “consultative” approach that some employee benefits brokers were using was starting to scratch the surface. However, it was not prevalent across the market as it is today.

    Fast forward to today, it is highly important for the employee benefits broker to be adept at consulting in different areas in order to remain competitive in the market. More specifically, a successful broker must be an expert in cost management, a maven in client retention, a pundit in public speaking, a specialist in networking, solutions, presentation, customer service, social media, and a genius in employee engagement, technology, compliance, and lots more. In short, they need to be a jack of all trades.

    Get Excellent Employee Benefits Services in San Francisco County and Beyond

    When you need help with employee benefits issues in your company, you should seek the help of an experienced and highly knowledgeable employee benefits broker in San Francisco County at Arrow Benefits Group. You can gain the benefits of excellent services of the top brokerage firm in the area and beyond. For more information, call us at 707-992-3780 for expert advice on HR solutions available to you.

  • The Big-Picture View of Risk | Petaluma Benefits Group

    February 1, 2019

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    Many human resources and business leaders think about compliance in black-and-white terms. We simply check the boxes and evaluate compliance efforts using one measure: “Are we doing it right or not?”

    It’s easy to fall into the trap of failing to see the broader implications of our compliance efforts. We need to go beyond, “What’s the law and what should I do about it?” We need to ask questions like, “How does this law intersect with our culture?” or “What best practices will support this requirement?”  We need to understand that risk crosses our desks every day.

    That’s where people risk management comes in. People risk management is simply the strategic and wholistic view of compliance. It’s really all about the end-to-end story; it’s how we deal with all the things that happen in the employee lifecycle in a way that minimizes risk while maximizing employee engagement.

    It’s all about how we anticipate risk, reduce the likelihood of risk events, and deal with them when they do happen. The best companies proactively respond to risk in an ethical way that not just protects us from liability, but also builds trust and respect among the workforce.

    People Risk Management: An Example

    Let’s say a new sexual harassment law goes into effect in your state. This triggering event (the new law) is just part of the issue. You need to take a big-picture view of the entire situation. You’ll need to know what you should anticipate, what you need to do, and how to evaluate your efforts to make sure you’ve addressed every risk.

    Because this law is related to how people behave, in addition to administrative requirements, it can be difficult to understand how to simultaneously address both the risk of harassment and the risk of failing to comply with each aspect of the law. You also need to incorporate your response to this issue into your company culture to demonstrate that you care about protecting not just the company, but also your employees.

    When engagement and compliance issues intersect, and you do both well, you create a culture that says you deal with stuff in a clear way, but also you protect yourself from legal risks. It’s a double benefit.

     

    by Larry Dunavin
    Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

  • Proposed 2020 Benefit Payment and Parameters Rule | California Benefits Group

    January 30, 2019

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    The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule for benefit payment and parameters for 2020. CMS also released its draft 2020 actuarial value calculator and draft 2020 actuarial value calculator methodology.

    According to CMS, the proposed rule is intended to reduce fiscal and regulatory burdens associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) across different program areas and to provide stakeholders with greater flexibility.

    Although the proposed rule would primarily affect the individual market and the Exchanges, the proposed rule addresses the following topics that may impact employer-sponsored group health plans:

    • Changes related to prescription drug policy
    • Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
    • Prohibition against discrimination
    • Maximum annual limitation on cost sharing for plan year 2020
    • Cost-sharing requirements for generic drugs
    • Cost-sharing requirements and drug manufacturers’ coupons

    CMS usually finalizes its benefit payment and parameters rule in the first quarter of the year following the proposed rule’s release. February 19, 2019 is the due date for public comments on the proposed rule.

    The 2020 open enrollment period will run from November 1, 2019, to December 15, 2019.

     

    by Karen Hsu
    Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

     

  • Attitude of Gratitude | CA Benefits Agency

    January 23, 2019

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    Having a grateful heart impacts more than just you! When you express your gratitude to others, it becomes a ripple effect and extends further than you can imagine. Watch this video to learn how to say “thank you” to others!

     

     

  • Gen Z is Coming. Is Your Workplace Ready? | Petaluma Employee Benefits

    January 17, 2019

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    While it may feel like businesses are still reeling from adapting to the working millennial, the next generation is already knocking on the HR door. The Society for Human Resource Management went straight to a 16-year old source to see what is on the workplace horizon.

    Here are a few trends and some potential takeaways for employers.

    Gen Z is competitive, raised on more pervasive youth sports and regularly reminded just how  hard it is to get into elite colleges. These go-getters are used to immediate feedback. HR departments will be wise to consider how to offer quality, actionable feedback to these employees. On the one hand, rigorous coaching and parent investment means Gen Z can take tips on how to improve and even handle tough criticism, something millennials are seen to struggle with. Even better, the competitive nature of Gen Z will make them want to work to succeed. To support these employees, meaningful, regular feedback will be necessary. Now is a good time to start creating the plans for the systems and processes that will offer performance reviews, project critiques, and more. Workers who appreciate structure and goals are great for business, but HR will also need to protect young workers from burnout as they attempt to succeed and even overachieve in their first years working.

    As children of Gen Xers, Gen Z reflects their parents’ skepticism and individualism. This is a marked shift from the idealism and collaborative approach of millennials. The tight labor markets of recent times have meant concerted efforts to court millennials. Current trends toward open office plans, casual environments, and cross-discipline teams may need to be refined as these two generations being to mix around the water cooler. The group project mentality of millennials is more the one-person show of Gen Z. Neither worldview is inherently better, but helping the youngest workers work well with others will be important to integrating them into successful teams and preventing conflict. Offering mentoring opportunities, which provide meaning for experienced millennials and feedback to improvement-hungry Gen Z may be one idea. At the same time, ensuring there are ample opportunities to shine as individuals will tap into Gen Z’s potential and enthusiasm.

    While they hope their jobs are engaging, this generation is seen as more pragmatic and fiscally conservative. They want to feel on solid financial footing even more than they want to feel good about their work. For the future of employee benefits and perks, it may be a dollars and cents approach which lures the most attractive young workers rather than bringing a dog to work or culture-building elements like foosball or ping pong.

    Whether we’re ready or not, Gen Z is coming. Paying attention to generation shifts may leave employers eager but feeling overwhelmed to keep up. Not everything needs to change, and you may just find some changes are good for everyone. Find ways to adapt what’s already working for your company, adjust what can be adjusted to appeal to new workers, and be ready to implement new ideas that just may help your entire workforce, too.

    by Bill Olson
    Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

     

  • Findings of PwC Health Research Institute – the future of health care in the United States | Arrow Benefits Group

    January 10, 2019

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    The industry is, finally, being disrupted, with what PwC calls the New Health Economy kicking into gear.  The majority of the country’s largest companies are now involved with healthcare, venture capital and private equity funding is up considerably and a number of new arrangements were announced this year.  Moreover, American consumers have told PwC since 2013 that they are eager to embrace more convenient, digitally enabled and affordable care

  • 5 Ways to Say Thank You | CA Insurance Benefits Firm

    January 9, 2019

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    As we begin our new year of 2019, we have also closed 2018 with lots of celebrations, gift-giving, and family time. Showing appreciation for others during this generous season comes second nature for some but for others, it doesn’t.  You may be looking for ideas on how to express your gratitude effectively to those around you and so we’ve compiled a list of five unique ways to say “thank you” to someone.

    WRITE IT OUT

    Receiving a handwritten note is a rare occurrence in this day. Speaking or emailing a thank you is more common and does effectively communicate the gratitude of the sender. However, the spirit of gratefulness that is communicated by sitting down and taking pen to paper to express your thankfulness for the act or gift received, is a bonus to the note receiver. Take the extra time to write out that thank you.

    PHONE A FRIEND

    In a day and age of emails and texts and social media, we rarely get phone calls from people who aren’t asking for something—billing issues, appointment reminders, robo-calls.  Even if the person on the other end of the call doesn’t pick up, leave that voicemail telling them thank you for their thoughtfulness for the gift you received. Be specific and mention the gift by name and what it meant to receive it. That phone call may be the brightest part of their day!

    SAY IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

    We spend more time scrolling through social media than we do having face-to-face contact with people. Instead of getting caught up in a heated debate on NextDoor, take a few minutes to write on a friend’s wall to tell them thank you. It’s refreshing to see gratitude on display instead of incivility. And it’s always nice to see your friends get noticed for kindness!

    FLASH A SMILE

    The look of surprise on someone’s face is sometimes the greatest thank you that you can receive! The age old saying of “your face says it all” is true. When you open that gift and you can tell that the giver spent time thinking of the perfect thing to give you, look up and give them the thank you of a smile!

    PAY IT FORWARD

    Were you bowled over by the thoughtfulness of a gift or act? A beautiful way to show your gratefulness is to pay it forward. Buy the coffee of the person behind you in line. Say three nice things to strangers on the way in to your office. Tell your child a character quality you see in them that is fabulous. While this act of gratitude may mean that the original giver never knows about the ripple effect of their gift, you will, and hopefully that ripple is carried on and on and on.

    These acts of gratitude are simple, effective, and most of all, meaningful. Take the time to say thank you!

     

     

     

  • Is the ACA dead yet? The current administration would like to think so, and the courts help | Arrow Benefits Group

    January 8, 2019

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    In response to a joint lawsuit filed by several attorneys general, the Texas District Federal Court (NFIB vs. Sebelius) has now ruled that the individual mandate as required under the Affordable Care Act may no longer be upheld under the Tax Power (following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017).  The US Supreme Court had already ruled that the individual mandate could not be severed from the Affordable Care Act, but “under the law as it now stands, the Individual Mandate no longer ‘triggers a tax’ beginning in 2019.  So long as the shared responsibility payment is zero…the Individual Mandate cannot be upheld under Congress’ Tax Power”  This means that the mandate is now unconstitutional.

  • Treasury, DOL, and HHS Release Two Final Rules on Contraceptive Coverage Exemptions | CA Employee Benefits

    January 4, 2019

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    The Department of the Treasury (Treasury), Department of Labor (DOL), and Department  of Health and Human Services (HHS) (collectively, Departments) released two final rules on contraceptive coverage exemptions. These rules finalize the Departments’ interim final rules that were published on October 13, 2017. HHS also issued a press release and fact sheet on these final rules.

    The first final rule provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to entities (including certain employers) and individuals that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.

    The second final rule provides an exemption from the contraceptive coverage mandate to nonprofit organizations, small businesses, and individuals that object to services covered by the mandate on the basis of sincerely held moral convictions.

    The final rules will be effective on January 14, 2019.

    Read more about the final rules.

     

    by Karen Hsu
    Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

  • 3 Tips to Consider When Choosing a Health Insurance Plan for Your Employees

    January 3, 2019

    The changing business landscape is redefining the role of employers every day. Gone are the days when it was a blasphemy for employees to expect anything more than getting paid for the job done. The modern employee expects their employer to play an active role in securing their future. One of the ways in which businesses all over the world are responding to this demand is by offering health insurance to their employees. When it comes to choosing a plan for your employees, you will be spoilt for choice. Over the years, many providers have come up with numerous health insurance plans to meet the various needs of their target audience. While a specific plan may work for another business, it may fall flat in your case. To help, we provide a few tips that you should consider when choosing an employee benefits health insurance plan in Sonoma County.

    1. Learn About your Options

    Employee health plans can be broadly categorized into three groups: defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, and professional employer organizations. Defined benefit plans are an employer-provided healthcare, wherein the employees can only avail the services within their employer’s network. Defined contribution plans empower employees to choose their plan. If none of these plans work for you, consider getting into an agreement with a professional employer organization (PEO) that will provide benefits to your employees on your behalf.

    2. Learn About your Competitors’ Offerings

    Providing in-demand benefits can help you stand out from the crowd, which is one of the most important commandments to attract and retain the right talent. When selecting a health insurance plan, learn about what your competitors are offering. Based on your findings, try to match or surpass competition.

    3. Find Out the Premiums, Deductibles, and Out- of- Pocket Maximums

    Steer clear of insurance plans that you or your employees cannot afford. The premium cost will be shared by you and your employees, which is why it is important that you look for a plan that provides affordable coverage. Make sure the cost to your employees does not exceed 9.5 percent of their household income. Additionally, to ensure your employees’ total cost does not exceeds their budget, look for plans with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums.

    Consider these tips when picking the right insurance plan for your employees. If you are experiencing problems navigating the benefits landscape, Arrow Benefits Group will be happy to help. As a reputable benefits consulting firm, we have taken upon us to help businesses streamline their benefits programs. To discuss your requirements, call 707-992-3780 or to schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form.

  • How can you save for retirement when debt is a current reality? Study of 401(k) plans vs. Student Debt Paydowns show that millennials prefer the latter

    July 15, 2019

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    Of the recent college graduating class, nearly 70% took out some form of student loans, and the average student debt upon graduation is $29,800.  The total student debt equates to about $1.5 trillion spread out among 44 million borrowers.  At least the unemployment rate is low.

    Concern about debt will make it difficult for employees to participate in a 401(k) plan, so employers are starting to look at setting up a student loan repayment program.  There are some innovative ideas being put forward that even allow some of the repayment to be treated the same as a 401(k) contribution.

  • Is Wellness Doing Well Even When It is a Good Idea?

    July 10, 2019

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    The evidence has always been anecdotal.  The evidence has also sometimes been pointed in the right direction, but not the direction researchers want to see – they want to see proof that participation in wellness programs actually improves blood pressure, sugar levels, etc.

    The latest “downer” is a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which looked at the experience of 33,000 employees at BJ’s Wholesale Club over a year and a half.  The findings were that, despite exercise and weight watching, the employees experienced no significant long-term outcomes like lower blood pressure or improved sugar levels.  This adds to the recent Illinois Workplace Study, which also questioned the value of workplace wellness programs.  Proponents, of course, say that the JAMA study did not focus on enough variables, that not all programs are the same, and that education is not sufficient, especially given the often-irrational behavior attributed to everyone that can also defy measurement.

     

    So what happens to all the dollars spent on FitBits, Apple Watches and all the other buddy systems we need to keep us healthy?  It will require more research!

  • Of course, retirement doesn’t look good when you don’t have any savings

    July 8, 2019

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    The reports and the anecdotal stories of bankruptcy are piling up.  Some are blaming the Affordable Care Act, some the insurance carriers, some simply the high cost of medical care and of course the employers for cutting back on the level of coverage they provide (when they are not cutting back the amount they allow for premium payments).  In a new report titled “The US Healthcare Cost Crisis,” which surveyed more than 3,500 adults, it was estimated that seniors have pulled an estimated $22 billion from their long-term savings for healthcare-related expenses, an average of $3,789.  Major findings from the report are:

     

    10% of those 65 and older did not seek needed treatment in the past year due to cost

    About 7 million seniors could not afford to pay for prescriptions in the last year

    80% of the prescriptions that seniors can’t afford are used to treat serious conditions

    92% of seniors believe the cost of healthcare will not improve or will get worse

    45% are afraid they will have to file for bankruptcy if faced with a healthcare crisis

  • Failing to Save with No One Left to Save them if they Fail – 401(k) is up but not enough

    July 3, 2019

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    Almost half of Americans approaching retirement have nothing saved in their employer sponsored 401(k) or an individual account.  If there is any good news, this number has improved over a few years earlier.  Still, of those 55 or older, 48% had nothing put away, according to a recent GAO estimate.

  • Telemedicine Virtually Getting Better

    July 1, 2019

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    Doctors on Demand, currently the largest virtual care provider, has announced the launch of Synapse, a first-to-market and fully-integrated platform that can integrate into health plans’ existing networks and provide patients with improved access to full mind and body care.  Thus they will have “digital medical home” expanded clinical capabilities and “smart referrals.”

  • Moans and Groans: About Student Loans

    June 28, 2019

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    The statistics are startling:

    • The total burden of student debt in the United States is $1.4 trillion.
    • In 2017 the median millennial wage was $43,000.
    • In the same year, the median millennial debt was $37,000.
    • 59% of employees 22 to 44 have student debt.

    Debt is the #1 financial challenge to all Americans, and by a wide margin. This lack of fiscal health has a negative effect on both mental and physical health, both of which affect employee performance and motivation.

    In a time of reduced unemployment, the battle for talent and its retention is increasing. How do we get quality employees? What can we offer to keep them? If they stay, how can we help maximize appreciation and thus loyalty? The simple answer is to offer a meaningful compensation and benefits package. The more relevant, and complex, answer is to address specific employee needs and thus create a more meaningful employee experience.

    Medical and retirement may be a given, but how valued are those benefits if debt prevents participation or forestalls fulfilling medical needs? Do employees even know the risks of refusal? What will they deny themselves later by not attending to their long term wellbeing?

    Greater attention is thus being paid to employee education in the basics of finance, while offering products, tools, and services under the rubric of “financial wellness.” One of the key components of such a program is instruction in debt management. New offerings in the student loan sector allow employers to go even further.

    Paying off debt is expensive, with the “load” exceeding the interest earned on savings and potentially the tax and accumulation value of a 401k or other retirement instruments Thus, finding a way to alleviate the stress of a financial burden paves the way to take advantage of a significant savings opportunity.

    A burgeoning cottage industry has developed to help those with student loans, primarily through the channel of employer sponsorship. These services offer:

    • Employer payments to employees to reduce loan balances

    (example – PwC gives employees $100 per month for up to 72 months).

    • Access to lenders who will refinance the loan.
    • Education and counseling, not just on existing debt but how to finance a child’s college education (e.g. using 529 plans).

    For a modest fee, these companies expand the resources for employees, streamline services, help reduce debt, and also create a simplified method of repayment through payroll deduction.

    Various studies have cited:

    • 61% of employers polled said they believe student loan worries have hampered retirement plan participation.
    • 81% of millennials, and 65% of those over 50, want their company to offer student loan tools and resources.
    • A similar percentage of both populations would be more inclined to accept employment with a company that offered student loan tools – or stay with a company if they received student loan benefits.

    Granted, specific studies are skewed to favor the sponsoring student loan services, but there is little doubt that student loans place financial, and thus mental and emotional, stress on employees. Just ask them – and then ask how you can help. The more you can offer, the more appreciative they will be. Recognition and appreciation of a benefit’s value is the cornerstone of a successful compensation and benefits program, after all, so now is a good time to see how you can expand yours in a meaningful way.

  • Tech Wreck Puts Brokers on Deck

    June 26, 2019

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    Clover Health, which is backed by Alphabet (Google), is a major play for the Medicare Advantage market, but the company just laid off 140 tech employees in favor of beginning to hire those with a background in health insurance and clinical care.

  • States May be Given More Responsibility, but some are Taking it now

    June 24, 2019

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    Virginia has become the first state to require that health insurers count coupons for prescription drugs and copayments as applying to health plan deductibles.  Fair Health Care VA, an advocacy group, said “patients should not be denied one of the key benefits of copay assistance programs, particularly since insurers are already getting the value of negotiated drug price discounts while withholding these benefits from patients.”

  • Connecting Agility, Culture and Change Management

    June 20, 2019

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    Every company wants to lead their industry, and doing so means remaining competitive. With the rate of speed the world experiences change in this age that is a very difficult proposition. For an HR professional, it is increasingly more difficult to stay ahead of the curve.

    So, what are the critical pieces to the strategy?
    • Agility
    • Change Management
    • Culture
    Knowing that, how do the three concepts tie to one another?

    We start with agility.

    When it comes to this part of the strategy, what HR professionals really want is to be able to adjust at a moment’s notice. But it’s not enough to just be able to make the change. The HR professional wants to effectively implement the change in the organization.

    Of course, that change doesn’t just happen at the drop of the hat. It requires leadership and even some maintenance.

    That’s where change management comes into the mix. HR Exchange Network contributor John Whitaker says:
    “Change can and will come quickly. Change management is a helpful (and sometimes hopeful) way to plan the actions and responses needed during a change process. But you must take advantage of those times where you are thrown into a chaotic situation without the benefit of planning.”

    Finally, that brings us to culture.

    In addressing this concept, CultureIQ worked with Bloomberg to survey 300 senior executives about the Future of Work. In that research, one of the first things they learned is work is becoming more complex. How? Consider first that companies are becoming more agile either by force or organically. Executives know they have to do this in order to remain competitive. Optimizing a talented workforce, predicting talent needs and keeping retention rates high are critical to sustaining your organization’s competitive advantage.

    In fact, CEOs recognized that one of the most important factors in their organization’s performance for the next three years was ensuring their organization was agile.

    CultureIQ says agility ranked higher than other attributes like collaboration, engagement, or innovation.
    A company’s culture is imperative to its strategy especially when you consider this fact: culture influences whether talent is attracted or not attracted to the company. It’s also significant in the company’s ability to retain their best employees.

    According to Gallup, 4 in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree their organization’s mission and purpose makes them feel their job is important. Furthermore:

    “By doubling that ratio to eight in 10 employees, organizations could realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 33% improvement in quality, or in the case of healthcare, even a 50% drop in patient safety incidents.”
    Gallup has studied organizational culture and leadership for years. They find some organizations have difficulty in successfully establishing their “ideal” culture and attribute that to the fact that culture is constantly in flux and is not the same one moment to the next.

    Earlier this year, researchers looked specifically at how HR leaders fit into the process of changing culture.
    “Our analytics show that in the world’s highest performing organizations, HR leaders play a central role in creating and sustaining the culture their organization aspires to have. As the stewards and keepers of the culture, HR leaders are responsible for inspiring desired employee behaviors and beliefs — and in turn, realizing the performance gains of a thriving culture.

    By owning their pivotal strategic and tactical roles in shaping work culture, HR leaders can cultivate exceptional performance and prove to senior leadership that they deserve a seat at the table.”

    For HR, Gallup set forth three roles that explain how leaders influence culture.
    1. Champion – Executive leaders create the vision of the perfect culture, but HR leaders champion it. They are responsible for turning words into deeds.
    2. Coach – HR leaders, as coaches, make sure managers and employees are on the same page and help the two entities take ownership of the culture.
    3. Consultant – HR leaders here consistently check culture metrics such as employee engagement, customer outlines and performance indicators. In this way, HR leaders can make sure the culture strategy stays on track.

    By Mason Stevenson
    Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com

  • Some Insurance Carriers are Less Nervous than Others over Single Payer

    June 19, 2019

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    Centene, which owns a number of carriers already, is buying WellCare Health Plans for $17 billion.  A smart bet unless it isn’t, as Single Payer threatens carrier health.

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