IRS issues updates on a variety of benefit rules – take effect January 1 | by Jordan Shields, Partner
November 13, 2020
Flexible spending account Keeps current allowance of $2,750 annual salary reduction Keeps current allowance of $550 for employer contribution Adoption Assistance Amount raised from $14,300 to $14,440 401k Contribution Employee amount remains at $19,500 Health Savings Account Employee contribution raised from $3,550 to $3,600 Family contribution raised from $7,100 to $7,200 Affordable Care Act Affordability threshold raised from 9.78% to 9.81% Penalty for failure to offer is now $2,700 Penalty for lack of affordability is now $4,060 San Francisco HCSO Base increases from $2.05 to $2.12 groups of 20+ Base increases from $3.08 to $3.18 groups of 100+ State Disability This is real – the amount to be taken from employee pay is increased from 1% to 1.5% – the Paid Family Leave Act went to 8 weeks in July 2020
November 11, 2020
We are non-partisan here and would not presume to take sides in the debate over the future of health care in America. Mr. Biden said he has a plan but did not elaborate during the debates, so we are not sure what it is except to continue the Affordable Care Act or make it stronger. Mr. Trump keeps saying he has a plan and the Republican Party has a plan, but they are not promoting it…but…Mr. Trump did come out with an “America-First Healthcare Plan” on October 4. Here are the highlights, which is more of a recap of what Mr. Trump has done since taking office. There is definitely some planning here:
- Signed a repeal of the individual mandate in 2017
- Increased availability of short-term medical plans (though they’re banned in California)
- Expansion of Health Reimbursement Arrangements
- Expansion of Health Savings Accounts
- Increased access to telehealth plans following the COVID 19 pandemic
- More plan options and reduced benchmark inflation
- Reduction of drug prices and more generic approvals
- Reduction of some drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries
- Repeal of ACA medical device tax, annual fee on health care providers and Cadillac tax
- Increased transparency in hospital/insurance coordination (effect remains to be seen)
- Announcement of four principles to avoid surprise medical billing
- Protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions
- Improved access to health plans
- New orders to support small community and rural hospitals
- Demonstrated dedication to protecting and improving care for those in need
- Modernization of Medicare – but where and what?
- Substance Abuse Disorder Prevention
Not sure who did what and when and how, but it’s out there.
November 9, 2020
How 2020 will be remembered is largely going to be shaped by the pandemic, both for larger society and the workplace. There is no industry that hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19 and thus, no segment of the workforce that hasn’t felt its impact.
We can see this playing out in the data we collect. Perhaps more than any other crisis before it, data is telling its own story around COVID-19. A fair amount of this data comes straight to our inbox and we regularly review it.
Sharing is caring as they say, so with that in mind, here are some of the latest workforce surveys that have caught our attention and statistics that may help you understand and address the issues within your own organization.
Less Screen Time = Better Health
The folks over at Aetna International recently surveyed 4,000 employees at mid-to-large size businesses in the U.K., U.S., UAE and Singapore about their relationship with workplace technology and what effect it had on them. While the majority of respondents say that technology makes them more effective at their jobs and at managing time, particularly at a time where remote work is so common, there was a cost associated with their health.
Employees feel that sitting at their computer for long durations have hindered their physical health with 70% of those surveyed agreeing that they would exercise more if they spent less time at their computer.
Additionally, 76% of employees feel that reduced or restricted out of hours technology use would help them manage their physical health better if provided by their employer. Many find themselves checking their emails and Slack or Teams accounts when they normally wouldn’t.
The impact goes beyond the physical, however. The majority of employees from around the world agreed that the overuse of technology in the workplace has had negative effects on their mental health, with 75% agreeing that restricting the use of screen time during the workday would help them to better manage their mental health. More than half, 56%, said that the overuse of communication platforms and internal emails increases their stress levels.
Recent surveys from JDP asked 2,000 U.S. employees a range of questions about working from home during the pandemic. Among the most unanimous responses was centered on trust, with 92% of respondents saying they believe their bosses trusted them. Additionally, 86% say they feel they have taken advantage of the increased freedom work from home provides.
More than three quarters of respondents say they are working different hours and two-thirds say they are more likely to work on the weekend now. Different hours didn’t translate to more hours, however, with only 33% of respondents saying they were working more.
Whose Been Hit Hardest?
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown the top careers to be most affected by COVID-19 and it’s a list that won’t surprise you. Retail, hospitality, the performing arts, dental office staff and film and TV production crews have taken the biggest hit. Air transportation and real estate offices also had notable losses.
The news isn’t necessarily a death sentence for the career of people working in those industries though. The fact is, many of them have soft skills that are becoming more important in a workforce that is taking on a human focus. The folks over at online resume builder Zety performed an analysis of more than 130 thousand resumes created between 2017 and 2019 to find which alternative career paths were most popular amongst people who held jobs in industries that are now struggling.
By comparing the soft skills many in those industries listed on their resumes to the soft skills needed in other positions, they came up with a list of alternatives that might just help some people get back on their feet. You can see the full list on the Zety blog.
The Visibility of Productivity
Everyone wants their employer to know that they’re using this time at home to get work done and broadly speaking, it has shown as data suggests people have been more productive in remote work settings. But, according to recent surveys from Prodoscore, employees are even more open to the idea of productivity monitoring than you might expect.
The company commissioned the research to put fresh numbers to trends they had been noticing for a few years as work from home arrangements gained traction and that were recently amplified in the wake of COVID-19. Prior to the pandemic, around 61% of the survey participants worked from home at least part time. Now that number has increased to 77%.
A byproduct of this is an increase in the desire to show and see productivity by both employees and employers. For employees, the motivation was clear. They want the monitoring so they can structure their day in ways that have proven to be effective, showcase their efficiency and have their efforts recognized. In all, only 10% of respondents said they didn’t like the idea.
The survey was conducted in July 2020 in partnership with Propeller Insights. It polled 1,000 U.S.-based workers across diverse industries and included a mix of micro, SMB and enterprise businesses. Most respondents were white-collar workers (79%).
The Need for People Data and Performance Communication
At a time where we talk a great deal about employee engagement and experience, asking the question what employees want can trigger a wide variety of responses. A recent survey from Reflektive sought to answer that question and arrived at some conclusions that you probably already suspect.
The survey was completed by 445 HR professionals and business leaders and 622 employees. Interestingly, employees indicated that they need more coaching and want more recognition from their managers.
From HR and business leaders, there’s a great deal of interest in employee productivity. HR leaders indicated that they are invested in measuring the health of their performance management practices, which will be music to employees ears as it could lead to more of that coaching they seek.
People data is a big area of interest as 60% of leaders agree that people analytics efforts are more important to them now than a year ago. Nearly three quarters of those respondents believe that they have a firm grasp of why people leave, but only 50% of them are using analytics to predict employee performance and turnover.
Employees also expressed frustration with how to acquire feedback. One-in-four say they don’t know how to request feedback and 30% say they don’t feel empowered to initiate those conversations.
“When tools aren’t used regularly, employees may forget what’s at their fingertips,” Rachel Ernst, CHRO at Reflektive said. “On a quarterly basis, communicate the process for requesting feedback. Additionally, when managers regularly ask for feedback, employees will start mirroring this behavior as well.”
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network
November 5, 2020
Senate Bill 1383 was passed and signed and put into law the California Family Rights Act.
This Family Leave Act now applies to organizations with as few as five employees, following.
Federal guidelines. For larger employers, the new law covers additional categories of leave that go beyond the FMLA that may end up being layered on top of the state law. For example, if an employee takes 12 weeks of leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or domestic partner under the new CFRA, the same employee can take an additional 12 weeks of leave under the FMLA for their own medical condition or to care for a relative.
November 3, 2020
As the weather turns cooler and shopping centers get busier, it’s easy to surmise that it’s nearing the end of the year. Are we all ready for 2020 to be over?! Yes, please! Since we are closing in on 2021, it’s time for you to maximize your healthcare plan by taking advantage of end-of-year healthcare benefits.
HAVE YOU MET YOUR DEDUCTIBLE YET?
Before you continue reading, look over your insurance plan details and check your deductible amount. Then, check with your HR advisor and see where you are with your benefits per their records and the insurance company records to ensure you have all the information you need regarding these details. Now that you have all your ducks in a row, let’s look at some ways to make sure you are maximizing your healthcare benefits before year-end.
THINGS TO DO LIST
- Refill prescriptions—maybe get 90-day supplies so they last beyond the start of the new year
- Schedule lab work
- Schedule imaging
- Visit the dermatologist
- Visit the optometrist—get new glasses or contact lenses
- Schedule preventive screenings like:
- Prostate cancer
- Lung cancer
- Schedule elective surgeries like:
- Joint replacement
- Weight loss
- Go to physical therapy for an injury
- Visit your PCP for preventive care
- Visit the dentist
THINGS TO CONSIDER
Before you go whole-hog on scheduling these appointments, you need to consider some things first.
- Think about the additional costs associated with procedures like physical therapy post-surgery. You should calculate the cost of having the surgery this calendar year and starting PT after the new year begins and your deductible resets versus doing everything next year.
- Many dental plans have yearly maximums so it may be better to split up some dental procedures between this year and next.
- Make sure you stay in your network when you schedule these appointments or else your insurance coverage won’t be as robust as you thought.
- Use your FSA money before the end of the year because these funds are “use it or lose it.”
- The IRS does give you a grace period of 2 ½ months to spend your money.
As a couple of bonus tips:
- Check your plan’s terms about coinsurance so you know if this will come into play even after meeting your deductible.
- Increase your HSA contributions to max out your account before the end of the year. The IRS, again, gives you some extra time in the following year to keep contributing to the prior year’s account. But, not maxing out your contribution amount means that you aren’t reaping the benefits of this tax-free money.
Making sure you are fully utilizing your healthcare plan at the end of the year is a smart move for every healthcare consumer. Begin crossing things off this “To-Do List” today!
October 21, 2020
With many enrollments being forced to go virtual this year, you may feel at a disadvantage. But, there are actually plenty of reasons to believe a virtual open enrollment could be even more effective for you and your clients.
People only tend to remember 10% of what they hear and only 20% of what they read. However, people actually recall 80% of what they see. As you prepare your virtual enrollment presentations, make sure you work on integrating images to communicate your message. An image has a higher chance of evoking an emotional response in a person than a set of words, written or spoken and with that emotion comes retention. Leverage every opportunity to use graphs, charts, and images to relay your message.
As you communicate with your employees regarding education on benefits offerings or deadlines for enrollment, use a form of communication that is natural for most people—text messaging. Texting for employee communication results in a 98% open/read rate and a 45% reply rate. Compare these percentages to basic email open rates of 20% and a reply rate for email of only 6% and you’ll plainly see that texting has a far greater reach. So, if it worries you that virtual enrollments will result in less communication, don’t let it!
Another great way to leverage this time of virtual open enrollments for the good is to get online with your enrollment paperwork by posting it all via an online portal or company intranet. Employees can read through the information at their leisure from anywhere—phone, tablet, or laptop. They can also easily share it with family members who can read it at their convenience. More people will be able to digest the information than if it had only been available at a physical enrollment meeting.
OPEN LINES OF COMMUNICATION
Work on creating a solid foundation of communication for the entire year by introducing it during Q4’s virtual enrollment meetings. Use your company’s social media to stay in contact by posting educational infographics, animated videos on health and wellness topics, and invitations to webinars. Then, by the time 2021’s enrollment period approaches, your employees will be conditioned to look at your social media for company announcements and you will be set up for success as you post info on your different channels.
Even though open enrollment looks starkly different than in years’ past, it does have its benefits. Improved communication, a greater reach, and new, open lines of communication are all byproducts of this innovative, virtual environment. What a great surprise!
October 7, 2020
In a world where viruses run rampant across the globe and healthcare costs are skyrocketing, there is an easy way for you and your family to stay healthy—preventive care services.
Preventive is defined as “used to stop something bad from happening.” Preventive care is care that thwarts off illness or disease thanks to regular check-ups, counseling, and screenings. When you subscribe to a health plan—regardless of whether it’s one offered by your work or one you purchase in the marketplace—most plans will include an array of preventive care services free of charge. So, where do you start with accessing these services? It’s easy!
Easy as 1-2-3
As long as you have subscribed to a health plan after 2010, those plan providers are required by law to offer basic preventive care services to you and those covered by your plan with no additional copay, coinsurance, or requirement to meet a deductible. By utilizing this free resource, you are setting yourself up for greater health success—and it’s as easy as 1-2-3!
1. Visit your doctor for annual checkups.
Annual exams allow doctors to identify disease earlier and manage chronic conditions closer. They also help your doctor to track any changes in your body over the years so that, should a disease or illness befall you, there is background data from your preventive care to refer to as they prescribe treatment. An easy way to remember to schedule these annual doctor appointments for both you and your family is to plan them around your birthday each year. This is also helpful for the doctor because as you age, you need additional health screenings so they can have those recommendations ready for you at your annual appointment.
2. Stay up-to-date on immunizations and boosters.
Just as an infant has an immunization schedule that the pediatrician follows to bolster the child’s immune system, so do older children and even adults. For instance, before children enter a certain grade in school, they may be required to have a meningitis booster. Tetanus shots are only good for 10 years so once a decade, you’ll need to get a booster for this disease which also may include the diphtheria vaccine and sometimes one for pertussis. As you age, you may need the shingles vaccine and other shots for prevention of pneumonia or the flu.
3. Follow a care schedule for additional age-related screenings.
Because you are visiting your doctor annually for regular checkups, they will likely alert you to any additional screenings they recommend. For instance, women ages 40-44 can begin getting mammograms to help detect breast cancer. After age 44, it is recommended they get this screening annually. If you want to be pro-active and keep track of these additional screenings yourself, there are tools online to do so.
MyHealthfinder is a site coordinated by the US Department of Health and Human Services. Simply enter your age and answer a few easy questions, and the site will cull a list of suggested screenings for you.
PublicHealth is another site with suggested preventive care services. They have created a lifetime care schedule, broken into age brackets, with lists of screenings recommended for each age by the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Keeping you and your family on the right track for health and wellness is not hard! By follow these three simple steps for your health care, you can significantly affect your health in the future. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
September 28, 2020
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare system in the US has changed. More and more, people are seeking out telemedicine services versus the traditional brick and mortar physician’s office. This trend also includes telemental health services as well. So what are the advantages of these services and how are they growing to meet the need?
The COVID-19 pandemic definitely thrust the use of telemedicine forward but many health care providers have been using this type of service for years. What the pandemic did do is encourage patients’ use of the telehealth services already in place. Telehealth is defined as “the practice of communicating electronically with a physician, typically via telephone or video chat.” While our hospitals and doctors’ offices have been overcrowded with very sick COVID-19 patients, use of telemedicine has allowed the burden felt in these locations to be lessened. Patients call in for routine exams and are many times seen and treated faster than if they came in to the physical office location.
Advantages to Telehealth Services
- Enabling patients to follow shelter-in-place restrictions by staying home and away from hospitals, except for emergencies
- Minimizing risk to health care workers and patients by limiting exposure to the coronavirus and other diseases
- Facilitating services for chronic patient monitoring, follow-up visits, therapy appointments and post-operative care
- Employees see the offering of telemedicine benefits as a huge priority in examining employment options
Advantages to Telemental Health Services
Like Telehealth services, use of Telemental Health services have also increased this year. A recent mental health survey says that 7 in 10 employees cite the COVID-19 pandemic as being the most stressful time in their careers. Caring for children who are out of school, caring for loved ones, financial issues, and stress from job changes are some of the issues that employees are facing. Business owners see the benefit of telemental health as their employees’ access these services in higher numbers. High levels of stress have been known to result in lower productivity, lower morale, and higher absenteeism. Advantages for telemental health include:
- The provision of telemental health services to patients living in rural and under-served areas has significantly reduced psychiatric hospitalization rates.
- Low-income, homebound seniors experienced longer lasting effects of telemental health than those who received in-person mental health services.
- Mental health providers rarely have to perform any physical services on their patients, so telemental health is more plausible than other types of telehealth services.
- There is little or no difference in patient satisfaction with telemental health when compared with face-to-face mental health consultations.
- Although mental health professionals are in short supply, mobile devices are not.
There are some significant advantages to the use of telemedicine services. Zywave explains, “Virtual healthcare is emerging as a viable solution to help lessen the burden on healthcare facilities and staff while still providing individuals with the care they need.” Tele-services also reach more of the under-served population both for health care and mental health care. As consumers gain confidence in virtual living, the call for telemedicine will also grow.
September 14, 2020
Quarantine leaves us with a healthy chunk of time to reassess and spend time with the ones we love. But as quarantine goes on, the work must go on as well and for HR professionals, that means developing professionally as much as everyone else within the organization.
With all this time on your hands, a nice relaxing read is not only good for your development, but also your health. To help you develop a reading list that can fuel your own growth, we’ve provided a quarantine reading list of the best HR focused books to read in 2020.
- HR on Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion by Steve Brown
A well-known thought leader in HR, Brown spends a great deal of time facilitating conversations about the possibilities in HR. In this book, he looks to challenge assumptions and preconceived notions about what HR should be and instead challenges the reader to think of the possibilities and tap into their passion for HR.
- HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources by Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank and Mike Ulrich
A cast of HR veterans has put together a handbook of competencies that sets the modern HR professional up for a more strategic role within the business. The put forward the argument that one of the most important roles of an HR practitioner is to be a credible activist, both for the employee and for the business as a whole.
- Generation Z: A Century in the Making by Corey Seemiller and Megan Grace
When Millennials (Gen Y) hit the workforce it created a shift in expectations of employers, workplace cultures and the way employers think about processes and employee relationships. Now, a new generation is entering the workforce and their lifestyles, expectations and world view are once again different.
To manage the Gen Z demographic effectively, HR leaders need to look at how the way this generation manages money, pursues education, values their relationships and what they want for their careers. This book explores these topics in a way that will help HR teams manage the generational diversity of their teams.
- Unleashing the Power of Diversity: How to Open Minds for Good by Bjørn Z. Ekelund
As cultures collide and the nature of work becomes more global, there are differences which could divide teams if we can’t develop a common language and a culture that highlights our common struggles. In this book, the author unveils a step-by-step program for communicating across cultural lines to develop a culture of trust that facilitates greater diversity within the organization and the construction of global teams.
- Talent Wins: The New Playbook for Putting People First by Ram Charan, Dominic Barton, and Dennis Carey
Talent planning is changing and requires a new way of doing things. This book uses examples from some of the world’s largest companies all the way down to Silicon Valley startups to show how HR can become the partner the business needs to acquire, develop and manage talent that can meet the technological and analytical demands of the modern workplace.
- Feedback (and Other Dirty Words): Why We Fear It and How to Fix It by M. Tamra Chandler and Laura Dowling Grealish
Good, honest feedback can be difficult to take, but as HR leaders, collecting feedback and being able to package it into constructive conversations that fuel employee growth is an art. In this book, the authors take a deeper look at where negative reactions to feedback come from and how to limit negative physical and emotional responses to it. It introduces the three F’s of feedback, (focused, fair and frequent) to help ease the tension that sometimes accompanies these discussions.
- Predictive HR Analytics: Mastering the HR Metric by Martin R. Edwards and Kirsten Edwards
Advanced HR metrics can be difficult, but are becoming a necessary part of the modern HR professionals work as employee engagement and experience take center stage. Being able to predict turnover, analyze and forecast diversity and fine tune employee interventions are all key skills discussed in this book. The authors focus on statistical techniques and predictive analytics models that can help improve the HR practitioner’s ability to do those things in an ethical manner.
- Talent Keepers: How Top Leaders Engage and Retain Their Best Performers by Christopher Mulligan and Craig Taylor
Through six case studies, the authors of this book reveal how organizations can develop and implement employee engagement plans that use tactics which have shown proven results. Starting from the time a new hire walks through the door to years into their development, this systemic approach will help HR leaders create a culture that retains and nurtures employees to grow within the organization.
- Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real World by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall
Culture is everything, but there are misconceptions and lies that pervade the workplace and cause dysfunction. That is the central tenet behind this book which seeks to identify those lies and highlight freethinking leaders are able to see through the fog to see the unique nature of their teams and reveal truths about the workplace or what the authors call the real world of work.
Originally posted on hrexchangenetwork.com
September 8, 2020
Health Savings Accounts (HSA) are great ways to save tax-free money for medical expenses both in the current term, and for your retirement years. By making wise choices, you can maximize the benefit of these fantastic savings accounts. Let’s take a quick look at the basics and then explore some tips on how to make your HSA money grow.
What is an HSA?
According to the website HealthCare.gov, a Health Savings Account is a type of savings account that lets you set aside money on a pre-tax basis to pay for qualified medical expenses. By using untaxed dollars in an HSA to pay for deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and some other expenses, you may be able to lower your overall health care costs. HSA funds generally may not be used to pay premiums.
In order to contribute to an HSA, you must be enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). A HDHP is defined as a plan with a higher deductible than a traditional insurance plan. The monthly premium is usually lower, but you pay more health care costs yourself before the insurance company starts to pay its share (your deductible). A high deductible plan (HDHP) can be combined with a health savings account (HSA), allowing you to pay for certain medical expenses with money free from federal taxes.
HSA vs Traditional Insurance
As mentioned, you are able to open a Health Savings Account when you enroll in your employer’s High Deductible Health Plan. A HDHP is different from traditional insurance in that with traditional insurance, you and your employer both contribute to the cost of your health insurance each month—otherwise known as the premium. You then have a fixed cost—a “co-pay”—that you pay when you visit a doctor, pay for prescriptions, or have a health procedure. With a HDHP, the patient is incentivized to shop around for lower cost doctor visits and procedures since they are paying for those costs out of their pocket at the full amount from the beginning until the high deductible amount is met.
Now, when used in tandem, the two components of the HDHP and the HSA have the potential to save the insured party money on their health care expenses. Here’s how it works:
- Contribution Limits
Each year, the government puts a cap on the amount of money that an individual and a family can contribute to their HSA. For 2020, an individual can contribute up to $3550 and a family can add in $7100 to their account. In 2021, the amounts both increase: individuals will be $3600 and families will be able to deposit $7200.
- Triple Tax Benefits
When you contribute to your HSA, your money gets a triple tax benefit. There is a 0% tax on deposited money, your money grows tax-free while in the account, and, when used for qualified medical expenses, you can withdraw the money tax-free.
The money that you deposit into your HSA is yours to keep–forever. If you change jobs, the money follows you. If you don’t use the money you’ve contributed by the end of the year, it rolls over to the next year with no penalty.
Tips to Maximize the Benefits of Your HSA This Year
Don’t be complacent to let your tax-free hard-earned money simply sit in your HSA all year! You can by making some wise choices. Here’s some tips on how to do this:
- Do you get a bonus at the end of the year? You can use that bonus money to bulk up your HSA until April 15 of the following calendar year. Just make sure you don’t contribute more than the annual allowed amount or you will pay a 6% tax on the overage.
- Once you hit the minimum contribution amount for your particular plan, you can invest a portion of the contributions in an IRA account and watch your tax-free dollars grow even more! Check with your plan manager regarding the minimum amount required.
- There is a once-in-a-lifetime allowance for you to move money over from a traditional or Roth IRA to your HSA. This allows you to kickstart that HSA so that you can begin using that money for expenses right away. The annual contribution limit still applies to this scenario for the individual and family amount.
- Long term care insurance is expensive and you can use your HSA money to help pay for those insurance premiums. Again, check with your plan manager to make sure you are staying within the allowed range for using this money for those premiums.
- Finally, name your spouse as the beneficiary of your account. When you pass away, your spouse will have access to these funds with the same tax benefits as you did. In fact, your HSA money can even continue to grow tax-free after you pass.
Finding ways to save money is always a good idea. Finding ways to maximize the benefit of your already saved money is even better!