Tag: employee wellness

  • Look Backward to Plan Forward | CA Employee Benefits Agency

    October 3, 2018

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    We have entered Open Enrollment season and that means you and everyone in your office are probably reading through enrollment guides and trying to decipher it all. As you begin your research into which plan to choose or even how much to contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), consider evaluating how you used your health plan last year. Looking backward can actually help you plan forward and make the most of your health care dollars for the coming year.

    Forbes magazine gives the advice, “Think of Open Enrollment as your time to revisit your benefits to make sure you are taking full advantage of them.” First, look at how often you used health care services this year. Did you go to the doctor a lot? Did you begin a new prescription drug regimen? What procedures did you have done and what are their likelihood of needing to be done again this year? As you evaluate how you used your dollars last year, you can predict how your dollars may be spent next year and choose a plan that accommodates your spending.

    Second, don’t assume your insurance coverage will be the same year after year. Your company may change providers or even what services they will cover with the same provider. You may also have better coverage on services and procedures that were previously not eligible for you. If you have choices on which plan to enroll in, make sure you are comparing each plan’s costs for premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for next year. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a plan based on how it was written in years prior.

    Third, make sure you are taking full advantage of your company’s services. For instance, their preventative health benefits. Do they offer discounted gym memberships? What about weight-loss counseling services or surgery? How frequently can you visit the dentist for cleanings or the optometrist? Make sure you know what is covered and that you are using the services provided for you. Check to see if your company gives discounts on health insurance premiums for completing health surveys or wellness programs—even for wearing fitness trackers! Don’t leave money on the table by not being educated on what is offered.

    Finally, look at your company’s policy choices for life insurance. Taking out a personal life insurance policy can be very costly but ones offered through your office are much more reasonable. Why? You reap the cost benefit of being a part of a group life policy. Again, look at how your family is expected to change this year—are you getting married or having a baby, or even going through a divorce? Consider changing your life insurance coverage to account for these life changes. Forbes says that “people entering or exiting your life is typically a good indicator that you may want to revisit your existing benefits.”

    As you make choices for yourself and/or your family this Open Enrollment season, be sure to look at ALL the options available to you. Do your research. Take the time to understand your options—your HR department may even have a tool available to help you estimate the best health care plan for you and your dependents. And remember, looking backward on your past habits and expenses can be an important tool to help you plan forward for next year.

  • Oral Health = Overall Health | Petaluma Benefits Advisors

    July 26, 2018

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    A healthy smile can lead to a healthier (and longer living) you! Check out how easy it is to have good oral health.

     

  • Leadership, Now with More Humility | CA Benefits Consultants

    July 19, 2018

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    More and more, we are learning that scientists, marketers, programmers, and other kinds of knowledge workers lead office lives very similar to famous innovators like Watson, Crick, and Franklin, who discovered the structure of DNA. How so? All of these people live work lives structured around progress in meaningful work. And when this progress occurs, it boosts emotions, perceptions, and productivity.

    This could be an important key to supporting your employees at their desks, wherever those may be. While recognition, tangible incentives, and goals are important, leading managers must also consider nourishing progress through attention to inner work life, minor milestones, and appropriate modeling.

    When progress is effectively monitored and encouraged, it can lead to a self-sustaining progress loop, which often results in increased success and productivity, especially toward larger, group-based goals. In other words, when managers support inner work life and recognize minor progress, it leads to major accomplishments.

    Seeing employees as growing, positive individuals with a drive to experiment and learn, as opposed to mere means to an end goal, can make all the difference in an office, and over the yearsOne way to do this effectively is to incorporate humility into your leadership style. This doesn’t imply that you have low self-confidence or are yourself servile. Rather, it says you prioritize the autonomy of your office and support your employees to think responsibly for themselves. Ask them what their daily work lives are like, and how you can help them maximize effectiveness. Create low-risk opportunities for growth, and most importantly: follow through.

    Read More:
    “Leading through emotions”
    “Leading with emotional intelligence”

     

    By Bill Olson, VP, Marketing & Communications at United Benefit Advisors

    Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

  • Opioids in America | California Employee Benefits Firm

    June 27, 2018

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    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

  • Opioids in America | CA Benefit Brokers

    June 5, 2018

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    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

    Opioids are made from the opium poppy plant.  Opium has been around since 3,400 BC and it was first referenced as being cultivated in Southwest Asia. The drug traveled the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Asia to China. Since then, the drug has gained popularity for pain relief but it also has gained notoriety as an abused drug. Morphine, Codeine, and Heroin are all derived from the opium poppy and are all highly addictive drugs that are abused all around the world. As the demand for these drugs has increased, so has the production.  From 2016 to 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 63 percent. In 2016, it killed some 64,000 Americans, more than double the number in 2005.

    We can see that the danger from this drug is growing rapidly. What can we do to recognize potential abuse problems and to get help? Here are some facts about opioid addiction:

    • How do they work? Opioids attach to pain receptors in your brain, spinal cord, and other areas that recognize pain signals. As they attach to the receptors, it reduces the sending of pain messages to the brain and therefore reduces the feelings of pain in your body.
    • Short-acting opiates are typically prescribed for injuries and only for a few days. They take 15-30 minutes for pain relief to begin and this relief lasts for 3-4 hours. Long-acting opiates are prescribed for moderate to severe pain and are used over a long period of time. Relief typically lasts for 8-12 hours and can be used alongside a short-acting drug for breakthrough pain.
    • Dependence is common with long-term use of an opiate. This means that the patient needs to take more of and higher doses of the medicine to get the same pain relieving effect. This does not necessarily mean the patient is addicted. Addiction is the abuse of the drug by taking it in an unprescribed way—like crushing tablets or using intravenously.
    • Americans account for less than 5% of the world’s population, but take 80% of the world’s opioid About 5% of the people who take opiates become addicted to the drug.
    • Help is available through many channels from private recovery centers to insurance providers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline is 1-800-662-HELP. This line is confidential, free, and available 24-hours a day and 7 days a week. Family and friends may also call this number for resources for help. Additional resources can be found at drugabuse.com.

    Make sure you are educated about the dangers of opioid abuse. But, don’t be discouraged and think that the abuse is incurable! There are many resources that can be used to break the addiction cycle and can make real change in the lives of its victims. Ask for help and offer help.

     

  • Disability Insurance & How to Use it! | California Benefit Consultants

    May 30, 2018

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    No one foresees needing disability benefits.  But, should a problem arise, the educated and informed employee can plan for the future by purchasing disability insurance to help cover expenses when needed. Check out this short video for more!

  • Notifying Participants of a Plan Change | California Employee Benefit Firm

    May 15, 2018

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    Curious about when you should notify a participant about a change to their health care plan?

    The answer is that it depends!

    Notification must happen within one of three time frames: 60 days prior to the change, no later than 60 days after the change, or within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    For modifications to the summary plan description (SPD) that constitute a material reduction in covered services or benefits, notice is required within 60 days prior to or after the adoption of the material reduction in group health plan services or benefits. (For example, a decrease in employer contribution is a material reduction in covered services or benefits. So is a material modification in any plan terms affecting the content of the most recent summary of benefits and coverage (SBC).) While the rule here is flexible, the definite best practice is to give advance notice. For collective practical purposes, employees should be told prior to the first increased withholding.

    However, if the change is part of open enrollment, and communicated during open enrollment, this is considered acceptable notice regardless of whether the SBC, SPD, or both are changing. Essentially, open enrollment is a safe harbor for all 60-day prior/60-day post notice requirements.

    Finally, changes that do not affect the SBC and are not a material reduction in benefits must be communicated and summarized within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    By Danielle Capilla

    Originally published by www.UBABenefits.com

     

  • Federal Employment Law Update – March 2018 | California Employee Benefit Brokers

    March 28, 2018

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    FLSA Amendments to Tip Sharing Provisions

    On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed legislation (H.R. 1625) amending the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by prohibiting employers from keeping tips received by employees for any purpose. This includes prohibiting managers or supervisors from keeping any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit. Employers in violation of these protections are liable to the affected employee(s) for the sum of any tip credit taken, and all tips unlawfully kept, in addition to an equal amount as liquidated damages. Regarding willful violations of the employment of minors provisions (at 29 U.S.C. § 216(c)), any person in violation of the law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation and will be liable to the affected employee(s) for all tips unlawfully kept and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

    The law is currently effective.

    Read US H.R. 1625

    Postponement of E-Verify Temporary Unavailability

    On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced via fact sheet that E-Verify and E-Verify Services would be temporarily unavailable from 12 a.m. March 23 to 8 a.m. March 26 Eastern Time for system enhancements. However, on March 22 the USCIS released an email stating that the enhancements were “still in the works,” and the modernization launch was postponed. Subsequently, E-Verify will remain available, and all regular employment eligibility verification timelines continue to apply.

    Read about the planned enhancements

    IRS Adjusts 2018 Inflation Amounts for Health Savings Accounts

    On March 5, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced 2018 annual limits on deductions for individuals covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) in Rev. Proc. 2018-18. The deduction limit is $3,450 for an individual with self-only coverage and $6,850 for an individual with family coverage.

    Additionally, for calendar year 2018, an HDHP is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, excluding premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

    Read Rev. Proc. 2018-18

    EEO-1 Reporting and Employees Who Regularly Report to Client Sites

    The portal for 2017 EEO-1 reporting is open and reports must be submitted and certified by March 31, 2018 at the latest.

    The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has addressed the issue that there may be some confusion as to how employers are to report employees working at client sites (a workplace the employer does not own but where the employee reports for work). According to the EEOC’s 2017 EEO-1 User Guide (see page 132), employers must still submit an EEO-1 report under the address of the client site for those employees, as opposed to the employer’s own address.

    See How to File an EEO-1 Report

    IRS Updates Withholding Calculator and Releases New Form W-4

    On February 28, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released an updated Withholding Calculator and a new version of Form W-4 following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December.

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions, and changing the tax rates and brackets.

    If changes to withholding should be made, the Withholding Calculator gives employees the information they need to fill out a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

    More information is available at the IRS page, Withholding Calculator Frequently Asked Questions.

    Read the press release

    NLRB Vacates Hy-Brand and Browning-Ferris Joint Employment Standard Reinstated

    On February 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it vacated its December 14, 2017 decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors regarding the joint employment standard. As a result, the Obama-era, employee-friendly joint employment standard established by Browning-Ferris Industries was reinstated. Under the reinstated Browning-Ferris standard, a company can be found to be a joint employer based on the potential of its ability to exercise control over terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether the actual authority is exercised. This is an “indirect control” standard and is considered the main factor in determining whether a joint employer relationship exists, and thus liability, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

    According to the NLRB, Hy-Brand was vacated due a determination by the board’s designated agency ethics official that member William Emanuel is, and should have been, disqualified from participating in the Hy-Brand proceeding. In a memorandum issued on February 9, 2018, the U.S. Inspector General found that Emmanuel’s former law firm was involved in the original Browning-Ferris decision, and subsequently, he should have recused himself from the Hy-Brand decision.

    Because the Board’s Decision and Order in Hy-Brand has been vacated, the overruling of the Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), is of no force or effect.

    Read the press release and order

  • New Guidance on Tipped Wages | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    March 27, 2018

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    The 2,232-page budget spending bill that was signed by President Trump on March 23, 2018, included an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibiting employers, managers, or supervisors from collecting or retaining tips made by employees, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit.

    This law essentially blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2017 proposed rule which would have allowed tip sharing between employees who directly earn them with “back of the house” employees who “[c]ontribute to the overall customer experience,” but do not traditionally receive direct tips, such as cooks and dishwashers.

    The next step with the DOL’s proposed rule could be that the agency pulls it or conforms the rulemaking to the spending bill. However, experts are concerned that the bill did not go far enough to provide clear and concise definitions. For example, in the restaurant industry employees can wear many hats. So what happens when a food server is the shift lead? Is a shift lead a manager or supervisor because they are granted authority, be it minimal authority, over other food servers? Employers will be looking to the DOL to provide more specifics.

    For the time being, the FLSA standard continues, “[a] valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly received tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors.”

    Get the basics in our Federal Employment Law Update or go more in depth into the background and implications of tipping regulations on Eater.

    Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

  • Benefits of an Annual Exam | California Benefit Advisors

    February 22, 2018

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    Have you ever heard the proverb “Knowledge is power?” It means that knowledge is more powerful than just physical strength and with knowledge people can produce powerful results. This applies to your annual medical physical as well! The #1 goal of your annual exam is to GAIN KNOWLEDGE. Annual exams offer you and your doctor a baseline for your health as well as being key to detecting early signs of diseases and conditions.

     

    The #1 goal of your annual exam is to  GAIN KNOWLEDGE

     

    According to Malcom Thalor, MD, “A good general exam should include a comprehensive medical history, family history, lifestyle review, problem-focused physical exam, appropriate screening and diagnostic tests and vaccinations, with time for discussion, assessment and education. And a good health care provider will always focus first and foremost on your health goals.”

    Early detection of chronic diseases can save both your personal pocketbook as well as your life! By scheduling AND attending your annual physical, you are able to cut down on medical costs of undiagnosed conditions. Catching a disease early means you are able to attack it early. If you wait until you are exhibiting symptoms or have been symptomatic for a long while, then the disease may be to a stage that is costly to treat. Early detection gives you a jump start on treatments and can reduce your out of pocket expenses.

    When you are prepared to speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP), you can set the agenda for your appointment so that you get all your questions answered as well as your PCP’s questions. Here are some tips for a successful annual physical exam:

    • Bring a list of medications you are currently taking—You may even take pictures of the bottles so they can see the strength and how many.
    • Have a list of any symptoms you are having ready to discuss.
    • Bring the results of any relevant surgeries, tests, and medical procedures
    • Share a list of the names and numbers of your other doctors that you see on a regular basis.
    • If you have an implanted device (insulin pump, spinal cord stimulator, etc) bring the device card with you.
    • Bring a list of questions! Doctors want well informed patients leaving their office. Here are some sample questions you may want to ask:
      • What vaccines do I need?
      • What health screenings do I need?
      • What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
      • Am I on the right medications?

    Becoming a well-informed patient who follows through on going to their annual exam as well as follows the advice given to them from their physician after asking good questions, will not only save your budget, but it can save your life!

     

     

     

  • Federal Employment Law Update – February 2018 | Petaluma Benefit Brokers

    February 16, 2018

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    IRS Releases Publication 15 and W-4 Withholding Guidance for 2018

    On January 31, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 15 — Introductory Material, which includes the following:

    • 2018 federal income tax withholding tables.
    • Exempt Form W-4.
    • New information on:
      • Withholding allowance.
      • Withholding on supplemental wages.
      • Backup withholding.
      • Moving expense reimbursement.
      • Social Security and Medicare tax for 2018.
      • Disaster tax relief.

    Read Publication 15 and further details here.

    EEOC Penalty Increases for Failure to Post Required Notices

    On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a final rule increasing the penalty amount from $534 to $545 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) notice posting requirements.

    The final rule is effective February 20, 2018.

    Read the rule

    Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

  • Benefits Easy: Intro to Self-Funding | Petaluma Benefit Advisors

    February 9, 2018

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    As the first month of 2018 wraps up, companies have already begun the arduous task of submitting budgets and finding ways to cut costs for the new year. One of the most effective ways to combat increasing health care costs for companies is to move to a Self-Funded insurance plan. By paying for claims out-of-pocket instead of paying a premium to an insurance carrier, companies can save around 20% in administration costs and state taxes. That’s quite a cost savings!

    The topic of Self-Funding is huge and so we want to break it down into smaller bites for you to digest. This month we want to tackle a basic introduction to Self-Funding and in the coming months, we will cover the benefits, risks, and the stop-loss associated with this type of plan.

    THE BASICS

    • When the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees, this is called Self-Funding.
    • Self-Funded plans allow the employer to tailor the benefits plan design to best suit their employees. Employers can look at the demographics of their workforce and decide which benefits would be most utilized as well as cut benefits that are forecasted to be underutilized.
    • While previously most used by large companies, small and mid-sized companies, even with as few as 25 employees, are seeing cost benefits to moving to Self-Funded insurance plans.
    • Companies pay no state premium taxes on self-funded expenditures. This savings is around 1.5% – 3.5% depending on in which state the company operates.
    • Since employers are paying for claims, they have access to claims data. While keeping within HIPAA privacy guidelines, the employer can identify and reach out to employees with certain at-risk conditions (diabetes, heart disease, stroke) and offer assistance with combating these health concerns. This also allows greater population-wide health intervention like weight loss programs and smoking cessation assistance.
    • Companies typically hire third-party administrators (TPA) to help design and administer the insurance plans. This allows greater control of the plan benefits and claims payments for the company.

    As you can see, Self-Funding has many facets. It’s important to gather as much information as you can and weigh the benefits and risks of moving from a Fully-Funded plan for your company to a Self-Funded one. Doing your research and making the move to a Self-Funded plan could help you gain greater control over your healthcare costs and allow you to design an original plan that best fits your employees.

     

     

  • Look Backward to Plan Forward | CA Employee Benefits Agency

    October 3, 2018

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    We have entered Open Enrollment season and that means you and everyone in your office are probably reading through enrollment guides and trying to decipher it all. As you begin your research into which plan to choose or even how much to contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), consider evaluating how you used your health plan last year. Looking backward can actually help you plan forward and make the most of your health care dollars for the coming year.

    Forbes magazine gives the advice, “Think of Open Enrollment as your time to revisit your benefits to make sure you are taking full advantage of them.” First, look at how often you used health care services this year. Did you go to the doctor a lot? Did you begin a new prescription drug regimen? What procedures did you have done and what are their likelihood of needing to be done again this year? As you evaluate how you used your dollars last year, you can predict how your dollars may be spent next year and choose a plan that accommodates your spending.

    Second, don’t assume your insurance coverage will be the same year after year. Your company may change providers or even what services they will cover with the same provider. You may also have better coverage on services and procedures that were previously not eligible for you. If you have choices on which plan to enroll in, make sure you are comparing each plan’s costs for premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for next year. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a plan based on how it was written in years prior.

    Third, make sure you are taking full advantage of your company’s services. For instance, their preventative health benefits. Do they offer discounted gym memberships? What about weight-loss counseling services or surgery? How frequently can you visit the dentist for cleanings or the optometrist? Make sure you know what is covered and that you are using the services provided for you. Check to see if your company gives discounts on health insurance premiums for completing health surveys or wellness programs—even for wearing fitness trackers! Don’t leave money on the table by not being educated on what is offered.

    Finally, look at your company’s policy choices for life insurance. Taking out a personal life insurance policy can be very costly but ones offered through your office are much more reasonable. Why? You reap the cost benefit of being a part of a group life policy. Again, look at how your family is expected to change this year—are you getting married or having a baby, or even going through a divorce? Consider changing your life insurance coverage to account for these life changes. Forbes says that “people entering or exiting your life is typically a good indicator that you may want to revisit your existing benefits.”

    As you make choices for yourself and/or your family this Open Enrollment season, be sure to look at ALL the options available to you. Do your research. Take the time to understand your options—your HR department may even have a tool available to help you estimate the best health care plan for you and your dependents. And remember, looking backward on your past habits and expenses can be an important tool to help you plan forward for next year.

  • Oral Health = Overall Health | Petaluma Benefits Advisors

    July 26, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    A healthy smile can lead to a healthier (and longer living) you! Check out how easy it is to have good oral health.

     

  • Leadership, Now with More Humility | CA Benefits Consultants

    July 19, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

    More and more, we are learning that scientists, marketers, programmers, and other kinds of knowledge workers lead office lives very similar to famous innovators like Watson, Crick, and Franklin, who discovered the structure of DNA. How so? All of these people live work lives structured around progress in meaningful work. And when this progress occurs, it boosts emotions, perceptions, and productivity.

    This could be an important key to supporting your employees at their desks, wherever those may be. While recognition, tangible incentives, and goals are important, leading managers must also consider nourishing progress through attention to inner work life, minor milestones, and appropriate modeling.

    When progress is effectively monitored and encouraged, it can lead to a self-sustaining progress loop, which often results in increased success and productivity, especially toward larger, group-based goals. In other words, when managers support inner work life and recognize minor progress, it leads to major accomplishments.

    Seeing employees as growing, positive individuals with a drive to experiment and learn, as opposed to mere means to an end goal, can make all the difference in an office, and over the yearsOne way to do this effectively is to incorporate humility into your leadership style. This doesn’t imply that you have low self-confidence or are yourself servile. Rather, it says you prioritize the autonomy of your office and support your employees to think responsibly for themselves. Ask them what their daily work lives are like, and how you can help them maximize effectiveness. Create low-risk opportunities for growth, and most importantly: follow through.

    Read More:
    “Leading through emotions”
    “Leading with emotional intelligence”

     

    By Bill Olson, VP, Marketing & Communications at United Benefit Advisors

    Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

  • Opioids in America | California Employee Benefits Firm

    June 27, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

  • Opioids in America | CA Benefit Brokers

    June 5, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

    Opioids are made from the opium poppy plant.  Opium has been around since 3,400 BC and it was first referenced as being cultivated in Southwest Asia. The drug traveled the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Asia to China. Since then, the drug has gained popularity for pain relief but it also has gained notoriety as an abused drug. Morphine, Codeine, and Heroin are all derived from the opium poppy and are all highly addictive drugs that are abused all around the world. As the demand for these drugs has increased, so has the production.  From 2016 to 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 63 percent. In 2016, it killed some 64,000 Americans, more than double the number in 2005.

    We can see that the danger from this drug is growing rapidly. What can we do to recognize potential abuse problems and to get help? Here are some facts about opioid addiction:

    • How do they work? Opioids attach to pain receptors in your brain, spinal cord, and other areas that recognize pain signals. As they attach to the receptors, it reduces the sending of pain messages to the brain and therefore reduces the feelings of pain in your body.
    • Short-acting opiates are typically prescribed for injuries and only for a few days. They take 15-30 minutes for pain relief to begin and this relief lasts for 3-4 hours. Long-acting opiates are prescribed for moderate to severe pain and are used over a long period of time. Relief typically lasts for 8-12 hours and can be used alongside a short-acting drug for breakthrough pain.
    • Dependence is common with long-term use of an opiate. This means that the patient needs to take more of and higher doses of the medicine to get the same pain relieving effect. This does not necessarily mean the patient is addicted. Addiction is the abuse of the drug by taking it in an unprescribed way—like crushing tablets or using intravenously.
    • Americans account for less than 5% of the world’s population, but take 80% of the world’s opioid About 5% of the people who take opiates become addicted to the drug.
    • Help is available through many channels from private recovery centers to insurance providers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline is 1-800-662-HELP. This line is confidential, free, and available 24-hours a day and 7 days a week. Family and friends may also call this number for resources for help. Additional resources can be found at drugabuse.com.

    Make sure you are educated about the dangers of opioid abuse. But, don’t be discouraged and think that the abuse is incurable! There are many resources that can be used to break the addiction cycle and can make real change in the lives of its victims. Ask for help and offer help.

     

  • Disability Insurance & How to Use it! | California Benefit Consultants

    May 30, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    No one foresees needing disability benefits.  But, should a problem arise, the educated and informed employee can plan for the future by purchasing disability insurance to help cover expenses when needed. Check out this short video for more!

  • Notifying Participants of a Plan Change | California Employee Benefit Firm

    May 15, 2018

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

    Curious about when you should notify a participant about a change to their health care plan?

    The answer is that it depends!

    Notification must happen within one of three time frames: 60 days prior to the change, no later than 60 days after the change, or within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    For modifications to the summary plan description (SPD) that constitute a material reduction in covered services or benefits, notice is required within 60 days prior to or after the adoption of the material reduction in group health plan services or benefits. (For example, a decrease in employer contribution is a material reduction in covered services or benefits. So is a material modification in any plan terms affecting the content of the most recent summary of benefits and coverage (SBC).) While the rule here is flexible, the definite best practice is to give advance notice. For collective practical purposes, employees should be told prior to the first increased withholding.

    However, if the change is part of open enrollment, and communicated during open enrollment, this is considered acceptable notice regardless of whether the SBC, SPD, or both are changing. Essentially, open enrollment is a safe harbor for all 60-day prior/60-day post notice requirements.

    Finally, changes that do not affect the SBC and are not a material reduction in benefits must be communicated and summarized within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

    By Danielle Capilla

    Originally published by www.UBABenefits.com

     

  • Federal Employment Law Update – March 2018 | California Employee Benefit Brokers

    March 28, 2018

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    FLSA Amendments to Tip Sharing Provisions

    On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed legislation (H.R. 1625) amending the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by prohibiting employers from keeping tips received by employees for any purpose. This includes prohibiting managers or supervisors from keeping any portion of employees’ tips, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit. Employers in violation of these protections are liable to the affected employee(s) for the sum of any tip credit taken, and all tips unlawfully kept, in addition to an equal amount as liquidated damages. Regarding willful violations of the employment of minors provisions (at 29 U.S.C. § 216(c)), any person in violation of the law will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,100 for each violation and will be liable to the affected employee(s) for all tips unlawfully kept and an additional equal amount as liquidated damages.

    The law is currently effective.

    Read US H.R. 1625

    Postponement of E-Verify Temporary Unavailability

    On March 15, 2018, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced via fact sheet that E-Verify and E-Verify Services would be temporarily unavailable from 12 a.m. March 23 to 8 a.m. March 26 Eastern Time for system enhancements. However, on March 22 the USCIS released an email stating that the enhancements were “still in the works,” and the modernization launch was postponed. Subsequently, E-Verify will remain available, and all regular employment eligibility verification timelines continue to apply.

    Read about the planned enhancements

    IRS Adjusts 2018 Inflation Amounts for Health Savings Accounts

    On March 5, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced 2018 annual limits on deductions for individuals covered under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) in Rev. Proc. 2018-18. The deduction limit is $3,450 for an individual with self-only coverage and $6,850 for an individual with family coverage.

    Additionally, for calendar year 2018, an HDHP is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, excluding premiums) do not exceed $6,650 for self-only coverage or $13,300 for family coverage.

    Read Rev. Proc. 2018-18

    EEO-1 Reporting and Employees Who Regularly Report to Client Sites

    The portal for 2017 EEO-1 reporting is open and reports must be submitted and certified by March 31, 2018 at the latest.

    The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has addressed the issue that there may be some confusion as to how employers are to report employees working at client sites (a workplace the employer does not own but where the employee reports for work). According to the EEOC’s 2017 EEO-1 User Guide (see page 132), employers must still submit an EEO-1 report under the address of the client site for those employees, as opposed to the employer’s own address.

    See How to File an EEO-1 Report

    IRS Updates Withholding Calculator and Releases New Form W-4

    On February 28, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released an updated Withholding Calculator and a new version of Form W-4 following passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December.

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions, and changing the tax rates and brackets.

    If changes to withholding should be made, the Withholding Calculator gives employees the information they need to fill out a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

    More information is available at the IRS page, Withholding Calculator Frequently Asked Questions.

    Read the press release

    NLRB Vacates Hy-Brand and Browning-Ferris Joint Employment Standard Reinstated

    On February 26, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that it vacated its December 14, 2017 decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors regarding the joint employment standard. As a result, the Obama-era, employee-friendly joint employment standard established by Browning-Ferris Industries was reinstated. Under the reinstated Browning-Ferris standard, a company can be found to be a joint employer based on the potential of its ability to exercise control over terms and conditions of employment, regardless of whether the actual authority is exercised. This is an “indirect control” standard and is considered the main factor in determining whether a joint employer relationship exists, and thus liability, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

    According to the NLRB, Hy-Brand was vacated due a determination by the board’s designated agency ethics official that member William Emanuel is, and should have been, disqualified from participating in the Hy-Brand proceeding. In a memorandum issued on February 9, 2018, the U.S. Inspector General found that Emmanuel’s former law firm was involved in the original Browning-Ferris decision, and subsequently, he should have recused himself from the Hy-Brand decision.

    Because the Board’s Decision and Order in Hy-Brand has been vacated, the overruling of the Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), is of no force or effect.

    Read the press release and order

  • New Guidance on Tipped Wages | Petaluma Benefit Consultants

    March 27, 2018

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    The 2,232-page budget spending bill that was signed by President Trump on March 23, 2018, included an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibiting employers, managers, or supervisors from collecting or retaining tips made by employees, regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit.

    This law essentially blocked the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2017 proposed rule which would have allowed tip sharing between employees who directly earn them with “back of the house” employees who “[c]ontribute to the overall customer experience,” but do not traditionally receive direct tips, such as cooks and dishwashers.

    The next step with the DOL’s proposed rule could be that the agency pulls it or conforms the rulemaking to the spending bill. However, experts are concerned that the bill did not go far enough to provide clear and concise definitions. For example, in the restaurant industry employees can wear many hats. So what happens when a food server is the shift lead? Is a shift lead a manager or supervisor because they are granted authority, be it minimal authority, over other food servers? Employers will be looking to the DOL to provide more specifics.

    For the time being, the FLSA standard continues, “[a] valid tip pool may not include employees who do not customarily and regularly received tips, such as dishwashers, cooks, chefs, and janitors.”

    Get the basics in our Federal Employment Law Update or go more in depth into the background and implications of tipping regulations on Eater.

    Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

  • Benefits of an Annual Exam | California Benefit Advisors

    February 22, 2018

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    Have you ever heard the proverb “Knowledge is power?” It means that knowledge is more powerful than just physical strength and with knowledge people can produce powerful results. This applies to your annual medical physical as well! The #1 goal of your annual exam is to GAIN KNOWLEDGE. Annual exams offer you and your doctor a baseline for your health as well as being key to detecting early signs of diseases and conditions.

     

    The #1 goal of your annual exam is to  GAIN KNOWLEDGE

     

    According to Malcom Thalor, MD, “A good general exam should include a comprehensive medical history, family history, lifestyle review, problem-focused physical exam, appropriate screening and diagnostic tests and vaccinations, with time for discussion, assessment and education. And a good health care provider will always focus first and foremost on your health goals.”

    Early detection of chronic diseases can save both your personal pocketbook as well as your life! By scheduling AND attending your annual physical, you are able to cut down on medical costs of undiagnosed conditions. Catching a disease early means you are able to attack it early. If you wait until you are exhibiting symptoms or have been symptomatic for a long while, then the disease may be to a stage that is costly to treat. Early detection gives you a jump start on treatments and can reduce your out of pocket expenses.

    When you are prepared to speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP), you can set the agenda for your appointment so that you get all your questions answered as well as your PCP’s questions. Here are some tips for a successful annual physical exam:

    • Bring a list of medications you are currently taking—You may even take pictures of the bottles so they can see the strength and how many.
    • Have a list of any symptoms you are having ready to discuss.
    • Bring the results of any relevant surgeries, tests, and medical procedures
    • Share a list of the names and numbers of your other doctors that you see on a regular basis.
    • If you have an implanted device (insulin pump, spinal cord stimulator, etc) bring the device card with you.
    • Bring a list of questions! Doctors want well informed patients leaving their office. Here are some sample questions you may want to ask:
      • What vaccines do I need?
      • What health screenings do I need?
      • What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
      • Am I on the right medications?

    Becoming a well-informed patient who follows through on going to their annual exam as well as follows the advice given to them from their physician after asking good questions, will not only save your budget, but it can save your life!

     

     

     

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