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R&R Insurance Blog

ACA Affordability Percentages Will Decrease For 2020

Posted by the knowledge brokers

affordability percentages decreaseOn July 23, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Revenue Procedure 2019-29 to index the contribution percentages in 2020 for purposes of determining affordability of an employer’s plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA’s employer shared responsibility or play or pay rules require ALEs (Applicable Large Employers) to offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to their full-time employees (and dependents) or pay a penalty. ALEs are those employers with an average of 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees during the preceding calendar year.

For plan years beginning in 2020, employer-sponsored coverage will be considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage does not exceed 9.78% of the employee’s household income for the year, for purposes of both the pay or play rules and premium tax credit eligibility.

For more details, read more here. If you have any questions, please contact a KnowledgeBroker today!

Topics: Employee Benefits

Most Common, and Preventable, Home Claim | Tree Damage

Posted by Dan Wolfgram

Tree damage claim

 

One of the most common, and usually preventable claims, we see year round is tree damage to homes and cars.  Occasionally, poorly maintained trees can cause injury to people or pets. And lets not forget when a poorly maintained tree on your property falls onto your neighbors house ... it makes those neighborhood block parties a little “interesting”! 

These claims can be not only dangerous, but also costly.  Preventative tree care should be part of your overall home maintenance program. 

  1. Landscape care in the Fall
    • Prune unruly branches (leave the larger ones to the professionals!)
    • Inspect trees for dying limbs, insect damage, or signs of disease
    • Nourish trees with water and mulch
    • Plant new trees in the Fall
  2. Do not build new structures near or around a tree - it can damage tree roots and growth space
  3. Monitor and observe trees over time
    • Get a guide for identifying types of trees and potential disease 
    • Have an ISA-Certified arborist visit your property for an assessment on the health of your trees
  4. Choose the right trees for your property
    • How tall and wide will the tree become?
    • How fast will the tree grow?
    • Does it lose leaves in the winter?

In Fall, it is also important watch for leaves that fall on your driveway or street - wet leaves become a slip and/or driving hazard.

Enjoy the beauty that nature offers with a well landscaped yard.  It also keeps you, and your neighbors, safe!

Topics: Personal Insurance

IRS Expands List of Preventive Care for HSA Participants

Posted by the knowledge brokers

Preventive CareOn Wednesday, July 17th, the Internal Revenue Service added care for a range of chronic conditions to the list of preventive care benefits that may be provided by a high deductible health plan (HDHP). The new list is optional for a plan sponsor of HSA qualified HDHP plan to offer without impacting the member’s opportunity to fund their HSA account.

Individuals covered by an HDHP generally may establish and deduct contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) as long as they have no disqualifying health coverage. To qualify as a high deductible health plan, an HDHP generally may not provide benefits for any year until the minimum deductible for that year is satisfied. However, an HDHP is not required to have a deductible for preventive care (as defined for purposes of the HDHP/HSA rules).

The IRS and the Department of Health and Human Services have determined that certain medical care services received and items purchased, including prescription drugs, for certain chronic conditions should be classified as preventive care for someone with that chronic condition as specified in Notice 2019-45. Any medical care previously recognized as preventive care for these rules is still treated as preventive care.

For more details, learn more here. If you have any questions, please contact a KnowledgeBroker today!

Topics: Employee Benefits

Cyber Security in the Public Sector

Posted by Jason Navarro

City Hall in Athens, GeorgiaYou most likely heard the news story recently where a Wisconsin School District was breached and scammed out of $660,000. Yet another example of a local cyber breach making national news.

Unfortunately, Public Sectors have become an easy and frequent target for cyber hackers. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Employees continue to be the easiest breach point. Cyber criminals only need one employee to slip up, fall for the scam, and unintentionally hand over the keys to an entire network of personal information. 
  2. Less staff are present on a regular basis. The FBI and Law Enforcement have seen an increase in Public Sector groups being targeted when less staff are present, such as nights and weekends.    

Along with having the correct cyber insurance plan in place, R&R has tools and resources to help protect your business - big or small, public or private. We're able to create a custom program focused on 4 key steps:

  1. Employee training (annually)
  2. Internal IT security
  3. Banking protocols for wiring money and financial transactions
  4. Insurance to help keep the business up and running WHEN your organization experiences a cyber loss

Click here to learn more about properly protecting your business or to receive a free Cyber Insurance quote.

 

Topics: Cyber

Hospital and Insurer Price Transparency Rule

Posted by the knowledge brokers

hospital signOn June 24th, 2019, President Trump signed an executive order on hospital and insurer price transparency. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will decide through rulemaking whether hospitals and insurers will need to publish individual rates or whether they can keep their pricing information more general and publish only aggregate rates. Administration officials did not confirm when the rulemaking will take place, saying only they will use “any and all regulatory vehicles” that can carry out its directives.

The language of the executive order is not public yet, but Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar laid out the five policies the order is set to address:

  1. HHS will need to issue the rule on hospital price disclosures, mandating that they disclose in an easy-to-read format the prices to reflect what insurers and patients actually pay.
  2. HHS will also, through rulemaking, require providers and insurers to disclose to patients their out-of-pocket cost before they go in for care.
  3. HHS will need to propose a way to consolidate quality measurers across all healthcare programs.
  4. HHS will look into how to store de-identified healthcare claims data so researchers can analyze it to make improvements to the system.
  5. The Treasury Department is tasked with expanding uses for health savings accounts.

For more details, learn more here. If you have any questions, please contact a KnowledgeBroker today!

Topics: Employee Benefits

Offering Student Loan Repayment Benefits

Posted by the knowledge brokers

Dollar Sign GradCombined with rising tuition costs, more people are attending college than ever before. Sixty-one percent of millennials have attended college compared to forty-six percent of baby boomers. The class of 2017 graduated with an average of $39,500 in student debt! In recent years, some employers have begun offering student loan repayment help.

Millennials entered the job market after the recession which has resulted in fewer job opportunities. Of those job opportunities, many have had to accept jobs at lower starting salaries. With millennials making up the majority of the workforce, businesses must alter their tactics in order to stay ahead as many new graduates are seeking companies that offer non-traditional benefits like student loan repayment assistance.


According to a study by Iontuition, 80% of individuals would like to work for a company that offers student loan repayment assistance with a matching opportunity.

Right now, only 3% of employers offer student loan aid according to the Society for Human Resources Management. But the interest in this millennial benefit is definitely growing among employers.

While it can seem like all of the benefit is for the employee, there are benefits the employer can reap as well. By offering a non-traditional benefit, such as student loan repayment, you will have something that can boost your recruitment and retention strategies.

To learn more about the future of offering a student loan repayment program and the benefits to both employees and employers, click here.

If you have further questions, please contact a KnowledgeBroker today!

Topics: Employee Benefits

Industrial Hygiene Testing - Where to Start?

Posted by John Brengosz

industrial hygiene testingBack in the day, many national insurance companies had their own industrial hygiene departments and/or specialists - some even had their own laboratories!  It was widely perceived to be a competitive advantage.  However over time, the cost started to outweigh the value of services.  From the travel to the perceived value of the surveys to results, industrial hygiene screenings became highly scrutinized.

Fast forward to today and there are (3) potential avenues for industrial hygiene testing:

  1. Select insurance companies continue to perform surveys for select situations, generally at no cost to the policyholder
  2. R&R Insurance can assist for often less cost than the insurance company
    • Quarterly, R&R rents 5 dosimeters and will conduct full day noise surveys for customers at no cost. We also can borrow air testing pumps from the State of Wisconsin at no cost with the customer paying for the lab fees charged by the State to analyze the media used.
  3. 3rd party companies specializing in industrial hygiene
    • Contact us for recommended vendors
    • Services begin at $2,500

No matter the method, be cautious that costs can rise very quickly.  From the number of spaces being tested to the frequency & length of time testing; there is definite process of screening, testing, and resolving the issue(s).

I think we may need industrial hygiene testing - where do I start?

Start by asking a few questions:

  • Why is there a concern?
  • Have there been employee complaint (s)?
  • Is there an odor issue?
  • Do you just want to know?
  • Has there been any previous testing?
  • Be prepared to have your Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for the chemical(s) in question - it can help us do front-end evaluation and will be required for anyone doing testing

Testing is just the beginning of the "process".  If levels come back over OSHA limits, the work is just starting!  Things like increased ventilation and/or redesigned ventilation could be a suggested solution.  This is a true science and one that would expand beyond industrial hygiene specialists.

"Industrial hygiene: is the science of protecting and enhancing the health and safety of people at work and in their communities. Health and safety hazards cover a wide range of chemical, physical, biological and ergonomic stressors."

Contact your KnowledgeBroker to discuss if a survey is right for you.

How to Avoid a Bad Driver's Impact on Your Business Auto Insurance

Posted by Dan Maurer

Despite record low unemployment, you finally hired one – a diamond in the ruff. After a 16 hour shift on-the-road, his only question at the end of the day was, “What’s next?”

Things are going so smoothly, but then a call from your insurance agent, “The insurance company is hammering me. That new driver you hired has a DUI. They’re asking you to put him in a non-driving capacity or they're going to reevaluate your insurance program.”

As an insurance agent with many accounts in Construction, I’ve had numerous bad driver scenarios like this. It’s a trend getting hit from two sides with good drivers hard to find in low unemployment labor pool and increasing auto rates from insurance carriers driving up costs. Thankfully, for commercial insureds, there are solutions to the problem – prevention and alternative insurance options.

Prevent the situation with a Fleet Safety Program. A doctor might tell you prevention is the best medicine and it goes the same with avoiding the hire of a driver with a bad record. Implementing a well thought out Fleet Safety Program will set the standard for your company and, more often than not, keep this problem at bay.

Screening company drivers is the first step to setting up a Fleet Safety Program. “Frequency breeds severity,” is a saying in the insurance industry. If a driver has a history of minor violations or near misses odds are, at some point, a major incident will occur.

The best tool at the disposal of a business owner to screen employees is a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). MVR’s are obtained through the Public Abstract Request System (PARS) program with the Wisconsin DOT. Your company can create an account here and begin screening drivers once they sign a release. There is a cost associated with running records, but nothing overly expensive.

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Insurance carriers will want to be sure your drivers fall within a tolerable range of driving violations and accidents. Each company’s standards will be unique to them, but the above chart is an example of a standard the insurance carrier will expect a company to have. It's recommended you run MVR's on employees once a year, but if you join the PARS program it will notify you if a driver has a violation preventing the need to run MVR's arbitrarily every year.

A second step in implementing a Fleet Safety Program is to give safe driver training. There are a variety of ways to train drivers but the best training topic to explore is distracted driving because it's the number one reason insurance carriers are increasing auto rates. Another topic very useful for commercial drivers is Accident Investigation training. In the case of the companies I insure, we'll bring in experts to help train your drivers at no cost.

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Explore alternative insurance options if the employee is too valuable to let go. There will be a cost to your bottom line but in many situations it is preferable to eat the cost rather than let valuable employees go.

Opening a separate insurance policy for a driver is an option. There are some circumstances where insurance carriers will outright refuse to insure certain drivers. In these cases an insurance agent can go to market with a carrier such as Progressive for a one-off driver policy. Costly - but often the only acceptable option.

Some situations can be fixed by changing work arrangements around. One solution to keep an employee with a bad driving record is to change their role by partnering them up with an employee who is able to drive. In some situations your company will be able to have the employee drive his or her own vehicle. While not usually the ideal solutions for your company, it will often appease insurance carriers and keep your coverage in place.

Companies going through these situations often entertain thoughts that insurance carriers are being overly harsh or risk averse in threatening premium hikes or non-renewing their coverage. The truth is underwriters are facing a hardening market on auto rates. It might actually come as a shock to some businesses to know that your vehicles are the single largest exposure to your company and your insurance carrier.

Insurance carriers have been losing money on auto insurance for years. The reason is that workers’ compensation claims have state-mandated limits, while auto liability does not. Innocent people hit by commercial vehicles often bring legal action. The consequences of distracted driving combined with our increasingly litigious society is the main driver behind increasing rates.

Screening employees and having a formal Fleet Safety Program is the best way to avoid a 15% auto increase or non-renewal. That said, when a company is against the wall and needs to keep an employee on the solution is to explore opening an additional policy or change their working arrangement.

Additional fleet safety resources:

Topics: Fleet Safety

Summer Boat Rental: What You Need to Know

Posted by Jenna Haertle

iStock-951416356Have you thought about renting a boat on a hot summer day? Do you own a boat and want to make some extra money by renting it out? If the answer is “yes,” there are a few things you need to know first.

I recently came across a website for boat rentals where you can either rent a boat, or rent out your boat for a fee. Being an insurance agent, it had me thinking about coverage for these types of situations and I did some further investigating. My concerns were right—I found the statement from the boat rental company explaining that they do not offer any insurance coverage.

If you are renting a boat…

  • Each insurance company has its own restrictions on the type, size and horsepower of boats that they provide coverage to. Depending on the type and size of the boat, there may be no coverage at all from your insurance policy if something were to happen.
  • Check with your agent before renting the boat to make sure the boat fits within their guidelines

If you’re planning on renting out or chartering your boat for a fee…

  • Renting out a boat or chartering it for a fee is typically excluded from your homeowners or watercraft insurance policy.
  • You would need a special policy to cover the risk, because it’s considered a business exposure since you’re receiving compensation for it. Without one, there may be no coverage in an accident.
  • It’s best to talk with your agent before you decide to rent or charter it. They can help you get the type of policy you would need for this exposure.

More and more websites and apps are popping up every day for vacation home and boat rentals. They can be an inexpensive and fun way to spend your summer, but you want to make sure you’re not opening yourself up to a potential coverage gap. If you’re planning on providing any type of service or rental for a fee, make sure to contact your agent to get the right policy put in place.

Contact a KnowledgeBroker for more information!

Topics: Personal Insurance

A Review of Online Reviews

Posted by Tammy Cross

IiStock-1128818327 don’t know how many of you like online reviews—I know I do. A huge benefit of the internet is having so many businesses available to research and review with just the click of a mouse. Everything from contractors and restaurants, to vacation destinations and new cars. You name it…you can find it. Years ago, the only thing you could rely on was word of mouth or a good referral from a friend or relative. 

At R&R Insurance, we’re proud to say our best source of new business clients still comes from our customer referrals.  We can’t thank you enough for those, and want to you know that we take pride in assisting everyone that we work with.

Recently, we had prospective clients question why we would place them with a certain insurance company. (For those of you who don’t know, R&R Insurance is an independent agency. This means, unlike companies like State Farm, American Family, Allstate, etc., we represent many insurance companies. It’s not a one size fits all proposition.) The family was concerned that with the hundreds of reviews on this particular insurance company, not 100% of them were positive. I’ve always felt that negative reviews on an insurance company were a reflection on not only the insurance company, but the insurance agent and yes, the client. Let me explain why I say all three.

The insurance company should absolutely be at the top of the list here. Whatever scenario occurs (positive or negative), if a client feels compelled enough to tell the world about it, it’s important and should be addressed accordingly by the company. However, insurance by its very nature is a legal contract between the insured and the insurance company.  Not every claim that transpires, or every billing transaction that is processed can be guaranteed to go the way a client hopes.

Second, the insurance agent / agency needs to be held accountable as well. As an agent, they should be communicating to their insured on a very regular basis to minimize the possibility of surprises or unknowns. For example, we follow-up on all of our home & auto claims within 48 hours just to make sure things are going the way we think they should.  And if something is not covered, we try our best to be direct with our clients from the very beginning – explaining the situation, talking through possible outcomes, and providing solutions.

Lastly, are clients. While R&R and our carrier partners value being held to high standards, there are instances when clients have an expectation that is unfortunately unrealistic. And as many of us know from experience, accidents with our personal property can be incredibly emotional and cause a heightened sense of both positive and negative feelings. However, even in those cases, a great agency should be able to clearly explain what happened so their client feels more comfortable with the end result.

So, quite honestly online reviews are awesome!  And we live in world where they are readily available and should assist us in the decision making process.  But, if you do read an unfavorable review, please take a moment to consider if you have all the information needed to make the very best decision for you and your family.  And before you pull the trigger to make a change, make sure you are comfortable with the business you are working with. If you feel like the relationship is strong and they listen to your needs, then you will be off to a great start.  

Topics: Personal Insurance