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R&R Insurance Blog

Employee Benefit Plan Limits for 2019

Posted by the knowledge brokers

ComplianceMany employee benefits are subject to annual dollar limits that are periodically updated for inflation, such as HSAs, health FSAs, and transportation fringe benefit plans. This Compliance Overview includes a chart of the inflation-adjusted limits for 2019. Although some of the limits will remain the same, many of the limits increase for 2019.

The IRS typically announces the dollar limits that will apply for the next calendar year well in advance of the beginning of that year to give employers time to update their plan designs and make sure their plan administration will be consistent with the new limits.

Contact a Knowledge Broker for more information.

Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance

What You Need to Know About Premium Refund Checks

Posted by Pete Frittitta

erisa advisoryYou have the opportunity to earn a premium refund on your level-funded plan but do you know what to do with it once you get it? Or maybe you’ve already received one - did you know that there are compliance rules to follow to disburse any employee share of that refund within 90 days?

In most simple terms, if employees pay a portion of health care premiums, then they are entitled to a prorated share of the premium refund. Additionally, you must distribute the appropriate funds within 90 days of receiving the refund check.

There are some interpretations being expressed in the consulting community that would suggest a very simple option exists such as “give every employee the same amount.” We strongly discourage this as it relies on comments from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) that contradict other guidance by the DOL. It clearly is not supported.

An employer can apply the entire refund check amount toward reducing employee contributions. However, this only eliminates the need to calculate the “split” between the employees and the employer. Unless the employer has paid 100% of the premiums, employers will still need to calculate the appropriate share of the refund for each employee prorated according to the amount they contributed.

There are basically three compliance options available to employers. If you are not familiar with the compliance options that are available to you, contact an R&R Benefits Knowledge Broker to learn more.

Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance

Generic vs. Brand Name Drugs

Posted by the knowledge brokers

prescriptionChoosing generic drugs over the brand name is generally less expensive. However, many people question whether generic drugs are as good, effective or safe as their brand name counterparts. The perception is that since many generic items found in grocery stores tend to be of lesser quality, the same must be true for medications. Fortunately, in the case of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, generic substitutes are the equivalent of brand name drugs. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the chemical equivalency of generic drugs to ensure they are just as safe and effective as the brand name drugs they mimic.

Employees who understand their benefit plans make more informed choices about the medical services they receive, and that benefits everyone.

 

Talk to Your Doctor

The best way to ensure that you know all you can about a drug you have been prescribed, and its generic equivalents, is to talk openly with your doctor. Below are some suggested questions that you may want to ask.

  • Is there a generic substitute for this drug available?
  • Are there any drug interactions that I should be aware of?
  • Does this medication cause any side effects?
  • If I forget to take a dose, what should I do?

Also, make sure your doctor knows about any previous reactions you have had to medications. In addition, be sure to call your doctor immediately if you have any problems or adverse side effects from a new prescription. Choosing generic drugs when available, following your doctor’s and pharmacist’s instructions fully, and talking openly with your doctor will help you make the most of our prescription drug plan. These strategies can help you not only save money on the prescription itself, but also avoid future health problems that could be costly.

To know more about generic and brand name drugs, read here.

Source: Zywave

Topics: Employee Benefits

Benefits Communication with Social Media

Posted by Michelle Froehlke

Social Media Icons.pngWhether it is promoting open enrollment, explaining plan changes or educating on how to use benefits, communicating benefits information to employees is a perennial challenge for employers. A fast-growing trend among leading companies is to include social media in their benefits communication strategy to extend their reach. Millennials will make us 1:3 employees by 2020 and 75% of workforce by 2025—social media is part of their daily routine/ how they function and needs to be a key marketing tool for businesses. Furthermore, statistically it’s estimated that 61% of workers use their smartphones at work and are using them for social media purposes.

Benefits information can be overwhelming and complex, making some employees more likely to skim over or ignore it. Using social media, such as posting videos to Facebook or tweeting reminders, makes benefits information more relatable and personable—and employees are more likely to pay attention and understand.
Benefits communication must encompass many topics. Employers need to promote open enrollment, educate employees about plan changes, explain how to use the plan, promote consumerism and more. Social media helps break down this overload of information into easy-to-digest posts and reminders—in a place employees’ are already spending time. Posting updates year-round can provide valuable reminders to employees about using their benefits wisely. Therefore, not using social media is more than likely a missed opportunity. Granted, it’s not for every employer or employee, but the amount of people it can reach is growing. Millennials are digital and fast-paced and a major contributor in today’s growing workforce.

Getting Started
To get started, think about how you want to use social media for this purpose. Facebook and Twitter are good places to start, as they are likely the most popular among your employee population.
Whichever platforms you choose, create separate accounts from your external company accounts. Consider using employee-facing accounts not only for benefits communication, but also for wellness and other internal communications. Remember that social media is the perfect outlet for the K-I-S-S philosophy of communication and education—“Keep It Short and Sweet.”

Social media provides potential solutions to some of employers’ toughest benefits communication challenges. Twitter and Instagram require you to be succinct. In promoting a benefit, a meeting, or a wellness challenge, they need to be creative, short and sweet—funny or odd can help too.

Again, effective communication needs to be more often and happen on social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) the ones we have listed in this blog are a great outlet for that. It is better than once a year employee meetings on benefits—it’s an easy avenue to continually remind employees what’s out there.

It’s important to note that an employee that plans to use social media has responsibility:
It needs to be monitored and updated consistently and often if they want engagement and buy in—not a one and done like an EE mtg. Some people think there should be updates daily to keep it visible.

How can this happen:

  • Ask employees to like company page on FB, follow on Twitter and Instagram RIGHT DURING A STAFF MEETING. Take time to allow them to log in and do it.
  • Get employees involved to promote the social media outlet—this might even include a competition/incentive to get started.
Don’t forget to interact! Encourage employees to ask questions, and ask them to share their own experiences or tips for better plan use. And as with any social media initiative, be sure to reply if an employee contacts you or asks a question—engagement is a vital component of social sites.

Source: Zywave

Topics: Employee Benefits

Reduce Insurance Costs & Increase Employee Productivity

Posted by Shay Sherfinski

Workplace_Wellnessjpg.jpgAccording to a study, 81% of large employers and 49% of small employers offer wellness programs to their employees. Aimed to improve employees’ overall well-being, these programs are often centered around weight loss, smoking cessation, and walking.

Why is it important to promote wellness in the workplace?

Wellness affects your company’s bottom line in many ways—in particular, it can lower health care costs, increase productivity, decrease absenteeism and raise employee morale.

Employees with health risk factors, such as being overweight or smoking, can directly impact insurance costs.  In turn, those employees will pay more for health care than employees with fewer risk factors. Wellness can help employees with high risk factors make the lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life and reduce their health care costs, while also helping employees with fewer risk factors stay healthy. 

What are the benefits of a wellness program?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) promotes the formation of workplace wellness programs because, according to one of its studies, employees in companies with “a strong culture of health” are three times more likely to actively strive to improve their health.

In addition, wellness programs have shown to directly:

  • Control health insurance costs
  • Reduce Workers’ Compensation and disability costs
  • Increase employee productivity and absenteeism
  • Enhance morale and improve recruiting

Read more about the value a wellness program can provide on your organization and how to lower your insurance costs, or contact Shay Sherfinski.

Topics: Employee Benefits, Wellness, Wellness Program, corporate wellness, lower insurance costs

Level Funding | Weighing the Pros and Cons

Posted by Riley Enright

Level Funding | Pros and ConsDoes your organization desire the freedom of a self-funded insurance plan, but need a little more certainty for budgeting concerns? If so, level funding might be the answer to your employee benefits questions.

Level funding is an option that can coincide with a self-funded plan. With level funding, employers pay a set amount each month to a carrier. This amount typically includes the cost of administrative and other fees and the maximum amount of expected claims based on underwriting projections, as well as embedded stop-loss insurance.

Pros of Level Funding

  • Do not need to pay premiums that are based on community rates
  • Only pay the actual claims + administrative fee
  • Money set aside each month to cover claims that is NOT used will be refunded at the end of the year from the surplus

Cons of Level Funding

  • You will still need to pay the claims
  • The administrative fees may cut into the savings you hope to gain from having a self-funded plan
  • Many level funding plans restrict their offerings to companies with a certain number of employees

 

R&R Insurance has extensive experience in the world of employee benefits. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the pros and cons of level funding for your organization.

Information provided by Zywave, Inc.

Topics: Level Funding, Employee Benefits

Captives | Is Alternate Funding Right for You?

Posted by Riley Enright

iStock-585163652.jpgHaving an attractive employee benefits option is more important than ever before. Attracting and retaining talent has become increasingly difficult and offering a quality benefits package can play a large role in the process.

In addition, you may want to protect your company from the risks associated with offering employee benefits. While employers have traditionally insured their employee benefits risks through an outside insurance carrier, the increased demand for employee benefits has resulted in an inflation of costs. Because of this, many employers have opted to cut out insurance carriers altogether and fund their group employee benefits risks with captives.

If you aren’t familiar with captives, let’s start with the basics. Captives are a form of self-insurance in which the insured owns the insurer. They are created and owned by at least one non-insurance company for the purpose of insuring the employee benefits risks of its owner.  A captive can offer significant savings and become a substantial long-term investment. However, they may not provide the same benefits for every company, and the return on investment may be low.

R&R Insurance has extensive experience in the world of employee benefits. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of captives with your organization.

Information provided by Zywave, Inc

Topics: Captives, Alternate Funding, Employee Benefits, benefits

What You Need to Know | Impact of Trump Election on Employee Benefits Regulations

Posted by Pete Frittitta

Trump-Election.jpgIt has often been said that “the only thing that is constant is change” and certainly the recent political election results translate into more change. In that vein, we at R&R Insurance Services remain “constant” in our dedication to keeping our Benefits Practice clients informed of these changes…to be your knowledgebroker.

Of course, the biggest change we have seen in the world of benefits has been the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare). One of the main platforms of President-Elect Trump has been to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” In this current post-election and pre-inaugural stage, there are many prognostications about what the future may be. So, what about “repeal and replace?” We would like to share some thoughts with you as best we can and at this point in time to address questions you may have:
  1. Soon after President-Elect Trump is inaugurated on January 20th, Congress could “repeal” Obamacare through “reconciliation” (only requiring a vote of 51 in the Senate). Among the challenges will be addressing the 19 million+ individuals who would lose coverage through the Exchanges with approximately 85% of them currently receiving federal assistance. Another major issue that will need to be addressed is that Medicaid expansion goes away with repeal in 31 states where enrollment increased by 16 million.
  2. “Replacement” cannot be accomplished through the “reconciliation” process unless additional spending cuts are made in the budget. Therefore, “replacement” could most likely occur in a second legislative stage. How long this will take is a question.
  3. Through the “reconciliation” process that would “repeal” the ACA, the reduction of funds for Medicaid and Exchange subsidies could be delayed for some time (6 – 18 months?) in order to avoid the problems mentioned above in #1.
  4. The Republicans will need to have bipartisan support in the Senate to get to 60 votes. Some Democrats might be motivated to collaborate as the 2018 mid-term election will have 25 Democrat seats up for re-election in the Senate.
  5. As for what “replacement” might involve, there are numerous considerations. The Trump platform has consistently promoted expansion of HSA-based coverage and selling of insurance across state lines. Additionally, President-Elect Trump himself stated that he would like to see certain parts of Obamacare retained such as coverage of pre-existing conditions and coverage of adult children to age 26. If there are any individual tax credits that might be introduced for individual medical coverage, we may see, as the “Cadillac Tax” is repealed along with the rest of the ACA, a limitation or cap on the amount that an employer can deduct for health and welfare expense to provide a revenue stream.

We recently hosted a Benefits Client Monthly Compliance Webinar - “How Will the Election Impact Employee Benefits Regulations & a Look Forward to 2017.” If you weren’t able to attend, please note that all of our webinars are recorded and archived at https://www.myknowledgebroker.com/health-care-webinar-archives where they are available 24/7.

In addition,
Terry Frett from R&R Insurance discussed the “re-tooling” of the Affordable Care Act on WISN 1130AM Radio shortly after the election.  In addition to ObamaCare Open Enrollment 2017, he shared his thoughts on what repeal could look like in the individual and employer group markets.  

The changes ahead will involve more than the future of the ACA. We can reasonably expect to see regulatory changes from the Department of Labor, the Treasury Department and the Department of Health and Human Services. As we monitor and study these developments, we will keep you informed in a variety of ways –timely Legislative Briefs posted to your MyWave Connect© client portal, special client alert emails, monthly compliance webinars, account management communications and client consultation.

We look forward to continuing to serve you as your knowledgebroker. If you have any questions, please contact your R&R Benefits Consultant.

Topics: Employee Benefits, health care benefits, Healthcare, presidential election

Wellness Programs | The Value in Supporting a Healthy Workforce

Posted by Bill Lewis

iStock_000047451796_Double.jpgWith more recent research being done on employee health and its effects on companies, it is now safe to conclude that the benefits from encouraging and implementing a wellness program are no longer disputable. Whether it is lower health care costs, greater productivity, lower absenteeism, or higher morale, healthy employees cost you less and have a noticeable impact on the company in both the short and long term.

Over time, you are able to drive down health care costs by positively influencing your employees’ health and well being. You can impact the healthy employees by maintaining their wellness, and even get some employees who are on the edge of being unhealthy back into good health. 

An example of this written in the Harvard Business Journal, explains that doctors who conducted a study, at a single employer, researched a random sample of 185 employees and their spouses. The participants were not heart patients, but they received cardiac rehabilitation and exercise training from an expert team. Of those participants classified as high risk at the beginning of the study (according to body fat, blood pressure, anxiety, and other measures), 57% were converted to low-risk status by the end of the six-month program. Furthermore, medical claim costs declined by $1,421 per participant, compared with those from the previous year. A control group showed no such improvements. The bottom line: every dollar invested in the intervention yielded $6 in health care savings for that company.

A wellness program is not only a strategy for cutting avoidable costs, but also functions as a commitment to your employees and the overall health of your organization.

Wellness initiatives provide opportunities to help brand the company and drive change to the organizational culture. Here are some outcomes that result from developing your company brand and culture that could emerge from the pursuit of a healthy company lifestyle:

  • Increased leadership opportunities
  • Educated and empowered employees
  • Ability to build connections and make cross-department communication easier
  • Positive perceptions of the company and the workplace
  • New, unique company and employee needs can be identified and acted upon

 

For further reading on workplace wellness check out this article.

Topics: Employee Benefits

Do You Need Driver’s Education for a High-Deductible, HSA Benefit Plan and Traffic Roundabouts?

Posted by Jeff Sewell

iStock_000003302719_Large.jpgAs I drive throughout the great state of Wisconsin, I have noticed more and more roundabouts popping up. I’m sure you’re likely familiar with what a roundabout is, yet for those who haven’t attempted to navigate the circular spiral of traffic, it’s simply a replacement for a standard four-way intersection meant to keep vehicles flowing with the elimination of stop signs and traffic lights.

Now, judging from how many cars I idle behind at roundabout yield signs, over-hesitant to push forward, you’ll probably think I’ve taken in an abundance of gas fumes when I say, “I love roundabouts.”

So, for those of you who do not share my same excitement for roundabouts, perhaps I can list a few of the many benefits they provide:

  • Simplifies the pedestrian’s visual environment – this prevents pedestrians from getting hit – pretty good reason for me.
  • Reduced driver confusion with perpendicular junctions – we all seem to forget who goes first when two or more cars get to a four-way stop sign at the same time.
  • Reduced queuing associated with traffic lights – the American commuter spends 38 hours a year idling at traffic lights – enough said.
  • Allows for U-turns within the normal traffic flow – there’s no telling how many times I miss my turn and can’t turn around anywhere.
  • Due to less time idling than signaled intersections, they reduce pollution – we’re all breathing the benefits.
  • They make less traffic noise with braking and start-up noise – especially those of you driving muscle cars and Harleys.
  • They eliminate perpendicular/T-bone crashes – probably one of the biggest benefits of all.

So with all the positives, why are there so many who haven’t jumped into the acceptance lane?

My thought, no one has taught a course on how to navigate one properly. Thinks about it, when these circular patterns started appearing, did anyone host a class on how to best use?

The same, unfortunately, holds true for Health Savings Accounts (HSA). Healthcare rates are increasing at an uncontrollable rate and too many people are not reaping the multitude of benefits and cost savings by merging on to the HSA Highway.

A Health Savings Account is very similar to a roundabout in that there are a myriad of advantages:

  • Used to meet your deductible – it’s inevitable, deductibles aren’t going anywhere, yet at least there’s more opportunity to help offset the cost.
  • Portable, go with you wherever you go – Just in case a new career opportunity presents itself, your HSA funds never need to be part of the consideration process.
  • Tax deductible off of gross income - Who doesn’t like keeping a little more for themselves?
  • Grow tax-deferred - We’re on a roll.
  • NEVER taxed when used for qualified medical expenses - This whole “keeping more of my money” just keeps getting better.
  • Roll over year after year -- no "use it or lose it" – awesome – now who wants to buy the numerous, unopened heating pads I purchase every year to avoid losing money in a standard, use-it-or-lose-it, Flexible Spending Account.

If you’ve been hesitant to jump onto the HSA Highway or currently have a High-Deductible HSA plan, yet don’t feel the benefits are being noticed, I would be happy to introduce you to R&R Insurance’s HSA strategy. With our turbo-drive approach, we’re putting the brakes on rising healthcare costs, pushing the pedal with employee engagement, moving the speedometer on consumerism, and putting both employers and employees back in the driver’s seat and in control of their health spend.

Now, my wife will not recommend you take roundabout driving lessons from me, yet I’m happy to help with roundabout navigation, or, what I am better suited for, benefiting from a HSA.

Knowledge starts with the knowing – I invite you to come know HSA’s with us.

Contact a KnowledgeBroker for additional information.

Topics: Employee Benefits