Thursday, March 27, 2014

Individual Health Care Insurance Update

The individual medical insurance and Marketplace (Exchange) 2014 annual open enrollment period is ending 3/31/14. Applicants who are eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy have to apply to the Marketplace by 3/31/14 for a 5/1/14 effective date. The last date to apply during open enrollment this year is 3/31/14. Payment must be received by 4/30/14.

BCBS applicants not eligible for a premium tax credit/subsidy (off-Marketplace) must apply by 3/31/14 for a 4/15/14 or 5/1/14 effective date. The last date to apply at open enrollment this year off-Marketplace is 3/31/14. Payment must be received by the 4/30/14.

The next annual open enrollment period for individual insurance on and off the Marketplace is November 15, 2014 - February 15, 2015 (meaning January 1, February 1 or March 1 effective dates).
See the link below from healthcare.gov regarding qualifying life events (QLEs) which create a ‘special enrollment period’ and allow people to enroll outside the individual medical annual enrollment period.

Please note that individuals will not be able to enroll on an individual policy if they are voluntarily coming off their group insurance (at the group’s open enrollment) UNLESS the group’s open enrollment period coincides with the individual medical insurance open enrollment period or they have a QLE. If someone has a QLE they will have 60 days from the date of the QLE to enroll on an individual medical/Marketplace plan.

Lastly, here is some information about COBRA and open enrollment from healthcare.gov. Note that once someone is on COBRA, they can’t drop COBRA early and then get an individual or Marketplace plan unless it is during the individual medical annual open enrollment. Once their COBRA period ends, they will have a QLE to get individual coverage.

If your business has employees who become eligible for COBRA, you can give them the attached flyer and they can contact our individual health benefit consultant, Peggy Murphy. She can help them compare COBRA to individual insurance as well as assist in determining if they might be eligible for a premium tax credit. Avoiding COBRA/NC State Continuation enrollments can help your business reduce medical claims.

https://www.healthcare.gov/how-can-i-get-coverage-outside-of-open-enrollment/

https://www.healthcare.gov/what-if-i-currently-have-cobra-coverage/

Please contact Peggy Murphy at 336-346-1320 with any questions about this information.

 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

How is Obamacare Affecting Competition Among Health Insurers?

A snapshot of Obamacare enrollment in seven states suggests the law hasn’t significantly increased competition in health insurance markets, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported.
 
In California, for example, four big insurers have largely carved up the state’s market. The divide is more equitable than before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as California’s insurance market is now “moderately concentrated” instead of “highly concentrated,” according to a measure of market share called the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index, said researchers at Kaiser, a Menlo Park, California-based nonprofit that focuses on health care.

Source: www.insurancejournal.com

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Please be sure to check out our Health Care Reform Quick Reference Guide!

IRS Releases Final Regulations on ACA Reporting for Employers and Insurers

On Wednesday, March 5, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final regulations (Final Regulations) on two reporting requirements under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) effective in 2015.

The ACA added Sections 6055 and 6056 to the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Code § 6055 requires reporting by all entities that provide insurance (insurance companies, self-insured employers, governmental entities and others) which is filed with the IRS and given to the individuals to whom they provide "minimum essential coverage" (MEC). Code § 6056 reporting is filed with the IRS and given to individuals and is used to report whether applicable large employers-those with 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalents (FTEs)-offered coverage to their full-time employees that meets the affordability requirements of the ACA's pay-or-play mandate.

The IRS released proposed regulations (Proposed Regulations) last year. The Final Regulations largely follow the Proposed Regulations but also simplify the proposed rules for both employers and issuers. A single, combined form is available for self-insured employers, which are generally subject to both reporting requirements. Large employers with fully insured group health plans will complete only the top half of the form for Code § 6056 reporting, while the insurance company will complete a separate form to satisfy its Code § 6055 obligation. The rules are particularly streamlined for employers that make highly affordable coverage available to employees, including an offer of coverage to their spouses and dependents.

SIGNIFICANT REPORTING RELIEF AVAILABLE
The Final Regulations include the "general method" for reporting that was described in the Proposed Regulations. However, significant relief from extensive and potentially duplicative reporting is provided in the form of two simplified reporting options which greatly reduce the reporting burden.

"Qualifying Offers"
If an employer provides a "qualifying offer" of insurance to any of its full time employees, the Final Regulations provide a simplified alternative to reporting monthly, employee-specific information on those employees. A qualifying offer is an offer of minimum value coverage that annually costs the employee no more than 9.5 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (approximately $1,100 in 2014) for single coverage, combined with an offer of MEC to the employee's spouse and dependent children (natural and adopted children).

Employers who can certify that they made a qualifying offer for all 12 months of the year will need to certify the offer and report only the names, addresses, and tax ID numbers (TINs) of those employees who receive the qualifying offers. Employers will also provide the employees a copy of that simplified report or a standard statement indicating that the employee received a full-year qualifying offer.

Employers will be permitted to use a code for each month a qualifying offer was made for any employee who receives a qualifying offer for fewer than 12 months of the year.

For 2015 only, employers certifying that they have made a qualifying offer to at least 95% of their full-time employees (plus an offer to their spouses and children) will be able to use the simplified reporting method for their entire workforce, including for any employees who do not receive a qualifying offer for the full year. Those employers will provide employees with standard statements relating to their possible eligibility for premium tax credits.

"Option to Report without Separate Certification of Full-Time Employees"
This option allows employers who offer affordable, minimum value coverage to at least 98% of the employees named in the report to certify the offering without having to identify full-time status. This may be useful for employers that offer coverage to all employees - in that case, as long as coverage is affordable and minimum value, the reports do not have to identify which employees on the report are full-time.

"General Method of Reporting"
In the event an applicable large employer does not qualify to use a simplified reporting method, it must make a section 6056 information return with respect to each full-time employee. Each Code § 6056 information return must show:
• Employer name, address, and Tax ID;
• Name and phone number of employer's contact person;
• Calendar year for which the information is reported;
• Whether the employer provided minimum essential coverage (MEC) to full-time employees and their dependents;
• Months minimum essential coverage was available;
• Each full-time employee's monthly cost for employee-only coverage under the employer's minimum value plan;
• Number of full-time employees for each month ;
• Name, address, and tax ID of each full-time employee during the year and the months the employee was covered; and
• Any other information specified in forms, instructions, or published guidance.

REPORTING FORMS
Generally, the Final Regulations provide that the Code § 6056 return may be made by filing Form 1094-C (a transmittal) and Form 1095-C (an employee statement). Form 1095-C will be used by employers to satisfy the Code §§ 6055 and 6056 reporting requirements, as applicable. An employer that sponsors a self-insured plan will report on Form 1095-C, completing both sections. An employer that offers fully insured coverage will also report on Form 1095-C, but will complete only the top half of the form. Form 1095-B will be used by non-employer entities that are reporting for Code § 6055 purposes (e.g., health insurance issuers, self-insured multiemployer plans, and providers of government-sponsored coverage).

Employers must file Form 1094-C with the IRS by February 28 following the reporting year (March 31 if filing electronically) and must provide Form 1095-C to full-time employees by January 31 following the reporting year.

All forms have yet to be developed. Electronic delivery is permissible with the affirmative consent of the employee.

EFFECTIVE DATES
• Both reporting rules are effective starting in 2014; however, compliance is voluntary until 2015. This means that that the mandatory reporting is first required in the first quarter of 2016 for calendar year 2015.
• This also applies to employers with 50-99 FTEs, who are exempt from the pay-or-play mandate in 2015 (and generally for any portion of the plan year that extends into 2016). Despite their exemption from the penalty, they are still subject to Code § 6056 reporting for 2015. These employers must certify on their Code § 6056 reporting filed in 2016 that they meet the requirements described in the final regulations on the pay-or-play mandate to delay application of the pay-or-play requirements. Employers with 50-99 FTEs that sponsor non-calendar year plans will use the Code § 6056 form filed in 2017 to certify their status for the months of their 2015 plan year that fall in calendar year 2016.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Insurers Warned on Rise in Fraudulent Car Rental Schemes

In the last 12 months, Kraig Palmer he has seen rental car schemes “rise faster than any other auto fraud trend.”

Palmer, an investigator with the California Highway Patrol, describes this fraud as a multilevel crime, committed by opportunistic drug addicts and sophisticated street gangs.

He recounted his experiences at the recent Combined Claims Conference in Orange County, Calif.

People engaged in this type of crime use multiple fraudulent or stolen identities and targets rental car companies by renting multiple cars, according to Palmer. They then use the rented cars to commit crimes. The cars are eventually recovered, typically burned out or with significant collision damage.

source: www.insurancejournal.com

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Please contact us today with any of your insurance needs!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Employers Raise U.S. Worker Deductibles to Reduce Health Costs

Four of five U.S. companies have raised deductibles or are considering doing so as health costs increase, according to a survey of more than 700 employers.

About one-third of the companies have already increased deductibles or other cost-sharing provisions like copays, and 48% are considering similar moves, the survey by New York- based consulting firm Mercer LLC found.

Employers are looking for ways to trim expenses as health- care costs continue to rise and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act increases required benefits and imposes new taxes. United Parcel Service Inc. dropped coverage for employed spouses and Home Depot Inc. sent 20,000 part-time workers to government-sponsored insurance websites.

source: www.propertycasualty360.com

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Please contact us today with any questions about your insurance needs!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Injuries from Walking and Texting Increase

Texting and walking is a known danger, but Dietrich Jehle, professor of emergency medicine at the University at Buffalo, says distracted walking results in more injuries per mile than distracted driving.

Consequences include bumping into walls, falling down stairs, tripping over clutter or stepping into traffic. The issue is so common that in London, bumpers were placed onto light posts along a frequented avenue to prevent people from slamming into them.

source: www.claimsjournal.com

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

20 Least Expensive 2014-Model Cars to Insure

Along with the top 20 most expensive 2014-model cars to insure, Insure.com also released its ranking of the top 20 least expensive 2014-model vehicles to insure. Whereas the “most expensive” list was dominated by expensive sports cars, the “least expensive” list mainly features SUVs and a few minivans.

Insure.com explains that family-friendly SUVs and minivans are made for safely transporting children, therefore drivers of these vehicles are among the least likely to speed, crash, or have an insurance claim.

source: www.propertycasualty360.com

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Contact us today with any of your insurance questions!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Smartphone Apps: The New Trend in Medicine

"A smartphone isn’t just a phone. It’s a miniature computer. We surf the web, email, play games, and—thanks to the rapidly expanding world of smartphone applications (“apps”)–use our smartphones and other wireless devices as tools for the workplace. The field of medicine is changing rapidly with the growth of available medical apps. Today, physicians can monitor a patient’s vital signs, download their patient schedules, access current patient medical records, dictate office notes, and consult with other physicians without entering a clinical setting.

One of the first medical apps in use—and arguably the most widely used medical app today—is Epocrates, which provides clinical information on thousands of prescription and over-the-counter drugs."

source: www.proassurance.com

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If you have any questions on health care reform, please contact us today!

Travel Time Pay for Non-exempt Employees – Are you doing it right?

Travel Time Pay for Non-exempt Employees – Are you doing it right?
By Cathy Allen, SPHR

How should a non-exempt employee be paid for travel time? This is a question that comes up often, and I’ve found that many employers aren’t compensating their non-exempt employees correctly for travel time.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, CFR 785.33-41, define when travel time for non-exempt employees is considered hours worked. Whether or not the time spent in travel is considered as working time depends upon the kind of travel involved. The regulations can be a little confusing, so let’s start with the easy stuff first.

Home to Work – Ordinary Situation

An employee who travels from home before the regular workday and returns to his or her home at the end of the workday is engaged in normal home to work travel. This time is not “working time”, and is not compensable.

Home to Work – Special One Day Assignment in Another City

An employee who is asked to travel to another city to work, but does not spend the night, should be paid for all time spent traveling. However, the employee does not need to be paid for the usual meal time. In addition, the usual travel time from home to work and back may be deducted from the time spent traveling to and from the other city. For example, if the employee normally travels 15 minutes to the office, and then 15 minutes traveling back home, a total of 30 minutes may be deducted from the time spent traveling on the one day assignment to and from another city.

Travel – All in a Day’s Work

Time spent by an employee traveling as part of his/her normal work activities during the work day, e.g., from job site to job site must be counted as time worked.

If an employee is required to report at a designated place (such as the home office) to get instructions, pick up tools, etc. prior to reporting to a work site, then time spent traveling to the designated place, e.g. home office, is not travel time. However, the time spent traveling from the designated place to the work site is part of the day’s work, and is compensable.

Travel Overnight – Away from Home

This is where it gets tricky. Travel away from home is working time when it cuts across the employee’s normal workday working hours, and during the corresponding hours on non-working days. Therefore, if an employee normally works 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday, any time spent traveling during these hours is considered work time, as well as time spent traveling between 8am and 5pm on normal non-working days( Saturday and Sunday). A regular meal period is not counted as hours worked.

Note that unless the employee is working while traveling, time spent traveling as a passenger outside of normal working hours is not considered work time, and is not compensable.

If the employee is performing work while traveling as a passenger, even outside the normal work hours, that time spent working is compensable. Therefore, if the employee is making business calls, checking work emails, etc., it is considered time worked and is compensable.

An employee who drives a truck, bus, automobile, boat or airplane (or an employee who is required to ride therein as an assistant or helper to the driver) is working while riding, except during bona fide meal periods, and must be compensated for all hours spent operating a mode of transportation, such as a vehicle.

Let’s look at a scenario involving two non-exempt employees that are traveling.

Carli is traveling as a passenger with her co-worker Melissa, who is driving a car to a hotel where they will attend a conference for the next two days. Carli and Melissa normally work 8am to 5pm. They leave at 2pm and arrive at the hotel at 7pm. Two hours of travel time (5pm to 7pm) is outside of their normal work hours.

Situation 1: Melissa is driving the vehicle, so all time she spends driving, even after 5pm, is compensable.

Situation 2: Carli is a passenger, and is not performing any work in the car. Therefore, Carli does not have to be paid for the time spent traveling after 5pm.

Situation 3: Although Carli is a passenger, she is working on a report the entire time she is traveling, so she must be paid for all of the time spent traveling.

Situation 3: Melissa and Carli stop to eat from 5:30 – 6pm. Neither Melissa nor Carli have to be paid for the bona-fide meal period.

As you can see, ensuring that non-exempt employees are properly compensated for travel time can get confusing. The regulations on travel time (CFR 785.33 – 785.41) and other information pertaining to the Fair labor Standards Act are available on the federal Department of Labor web site at www.dol.gov

Senn Dunn Human Resource Consulting Services has provided this information as a service to our clients and friends. If we can help you with any of your human resource needs, please contact callen@senndunn.com 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

For Older Drivers, One Drink May Be Too Many

"You may have only had one glass of wine with dinner, but if you’re 55 or older, that single serving may hit you hard enough to make you a dangerous driver.

So, baby boomers, what you suspected is true: you can’t party like you used to.

Sara Jo Nixon, Ph.D., a professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida and doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar tested how drinking legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol affect the driving skills of two age groups: 36 people ages 25 to 35 and 36 people ages 55 to 70. They found that although neither age group imbibed enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, a blood alcohol level of 0.08, just one drink can affect the driving abilities of older drivers. Based on the study findings published in the journal Psychopharmacology in February, the researchers say it could be time to reassess legal blood alcohol levels for all drivers."

Source: www.claimsjournal.com

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If you have any questions on your personal insurance needs, check out our website today!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Future of Drones in the Insurance Industry

"After a catastrophe hits, mobile units filled with adjusters are on site to evaluate property damage. Flash forward five years and an insured may never meet the property adjuster handling his or her claim. Instead, a drone is sent to evaluate damage within hours of it occurring. Claims are closed at breakneck speed as adjusters handle a much higher volume. Insurers see fewer workers’ compensation claims as adjusters remain safely ensconced in their cubicles.

While this scenario may seem too futuristic to imagine, according to industry experts it’s a very real possibility that insurers will be using drones in a number of ways within a few years."

source: www.insurancejournal.com

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If you have any questions about your insurance needs or would like more information, please contact us today!

Week in Review 3-7-14


Week of 3-7-14 in Review

The past week ended with yet another winter storm in the Piedmont Triad.  As many are already aware, heavy freezing rain/sleet mix Thursday night led to widespread power outages, many trees down, and dangerous roadways that led to our Greensboro and High Point offices being closed on Friday. 

Our team attended the NC Chamber Annual meeting last week held in Greensboro.  We heard some very interesting discussions around the changing demographics of NC and a keynote from Governor Pat McCrory.  Information on the presentations and meeting materials can be found here, Professor Johnson's presentation is well worth the time to review:
NC Chamber-Changing Demographics of NC

On a professional note, I am always looking for tips on how to improve my public speaking skills, here is an interesting read with some suggestions:
Inc.com Speaking Tips



Headlines of Note

Senn Dunn Insurance a 2014 Best Employer in NC Award Recognition
We are excited to announce that Senn Dunn Insurance has earned the distinction of being named a 2014 Best Employer in North Carolina company by NC Business magazine.  The North Carolina rankings are made up of companies from a variety of industries including hospitality, financial, manufacturing and retail. Senn Dunn's fifth-place ranking on the 2014 list marks the first time this statewide insurance agency has appeared on this prestigious list.  We are excited to receive confirmation of a culture that we take pride in and includes our great partnerships with clients and insurance carriers.  Read more here:
2014 Best Employers in NC
Business NC Magazine Article

US Manufacturing "Match Maker" and Furniture Making in the South
Interesting start up company helping match companies making products here with customers that want to purchase made in USA goods.
Match Maker - CNN Money

88,000 Manufacturing Jobs Total added in 2013
Despite continued good news, some reports indicate a net gain of only 88,000 jobs in this bright segment of the economy.  The Alliance for American Manufacturing discuses the job report here:
Weak Manufacturing Jobs Report - AAM Article

Economic Forecast from ABTV
The partners at ABTV (a firm specializing in Corporate Revitalization Services) has recently posted its economic forecast for March 2014.  Information on how to subscribe directly to their forecasts can be found at the link  below as well.
ABTV Economic Forecasts


Seminars

We continue to update our seminar listings, let us know if you would like to attend any of these events:
Senn Dunn Seminar Schedule






 





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Senn Dunn Insurance Recognized as a Best Employer in North Carolina

Senn Dunn Insurance has earned the distinction of being named a 2014 Best Employer in North Carolina company. This statewide distinction is measured by surveys sent to employees and employers in the Tar Heel State by Business North Carolina in partnership with Best Companies Group and the North Carolina Council of the Society of Human Resources Management. These surveys are then tabulated, analyzed and compared to rankings from other Best Companies Group benchmarking standards, both domestically and internationally.
 
 
 
Congratulations Senn Dunn and thank you to all of our employees who participated in the survey!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Obamacare Impact on Workers' Comp System

"In the wake of the healthcare-reform law, cost shifting of non-work-related injuries to the workers’ compensation remains a potential issue, and potential stress on the healthcare system could lead to delays and drive workers’ comp costs up, says broker Marsh in a briefing.

But the law’s focus on improvements in standards of care could reduce the use of costly procedures that produce questionable results, and employers could see premium refunds if they maintain better-than-expected performance in their healthcare programs, Marsh says."

source: www.propertycasualty360.com

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Please check out our Health Care Reform Reference Guide!


Week in Review-February 28, 2014

This past week marked the end of February and the completion of month 2 of 2014.  As the saying goes, it seems to go faster as I get older...seems true.  The news continues to be dominated by foreign security matters, specifically the tenuous situation in the Ukraine.  Social media and 24 hour news gives us views of the geo-political issues that we must be aware and often engaged in throughout the globe.  No position here but it is important to understand that today more than ever, what happens in far away places impacts each of us locally...as of this post, the US stock market experienced a significant decline and analysts say that the crisis in the Ukraine and Russia/US tensions are largely to blame.  It is important to be aware and do your own research as we develop opinions on these issues.

Speaking of opinions, here's a suggestion from a Shane Parrish article posted on Farnam Street's website quoting Charlie Munger:
The Work Required to Have an Opinion


Headlines of Note

Currency Manipulation: The Economic Policy Institute (a non-partisan, non-profit think tank founded in 1986 to broaden discussions about economic policy including the needs of low and middle income workers) released an interesting research discussing a potentially significant outcome if currency manipulation was ended. The "artificial discounts" that currency manipulation affords global markets has long been a point of contention in fair global trade talks. FYI, their research finds that an end to currency manipulation could create approximately 5.8 million US jobs within three years. Having lost 8 million jobs since the Great Recession, this policy could boost US recovery efforts. The full article is found below:
Economic Policy Institute Currency Manipulation Research

Manufacturing Hubs: President Obama announced two new hubs (Detroit and Chicago) as a continuation of the focus on manufacturing in the US.  As has been discussed earlier this week, the attention given to US manufacturing is positive and the hubs are a positive development...they must also be one of many solutions that need to be implemented for any significant recovery of US manufacturing jobs.  Links below include the article and also the Alliance for American Manufacturing's response as reported by the Huffington Post:
President Announces New Manufacturing Hubs
AAM Editorial at Huffington Post


Seminars

We hope you will be able to join us for one of our seminars...you are invited as our guest and hope you can attend.  The April seminar in Charlotte is shown below and the link here will take you to our full seminar schedule:
Senn Dunn Seminar Schedule
 
 
 
 


Monday, March 3, 2014

Grandpa and Grandma safer behind the wheel

"Safety researchers expressed concern a decade ago that traffic accidents would increase as the nation’s aging population swelled the number of older drivers on the road. Now, they say they’ve been proved wrong.

Today’s drivers aged 70 and older are less likely to be involved in crashes than previous generations, and less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they do crash, according to a study released recently by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety."

source:  www.insurancejournal.com

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If you have any questions about personal insurance, please check out our website!