WHY IT MATTERS THAT MORE PEOPLE SIGNED UP FOR ACA HEALTH COVERAGE IN 2018

From The ACA Times, let's take a look at ACA Health Coverage in 2018.


It was meant to have the opposite effect.

The Trump administration’s decision to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by shortening the annual open enrollment period to 45-days and cutting funding to promote open enrollment was predicted to reduce the number of people who might seek insurance coverage for 2018 on HealthCare.gov.

Instead, more than 600,000 people signed up for health insurance under the ACA in the first four days of enrollment. According to Reuters: “The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that during the period of Nov. 1 through Nov. 4, 601,462 people, including 137,322 new consumers, selected plans in the 39 states that use the federal website HealthCare.gov.”

Access to healthcare remains top of mind for Americans. For instance, exit polls in Virginia for state elections found healthcareto be the most pressing issue on the minds of voters who elected a Democratic governor in that state. And entrepreneurs and small businesses owners and employees are among those that benefit greatly from having access to healthcare insurance plans through the ACA.

For employers, all this, along with recent guidance from the IRS, points to the ACA continuing strong and the employer mandate being enforced. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to assess your compliance with the ACA and what data you need to file ACA related forms with the IRS for the 2017 tax year.

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Sheen R. (20 November 2017). "WHY IT MATTERS THAT MORE PEOPLE SIGNED UP FOR ACA HEALTH COVERAGE IN 2018" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://acatimes.com/why-it-matters-that-more-people-signed-up-for-aca-health-coverage-in-2018/


Tax Bill Shakes Up Health — From Medicare To The ACA To Medical Education

The tax bill that Republican lawmakers are finalizing would have wide-reaching effects on health issues. But the GOP still has negotiating ahead to get a bill that both the House and Senate will support. That hasn't stopped some party leaders from looking forward to additional plans to revamp programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.

The Associated Press: Q&A: Tax Bill Impacts On Health Law Coverage And Medicare The tax overhaul Republicans are pushing toward final votes in Congress could undermine the Affordable Care Act's health insurance markets and add to the financial squeeze on Medicare over time. Lawmakers will meet this week to resolve differences between the House- and Senate-passed bills in hopes of getting a finished product to President Donald Trump's desk around Christmas. Also in play are the tax deduction for people with high medical expenses, and a tax credit for drug companies that develop treatments for serious diseases affecting relatively few patients. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 12/5)

The Fiscal Times: 6 Critical Differences That Must Be Resolved in the Republican Tax Bills The Senate bill’s repeal of the Obamacare mandate saves about $318 billion over 10 years but threatens to destabilize the individual markets, resulting in higher premiums and millions fewer people with health insurance. While House Republicans aren’t likely to balk at including repeal in the final bill, it could still be a problem for Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), a pivotal vote in the upper chamber, whose support for the final package could depend on Congress’s treatment of separate measures designed to stabilize the Obamacare markets. (Rainey, 12/4)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Perdue Says Further Health Care Changes ‘Absolutely’ Needed As House and Senate lawmakers open another phase of negotiations over a $1.5 trillion federal tax overhaul, some Republicans are emboldened about pursuing new cuts to the system of health care entitlements. U.S. Sen. David Perdue said Monday that lawmakers should “absolutely” seek changes to the Medicaid and Medicare programs to help maximize the impact of the tax cuts. He echoed other Republican officials who have suggested a push for more spending cuts should be in the works. (Bluestein, 12/4)

 

Read the original brief.

Source:
Kaiser Health News (5 December 2017). "Tax Bill Shakes Up Health — From Medicare To The ACA To Medical Education" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/morning-breakout/tax-bill-shakes-up-health-from-medicare-to-the-aca-to-medical-education/


Dealing with Employee Dishonesty & Sexual Harassment

Study Links Work Performance Goals to Employee Dishonesty

Although some employers believe that pushing their employees to the limit can help increase productivity, a new study has shown that this type of performance pressure can cause employees to be dishonest or cheat.

Researchers from the University of Georgia and Arizona State University recently published a study that examined the behaviors of employees who must meet performance benchmarks. According to the study, employees who believe that their jobs are at risk because of performance pressure are much more likely to lie in order to protect their jobs. In fact, 55 percent of employees surveyed as a part of the study have seen a co-worker manipulate numbers to appear more productive. This type of dishonesty can also have drastic consequences for businesses, especially those in industries that require strict recordkeeping.

The best way to keep your employees productive and honest is to strike a balance between job requirements and incentives. For example, managers can set baseline expectations for a certain position as well as incentivized milestones for exceptional work.

Creating a Sexual Harassment Policy That’s Right for Your Business

In order to keep your business productive, you need to establish a work environment that’s supportive and actively discourages sexual harassment. Any instance of sexual harassment can cause intense emotional and physical distress that affects your entire business. You also have a legal obligation to protect your employees, and ignoring the topic of sexual harassment could expose you to costly lawsuits and tarnish your reputation.

Even if you don’t believe that sexual harassment is a problem in your workplace, taking the time to draft a formal policy can help protect your employees and your business. Here are some important topics to include in a sexual harassment policy:

  • Emphasize that your business has a strict no-tolerance policy for any type of sexual harassment. Your policy should also outline that any employee found guilty of harassment will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
  • Establish what physical and verbal behaviors are regarded as sexual harassment, and stress that employees should feel safe at all times.
  • Create a formal procedure for making a sexual harassment claim that protects your employees’ privacy.
  • Encourage employees to come forward with sexual harassment claims so management can take steps to remedy the situation and prevent future harassment. You should also emphasize that there will be no retaliation of any kind against employees who make a claim.
  • Make a procedure for forming a sexual harassment investigation team. The investigation team should never have personal ties to anyone involved with the sexual harassment claim, and should include both male and female employees.

For more help creating a safe, violence-free workplace, contact us at 920-921-5921 today.

 

Download December's Full P&C Profile

 

 

 


Congress Moves Forward With Flood Insurance Renewal and Reforms

The House of Representatives recently passed the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, a collection of seven bills that would reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until 2022 and establish a number of reforms. Many of the proposed changes focus on increasing the program’s financial viability, as the NFIP exceeded its borrowing limit of $30 billion during this year’s hurricane season.

Here are some of the key additions included in the recently passed bill:

  • Improved technology to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) map flood zones and set insurance premiums
  • Limits on annual premium increases and surcharges
  • Financial tools to help FEMA and the NFIP plan for their long-term needs
  • An option for businesses to opt out of flood insurance requirements after one year
  • Incentives for private flood insurance providers

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the proposed reforms would lead to $187 million in savings between 2018 and 2027. However, critics of the bill believe that the changes could increase the price of flood insurance in low-income areas.

 

Download December's Full P&C Profile


Tips for Digging Your Car Out of the Snow

Not only can heavy snowfall make roads dangerous, but it can also bury your car and make it difficult to access. In some cases, vehicles can get stuck in a snowbank or on a patch of ice, making it very challenging to break free.

In order to effectively free your car from the snow, consider doing the following:

  • Use a shovel or other snow removal tool to clear a path for your vehicle. Be sure to clear off your windshield and shovel in front of and behind your tires.
  • Turn on the traction control function of your vehicle, if available. This tool helps limit how much your wheels spin, which, in turn, helps you sustain traction for longer.
  • Keep your wheels straight and drive forward and backward multiple times. This will rock your car gently, generate momentum and make it easier for you to get over piles of snow.

If none of the above tips help to free your car, you may want to consider calling a tow service to help you pull your car loose. Many insurance policies include coverage for tow services. Remember that clearing snow can put a strain on the body. Take frequent breaks from shoveling to avoid overexerting yourself.

 

Download December's Full Insight PDF for More


Are You Prepared for a Home Break-in?

While it may be difficult to imagine it happening to you, home break-ins are a common occurrence. If an intruder enters your home, your property and the well-being of your loved ones are at risk.

In order to protect your home and family from an intruder, consider doing the following:

  • Put an emergency plan in place and discuss it with everyone in your household.
  • Take any measure possible to let the intruder know someone is home and aware of his or her presence.
  • Do not assume the intruder is unarmed. He or she may be concealing a knife or gun and could produce it at a moment’s notice.
  • If you have something immediately available you can use for defense, grab it, even if it is just a scare tactic.
  • Remain vigilant. Take note of the intruder’s physical characteristics and provide the most accurate description possible to the police if he or she gets away.

In addition to the above, consider arming your home with a security system. A security system may seem expensive, but knowing your family and possessions are safe at all times may make it worth the cost.

 

Download Our December Insight PDF for More


Tips for Exercising Without Injury

While exercising can improve your mood, fight chronic diseases and help you manage your weight, it can put a strain on your body if you don’t take the proper precautions. To get the most from your workouts and decrease your risk of injury, you should take the time to warm up, cool down and stretch.

Warming Up Tips

  • Move similar to how you will in your workout by walking briskly, jogging or biking at a slow pace.
  • Increase the intensity gradually to reduce stress on your bones, muscles and heart.
  • Warm up for approximately 5-15 minutes so that you break a light sweat.

Cool-down Tips

  • Include movements similar to those in your workout, but they should decrease in intensity gradually.
  • Cool down for at least 10 minutes so that blood returns from your muscles to your heart.

Stretching Tips

  • Stretch before and after a workout to build flexibility and range of motion and reduce your risk of injury. Use gentle, fluid movements while stretching and breathe normally.
  • Focus on individual muscle groups and hold a stretch for 20 to 60 seconds. Do not force your joints beyond their normal range of motion.

Keeping in mind the above tips will ensure that the next time you exercise, you can do so without injury.

 

Download Hierl's Full Insight PDF


4 tips for workplace gift giving

The holidays should be a time of bliss and celebration. However, this often isn’t the case when the stress of deciding if coworkers will make it on your holiday shopping list sets in.

So, as you make that list, check it twice, and consider these key points before you find yourself in an uncomfortable workplace gift exchange.

The company gift-giving policy

Almost every large company has one, and it isn’t just excluded to company clients and outside business partners. It also applies to gifts given between employees. While many companies allow for gifts to be given below a certain dollar amount, make sure to look for this policy or contact Human Resources before purchasing any gifts or organizing a gift-exchange.

Reasons for giving

While all gifts should be exchanged in the spirit of the holidays, some people may have ulterior motives. If you have recently begun negotiations for a raise or promotion, you will want to steer clear of buying your manager anything that seems to be trying to influence their decision. Typically, the flow of gifts should always be downward, not upward within a company.

Office culture

This is especially important if you are new to the company. Did people start talking about the annual gift exchange before Thanksgiving? Or have you already received an invite to the holiday team lunch?

Among a survey of U.S. workers, 45 percent say they give their office peers a gift during the holiday season, and 56 percent spend more than $20 doing so.

It’s important to use your best judgment to determine the office norm and if you need to, ask a co-worker to confirm your suspicions.

Be inclusive

If your company does allow for gifts to be exchanged, make sure everyone on the team is included. A great way to do this is by offering an opt-in vs opt-out gift exchange. This way everyone is invited, but not everyone has to choose to participate. This is mindful of employees who may be experiencing a financial hardship that won’t allow for unnecessary purchases this holiday season.

With all things considered, remember that gift giving at work is a company specific characteristic and the best place to look to find answers to your questions may be internal. Who knows, the coworker sitting three cubicles down playing Christmas music in October and the coworker next to him whose personality closely resembles the Grinch, may actually be in agreement on a policy like this one.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:
Taylor K. (20 November 2017). "4 tips for workplace gift giving" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2017/11/4-tips-for-workplace-gift-giving/


UBA Survey: Weary Families Get a Break While Singles See Out-of-Pocket Cost Increases

Below, our partner, UBA Benefits, has provided some insight from their 2017 Health Plan Survey. If you are an employer seeking customized results from the survey, we can help you. Please visit our survey page here.


While the rate impact of the regulatory environment plays out, one thing is clear from the 2017 UBA Health Plan Survey: employers continue to shift a greater share of expenses to employees through out-of-pocket cost increases. While this is just one of 7 mega trends uncovered in the survey, it is particularly interesting this year because singles were hit more heavily than families as compared to years past.

While average annual total costs per employee increased from $9,727 to $9,934, employees’ share of total costs rose 5%, from $3,378 to $3,550, while employers’ share rose less than 1%, from $6,350 to $6,401. The good news for employees is that, for a second year in a row, median in-network deductibles for singles and families held steady at $2,000 and $4,000, respectively. Similarly, some out-of-network deductibles remained unchanged, with families’ median out-of-network deductible remaining at $8,000 in 2017. Conversely, singles, who had been holding steady in 2014 and 2015 at a $3,000 median out-of-network deductible, saw a 13.3% increase to $3,400 in 2016, and another jump in 2017 to $4,000. Since deductible increases help employers avoid premium increases, we will likely see this trend continue, especially as insurance carriers are required to meet the ACA metal levels.

Both singles and families also are seeing continued increases in median in-network out-of-pocket maximums, up to $5,000 and $10,000, respectively. Families bore the brunt of the increase in median out-of-network out-of-pocket maximums between 2014 and 2016, going from $16,000 in 2014 to $18,000 in 2015, to $20,000 in 2016, but then holding steady at $20,000 in 2017. The maximum for singles, which had remained steady at $9,000 in 2015 and 2016, increased in 2017 to $10,000.

Interestingly, out-of-network expenses are not subject to ACA limitations, so it was theorized that they’d likely continue to skyrocket with more plans eliminating out-of-pocket maximums for non-network services. Perhaps to offset that, more employers adopted plans with no deductible for out-of-network services, while employees saw a massive decrease in the number of employers offering no deductible for in-network services. Looking at deductibles and out-of-pocket costs just among the ever-dominant PPO plans, in-network and out-of-network deductibles for families and singles are generally below average. However, the median in-network single deductible for PPO plans has held steady at $1,500 in 2016 and 2017, along with the family deductible at $3,000. The increases were seen in the out-of-pocket maximums, which rose in 2017 to $4,500 for single (up from $4,000 in 2016), and to $10,000 for family coverage (up $1,000 from $9,000 in 2016).

Read the original article here.

Source:
Olson B. (21 November 2017). "UBA Survey: Weary Families Get a Break While Singles See Out-of-Pocket Cost Increases" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/uba-survey-weary-families-get-a-break-while-singles-see-out-of-pocket-cost-increases


Safety Focused Newsletter - December 2017

Preventing Sprains and Strains

Sprains, strains and tears to muscles and connective tissues are some of the most common injuries workers experience. Sprains and strains can result from lifting injuries, being hit by falling objects or even a simple misstep. Overusing your muscles can also cause these injuries.

To reduce your risk of experiencing sprains and strains on the job, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Use extreme caution if you are lifting something particularly heavy. When in doubt, ask for help.
  • Reduce repetitive movements if possible. Chronic strains are usually the result of overusing the same muscles.
  • Use proper form when completing tasks, as extensive gripping can increase the risk of hand and forearm strains.
  • Consider your posture when sitting for long periods of time and maintain an overall relaxed position.
  • Maintain a healthy fitness level outside of work to keep your body strong and flexible.
  • Stretch before you begin working, and take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and rebalance your body.

If you have any questions or concerns about sprains or strains, do not hesitate to contact your supervisor.

 

The Hazards of Headphones

In many workplaces, it’s common for employees to listen to music while they work. While this provides workers with entertainment while they perform their job duties, the overuse of headphones may lead to hearing loss over time, particularly if they listen to media at a high volume.

The following are some common symptoms to look out for if you are concerned that frequent headphone use is contributing to hearing loss:

  • Straining to understand conversations
  • Having to watch people’s faces closely to understand what they’re saying
  • Continuously increasing the volume on the TV or radio, especially to the point where others complain
  • Sounds seem muffled after listening to music
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

If you find that you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a hearing test. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are at risk for further hearing loss.

To continue to use headphones at work safely, there are a number of strategies to keep in mind.

If you use a smartphone or MP3 player, check to see if you can set a volume limit on it. Many devices have this feature built-in and include instructions on how to set it in the manual.

Another way to reduce your risk of hearing loss is to purchase headphones that go over your ears, rather than ear buds. Ear buds fit inside your ear and don’t provide any noise isolation, which causes people using them to turn the volume up louder.

As a general rule, set your music volume no higher than 60 to 70 percent of the maximum, and limit listening to one hour per day. Doing so will ensure that you can enjoy your favorite media without harming your hearing.

 

Download the December 2017 Safety Focused Newsletter PDF