5 tips to make this the best open enrollment ever

Open enrollment season is right around the corner. Did you know that most people find open enrollment season more burdensome than tax season? As employers begin engaging their employees on healthcare offerings, check out these great tips by Kim Buckey from Benefits Pro on how you can make this year the best open enrollment yet.

Learn from last year’s enrollment

Look back on how your company fared during last year’s open enrollment period.

What were the most time-consuming tasks, and how can they be streamlined this year? What were the top questions asked by employees? Did you achieve your enrollment goals?

Hold a meeting with key internal and external stakeholders on the team and review what worked and what didn’t work last year. Knowing where you are, what your challenges are and will be, and where you’re on the right track will enable you to create a meaningful plan for this year.

Start with strategy

Once you know where you are, figure out where you want to be, how you’re going to get there, and how you’ll determine if you’ve achieved your goals. Make sure your strategy includes:

  • An assessment of all of your audiences. Remember, you’re not just communicating to employees, you’re reaching out to family members and to managers as well. Keep in mind that not every audience member has the same education level or understanding of even the most basic benefits concepts.
  • What’s changing. Are you adding or eliminating plans? Is cost-sharing changing? Is there a new vendor? Having a thorough understanding of what’s changing will help determine what your messaging should be.
  • Defining your corporate objectives. Are you looking to increase participation in a particular plan option, or shift a percentage of your population to a new plan offering? Increase participation in a wellness plan? What percentage? Define your objectives and how you plan on measuring success.
  • Your overall messages — and any specific messages targeted to your audiences. You may communicate differently to people already in the plan in which you want to increase participation, for example.
  • A schedule. People need to hear messages multiple times before they “register.” Make sure you’re communicating regularly — and thoughtfully — in the weeks leading up to, and during, the enrollment period.
  • Media. What messages will you deliver in print (newsletters, posters, postcards, enrollment guides)? What should be communicated in person, through managers or one-on-one enrollment support?

Make this year’s enrollment more active

Eighty percent of Americans spend less than an hour researching benefit options, and 90 percent keep the same plan from year to year. Yet for most employees, their circumstances change annually — whether it be the number of their dependents, their overall health and health care usage or their pay.

Active enrollment — where an employee must proactively choose a plan or go without coverage — can be an important step in getting employees more engaged in their benefits.

Active enrollment has benefits for the employer as well — it provides an opportunity to collect key data (such as current dependent information) and to direct employees to the most cost-effective plans for them.

But helping employees choose the “right” plan requires a robust communication plan, combining basic information about plan options, decision-making tools that address the total cost of coverage (both premium and point-of-service costs) and even one-one-one enrollment support.

Many employees don’t have the information they need to make good decisions, and aren’t likely to seek it out on their own — it must be ‘pushed’ to them.

Take demographics into consideration

When engaging employees around their benefits options, consider the wants, needs, and communication preferences of each demographic. Employees just starting their careers are the most underinsured (and generally least informed) group, often seeing student debt rather than health coverage as a more pressing priority.

Harris/Accolade poll reveals that when results are broken out by age cohort, workers under 30 are having the greatest difficulty finding their way through the healthcare labyrinth.

Only 56 percent say they are comfortable doing so, compared to 76 percent of retirees. They also report more challenges in making the best care decisions, including understanding cost, coordinating care, choosing and understanding benefits, and finding a doctor they can relate to.

Understand the limitations of decision support tools

Decision support tools enable people to take an active role in managing their health care. While they can certainly help, remember that employees must seek them out and use them, and these tools often assume a level of benefits knowledge your employees might not have.

And, these tools recently have come under scrutiny for their ultimate lack of measurable results. To see the return on investment and value, you must also provide education and communications to provide some context for, and drive usage of, these tools.

By applying these five steps along with setting your team up with designated roles, responsibilities, and deadlines, you’re well on your way toward a more seamless, efficient and effective open enrollment period and to saving both your organization and your coworkers time and money.

But remember, benefits communication isn’t “one and done” at enrollment. You’ll need a year-round plan to help employees make good decisions about their care once they’ve chosen their coverage.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Buckey K. (2017 Aug 25). 5 tips to make this the best open enrollment ever [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/25/5-tips-to-make-this-the-best-open-enrollment-ever?page_all=1


P&C Pro-File Newsletter - September 2017

Did You Know?


Preliminary data from the National Safety Council (NSC) found that there were slightly fewer motor vehicle crash fatalities during the first six months of 2017 than there were during the same period in 2016. In 2014, the number of crash fatalities began to rise significantly after several years of steady declines. The NSC believes that this increase can be attributed to the increased affordability of driving after the economy recovered from a recession.

IN THIS ISSUE


  • Study Shows Average Workplace is Physically and Emotionally Demanding. A new study has found that most U.S. employees face significant stress in the workplace.
  • OSHA Restores Injury Tracking App After Security Fears. OSHA has restored user access to its Injury Tracking Application after being notified of a potential security breach.
  • United States, Canada and Mexico Begin NAFTA Negotiations. Representatives from the three countries concluded the first round of negotiations to update the trade agreement.


Provided by:

Hierl Insurance Inc.


IN THIS ISSUE


An analysis released by the Associated Press (AP) has shown that U.S. employees who are 55 years old or older are more likely to be involved in fatal workplace accidents than their younger counterparts. Additionally, as the average age of retirement continues to increase, older employees are becoming a larger portion of the overall workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that by 2024, these employees will account for 25 percent of the entire labor market.

The AP used data from the BLS and the American Community Survey to conduct its analysis, and ignored fatalities that were determined to be the result of a natural cause, such as a heart attack or stroke. Despite this, the analysis found that the natural deterioration of vision, hearing and joint strength were the main contributors to the higher number of fatalities involving older employees.

The number of workplace fatalities for employees of all ages dropped from 5,480 in 2005 to 4,836 in 2015. However, fatalities for older employees over that same period increased from 1,562 to 1,681. As older employees continue to stay in the workforce, employers need to take extra care to protect them from hazards.

Study Shows Average Workplace is Physically and Emotionally Demanding


A new study conducted by the Rand Corporation, Harvard Medical School and University of California, Los Angeles has found that most U.S. employees face at least one form of workplace stress on a regular basis. And, although the study also found that most employees receive support from their employers, workplace stress is common in every job and industry.

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • Nearly 75 percent of employees report intense or repetitive physical exertion on the job.
  • Over half of employees are exposed to unpleasant and potentially hazardous working conditions.
  • Nearly 20 percent of employees are exposed to hostile or threatening social environments at work.
  • Nearly 50 percent of employees report that they must work on their own time to meet the demands of their jobs.

Physical and emotional stress in the workplace can lead to injuries, illnesses and poor job performance. Contact us today at 920-921-5921 for employee communications and workplace programs that can help manage stress at your business.

OSHA Restores Injury Tracking App After Security Fears


OSHA has restored user access to its Injury Tracking Application (ITA) after shutting it down due to fears of a security breach less than one month after its launch.

OSHA launched the ITA on Aug. 1 to allow employers to submit required injury and illness data electronically. However, on Aug. 14, the Department of Homeland Security contacted the agency to inform it of a potential compromise of user information.

OSHA suspected that one company was affected by the breach. The agency contacted the company and suspended access to the app while the National Information Technology Center conducted a complete scan. After the scan, OSHA confirmed that there was no breach of data, and it will continue with its security monitoring.

Although the electronic reporting rule initially required certain employers to start submitting their required information by July 1, 2017, the ITA website was not yet ready to receive electronic reports, and OSHA proposed Dec. 1, 2017, as the new deadline. However, it is not yet clear whether this incident will affect this new compliance deadline. Affected establishments should continue to record and report workplace injuries as required by law.

United States, Canada and Mexico Begin NAFTA Negotiations


Representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico recently concluded the first round of negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This agreement sets rules for trade between the three countries, but has not been updated since it came into effect in 1994.

The recent negotiations were prompted by comments from President Donald Trump, who believes that significant trade deficits with Canada and Mexico have led to unfavorable conditions for U.S. businesses. Although representatives from Canada and Mexico disagree with these assertions, all three countries hope to complete an update to NAFTA by early 2018.


How data analytics is changing employee benefit strategies

As technology continues to grow and expand, more employers are turning to digital platforms when it comes to managing their employee benefits program. With more access to technology, employers can use data accumulated from their employees to better personalize their employee benefits package to fit each individual's needs. Take a look at this column by Eric Helman from Employee Benefit Advisor and find out some more tips on how you can better leverage the data from an employee benefits program to fit your employees'es needs.

In the realm of employee benefits, surveys, focus groups and anecdotes about specific employee encounters with the benefits program typically drive the discussions about how that program should evolve in the future. Unlike the situation at Outback, it is difficult to “observe” how people actually consume benefits and tailor a program that is attractive to them.

Fortunately, recent developments in data analytics have unlocked the potential of using consumer behavior insights to drive employee benefits strategy.

Leading practitioners are beginning to leverage these developments to change the annual renewal process. The technologies that support data aggregation, normalization and reporting have been aggressively developed to support the provider and payer communities. Only now have these advancements been made available to employers and their advisers.

The most successful practitioners point to the value of standardized claims reporting based upon credible data. By combining current claims data with industry benchmarks and predictive analytics, employers gain insight into the ongoing performance of their benefit plans. They “see” for themselves what industry professionals have been telling them for years. Plan performance is based upon claims, both in terms of the number of units of healthcare consumed and the price of those units. In recent surveys, benefit professionals report the difficulty they have in convincing CFOs and CEOs to make the necessary changes to benefit programs. Standardized reporting from a credible analytics platform can greatly enhance the ability for benefit professionals to communicate their agenda.

But standardized reporting is not the panacea. Benefits are complex. And the relationship between risk and consumption of healthcare add to the complexity. Even in the best reporting environments where executives are well informed about the performance of their plans and how the key metrics compare to industry norms, they are often perplexed about what to do with the information. Advancements in the realm of “actionable analytics” are beginning to address this problem as well.

While artificial intelligence or AI is all the rage, the underlying concept of having a computer suggest a course of action based upon data is not a new idea. The new application to employee benefits is the ability to provide “suggestions” in the context of standardized financial reporting. The number of ideas to bend the cost curve are numerous. The challenge is matching these ideas with the appropriate populations, convincing decision makers to invest and engaging the appropriate cohorts of employees to take specific actions necessary to realize the return on investment for these initiatives.

New systems are now available to close the gaps on this execution continuum. The foundation for these new systems is a robust analytics platform. But actionable analytics build upon this foundation by evaluating the employer’s data to discern whether a specific cost-saving initiative might generate savings worthy of the investment. These new systems present the output of that analysis in an easy to understand graphical format for benefit consultants and HR professionals to effectively communicate the potential of cost savings initiatives to decision makers.

Targeted engagement maximizes compliance and ROI
Getting executives to commit to intentional actions to affect the rising costs of benefits solves one half of the problem. The second half of the problem is one of focus. Rather than attempting to engage all employees with generalized messaging, these new systems use analytics to focus their engagement on a specific cohort of individuals in order to drive the greatest impact. This focus allows for a concentration of resources on the targeted populations, resulting in increased compliance and larger return on investment. The best implementations are integrated with benefits administration platforms and can incorporate multiple initiatives simultaneously. Point solutions, from an engagement perspective, have been proven to result in single-digit compliance. The power of an integrated engagement solution allows for initiatives that, because they are both focused and automated, can be executed simultaneously.

Advancements in technology have created a new era in which the democratization of big data allows for non-technical professionals to access detailed information and convert that information into intelligence. According to a recent survey, more than 65% of employers confess they are not strategic when it comes to benefits cost management. In spite of the many cost savings ideas available, more than 40% say they are not engaging in any new initiatives in the upcoming year. While the future of healthcare reform is in doubt, the potential for actionable analytics to significantly change the trajectory of the employer’s benefits costs is certain.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Helman E.  (2017 September 5). How data analytics is changing employee benefit strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/closing-the-execution-continuum-on-employee-benefit-cost-savings


Be Prepared: Workplace Violence

Be Prepared is committed to preventing violence in the workplace. In order to keep our workplace as safe as possible, please observe the following guidelines:

Identifying Your Risk

Workplace violence can include actions or words that endanger or harm you, and cause you to believe that you may be in danger, including the following:

  • Verbal or physical harassment
  • Verbal or physical threats
  • Assaults or other violence
  • Any other behavior that causes you to feel unsafe (bullying or sexual harassment)

Staying Safe

  • Participate in all safety training and apply the knowledge learned to your everyday job.
  • Learn, understand and comply with all company safety procedures and precautions.
  • Share any suggestions for making our workplace safer with your supervisor.
  • Report all violent incidents immediately and accurately, regardless of whether the violence is between an employee and a client or customer, or between multiple employees. Even if you are not involved, be sure to report incidents that you witness.
  • Call 911 immediately if the violent incident is serious. After help has arrived, be prepared to discuss what happened with both authorities and company officials.
  • Report behaviors such as threatening, bullying, stalking or harassing. If it is ongoing, it is helpful if you document each episode.
  • Let your supervisor know if you ever feel threatened or nervous, and would like additional security measures to be established.
  • Report any worrisome or distinguishable changes in a co-worker to a supervisor.
  • Remember, you will never be penalized for reporting violence, whether you are a victim or a witness. The company will observe complete confidentiality. Our concern is for the safety of all employees.


Preparing for 2018 Open Enrollment

As open enrollment season nears, make sure you are staying compliant and up-to-date with everything that is happening in ACA. Here are some great tips by Carl C. Lammers from Benefit News on what you need to know to prepare yourself for open enrollment this upcoming year.

Open enrollment for employer-sponsored health and welfare benefits comes every year; usually with little fanfare as employers generally have a system in place to seamlessly handle enrollments.

This changed with the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, but now seven years later, employers again mostly have open enrollment standardized. This year brings a new challenge – the Summary of Benefits and Coverage document that was created by the ACA has undergone its first major restructuring since 2012 when employers were first required to provide the SBC.

The new SBC template must be used for open enrollments that occur on or after April 1, 2017. For calendar year plans, the upcoming 2018 open enrollment is the first open enrollment where the new SBC templates must be used.

If you need a quick refresher, the SBC summarizes group health plan coverage for employees, describing many important plan features, such as deductibles, co-pays, co-insurance, and services covered, so that employees can better understand and make more informed choices about the available coverage options.

SBCs have a required uniform format and must contain certain information and examples, so that employees can compare an employer’s coverage options and options from more than one employer.

The uniform standard definitions of medical and health coverage terms and the required SBC template are distributed by the IRS, DOL, and HHS.

While the insurance carrier or third party administrator normally provides the SBC to an employer for distribution with open enrollment materials, employers are ultimately responsible for the SBC’s accuracy and distribution and for the recently increased penalties – of $1,087 per failure – for failure to distribute the SBC.

Employers should review the SBC’s provided for the upcoming open enrollment to be sure they have changed to reflect the new rules. Employers should also distribute the Section 1557 nondiscrimination notice with the SBC to avoid potential penalties.

The new finalized guidance on SBCs was issued by the Departments in April of 2016. The guidance states that while all prior formatting must still generally be complied with; SBCs can now have certain language and formatting alterations, such as differing font styles and margins in order to maintain the four page requirement. Definitions were also added to the Uniform Glossary, and the Departments state that SBCs may hyperlink the terms to a micro-site that HHS will maintain.

The required content of the SBC has also changed, with some of the most significant changes being:
A description of what an SBC is and where consumers can find more information, located at the beginning of the SBC.

A description of how family members must meet their own individual deductibles before the overall family deductible is met, and what services are covered.

  • Changing of the term "person" to "individual."
  • A statement that copays may not be included in out-of-pocket limits.
  • The removal of the definitions of copayments and coinsurance.
  • Change of the "Limitations & Exceptions" column to "Limitations, Exceptions, & Other Important Information" which must now include:
  • When the plan does not cover a certain service category, or a substantial portion of a service category.
  • When cost sharing for covered in-network services does not factor into the out-of-pocket limit.
  • Visit and/or dollar limits.
  • When services require preauthorization.
  • Note: cross-referencing is allowed if including all information in this section would cause the SBC to exceed four pages.
  • New language about minimum essential coverage, minimum value, and language access services.
  • The addition of a third Coverage Example about costs for a fracture, and slightly altered formatting to the Coverage Examples section.
  • A statement regarding whether abortions are covered by the plan.

One thing that is not part of the new SBC guidance is also important for employers: SBCs are likely considered "significant communications" for purposes of the nondiscrimination rules found in Section 1557 of the ACA, and the notice required by Section 1557 should be included with the SBC.

The Section 1557 notice must be included with all “significant communications” involving the medical plan. It is not clear whether the Departments have considered the addition of the Section 1557 language and its impact on the four page SBC limit.

We suggest including the 1557 notice with the new SBCs, but not as part of the new SBCs, in order to maintain the four-page length. Be sure to review any draft SBCs prepared by your insurer or TPA before distribution to ensure they meet the new formatting requirements.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Lammers C. (2017 July 31). Preparing for 2018 open enrollment [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/preparing-for-2018-open-enrollment


Strategic Benefits Communication: Five Key Steps to Success this Open Enrollment Season

Make sure to check out this great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Kevin D. Seeker and find out the 5 key steps to having a successful open enrollment.

In previous posts, I have talked about several aspects of strategic benefits communication. Now it’s time to put those strategies into action. As we approach enrollment season, let’s look at five key steps to ensuring this year’s open enrollment is successful for you and your employees.

1. Determine your key objectives

What do employees need to know this enrollment season? As you review your benefit plan designs, think once again about your key objectives, and for each, how you will make employees aware and keep them engaged. What are the challenges employees face when making their benefits decisions?

  • Are you rolling out new medical plan options? Does this include HDHP options? An HSA? Are there changes in premiums and contribution levels?
  • Are there any changes to other lines of coverage such as dental, life insurance, disability insurance?
  • Are you adding new voluntary plans this year? How do they integrate with your medical plans? Do they plug gaps in high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses? Are there existing voluntary plans with low participation?
  • Are there other important topics to share with employees, like new wellness programs, or health-driven employee events?

Once you’ve gathered this information, you can develop a communication strategy that will better engage employees in the benefits decision-making process.

2. Perfect your script

What do you know about your employee demographics? Diversity doesn’t refer only to age or gender. It could mean family size, differences in physical demands of the job, income levels, or simply lifestyle. It isn’t a one-size-fits-all world anymore. As you educate employees on benefits, you will want to give examples that fit their lives.

You will also want to keep the explanations as simple as possible. Use as much plain language as you can, as opposed to “insurance speak” and acronyms. Benefit plans are already an overwhelming decision, and as we have seen in our research, employees still don’t fully understand their options.

3. Use a multi-faceted communications strategy

Sun Life research and experience has shown that the most appreciated and effective strategies incorporate multiple methodologies. One helpful tactic is to get a jump-start on enrollment communication. As enrollment season approaches, try dynamic pre-enrollment emails to all employees, using videos or brochures. Once on-site enrollment begins, set up group meetings based on employee demographics. This will arm employees with better knowledge and prepared questions for their one-to-one meeting with a benefits counselor.

Consider hard-to-reach employees as well, and keep your websites updated with helpful links and provide contacts who are available by phone for additional support.

Also, look to open enrollment as a good time to fill any employee data gaps you may have, like beneficiaries, dependents, or emergency contacts.

4. Check your tech!

We have talked in previous posts about leveraging benefits administration technology for effective communications. For open enrollment, especially when you may be introducing new voluntary insurance plans, it is important to check your technology. I recommend this evaluation take place at least 6 to 8 weeks before open enrollment if possible.

Working with your UBA advisor, platform vendor and insurance carriers, some key considerations:

  • Provide voluntary product specifications from your carrier to your platform vendor. It is important to check up front that the platform can handle product rules such as issue age and age band pricing, age reduction, benefit/tier changes and guarantee issue rules. Also, confirm how the system will handle evidence of insurability processing, if needed.
  • Electronic Data Interface (EDI). Confirm with your platform partner as well as insurance carriers that there is an EDI set-up process that includes testing of file feeds. This is a vital step to ensure seamless integration between your benefits administration platform, payroll and the insurance carriers.
  • User Experience. Often benefits administration platforms are very effective at moving data and helping you manage your company’s benefits. As we have discussed, when it comes to your employee’s open enrollment user experience, there can be some challenges. Especially when you are offering voluntary benefits. Confirm with your vendor what, if any, decision support tools are available. Also, check with your voluntary carriers. These could range from benefit calculators, product videos, and even logic-driven presentations.

5. Keep it going

Even when enrollment season is over, ongoing benefits communications are a central tool to keeping employees informed, educated, and engaged. The small window of enrollment season may not be long enough for people to get a full grasp of their benefits needs, and often their decisions are driven by what is easily understood or what they think they need based on other people’s choices. Ongoing communications can be about specific benefits, wellness programs, or other health and benefit related items. This practice will also help new hires who need to make benefits decisions rather quickly.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Seeker K. (2017 August 16). Strategic benefits communication: Five key steps to success this open enrollment season [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/strategic-benefits-communication-five-key-steps-to-success-this-open-enrollment-season


IRS Issues Strong Warnings About ACA Compliance: Should HR be worried?

With all the confusion surrounding the ACA over the past few months, employers have been wondering if the IRS was gonna enforce the ACA reporting mandate. The IRS  has just recently released the ACA employers' and individual mandates to make sure everyone is in compliance for the healthcare reporting for 2017. Take a look at this article published by Jared Bilski from HR Morning hightlight eveything you need to know about reporting your healthcare information with the IRS.

Despite lots of warnings, the IRS has yet to impose any non-compliance penalties on employers during the two years the ACA reporting provisions have been mandatory. And with all of the efforts to kill or water down Obamacare, many employers are wondering if they should even make ACA compliance a priority at all.

Now, the agency is reminding folks that the ACA reporting mandate is still in full effect and compliance isn’t optional. It’s also assuring skeptical businesses it’s ready to start issuing penalties.

So should you believe the feds?

It sure sounds like it.

Most recently, the agency released four information letters about the ACA’s employer and individual mandates, and reminding employers exactly what they have to do to stay in compliance.

In addition, IRS sure warned employers it’s primed and ready to collect reporting penalties in a recent government report the folks at FreedomCare called a “game changer.”

Sweeping noncompliance tool

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) just released a report titled “Assessment of the Efforts to Implement the Employer Mandate under the Affordable Care Act.”

You can view the entire report here.

If you don’t have time to scour a 43-page document, here’s the one key fact: IRS has a new system in place for identifying potentially non-compliant employers, and the system has a very wide reach.

The feds’ ACA Compliance Validation System (ACV) will not only identify potentially non-compliant Applicable Large Employers, it will also calculate the “A” penalty under the Employer Mandate. Plus, the system will allow the feds to mass identify non-compliant employers and send notices to those non-compliant firms for any and all reporting years.

Questions and answers

By this point, you’ve probably got a few questions about the IRS’ new Obamacare compliance weapon, like:

When will the system be in place and ready?

Answer: According to the feds, the ACV should be ready by May 2017. Once it’s up and running, IRS should be able to start issuing large scale penalties.

Hasn’t IRS said it’s ready to start imposing ACA penalties before? Why should we believe them this time?

Answer: Granted, IRS has stated it planned to start penalizing firms before, but this seems different. Initially, the feds have been developing this ACV system since July 2015 and planned to have it ready by January 2017.

But as the report said, “the implementation of the ACV System has been delayed to May 2017.”

With the release of this detailed report, it’s clear the feds are ready to start collecting on all the noncompliance penalties that are long overdue. IRS has stated it expects to pull in $228 billion in ACA penalties.

Plus, with ACA repeal efforts currently on hold, now is a very good time for the agency to come after firms that have been pushing their compliance obligations to the back burner.

Bottom-line: Employers can’t afford to operate as if the delay in IRS reporting penalties is a permanent situation. If you’ve put this task on hold, now is the time to get everything in order.

Key correction steps

So what should employers do if they’ve already missed ACA reporting deadlines? File ASAP.

The sooner you correct an issue, the less likely you’ll wind up in a long, drawn out federal audit. Plus, as employment attorney David M. Pixley points out, IRS has a number of different penalties depending on how late the ACA reporting actually is.

For example, correcting a reporting failure within 30 days of the due date cuts the penalty to $50 per return, with a $532,000 cap.

When firms correct reporting failures after 30 days, but on or before August 1, the penalty is $100 per return, and the cap is $1,596,500.

And of course, late-filing is much safer (i.e., less costly) than not filing at all.

Reason: The standard per return penalty of $260 (max $3,193,000/year) jumps drastically for violations due to “intentional disregard” to a per-return penalty of $530 (no penalty cap).

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 August 16). IRS issues strong warning about ACA compliance: should HR be worried? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/irs-issues-strong-warnings-about-aca-compliance-should-hr-be-worried/


4 Trends Shaping Cybersecurity in 2017

The threat of cyber attacks is increasing every day. Make sure you are stay up-to-date with all the recent news and trends happening in the world of cyber security so you can stay informed on how to protect yourself from cyber threats. Check out this great column by Denny Jacob from Property Casualty 360 and find out about the top 4 trends impacting cybersecurity this year.

No. 4: Growing areas of concern

Organizations with a chief information security officer (CISO) in 2017 increased to 65 percent compared to 50 percent in 2016. Staffing challenges and budgetary distribution, however, reveal where organizations face exposure.

Finding qualified personnel to fill cybersecurity positions is as ongoing challenge. For example, one-third of study respondents note that their enterprises receive more than 10 applicants for an open position. More than half of those applicants, however, are unqualified. Even skilled applicants require time and training before their job performance is up to par with others who are already working on the company's cybersecurity operation.

Half of the study respondents reported security budgets will increase in 2017, which is down from 65 percent of respondents who reported an increase in 2016. This, along with staffing challenges, has many enterprises reliant on both automation and external resources to offset missing skills on the cybersecurity team.

Another challenge: Relying on third-party vendors means there must be funds available to offset any personnel shortage.

If the skills gap continues unabated and the funding for automation and external third-party support is reduced, businesses will struggle to fill their cybersecurity needs.

No. 3: More complicated cyber threats

Faced with declining budgets, businesses will have less funding available on a per-attack basis. Meanwhile, the number of attacks is growing, and they are becoming more sophisticated.

More than half (53 percent) of respondents noted an increase in the overall number of attacks compared previous years. Only half (roughly 50 percent) said their companies executed a cybersecurity incident response plan in 2016.

Here are some additional findings regarding the recent uptick in cyber breaches:

• 10 percent of respondents reported experiencing a hijacking of corporate assets for botnet use;• 18 percent reported experiencing an advanced persistent threat (APT) attack; and

• 14 percent reported stolen credentials.

• Last year’s results for the three types of attacks were:

• 15 percent for botnet use;

• 25 percent for APT attacks; and

•15 percent involving stolen credentials.

Phishing (40 percent), malware (37 percent) and social engineering (29 percent) continue to top the charts in terms of the specific types of attacks, although their overall frequency of occurrence decreased: Although attacks are up overall, the number of attacks in these three categories is down.

No. 2: Mobile takes a backseat to IoT

Businesses are now more sophisticated in the mobile arena. The proof: Cyber breaches resulting from mobile devices are down. Only 13 percent of respondents cite lost mobile devices as an exploitation vector in 2016, compared to 34 percent in 2015. Encryption factors into the decrease; only 9 percent indicated that lost or stolen mobile devices were unencrypted.

IoT continues to rise as an area of concern. Three out of five (59 percent) of the 2016 respondents cite some level of concern relative to IoT, while an additional 30 percent are either "extremely concerned" or "very concerned" about this exposure.

IoT is an increasingly important element in governance, risk and cybersecurity activities. This is a challenging area for many, because traditional security efforts may not already cover the functions and devices feeding this digital trend.

No. 1: Ransomware is the new normal

The number of code attacks, including ransomware attacks, remains high: 62 percent of respondents reported their enterprises experienced a ransomware attackspecifically.

Half of the respondents believe financial gain is the biggest motivator for criminals, followed by disruption of service (45 percent) and theft of personally identifiable information (37 percent). Despite this trend, only 53 percent of respondents' companies have a formal process in place to deal with ransomware attacks.

What does that look like?

Businesses can conduct "tabletop" exercises that stage a ransomware event or discuss in advance decisions about payment vs. non-payment. Payment may seem like the easiest solution, but law enforcement agencies warn it can have an encouraging effect on those criminals as some cases lead to repeated attacks of the same business.

Many cybersecurity specialists argue that the best way to fight a ransomware attack is to avoid one in the first place. Advance planning that might include the implementation of a governing corporate policy or other operating parameters, can help to ensure that the best cybersecurity decisions are made when the time comes to battle a breach.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jacob D. (2017 August 25). 4 trends shaping cybersecurity in 2017 [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/08/25/4-trends-shaping-cybersecurity-in-2017?ref=hp-in-depth&page_all=1


The IRS Is Still Enforcing The Individual Mandate, Despite What Many Taxpayers Believe

Did you know that there are many people who still don't believe that they will be hit by tax penalty if they do not have health insurance? Here is an informative article by Timothy Jost from Health Affairs on why everyone should be keeping up with their health insurance in-order to avoid a tax penalty by the IRS.

There has been considerable speculation since President Trump’s Inauguration Day Affordable Care Act Executive Order as to whether the Internal Revenue Service is in fact enforcing the individual and employer mandates. The IRS website has insisted that the mandates are still in force, despite the Executive Order and despite the fact that the IRS decided not to implement for 2016 tax filings a program rejecting “silent returns” that did not indicate compliance with individual mandate requirements.

There is evidence, however, that many taxpayers do not believe it. An April report from the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Services found that as of March 31, a third fewer taxpayers were paying the penalty than had been the case a year earlier. More importantly, insurers seem to believe that the IRS is not enforcing the mandate, or at least that taxpayers do not believe the IRS is enforcing the mandate, and are raising their rates for 2018 to account for the deteriorating of the risk pool that nonenforcement of the mandate will cause.

It is of note, therefore, that Robert Sheen at the ACA Times has identified several letters from the IRS reaffirming that it is still in fact enforcing the individual, and employer, mandates.

One is a letter reportedly sent in April by the IRS General Counsel to Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) in response to an inquiry as to whether the IRS could waive the employer mandate with respect to a particular employer. The IRS replied that there was no provision in the ACA for waiver of the mandate penalty when it applied and that: “The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

In a second letter in June, responding to an individual who had written to President Trump, the IRS similarly responded:

The Executive Order does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law, including the requirement to have minimum essential coverage for each month, qualify for a coverage exemption for the month, or make a shared responsibility payment.

Of course, whether taxpayers believe it, and whether insurers believe taxpayers believe it, is another question.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Jost T. (2017 August 21). The IRS is still enforcing the individual mandate, despite what many taxpayers believe [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/08/21/the-irs-is-still-enforcing-the-individual-mandate-despite-what-many-taxpayers-believe/


Safety Focused Newsletter - September 2017

Safety Focused

Tips for Managing Workplace Fatigue

Not only does fatigue make you less productive and personable, it can also cause a serious safety risk if you work with hazardous equipment or materials. Read on to learn how to manage fatigue at work.

 

5 Ways to Eat Healthier at Work

Good nutrition is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and eating healthier can increase your productivity, lower the number of sick days you take and reduce your risk of being in an on-the-job accident. Read on to learn five tips for healthier eating at work.

NOT ONLY DOES FATIGUE MAKE YOU LESS PRODUCTIVE AND PERSONABLE, IT CAN ALSO CAUSE A SERIOUS SAFETY RISK IF YOU WORK WITH HAZARDOUS EQUIPMENT OR MATERIAL

Tips for Managing Workplace Fatigue

Hectic schedules, stress and lack of sleep can all contribute to fatigue, which is a common and dangerous workplace hazard. Symptoms of fatigue include moodiness, drowsiness, loss of energy, and lack of motivation and concentration.

These are not ideal qualities to display at your job. Not only does fatigue make you less productive and personable, it can also cause a serious safety risk if you work with hazardous equipment or materials.

To help manage workplace fatigue, consider doing the following:

  • Eat a snack that includes complex carbohydrates and protein (like an energy bar or half a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread).
  • Avoid sugar, which will make you crash later.
  • Go for a short walk to re-energize yourself.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Manage your stress, and get more sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit your caffeine intake to one or two drinks per day.

Fatigue can also be linked to an underlying medical problem, psychological condition or sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor if you experience chronic or debilitating fatigue.

5 Ways to Eat Healthier at Work

Most full-time employees eat at least one meal at work. Not only are a significant number of meals eaten in the workplace, but work is also where employees are most susceptible to distracted or stress-related eating.

Good nutrition is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and eating healthier can increase your productivity, lower the number of sick days you take and reduce your risk of being in an on-the-job accident.

To start eating heathier at work today, consider doing the following:

  1. Avoid junk food. Clean your desk or work area of junk food. This includes snacks like candy, chips or crackers.
  2. Make time to eat full meals. While work can get busy, it’s critical that you make time to eat a healthy meal. Not only does eating a nutritious breakfast or lunch increase your energy, but it can also help you remain fuller for longer, thus reducing snacking.

  1. Bring leftovers into work. When cooking your dinner each night, consider setting aside portions for your lunch the next day. Not only does this make meal planning easier, but it can also save you money.
  2. Bring in bottles of water. Make an effort to drink water throughout the day. This can help energize you, supress your appetite and aid in weight loss.
  3. Snack smart. Snacks aren’t entirely off the table when you’re trying to eat healthy. Foods like dried fruit, jerky, nuts and applesauce are all good alternatives to unhealthy chips and candy bars.

While eating home-cooked meals is one of the easiest ways to eat healthier, certain jobs require employees to be on the road often. This, unfortunately, can lead to eating out more.

In this case, being careful about the kinds of food you order and the portion sizes can make all the difference in managing weight gain.