Safety Focused Newsletter - November 2017

At Hierl, we take the safety of our workforce very seriously. Every month, we do our best to inform our employees, as well as other employers, on ways to reduce the risk of violence in the workplace. This month, we've decided to focus on the importance of a clean, walkable workplace, and - in light of the unfortunate violence across the US - we want to put a spotlight on safety when it comes to terrorism in the workplace.

Declutter for a Safe Workplace

A cluttered, unorganized workspace isn’t just unsightly—it is also dangerous. Poor workplace housekeeping, such as failing to clean up after yourself, can contribute to the following:

  • Injuries caused by slips and falls when clutter is on the floor
  • Potential fire hazards
  • Exposure to hazardous dust and vapors
  • Ergonomics issues that arise when clutter takes over your workspace, leaving you little room to work

No matter what type of environment you work in, it is important to keep your workspace clean and organized, not only for safety reasons, but also for productivity and morale. According to researchers, a cluttered environment can cause stress, and restrict your ability to focus and process information. The following tips can help you keep your workspace safe and organized:

  • Regularly wipe down your workstation with a damp cloth or disinfecting wipe to remove dust, dirt and germs. Don’t forget the keyboard and mouse if you use a computer.
  • Clean up spills and dispose of all trash immediately.
  • Avoid eating at your workstation, especially if you work with hazardous materials.
  • Keep walkways and floors free of clutter and tripping hazards.
  • Store equipment in designated areas when tasks are complete.

What to Do in the Event of an Active Shooter

Workplace violence may be a rare occurrence, but you should never underestimate the importance of being prepared in the event that your workplace is targeted by an active shooter. An active shooter is an individual who is engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.

Shootings can happen anytime, anywhere. The general perception is that these events happen in bad areas or in buildings that contain key members of society. However, this is not always the case, and the majority of shootings that occur in the workplace are carried out by employees, or former employees, for reasons associated with their job.

While you may not be able to prevent an attack from happening, it is critical to keep the following tips in mind in the event that your workplace experiences an active shooter incident:

  • Evacuate the premises if possible.
  • Call 911 if you can do so safely.
  • Warn everyone you encounter to leave the area.
  • Remain silent and still if you can’t flee safely. Be sure to silence any devices you may be carrying.
  • Block any doors with heavy furniture if you are hiding in a room. Don’t stand near any windows.

Only fight back as a last resort. Be sure to cooperate with emergency personnel—it can mean the difference between life and death. When law enforcement arrives, be sure to react in the following ways:

  • Calmly follow instructions.
  • Put down any items you are carrying, and keep hands visible at all times.
  • Provide as much information as you can.

Attacks can happen without warning. Since they are often finished before law enforcement arrives on the scene, it is important to consider the threat of an active shooter in advance and be aware of your company’s emergency procedures.


The Killjoy of Office Culture

Sometimes, negativity in the office is hard to avoid. Read this article for some helpful tips to take care of those who may be aiding in the negative atmosphere.


One of the latest things trending right now in business is the importance of office culture. When everyone in the office is working well together, productivity rises and efficiency increases. Naturally, the opposite is true when employees do not work well together and the corporate culture suffers. So, what are these barriers and what can you do to avoid them?

According to an article titled, “8 ways to ruin an office culture,” in Employee Benefit News, the ways to kill corporate culture may seem intuitive, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t happen. Here’s what organizations should do to improve their corporate culture.

Provide positive employee feedback. While it’s easy to criticize, and pointing out employees’ mistakes can often help them learn to not repeat them, it’s just as important to recognize success and praise an employee for a job well done. An “attaboy/attagirl” can really boost someone’s spirits and let them know their work is appreciated.

Give credit where credit is due. If an assistant had the bright idea, if a subordinate did all the work, or if a consultant discovered the solution to a problem, then he or she should be publicly acknowledged for it. It doesn’t matter who supervised these people, to the victor go the spoils. If someone had the guts to speak up, then he or she should get the glory. Theft is wrong, and it’s just as wrong when you take someone’s idea, or hard work, and claim it as your own.

Similarly, listen to all ideas from all levels within the company. Every employee, regardless of their position on the corporate ladder, likes to feel that their contributions matter. From the C-suite, all the way down to the interns, a genuinely good idea is always worth investigating regardless of whether the person who submitted the idea has an Ivy League degree or not. Furthermore, sometimes it takes a different perspective – like one from an employee on a different management/subordinate level – to see the best way to resolve an issue.

Foster teamwork because many hands make light work. Or, as I like to say, competition breeds contempt. You compete to get your job, you compete externally against other companies, and you may even compete against your peers for an award. You shouldn’t have to compete with your own co-workers. The winner of that competition may not necessarily be the best person and it will often have negative consequences in terms of trust.

Get rid of unproductive employees. One way to stifle innovation and hurt morale is by having an employee who doesn’t do any work while everyone else is either picking up the slack, or covering for that person’s duties. Sometimes it’s necessary to prune the branches.

Let employees have their privacy – especially on social media. As long as an employee isn’t conducting personal business on company time, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with an employee updating their social media accounts when they’re “off the clock.” In addition, as long as employees aren’t divulging company secrets, or providing other corporate commentary that runs afoul of local, state, or federal laws, then there’s no reason to monitor what they post.

Promote a healthy work-life balance. Yes, employees have families, they get sick, or they just need time away from the workplace to de-stress. And while there will always be times when extra hours are needed to finish a project, it shouldn’t be standard operating procedure at a company to insist that employees sacrifice their time.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Mukhtar G. (14 September 2017). "The Killjoy of Office Culture" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/the-killjoy-of-office-culture


New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women


You can read the original article here.

Source:

Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/new-regulations-broadening-employer-exemptions-to-contraceptive-coverage-impact-on-women/

The Trump Administration has issued new regulations that significantly broaden employers’ ability to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  The regulation opens the door for any employer or college/ university with a student health plan with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption. Any nonprofit or closely-held for-profit employer with moral objections to contraceptive coverage also qualifies for an exemption. Their female employees, dependents and students will no longer be entitled to coverage for the full range of FDA approved contraceptives at no cost.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued two new regulations greatly expanding the types of employers that may be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  These regulations are a significant departure from the Obama-era regulations that only granted an exception to houses of worship.  One of the regulations allows nonprofits or for-profit employer with an objection to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption and drop contraceptive coverage from their plans.  The other regulation also exempts all but publicly traded employers with moral objections to contraception from rule. These new policies, effective immediately, also apply to private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans. The immediate impact of these regulations on the number of women who are eligible for contraceptive coverage is unknown, but the new regulations open the door for many more employers to withhold contraceptive coverage from their plans.

New regulations from the Trump administration greatly expand exemption from #ACA contraceptive coverage rule

Contraceptive coverage under the ACA has made access to the full range of contraceptive methods affordable to millions of women. This provision is part of a set of key preventive services that has been identified by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for women that must be covered without cost-sharing. Since it was first issued in 2012, the contraceptive coverage provision has been controversial. While very popular with the public, with over 77% of women and 64% of men reporting support for no-cost contraceptive coverage, it has been the focus of litigation brought by religious employers, with two cases (Zubik v Burwell and Burwell v Hobby Lobby)  reaching the Supreme Court. This brief explains the contraceptive coverage rule under the ACA, the impact it has had on coverage, and how the new regulations issued by the Trump Administration change the contraceptive coverage requirement for employers and affect women’s coverage.

How do the new regulations change contraceptive coverage requirements for employers?

Since they were announced in 2011, the contraceptive coverage rules have evolved through litigation and new regulations. Most employers were required to include the coverage in their plans. Houses of worship could choose to be exempt from the requirement if they had religious objections. This exception meant that women workers and female dependents of exempt employers did not have guaranteed coverage for either some or all FDA approved contraceptive methods if their employer had an objection. Religiously affiliated nonprofits and closely held for-profit corporations were not eligible for an exemption, but could choose an accommodation. This option was offered to religiously affiliated nonprofit employers and then extended to closely held for-profitsafter the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The accommodation allowed these employers to opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage in their plans by either notifying their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection. The insurers were then responsible for covering the costs of contraception, which assured that their workers and dependents had contraceptive coverage while relieving the employers of the requirement to pay for it.

As of 2015, 10% of nonprofits with 5,000 or more employees had elected for an accommodation without challenging the requirement. This approach, however, has not been acceptable to all nonprofits with religious objections.1 In May 2016, the Supreme Court remanded Zubik v. Burwell, sending seven cases brought by religious nonprofits objecting to the contraceptive coverage accommodation back to the respective district Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court instructed the parties to work together to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”2

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued new regulations greatly expanding eligibility for the exemption to all nonprofit and closely-held for-profit employers with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs or moral convictions, including private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans (Figure 1).  In addition, publicly traded for-profit companies with objections based on religious beliefs also qualify for an exemption. There is no guaranteed right of contraceptive coverage for their female employees and dependents or students. Table 1 presents the changes to the contraceptive coverage rule from the Obama Administration in the new Interim Final regulations issued by the Trump Administration.

Figure 1: Employers Objecting to Contraceptive Coverage: Exemptions and Accommodations Under the Trump Administration Regulations

The accommodation will be available to employers that previously qualified for the accommodation.  They now will also have the choice of an exemption. The federal departments issuing the regulations posit that these new rules will have limited impact on the number of women losing contraceptive coverage.   However, it is not clear how many employers previously utilizing the accommodation will now opt for an exemption, resulting in the loss of contraceptive coverage for their employees and dependents.  In addition, there are also an unknown number of organizations that were not previously eligible for either the accommodation or exemption that may now opt for an exemption. These new regulations create two new categories of employers who can now qualify for an exemption or can voluntarily chooses an accommodation:  1) publicly traded for-profit companies with a religious objection and 2) nonprofit and closely held for-profit employers who have a moral objection to contraceptives, a considerably larger pool of employers than when the exemption was available only to those who were employees of a house of worship or who were eligible for an accommodation in the past.

Table 1: Summary of Changes in the Contraceptive Coverage Regulations for Objecting Entities
  Obama Administration
August 2012 to October 5, 2017
Trump Administration
Effective October 6, 2017
What types of contraceptives must plans cover without cost-sharing? At least one of each of the 18 FDA approved contraceptive methods for women, as prescribed, along with counseling and related services must be covered without cost-sharing. No change
Are any employers “exempt” from the contraceptive mandate?
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • No notice to employees is required. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • Nonprofit or  for-profit employers (including publicly traded companies), insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage
  • Nonprofit or closely held for-profit employers, insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a moralobjection to contraceptive coverage
  • Notice is only required if the plan previously included contraceptive coverage. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an exemption?
  • The cost of contraceptives is borne by women workers and female dependents.
  • There is no guarantee of contraceptive coverage for employees of an exempt organization.
  • The employer may choose to cover some methods, but has no obligation to cover all 18 FDA methods without cost sharing
No change

What type of employers may seek an “accommodation” to avoid paying for contraceptives in their plans?  
  • Closely held for-profit corporations and religiously affiliated nonprofits with religious objections to contraception can opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
  • Any entity (except for houses of worship) eligible for an exemption can choose the accommodation instead of the exemption.
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an accommodation?
  • Insurance companies of firms obtaining an accommodation must pay for contraceptive coverage.
  • Third-party administrators (TPA) of self-funded health plans must cover the costs of contraceptives for employees. The costs of the benefit are offset by reductions in the fees the TPA pays to participate in the federal exchange.
No change
When can entities change from an accommodation to an exemption? N/A
  • When an employer or private college or university currently using the accommodation opts for an exemption, the revocation of contraceptive coverage will be effective on the first day of the first plan year that begins 30 days after the date of the revocation or 60 days notice may be given in a summary of benefits statement.
  • The issuer or third party administrator is responsible for providing the notice to the beneficiaries.

How has the contraceptive coverage rule affected women?

Contraceptive use among women is widespread, with over 99% of sexually-active women using at least one method at some point during their lifetime.3 Contraceptives make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket health care spending for women.4 Since the implementation of the ACA, out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs has decreased dramatically (Figure 2). The majority of this decline (63%) can be attributed to the drop in out-of-pocket expenses on the oral contraceptive pill for women.5 One study estimates that roughly $1.4 billion dollars per year in out-of-pocket savings on the pill resulted from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.6  By 2013, most women had no out-of-pocket costs for their contraception, as median expenses for most contraceptive methods, including the IUD and the pill, dropped to zero.7

Figure 2: The Contraceptive Coverage Policy Has Had a Large Impact on Out-Of-Pocket Spending in a Short Amount of Time

This provision has also influenced the decisions women make in their choice of method. After implementation of the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement, women were more likely to choose any method of prescription contraceptive, with a shift towards more effective long-term methods.8  High upfront costs of long-acting methods, such as the IUD and implant, had been a barrier to women who might otherwise prefer these more effective methods.  When faced with no cost-sharing, women choose these methods more often9, with significant implications for the rate of unintended pregnancy and associated costs of childbirth.10

Finally, decreases in cost-sharing were associated with better adherence and more consistent use of the pill. This was especially true among users of generic pills.  One study showed that even copayments as low as $6 were associated with higher levels of discontinuation and non-adherence,11 increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Do states with no-cost contraceptive coverage laws allow exemptions to objecting entities?

The federal standards under Affordable Care Act created a minimum set of preventive benefits that applied to most health plans regulated by the federal government (self-funded plans, federal employee plans) and states (individual, small and large group plans), including contraceptive coverage for women with no cost-sharing.  States have also historically regulated insurance, and many have had mandated minimum benefits for decades. State laws, however, have more limited reach in that they only apply to state regulated fully insured plans, do not have jurisdiction over self-funded plans, where 61% of covered workers are insured.12 In self-funded plans, the employer assumes the risk of providing covered services and usually contracts with a third party administrator (TPA) to manage the claims payment process. These plans are overseen by the Federal Department of Labor under the Employer Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and are only subject to federally established regulations.13  The ACA sets a minimum standard of coverage for preventive services for all plans. However, state laws regulating insurance, including contraceptive coverage, can require fully insured plans to provide coverage beyond the federal standards.

Eight states have strengthened and expanded the federal contraceptive coverage requirement (CA, IL, MD, ME, NV, NY, OR, VT).  Another 20 states have contraceptive equity laws that require plans to cover contraceptives if they also provide coverage for prescription drugs but they do not necessarily require coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives or ban cost-sharing (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Many States Have Contraceptive Coverage Requirements

Many of the 28 states that have passed contraceptive coverage laws (both equity and no-cost coverage) have a provision for exemptions, but the laws vary from state to state and only apply to fully insured plans.  This means that there may be a conflict between the state and federal requirements when it comes to religious exemptions.  In some states with a contraceptive coverage requirement, some employers who are eligible for an exemption under federal law will not qualify for an exemption under state law (Table 2). Employers in those states will have to have to meet the standards established by their state even though they may qualify for an exemption based on the new federal regulations.  This conflict may set the stage for future litigation.

Table 2: State Requirements for No-Cost Contraceptive Coverage
StateDate Effective Applies to Coverage required without cost sharing Exemptions allowed
  Private plans Medicaid With RX all FDA approved OTC Vasectomy Religious Moral
CaliforniaJanuary 2015 X MCOs X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
IllinoisJanuary 2017 X X X
except male condoms
Any employer, or insurer with a religious objection Any employer, or insurer with a moral objection
MarylandJanuary 2018 X X X X X Religious organizations if the coverage conflicts with the organization’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices None
MaineJanuary 2019 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
NevadaJanuary 2018 X X X Insurers affiliated with a religious organization None
New YorkAugust 2017 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers* None
OregonAugust 2017 X X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
VermontOctober 2016 X X – and all other public health assistance programs X X None None
NOTES: *Requires the insurer to offer a rider to policyholders so that women will have contraceptive coverage.
SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state laws and regulations.

Conclusion

The Trump Administration’s new regulations substantially expand the exemption to nonprofit and for-profit employers, as well as to private colleges or universities with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. It is unknown how many of these employers and colleges will maintain coverage through the accommodation as before and how many will now opt for the exemption leaving their students, employees and dependents without no-cost coverage for the full range of contraceptive methods. As a result of the new regulation, choices about coverage and cost-sharing will be made by employers and private colleges and universities that issue student plans. For many women, their employers will determine whether they have no-cost coverage to the full range of FDA approved methods.  Their choice of contraceptive methods may again be limited by cost, placing some of the most effective yet costly methods out of financial reach.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/new-regulations-broadening-employer-exemptions-to-contraceptive-coverage-impact-on-women/


IRS Releases Draft Forms and Instructions for 2017 ACA Reporting

Here are the latest updates in ACA Reporting, including the released IRS draft forms and instructions.


Read the original article here.

Source:

Capilla D. (5 October 2017). "IRS Releases Draft Forms and Instructions for 2017 ACA Reporting" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/irs-releases-draft-forms-and-instructions-for-2017-aca-reporting-1

 

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), individuals are required to have health insurance while applicable large employers (ALEs) are required to offer health benefits to their full-time employees.

Reporting is required by employers with 50 or more full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees, insurers, or sponsors of self-funded health plans, on health coverage that is offered in order for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to verify that:

  • Individuals have the required minimum essential coverage,
  • Individuals who request premium tax credits are entitled to them, and
  • ALEs are meeting their shared responsibility (play or pay) obligations.

2017 Draft Forms and Instructions

Draft instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B and the 1094-C and 1095-C were released, as were the draft forms for 1094-B1095-B1094-C, and 1095-C. There are no substantive changes in the forms or instructions between 2016 and 2017, beyond the further removal of now-expired forms of transition relief.

In past years the IRS provided relief to employers who make a good faith effort to comply with the information reporting requirements and determined that they will not be subject to penalties for failure to correctly or completely file. This did not apply to employers that fail to timely file or furnish a statement. For 2017, the IRS has unofficially indicated that the “good faith compliance efforts” relating to reporting requirements will not be extended. Employers should be ready to fully meet the reporting requirements in early 2018 with a high degree of accuracy. There is however relief for de minimis errors on Line 15 of the 1095-C.

The IRS also confirmed there is no code for the Form 1095-C, Line 16 to indicate an individual waived an offer of coverage. The IRS also kept the “plan start month” box as an optional item for 2017 reporting.

Employers must remember to provide all printed forms in landscape, not portrait.

When? Which Employers?

Reporting will be due early in 2018, based on coverage in 2017.

For calendar year 2017, Forms 1094-C, 1095-C, 1094-B, and 1095-B must be filed by February 28, 2018, or April 2, 2018, if filing electronically. Statements to employees must be furnished by January 31, 2018. In late 2016, a filing deadline was provided for forms due in early 2017, however it is unknown if that extension will be provided for forms due in early 2018. Until employers are told otherwise, they should plan on meeting the current deadlines.

All reporting will be for the 2017 calendar year, even for non-calendar year plans. The reporting requirements are in Sections 6055 and 6056 of the ACA.

 

For an at-a-glance chart of all reporting requirements, as well as information on penalties for failure to file, 6055 requirements and instructions for certain boxes/lines on 1095C, request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “IRS Releases Draft Forms and Instructions for 2017 ACA Reporting“.

 

Read the original article here.

Source:

Capilla D. (5 October 2017). "IRS Releases Draft Forms and Instructions for 2017 ACA Reporting" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/irs-releases-draft-forms-and-instructions-for-2017-aca-reporting-1


HRL - Employees - Happy

Who’s using what in P&C insurance

With the emergence of 21st century technology, there are bountiful risks for the cyber lives of millions. In this article written by PROPERTYCASUALTY360, learn how different companies grow to combat the threat of employer risk.

You can read the original article here.


Guidewire Software, Inc. has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Cyence, a software company that applies data science and risk analytics to enable P&C insurers to grow by underwriting “21st century risks” that have gone underinsured or uninsured. These emerging risks include cyber, reputation, and new forms of business interruption risk. “As traditional actuarial approaches struggle to address the unique characteristics of emerging risks like cyber, Cyence’s next-generation approach will enable insurers to broaden the scope and value of the products their policyholders need,” , Guidewire Software CEO and Co-Founder Marcus Ryu said in a press release.

In other news from Guidewire: MetLife Auto & Home has begun deploying Guidewire’s InsurancePlatform™ in a new cloud environment for customers using its MetLife Auto & Home MyDirect portal. MetLife Auto & Home is the first P&C insurer in the United States to offer a 100-percent digital experience from quoting to claim service. Rollout of the platform is expected to continue over the next several quarters.

Hearsay Systems recently announced a strategic alliance with Microsoft to help financial services firms empower advisors to be both high-tech and high-touch at scale in the digital age. The companies will focus on addressing the specific challenges faced by financial institutions, including the need for compliant advisor-client engagement technology that will enable advisors to better manage client relationships and grow business. The alliance will bring together the data-driven relationship insights from Microsoft Dynamics 365 with the financial industry-specific workflows, data and compliance capabilities from Hearsay, allowing advisors to more effectively acquire, convert and deepen client relationships.

Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty® (AGCS) has teamed up with Silicon Valley-based software company Zeguro, whose mission is to simplify and streamline cyber security and risk management  in small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Through its easy-to-use platform, Zeguro will serve as a virtual Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to those who purchase Allianz’s cyber insurance coverage to further manage their cyber exposure and decrease the overall risk of financial loss following a cyberattack.

Accenture and Duck Creek Technologies recently teamed up to create several new digital and emerging technology solutions for P&C insurers that are designed to improve efficiency and value. The companies have integrated Accenture’s IoT and analytics technologies with Duck Creek’s core platform and launched a blockchain proof-of-concept for medical bill auditing. “These new tools are the product of our focus on providing a new generation of digital solutions to our insurance clients working in collaboration with our joint venture partners,” Cindy DeArmond, managing director and P&C Core Platforms Lead for Accenture in North America, said in a press release.

Louisiana-based Aparicio Walker & Seeling, Inc. (AWS Insurance) is live on TechCanary’s insurance platform replacing its outdated legacy agency management system.  TechCanary’s breadth and depth of insurance functionality built in Salesforce and flexibility to easily customize it further were key to the decision.

Speedpay, Inc., a Western Union company, and Nordis Technologies recently announced an alliance to offer cloud-based customer communications management services to Speedpay clients. This strategic agreement provides current and future Speedpay clients with the opportunity to add Expresso®, an easy-to-use, self-service application to organize, automate and execute print and electronic communications. Nordis also delivers print/mail and email production services, thus enabling a seamless end-to-end communications solution.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

PropertyCasualty360 (9 October 2017). "Who’s using what in P&C insurance" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/10/09/whos-using-what-in-pc-insurance-oct-9-2017?t=agency-technology?ref=channel-news


What's the Dish? A Phenomenal Party Chex Mix

In this month's Dish, we have the amazing-ly yummy "Party Chex Mix" presented by Jodi Van Nocker!

Jodi is the current Benefits Administration and Benefits Marketing Expert of Hierl Insurance, Inc. She is always eager to assist our clients with a great attitude and an open mind. She is responsible for client services with our technology based products and wellness programs.

Jodi offers creative ideas and an enthusiastic personality to help you with your concerns

 

Dine In

Chex Party Mix

6 Tbsp Butter

1 ¼ tsp Garlic Salt

4 Tbsp Worchester Sauce

1 ¼ tsp Season Salt

2 Cups Rice Chex cereal

2 Cups Wheat Chex cereal

2 Cups Corn Chex Cereal

2 Cups Pretzels

12 oz can Mixed nuts

Melt butter. Stir in Gralic Salt, Worchester Sauce, and Season Salt. In a separate bowl, mix cereals, pretzels and nuts. Drizzle butter/seasoning mix over the cereals to evenly coat. Spread on oven baking sheet. Bake in oven at 250 degrees for 1 hour, making sure to stir every 15 minutes so it does not burn. Allow to cool, then enjoy. Great to share with family and friends!

 

Dine Out

Red Cabin at Green Acres

My favorite restaurant is Red Cabin at Green Acres. Great food using local ingredients. Fun, yet relaxing atmosphere, with friendly service. You can even see the wildlife outside by the pond while you eat.

Everything on the menu is delicious, however my recommendation would be the Dotyville Italian Chicken. For a side, make sure to try the green beans. Lastly, the bread pudding is amazing for dessert.

 

Thanks for sharing your yummy Dish with us and others, Jodi!

HRL - Office - Collaboration - Write - Paper

Better risk management means balancing old, new skills

What changes are happening within the P&C industry? Read this informative article written by  STEVEN R. CULP  and DUNCAN BARNARD of Property Casualty 360 degrees to find out!

You can read the original article here.


The P&C industry is undergoing fundamental change, with significant consequences for the risk function. New approaches to data, the workforce, partners and customers are changing the way insurers operate.

The stakes are high, and with interest rates low, revenue streams are under threat while new competitors are entering from all sides.

At the same time, insurers are encountering new obstacles — from regulatory uncertainty to reduced demand among millennials.  The Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles and other major shifts present major challenges along with large opportunities.

P&C insurers and insurance professionals can use these AI tools right now to run smarter, faster — and ahead of...

To survive — let alone thrive — insurers need to evolve. The scale of the evolution could be challenging, but many of the changes that are needed should add significant long-term value. For example, the availability of real-time data allows P&C insurers to think about new products and propositions to unlock predictive and opportunistic strategies.

 

Insurers are also rethinking their relationships with all stakeholders, becoming a "partner" to customers, brokers and other intermediaries while establishing deeper ties in adjacent industries such as automotive and home security. An openness to new technologies also demands a broader ecosystem of supply partners, including technology companies, insurtech firms, venture capitalists and digital specialists.

As we have done in alternate years since 2009, Accenture conducted extensive research in 2017 among nearly 500 global risk management executives in the financial services industry, including 190 in insurance.

We wanted, in part, to understand how insurers view the challenges facing the risk management function. We found that P&C insurers are facing the world with a bit more confidence than their life insurance counterparts. For example, only 61 percent of P&C respondents saw balancing the responsibilities for control and compliance with the need for effective customer service as a major impediment to effectiveness, versus 84 percent of insurers. And only 65 percent of P&C respondents reported being hampered by shortages of skills in new and emerging technologies, versus 71 percent of life insurers.

However, while there were some differences from sector to sector, we found that both P&C and life insurers are taking a more progressive approach to risk management when compared to our earlier research. They are investing to develop their risk functions in three key areas

Innovation is everywhere in insurance.

Innovation is everywhere in insurance. (Photo: iStock)

Harnessing digital innovation

Advances in big data and analytics are helping insurers better understand risk, build stronger predictive models and tailor customer relationships to suit personal preferences and risk attitudes.  At the same time, robot brokers are on the rise, new platforms are providing micro-pooling “social insurance” models, and sensors allow insured cargo to report every bump, scrape and drop impact it endures in transit. In parallel, some of the most transformative technologies are being implemented deep in the back offices of the world’s leading insurers.

P&C insurers and insurance professionals can use these AI tools right now to run smarter, faster — and ahead of...

The cloud is a great example. Our 2017 Global Risk Management Study finds that cloud technology is virtually ubiquitous—91 percent of insurers are using it — but just 26 percent are highly proficient in using cloud within their organization, 36 percent are not using it to its full potential, and 29 percent are only just introducing it. Respondents want to improve efficiency in response to cost pressures, and cloud is the top choice in this regard, with 77 percent indicating their risk function uses it to reduce costs.

Balancing old and new skills

New tools and processes change how risk teams interact with the business, alliances, regulators, customers and other external stakeholders, requiring new skills and a better balance of attributes across teams. Beyond quantitative skills, the risk management function needs to be able to deliver value by providing economic insights, generating new ideas and building strong relationships throughout the organization in pursuit of the overall strategic objectives.

To support these goals, some insurers are bringing staff into the risk function from other areas of the business to enhance credibility and facilitate relationships. Others are hiring from diverse disciplines, including economics, the law and engineering. There are few professionals who possess every skill the risk function needs. From general quantitative competencies to technology acumen, industry knowledge, niche risk specialties, communication skills, creativity and management experience, candidates with the whole package are extremely rare.

Integrating across the business

Currently, 54 percent of insurance respondents say there is limited coordination between risk management activities at the local level and the group level. While some aspects of centralization are desirable to enable a more aggregated and consistent picture for analysis and evaluation, the reality is that risk exists everywhere in the business and risk professionals need to be engaged throughout the business — not only at an aggregate level.

Central frameworks and tools help to provide a more standardized and coordinated response to regulation, a consistent set of rules for managing the portfolio of risks and the capability to perform complex and high-value calculations to measure risk exposure, liquidity and solvency. But decentralization is also valuable because local or specialized teams can focus on local regulatory requirements and market-specific topics. Any effective risk management function must be able to exist locally and centrally, being close to the business and connected across the organizational structure to manage the overall portfolio, including strategic and emerging risks.

As the study results indicate, the nature of risk is changing. It is up to P&C firms and their risk management functions to create and continually develop a dedicated emerging-risk working group that can identify and evaluate the nature of emerging risks and their potential impacts. That may be the best way to address the constant and disruptive change confronting the industry.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Culp S., Barnard D. (6 October 2017). "Better risk management means balancing old, new skills" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/10/06/better-risk-management-means-balancing-old-new-ski?t=commercial-business%3Fref%3Dchannel-feature&page=2


HRL - Man - Working - Laptop

Using data to identify high-intent consumers

Does your company struggle with acquiring high performing leads? Check out this article from Property Casualty 360 degrees written by JAIMIE PICKLES.

You can read the original article here.


For years, insurance companies and agents have acquired third-party internet leads as an efficient way to supplement their own lead generation efforts. But with the shift toward digital engagement and increasing regulatory compliance concerns, acquiring high performing leads has become a much more complicated venture.

According to a recent study by J.D. Power, 74% of auto insurance consumers use insurance brand or aggregators websites for obtaining quotes and information. This is something that holds true across almost all lines of insurance.

Regardless of device, the preferred platform for shopping is now digital.

But while brand websites generate a percentage of insurance leads, more consumers are choosing the choice model that internet lead generators and aggregators offer to research and obtain quotes. This is because more consumers prefer to have access to what they perceive as independent and unbiased sources for information and quotes.

 

Mitigate TCPA compliance risk

Compliance with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has become more of a priority for insurance brands and their partners over the past few years. TCPA lawsuits filed by consumers are on the rise — growing by a factor of 1,273 percent since 2010 — and a number of large insurance brands have been part of multimillion-dollar TCPA settlements.

For example, in May 2017, a Florida-based insurer settled a class action TCPA lawsuit for $4.25 million. And that does not include the court costs and legal fees or the cost to counter bad the bad PR and lost brand reputation from the case.

Knowing definitively that a consumer has given consent to be contacted is a must. Ted Todd Insurance is a multi-office agency in Florida which generates leads on its own website and buys online leads from third party lead generators. They assure TCPA compliance by using a SaaS-based solution to track and verify consumer consent.

CEO Charley Todd says, "the technology tracks and assures the existence of the consumer’s consent, delivering a positive first experience for every new customer, and provides persuasive evidence in the event of a consumer complaint or lawsuit."

 

Analyze the right data

With the overabundance of data that insurance brands have, from internal and external sources, it is not always easy to make sense of it all. Even with a sophisticated data science and analytics program, the key is getting access to the right data at the right time, to help optimize your marketing programs.

In the case of customer acquisition, that begins with having access to data that you can  use to help score, prioritize and route higher-performing leads. By knowing the origin and history of your leads, you’ll be able to mitigate TCPA compliance risk and prioritize selection of and engagement with higher-intent consumers.

The majority of the top ten insurance companies in the United States are doing just that — connecting the dots and using sophisticated technology and data — to gain real-time intelligence into the origin, history and intent of the leads they are acquiring. Such solutions enable insurance companies and agents to follow consumers in real time on their buying journeys until the end when consumers purchase a policy, helping insurers observe and access behavioral data which they can use to analyze the intent of the consumer.

When marketers gain the ability to identify and take action on consumer behavioral data, buying low-intent leads is no longer part of the "cost of doing business" in lead management and analysis. Brands that leverage these insights gain efficiencies and can better focus their precious time and budgets on productive leads.

 

Optimize lead acquisition and marketing

In implementing technology solutions, here are five tips to supercharge your lead generation.

  1. Know the age of your leads. If you’re measuring speed-to-lead from the moment you received a lead post, you are missing a key data point. It’s not about when you received the lead, but rather when the consumer actually submitted the inquiry.
  1. Be proactive in avoiding fraudulent leads and those that are not TCPA compliant. Consumers who didn’t fill out the form or who filled it out six months ago have no intent to buy from you. Also, these leads put you at risk for TCPA complaints. Only purchase leads that are TCPA compliant. You don’t want to damage your brand and reputation, or take on the costs if you are sued by a consumer. You need a vendor who can help you identify, in real-time, that your leads are compliant and provide persuasive proof that a consumer gave consent to be contacted.
  1. Don’t get dupedMany marketers assume that a duplicate is the result of recycled data. They think that the same consumer means it is the same inquiry. In fact, it could very likely be the same consumer with a brand new inquiry, which is actually indicative of a high-intent consumer. Know the difference.
  1. Understand if leads are shared vs. exclusive. Know if your leads are being shared with some of your competitors. If they are, you need to determine how many other competitors that lead is being shared with and whether you are the first or last to receive it.
  1. Right price your leads. If you find a vendor who will help you identify low intent leads, you can reallocate that spend and pay more for higher intent leads. This is a key strategy to quickly and notably improve lead conversion.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Pickles J. (9 October 2017). "Using data to identify high-intent consumers" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2017/10/09/using-data-to-identify-high-intent-consumers?ref=hp-news


Connecting Business with the College Community, the Next Step in HR Education

Written by Mark Fogel on the SHRM blog is this informative article on connecting business with the college community, and how it is a fantastic next step in HR education. How do you feel about this update in HR eduction?

You can read the original article here.


 

Many of you know I am passionate about preparing our next generation of HR practitioners for the workforce of tomorrow. I have been teaching graduate, and occasionally undergraduate HR courses, in the business school at a major university on Long Island for close to a decade. It is hard to integrate my classes with local businesses when the courses are primarily at 6 or 8pm at night. I am sure many if not most graduate HR programs face a similar challenge.

I try to bring practitioners in to speak, host panels and do an online HR simulation in one of my classes. But, the real-life experiences of being integrated into a business is and will always be the best learning experience as far as I am concerned. So short of the occasional internship opportunity, my students and those at the university have faced a void of HR reality that I have looked to fill throughout my tenure.

I have now found a solution that I want to share with the HR community in hopes that you think about partnering with local schools too.

I have partnered with GEICO insurance to do a case competition in my graduate selection and recruiting class on Attraction and Retention of Millennials for GEICO’s Management Development Program. The project involves having 6 teams of students research millennial hiring and retention trends as it relates to Geico’s current and future employment needs.

GEICO’s local talent team is providing support and opening their doors at a major work center to have my students come into their business to interview and observe their employment practices. Their regional facility has expanded hours of operation and this helps in coordinating schedules for on-sites too. The project/competition ends late in the semester with formal presentations and prizes for the best research. They bring in a few senior executives along with the Talent team to listen, question, and discuss the research results, which adds to the overall experience and creates great networking opportunities.

This is an amazing partnership that can be replicated by other businesses on a variety of projects and is a win-win for all. Students get a bird’s eye view of HR challenges and Geico gets great insight and research in return. With minimal to no cost and great ROI, this is a no brainer.

This is not to say that SHRM and other learning systems, courses, and conferences are not great value adds in the learning experience. They obviously are and I continue to do my part in volunteering in the conference space myself, however this is a missing piece of the puzzle for HR education. Especially for early and emerging practitioners or those wishing to enter the field.

What are you waiting for?

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Fogel M. (3 October 2017). "Connecting Business with the College Community, the Next Step in HR Education" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address blog.shrm.org/…/connecting-business-with-the-college-community-the-next-step-in-hr-educatio


Self funded health care – a big business advantage

Check out this article from Business Insurance by one of their staff writers. In this article, Business Insurance dives into the awesome advantages of self-funding for big businesses.

You can read the original article here.


Health insurance benefits are expensive. The rising costs of health care has driven up insurance premiums to levels where many businesses have been forced to reduce these benefits or drop them altogether. There is, however another option that is less regulated, taxed less and typically results in cost savings: self funded health insurance. The problem is, it's not always the best option for all employers, particularly the smaller ones. And there's a number of reasons for this:
What is self funded health care a.k.a. self-insurance?

Self-insurance is a method of providing health care to employees by taking on the financial liabilities of the care instead of paying premiums to an insurance agency to do the same. In other words: when a person covered under a self-funded plan needs medical care, the company is financially responsible for paying the medical bill (minus deductibles). It's an alternative risk transfer strategy that assumes the risk and liability of medical bills for those covered instead of outsourcing it to a third party. It's a surprisingly common practice:

In 2008, 55% of workers with health benefits were covered by a self-insured plan….and 89% of workers in firms of 5,000 or more employees.
Most (but not all) self-insurance plans are administered by a third party, usually a health insurance company, in order to process claims. The bills are simply paid for by the employer. Health insurance companies act as a third party administrators in what are called ASO contracts (Administrative Services Only)

Another common component of self insurance plans is stop-loss insurance. This is a separate insurance plan that the employer can purchase to reduce the overall liability of claims. With this type of insurance, if claims exceed a certain dollar amount, stop-loss kicks in paying the rest. There are two kinds of stop-loss insurance:

Specific – covers the excess costs from larger claims made by individuals in the group
Aggregate – kicks in when total claims by the group exceed a set amount
For example, a company who self-insures their $1000 employees projects $100,000 in medical care claims for the year. If they purchase aggregate stop-loss insurance for claims that exceed 120% of the expected amount or $120,000, the insurance will pick up the bill for the remaining claims. If the company purchases specific stop-loss insurance at 200%, if any single claim exceeds $2,000, the stop-loss pays the remainder.

Typically, self-funded insurance providers will purchase both specific and aggregate stop-loss insurance unless the conditions are such that specific stop-loss provides enough financial protection.
Benefits of self-insurance

There are a number of financial and administrative advantages to using self-funded health insurance plans for employers. According to the Self-Insurance Institute of America (SIIA) these include:

The employer can customize the plan to meet the specific health care needs of its workforce, as opposed to purchasing a 'one-size-fits-all' insurance policy.
The employer maintains control over the health plan reserves, enabling maximization of interest income – income that would be otherwise generated by an insurance carrier through the investment of premium dollars.
The employer does not have to pre-pay for coverage, thereby providing for improved cash flow.
The employer is not subject to conflicting state health insurance regulations/benefit mandates, as self-insured health plans are regulated under federal law (ERISA).
The employer is not subject to state health insurance premium taxes, which are generally 2-3 percent of the premium's dollar value.
The employer is free to contract with the providers or provider network best suited to meet the health care needs of its employees.
There are, however, some drawbacks to self-insurance policies:

Health care can be costly, so heavy claims years can be extremely expensive
Self insurance isn't tax deductible the same way the costs of providing health insurance is.
Financial benefits are long-term, particularly with an investment component.
Small businesses at a disadvantage

Self insurance is much more prevalent for larger companies mostly because it is easier to predict health care costs from a larger group. The more people in the group, the less potentially damaging a single expensive claim will be to the plan overall. That's why less than 10% of companies with less than 50 employees use self-insurance. The graphic to the right [source: businessweek.com] gives a telling breakdown of its prevalence based on company size.

Because risk is more difficult to predict with smaller groups, stop-loss insurance is also more expensive for smaller businesses. The practice of “lasering”, or increasing deductibles for specific higher risk employees can also be much tougher on small firms. As a result, self-insurance tends to be a less cost effective option than it is for larger companies.

Another roadblock for small businesses is a lack of cash-flow that is necessary to finance self-insurance. This doesn't mean, however, that small businesses can't benefit from a self-insurance plan. In fact, an increasing number of small businesses still are. But fully understanding the risks and rewards for doing so can sometimes be difficult.
Regulations

Because the only 3rd party administration of insurance (stop-loss) is between the employer and the insurance company directly, it is not subject to state level regulation the way traditional insurance policies are. Instead, they're regulated by the department of labor under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act – ERISA. Benefit administrators must still comply with federal standards despite the lack of state regulation.

California SB 1431

California is considering a proposed legislation to regulate the sale of stop-loss policies to smaller businesses. On the surface, the regulation looks as though it is an attempt to prevent small businesses from taking on too much risk. But the true intentions of the legislation may be to prevent cherry-picking of generally healthier small businesses (effectively removing them from the health insurance pool). This cherry-picking would theoretically cause traditional insurance premiums to become more expensive.

According to the SIIA, SB 1431 would prohibit the sale of stop-loss policies to employers with fewer than 50 employees that does any of the following:

Contains a specific attachment point that is lower than $95,000;
Contains an aggregate attachment point that is lower than the greater of one of the following:
$19,000 times the total number of covered employees and dependents;
120% of expected claims;
$95,000

This legislation would effectively limit the options of small businesses as it would force them to purchase a more expensive low deductible stop-loss policies. And according to the SIIA, with this legislation, almost no small business under 50 employees would (nor should they) consider self-insurance as an option.

If the legislation is passed in California, it has been suggested that it is only time before other states follow suit and/or enact even stricter regulations on small businesses. The SIIA even has a facebook page dedicated to defeating the bill they say is:

“…unnecessary and will only exasperate the problem that small employers in California face in being able to afford the rising cost of providing quality health benefits to their employees.”

So while self insurance can be a relatively risky option for small businesses, with legislation like this, it could no longer be a realistic option at all… And, in effect: another competitive advantage big businesses will have over their smaller counterparts.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Staff Writer. (Date Unlisted). "Self funded health care – a big business advantage" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://www.businessinsurance.org/self-funded-health-care-a-big-business-advantage/