Workers’ compensation laws are often misunderstood because they can vary significantly between states. If your employee reports an injury and you are unsure of what steps to take, you are not alone. However, regardless of your company’s geographical location, the first two days after an employee gets injured on the job are always the most important.
It is important to act quickly and take action immediately for legal reasons, but also because studies show that the faster you initiate the workers’ compensation process after an injury, the lower the ultimate cost of your claims. Additionally, waiting more than 48 hours after an incident occurs gives the injured party and witnesses time to forget crucial details about what happened. It also means employees’ recollections may become skewed from opinions of outside parties, like an attorney, or from talking to one another.
You can help protect your company and save money by taking the following steps in the 48 hours after an employee reports an injury:
Refer employee for medical attention
Never prevent an employee from getting medical attention, even if you feel the injury is not serious.
Perform an assessment or accident investigation
Immediately ensure the injury or accident will not happen again
Report the injury
Report the incident objectively—do not skew information gathered from the scene or from witnesses in any way, even if your preliminary instincts tell you the claim is not legitimate.
Inform employee about company policies on returning to work
Submit the workers’ compensation claim
In addition to these points, make sure you become familiar with the workers’ compensation laws in your state(s) of operation. Your state’s workers’ compensation board will help you stay in compliance with the legal timelines in effect in your state, which will ultimately help save your company money.
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Creelman D. (2017 February 09). 4 basic elements of successful people analytics [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/4-basic-elements-of-successful-people-analytics
Stay up to date with the most recent HR rules and regulations thanks to our partners at United Benefits Advisor (UBA),
On January 22, 2017, it became mandatory for employers to use the revised version of Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published the updated M-274, Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9, which offers detailed guidance for employers completing Form I-9.
This updated Handbook for Employers additionally:
I-9s are required for all newly hired and re-hired employees. Employers who violate the law are subject to civil fines, criminal penalties, and debarment from government contracts. Failing to comply with verification requirements carries penalties of up to $2,156 per form.
Changes and updates to Form I-9 include:
In addition to the Handbook for Employers, the Table of Changes for Revised M-274 is a quick reference table that highlights all changes to the new form and verification process
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Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) about the impact of the 21st Century Cures Act by Danielle Capilla,
On December 13, 2016, former President Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act into law. The Cures Act has numerous components, but employers should be aware of the impact the Act will have on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, as well as provisions that will impact how small employers can use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). There will also be new guidance for permitted uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI) under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We review the implications with HRAs below; for a discussion of all the implications, view UBA’s Compliance Advisor, “21st Century Cares Act”.
The Cures Act provides a method for certain small employers to reimburse individual health coverage premiums up to a dollar limit through HRAs called “Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements” (QSE HRAs). This provision will go into effect on January 1, 2017.
Previously, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2015-17 addressing employer payment or reimbursement of individual premiums in light of the requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). For many years, employers had been permitted to reimburse premiums paid for individual coverage on a tax-favored basis, and many smaller employers adopted this type of an arrangement instead of sponsoring a group health plan. However, these “employer payment plans” are often unable to meet all of the ACA requirements that took effect in 2014, and in a series of Notices and frequently asked questions (FAQs) the IRS made it clear that an employer may not either directly pay premiums for individual policies or reimburse employees for individual premiums on either an after-tax or pre-tax basis. This was the case whether payment or reimbursement is done through an HRA, a Section 125 plan, a Section 105 plan, or another mechanism.
The Cures Act now allows employers with less than 50 full-time employees (under ACA counting methods) who do not offer group health plans to use QSE HRAs that are fully employer funded to reimburse employees for the purchase of individual health care, so long as the reimbursement does not exceed $4,950 annually for single coverage, and $10,000 annually for family coverage. The amount is prorated by month for individuals who are not covered by the arrangement for the entire year. Practically speaking, the monthly limit for single coverage reimbursement is $412, and the monthly limit for family coverage reimbursement is $833. The limits will be updated annually.
Impact on Subsidy Eligibility. For any month an individual is covered by a QSE HRA/individual policy arrangement, their subsidy eligibility would be reduced by the dollar amount provided for the month through the QSE HRA if the QSE HRA provides “unaffordable” coverage under ACA standards. If the QSE HRA provides affordable coverage, individuals would lose subsidy eligibility entirely. Caution should be taken to fully education employees on this impact.
COBRA and ERISA Implications. QSE HRAs are not subject to COBRA or ERISA.
Annual Notice Requirement. The new QSE HRA benefit has an annual notice requirement for employers who wish to implement it. Written notice must be provided to eligible employees no later than 90 days prior to the beginning of the benefit year that contains the following:
Recordkeeping, IRS Reporting. Because QSE HRAs can only provide reimbursement for documented healthcare expense, employers with QSE HRAs should have a method in place to obtain and retain receipts or confirmation for the premiums that are paid with the account. Employers sponsoring QSE HRAs would be subject to ACA related reporting with Form 1095-B as the sponsor of MEC. Money provided through a QSE HRA must be reported on an employee’s W-2 under the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage. It is unclear if the existing safe harbor on reporting the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored coverage for employers with fewer than 250 W-2s would apply, as arguably many of the small employers eligible to offer QSE HRAs would have fewer than 250 W-2s.
Individual Premium Reimbursement, Generally. Outside of the exception for small employers using QSE HRAs for reimbursement of individual premiums, all of the prior prohibitions from IRS Notice 2015-17 remain. There is no method for an employer with 50 or more full time employees to reimburse individual premiums, or for small employers with a group health plan to reimburse individual premiums. There is no mechanism for employers of any size to allow employees to use pre-tax dollars to purchase individual premiums. Reimbursing individual premiums in a non-compliant manner will subject an employer to a penalty of $100 a day per individual they provide reimbursement to, with the potential for other penalties based on the mechanism of the non-compliant reimbursement.
Capilla D. (2017 February 01). Implications of the 21st century cures act [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/implications-of-the-21st-century-cures-act
Great article from Employee Benefits News about the importance of employee wellness by Brian M. Kalish,
There is no question that a healthier workforce is a more productive and more engaged workforce. With employers consistently looking to improve effectiveness of wellness programs, advisers agree that making the programs more personal provides a solid road toward increased engagement.
When a wellness program is personal, it is relevant. Employees will see something they are interested in and engage, says Erin Milliken, wellness consultant with EPIC Brokers in Houston.
The benefits of personalized wellness are abundant. Aetna recently ran a pilot program through its innovation lab, in cooperation with personalized health management startup Newtopia, which used a combination of behavioral science and limited genetic testing to build a highly personalized disease prevention and weight management program for Aetna employees at high risk for metabolic syndrome.
Through personalized information, nearly three-quarters of the more than 400 people in the program reported significant weight loss, with an average weight loss of 10 pounds. Additionally, Aetna employees in the programs improved in several of the risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome, including waist size, triglycerides and good cholesterol (HDL) levels.
As a cost savings, average healthcare costs were reduced $122 per program participant per month, according to Aetna.
Making information personal is important because clients and their employees are oversaturated with points of contacts, adds Archana Kansagra, director of health and wellness product and strategy at Aetna in Boston.
Kansagra, who previously worked as a consultant to large employers, says employers are focusing on making access to wellness programs easy for their employees. “It is such a transformational time,” she says. “These [wellness] programs are trying to get pointed to understand the member, what their needs are and how to best communicate with them … with information that is timely and relevant.”
Wellness is becoming personalized through technology, such as through smartwatches and different devices that employees keep with them 24 hours a day, Milliken says.
“Technology will really take wellness and the health management space to another level,” she adds. “We haven’t quite gotten there, but technology will cause this industry to boom and get … employees to engage.”
Working with clients
Although there is little question personalized health programs increase employee wellness and therefore productivity and engagement, it is a fine line for advisers to bring it up with their clients.
Milliken says advisers should be proactive about the conversation because most employers do not know what to do when it comes to wellness. “It is our job to engage them and engage their population,” she says.
But responses remain a mixed bag. “Some employers will come to me or come to my team and say, ‘We want wellness because our claims experience is outrageous,’” she explains. “But some clients don’t know anything about wellness and we [as advisers] have to … build the case.”
It is easier for brokers working with employers who already understand wellness. “For those employer groups who aren’t quite persuaded into believing wellness can work for them, that is a tougher conversation,” Milliken says. “But we can get there and once they understand how wellness can improve their business” they are onboard.
Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why wellness needs to be personal [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-wellness-needs-to-be-personal?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000
Great article from Benefits Pro about ten tips to help improve your benefits for the next generation by Erin Moriarty-Siler,
If brokers and their clients want to continue to attract and, more importantly, retain millennials and other generations entering the workforce, they’ll need to start rethinking benefits packages.
As part of our marketing and sales tips series, we asked our audience for their thoughts on the next generation and their benefits needs.
Here are the 10 tips we liked best.
“Even if you don’t have the time and resources to roll out the red carpet each time an employee joins your team, they should feel as if you do. Even something as simple as a team lunch to welcome them and a functioning computer can go a long way toward making a new employee feel valued and at home.” Sanjay Sathe, president & CEO, RiseSmart.
“It’s important for benefits professionals and brokers to transform their organizations’ benefits offerings to align better with what both the individual and the generational millennials value — benefits that reflect the real world in which all generations in today’s workforce think about the interconnection between their careers, employers, and personal lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive, Connecture, Inc.
“One can no longer think of millennials as the ‘kids in the office.’ They are the office.” Eric Gulko, vice president, Summit Financial Corporation
Millennials are no longer just data and descriptors in a PowerPoint slideshow about job recruitment. They are now the majority, and how they do things will soon be the norm. It’s important to consider these implications.
“If we want to build organization that can innovate time and again, we must recast our understanding of what leadership is about. Leading innovation is about creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving.” Linda Hill, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School
“Just because millennials are comfortable using the internet for research doesn’t mean they don’t also like a personal touch. Employers need to be wary of relying on only one communication vehicle to reach millennials. Sixty percent of millennials say they would be willing to discuss their benefits options with someone face to face or over the phone.” Ken Meier, vice president, Aflac Northeast Territory
“The prevailing joke is that millennials are ‘the participation trophy generation,’ having always been praised just for showing up, not necessarily winning. Turn that negative perception into a positive by realizing that providing constructive, encouraging feedback when it’s earned motivates this generation to strive for even more successes.” Kristen Beckman, senior editor, LifeHealthPro.com
“For the first time, employers are likely to have up to five generations working together — matures, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials (Generation Y) and now Generation Z. From their workstyles to their lifestyles, each generation is unique.” Bruce Hentschel, leads strategy development, specialty benefits division, Principal Financial Group
“Millennials have moved the needle in terms of work-life balance. They don’t expect to sit in their cubicles from 9-5. They want flexibility in their work location and hours. However, on the flip side of that, they are more connected to their work than generations before, often logging ‘non-traditional’ work hours that better fit into their lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive at Connecture, Inc.
“If there’s one thing the Trump victory teaches us, it’s to listen to the silence in others. Millennials may be giving the financial industry the silent treatment, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk.” Christopher Carosa, CTFA, chief contributing editor,FiduciaryNews.com
Moriarty-Siler E. (2017 February 03). 10 tips for next generation benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/03/10-tips-for-next-generation-benefits?page_all=1
Are you looking for new ways to help improve your employees’ financial needs? Take a look at this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about how the use of technology can improve your employees’ financial needs by Mark Singer
We have seen how a large percentage of the American workforce has an inadequate degree of financial literacy, and how the lack of basic financial knowledge causes personal problems and workplace stress. We have also seen the importance of financial education and how raising employee literacy directly benefits the bottom lines of companies.
The financial health of employees can vary greatly between companies, as can employee numbers. Work schedules and available facilities are other issues of variance. There is also the interest factor to address. Employees must find programs interesting and beneficial, or they will not attend or glean maximum results. Financial wellness programs that may be beneficial and successful for one company may be burdensome and unsuccessful for another. To meet pressing personal financial problems effectively, cutting-edge technologies need to be applied that both address immediate employee issues and limit company expense.
There are numerous new technologies that can be utilized in a mix-and-match fashion that successfully target employee financial needs. This age of the World Wide Web brings a host of financial education tools directly to the audience. Informational videos, virtual learning programs, webinars, training portals and other virtual solutions are easily accessible over the Internet and most are quite user-friendly. This mode of education is significant. For example, 84% of respondents to a survey conducted by Hewlett-Packard and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship said that e-tools were valuable. The study went on to show that modalities containing some degree of online training were preferred by 56% of respondents.
Gaming and data
One form of online educational technology that is gaining momentum as well as results is known as game-based learning. This method of learning is particularly popular with the millennial generation that has grown up with an ever-increasing variety of online gaming. In 2008, roughly 170 million Americans engaged in video and computer games that compel players to acquire skills necessary to achieve specific tasks. It has been found that well-designed learning programs that utilize a gaming sequence improve target learning goals. Such games teach basic financial lessons in a fun and innovative way that requires sharpened financial skills to progress through the programs.
Technological tools not only benefit those that are utilizing them directly, but they also assist the entire community through the collection of key data. Many of the mentioned tools embed surveys within programs or collect other data such as age, income and location, which can be used to create even better educational materials or better target groups in need of specialized services.
Employers need to realize that they benefit when they utilize these new technologies in their financial wellness programs, since these tools assist workers in taking control of their financial lives. Thereby reducing their stress levels, which in turn leads to happier and more productive employees. Sometimes it is best to meet the employees where they are, with tools that are easy and fun to use.
Singer M. (2017 February 02). Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/target-employee-financial-needs-by-finding-the-right-technology
Great article about the importance of benchmarking your employer health plans from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by RJ Nelson
Many employers benchmark their health plan against carrier provided national data. While that is a good place to start, regional cost averages vary, making it essential to benchmark both nationally and regionally—as well as state by state. For example, a significant difference exists between the cost to insure an employee in the Northeast versus the Central U.S.—plans in the Northeast continue to cost the most since they typically have lower deductibles, contain more state-mandated benefits, and feature higher in-network coinsurance, among other factors.
Drilling down even more, comparing yourself to your industry peers can tell a very different story.
Consider a manufacturing plant in Georgia that offers a PPO. Its premium cost for single coverage is $507 per month. Compare this with the benchmarks for all plans and you can see that it is $2 per month less than the national average. When compared with other PPOs in the Southeast region, this employer’s cost is actually $2 more than the average. This employer’s cost appears to be higher or lower compared with national and regional benchmarks, depending on which benchmark is used. Yet this employer’s cost is actually higher than its closest peers’ costs when using the state-specific benchmark, which in Georgia is $468. Bottom line, this employer’s monthly single premium is actually $39 more than its competitors in the state.
As our CEO, Les McPhearson, recently stated, “Benchmarking by state, region, industry, and group size is critical. We see it time and time again, especially with new clients. An employer benchmarks their rates nationally and they seem at or below average, but once we look at their rates by plan type across multiple carriers and among their neighboring competitors or like-size groups, we find many employers leave a lot on the bargaining table.”
Nelson R. (2017 January 27). Who are you benchmarking your health plan against? [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/who-are-you-benchmarking-your-health-plan-against
Great article from our partner, United Benefit Advisors (UBA) by Nick Otto
President Donald Trump wasted no time in fulfilling one promise he made time and again on his campaign trail in undoing the Affordable Care Act on day one in office.
On Friday, Trump issued an executive order directing members of his administration to take steps that will facilitate the repeal and replacement of the ACA, but experts note employers should continue with business as usual until solid formalities come out.
From an employer’s perspective, “every regulation they need to comply with, they still need to until they hear differently,” says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy at the National Business Group on Health.
What Trump’s order did was send a signal to everyone that his administration is prioritizing to repeal major parts of the ACA and to replace it with something else.
“In terms of specifics, nothing changes now, and it makes it clear that some changes may take longer than others because of the regulatory process to revise existing regulations,” Wojcik notes.
This specific order reiterates that it is administration policy to seek the repeal and replacement of the ACA and directs relevant agencies like Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor, to utilize their authorities under the act “to minimize the unwarranted economic and regulatory burdens of the Act, and prepare to afford the States more flexibility and control to create a more free and open healthcare market,” according to the order.
But the different agencies will have to follow the law that requires notice and commenting periods before any final regulation is put in place, adds Chatrane Birbal, a government relations senior advisor with the Society for Human Resource Management.
“Trump’s administration is drawing a line in the sand,” she says. “While Congress is working on making its changes on a legislative front, Trump wants to move forward with the regulatory side.”
The most immediate focus will be whether the IRS acts to delay the employer reporting requirements under the employer shared responsibility provisions of the law, points out Joy Napier-Joyce, principal and leader of the employee benefits group at labor & employment law firm Jackson Lewis P.C.
“Employer reporting is key to assessing employer penalties under the employer mandate, [but it] represents a significant burden to employers and the deadlines are fast approaching,” she says. Similarly, Napier-Joyce says, “we have not seen enforcement of employer penalties under the employer mandate to date.”
Especially given Trump’s announcement Monday of a hiring freeze for federal workers and the known shortage of resources at the IRS, employers will be eager to glean hints as to any non-enforcement stances, she says. Much of the requirements under the employer mandate have been formalized through statute and regulation, so in order to effectively and completely reverse course, formal processes will need to be followed, which will in turn take time.
“For now, employers should stay the course, but stay tuned as we await how and when the agencies, particularly the IRS, choose to exercise discretion,” Napier-Joyce adds.
One issue Birbal advises keeping an eye on is that the executive order calls for greater flexibility to states.
“This could be a concern for employers because it doesn’t recognize ERISA preemption,” she notes. “It has provided employers and employees with a workable regulatory framework for benefits, offering uniform set of benefits to employees throughout out the U.S.”
“We believe the flexibility and certainty of the ERISA framework already in place has been a success to the employers sponsored system and we hope that’ll be maintained,” she adds.
Another area to note, says NBGH’s Wojcik, is how providers could be impacted by the order.
“There are a lot of punitive delivery reform regulations that are in various stages of completion or haven’t been issued,” he says. “To the extent that that affects hospitals and physicians, it could be an area where you see a lot of impact besides issues like the individual mandates and excise tax.”
As for policies that were still in the works, “if something hasn’t come out yet, it’s likely that it won’t come out ever based on executive order,” Wojcik notes.
Otto N. (2017 January 23). What trump’s ACA executive order means for employers [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitnews.com/news/what-trumps-aca-executive-order-means-for-employers?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000
Are you utilizing your technology to its advantages? Check out this article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the importance of technology in today’s marketplace by Brian M. Kalish
More than half of all brokers nationwide are still using paper and have no online database of their clients — but the industry is about to reach a tipping point, where those still using old processes will be left behind.
According to a recent survey of 10,000 brokers by hCentive, 54% still use paper and 53% have no online database.
Having no online database is the most challenging part, Lisa Collins, director of business development at hCentive said a recent event for brokers sponsored by the company in Reston, Va. Those brokers, she said, lack a central place for their resources.
But for brokers still using these old processes, the industry is reaching a tipping point, she said, where “technology is not just a thought [but] a necessity.”
It will become necessary, she explained, because the industry is demanding technology solutions as employers look to their brokers to provide more services with less commissions. On top of that, HR broker tech startups, such as Zenefits, Namely and Gusto are taking business away. These firms offer technology solutions for free and become the broker of record — and they are moving upmarket, Collins added. The tech startups, Collins added, are taking business from more traditional brokers.
These tech startups are directly approaching adviser’s clients, she said. Clients are responding to these HR tech startups because of challenging and changing requirements of HR, including Affordable Care Act compliance.
“Clients are asking for more than ever,” she said. “It used to [broker’s] sold insurance. Now they are a true consultant and risk mitigator.”
“Clients want more and more and it is challenging with less commission dollars to work with,” she added. “You have more competition than you have ever had.”
Advisers need to provide value, as benefits are likely to be a top three expense for an employer, added Brian Slutz, regional sales manager at hCentive.
Looking toward the future, many questions still remain about President Donald Trump’s plans for healthcare and employee benefits, but a few things are likely to be consistent, which can be streamlined with technology, including:
Kalish B. (2017 January 31). Why technology is not just a ‘thought but a necessity’ [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/why-technology-is-not-just-a-thought-but-a-necessity?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000