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New Law Allows Stand-alone HRAs for Small Employers - December 2016

OVERVIEW

On Dec. 13, 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act (Act) was signed into law. The Act allows small employers that do not maintain group health plans to establish stand-alone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2017. This new type of HRA is called a “qualified small employer HRA.”

Due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most stand-alone HRAs have been prohibited since 2014. This new law creates a special exception for small employers that are not subject to the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules. Instead of offering a group health plan, small businesses may use a qualified small employer HRA to reimburse employees’ out-of-pocket medical expenses, including their premiums for individual health insurance coverage, on a tax-free basis.

ACTION STEPS

Small employers that do not sponsor group health plans may want to consider implementing a qualified small employer HRA to help their employees pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Because there are specific design requirements for these HRAs, including a maximum benefit limit and an employee notice, small businesses should work with their advisors to make sure their HRAs are compliant.

ACA Reforms

HRAs are employer-funded arrangements that reimburse employees for certain medical care expenses on a tax-free basis, up to a maximum dollar amount for a coverage period. The ACA includes market reforms that limit the availability of HRAs, beginning in 2014. Under these reforms, most stand-alone HRAs have been prohibited. A stand-alone HRA is an HRA that is not offered in conjunction with a group health plan.

However, the Act creates an exception to this prohibition for qualified small employer HRAs. 

Qualified Small Employer HRA

Eligible Employers

To be eligible to offer a qualified small employer HRA, an employer must meet the following two requirements:

  1. The employer is not an applicable large employer (ALE) that is subject to the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules. In general, this means that the employer must have fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents
  2. The employer does not maintain a group health plan for any of its employees.

HRA Design Requirements

Like all HRAs, a qualified small employer HRA must be funded solely by the employer. Employees cannot make their own contributions to an HRA, either directly or indirectly through salary reduction contributions. In addition, the following requirements apply to qualified small employer HRAs:

Employee Notice

An employer funding a qualified small employer HRA for any year must provide a written notice to each eligible employee. This notice must be provided within 90 days of the beginning of the year. For employees who become eligible to participate in the HRA during the year, the notice must be provided by the date on which the employee becomes eligible to participate.

The notice must include the following information:

  • The employee’s maximum benefit under the HRA for the year;
  • A statement that, if the employee is applying for advance payment of the premium assistance tax credit, the employee should provide the Exchange with information about the HRA’s maximum benefit; and
  • A statement that, if the employee is not covered under minimum essential coverage for any month, the employee may be subject to a penalty under the ACA’s individual mandate and reimbursements under the HRA may be includible in gross income.

If an employer fails to provide this notice for a reason other than reasonable cause, the employer may be subject to a penalty of $50 per employee for each failure, up to a maximum annual penalty of $2,500 for all notice failures during the year.

Monitoring PTO Amounts - November 2016

Many companies are now offering paid time off (PTO) as opposed to traditional vacation and sick day policies. With a PTO policy, employees can draw from their allotted bank of hours for a variety of reasons, including vacation, doctor’s appointments or needing a day off for personal reasons. To accrue this bank of hours, employers (usually HR) either credit the year’s PTO allotment at the beginning of the year or deposit PTO hours each pay period.

However, HR’s involvement generally stops at distributing hours to employees. For a PTO policy to be beneficial to both employees and employers, in most cases, HR should monitor PTO usage and set PTO amounts.

Know Your Organization

The need for PTO monitoring is entirely dependent upon your organization. If your organization does not have clear guidelines for PTO usage, you may need to take a more hands-on approach to monitoring employees’ PTO. For example, you could require employees to give at least one week’s notice before using PTO unless he or she is sick or there is an emergency in order to reduce the risk of employees taking advantage of PTO.

If your organization has already established clear directives for employees to follow when using PTO and your company culture is designed to embrace PTO policies, you may not have to do much work monitoring PTO usage.

Asking “Why” and Denying PTO

It is up to your company to decide whether or not you should require your employees to explain what they’re using their PTO for. Generally, employees can use their PTO however they want to. As a result, many managers don’t feel comfortable asking “why” when an employee submits a PTO request. However, it sometimes makes sense to do so.

For example, if an employee asks off during a particularly busy time and his or her absence will be significant, it makes sense to ask what they are doing with their time off, and then, depending on their answer, ask them if they could move it to either before or after the busy time at work.

Keep in mind that asking why too frequently or consistently denying employees’ PTO requests may become problematic. PTO boosts employee morale and productivity and is an attractive retention tool—denying PTO requests often or appearing too intrusive may discourage employees from using this benefit at all. While it is up to your company to create a policy on asking questions about and denying PTO requests, it is generally better to avoid doing either frequently.

Area of Concern: Using or Saving All Accrued PTO

If your organization distributes an entire year’s worth of PTO at the beginning of the year, you should be on the lookout for employees who use up all of their PTO early in the year or save it all until December. If employees use all of their PTO early in the year, they will have no safety net for illness, injury or emergency days later on in the year. On the flipside, if your company allows PTO to be rolled over to the next plan year, you might end up with an employee who has an extensive amount of unused PTO and decides to take a five-week vacation. If your company does not allow rollovers or caps rollovers to a certain amount of hours, an employee who does not use any PTO will lose all or a large portion of it at year’s end.

To prevent this from happening, you, as the HR professional, need to be on the lookout for PTO misuse and speak with employees when you notice it happening. Though it is ultimately the employees’ choice on how they choose to use their PTO, notifying them of the potential impact of their choices may be enough to remedy the issue.

Be Clear on Philosophy

According to a study from Project: Time Off—a U.S. Travel Association initiative to transform American attitudes and behaviors around time off—management’s mixed messages surrounding vacation time contributed to 658 million unused vacation days in 2015. Mixed messages include denying PTO requests too frequently or making employees feel guilty for taking time off from work.

As previously mentioned, PTO is a valuable tool that can lead to less burnout and improve employee morale, productivity and retention. If you want your employees to reap the benefits of PTO, don’t discourage them from using it by confusing the issue with mixed messages.

Summary

HR should keep track of PTO amounts to avoid issues and make the company’s PTO philosophy clear to employees in order for it to be beneficial to both employees and employers.

Fair Employee Compensation - October 2016

Providing nondiscriminatory, fair employee compensation is a top concern for employers across the country. Because HR specializes in areas like recruiting and compensation packages, they are in the best position to determine appropriate compensation plans, make acceptable initial salary offers, establish guidelines for merit increases, suggest pay audits, and, if necessary, help the company phase in compensation change.

Designing Compensation Plans

Having a well-designed compensation plan that ensures equity should be a high priority for all employers. Yet, a compensation plan should not be focused on the salary for a position. Compensation plans can, and typically do, include things like commissions, bonuses or merit pay, stock options and a comprehensive benefits package to complement a base salary.

Compensation will typically be perceived as fair if it is designed with a system of components including job descriptions, job analyses and evaluations, and pay structures. Ensuring that these elements are included when determining compensation plans is essential to maintaining internal and external equity.

•             Internal equity refers to employees’ perception of their pay in comparison to their co-workers.

•             External equity refers to employees’ perception of your company’s pay in comparison to the pay of similar positions at other companies.

 Job Descriptions

Defining and documenting the responsibilities, requirements, duties, conditions, environment and other applicable aspects of a job is an important element of a compensation system. Having well-written job descriptions can help you set the parameters for fair salary offers and ranges and help you appropriately group jobs. Additionally, it can help streamline the recruiting process and ensure compliance with federal laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as well as applicable state and local legislation.

Job Analyses and Evaluations

Analyzing and evaluating job elements like safety risks, job stress, work schedule, autonomy and level of supervision are factors that play into determining fair levels of compensation. Often, this task involves comparing your company’s positions and evaluations with industry market data and adjusting both the position itself, ranking levels of each position (entry level, intermediate, senior) and pay grades, as necessary.

Pay Structures

After deciding how many different levels (if any) of each position your company wants to have, you must determine pricing and salary structures for each. Be sure to set a minimum and maximum percent spread for each salary range and pay grade.

It’s important to look at market trends for salary ranges of each level and align them with company pay philosophy; or, in other words, decide if you want to pay your employees at, below or above market salary trends. Take your company’s industry and geographic location into account when drawing comparisons and adjust accordingly.

Making an Appropriate Salary Offer

Perceived pay fairness begins with a new hire’s initial salary offer. The offer should be placed within the current workforce’s population and within market trends to maintain internal and external equity, respectively. HR should document if salary negotiation occurs or if any unique issues occur for future reference, if needed.

Be mindful of the perceived market value of a specific position, but also remember that it’s not all about the monetary offer. Company culture and benefits offerings play a role in an employee’s perception of whether or not they are being paid fairly for their work.

Establishing Guidelines for Merit Increases

Merit increases, also known as merit bonuses, are a great way to reward employees, but without set guidelines, there is no real way to ensure that these incentives are being awarded fairly. It may be beneficial to develop a standardized, objective method for evaluating employees.

Consider the following suggestions when establishing and implementing merit increase procedures:

•             Emphasize to managers which accomplishments and behaviors will warrant a reward.

•             Offer performance-management training for all managers to ensure all managers are capable of conducting performance reviews to your company’s standards.

•             Remain transparent with employees about how your company’s bonus structure works.

•             Provide opportunities for employee feedback.

•             Review your merit increase program regularly.

Suggesting Pay Audits

As previously mentioned, because HR deals with employee compensation directly, they are in the best position to bring up the topic of—and, in some cases, to conduct—a pay audit. HR will be instrumental in gathering the necessary paperwork for a legal counsel to conduct a pay audit and will likely be responsible for explaining differences in pay among employees based on the job descriptions, which exacerbates the importance of having proper job descriptions written for each position at your company.

If a pay audit is needed at your company and your company uses legal counsel to conduct the audit, remember to discuss the terms of attorney-client privilege with them so that you do not put your company at risk of losing it.

Phasing in Compensation Change

If a pay audit reveals that compensation changes need to be made in order to comply with fair employee compensation legislation, HR will be responsible for helping implement them. A large part of their role will involve communicating these changes to employees and managing any issues that may arise following these changes.

Taking a thoughtful approach is often the best way to phase in compensation changes for both the employer and the employee.

The Importance of Fair Compensation

If your company’s employee compensation is fair, it can be a useful tool to help you recruit and retain talent, increase employee morale and reward or encourage high performance. Employees are coming to expect fair compensation as well. If your company does not offer compensation that is deemed “fair” by potential and current employees or state and federal governments, it may find itself in trouble in the near future.

It is in your company’s best interest to ensure you abide by federal and local fair pay regulations. Be proactive and look at your employee compensation data today.

Employment Decisions and the Fair Credit Reporting Act - September 2016

As an employer, you obviously want to make careful, educated hiring and promotion decisions. One resource you may use in making those choices is a consumer report. Basing employment decisions on information found in a consumer report is legally acceptable, as long as you comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

The FCRA is designed primarily to protect the privacy of consumer report information and to guarantee that the information supplied by consumer reporting agencies is as accurate as possible. Employers who use consumer reports must ensure that individuals are aware that consumer reports may be used for employment purposes and agree to such use, and individuals are notified promptly if information in a consumer report may result in a negative employment decision.

Consumer Reports

A consumer report contains information about an individual’s personal and credit characteristics, character, general reputation and lifestyle. To be covered by the FCRA, a report must be prepared by a legitimate consumer reporting agency (CRA). Employers often do background checks on applicants and get consumer reports during their employment. Some employers only want an applicant's or employee's credit payment records; others want driving records and criminal histories.

For sensitive positions, it's not unusual for employers to order investigative consumer reports—reports that include interviews with an applicant's or employee's friends, neighbors and associates. Credit background, references, past employment, social security, work habits, education, drug testing, judgments and liens, sex offender lists, criminal backgrounds, driving records, and military records are all consumer reports if they are obtained from a CRA. 

Applicants are often asked to give references. Whether verifying such references is covered by the FCRA depends on who does the verification. A reference verified by the employer is not covered by the Act; a reference verified by an employment or reference checking agency (or other CRA) is covered. Section 603(o) of the FCRA provides special procedures for reference checking; otherwise, checking references may constitute an investigative consumer report subject to additional FCRA requirements.

Written Notice and Authorization

Before you can get a consumer report for employment purposes, you must notify the individual in writing—in a document consisting solely of this notice—that a report may be used.

Employers also must get the person's written authorization before requesting from the consumer reporting agency.

Note that special authorizations apply to California, Minnesota and Oklahoma residents. If you are requesting medical information, the individual’s authorization must specifically state his or her consent to release such information.

When requesting a credit report from a consumer reporting agency, you must certify that you will inform the individual of his or her rights under the FCRA and agree not to use the information in violation of state or federal employment laws.

Adverse Action Requirements

When you receive a credit report from a CRA, you are not required to release the report to the employee unless the report prompts you to make an "adverse action"—denying a job application, reassigning or terminating an employee, denying a promotion or access to company benefits, or other discipline. Before you take the adverse action, you must first give the individual a disclosure that includes a copy of the individual's consumer report and a copy of "A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act"—a document prescribed by the Federal Trade Commission. The CRA that furnishes the individual's report will give you the summary of consumer rights.

After you've taken an adverse action, employers must give the individual notice—orally, in writing or electronically—that the action has been taken in an adverse action notice. The notice must contain the name, address and phone number of the CRA that supplied the report; a statement that the CRA that supplied the report did not make the decision to take the adverse action and cannot give specific reasons for it; and a notice of the individual's right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information the agency furnished, as well as his or her right to an additional free consumer report from the agency upon request within 60 days.

An individual can request a copy of his or her credit report from the consumer reporting agency within 60 days of any adverse employment action based on the report at no cost. An individual can dispute the information if they disagree with the report. Employers should notify individuals of their rights to dispute the information contained in the credit report. CRAs must reinvestigate the accuracy of the disputed information within 30 days of the dispute without cost to the individual. If an applicant or employee notifies the employer that he or she is challenging information in the report, the employer should not make a final decision on the employment status of the applicant or employee until after that person has had a reasonable opportunity to address the information contained in the report. Employers must also make sure that they properly dispose of all “consumer information” obtained from consumer reports. See www.business.ftc.gov/documents/alt152-disposing-consumer-report-information-rule-tells-how for more information on disposal procedures.
  

Applying the FCRA Regulations

Here is guidance on how to apply these regulations to a few example employment decisions:

o You advertise vacancies for a position and receive 100 applications. You want credit reports on each applicant because you plan to eliminate those with poor credit histories. What are your obligations?
  • You can get credit reports—one type of consumer report—if you notify each applicant in writing that a credit report may be requested and if you receive the applicant's written consent. Before you reject an applicant based on credit report information, you must make a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the credit report and the summary of consumer rights under the FCRA. Once you've rejected an applicant, you must provide an adverse action notice if credit report information affected your decision.
o You are considering a number of your employees for a major promotion. You want to check their consumer reports to ensure that only responsible individuals are considered for the position. What are your obligations?
  • You cannot get consumer reports unless the employees have been notified that reports may be obtained and have given their written permission. If the employees gave you written permission in the past, you need only make sure that the employees receive or have received a "separate document" notice that reports may be obtained during the course of their employment—no more notice or permission is required. If your employees have not received notice or given you permission, you must notify the employees and get their written permission before you get their reports. In each case where information in the report influences your decision to deny promotion, you must provide the employee with a pre-adverse action disclosure. The employee also must receive an adverse action notice once you have selected another individual for the job.
o A job applicant gives you the okay to get a consumer report. Although the credit history is poor and that's a negative factor, the applicant's lack of relevant experience carries more weight in your decision not to hire. What's your responsibility?
  • In any case where information in a consumer report is a factor in your decision—even if the report information is not a major consideration—you must follow the procedures mandated by the FCRA. In this case, you would be required to provide the applicant a pre-adverse action disclosure before you reject his or her application. When you formally reject the applicant, you would be required to provide an adverse action notice.

Compliance is in Your Best Interest

There are legal consequences for employers who fail to get an applicant’s permission before requesting a consumer report or who fail to provide pre-adverse action disclosures and adverse action notices to unsuccessful job applicants. The FCRA allows individuals to sue employers for damages in federal court. A person who successfully sues is entitled to recover court costs and reasonable legal fees. The law also allows individuals to seek punitive damages for deliberate violations. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission, other federal agencies and individual states may sue employers for noncompliance and obtain civil penalties.

Article adapted from the Federal Trade Commission’s Using Consumer Reports: What Employers Need to Know 

Should Employees Be Allowed to Play Fantasy Sports at Work? - August 2016

Fantasy sports have exploded in popularity over the past decade, with one of the most prevalent being fantasy football. Fantasy sports allow individuals to draft virtual teams of professional players and compete against other players in their leagues.

More than 56 million Americans play fantasy football—37 million of which are employed full time. Studies estimate that fantasy football costs more than $16 billion in lost productivity each year. This figure assumes that players spend one hour a week at work managing their teams over the course of the 17-week football season.

Benefits of Fantasy Sports

While many employers may be concerned about these statistics, there are many benefits that can be achieved by allowing employees to play fantasy sports in moderation at work:

  • Increase employee morale—Fantasy sports can be a great way for co-workers to bond in the break room or at the water cooler. Even if your company does not have its own office league, employees can discuss their performance in other leagues with their colleagues.
  • Promote interdepartmental collaboration—Creating an office fantasy league can help people from others departments get to know each other. In order to promote participation, consider making entry to the league free so a wider group of employees will participate.
  • Increase productivity in the long run—Research has shown that short breaks throughout the day can boost creativity and increase productivity in the long run. Allowing your employees to manage their fantasy teams in moderation during work may boost your company’s bottom line.

Risks of Fantasy Sports

Despite these benefits, there are some risks that employers should be aware of when considering whether to allow fantasy sports in the workplace, including:

Allegations of discrimination—Creating an office fantasy sports league could open the door to future lawsuits. While more women are beginning to play fantasy sports, the majority of players are male. Female employees who are 

  • mocked for not playing may bring claims alleging a hostile workplace. In addition, those who choose not to play for religious reasons could also bring a discrimination suit if they feel excluded or ridiculed.
  • Gambling risks—Office leagues that require an entry fee may violate state and local gambling laws. Some states make an exemption for “social gambling,” but often place limits on how much money can be awarded. If you have employees playing in offices in different states, this could also pose a legal risk. Recently, some states have taken action against fantasy sports companies like DraftKings and FanDuel, so it is important to keep an eye on future legislative changes and respond accordingly.

Best Practices for Fantasy Sports in the Workplace

Follow the tips below to prepare your business for fantasy football season:

  • Create a clear policy outlining what kind of gambling is allowed in the workplace and include it in your employee handbook.
  • Require employees to ask HR for approval before setting up a fantasy sports league in the office.
  • If you choose to set up a league, explain to employees early on that this does not give them permission to neglect their work. Outline the extent to which employees can manage their fantasy teams during work and if they can use company property (work laptops, email, etc.).
  • Train supervisors to identify any possible issues of exclusion relating to fantasy sports in order to avoid issues down the road.

For more information on how to manage office distractions and improve productivity, contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. today.

Examining Narrow Provider Networks - July 2016

In recent years, narrow networks have gained popularity. Narrow networks are health plans that offer their subscribers a limited choice in health care providers. Health plans contract with a small group of doctors, specialists and hospitals, and those entities are then considered in-network.

Because all plan participants are directed toward certain facilities and physicians, these providers can then reduce the cost for each visit and service—operating under the idea of “buying in bulk.” This, in turn, results in lower premiums for the consumer and cost savings for insurers.

Why are narrow networks becoming more popular?

Narrow networks have been around long before the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In fact, 23 percent of employer-sponsored health plans offered narrow networks in 2012. However, their popularity has accelerated since the ACA was signed into law and the Health Insurance Marketplace was created.

Since insurers can no longer compete to cover the healthiest group of individuals or raise deductibles past the ACA’s limits, some have turned to narrow networks as a way to manage expenses. According to a study by McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm, 70 percent of the plans sold on the Marketplace in 2014 featured a limited network. Premiums for those plans were 17 percent cheaper than those with wider networks. In this study, narrow networks were considered those that had at least 30 percent of the 20 largest hospitals in the region not participating in the plan.

Benefits of Narrow Networks

As outlined above, lower premiums are one of the major benefits of narrow networks. The following are other potential benefits:

  • Lower Costs—There is huge variation in health care prices in the United States. A hip surgery at one hospital can cost $8,000, but at another hospital in the area it may cost $15,000. By narrowing networks and only signing contracts with select providers, employers can direct employees to providers in the $8,000 range and reduce expenses.
  • Improve the care relationship—Narrow networks allow doctors to get to know their patients better. These doctors may all use the same electronic medical record system—allowing for the quick sharing of important medical information among health care providers. This can enhance care coordination and improve outcomes.
  • Greater consumer awareness—As health care consumerism continues to grow, narrow networks offer individuals the opportunity to take control of their health care. It allows employees to better understand and budget for their health care expenses.

Disadvantages of Narrow Networks

Despite these benefits, many people have concerns about narrow networks and their long-term success. Below are a few disadvantages of offering plans with a narrow network:

  • Inadequate access—Narrow networks have been criticized for being too restrictive. For instance, some employees may have been going to the same primary care doctor for years, but all of a sudden, they have to change doctors and find a new in-network provider. In addition, some narrow networks exclude children’s hospitals and cancer treatment centers due to their high costs, which may cause employee dissatisfaction.
  • Surprise out-of-network bills—Despite their efforts to lower costs, oftentimes individuals in narrow network plans are left with surprise out-of-network bills. This can be due to a multitude of reasons, such as out-of-date provider directories or patients getting inaccurate information about a doctor’s in-network status when making an appointment or scheduling a surgery. Furthermore, many hospitals contract out for emergency physicians, radiologists and anesthesiologists. So while a hospital may be in-network, the doctors performing a certain surgery may not be, resulting in huge out-of-network bills that can blindside your employees.
  • Similarity to health maintenance organizations (HMOs)—Some experts have compared narrow network plans to HMOs, which resulted in employee backlash in the 1990s. While HMOs are still around, they have fallen in popularity due to their perceived care limitations. Some experts believe that narrow network plans will follow a similar course.
  • Rural care—Narrow networks may not be as effective in rural areas. Oftentimes there are not enough in-network providers, resulting in long wait times or employees having to drive a long way to see an in-network doctor. For instance, Montana’s insurance commissioner urged insurers to sell plans that included at least 80 percent of providers in its state, since the 30 percent federal standard could result in patients having to travel 400 miles away for in-network care.
  • Legal issues—While state and local laws on narrow networks vary and remain vague, the potential for future legal repercussions remains. Several hospitals are suing insurers over allegations of being wrongly excluded from their state’s marketplace. In addition, some states are considering legislation regarding limiting surprise out-of-network bills and network restrictions.

What to Consider

If you’re thinking about switching to a narrow network, communication and education will be key. The challenge is to overcome the perception that a narrow network means less access to care and lower quality services. Instead, you must stress that it is a way to empower employees and improve care management. One way to do this is to highlight providers in your network who are high-performers or who have won distinguished awards.

In addition, educating your employees about network restrictions is imperative. Provider directories must be kept up to date, and employees should have an easy and convenient way to access this information. Transparency about access and costs is key, since failing to provide accurate information could result in surprise out-of-network bills. Employees that are stressed about their health and finances are more likely to miss work, be less productive and make mistakes on the job.

For more information about managing your health care costs, contact [B_Officialname] today. 

The Importance of Sleep - June 2016

As employees struggle to balance work, family and social obligations, one thing that is often neglected is sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep on average; however, most Americans fail to meet this recommendation.

According to a study from Virgin Pulse, 76 percent of employees reported feeling tired most days of the week. Fatigue and exhaustion can be a serious problem for your business. Fatigued employees are less likely to be productive and focused on the job. This lack of focus can lead to more mistakes, procrastination and a negative work environment.

Increased Health Care Costs

Fatigue can also lead to increased medical costs. Exhausted employees are more likely to miss work and incur medical costs for conditions related to high blood pressure, cholesterol and stress. In addition, fatigued employees are more likely to have an accident at work, which can lead to more workers’ compensation claims.

Individuals with undiagnosed or poorly managed sleep disorders can also take a toll on your company’s bottom line. A study from Harvard Medical School found that one employee with insomnia results in 11 lost days of productivity each year—costing the U.S. economy $63.2 billion a year. Other common sleep disorders include sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, both of which can interfere with employees’ ability to go to work well-rested.

5 Solutions for Promoting Sleep at Your Company

Below are five strategies to help employees get a better night’s sleep.

  1. Allowing flexible scheduling—Flexible scheduling requires employees to be available within core hours during the day (for example, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), but allows them to vary their start and end times. This allows employees to better manage their work, family and personal obligations, and find more time for sleep in their daily routines.
  2. Allowing telecommuting—Allowing employees to work remotely can be a great way to promote a healthier sleep cycle. If your company is located in a city, this may be especially valuable, as employees will likely have longer and more stressful commutes. Instead of spending 30 minutes in the car, employees can spend this extra time sleeping so they are refreshed when they begin their day.
  3. Installing nap rooms—Several high-profile companies like Google, Zappos and Ben & Jerrys have installed nap rooms in their offices in recent years. Studies have shown that taking a short nap can boost creativity, improve alertness and enhance performance. Not only can nap rooms reduce on-the-job fatigue, but they can be a valuable recruitment and retention tool.
  4. Hiring temporary help during high workloads—High workloads can stress out employees and make them feel like they should stay later at the office. While output may increase, employees are much more likely to make costly mistakes when they are overworked and tired. If workloads are high, consider hiring temporary employees to alleviate stress and make workloads more manageable.
  5. Offering screening and education—Consider offering screening for sleep disorders at your health fair or as part of your workplace wellness program. In addition, consider providing educational articles about the importance of sleep and how employees can improve their sleep. By identifying those who may be at risk of having a sleeping disorder and providing education, you can help reduce employee fatigue.

In Summary

The strategies above may not be conducive to every office. When evaluating these options, it is important to evaluate your workplace environment and the needs of your employees. Consider surveying employees about their current workloads and sleep habits to see what strategies may resonate most with your employees. Ask employees to rank or provide input on how valuable they would find telecommuting, flexible scheduling and nap room options.

In addition, when installing nap rooms or implementing telecommuting and remote work programs, make sure to have clear policies in place to prevent abuse or misuse. Monitoring these programs will be key to ensuring they produce a healthy return on investment.

For more information on workplace wellness, contact [B_Officialname] today.

 

 

 

DOL Issues New Overtime Payment Rules - May 2016

OVERVIEW

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule regarding overtime wage payment qualifications for the “white collar exemptions” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The final rule increases the salary an employee must be paid in order to qualify for a white collar exemption. The required salary level is increased to $47,476 per year and will be automatically updated every three years. The final rule does not modify the duties test employees must meet to qualify for a white collar exemption.

Employers will need to comply with this rule by Dec. 1, 2016.

ACTION STEPS

  • Employers must become familiar with the new rule and identify which employees will be affected. Employers should reclassify employees as exempt or non-exempt, as necessary, by Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Employers should also consider communicating any work schedule changes to affected employees before the date mentioned above.
  • Finally, employers should evaluate whether implementing new timekeeping practices and training for managers and supervisors on the new requirements is necessary.

FLSA White Collar Exemptions

The FLSA establishes minimum and overtime wage payment protections for most workers in the United States. However, the FLSA also offers a range of minimum wage and overtime exemptions for certain workers. The white collar exemptions are minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions available to certain administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.

To qualify for the white collar exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test. An employee must meet all three tests in order to be exempt from FLSA minimum wage or overtime pay requirements.

  • The salary basis test is used to make sure the employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction due to variations in the quality or quantity of work.
  • The salary level test is used to ensure that the employee meets a minimum specified amount to qualify for the exemption. This salary threshold provides employers with an objective and efficient way to determine whether an employee qualifies for a white collar exemption.
  • The duties test requires that the employee’s job duties conform to executive, administrative or professional duties, as defined by law. This analysis requires a more thorough evaluation of whether an employee can be classified in one of the categories mentioned above (administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employee)

Higher Salary Threshold Requirement

The final rule increases the minimum salary level of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The new salary level represents the 40th percentile of wages earned by workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States (currently the South) for a full-year worker.

The final rule also increases the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $134,004 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by full-time workers across the entire United States.

These higher salary levels will be updated every three years to maintain the salary level at their corresponding 40th or 90th percentiles. The first automatic rate update is expected by Jan. 1, 2020. The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register and on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at least 150 days before their effective date.

Calculating Employee Wages

Administrative, Executive and Professional Employees

The final rule will allow, for the first time, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of an employee’s standard salary level. This may include the payment of non-discretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity and profitability. Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments may be used if they are paid on a quarterly basis, but more frequent payments are acceptable. However, the DOL will allow employers to make some “catch-up payments.”

The DOL will also allow employers to use significantly large bonuses toward 10 percent of the required salary amount.

Highly Compensated Employees

Under the final rule, highly compensated employees qualify for an overtime exception if they meet the new salary level of $134,004 per year. However these individuals must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period (i.e., $913 per week, $1,826 bi-weekly or $3,956.33 per month) on a salary or fee basis (not counting non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

The remainder of a highly compensated employee’s wages may be calculated by including the full amount of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions).

Impact on Employers

Given the significant increase in the salary level requirement, employers will need to increase employee salaries, or re-classify certain employees as either exempt or non-exempt, solely based on their salary level. The DOL estimates that this final rule extends overtime protections to approximately 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt under the white collar rules and clarifies overtime compensation eligibility for another 5.7 million white collar workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

In addition, because of the short implementation deadline, employers should not delay becoming familiar with the new requirements and implementing any necessary changes into their timekeeping and payroll systems. Employers should also determine whether additional training on modifications is necessary for their managers and supervisors.

Finally, employers should also consider communicating with employees to inform them of how their wages, hours of work and timekeeping practices will be affected.

Enforcement and Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the final rule may be subject to a variety of overtime wage payment enforcement mechanisms, including the ones listed below.

  • Private employee lawsuits: These lawsuits can be initiated by employees either individually or through collective action to recover back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
  • Administrative injunctions: These injunctions may include a prohibition on the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if the goods were produced in violation of the FLSA (including overtime wage payment provisions).
  • Civil fines for willful and repeated violations (up to $1,100 per violation).
  • Criminal charges for willful violations (up to $10,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to six months or both).

More Information

Please contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. for more information on the FLSA and other wage and hour laws.

 

OVERVIEW

Ony 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule regarding overtime wage payment qualifications for the “white collar exemptions” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The final rule increases the salary an employee must be paid in order to qualify for a white collar exemption. The required salary level is increased to $47,476 per year and will be automatically updated every three years. The final rule does not modify the duties test employees must meet to qualify for a white collar exemption.

Employers will need to comply with this rule by Dec. 1, 2016.

ACTION STEPS

§  Employers must become familiar with the new rule and identify which employees will be affected. Employers should reclassify employees as exempt or non-exempt, as necessary, by Dec. 1, 2016.

§  Employers should also consider communicating any work schedule changes to affected employees before the date mentioned above.

§  Finally, employers should evaluate whether implementing new timekeeping practices and training for managers and supervisors on the new requirements is necessary.

FLSA White Collar Exemptions

The FLSA establishes minimum and overtime wage payment protections for most workers in the United States. However, the FLSA also offers a range of minimum wage and overtime exemptions for certain workers. The white collar exemptions are minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions available to certain administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.

To qualify for the white collar exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test. An employee must meet all three tests in order to be exempt from FLSA minimum wage or overtime pay requirements.

§  The salary basis test is used to make sure the employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction due to variations in the quality or quantity of work.

 

§  The salary level test is used to ensure that the employee meets a minimum specified amount to qualify for the exemption. This salary threshold provides employers with an objective and efficient way to determine whether an employee qualifies for a white collar exemption.

 

§  The duties test requires that the employee’s job duties conform to executive, administrative or professional duties, as defined by law. This analysis requires a more thorough evaluation of whether an employee can be classified in one of the categories mentioned above (administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employee)

 

Higher Salary Threshold Requirement

The final rule increases the minimum salary level of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The new salary level represents the 40th percentile of wages earned by workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States (currently the South) for a full-year worker.

The final rule also increases the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $134,004 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by full-time workers across the entire United States.

These higher salary levels will be updated every three years to maintain the salary level at their corresponding 40th or 90th percentiles. The first automatic rate update is expected by Jan. 1, 2020. The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register and on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at least 150 days before their effective date.

Calculating Employee Wages

Administrative, Executive and Professional Employees

The final rule will allow, for the first time, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of an employee’s standard salary level. This may include the payment of non-discretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity and profitability. Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments may be used if they are paid on a quarterly basis, but more frequent payments are acceptable. However, the DOL will allow employers to make some “catch-up payments.”

The DOL will also allow employers to use significantly large bonuses toward 10 percent of the required salary amount.

Highly Compensated Employees

Under the final rule, highly compensated employees qualify for an overtime exception if they meet the new salary level of $134,004 per year. However these individuals must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period (i.e., $913 per week, $1,826 bi-weekly or $3,956.33 per month) on a salary or fee basis (not counting non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

The remainder of a highly compensated employee’s wages may be calculated by including the full amount of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions).

Impact on Employers

Given the significant increase in the salary level requirement, employers will need to increase employee salaries, or re-classify certain employees as either exempt or non-exempt, solely based on their salary level. The DOL estimates that this final rule extends overtime protections to approximately 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt under the white collar rules and clarifies overtime compensation eligibility for another 5.7 million white collar workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

In addition, because of the short implementation deadline, employers should not delay becoming familiar with the new requirements and implementing any necessary changes into their timekeeping and payroll systems. Employers should also determine whether additional training on modifications is necessary for their managers and supervisors.

Finally, employers should also consider communicating with employees to inform them of how their wages, hours of work and timekeeping practices will be affected.

Enforcement and Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the final rule may be subject to a variety of overtime wage payment enforcement mechanisms, including the ones listed below.

§  Private employee lawsuits: These lawsuits can be initiated by employees either individually or through collective action to recover back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.

§  Administrative injunctions: These injunctions may include a prohibition on the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if the goods were produced in violation of the FLSA (including overtime wage payment provisions).

§  Civil fines for willful and repeated violations (up to $1,100 per violation).

§  Criminal charges for willful violations (up to $10,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to six months or both).

More Information

Please contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. for more information on the FLSA and other wage and hour laws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OVERVIEW

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule regarding overtime wage payment qualifications for the “white collar exemptions” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The final rule increases the salary an employee must be paid in order to qualify for a white collar exemption. The required salary level is increased to $47,476 per year and will be automatically updated every three years. The final rule does not modify the duties test employees must meet to qualify for a white collar exemption.

Employers will need to comply with this rule by Dec. 1, 2016.

ACTION STEPS

  • Employers must become familiar with the new rule and identify which employees will be affected. Employers should reclassify employees as exempt or non-exempt, as necessary, by Dec. 1, 2016.
  • Employers should also consider communicating any work schedule changes to affected employees before the date mentioned above.
  • Finally, employers should evaluate whether implementing new timekeeping practices and training for managers and supervisors on the new requirements is necessary.

FLSA White Collar Exemptions

The FLSA establishes minimum and overtime wage payment protections for most workers in the United States. However, the FLSA also offers a range of minimum wage and overtime exemptions for certain workers. The white collar exemptions are minimum wage and overtime pay exemptions available to certain administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.

To qualify for the white collar exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test. An employee must meet all three tests in order to be exempt from FLSA minimum wage or overtime pay requirements.

  • The salary basis test is used to make sure the employee is paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction due to variations in the quality or quantity of work.

 

  • The salary level test is used to ensure that the employee meets a minimum specified amount to qualify for the exemption. This salary threshold provides employers with an objective and efficient way to determine whether an employee qualifies for a white collar exemption.

 

  • The duties test requires that the employee’s job duties conform to executive, administrative or professional duties, as defined by law. This analysis requires a more thorough evaluation of whether an employee can be classified in one of the categories mentioned above (administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employee)

 

Higher Salary Threshold Requirement

The final rule increases the minimum salary level of $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week or $47,476 per year. The new salary level represents the 40th percentile of wages earned by workers in the lowest-wage census region in the United States (currently the South) for a full-year worker.

The final rule also increases the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $134,004 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by full-time workers across the entire United States.

These higher salary levels will be updated every three years to maintain the salary level at their corresponding 40th or 90th percentiles. The first automatic rate update is expected by Jan. 1, 2020. The DOL will publish updated rates in the Federal Register and on the Wage and Hour Division’s website at least 150 days before their effective date.

Calculating Employee Wages

Administrative, Executive and Professional Employees

The final rule will allow, for the first time, non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of an employee’s standard salary level. This may include the payment of non-discretionary incentive bonuses tied to productivity and profitability. Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments may be used if they are paid on a quarterly basis, but more frequent payments are acceptable. However, the DOL will allow employers to make some “catch-up payments.”

The DOL will also allow employers to use significantly large bonuses toward 10 percent of the required salary amount.

Highly Compensated Employees

Under the final rule, highly compensated employees qualify for an overtime exception if they meet the new salary level of $134,004 per year. However these individuals must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period (i.e., $913 per week, $1,826 bi-weekly or $3,956.33 per month) on a salary or fee basis (not counting non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

The remainder of a highly compensated employee’s wages may be calculated by including the full amount of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions).

Impact on Employers

Given the significant increase in the salary level requirement, employers will need to increase employee salaries, or re-classify certain employees as either exempt or non-exempt, solely based on their salary level. The DOL estimates that this final rule extends overtime protections to approximately 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt under the white collar rules and clarifies overtime compensation eligibility for another 5.7 million white collar workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

In addition, because of the short implementation deadline, employers should not delay becoming familiar with the new requirements and implementing any necessary changes into their timekeeping and payroll systems. Employers should also determine whether additional training on modifications is necessary for their managers and supervisors.

Finally, employers should also consider communicating with employees to inform them of how their wages, hours of work and timekeeping practices will be affected.

Enforcement and Compliance

Employers that fail to comply with the final rule may be subject to a variety of overtime wage payment enforcement mechanisms, including the ones listed below.

  • Private employee lawsuits: These lawsuits can be initiated by employees either individually or through collective action to recover back pay, interest, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
  • Administrative injunctions: These injunctions may include a prohibition on the shipment of goods in interstate commerce if the goods were produced in violation of the FLSA (including overtime wage payment provisions).
  • Civil fines for willful and repeated violations (up to $1,100 per violation).
  • Criminal charges for willful violations (up to $10,000 in fines, imprisonment for up to six months or both).

More Information

Please contact CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. for more information on the FLSA and other wage and hour laws.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overview of Proposed Changes to FLSA White Collar Exemption Rules - April 2016

On June 30, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a proposed rule that would overhaul overtime wage payment in the United States. The new rule would more than double the salary threshold that employees must meet to qualify for overtime wage payment exemption—a change that could affect 11 million workers across the United States.

What is changing?

The FLSA requires that eligible employees be paid time and a half for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. However, overtime rules do not apply to certain “white collar” workers, like executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, computer employees and some highly compensated individuals—these are known as the white collar exemptions.

Currently, the salary threshold (salary level test) for overtime pay eligibility under the white collar exemptions is $23,660 a year or $455 per week. The proposed rule would more than double the salary threshold to $50,440 per year or $970 a week. It would also increase the $100,000 salary level for highly compensated individuals to $122,148 per year—the 90th percentile of wages earned by workers in 2013. This figure is expected to increase by the time the final rule is implemented.

How will this affect employers?

The proposed rule has been controversial because, if implemented, it would require employers to review employees’ exempt status, update overtime policies, notify employees of changes and adjust payroll systems. According to the Obama administration, the new rule could cost employers between $240 million and $255 million per year. Business leaders, though, believe the costs could be even higher.

Preparation Strategies

Given the potential impact of this rule, it is important to start preparing now for potential changes to overtime regulations. The following are some strategies employers can adopt:

  • Conduct an internal audit. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of all employer groups have misclassified their employees under the FLSA, although many do not realize it. An audit can help identify misclassifications and determine who will be eligible for overtime if the proposed rule is implemented.
  • Give raises to employees who are close to the salary threshold. For instance, if an employee makes $49,000 a year and regularly works overtime, you could bump up the employee’s pay to $51,000 to avoid incurring overtime expenses.
  • Develop more stringent overtime pay policies. Consider sending employees home after exactly eight hours, so you do not have to pay overtime costs. This policy can help encourage a healthier work-life balance among employees; however, output may decrease as a result.
  • Reduce or cut benefits to make up for increased payroll expenses. While this method will protect your bottom line, it may decrease employee morale, lower productivity and result in higher turnover.

Outlook

A final rule is expected by July 2016. The last time the FLSA overtime requirements were updated was in the 2004, and the DOL gave employers 120 days to comply. This time, employers may only have 30 to 60 days to make necessary changes (depending on the time between the release of the final rule and its effective date).

While it is possible that the 2016 elections could change some aspects of the new rule, it is highly likely that overtime pay changes will be implemented in some fashion. If employers fail to respond to overtime changes, they can face various penalties prescribed by the FLSA, including lawsuits, criminal charges, fines and restrictions in commerce.

For more information on how the new white collar exemptions will affect your business and what you can do to minimize overtime pay, contact [B_Officialname] today.

Preventive Care - March 2016

Once an underused component of the health care world that benefits both employees’ health and employers’ health care spending, preventive care is now a mandatory part of any health benefits package.

 

Preventive care consists of measures taken to prevent diseases, rather than curing them or treating their symptoms.

 

There is significant research demonstrating that increased use of effective preventive services will result in less suffering from ailments that could have been prevented had they been detected and treated early on. Preventive care is often more cost-effective than treating diseases once symptoms appear. Some care services even save more money than it costs to implement them.

 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurers—except for plans that have been grandfathered—are required to cover certain preventive services without any cost to the patient. Medical services such as immunizations, screening tests, medications and any other services that would prevent disease, injury and premature death fall under the umbrella of preventive care.

 

Preventive care should be incorporated into employer-sponsored health plans to lessen the cost and number of future medical claims by helping employees and their families stay healthy, while also complying with the provisions of the ACA.

 

Preventive Care for Adults

 

The following types of preventive care are available to all adults within specified age ranges or risk groups.

 

Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: A one‐time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm by ultrasonography in men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked

 

Alcohol misuse screening and counseling: A risk assessment available for all adults and voluntary counseling for those who are found to have a substance abuse problem

 

Many do not realize that their alcohol use is excessive and contributes to other health and lifestyle problems.

 

Aspirin use: Counseling on the use of aspirin for men ages 45 to 79 and women ages 55 to 79, when the potential benefit due to a reduction in myocardial infarctions outweighs the potential harm due to an increase in gastrointestinal hemorrhage

 

Blood pressure screening: Routine measurements of adult blood pressure and treatment with anti-hypertension medication to prevent cardiovascular disease

 

Hypertension and related complications account for $100 billion in medical costs every year, yet only 1 in 3 people with hypertension actually controls it.

 

Cholesterol screening: Screenings for lipid disorders in men over 35 and women over 45, and treatment with lipid-lowering medications to prevent cardiovascular disease

 

One out of 4 adults with high cholesterol will suffer a heart attack, and 1 in 3 adults will die from coronary heart disease. Screening to detect high cholesterol is effective in identifying those who need medication to control cholesterol levels.

 

Colorectal cancer screening: Screenings for colorectal cancer using fecal occult blood testing, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, beginning at age 50 and continuing until age 75

 

The risks and benefits of these screening methods vary. About 19,000 diagnoses could be prevented annually if people get screened, yet only one-third of adults actually have regular screenings.

 

Depression screenings: Screenings for depression when staff-assisted depression care supports are in place to ensure accurate diagnosis and effective treatment and follow-up

 

Diabetes screening: Screening for Type 2 diabetes in asymptomatic adults with sustained blood pressure greater than 135/80 mmHg (either treated or untreated)

 

Diet counseling: Intensive behavioral dietary counseling for adult patients with hyperlipidemia and other known risk factors for cardiovascular and diet‐related chronic disease. Intensive counseling can be delivered by primary care clinicians or by referral to other specialists, such as nutritionists or dietitians.

 

HIV screenings: Screenings for everyone ages 15 to 65 and other ages at increased risk

 

Obesity screening and counseling: Screening for all adults; clinicians should offer or refer patients with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher to intensive, multi-component behavioral interventions

 

Sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention counseling: Counseling for adults at higher risk

 

Syphilis screening: Screenings for adults at greater risk

 

Tobacco use screening: Screenings for adults at higher risk; tobacco users may receive intervention and cessation support

 

A comprehensive, effective smoking cessation program usually costs less than 50 cents per member per month, or less than $6 per member per year. You can save an average of $210 on yearly health care costs for each smoker who quits.

 

Vaccinations: Shots for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV), influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis and varicella; doses, recommended ages and populations vary

 

Preventive Care for Women

 

In addition to the services listed above, the ACA also mandates coverage for the following preventive services for adult women as part of all non-grandfathered health plans.

 

Anemia screening: Screenings for iron deficiency in pregnant women

 

Breast cancer genetic test counseling (BRCA): Screenings designed to identify women with increased risk of developing breast cancer due to family history. Women with positive screening results should receive genetic counseling and, if indicated after counseling, BRCA testing.

 

Breast cancer mammography screening: Mammograms for women age 40 or over every one to two years, with or without clinical breast examination

 

Breast cancer chemoprevention: Discussions with clinicians about benefits, risks and adverse effects of chemoprevention for women at high risk of developing breast cancer

 

Breastfeeding support and counseling: Guidance from trained providers and access to breastfeeding supplies for pregnant and nursing women

 

Cervical cancer screening: Screenings for cervical cancer in women ages 21 to 65 with a Pap smear every three years; for women who want to lengthen the screening interval, screenings with a combination of Pap smear and HPV testing every five years, for women ages 30 to 65

 

Chlamydia infection screening: Screenings for chlamydial infection in all sexually active nonpregnant young women age 24 years and younger and for older nonpregnant women who are at increased risk

 

Contraception: U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, as prescribed by a health care provider for women with reproductive capacity. It does not include abortifacient drugs. This does not apply to health plans sponsored by certain exempt “religious employers.”

 

Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling: Screenings for women of childbearing age for intimate partner violence, such as domestic violence, and provision of or referral to intervention services

 

Folic acid supplements: A supplement for women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant

 

Gestational diabetes screening: Screenings for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes

 

Gonorrhea screening: Screenings for all sexually active women, including those who are pregnant, for gonorrhea infection if they are at increased risk

 

Hepatitis B screening: Screenings for pregnant women at first prenatal visit

 

Human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA test: Screenings every three years for women with normal Pap smear results who are 30 or older; for women who want to lengthen the screening interval, screenings with a combination of Pap smear and HPV testing every five years for women ages 30 to 65

 

Osteoporosis screening: Screenings for women at high risk of developing osteoporosis starting at age 60, and for all women beginning at age 65

 

RH incompatibility screening: Testing for pregnant women at their first doctor visit after becoming pregnant and again at 24 to 28 weeks

 

Urinary tract or other infection screening: Screenings for pregnant women

 

Well-woman visits: Annual visits for adult women to obtain the recommended preventive services, including preconception and prenatal care

 

Preventive Care for Children

 

Most health plans must also cover a set of preventive health services for children. These services must be provided at no cost to beneficiaries if they are requested from and delivered by an in-network provider.

 

Autism screening: Behavioral screenings for children at 18 to 24 months

 

Behavioral assessments: Screenings for children at the following ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years

 

Blood pressure screening: Testing for children at the following ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years

 

Cervical dysplasia screening: Testing for sexually active females

 

Depression screening: Assessments for adolescents

 

Developmental screening: Learning assessments for children under age 3

 

Dyslipidemia screening: Testing for children at higher risk of lipid disorders at the following ages: 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years

 

Fluoride chemoprevention supplements: Supplements for children without fluoride in their water source

 

Gonorrhea preventive medication: Medication for newborns to prevent conjunctivitis caused by gonorrheal bacteria

 

Hearing screening: Screenings for all newborns

 

Height, weight and body mass index: Measurements for children at the following ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years

 

Hematocrit or hemoglobin screening: Testing for anemia for all children

 

HIV screening: Testing for high-risk adolescents

 

Hypothyroidism screening: Testing for underactive thyroid for newborns

 

Iron supplements: Supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia

 

Lead screening: Testing for children at risk of exposure

 

Obesity screening and counseling: Screening for children beginning at age 6, and referral to comprehensive, intensive behavioral interventions to promote improvement in weight status

 

Oral health risk assessment: Screening for young children ages 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years and 5 to 10 years

 

Phenylketonuria (PKU) screening: Testing for this genetic disorder in newborns

 

STI prevention counseling and screening: Screening for high-risk adolescents

 

Tuberculin testing: Screening for children at higher risk of tuberculosis at the following ages: 0 to 11 months, 1 to 4 years, 5 to 10 years, 11 to 14 years and 15 to 17 years

 

Vaccinations: Shots for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Haemophilus influenzae type B, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, HPV, polio, flu, measles, mumps, rubella, meningitis, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus and varicella; doses, recommended ages and recommended populations vary

 

Vision screening: Screenings for all children

 

In addition to mandated no-cost preventive care, there are other existing preventive services that may be included by an insurer as part of a health group plan. These include things like adult vision and hearing screenings and vitamin and mineral supplements. Check with your insurer to see if additional preventive services are available for your plan’s recipients.

 

Maximizing Your Health Plan

 

How can you take advantage of the cost-saving potential of some of these preventive care services? Here are some ways that you can maximize your health care investment:

 

• Educate your employees on the preventive care services that your health plan offers, their potential risk factors and the benefits of preventive medicine.

 

• Find ways to make preventive care more convenient for your employees by working with nearby clinics, developing an on-site clinic or hosting a mobile van for vaccinations and screenings.

 

• Educate your employees on preventable health conditions. Your CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. representative can provide you with payroll stuffers, flyers and postings to help educate your employees.

Once an underused component of the health care world that benefits both employees’ health and employers’ health care spending, preventive care is now a mandatory part of any health benefits package.

 

Preventive care consists of measures taken to prevent diseases, rather than curing them or treating their symptoms.

 

There is significant research demonstrating that increased use of effective preventive services will result in less suffering from ailments that could have been prevented had they been detected and treated early on. Preventive care is often more cost-effective than treating diseases once symptoms appear. Some care services even save more money than it costs to implement them.

 

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), private insurers—except for plans that have been grandfathered—are required to cover certain preventive services without any cost to the patient. Medical services such as immunizations, screening tests, medications and any other services that would prevent disease, injury and premature death fall under the umbrella of preventive care.

 

Preventive care should be incorporated into employer-sponsored health plans to lessen the cost and number of future medical claims by helping employees and their families stay healthy, while also complying with the provisions of the ACA.

Initiatives for Stress Management - February 2016

Stress is a leading contributor to many health problems, and the workplace can often be a major source of stress. Lowering stress can lower the risk of medical conditions and can help employees feel better on a day-to-day basis. You can implement various activities to help reduce employee stress, which can improve health and morale—and productivity.

Managing Workplace Stress

  • As an employer, you can take several steps to ensure that the workplace is not contributing unduly to employees’ stress levels.
  • Make sure that workloads are appropriate.
  • Have managers meet regularly with employees to facilitate communication.
  • Address negative and illegal actions in the workplace immediately—do not tolerate bullying, discrimination or any other similar behaviors.
  • Recognize and celebrate employees’ successes. This contributes to morale and decreases stress levels.

Activities to Relieve Employee Stress

Aside from addressing job-related issues, you can implement a variety of activities and initiatives to help reduce stress. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Corporate chair massages once per week, bi-weekly or monthly. It is quite common for massage therapists to travel to local businesses, offering 15-minute (or shorter) chair massages for a reduced rate to employees. Typically the massage therapist sets up a chair in a quiet area, and the employees pay for the massage out of their own pockets—usually costing around $15. A short massage can equate to a whopping 85 percent reduction in stress, according to studies, and this is often at no cost to the employer.
  • Provide a designated space where employees can sit quietly and use meditation or prayer to alleviate their stress.
  • Offer exercise classes—exercise is a great way to relieve and even prevent stress. Offer a variety of class times (before and after work, during lunch, etc.), as well as various types of classes—such as yoga and kickboxing.
  • Provide employees with the education and tools to manage time and tasks, to cope with daily stressors and to prevent stress from damaging their health. You can present a stress management class or provide educational materials.
  • Host a comedy day—you can’t worry and laugh at the same time! Bring in a stand-up comedian, show old black-and-white comedies or hold a contest for the funniest home videos or jokes.
  • Print your company logo or a funny joke on stress-relieving squeeze balls and give them to employees, or use them as inexpensive prizes for wellness contest winners and participants.
  • Increase the number of paid vacation or personal days that you give to employees, and encourage employees to take the vacation days available to them each year.

Stress can originate at home or in the workplace. Avoid adding to employee stress with inefficient and frustrating policies or overwhelming workloads, and use the above suggestions to cultivate a positive and supportive workplace culture.

Educating Employees on Voluntary Benefits - January 2016

Offering voluntary benefits is a great way to enhance your benefits package, differentiate from competitors and increase employee satisfaction—all with little impact on your budget. But while employers may choose to offer numerous types of voluntary benefits that can deliver convenience and value for employees, many employees do not understand the advantages of these voluntary benefit options or are unclear how they work. Educate your employees on the advantages of these voluntary benefits so that you both reap the rewards.

 Demonstrate the Value

When compared to employer-sponsored benefits, many employees may fail to see the value of voluntary benefits that they must personally finance. For example, one perk to voluntary benefits is that purchasing insurance through an employer group is often cheaper than buying individually, yet research shows that few employees are aware of this. When promoting your voluntary benefit options, discuss the benefits of having coverage, the risks of going without, and emphasize the convenience and value of purchasing through the company and paying through payroll deductions. 

Coverage Education

It is important that employees fully understand their policy so that a misunderstanding does not lead to resentment toward the employer. For instance, if a consumer does not completely understand the nuances of property-casualty insurance and believes herself to be covered, it will come as a shock and possibly with misdirected frustration in the event of a major loss.

When offering any benefit option, employer-paid or voluntary, you should be sure your employees understand exactly how the coverage works. Here are a few ways to make sure your employees are sufficiently educated about their benefits:

  • Invite current employees to the monthly or quarterly benefits meetings provided for newly hired individuals.
  • Many voluntary benefits providers are willing to send a representative to discuss their coverage with employees.
  • While most benefits administrators don’t have time to meet individually with employees, consider scheduling small-group meetings with a few employees who have questions.
  • Enhance your existing benefits communication program with social media. Social media provides a convenient and effective way to reach out to your employees with educational information, tips and reminders

Employer Advantage

In addition to boosting participation in your voluntary benefits programs, providing this meaningful education can position you as a valuable source of knowledge and strengthen employee satisfaction and loyalty to your company.

Talk to your CMR Risk & Insurance Services, Inc. representative to learn more about available social media and employee benefit communication resources.

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Offering voluntary benefits is a great way to enhance your benefits package, differentiate from competitors and increase employee satisfaction—all with little impact on your budget.  ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________