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How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up? Part Two

Posted by on 2:01 pm in Blog | 0 comments

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up? Part Two

In California, 45 percent of people are covered by an employer-provided health insurance policy. But of course, having a policy and actually accessing it are two very different things! As with anything else in life, using a tool fully correctly is the key to reaping the most benefit from it. And when you think of health insurance as a tool for good health, it’s easy to see how simply being covered by a policy might not be adequate to actually keep workers healthy.

Last month, we blogged about how workers are actually using those benefits. We focused on one particular subset of workers, separated by income. This month, we’ll be discussing those who earn between $50,000 and $99,999 annually. We’re using stats gathered by Aflac, to understand how workers access their benefits, as well as how those benefits help you with employee recruitment and retention.

Productivity. Fifty percent say that their healthcare benefits are very or extremely important to their overall work productivity.

Retention. Still, though, 45 percent of these workers say they are “at least somewhat likely” to look for a new job in the coming year. How can you make them stay? Forty-one percent say that improving their health benefits package could make them want to stay at their current jobs.

It is possible that, although this demographic does have health insurance, their deductibles or co-pays create an obstacle to fully accessing those benefits.. In fact, 61 percent said that they have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with a serious illness or accident. That might explain why 71 percent of respondents said that they be “at least somewhat likely” to purchase voluntary insurance options, if offered by their employer, to help with these expenses.

Other types of insurance. Since 88 percent of respondents reported that a benefits package is influential in helping them stay with their current employer, Aflac probed further to see which insurance benefits are most commonly offered.

    • 92 percent of these workers were offered a major medical insurance policy
    • 71 percent are offered life insurance
    • 56 percent are offered disability insurance
    • 22 percent are offered voluntary insurance

What can we learn from these stats? We already know that a comprehensive benefits package is one of the most important components of employee retention. But which benefits are most important? In the $50,000-$99,999 earnings range, we can see that many workers are concerned with their out-of-pocket costs. Meanwhile, most employers are not offering voluntary insurance packages to help lower that burden. So, while the vast majority of these workers do have health insurance, they aren’t necessarily fully satisfied with their benefits package.

For more information on health insurance, voluntary insurance, and other important components of a comprehensive benefits package, give us a call. We can identify ways to help your employees better access their healthcare policies, and promote a happier workplace for all.

6 Things to Do When You’re Sick on Vacation

Posted by on 8:58 pm in Blog | 0 comments

6 Things to Do When You’re Sick on Vacation

After you’ve spent weeks or months anticipating your vacation, the last thing you want is to get sick on the trip. Unfortunately, we can’t always control these things, and illness can strike when we least expect it.

As you’re planning for your trip, it’s best to contact your health insurance company and ask about coverage (especially if you’re going overseas). While packing your bags, you hopefully included some general over-the-counter remedies, just in case. But let’s assume you didn’t prepare for this outcome, and now you’re sick, far away from home. Follow these six steps to receive medical treatment and deal with your discomfort in the meantime.

Call your hotel concierge. It’s not widely advertised, but many hotels offer help to guests who become ill during their stay. Your concierge can refer you to a reputable clinic, provide basic first aid supplies, or direct you to the in-house pharmacy for over-the-counter medications.

Call your health insurance company. If you forgot to do this while planning your vacation, take the time to call your health insurance company now. Understanding your coverage limits can help you decide whether to seek treatment now, or attempt the return trip home. Of course, if you’re experiencing an emergency, skip this step and go straight to an urgent-care clinic or emergency room.

Remember your travel documents. Don’t panic and rush off to the clinic without taking your travel papers, health insurance card, and identification. Also, remember to bring any medications that you use on a regular basis. The doctor needs this information so that you can avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions.

Drink plenty of water. No matter where we go, illness works about the same. Your body needs to stay hydrated, so keep a bottle of water near you and remember to sip on it.

Call your primary care physician. You still need to seek medical care in your current location. But if you’re worried about complications from a chronic condition, or an interaction with a drug you already take, checking with your regular doctor can put your mind at ease.

Consider a change of plans. If you need to get home immediately, upgrading to first class might make your flight more bearable. But with most common illnesses, it’s not necessary to return home. You might need to change your itinerary slightly, so that you can stay at your current hotel until you feel well enough to continue your travels.

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up?

Posted by on 7:44 pm in Blog | 0 comments

How Do Your Employees’ Benefits Stack Up?

You might have heard that the majority of Americans now have health insurance, with California in particular boasting high numbers. In our state, 45 percent of people are covered by an employer-provided health insurance policy*. But how are your workers actually using their health benefits? We know that simply having a health insurance policy is only one piece to the overall healthcare puzzle.

Over the next few weeks we’ll share some stats with you, broken down by income range, to help you understand how your employees are actually accessing their benefits package. This week, we’ll be talking about workers earning less than $50,000 annually. These stats were gathered by Aflac, to understand how benefits influence factors like health, employee retention, and productivity.

Productivity. Fifty percent of these workers say that their healthcare benefits are very or extremely important to their overall work productivity.

Retention. Still, though, 55 percent of these workers say they are likely to look for a new job in the coming year. How can you make them stay? Thirty-eight percent say that improving their health benefits package could convince them.

It is possible that, although this demographic does have health insurance, their deductibles or co-pays might be creating a strain on their budgets. In fact, 82 percent said that they have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with a serious illness or accident. That might explain why 74 percent of respondents said that they would consider voluntary insurance options, if offered by their employer, to help with these expenses.

Other types of insurance. Since 86 percent of respondents reported that a benefits package is influential in helping them stay with their current employer, Alfac probed further to see which insurance benefits are most commonly offered.

  • 88 percent of these workers were offered a major medical insurance policy
  • 58 percent are offered life insurance
  • 44 percent are offered disability insurance
  • 17 percent are offered voluntary insurance

What can we learn from these stats? We already know that a comprehensive benefits package is one of the most important components of employee retention. But which benefits are most important? In the under-$50,000 earnings range, we can see that many workers are concerned with their out-of-pocket costs, while most employers are not offering voluntary insurance packages to help lower that burden. So, while the vast majority of these workers do have health insurance, they aren’t necessarily fully satisfied with their benefits package.

For more information on health insurance, voluntary insurance, and other important components of a comprehensive benefits package, give us a call. We can identify ways to help your employees better access their healthcare policies, and promote a happier workplace for all.

*http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/total-population/?currentTimeframe=0&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

6 Things to Know About Disability Insurance

Posted by on 11:04 pm in Blog | 0 comments

6 Things to Know About Disability Insurance

Most of us know that purchasing a life insurance policy is important, because it guarantees some form of income to your family in the event that something happens to you. But what if that “something” isn’t death, but a form of disability? A disability can come from an accident or it can come from an illness. Many people have found themselves unable to work due to disability. The medical bills roll in as well as your day to day living expenses. How do you replace that lost income? A disability insurance policy can protect you against this exact situation.

But of course, much like purchasing life insurance, choosing a disability insurance policy can feel a bit like navigating a maze of options. These six tips can help you sort them out.

Choose a reputable insurance company. If the company is no longer in business when you become disabled, that insurance policy won’t help you.

The definition of “total disability”. Before you can claim your benefits, your disability would need to fulfill your insurance company’s definition of “total disability”. Insurance companies vary in how they define total disability, so be sure to look closely at that part of the policy.

Consider the residual disability benefit rider. Most likely, you don’t want to become disabled and need to claim your benefits. So, like most people, you would probably fight to recover from an accident or serious illness. If you chose a residual disability benefit rider, you can claim a portion of your benefits while continuing to work, if your disability has resulted in a partial (but not total) loss of income.

If you already have a serious condition, your insurance options might be limited. Unfortunately, if you don’t shop for a policy until after you have developed a serious condition, you usually won’t be able to access full protection. It would be like shopping for flood insurance while your area is currently flooded! However, you might be able to enroll in a graded policy, in which your scope of benefits gradually increases the longer you are able to continue working.

Young people should consider the future increase rider. Let’s say you’re young and healthy, but you can’t afford a lot of coverage just yet. If you choose the future increase rider, you can increase your coverage amount later, when you’re making more money – without having to show proof of your health status.

Premiums will vary. As with any other form of insurance, your premiums are based on your level of risk. So your disability insurance premiums will be partially based on things like your age, sex, health history, occupation, and so on.

Choosing a disability insurance policy is a complicated process. The above tips can get you started, but nothing can replace the guidance of an expert. So give us a call, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions, and help you locate the policy that fits your needs and budget.

Healthy Employees are Happy, Productive Employees

Posted by on 9:19 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Healthy Employees are Happy, Productive Employees

As an employer, you know that healthy employees feel more satisfied with their jobs, are more productive, and miss fewer days of work. That’s why you provide them with a quality healthcare plan, and possibly even supplemental policies for dental and vision care.

But those plans don’t exist solely to “fix” health problems. They are designed to provide routine preventive care, so that many problems can be avoided. The problem is, many people never bother to become familiar with their healthcare plans until they’re sick, and therefore aren’t aware of how to best harness the power of these preventive care benefits.

It’s easy to see that taking one day off of work for routine preventive care is far better than a week due to illness or medical treatment! But because most people view healthcare in terms of “fixing” instead of “preventing” it’s important to familiarize your workers with their healthcare benefits, and encourage them to use those perks wisely.

Routine physical. All medical plans offer an annual physical to enrollees, at no charge. Remind your employees to schedule their physicals, so that chronic medical problems can be detected and treated early (or prevented altogether).

Dental exams and cleanings. If you subscribe to a dental health plan, it probably offers free bi-annual exams and cleanings. Not only does routine dental care prevent serious dental problems, an exam can detect other health issues like:

  • diabetes
  • leukemia
  • oral cancer
  • pancreatic cancer
  • heart disease
  • kidney disease
  • bone loss

Vision care. Obviously, an annual eye exam can detect changes in vision, which might impair workers on the job, increase the likelihood of accidents, and cause frequent headaches. But you might be surprised to know that an eye exam can often the first time that problems such as brain tumors and developing diabetes are detected!

What you should do… In meetings, newsletters, or other forms of communication with employees, regularly remind them of their preventive care benefits. You’re paying for a quality plan, to help them stay healthy, so you might as well reap the maximum benefits! If you’re unsure of your plan’s coverage of preventive care, give us a call and we’ll help you sort it out.

What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

Posted by on 7:58 pm in Blog | 0 comments

What’s Next for Healthcare Reform?

Last month, Republican efforts to revise parts of the Affordable Care Act seemed to fail, as the American Health Care Act was withdrawn due to lack of sufficient support. Now that President Trump’s long-promised healthcare reform policy has faltered, you might be wondering what is coming next.

The ACA stands for now. Without reform or replacement, all parts of the Affordable Care Act remain law. At the moment your health insurance plan is expected to remain unchanged.

The debate is far from over. Even though the AHCA failed as a whole, Republican lawmakers still express concern over various aspects of the nation’s healthcare. It is likely they will continue to pursue action in some, or all, of the following areas:

  • Regulatory relief – to help stabilize the individual marketplace
  • Regulatory non-enforcement – certain aspects of the ACA, which are heavily criticized (such as the Individual Mandate), might not be enforced by the current Administration
  • Tax Reform – President Trump and other Republican lawmakers have stated that tax reform is their next high-priority issue. It is possible that some of the tax regulations associated with the ACA could be changed or repealed
  • Piecemeal legislation – the AHCA failed primarily because a majority of Congressional representatives could not agree on its various components. But we could see individual reforms pass through the House and Senate one at a time
  • Increased power to the states – the Administration might defer certain reform issues to the states, to be decided individually as they see fit

Also keep an eye on these issues. At this time of year, insurers begin to submit their healthcare plans for review, to determine whether they will participate in the healthcare Marketplace in 2018. With the ACA standing for now, insurers will be required to comply with current regulations, as they have for the past several years.

We’ll keep you updated on any changes to healthcare on a nationwide or statewide level. For now, we anticipate the possibility for small changes throughout the year, but for now your healthcare plan is expected to remain mostly the same for 2018.

Protect Your Employees With a Health Reimbursement Arrangement

Posted by on 1:57 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Protect Your Employees With a Health Reimbursement Arrangement

Perhaps for one reason or another, you can’t provide your employees with a group health insurance plan. Luckily, they can purchase a plan on their own or through the Covered California exchange. But… maybe they have trouble covering the premiums. Maybe they need a prescription medication, device, or service not covered by the insurance plan. Now what?

Whatever the situation, these problems can frustrate your employees. They might also have trouble staying healthy, and that’s a problem that can carry over to the workplace. You want to help your employees, and ensure that they can access benefits they need. But how?

A Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) might be the answer to your quandary. Due to federal regulations passed in December, small businesses can access this provision to help care for their employees, if you meet the following requirements:

  • You employ fewer than 50 full-time workers
  • You do not offer a group health insurance plan
  • You will offer the HRA to all full-time employees, on the same terms

How an QSEHRA works. A Health Reimbursement Arrangement allows you to make contributions to a tax-advantaged account. That money is used to reimburse the worker for eligible healthcare-related expenses, like their premiums.

How an HRA benefits you. You can offer this valuable benefit to employees, without having to pay payroll taxes on your contributions to the account. They don’t pay taxes on the contributions, either. And of course, happy, healthy employees are always a benefit!

An HRA might be subject to limits. Under Small Business HRA rules, you can contribute up to $4,950 for a single employee and $10,000 for those with families. These limits may be adjusted in the future to account for inflation.

Even if you can’t afford to fully fund a group health insurance plan, you can help your employees pay for their own plans (and keep them happy and healthy at the same time). As with any other health insurance related issue, QSEHRAs can be complex and often require some explaining. Give us a call if you have questions, and we can help you decide if this type of benefit is right for your company.

 

Traveling Overseas? What About Healthcare?

Posted by on 3:28 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Traveling Overseas? What About Healthcare?

Visiting another country is an exciting, hands-on way to learn about another culture. Of course, if an illness or accident happens, you will also receive a demonstration of their healthcare system. And that’s not so exciting!

If you’re planning a foreign vacation, you’re probably quite busy researching the different aspects of your trip. Don’t forget to consider healthcare. In the event that something happens along the way, will your health insurance policy still protect you?

The answer to that question is… It depends. The first thing you should do is find out about how your plan will work.

Will my plan cover overseas healthcare? In some cases the answer is yes, but coverage might be limited to emergency situations only. Seek to fully understand those limitations. Ask if any countries are excluded from this coverage. If you’re planning any special activities, such as mountain climbing, ask if accidents related to “risky activities” will be covered.

Ask about coverage for emergency evacuations. Find out if your insurance policy will pay for you to be transported back to the US, in the event of a very serious illness or injury. These emergency evacuations can cost upwards of $100,000 in some cases!

How do I file a claim? Your health insurance provider has an established system for filing overseas healthcare claims. Knowing this information upfront can help you make the right decisions along the way.

In many cases, after asking these questions you might determine that your health insurance does not adequately protect you in all possible scenarios. A travel insurance plan can help fill in the gaps, ensuring that you receive the care you need in an emergency.

If you have Medicare… consider Medigap insurance. If you’re over age 65 and receive Medicare benefits, know that Medicare will not cover medical care that you seek in foreign countries. A Medigap supplemental policy can help, but there is a lifetime $50,000 cap on overseas services.

If you’re considering a trip to another country, it can be easy to get caught up in the “fun” parts of vacation planning. But your health goes with you wherever you go! And in the event of an emergency, you don’t want to return home to a mountain of bills. Give us a call and we can help you evaluate your health insurance plan, and decide upon a strategy to address this risk.

3 Ways to Help Your Employees See the Value of Their Benefits

Posted by on 3:18 pm in Blog | 0 comments

3 Ways to Help Your Employees See the Value of Their Benefits

As an employer, you know that happy employees are the foundation of a successful company. There are many factors that can influence job satisfaction, and your benefits plan plays a big role. How much are you spending each year on employee benefits? Do your employees understand the value of their benefits plan?

Often, an employer rolls out the plan or only addresses benefits during open enrollment. Then, there isn’t much discussion about these topics throughout the rest of the year. As a result, employees don’t fully understand their benefits, and they aren’t utilizing all of the options that are offered.

Here are three things that you can do to maintain great communication regarding employee benefits:

Schedule Employee Meetings

Most new hires hear about the benefits during the onboarding process, but there isn’t much communication after that point. Schedule meetings to update your staff about the benefits and offer suggestions about ways to leverage the options that are offered. You might consider a mid-year meeting as well as a meeting during open enrollment.

Use Other Forms of Communication

Do you feel like your schedule is already overbooked with meetings? If you don’t want to setup another time to gather the group in the conference room, then you might look at other forms of communication. Emails can be a powerful way to disseminate information to everyone in the company. Another option is to put together a whitepaper that outlines the benefits that are offered. These pages can be printed and distributed with paychecks, in employee mailboxes, or in the breakroom. We live in a digital world, so a printed piece of paper can be an effective way to capture the attention of your workforce in a unique way.

List the Value of Benefits

Regardless of the communication platform that you choose, make sure that you provide details about the benefits that are offered. Employees don’t often understand the money that is invested to provide a great benefits package. Outline the extras that they are receiving on top of their base salary: insurance premiums, workers compensation, taxes, vacation pay and time off, and more.

Ensure that Your Benefits Plan is Being Used

We’ve found that the best way to ensure that your benefits plan works is by helping employees understand how to use it. By sharing this information, you can boost employee satisfaction and help them to see the ways their employer is providing for their family.

Are you interested in learning more about how you can provide the best benefits for your employees? Contact us today for more information.

What Happens if You Missed the Health Insurance Open Enrollment Deadline?

Posted by on 4:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

What Happens if You Missed the Health Insurance Open Enrollment Deadline?

Open Enrollment for health insurance ended on January 31. If you missed the deadline, you might be wondering what will happen now. The answer depends largely upon your income, and also upon events that could unfold later this year. So when we talk about the consequences of failing to purchase health insurance, keep in mind that each individual situation varies. In general, though, you’re looking at three possible outcomes.

You don’t have health insurance. This one is obvious. If you don’t have health insurance, unexpected medical expenses throughout this year could become a big problem. You will be held personally responsible for 100 percent of those bills.

You might owe a penalty on your taxes next year. When you file your tax return in spring of 2018, here’s what you could owe for failing to purchase insurance (on top of your regular taxes):

  • $695 per uninsured person in the household
    Or…
  • 2.5 percent of your total income

The penalty will be the greater of these two amounts, limited to $13,100 per household. There are exceptions to this rule. For example, those who fall below a certain income range might not be required to purchase insurance (although in that case, you should enroll in Medi-Cal). Various other exemptions exist, such as those for members of Native American tribes, but they are rare.

You might be able to enroll in a health insurance plan at some point this year. The penalty applies if you go more than three months without health insurance during the calendar year, and is calculated on a pro-rated, per-month basis. So for example, if you aren’t covered for four months of the year, your penalty would be smaller than someone who is uncovered for the entire year.

The good news is that you might still be able to obtain health insurance coverage, protect your financial future, and prevent the Individual Mandate penalty on your taxes next year. In certain cases, you might qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. You could be able to select a healthcare plan if:

  • Your family size changes (you get married, get divorced, have a child, and so on)
  • Your health insurance plan is canceled
  • You experience a major change in financial status, which could qualify you for Medi-Cal or subsidies to help with the cost of insurance
  • … and several more special situations.

When in doubt, ask! Give us a call, and we can help you determine whether you are eligible for the Special Enrollment period. Even if you missed the Open Enrollment deadline on January 31, you might have opportunities throughout the year to enroll in a health insurance policy.