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An Often Overlooked but Important Employee Benefit

Posted by on 5:48 pm in Blog | 0 comments

An Often Overlooked but Important Employee Benefit

For many employees, certain benefits are more than simple “perks”. They’re extremely important, perhaps even essential, to maintaining health and job satisfaction. This is especially true of mental health care, which in the past was not always viewed as a crucial benefit by employers. These days, 42 percent of workers say they’re more likely to stay with a job that offers mental health care.

Lack of mental health care is equally impactful, with 44 percent of workers saying a lack of mental health benefits causes them to feel unsupported by their employers. We know that workers who feel unsupported often experience lower motivation and lack of company loyalty.

Aside from benefiting employees, mental health care benefits the employer, too. When common disorders like depression and anxiety strike workers, one of the first symptoms is impairment of concentration and memory. Helping employees to resolve these issues means you protect your productivity and the quality of your product or service.

In the post-pandemic era, mental health services became vastly more important. Social support goes a long way toward alleviating stress, loneliness, depression, and anxiety. But with so many employees moving to remote work, both during the pandemic and afterward, social contact has all but disappeared for many.

And while remote work became popular for numerous, understandable reasons, the lack of contact with coworkers and the outside world in general can be alienating. Hence, the increased importance of mental health benefits in this new era.

Mental health benefits can be varied and tailored to suit an employer’s needs. For example, paid counseling is the obvious way to go, but wellness programs provide more accessible, “real world” assistance. Call our benefits experts to discuss your company’s priorities, and we will help you put together a package of mental health services that fulfill your employees’ needs.

How Health Insurance Covers Mental Health Treatment

Posted by on 5:45 pm in Blog | 0 comments

How Health Insurance Covers Mental Health Treatment

In the past, those suffering from mental health concerns often felt swept under the rug, with services difficult to obtain and health insurance coverage lacking. The good news is that a lot has changed in recent years, and all Californians should know their rights regarding mental health services.

We now recognize that mental health is just as important as physical health. And the law agrees: The Affordable Care Act defines mental and behavioral health services as “essential” and requires health insurance providers to cover them under ACA-compliant plans.

Under federal law, essential services include:

  • Treatments such as counseling and psychotherapy
  • Inpatient mental and behavioral health services
  • Substance abuse treatment

Covered services are subject to the same standards as medical and surgical services, regarding the way care is managed and how deductibles and co-pays are applied.

Additionally, California law dovetails with federal law, requiring all health insurance plans within the state to cover treatment for the following mental health conditions:

  • Major depressive disorders
  • Autism or pervasive developmental disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Schizoaffective disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Serious emotional disturbances in children under age 18

Healthcare plans must offer inpatient services when needed, outpatient diagnosis and treatment, and prescription drugs – the same as any other covered medical condition.

Finally, California law requires that mental health and substance abuse professionals offer you a return appointment within 10 business days of your initial assessment. This deadline also refers to referrals to mental health services from your primary care provider. By law, mental health conditions are taken seriously, and prompt help is not only available, but required to be provided.

If you’re in need of mental health or substance abuse services, don’t delay. Reach out for the services you need, just as you would with any other medical event, and rest assured that your rights are protected by both federal and state law.

If you have any questions about your plan coverage for mental health services, don’t hesitate to call us for help.

4 Employee Benefits That Are Growing in Popularity

Posted by on 2:39 pm in Blog | 0 comments

4 Employee Benefits That Are Growing in Popularity

You want happy, healthy workers, and your workers want to be happy and healthy. That’s why offering a comprehensive benefits package is a win-win scenario. But in today’s changing landscape, both current and prospective employees are often looking for something a bit out of the box. Consider these four benefit options, and you can get ahead of the competition with regard to recruiting and retaining top talent.

Help with student loans. Student loans are one of the top challenges faced by younger to mid-level workers, with the average student loan debt approaching $40,000. Employers can make a contribution of up to $5,350 annually to help over-burdened employees, through the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.

Remote work reimbursement. The rise of remote work meant the end of commuting expenses for many, but let’s be honest: Remote work comes with its own set of challenges and costs for the employee. Smart employers are recognizing the need for reimbursement of expenses related to remote work, like a secure internet connection, office supplies, and electronic devices.

Sick leave and personal leave. Burnout is one of the leading causes of job termination, with millions citing this reason each year. Offer your employees sick or personal leave to deal with illness and personal issues, and loyalty will grow.

A focus on fInancial wellness. Who can’t identify with the experience of financial stress impacting work satisfaction and productivity? Help your employees with this area of their lives, and the benefits multiply for both of you. Many employers now offer a comprehensive financial wellness package including benefits such as education and coaching, emergency savings programs, retirement savings plans, safety net insurance, financial planning, and emergency savings funds.

The key to offering lucrative employee benefits is to first talk to your workers and understand what they need. Then, give us a call to discuss that feedback, and we will help you design a benefits package that suits them perfectly.

Take Note: The IRS Has Changed Contribution Limits for 2022

Posted by on 2:28 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Take Note: The IRS Has Changed Contribution Limits for 2022

As you probably know, contributing to a retirement plan and certain other types of accounts can not only help you prepare for the future; these contributions are tax deductible and can lower your overall income tax liability for the year. That’s why it can be so important to keep up with contribution limits, which can change from year to year. Contribute the maximum, and you’re planning for the future while saving as much as possible on your taxes.

For the 2022 year, the IRS has announced the following changes to contribution limits.

For your qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b): The contribution limit has been raised to $20,500 this year. By contributing all the way up to the limit, you save that amount for retirement while also reducing your taxable income by the same amount.

For your health savings account (HSA): The contribution limit has grown to $3,650 for those with individual health insurance coverage, or $7,300 for those with family coverage. An HSA allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars to be used for healthcare expenses if you’re enrolled in a high-deductible healthcare plan.

And if you don’t use your HSA funds in any particular year, the money rolls over to the following year. In fact, you can keep rolling over those funds all the way into retirement, if you’re so lucky that you don’t incur serious out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Then the money can be used to cover qualified medical expenses such as Medicare premiums and copayments. In this way, an HSA actually functions as another way to save for retirement.

Not all contribution limits were raised, however. Traditional and Roth IRA contributions hold steady at $6,000 per year.

For more information on your benefits plan, contribution limits, or how to maximize the tax benefits, call our office and we’ll be happy to help.

Insurance Agents Must Now Report Commissions to Group Health Clients

Posted by on 5:36 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Insurance Agents Must Now Report Commissions to Group Health Clients

According to a new law, Section 202 of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, effective January 1, 2022, all insurance agents who market or sell employee benefit plans must notify clients of their commissions earned from monthly premiums. This amount is expressed as a percentage for the premiums paid, and disclosure is similar to that required of real estate agents. 

Employers who wish to provide employees with a group benefits plan can purchase a plan straight from insurance providers or use a broker to assist them. Plans and premiums are established the same, no matter how you choose to enroll in one. As for the premium amount, those are set by each insurance company, and are approved by the Department of Insurance. If you enroll directly through an insurance provider rather than through an agent, the provider simply retains the commission. 

In other words, you do not pay more for using an insurance agent to help you sort through your options and choose a plan. At Bay Area Health Insurance Marketing, we accept the standard commission from all insurance providers. However, we are still required to notify you as to the amount of that commission, expressed as a percentage of your monthly premiums. 

These disclosures help employers to understand the expenses associated with their group health benefits and assist them with making decisions related to insurance providers. 

You should receive a notice regarding these disclosures, along with a form that we ask you to fill out and return to us. This helps us to note that you have received the required disclosures, and that all obligations have been fulfilled. 

If you have any further questions about this process, please don’t hesitate to call us for assistance. 

Why You Must Ensure that Your Healthcare Subsidy is Calculated Correctly

Posted by on 5:33 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Why You Must Ensure that Your Healthcare Subsidy is Calculated Correctly

Subsidies offered through Covered California, to assist individuals and families, have helped millions to afford their healthcare premiums over the years. However, these subsidies could have a potential downside if you aren’t careful: If the amount is not calculated correctly, you could be “overpaid” for the year. The consequence will be that you are required to repay the difference between what you received and what you should have received.

This often happens due to an increase in income during the year. Subsidies are calculated based on expected income, according to your family size. The Advance Premium Tax Credit, or APTC, is then paid to your insurer to assist with the cost of your premiums each month. But if your income increases, you could accidentally receive too much subsidy. This fact might be discovered when you log in to the system to reapply for coverage in the fall.

If the system discovers an overpaid APTC, you will be expected to repay all or part of that amount, depending upon your circumstances.

IRS rules are complicated, and certain limits do apply to these situations. For example, overages were not required to be repaid in 2020. And depending upon where your income falls within certain brackets, the amount that you are required to pay can be limited to only a portion of the overage.

The best way to prevent this situation from occurring is to keep track of your income. Record the amount upon which your subsidy was calculated and keep track of your actual earnings. If at any point during the year you discover that your income is likely to exceed the expected amount, log into www.CoveredCa.com to calculate your subsidy correctly.

These situations can occur due to a raise, working a lot of overtime, or a change in your spouse’s income. Remember to report changes in household size or income right away, so that you don’t face an unpleasant surprise at tax time the following year.

And if you have any questions about health insurance coverage or subsidies, do give us a call so that we can assist you.

What Business Owners Need to Know About ERISA Wraps

Posted by on 6:16 pm in Blog | 0 comments

What Business Owners Need to Know About ERISA Wraps

Business owners are well aware of the numerous positive reasons for providing an employer-sponsored benefits plan. But because those plans are subject to the Employee Retirement Security Income Act (ERISA), things can get complicated.

Most organizations are subject to ERISA. Churches and government employers are exempt, but almost everyone else must comply. Check with a business planning attorney if you’re unsure of your status with regard to ERISA.

Most benefit plans are subject to ERISA, but some are not. Group healthcare plans, vision plans, dental plans, health savings accounts, FSAs and HRAs are all subject to ERISA regulations. Vacation and scholarship plans are often, but not always, included. But the following types of benefit plans are not subject to ERISA:

  • Cafeteria Plans
  • Premium-Only Plans
  • Section 125 Plans
  • Premium Conversion Plans
  • Pre-tax Premium Plans
  • Health Savings Accounts when employers have limited involvement
  • Dependent Care FSAs
  • Dependent Care Assistance Plans
  • Transit and parking plans
  • Adoption Assistance
  • Educational Assistance and Tuition Reimbursement
  • Paid time off
  • On-site medical clinics for the purpose of providing first aid

However, even if a plan is exempt from ERISA regulation, it might become subject to the law once you appear to “endorse” the plan in any way (such as putting your company name or logo on any brochures).

Plans subject to ERISA require you to provide a Summary Plan Description. The SPD summarizes the benefits of a plan, while informing plan participants of their rights and obligations. Within 90 days of eligibility for the plan, you must provide SPDs to each employee. Non-compliance can result in fines from the Department of Labor.

So, what is an ERISA Wrap? A wrap document helps small employers meet their ERISA requirements by providing disclosures that apply to all sponsored benefits plans. An ERISA Wrap includes details like the allocation of duties and responsibilities between the employer and the insurer, and participant rights under the law. By “wrapping around” all ERISA health and welfare benefits, and including required disclosures that are not typically found in other documents, this document meets ERISA regulations more easily.

You don’t have to prepare ERISA disclosures on your own. Give us a call. We’re available to help you understand the requirements of the law, and can help you with an ERISA wrap that covers all of your bases.

How to Get a Free, At-Home Covid Test

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

How to Get a Free, At-Home Covid Test

As part of government initiatives to increase covid testing rates across the country, at-home covid tests are now available to anyone who wants one, for free. But how do you obtain the test?

First, you don’t need a prescription or order from your doctor. You can purchase covid tests online, or from your local pharmacy, and then apply for reimbursement from your health insurance carrier. Or, your health insurance provider might allow you to have your test covered at the time of purchase.

Just follow these steps to get your free, at-home covid test.

  • Contact your health insurance provider. Ask whether covid self tests are provided through a network of pharmacies and other stores, and inquire where to purchase your test.
  • Purchase your test inside this network, present your insurance card at checkout, and you will receive your covid test for free.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase your covid test out of network and apply with your health insurance company for compensation. However, the reimbursement will only cover up to $12 per test.

Insurance companies are required to cover up to eight covid tests per each covered person in your household, each month.

Those who are completely uninsured should check with community health centers or your local health department. The Department of Health and Human Services is sending out 50 million tests to these locations, in order to serve the uninsured.

Finally, anyone can use the website www.covidtests.gov to order their own free, at-home covid test. You are limited to four tests per household.

Take Note of These ACA Compliance Deadlines

Posted by on 3:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Take Note of These ACA Compliance Deadlines

Now that tax season has arrived, it is time to file your income tax return and notify the IRS of your health insurance status. Requirements for proof of insurance vary according to the size of the company for whom you work.

The proof of coverage will be provided to you in one of two ways:

Form 1095-A if you obtained coverage using Covered California.

Form 1095-B if you did not use the marketplace but obtained health insurance directly from an insurance carrier. Medicare recipients will also receive Form 1095-B.

Watch your mail for these forms and make sure to file them with your 2021 taxes.

Now that you know which forms to file, pay attention to deadlines. Here’s a brief reminder of those dates…

January 31. You should receive either a 1095-A or 1095-B from your insurance company prior to this date. If you do not, we suggest that you contact the carrier.

April 18. This year, the deadline for filing your individual income tax return or to request an extension from the IRS falls on Monday, April 18. You can file a paper return by mail, or file it online. Make sure to accurately answer all questions regarding your health insurance status.

Make sure to keep your proof of health insurance coverage in a secure place, just in case the IRS requests this information in the future. As we’ve already stated, file it along with your tax return.

ACA Compliance can be a tricky issue, and deadlines are critical. Please reach out to us if you need more assistance with the filing requirements.

Employers: The Deadline to Comply with the CalSavers Mandate is June 30

Posted by on 2:34 pm in Blog | 0 comments

Employers: The Deadline to Comply with the CalSavers Mandate is June 30

As you might already know, California law now requires all employers with more than 5 employees to either offer their workers a qualified retirement program (such as a 401k) or enroll in the state-sponsored CalSavers program. Passed in 2016, the law is designed to address the needs of 7 million Californians who lack a retirement plan. For the past five years, the law has been gradually phased in, and now smaller employers must comply.

If you employ between 5 and 49 workers, the deadline to comply with the CalSavers mandate will be June 30, 2022. Compliance will consist of either establishing a retirement plan or enrolling in a plan with CalSavers.

Up to this point, the state has simply encouraged employers to comply. But now, penalties for lack of compliance will begin to take effect. Steps taken will include:

  • First, the Franchise Tax Board will send a letter to companies not in compliance
  • Then, companies that remain non-compliant for 90 days will be penalized in the amount of $250 per eligible employee
  • Then, if non-compliance extends beyond 180 days, the state will impose an additional penalty of $500 per employee

Enrolling your company in a retirement plan through CalSavers might appear, on the surface, to be the easiest way to comply with the law. However, that doesn’t mean that CalSavers is necessarily the best fit for you or your employees. The program imposes a number of regulations that some employers find to be too much of a hassle.

The other option is to explore retirement plan options with a qualified benefits planning professional, who can explain the pros and cons of different plans. The following plans are acceptable alternatives under the law:

  • 401(a) – Qualified Plan (including profit-sharing plans and defined benefit plans)
  • 401(k) plans (including multiple employer plans or pooled employer plans)
  • 403(a) – Qualified Annuity Plan or 403(b) Tax-Sheltered Annuity Plan
  • 408(k) – Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) plans
  • 408(p) – Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees of Small Employers (SIMPLE) IRA Plan
  • Payroll Deduction IRAs with Automatic Enrollment

We can help with this. Schedule a consultation with us, and we will help you understand your options across a variety of different plans.