United Benefit Advisors Insight and Analysis Blog

How to Get Employees' Attention during Open Enrollment

Posted by: Mathew Augustine, GPHR, REBC    Oct 1, 2015 12:00:00 PM

It’s that time of the year – open enrollment season is here! Insurance carriers are presenting renewals and brokers are presenting ways to alleviate the cost pressure with innovative cost management strategies. HR and benefits professionals are under pressure to think out of the box and come up with new and improved benefit programs to engage employees. Benefits administration companies are busy getting staffed, trained and ready for long hours and last-minute client decisions. And employees are getting ready for the barrage of benefits-related communications that are coming their way.

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Topics: employee engagement, employee benefits, Open Enrollment, Hanna Global Solutions, Mathew Augustine

How to Motivate Employee Participation in Your Wellness Program

Posted by: Sara Saidi    Aug 18, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Wellness rewardsHave you ever heard the quote, “If you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your business?" It’s great advice and goes beyond ensuring that they get a paycheck each month. Does your company show that they care about an employee’s total well-being? You should, especially considering that an employee’s physical and mental well-being can affect productivity and consequently cost the company money. One great way to show employees that you are invested in them, and to help them stay healthy, is through a wellness program.

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Topics: wellness, wellness incentives, employee benefits, health care, The Wilson Agency, cost of health care, Sara Saidi

New ACA Implications for Cafeteria Plans: Change in Status and Changing Employee Elections

Posted by: Danielle Capilla    Jul 21, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Cafeteria plans, or plans governed by IRS Code Section 125, allow employers to help employees pay for expenses such as health insurance with pre-tax dollars. Employees are given a choice between a taxable benefit (cash) and two or more specified pre-tax qualified benefits, for example, health insurance. Employees are given the opportunity to select the benefits they want, just like an individual standing in the cafeteria line at lunch.

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Topics: employee benefits, section 125 plans, PPACA Affordable Care Act, Danielle Capilla, cafeteria plan, IRS Code Section 125

Congress Taking (Small) Steps for Employee Wellness Programs

Posted by: Jennifer Stanley    Apr 9, 2015 12:00:00 PM

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) specifically encourages and promotes the expansion of wellness programs in both the individual and group markets. In the individual market, the secretaries of the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Treasury, and Labor are directed to establish a pilot program to test the impact of providing at-risk populations who utilize community health centers an individualized wellness plan that is designed to reduce risk factors for preventable conditions as identified by a comprehensive risk-factor assessment. Results will be compared against a controlled group.

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Topics: wellness, employee benefits, wellness programs, PPACA Affordable Care Act, 2014 Health Plan Survey

Growing Pains: Why Adolescence Is About To Get That Much Harder

Posted by: Elizabeth Kay    Mar 19, 2015 12:00:00 PM

Employers that are growing up, and are in the awkward teenage years, are about to get a big surprise, and not the good kind.

When a company first opens, they are excited when they first implement their benefit plans for their handful of employees. They offer one or two medical plans, perhaps some dental and vision, and a small life insurance policy. The company knows that the small group rates will be high, but not much can be done, so they live with it. The rates are based on the employee’s age and where the company is located. They rely on their broker to show them the different options and help them offer plans with the best value to their employees.

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Topics: ACA, employee benefits, COBRA, community rating, composite rating

EEOC Files Suit Over Wellness Program

Posted by: Linda Rowings    Sep 9, 2014 1:32:00 PM

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued an employer because the penalty it applied for not participating in its wellness program was, in the eyes of the EEOC, so high that participation was not, as a practical matter, “voluntary.” Under EEOC rules, an employer may conduct medical examinations, which includes obtaining medical histories and blood draws, only in limited situations. One of those permitted situations is a voluntary wellness program. Because the program did not qualify as “voluntary,” the questions employees were asked about their health on a health risk assessment, a blood draw, and a range of motion assessment violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to the EEOC’s Complaint.

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Topics: health care reform, employee benefits, health care, health care costs, employee satisfaction, hr consulting, employee engagement, wellness, ancillary benefits, absence management, disability management, absenteeism, UBA Partner Firm, voluntary benefits, ACA, employee health, insurance solutions, medical plan, self funded health plans, disability insurance, wellness programs, HRA, health risk assessment, PPACA Affordable Care Act, health care reform

Overcoming Employee Disengagement

Posted by: Bill Olson    Aug 27, 2014 2:31:00 PM

By Peter Freska, CEBS, Advisor
The LBL Group 
A United Benefit Advisors Partner Firm 

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Topics: health care reform, employee benefits, health care, health care costs, employee satisfaction, hr consulting, employee engagement, wellness, ancillary benefits, absence management, disability management, absenteeism, UBA Partner Firm, voluntary benefits, ACA, employee health, insurance solutions, medical plan, self funded health plans, disability insurance, wellness programs, HRA, health risk assessment

The Road to Better Absence Management

Posted by: Bill Olson    Aug 11, 2014 4:14:00 PM

By Stephen Coffman, Group Practice Leader
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America  

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Topics: health care reform, employee benefits, health care, health care costs, employee satisfaction, hr consulting, employee engagement, wellness, ancillary benefits, absence management, disability management, absenteeism, UBA Partner Firm, voluntary benefits, ACA, employee health, insurance solutions, medical plan, self funded health plans, disability insurance, wellness programs

How Long Commutes Impact Workplace Productivity

Posted by: Geoff Mukhtar    May 19, 2014 12:44:00 PM

What do all employees have in common? They all have a burning dislike for their morning commute! Let’s face it, it’s not the actual commute that most people dislike, it’s the hassle of dealing with traffic, long lines, and rude people that make the trip so despised.

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Topics: health care reform, employee benefits, health care, health care costs, employee satisfaction, employee engagement, wellness, ancillary benefits, absenteeism, voluntary benefits, ACA, employee health, insurance solutions, medical plan, self funded health plans, wellness programs

Summary of Eligibility Waiting Period Requirements

Posted by: Bill Olson    Feb 28, 2014 12:33:00 PM

On February 20, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final regulations on the eligibility waiting period requirements. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) provides that plans may not require an employee who is eligible for coverage to complete a waiting period of more than 90 days before coverage is available. This requirement is effective on the first day of the 2014 plan year. This requirement applies to all plans, including grandfathered plans, fully insured and self-funded plans, and plans offered by small employers. It applies to both full-time and part-time employees if the employer has chosen to cover part-time employees. These final regulations are effective as of the beginning of the 2015 plan year, but they largely mirror the rules that are already in place for 2014. They do not in any way delay the requirement that plans meet the eligibility waiting period requirement by the start of the 2014 plan year.

The regulations state that an eligibility waiting period cannot be more than 90 days. This, literally, is 90 calendar days – a plan that begins coverage as of the first of the month after 90 days of employment, or after three months of employment, will be out of compliance. If the 91st day falls on a weekend or holiday, the plan may not wait to begin coverage until the following work day. In that situation, the plan will need to begin coverage as of the Friday before the end of the allowed waiting period.

The waiting period may be delayed until the employee meets the plan’s eligibility requirements. For example, if the plan does not cover employees who work fewer than 30 hours per week, or employees in certain job categories, and an employee moves from ineligible to eligible status, the waiting period may begin as of the date the employee first moves into the eligible class. Other acceptable eligibility requirements include earnings requirements for salespeople, cumulative service requirements of up to 1,200 hours for part-time employees, or employees covered under a multiemployer plan, and similar arrangements that are not designed to circumvent the waiting period.

Example: Fay begins working 25 hours per week for Acme Co. on January 6, 2014. Acme’s group health plan does not cover part-time employees until the employee has completed a cumulative 1,200 hours of service. Fay satisfies the plan's cumulative hours of service condition on December 15, 2014. Acme must offer Fay coverage by March 15, 2015 (the 91st day after Fay meets the service requirement.).

The regulations recognize that multiemployer plans often have complicated eligibility rules, and that is permitted as long as the eligibility requirements are not designed to avoid the waiting period rules.

Example: A multiemployer plan has an eligibility provision that allows employees to become eligible for coverage by working a specified number of hours of covered employment for multiple contributing employers. The plan aggregates hours in a calendar quarter and then, if enough hours are earned, coverage begins the first day of the next calendar quarter. The plan also permits coverage to extend for the next full calendar quarter, regardless of whether an employee’s employment has terminated. This arrangement satisfies the regulation.

An employer may require that an orientation or probationary period be successfully completed before an employee is considered an eligible employee. However, in a proposed regulation issued with the new final regulation, the agencies state that because of concerns that orientation or probationary periods will be used to improperly delay coverage, they are considering limiting permissible orientation and probationary periods to one month.

The regulation allows a waiting period that is longer than 90 days for new variable hours employees. A variable hours employee is someone whose hours cannot be predicted when the person is hired. An employer may average the time worked by a variable hours employee over his or her initial measurement period to determine if the employee is eligible for coverage. The waiting period may be imposed after the initial measurement period is completed as long as both periods are completed by the first day of the month following completion of 13 months of employment.

Example: Ann is a variable hours employee because she is an on-call nurse. Ann’s employer uses a 12-month initial measurement period for variable hours employees and a 60-day waiting period. Ann is hired May 10, 2014. If Ann averages 30 or more hours per week during the initial measurement period, she must be offered coverage with an effective date of July 1, 2015, or sooner.

Individuals who are part way through a waiting period as of the start of the 2014 plan year must be credited with time prior to 2014, so that their total waiting period as of the start of the 2014 plan year is no more than 90 days.

Example: Ed is hired October 22, 2013. Ed’s employer has a calendar year plan and during 2013 it used a six-month waiting period. Ed must be offered coverage with an effective date on or before January 20, 2014, because that is Ed’s 91st day of employment.

Although not related to eligibility waiting periods, this regulation also confirms that certificates of creditable coverage need to be provided through December 31, 2014, (regardless of plan year). The certificates will not be required after that date because pre-existing condition limitations will not be permitted after the start of the 2014 plan year.
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Topics: employee benefits, ACA, Group health plans, benefit communication, benefit consultants, benefit management, compliance with health care reform, group health insurance