PLAN SPONSOR ERISA/COVID-19 COMPLIANCE AND SUPPORT

Marietta, GA, May, 2020- For immediate release- Select Choice Benefits, Inc. in partnership with our legal counsel has designed a comprehensive checklist specifically tailored to provide employers peace of mind by quickly identifying potential ERISA/PPACA and Form 5500 compliance violations. This resource includes a COVID-19 amendment.

Effective immediately employers of all sizes and industries can use Select Choice Benefits, Inc. capabilities to gain and maintain Health & Welfare plan compliance. Select Choice Benefits, Inc. is providing this unique solution to help employers meet their compliance obligations.

FY 2019, The Department of Labor’s (DOL)Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) closed 1,146 civil investigations with 770 of those cases (67%) resulting in monetary results for plans or other corrective action. These cases accounted for over $2.5 billion in fines representing a 127% increase from 2017’s $1.1 billion.

“From our experience, employers are looking for cost-effective solutions and knowledgeable support that will help them attain and maintain their plan compliance. They are also cognizant of the potential for audit. We’ve developed an easy method that they can use” says Robert DePriest, Managing Partner.

Select Choice Benefits, Inc. is a privately held employee benefits and human capital firm providing resources to employers in the greater Atlanta area.

“Taking the Complexity Out of Your Benefit Decisions”

Group Medical Effective in 2020

As we tread further into a new year and a new decade, we can’t help but contemplate the changes that will become effective in 2020. Figuring out healthcare is always a challenge, but first, you have to understand the changes coming this year. Here’s what to look out for. 

Premium prices will change a little 

It seems like each year health insurance premiums have changed, sometimes drastically. And 2020 will be no different. On a brighter note, the market seems to be stabilizing. In most states, premiums will increase only slightly. Some states don’t expect an increase; others are expecting a decrease. Good news all around for employer and their employees. 

New affordable plans will be offered in 2020

In the past short-term healthcare options could only be offered up to three months. Now, these plans can be used up to 12 months and renewed up to three years. These options are significantly less expensive because they don’t cover all of the basic care. They are only right in certain circumstances, so be sure to discuss with your benefits advisor to find the best fit for you. 

Individual Mandate Penalty no longer applies 

With the Affordable Care Act, people who didn’t purchase healthcare were penalized if they went without healthcare for longer than three months. With new federal legislation, those who didn’t purchase healthcare in 2019 won’t be penalized or owe a fine. While it’s good news to know you won’t be charged a fine, that doesn’t mean one should go without health insurance for an extended period of time. Unexpected healthcare needs, like ER trips, broken bones or chronic illnesses, can add up fast without the proper insurance. Finding an affordable option is best for your health and your bank account.  

More insurers on the scene

2020 will be the year of plenty when it comes to healthcare! More companies are offering more plans in more states. So the options for affordable, effective health insurance have skyrocketed. Plus, no insurers are expected to withdraw this year, meaning less confusion, frustration and lower premium rates. Discuss your options with a benefits advisor. 

Do you need help choosing the best insurance plans for your company? We can help! Contact us today. We can help you customize an affordable healthcare plan that fits your needs and lifestyle.

5 Benefits Mistakes That Cost Your Employees

As a business owner, offering quality benefits to your employees is a given. They expect and deserve it. But did you know that mistakes you make could be costing your employees, and your business, extra money? There are ways to avoid those mistakes, and we have the tips to help you along the way. 

Not providing the benefits employees actually want. 

Studies show that employees want more options and personalization when it comes to their benefits choices. That means offering voluntary benefits, but not at your expense. Many voluntary benefits won’t cost you but could save your employees hundreds of dollars. These voluntary options go beyond dental and vision, like short and long-term insurance, life insurance or even pet insurance. 

Waiting until the last minute to make benefits decisions. 

This goes two ways: both for employee and employer. If the employer waits until the last minute to make decisions about the benefits they will offer, they won’t have time to pull together a comprehensive and cost-effective plan. If employees wait until the last minute to make their benefits selections, they won’t have time to fully educate (or be educated) on their options. Both of these scenarios end up costing extra money in the long run. 

Ignoring compliance regulations. 

Just like any other part of owning a business, there are rules and regulations that must be followed in the benefits world. But for those who don’t specialize in this area, understanding compliance regulations can be difficult and time-consuming. On the other hand, not adhering to these regulations could cost your company, and possibly your employees, a large chunk of money. Partner with a benefits advisor to ensure you are fully meeting and exceeding your compliance regulations. 

Not using a smart benefits platform. 

One of the most common and most prominent mistakes is misinforming employees about their options. A lack of benefits education can lead to a lower utilization rate, costing you and your employees money. A great benefits platform can be the perfect decision-making tool, and it helps keep everything organized for you, too! Plus, with the help of a benefits advisor, your employees will be happy and educated about all of their options. 

Not partnering with a knowledgeable employee benefits firm. 

Having a good benefits advisor to help your employees through the enrollment process and beyond is essential. Misinformed employees end up overspending on their plans, leading to unhappiness and discontent. But a great benefits advisor can help explain the options to your employees as well as help them choose the best, and most cost-effective, plan for them. 

Have more questions about building a great benefits plan for your employees? We’re here to help. We take the complexity out of benefits, so you can focus on what matters: your business. Contact us to learn more

Short Term Medical Insurance: The Right Choice for You?

Short term medical insurance, also known as temporary medical insurance, has gone through many changes over the last five years. Originally, it was designed to help bridge the gaps in medical insurance during times of transition, like starting a new job or getting off a parent’s insurance plan. But recently, this option has made its own transitions, thanks to the Trump administration. Here’s what you need to know about the new short term medical insurance. 

What is short term medical insurance? 

Short term medical insurance was meant to be exactly what its name states: a temporary medical insurance option for transitional periods. Originally, short term medical insurance could only be sold for a period of three months, which made it ideal for bridging gaps in insurance. This type of insurance is highly customizable, flexible and fast, making it a good option for younger generations in times of change, like college students, young adults coming off of their parent’s insurance, employees between jobs or starting a new job or others in similar situations. 

What has changed? 

Recently, under the Trump administration, the Affordable Care Act was revised, specifically relaxing the rule for short term medical options. Rather than three month periods of coverage, short term medical plans can be written for up to 12 month periods. Plus, the new rules grant the ability to renew two additional times, for a total of three years coverage. The coverage for many of these plans includes preventative care, doctor’s office coverage and prescription medication. There are even additional coverage add-ons available, like dental, vision and accident options. While some of the cons of short term medical still apply, like a lack of coverage for preexisting conditions and less coverage than major medical plans, these recent changes have opened the door for even more people to have access to affordable healthcare than ever before.

Who benefits from Short Term Medical Insurance? 

Considering the highly customizable and quick aspects of short term medical insurance, this option is sought after by younger and healthier people. It allows an individual to get cost-effective healthcare without the additional coverages offered by an Affordable Care Act plan. In the end, more of the younger generations with non-traditional employment will choose this option. 

Interested in learning more about short term medical insurance? Contact us! We can help you customize an affordable healthcare plan that fits your needs and lifestyle.

Preparing for Open Enrollment

Every year benefit open enrollment is a challenge that takes several months to plan and execute. Employee benefits are such an integral part of the employee experience. Contrary to popular belief, they are also an ongoing project. Once open enrollment is completed, the following two months are spent auditing and reconciling the changes. Once everything is running smoothly, the process starts again six months later. The process is non-stop and, at times, stressful.

Healthcare is a constant topic in the media and in politics. With so much information available, how do benefit managers process it all and stay current? That’s where a good benefit advisor comes into play.

Advisors are available to answer those questions every benefits manager has and make their life easier, during and after the open enrollment period. Most importantly, open enrollment is a time to be open minded and embrace new ideas and strategies. Here’s a little inspiration to help.

 A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” 

Frank Zappa

Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” 

George Bernard Shaw

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” 

Albert Einstein

Don’t try to be young. Just open your mind. Stay interested in stuff.” 

Betty White

Lastly, ask yourself or your advisor this: What are your plans to help stabilize costs? How will the plans suggested accomplish this?

Advisor

Open enrollment is a great time to evaluate the services benefit managers are receiving from their insurance brokers. We often hear the same phrase at the beginning of new broker relationships, “We’ve had the same broker for a long time, and they’ve done nothing wrong to warrant a change.” While we value loyalty, we also believe that brokers should apply for their job each year. That’s exactly why we strive to stay current and innovative for all of our customers.

Tips

  •       For benefits managers, ask yourself this. “How do I feel about my broker? Are they advisors?”
  •       If a broker does the job correctly, renewal will be less complicated, costly and time consuming.
  •       Selecting a benefits broker is about choosing the best partner for your business and making an informed decision.
  •       Be tight with your compliance. Today there are more moving parts than ever before. Does my broker proactively keep me current with the latest developments in the market?
  •       What new ideas has my current broker provided? Have they worked and why not? Is my current broker an extension of our business by providing the knowledgeable insight I need to keep my plan compliant?

Resources

Employee Needs

A study by SHRM in 2018 states that the average cost to hire an employee is $4,129. Now consider how many employees have left the company due to a better employee benefit offering by a competitor.  An attractive benefit package will drive recruiting and retention, while keeping costs down.

At the end of the day, your company’s benefit message should say “WE CARE FOR YOU.” And it must be loud and clear. Employees who are convinced that they are important are productive, loyal and stay with their company for longer. All of that saves the company money in the end.

So how do you evaluate your benefits package in comparison to your competition?  First, complete a demographic analysis. Second, find out what the employees want by conducting a survey or focus groups. Different employees have different needs at different stages of life: young married with children/ empty nesters/ men vs women/ baby boomers vs millennials. What is important for one group is not as important for another.

For example, we have a client who provides nursing services with a fairly large number of employees under the age of 40 and over the age of 55. Long-term care is important for the 55+ group, but financial wellness for those under 40.  As their benefits advisor, we were able to implement an employee paid life insurance policy with a long-term benefit. For the older group, an affordable universal life policy was offered, and for the younger group, a whole life policy with a higher cash value that was guaranteed after 10 years. Due to the size of the employee base, the selected carrier made an offer that was guaranteed issue if the participation requirement was met. The rate was guaranteed for the duration of the policy, and it was portable. The plan was well received and all requirements were met.

Find Solutions – Carrier selection / Cost

Implementation

The benefit broker must drive this whole process from set up to post-enrollment.

  •       Communication of benefits  pre-enrollment ( emails/posters/text)
  •       Employee meetings or artificial intelligence?
  •       Enrollment – systems/ manual/ conditions / S125 rules. One system could be used for everything or the VB carrier could be used as well.
  •       Face to face enrollment vs self-enrollment vs paper enrollment?
  •       Multiple locations? Shifts? Coordination of enrollers should play a role in the decision. – ‘Employees spend 18 minutes on average enrolling in benefits – Open enrollment trends show that employees spend relatively little time enrolling in their benefits and tend to wait until the end of their open enrollment period to enroll. To counteract this, companies are investing in technology that provides a personalized and engaging benefits experience for their employees.’
  •       Technology will work well with some industries and may not work as well in others. For example a white collar employer with employees who have access to email may benefit from an online enrollment resource. However, a manufacturing company with employees without email access may benefit more from an in-person enrollment experience.  

Administration

  •       From account set up with carriers to the submission of applications to ensuring coverage is in place, brokers should handle the major of administration.
  •       Billing/Invoice reconciliation of payroll and carrier invoice: Who carries the liability?
  •       Self-billing: Is there a liability for me as the employer?
  •       New hire and terminations – how is my benefit on-boarding process doing?
  •       How much time is spent on monthly invoice reconciliation? Does my broker offer this service?

Advocacy

 When employees are going through medical challenges, how does my broker support my employees?

  •       Response time
  •       Carrier advocacy and interaction
  •       Claim support
  •       Surprise billing education and support.

Do you have questions about open enrollment? Contact us. Select Choice Benefits “ Taking the Complexity Out of Your Benefit Decisions”.

What are HRAs and How Do They Impact Small Businesses

On June 13th, 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services released a final ruling calling for a restructure of the current rules of Health Reimbursement Arrangements. This change will go into effect on January 1st, 2020. So, what does this have to do with small businesses? We’re here to explain.

What is an HRA? 

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) have been around in some form since the 1960s. Most are used today as a way for the employer to make tax-deductible contributions to their employees. This allows them to fund deductibles and/or other non-covered qualified medical expenses. All of which qualifies as a tax exclusion for the employer. 

Small businesses and the new rule

Businesses have been using HRAs for many years. But there was little oversight and regulations of the HRA marketplace. That was until 2013 and the rulings of the Affordable Care Act, which narrowed the descriptions of HRAs to three versions; group-coverage HRA, stand-alone HRA for one insured, and retiree HRA. Ultimately, this made it very difficult for small businesses to offer HRAs to their employees. 

With the new rule going into effect on January 2020, small business employers will be able to use individual coverage health reimbursement accounts or ICHRAs. These plans allow employers to provide their workers with tax-preferred funds which pay for the cost of health insurance coverage that workers purchase in the individual market, subject to certain conditions.

In fact, the usage projection for the new rule is 800,000 employers nationally will take advantage of this new ruling, and 90 percent of employers with 20 or fewer employees will choose to offer either the Individual Coverage HRA (ICHRA) or the Excepted Benefit HRA (EBHRA)

ICHRAs are great for employers with a traditional health plan who have high percentage of waivers or who want to offer more flexibility and selection to their employees. For small businesses that don’t have a traditional health plan, ICHRAs are a low cost, tax-favored alternative that helps them recruit and retain top-tier talent. 

EBHRAs allow the employee to fund the cost of deductibles and copays. These plans are perfect for employers with a traditional plan who have a high percentage of waivers or would like a low-cost tax-favored alternative that keeps them competitive in the workplace. For employers with a traditional HDHP or CDHP, EBHRAs give more budgetary flexibility and choice of benefit options-creating a defined contribution plan.

Want to learn more about the new HRA ruling? Contact us! We take the complexity out of benefits decisions. 

Are You Ahead of the Benefits Curve?

Tackling the benefits world can be overwhelming and confusing. And staying on top of all of the benefits trends can be even more difficult. However, employers are expected to have robust benefits packages to attract and maintain the best talent. So how do you know if you are ahead of the benefits curve? Here are a few steps to get started.

Talk to your benefits advisor

While it might seem simple, discussing benefits trends with your advisor is the first step to crafting a modern, exceptional benefits program for your employees. Your benefits advisor should be the first and best resource for understanding the benefits world. If you aren’t discussing your benefits plan more frequently than just enrollment times or if your benefits advisor isn’t well versed in current benefits trend (and consistently presenting new options for your company,) it might be time to rethink your broker relationship.

Craft a plan that benefits YOUR employees

The days of traditional benefits including medical, dental, vision and a 401k have passed.

Employees depend (and expect) on their employers to create a benefits program that not only benefits them but also addresses their specific needs. Start by asking your employees what they desire from their benefits program. Then work with your benefits advisor to craft an effective benefits program. This will not only make your current employees happy, but it will also attract great talent.

Use a streamlined enrollment process

Even more than personalization, employees expect the process to be simple and convenient. Using technology to streamline the enrollment process is crucial for both the employee and employer. Plus, these types of technology give employees an easy way to read and understand all of their benefits options. Which means making an educated, informed decision about benefits has never been easier.

Add in voluntary benefits

Voluntary benefits are an evolving trend for both employers and employees. In fact, they’ve become a necessary part of every benefits plan. A recent survey showed 95 percent of companies polled claim voluntary benefits would play an important role in their total strategy in the coming years. Not only do these benefits close the gaps in traditional offerings, but they also provide the personalization employees are looking for. Plus, they are very cost-effective option, making them a win-win for both employee and employer.

Want to learn more about staying ahead of the benefits curve? Contact us to see how we can help.

How to determine if your broker is good for you

Every day in the benefits world holds something new and exciting. Whether it’s advancements in voluntary benefits or simply helping a client discover their full plan potential, we love what we do. But as with any industry, there are some elements we encounter on more than one occasion. In fact, we frequently hear the same thing from our prospective clients.

“I’ve been with my agent for years, and they do a good job.”

Unfortunately, we often find that, after several questions, those agents or brokers aren’t actually doing a good job, and the client had no idea. This lack of knowledge isn’t due to any failing on the client’s end. You simply don’t know what you don’t know.

So, if you are questioning how good your agent or broker is, we’ve put together a few questions to ask yourself.

How often do you meet with your agent? 

If the answer to this question is once a year at renewal, something is wrong. Your broker should be guiding you through the world of benefits, and that means more than a once-a-year meeting.

Does your current agent conduct the annual enrollment informational meeting? 

The answer to this question should always be yes. Benefits can be confusing and overwhelming. An informational meeting is necessary to fully grasp what is being offered to your employees.

Does your current agent provide assistance to you during open enrollment other than the informational meetings? 

Many of our potential clients answer no to this question, too. Your benefits partner should be helping you with every step of enrollment, not just giving you the basic information.

What types of technology do your current agent provide to help you with open enrollment product selection and education? 

The world of benefits has advanced so much over the last decade. The amazing technology available now not only makes the enrollment process easier, but also allows employees to educate themselves at their own pace and fully understand the benefits offered.

Does your current agent provide assistance with Plan sponsor compliance? 

Any well designed Health & Welfare plan has its foundation in compliance, which can be a tricky thing for those not versed in that area. Maintaining compliance and helping with routine benefits problems is a key part of a good benefits partner. If you aren’t receiving help in these areas, it’s time to rethink your broker relationship. 

Ready to take a step in a better direction? We’re here to help take the complexity out of your benefits decision! Contact us to learn more about the services we provide and how we can help you create a great benefits program for your employees.

How Voluntary Benefits Can Help with Surprise Medical Bills

At some point in our lives, we will experience the unexpected. A hospital stay, a broken leg, an ambulance ride or worse—a chronic illness. These expenses usually arise when you least expect them, and often when you can’t afford them either. But there are steps employers and employees can take to ensure financial help with surprise medical bills. The key? Voluntary benefits.

“Preparing for medical out-of-pocket expenses can be a burden on any employee’s financial planning. Fortunately, voluntary benefits are a cost-effective strategy that provides peace of mind and a morale boost for employees,” explains Steve Vermaak, President and CEO of Select Choice Benefits.

Here are a few supplemental health insurance options to include in your benefits program to help with unexpected medical bills.

Accident Insurance

As the name implies, accident insurance plans help offset medical expenses resulting from a covered accidental injury. From initial care and surgery to transportation and lodging, these types of plans can help employees be better prepared for healthcare expenses in the time of an emergency. Many accidental insurance plans cover follow-up care, too.

Hospital indemnity insurance

For the emergencies that require a hospital stay, certain plans can help cover the expenses of that occurrence. Hospital indemnity insurance proves a daily lump-sum benefit to help with out-of-pocket costs related to a hospital stay—from diagnostic tests to emergency room trips and even outpatient surgery. This is a low-cost plan that can help with big costs later down the road.

Critical illness insurance

No one wants to face a critical illness, and even worse, the medical expenses that come with long-term health battles. Critical illness plans were created to complement major medical coverage. Similar to hospital indemnity insurance, they provide a lump-sum benefit for any employee diagnosed with a covered critical illness. These illnesses could include strokes, heart attacks, end-stage renal failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, some types of cancer or even major organ transplant, to name a few.

Cancer insurance

As one of the most feared and dreaded illnesses today, no one wants to hear the word cancer. But for more than 15.5 million Americans nationwide, it’s a word they had to face. The costs associated with cancer treatment are astronomical, so having an insurance policy to help with those costs can be life-saving. These policies can also allow your employees to focus on getting better rather than the expenses associated with their treatment. Coverage includes radiation,chemotherapy,hospitalization, surgeries and more. Every employee and employer should consider cancer insurance, especially those who have had family affected by the disease.

When it comes to voluntary benefits, knowing what your employees are thinking and expecting is crucial. But considering the options above is a good place to start.

Keep up with the latest benefits trends by following our blog. If you have questions about your insurance plan, contact us today.

Is Your Employee Benefits Program Leaking Oil?

Employee benefits programs are not created equally. In fact, they can often be poorly designed and result in less than stellar outcomes. So how do you know if your employee benefits program is functioning to its best ability? We’re here to help.

A well designed benefits plan is not just about cost. Our expertise focuses on the foundational (compliance) and operational aspects from the plan sponsor’s perspective,” explains Bob DePriest.

Check out the factors below to discover if your program is all it can be or if it’s leaking oil.

Low employee morale

Now more than ever, employees are becoming disengaged at work. And for most, benefits are a huge part of that dissatisfaction. Studies show that employees who feel their rewards or benefits meet their needs are seven times more likely to be engaged with work compared to employees who don’t feel that way. Employee absence and disengagement can cost your company a significant amount of money. Just imagine seven times the productivity based on your employee benefits program. If you are unsure about employee morale, simply ask them. (Here are some tips to get you started.)

Poor broker/advisor relationship

Do you see your broker only at renewal and open enrollment? Does your broker provide support with plan compliance, contribution strategies and integrated plan design? How about proactive strategies to help you mitigate your current cost inflators? Do you only get quotes and more quotes from your broker? If so, you probably have a poor broker relationship and an even worse employee benefits strategy. Rather than accepting things as they have been for years, research the best brokers and strategies available. This will help you choose the best benefits partner for your company and employees—as well as allow you to create the best benefits program possible.

HR team know-how

HR teams weren’t designed to be a benefits source of knowledge, but that’s become a crucial part of their roles. Does your HR team have the necessary knowledge and resources to act as a plan sponsor? If not, it could be a sign that your benefits program isn’t functioning as well as it could. Find out which tools and resources are available to your team, how well informed and educated employees are about their benefits decisions and if compliance is consistently met. If you need help with these things, find a partner, like us, to help you deploy the tools, guidance and resources needed to develop a compliant, well-communicated and high-value benefits program.

Well designed program

Benefits aren’t what they were 20 years ago. Things have changed drastically thanks to Millenials and Gen Z entering the workforce. They expect different benefits, including voluntary options. In fact, 69% of Gen Z employees said flexible hours are a valued employee benefit, along with free healthcare (23%) and the option to work remotely (18%). Great benefits programs have to evolve with the changing workforce, and that means having a well-designed plan. Ensuring healthcare duplication doesn’t occur and consistently meeting compliance regulations are also parts of building a great plan that attracts and retains the best talent.

So, is your employee benefits program leaking oil? At Select Choice Benefits, we’ve made it our mission to ensure every program is built with employees and their employers in mind. We take the complexity out of benefits decisions. Are you ready to get started? We are, too. Contact us to start building your competitive benefits program.