The Risks of Driving for Uber or Lyft

Driving Uber LyftUber and Lyft are ridesharing services that have quickly gained popularity. At this point, they are available in most parts of the country, especially metropolitan areas. With a few taps on your phone, you can call a driver to your location. Or, sign up through the same app to become a paid driver yourself.

Many people have turned to these services as drivers for extra income because of its ease-of-use. Just sign into the app and you’re in business. You can work wherever you want, whenever you want, even if it’s just for a few minutes. It can be a convenient way to make a few bucks in the evenings or weekend.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. While many people are lauding Uber and Lyft for disrupting the traditional taxi model and giving people an easy employment option, working for either of these services comes with some risk worth considering.

Financial risks
As a ridesharing driver, you are an independent contractor, not an employee of the parent company. Any losses or expenses you incur are your problem. Both services compensate drivers for damage to vehicles caused by passengers, but standard wear and tear, fuel, tolls, maintenance, taxes, and insurance are costs of the job. While injury is unlikely, you are not eligible for worker’s compensation insurance.

Since you are technically working while you drive for Uber or Lyft, standard car insurance won’t cover you if you get into an accident. Most drivers are taking this risk.

Furthermore, the job isn’t as lucrative as it used to be. Both services have increased their percentages of the last few years. Uber and Lyft now takes 20% off the top, which makes it difficult for many drivers to handle the expenses.
Uber says you can make about $25/hour. Lyft reports $35/hour. The truth, however, is far lower once you deduct expenses. The amount you can earn varies widely depending on the area, but at the end of the day, most drivers make about $9-15/hour.

Lyft’s app has functionality for passengers to tip drivers, which can improve the hourly rate significantly. Uber, however, says they want “riders and drivers to know for sure what they would pay or earn on each trip — without the uncertainty of tipping.”

Safety risks
Originally, ridesharing companies pitched their product as a safer alternative to taxis. Using social media logins, driver and passenger identities were public, making assault or crime less likely. Rating systems were designed to penalize people who behaved inappropriately.

But the rapid growth of the industry has made these basic safety features (and they are basic) less effective. Ridesharing services have to recruit new drivers constantly. A reputation-based system doesn’t work when you’re likely to never see that passenger again anyway.

Neither ridesharing app provides safety training for drivers (as this would force them to classify drivers as employees). Both services provide some basic tips for drivers to look out for themselves, but this information is sparse and unhelpful in a dangerous encounter.

OSHA reports that “data indicates that annual homicide rates for taxi drivers (and chauffeurs) from 1998 to 2007 ranged from 9 per 100,000 workers to 19. During that period the rate for all workers was at or below 0.5 per 100,000 workers.” This means that taxi drivers are killed 21 and 33 times higher than the national average.

Presumably, that’s less of a concern for ridesharing drivers because there is no cash exchange. You’ve probably seen sensational headlines, but that’s only because the industry is new and people are adjusting. The real danger lies in motor accidents, of which there are substantially more for ridesharing drivers than the average.

Finally, the background check system is weak. Lyft performs a background check on all drivers. Uber checks the background in only certain states. But there are reports in both apps of people passing the background check who know they shouldn’t.

Decide for yourself
It has become clear the rideshare driving isn’t the “way of the future” it was marketed to be. It’s a reasonable job considering its low barrier to entry, but it’s not something to build a future around. The safety risks aside, driving for Uber or Lyft doesn’t offer a strong financial incentive anymore.

Karen Consiglio
Commercial Claims
kconsiglio@srfm.com

Karen-Consiglio

COBRA Refresher: 4 Important Notices That You Need to Know About

COBRAAccording to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act (COBRA), employers who offer a group health plan for more than 20 employees must offer temporary continuous coverage to qualifying beneficiaries after qualifying events.

A qualified beneficiary generally is an individual covered by a group health plan on the day before a qualifying event who is either an employee, the employee’s spouse, or an employee’s dependent child.

A qualifying event is a circumstance that would cause the qualified beneficiary to lose their group plan. The type of event determines the length of coverage offered, but continuous plans range between 18 and 36 months. Here are some examples of qualifying events:

  • The death of a covered employee
  • A covered employee’s termination or reduction of hours
  • The covered employee’s new entitlement to Medicare
  • Divorce or legal separation from a covered employee
  • A dependent child ceasing to be a dependent under the plan’s requirements

Employees must be offered health care, dental, vision, medical spending accounts, hearing, prescription, substance abuse, and mental health plans, but only if you offered those services under your group plan.

Generally, the qualified beneficiary pays the entire cost of the continuous coverage plus two percent to account for your administrative costs. Employees who take COBRA coverage for a disability can be charged 150% of their premiums for coverage after month 18.

Per regulations, employers are required to provide certain COBRA notices with specific information and timeframes, depending on the circumstances.  Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines of $100 to $400 per day per qualifying beneficiary.

4 Notices Required by COBRA

General Notice

This document describes employees’ COBRA rights and the employer’s responsibilities. It must be given to each covered employee and each employee’s spouse within the first 90 days of coverage. It needs to have the following information:

  • Name of plan and contact information of the plan’s COBRA administrator.
  • A description of the coverage provided by the plan.
  • Instructions for beneficiaries to notify the administrator of qualifying events or disabilities.
  • An explanation of the importance of notifying the administrator about address changes.
  • A statement that the notice does not fully describe COBRA or the plan, and that more information is available through the plan’s administrator.

Click here to see a sample General Notice.

Election Notice

This document explains the employee’s rights to continuation coverage and how to elect it. The administrator must send an election notice to each beneficiary who loses their coverage due to a qualifying event within 14 days.

  • Name of plan and contact information of the plan’s COBRA administrator.
  • Identification of the qualifying event and qualified beneficiaries.
  • An explanation of the beneficiaries’ right to elect continuation coverage.
  • The date coverage will terminate if continuation coverage is not elected.
  • The process to officially elect the coverage.
  • Outcomes if coverage is waived or not elected.
  • How coverage might terminate early.
  • Premium information, including amounts, grace periods, and schedules.
  • The type and scope of coverage available and how it can be extended for disability or other qualifying events.
  • An explanation of the importance of notifying the administrator about address changes.
  • A statement that the notice does not fully describe COBRA or the plan, and that more information is available through the plan’s administrator.

Click here to see a sample Election Notice.

Unavailability of Continuation of Coverage Notice

Should an individual request continuous coverage, but the plan administrator determines that the individual is not entitled to coverage, the administrator must send a notice of unavailability. This simple document must be provided within 14 days of the original request and explain the reason for denial.

Click here to see a sample Unavailability of Continuation of Coverage Notice.

Termination of Coverage Notice

If an individual’s coverage is terminated early, the employer must provide a termination notice. This notice must include the following information:

  • The date coverage will terminate.
  • The reason coverage is being terminated.
  • Any rights the qualified beneficiary has under the plan (or the law) to elect alternative coverage, such as the right to convert the plan to a private policy.

There is no timeframe to provide this notice, but regulations say it should be delivered as soon as the decision to terminate coverage is made.

Click here to see a sample Termination of Coverage Notice.

Providing proper COBRA documentation with the right content is an important part of staying compliant with the legislation, but you also need to document the method, timing, and last address of your deliveries. This is for your protection in case you are required to provide evidence that you upheld your obligations.

For more information about disclosure rules (such as the allowed methods for delivery and specific timing requirements), see CFR 2520.104b-1(B). For a detailed breakdown of your obligations and FAQ’s, visit the Department of Labor’s website.

Navigating the rules and requirements of COBRA can be confusing and overwhelming. If you have questions or concerns, Sinclair Risk is here to help – Give us a call!

Shannon Hudspeth
Human Resource Director
shudspeth@srfm.com

Shannon Hudspeth

Contractors: Get your subcontractor insurance house in order!

subcontractorIt’s a tough landscape for the building trades in Connecticut. Jobs are out there, but bidding is competitive and margins are tight.

We’re nearly 10 years past its beginning, but we’re still not fully recovered from the Great Recession that wiped out trillions of dollars in real estate equity.

Given that reality, it doesn’t surprise me when a construction firm — super eager to get started on a newly won job — starts bringing subcontractors into the tent without worrying about “little things” like insurance.

The work needs to get done now, so paperwork can wait, right?

If you don’t mind owning all the risk for the mistakes of your subcontractors, sure, but that’s not a healthy way to do business and it’s a dangerous approach that all but guarantees you won’t be in business very long.

At Sinclair Risk & Financial Management, we teach our clients about an important concept called “risk transfer.” Like a game of hot potato, you want to hold as little risk as possible when you’re working with others, and you want to make sure your subcontractors are operating in a way that minimizes their own risks…after all, you are relying on them to help you complete an important job. You need them to be stable and healthy.

Two important concepts here are “contractual risk transfer” and making sure your subcontractors have adequate worker’s compensation insurance.

Whenever you plan to bring a subcontractor on board, it’s an industry best practice to have a contract in place that clearly spells out the terms of the arrangement. You should also verify that the subcontractor has proper amounts of liability, auto, and worker’s compensation insurance. As part of your agreement with the subcontractor, you should be named as an “additional insured” on their policy, which means that their coverage will extend to you should something go wrong. This transfers risk to their carrier and prevents you from having to tap into your insurance (and run the risk of premium increases) for a situation where you were not at fault.

Some people think getting a “certificate of insurance” is proof of coverage, but it’s not, it’s just informational about the kind of policies your subcontractor has…unless very specific language is included on it. The certificate must accurately name you as an additional insured and include language to the effect that the coverage is binding as per the contractual agreement between you and the subcontractor. The agreement you put in place with your subcontractors needs to specify the amount and type of insurance they must carry, and that you are to be named as an additional insured for a particular period of time.

Some smaller contractors will carry liability and auto insurance but not worker’s compensation insurance, especially if they are a very small firm. This is a mistake, and opens you up to tremendous liability if they get hurt on your job. You don’t want your worker’s compensation policy paying out claims to individuals who don’t work for you.

So what kind of worker’s compensation do they need, and how much? Like contractual risk transfer, these are complicated questions with multiple factors at play. At Sinclair Risk, we specialize in helping construction firms manage their risk in a smart, efficient way, saving lots of dollars on the bottom line.

Besides helping you navigate contractual risk transfer, Sinclair’s Risk Safeguard Advantage program includes accident investigation programs, claims management, OSHA compliance, DOT compliance, return-to-work programs, safety seminars, supervisor safety training, pre/post injury management, workplace wellness, worker’s compensation cost containment, and much more.

We can even help you attract and retain top talent. (Check out my recent white paper about construction industry best practices for getting and keeping awesome employees.)

Drop me a line to learn more.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

8 Steps to Vet Construction Subcontractors

subcontractorAs a general contractor, it’s likely that you’ll use subcontractors at some point. Subcontractors can be an efficient way to outsource work. As specialists, they’ll often do a better job than a generalist and their smaller size means they can work quicker and leaner.

However, the construction job is your responsibility. The performance of the subcontractor will reflect on you. To complete the job properly and satisfy your customer, you need to make sure your subcontractors will produce quality work in a timely manner.

Before you officially hire any subcontractors, protect your business and your customer by taking these steps to vet the subcontractor.

1. Examine their past and current performance

Request information from the potential customer about their licenses, accreditations, history, and references. Look for any public data on lawsuits, disputes, complaints, or bankruptcies. Ask for the contact information of previous contractors they worked for. Then, search for references independently (without the subcontractor’s involvement) to get some unbiased and unfiltered information.

2. Look at their queue of work

It’s smart to make sure potential subcontractors can actually complete the work you need, so you’ll want to examine their log of previous, current, and future work. If the subcontractor seems too busy for their size, your job might overextend them.

3. Ask about their safety practices

Unsafe operations can leave you exposed to liability and force an inspector to close the job site, so make sure any subcontractors have clean or reasonable safety histories. They should also have ample safety protocols in place and a crew who is coached to prioritize safety.

4. Investigate the subcontractor’s employees

Ask the subcontractor about their team. Are they temporary workers, or do they work full time? Have they worked in construction before, or are they new? Does the subcontractor have the proper number of licensed professionals for the site? Do the workers have the right tools and reasonable workloads? Do any have serious felonies or drug problems that might make them unreliable? Answers to these questions will determine whether the subcontractor is right for your job.

5. Validate bonding and insurance

In most states, contractors are required to have bonding. In all states, they must be insured, including worker’s compensation insurance. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these protections in place, you could be held liable if there’s a problem. If the subcontractor doesn’t have these, reject them as candidates.

6. Investigate the subcontractor’s financial health

If your job is large, you’ll want to make sure the subcontractor’s financials are healthy enough to commit. You don’t want their employees to walk off the site one day due to lack of payment, or an inability to purchase materials. Request their annual contractor volume, two years of financial statements, and their total sales and net worth (you might have to sign a confidentiality agreement). Look for signs of poor health, like poor cash flow, a mountain of debt, or declining income.

7. Ask about their quality control process

In order to avoid rework and warranty work, you want your subcontractors to certify the quality of their materials and finished work. Every professional business should have a procedure in place to guarantee quality assurance. This procedure is rarely complex, but a successful business will have an answer to your questions.

8. Demand a written contract

It is shocking how many people work without a written agreement. As a contractor who is purchasing labor, you need to protect your investment. Every deal should be bound by a contract that clearly describes your expectations, including the scope of work, timeframe, and payment arrangements. Describe what you will provide and what the subcontractor will provide in terms of materials, warranties, and cleanup.

Hiring a subcontractor is like hiring an employee: You want someone who will represent your business well without adding drama, stress, or financial burden. If you follow the steps listed above, you’ll find the right candidate and build a lasting relationship.

Jonathan Belek
Risk Management Consultant
jbelek@srfm.com

Jon Belek

Trucking companies (or companies that just use trucks): Make the most of your industry associations

trucking associationStrength in numbers. The power of a team. A built-in support system.

No matter the size of your fleet, if you use trucks in any capacity, joining an industry association is a smart idea for your business. From big rig haulers to landscapers with a couple of light duty box trucks, the trucking industry has particular needs and a host of problems to solve, not to mention regulatory and legislative battles to fight.

Yes, you can go it alone, but why suffer through it solo when associations like the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut (MTAC) can help you “make things happen”?

Founded in 1920, MTAC is a fantastic, effective group that provides a host of services for its member businesses. Part of the American Trucking Associations (a federation of associations), its mission is to protect and promote the interests of the Connecticut trucking industry: In other words, your interests.

Obviously, the first step to success here is to join an organization like MTAC, but to really maximize your membership, you need to tap into the resources it provides. Consider being proactive in these five areas where an association can really benefit your business.

Education — Industry associations make it their business to know what you need to know to operate your business effectively. They can be founts of knowledge, with best practices information about issues such alcohol and drug testing, weight laws, driver qualifications, and vehicle maintenance, to name a few.

Driver Training — A best-in-class fleet has best-in-class drivers who are up-to-date on safety protocols and a wide variety of specialty areas, such as keeping cargo secure and knowing the ins and outs of braking systems. Industry associations offer the kind of training your drivers need to stay safe and productive.

Networking — Getting out of the office (and the truck!) and getting into seminars and gatherings is a great way to follow industry trends, find business partners and customers, and bounce ideas and concerns around with others who understand the industry. Trucking associations provide a full calendar of seminars, meetings, and other events that will help you make these important connections.

Lobbying — One of the most important services a trucking association will provide is lobbying on behalf of its members at the state and federal level. Though you don’t necessarily need to be climbing the Capitol’s steps, you do need to make sure your association understands your concerns. After all, they are there to represent you. Make sure your representatives know what’s on your mind!

Problem Solve — Industry associations exist to help your business thrive. They can help you work through thorny problems and they can help with things like supplying log books, driver qualification files, vehicle maintenance records and other compliance documentation.

Join your association, but don’t neglect it! Make sure you make the most of it.

P.S. Many of these offerings will help your business in one key area: keeping your worker’s compensation costs as low as possible. For more information, check out my recent [link] white paper, “How to avoid worker’s compensation claims in the trucking industry.”

Joe Pinto
Risk Management Consultant
jpinto@srfm.com

Joe Pinto

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to choose the perfect appraiser for your property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other valuables

appraiserIf you have highly valuable, treasured property or possessions, you may need to get them appraised for insurance purposes. Many insurance carriers will insist on accurate valuation of property, art, antiques, jewelry, and other items so they can ensure the correct level of coverage and premium payment.

When you’re seeking out a good appraiser, here are some areas to consider:

Talk to your friends and colleagues

If you know other people who need to insure high-value items, talk to them about their experiences. Get recommendations on good appraisers and create a shortlist.

Look at professional qualifications

There are a variety of professional accreditations and qualifications depending on the fields an appraiser trains in. These include:

  • International Society of Appraiser’s credentials for fine art, antiques, and personal property.
  • A diploma in gemology for jewelry appraisal.
  • Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice exam for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Principles of Valuation courses for members of the American Society of Appraisers.
  • Property appraisers should have one of the following designations from the Appraisal Institute — MAI Designation, SRPA Designation, SRA Designation, AI-GRS Designation, AI-RRS Designation.

There are various other exams and certifications available. Always check an appraiser’s qualifications to ensure they’re qualified to provide expert advice.

Check if they’re members of professional appraiser organizations

There are several industry bodies for appraisers. They include:

Many of these websites have membership directories for their appraisers.

Professional appraisers are required to uphold a strong code of ethics, including:

  • Providing truly independent valuation services, with no external influences.
  • Have no outside interest in the valued item, other than as providing a professional service.
  • Only carry out appraisal work in their area of expertise.
  • Consider all relevant factors when arriving at a valuation.
  • Treat and document property with the right level of care and respect.
  • Ensure personal remuneration and pay is independent of the value of property being appraised.

Interview your shortlist

When you have a shortlist of appraisers, call each one and ask questions about their area of expertise, qualifications, professional standards, and membership of industry bodies. Get a feel for what each appraiser is like and use that to decide which one would be right for your needs.

Remember that valuations change with time, many carriers will require updated valuations on a regular basis.

As always, if you have any questions about your scheduled property or how to get your property appraised, we are a phone call away!

Mary McGrath
Personal Lines Manager
mmcgrath@srfm.com

Appraiser

Health Insurance and Large Groups — Understand How Your Premiums Are Calculated

?????????????????????????????????As an employer, one of the most valuable benefits you can offer to your employees is health insurance. For larger groups of 51 employees or more, you’ll likely have group health insurance coverage. This is a policy you’ll typically purchase from a broker (so you get the best deal) that you can then offer to all of your eligible employees. Around 98% of large employers (businesses with more than 200 employees) provide health coverage to some or all of their people.

These types of health insurance policies are great for your employees

Large group policies have several advantages over small group or individual health insurance plans:

  • The employer typically pays half or more of an employee’s premiums.
  • Premium only plans (POP) mean employees can pay premiums out of their pre-tax incomes.
  • This results in significantly subsidized premiums, meaning happier employees.
  • You get a healthier, better motivated workforce.

The health insurance cost is calculated slightly differently for large groups

The cost of large group policies is typically worked out when the employer decides to purchase, rather than being a fixed rate. The premiums, coverage, deductibles, and benefits are normally based on several factors:

  • The number of employees participating.
  • The type of coverage needed.
  • The amount of payments, deductibles, and benefits desired.
  • An employer’s prior claims history.

Individual employees don’t normally have to fill out health questionnaires, although employers may need to answer general questions on the health of their employees.

Other factors that can impact your health insurance premiums for large groups

Some insurers will also take the following into account:

  • The average age of the workforce.
  • Large claims that have been made by the employer previously.
  • The employer’s location — New York City is going to be more expensive than rural Wisconsin.
  • The gender makeup of the workforce.
  • The sector an employer works in — Premiums for constructions workers are going to be higher than for a retail shoe store.

All of these factors will feed into the calculations, coverage, benefits, and premiums.

Differences in health insurance premiums between small and large groups

If we look at a typical health insurance plan for a family, an employee will generally contribute:

  • In small groups — Around 35% of the premium.
  • In large groups — Around 25% of the premium.

There’s less of a burden on employees in large group health insurance plans.

If you’re a large employer, you must offer health insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers of more than 50 people must offer affordable health plans to their ‘Full Time Equivalent” employees. The penalties for not providing this type of cover are:

  • Mandate Penalty — This comes into effect if an employer does not offer group health coverage. It’s calculated at $2,000 per employee, after the first 30 employees.
  • Qualification Penalty — This applies if an employer does not offer a “qualifying plan.” Qualifying plans must offer a certain minimum standard of coverage, and must be affordable to employees. The penalty is $3,000 per employee that does not get qualifying coverage and purchases a policy through the health insurance Marketplace.

The best way to make sure you get an affordable policy, and your employees get the coverage they need, is to use a specialist health insurance broker. They can help you navigate the complicated areas of health insurance and make sure you get the support you need to make the right choice.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Keeping Up With the Evolving Workplace

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????With the age of Millennials gaining a stronghold in the workforce comes the dawn of the modern workplace. Times are changing surrounding how we hire and train, what we do to retain employees, and the dynamics within the office environment itself. Employees are seeing companies through different lenses these days, and employers have to rethink their employee strategies in order to attract and retain the best new talent.

Change is good, and if you want to keep up it’s time to let go of the past, embrace the present, and see into the future. The business landscape is evolving, and we’re going to discuss some things you can do to make sure you’re positioned to grow with it.

The Office in 2016

Increased technology, a path for growth, and a fresh view from management of workplace dynamics are what employees are expecting in today’s modern office. Millennials are vetting employers more deeply than ever and making choices on where they want to work based on culture, values, perks, and growth opportunities. Millennials want more than just a paycheck, and to attract the best up and coming talent, employers have to offer more. Let’s talk about what that means.

Keeping Up With The Times

One of the top criteria that Millennials use for deciding whether or not to sign on with a company is the quality of the management. Quality of management comes in many forms and is relevant on multiple levels. Here’s what I mean:

Technology: Does it seem like technology developments are moving faster and faster with each passing year? It seems that way, because it is that way. A company that doesn’t embrace and leverage new technology sends a message to employees (and potential employees) that you’re ok remaining stagnant and not so interested in embracing growth and change. This is a red flag for discerning Millennials who are ever-so-searching for upward growth.

Flexibility: As the workplace changes, so do our workdays. The traditional 9 to 5 is a thing of the past in many business settings, and employers are embracing more unconventional methods like implementing 4 day work weeks and allowing more telecommuting. This tells prospective employees that management takes a smart approach to cutting costs and streamlining operations which also allows for a more balanced work-life dynamic for the employee. It’s a winner with Millennial for sure.

Wellness: Employees expect more from the workplace in terms of personal development. They ask the question: If I spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day at my job, what am I getting out of it besides a sense of achievement and a paycheck? Wellness programs are an essential part of any companies’ employee strategy. An investment in the health and wellbeing of employees not only improves the quality of life for workers, it’s proven to increase productivity and it lowers insurance rates for the business.

What can a company do to keep up with the times?

Don’t be Fred Flintstone: Nothing is more frustrating for employees than outdated technology that slows down their day. Provide the right tools for your people and it goes a long way in improving their happiness and increasing their productivity. Assess and upgrade equipment as needed like; Phones, Computers, and Printers and if they say “Made in Bedrock” on the bottom, get an upgrade.

Limber Up: Consider some alternatives to the 8 hour workday if they make sense for your business model. Will a four day week work fly? Can some of your people telecommute part of the time? If the answer is yes, test out some of these options, they could save you money and increase productivity.

Take Care of Your People: If you don’t have a dedicated Wellness Program, get one started. A comprehensive wellness program is an attractive benefit for prospective employees and it will pay you back in spades, by way of:

  • Lowered health care costs.
  • Reduced absenteeism.
  • Higher employee productivity.
  • Reduced workers’ compensation and disability-related costs.
  • Reduced occurrences of injuries.
  • Improved employee morale and loyalty.

Step up Your Game: If you have a wellness program in place, great, you’re on the right track. Consistent growth and improvement of your wellness offerings tells employees that they mean something to the company and are worth the investment. Think about expanding your program and even throwing in some lifestyle benefits in the office like; Yoga classes, fitness areas, and even allowing pets in the office.

Millennials love to see that a company is invested in their personal and professional growth; I think we all like to see that. So, especially in this age of the evolving workplace it’s important for employers to stay up with the times, embrace the changes, and provide a culture that’s attractive to up and coming talent.

At Sinclair we’re dedicated to Employee Wellness. We look at an organization from every angle and we will customize a wellness program focused on developing a healthier and happier workforce in your business. Get in touch with us today to see what we can do for you.

Matt Bauer
President
mbauer@srfm.com

11 Smart Financial Moves You Have to Make

Making Healthcare Hit Home — How to Explain Group Benefits to Your Employees

group benefitsGroup Benefits are both the most important and the most valued benefit provided by employers. American workers regularly cite healthcare as one of the main factors affecting their employment decisions – good or bad. A good group plan provides your people with peace of mind and helps them be happier and more confident in life and work.  In the end, it’s a game changer on many levels when it comes to employee retention and satisfaction.

It’s a shame then that so many people find health plans confusing — whether it’s benefits, coverage, deductibles, premiums, or copays, the bewildering number of choices makes it difficult for employees to make the right decision. Let’s face it – insurance is complicated.

Why is choosing health insurance difficult for employees?

There are many reasons for this including:

  • The sheer number of plans available.
  • The difference in benefits and coverage between plans.
  • Not understanding how premiums and out-of-pocket costs will affect finances.
  • Differences between in-network and out-of-network providers.
  • And many more areas…

 How to make the decision easier

There are several things you can do to make things easier for your team, they include:

Get your employees involved in choosing and educating about group benefits:

Get your managers and team leaders involved so they have a good understanding of all group benefit options and are comfortable discussing it with their direct reports. A great idea would be to create a Benefits Team within your organization. Here’s how: take one employee from each department and create a team. Involve them in the process of decision making when it comes to all areas of group benefit insurance. This way, if a change in benefits is necessary, employees are armed with the reasons why. They can educate others on their team and throughout the company. This helps ward off any negative discussions around changes that are going to happen with your company’s group benefit structure, whether it’s dental, medical, short term disability (STD), long term disability (LTD), etc. Ensure that group benefit insurance is presented both team or company meetings and via one-on-ones if needed.

 Provide a more limited number of health insurance plans

Research shows the more choice consumers are given, the more difficult it is to make the right choice. Think about providing five or six plans as “core” choices, but give employees the option to choose other types of plan if they need them.

Centralize all health insurance information in one place

Link to or create a good comparison of healthcare plans, that show benefits, co-pays, premiums, coverage, and other key elements side-by-side, so people can contrast and compare. Provide supporting material, examples, and context that discusses what the plans cover and how they would work in real life. Your health insurance provider or broker can help with this.

 Get your insurance broker to talk to your team

Your health insurance broker is an expert. Invite them to talk to your employees about the importance of making the right decision. Have them clearly explain the various options open to them and let your employees ask questions and share concerns.

Keep health insurance simple

Explain health coverage in simple terms. Have a person available – ideally your broker, who can answer questions from your team on the options open to them. Provide follow up information people can download and use to understand their coverage.

If you’re changing carriers, explain the reasons why

Sometimes you might need to change your insurance carrier. If you need to do this, provide very clear, simple explanations of how benefits and coverage are changing. Let people know exactly what benefits are being removed, what’s being gained, and any changes to existing benefits. If necessary, provide the reasoning behind changing insurers.

Above all, remember that health insurance is confusing to most people. Be completely transparent, provide simple, useful information, answer questions and ensure employees understand their responsibilities. Rely on your broker to help with the hard tasks – that’s what they are there for!

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14

Changes from the Affordable Care Act in 2017 — What you need to know

Doctor Tablet Computer Affordable Care ActThe Affordable Care Act is making some changes in 2017 and if you’re providing health insurance via a group plan you need to make sure you’re compliant. Here’s a quick guide to the main changes and what you need to do to ensure you meet all the new guidelines and regulations.

Remember, we’re here to help, so if you have any questions about any of this, please do get in touch. The main changes include:

  • Grandfathered plans — Check your plan is still grandfathered.
  • Deductibles amounts — Changing deductibles for EHB and HSA plans.
  • Employee contributions — Changes to FSB contribution limits from employees.
  • Group plan information — Changes to how information on group benefits and coverage is provided to employees.
  • Reinsurance — No reinsurance fees for self-funded plans in 2017.
  • Large employers — Must offer health plans if you have more than 50 full-time employees.

Grandfathered plans — Check grandfathered status for 2017

You likely have a “grandfathered plan” if the plan was already in existence when the ACA came into effect in March 2010 and it hasn’t had significant changes since then. Grandfathered plans can retain their old benefits, premiums, and other features and fees so long as they don’t have prohibited changes made.

  • If your plan has been grandfathered, check that there aren’t any changes being made that will make it lose the grandfathered status in 2017.
  • If it does lose grandfathered status, you’ll need to ensure it meets all of the regulations and guidelines that the ACA requires.

Essential Health Benefits (EHB) and Health Savings Accounts (HSA)  High Deductibles plans — Amounts changing in 2017

Under the ACA, the Out of Pocket maximum fee for EHBs can’t exceed $7,150 for self-only coverage and $14,300 for family coverage in 2017.

  • Check your plan’s out of pocket maximums to make sure it complies with these guidelines.
  • If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) plan with high deductibles, make sure those deductibles are below the ACAs allowed limits. In 2017 that’s $6,550 for self-only and $13,100 for families.

Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) contributions changing in 2017

The amount an employee can contribute, pre-tax, to a health spending account was $2,550 in 2016 and may be increased in 2017. Note that this amount does not apply to employer contributions or to contributions to other benefits such as dependent care assistance.

  • Check to see what the new FSA limit is in 2017, it’s normally announced at the end of the year.
  • If you aren’t able to get that information, use the 2016 limit of $2,550.

Summary of benefits and coverage (SBC) information needs to be updated

The ACA has strict guidelines on how information on benefits and coverage is provided to plan members. In 2017, these guidelines are changing, and a new template will be introduced for SBC information.

  • Use the new SBC template for open-enrollment plans or plans starting on or after April 1 2017.

Reinsurance fees in 2017 — Applies if you are a self-funded plan

From 2014 through 2016, self-funded plans needed to pay fees to a transitional reinsurance program. Starting in 2017, reinsurance fees no longer apply, although your 2016 fees will be due in 2017.

  • Submit the 2016 reinsurance form and make the appropriate payments for the 2016 benefit year.

Applicable Large Employers (ALE) will be subject to penalties if they do not provide appropriate insurance coverage to full-time employees

ALEs must offer affordable health coverage to their full-time employees. They will be penalized if any full-time employee receives a subsidy for health coverage through an Exchange.

  • Calculate the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) employees — These are individuals working, on average, more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month. If you have more than 50, you are likely an ALE.
  • Ensure that you have proper health care coverage in place for your full time employees in 2017.
  • Report the coverage to your employees and the IRS.

If you’ve got any questions about how this affects you, we’re only a phone call away. We’ve got the experience and expertise to talk you through any changes you need to make.

Jill Goulet
Risk Management Consultant
jgoulet@srfm.com

Sinclair 7-22-15-14