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The guidelines for employers regarding who they can or cannot classify as a W-2 employee or a 1099 Contractor have seen some changes in past years, but the latest court ruling means some dramatic changes are going to be taking place as businesses come into compliance with the new standard.  On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court passed down a ruling regarding the classification of W-2 employees and 1099 contractors which alters it yet again.  So listen up, as this may impact your business!

Previously there was a lengthy multi-factor test that an employer would use to determine if they had classified all of their 1099 contractors correctly or if they needed to re-classify them as W-2 employees.  Now the California Supreme Court is stating that employers need to use the ABC test.

The test established by the Court in California reads as follows:

“The [new] ABC test presumptively considers all workers to be employees, and permits workers to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question satisfies each of three conditions: (a) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and (b) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (c) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.” – Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, No. S222732 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Apr. 30, 2018)

This new standard makes California’s policy regarding independent contractors one of the most restrictive in the United States.

Employers who traditionally hire employees for short periods to help them get through their busy season but pay them as 1099 contractors will no longer be able to do so.  If you hire someone to perform the same work that your company already performs, even if it is for a shorter period of time, they will need to be hired and paid as any other W-2 employee.

This will mean increased costs for employers in many areas including, but not limited to, increased taxes through FICA, workers comp premiums, and in some cases health benefit premiums if the employees meet the eligibility criteria.  However, even with the potential increase in costs, the penalty for non-compliance with the new 1099 employee test could be much higher.

By Elizabeth Kay

Understandably, some employers (and employees) have mixed feelings about the gig economy. While many enjoy the freedom gained and overhead saved, others miss office camaraderie and routine. No matter your position, research shows that the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. By 2021, 9.2 million Americans will work on-demand jobs, and so employers need to start asking themselves how they plan to keep employees of all stripes engaged in office work and culture.

As HR Technologist cautions, employee engagement goes both ways.While employers should be concerned about the reliability and loyalty of their freelance pool, they must also maintain strong relationships with their current full-time employees. Best practices for addressing this include providing similar perks to all workers, using in-depth onboarding services and training, and maintaining meticulously open lines of communication.

It is also important to remember that integration like this can’t happen overnight. Building a strong and diverse team, whether fully remote or mixed, takes time. Many companies are engaging “future ready” practices, so that hybrid workforces can be available whenever a particular company is ready to consider open options. Such practices are rooted primarily in savvy digital platforms, allowing for collaboration and innovation, as well as clear conversations about benefits and salaries. Not only do such techniques strengthen the current team, but they also position organizations as solid competitors for rising digital talent. Finally, remember that talent management isn’t merely an agenda item. It’s also a driving tool for strategic decisions about innovation, growth, and performance ability.

While there is no one established way forward, it’s clear that employers who are cognizant of the growing gig economy trend are able to both deepen and strengthen their current talent pool while looking toward the future.

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBAbenefits.com

Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic.

Opioids are made from the opium poppy plant.  Opium has been around since 3,400 BC and it was first referenced as being cultivated in Southwest Asia. The drug traveled the Silk Road from the Mediterranean to Asia to China. Since then, the drug has gained popularity for pain relief but it also has gained notoriety as an abused drug. Morphine, Codeine, and Heroin are all derived from the opium poppy and are all highly addictive drugs that are abused all around the world. As the demand for these drugs has increased, so has the production.  From 2016 to 2017, the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan increased by 63 percent. In 2016, it killed some 64,000 Americans, more than double the number in 2005.

We can see that the danger from this drug is growing rapidly. What can we do to recognize potential abuse problems and to get help? Here are some facts about opioid addiction:

  • How do they work? Opioids attach to pain receptors in your brain spinal cord, and other areas that recognize pain signals. As they attach to the receptors, it reduces the sending of pain messages to the brain and therefore reduces the feelings of pain in your body.
  • Short-acting opiates are typically prescribed for injuries and only for a few days. They take 15-30 minutes for pain relief to begin and this relief lasts for 3-4 hours. Long-acting opiates are prescribed for moderate to severe pain and are used over a long period of time. Relief typically lasts for 8-12 hours and can be used alongside a short-acting drug for breakthrough pain.
  • Dependence is common with long-term use of an opiate. This means that the patient needs to take more of and higher doses of the medicine to get the same pain relieving effect. This does not necessarily mean the patient is addicted. Addiction is the abuse of the drug by taking it in an unprescribed way—like crushing tablets or using intravenously.
  • Help is available through many channels from private recovery centers to insurance providers. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline is 1-800-662-HELP. This line is confidential, free, and available 24-hours a day and 7 days a week. Family and friends may also call this number for resources for help. Additional resources can be found at drugabuse.com.

Make sure you are educated about the dangers of opioid abuse. But, don’t be discouraged and think that the abuse is incurable! There are many resources that can be used to break the addiction cycle and can make real change in the lives of its victims. Ask for help and offer help.

What people want in their benefits package is changing. Retirement and health care still rank high but soft perks and voluntary benefits factor into satisfaction more than any other benefits, so says “Employees Increasingly Excited About Soft Perks and Company-Culture Benefits,” in Employee Benefit News.

When considering a job offer, these types of benefits are top of mind for potential employees and should, therefore, be priorities for employers. Still, over 4 in 10 respondents said their company didn’t offer any perks, a sign that employers still value traditional benefits more.

With a tightening work force and historically low unemployment, employers may need to adjust their offerings to better align with the people they need and want to hire.

Sure, free snacks and coffee are always appreciated. With millennials and Gen Z entering the workforce, it’s clear a new generation of workers is looking for a new generation of benefits. At the same time, baby boomers are working longer than the generations prior. Companies, then, must develop not only perks but also voluntary solutions that meet a sprawling range of life experiences according to “9 voluntary solutions for today’s diverse workforce” and “10 perks that help attract and retain workers,” in BenefitsPRO.

More and more, flexible hours are a leading request in interviews. Likewise, the opportunity to work from home or a company keeping summer hours can boost satisfaction. Having control over when and where work happens is more and more important to employees.

Other perks seen as essential were professional development and fitness and health programs. Wellness programs might include discounts for fitness wearables. Professional development could include creating opportunities to learn about topics as diverse as coding to project management. Lunch-and-learn events are a small-scale way to invest in employee development, and it’s seen as even better if the employer provides the lunch.

Read “Employees Increasingly Excited About Soft Perks and Company-Culture Benefits” here.

Read “9 voluntary solutions for today’s diverse workforce” here.

Read “10 perks that help attract and retain workers” here.

By Bill Olson

Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

Do you offer coverage to your employees through a self-insured group health plan? Do you sponsor a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA)? If so, do you know whether your plan or HRA is subject to the annual Patient-Centered Research Outcomes Institute (PCORI) fee?

This article answers frequently-asked questions about the PCORI fee, which plans are affected, and what you need to do as the employer sponsor. PCORI fees for 2017 health plans and HRAs are due July 31, 2018.

What is the PCORI fee?

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study clinical effectiveness and health outcomes. To finance the nonprofit institute’s work, a small annual fee is charged on health plans.

Most employers do not have to take any action, because most employer-sponsored health plans are provided through group insurance contracts. For insured plans, the carrier is responsible for the PCORI fee and the employer has no duties.

If, however, you are an employer that self-insures a health plan or an HRA, it is your responsibility to determine whether PCORI applies and, if so, to calculate, report, and pay the fee.

The annual PCORI fee is equal to the average number of lives covered during the health plan year, multiplied by the applicable dollar amount:

  • If the plan year end date was between January 1 and September 30, 2017: $2.26.
  • If the plan year end date was between October 1 and December 31, 2017: $2.39.

Payment is due by July 31 following the end of the calendar year in which the plan year ended. Therefore, for plan years ending in 2017, payment is due no later than July 31, 2018.

Does the PCORI fee apply to all health plans?

The fee applies to all health plans and HRAs, excluding the following:

  • Plans that primarily provide “excepted benefits” (e.g., stand-alone dental and vision plans, most health flexible spending accounts with little or no employer contributions, and certain supplemental or gap-type plans).
  • Plans that do not provide significant benefits for medical care or treatment (e.g., employee assistance, disease management, and wellness programs).
  • Stop-loss insurance policies.
  • Health savings accounts (HSAs).

The IRS provides a helpful chart indicating the types of health plans that are, or are not, subject to the PCORI fee.

If I have multiple self-insured plans, does the fee apply to each one?

Yes. For instance, if you self-insure one medical plan for active employees and another medical plan for retirees, you will need to calculate, report, and pay the fee for each plan. There is an exception, though, for “multiple self-insured arrangements” that are sponsored by the same employer, cover the same participants, and have the same plan year. For example, if you self-insure a medical plan with a self-insured prescription drug plan, you would pay the PCORI fee only once with respect to the combined plan.

Does the fee apply to HRAs?

Yes. The PCORI fee applies to HRAs, which are self-insured health plans, although the fee is waived in some cases. If you self-insure another plan, such as a major medical or high deductible plan, and the HRA is merely a component of that plan, you do not have to pay the PCORI fee separately for the HRA. In other words, when the HRA is integrated with another self-insured plan, you only pay the fee once for the combined plan.

On the other hand, if the HRA stands alone, or if the HRA is integrated with an insured plan, you are responsible for paying the fee for the HRA.

What about QSEHRAs? Does the fee apply?

Yes. A Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) is new type of tax-advantaged arrangement that allows small employers to reimburse certain health costs for their workers. Although a QSEHRA is not the same as an HRA, and the rules applying to each type are very different, a QSEHRA is a self-insured health plan for purposes of the PCORI fee. In late 2017, the IRS released guidance confirming that small employers that offer QSEHRAs must calculate, report and pay the PCORI fee.

Can I use ERISA plan assets or employee contributions to pay the fee?

No. The PCORI fee is an employer expense and not a plan expense, so you cannot use ERISA plan assets or employee contributions to pay the fee. An exception is allowed for certain multi-employer plans (e.g., union trusts) subject to collective bargaining. Since the fee is paid by the employer as a business expense, it is tax deductible.

How do I calculate the fee?

Multiply $2.26 or $2.39 (depending on the date the plan year ended in 2017) times the average number of lives covered during the plan year. “Covered lives” are all participants, including employees, dependents, retirees, and COBRA enrollees. You may use any one of the following counting methods to determine the average number of lives:

  • Average Count Method: Count the number of lives covered on each day of the plan year, then divide by the number of days in the plan year.
  • Snapshot Method: Count the number of lives covered on the same day each quarter, then divide by the number of quarters (e.g., four). Or count the lives covered on the first of each month, then divide by the number of months (e.g., 12). This method also allows the option — called the “snapshot factor method” — of counting each primary enrollee (e.g., employee) with single coverage as “1” and counting each primary enrollee with family coverage as “2.35.”
  • Form 5500 Method: Add together the “beginning of plan year” and “end of plan year” participant counts reported on the Form 5500 for the plan year. There is no need to count dependents using this method since the IRS assumes the sum of the beginning and ending of year counts is close enough to the total number of covered lives. If the plan is employee-only without dependent coverage, divide the sum by 2. (If Form 5500 for the plan year ending in 2017 is not filed by July 31, 2018, you cannot use this counting method.)

For an HRA, count only the number of primary participants (employees) and disregard any dependents.

How do I report and pay the fee?

Use Form 720, Quarterly Excise Tax Return, to report and pay the annual PCORI fee. Report all information for self-insured plan(s) with plan year ending dates in 2017 on the same Form 720. Do not submit more than one Form 720 for the same period with the same Employer Identification Number (EIN), unless you are filing an amended return.

The IRS provides Instructions for Form 720. Here is a quick summary of the items for PCORI:

  • Fill in the employer information at the top of the form.
  • In Part II, complete line 133(c) and/or line 133(d), as applicable, depending on the plan year ending date(s). If you are reporting multiple plans on the same line, combine the information.
  • In Part II, complete line 2 (total).
  • In Part III, complete lines 3 and 10.
  • Sign and date Form 720 where indicated.
  • If paying by check or money order, also complete the payment voucher (Form 720-V) provided on the last page of Form 720. Be sure to fill in the circle for “2nd Quarter.” Refer to the Instructions for mailing information.

Caution! Before taking any action, confirm with your tax department or controller whether your organization files Form 720 for any purposes other than the PCORI fee. For instance, some employers use Form 720 to make quarterly payments for environmental taxes, fuel taxes, or other excise taxes. In that case, do not prepare Form 720 (or the payment voucher), but instead give the PCORI fee information to your organization’s tax preparer to include with its second quarterly filing.

Summary

If you self-insure one or more health plans or sponsor an HRA, you may be responsible for calculating, reporting, and paying annual PCORI fees. The fee is based on the average number of lives covered during the health plan year. The IRS offers a choice of three different counting methods to calculate the plan’s average covered lives. Once you have determined the count, the process for reporting and paying the fee using Form 720 is fairly simple. For plan years ending in 2017, the deadline to file Form 720 and make your payment is July 31, 2018.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Did you know that you can save time and money on your prescription drugs by simply signing up for a discount card online? With savings as much as 80% off, these discount cards keep your health care costs down even when the prices of prescriptions are sharply rising.  At no cost to the patient, discount drug programs negotiate the price of medicines with pharmacies and then pass the savings on to the consumer.  These programs give subscribers a personalized discount card to be used at any pharmacy. While the discount card cannot be used in conjunction with health insurance, the consumer may see that the cost of their medicine is actually LESS with the card than it is with their insurance.

Another benefit to the consumer is that these programs will publish at which pharmacy you can find your medicine. This is especially helpful to the person who has specialty drug prescriptions. For example, Rebekah is prescribed a specialty drug for pain and neuropathy due to Multiple Sclerosis. This drug is not commonly stocked in pharmacies and so many times, she has had to wait for them to order it. By using the discount drug program, Rebekah is able to see which pharmacies have her medicine in stock and the estimated price.

So where do you start? Here are a few discount drug programs to investigate costs and providers for your prescriptions:

  • staterxplans.us
    • Provides free drug cards to reduce the out-of-pocket cost of prescription drugs.
    • Click on your state and the site will redirect you to your corresponding prescription assistance program.
  • goodrx.com
    • Compares prices and discounts at thousands of pharmacies.
    • Receive coupons via phone, email, or text to print or present for discounts.
  • refillwise.com
    • Free drug card to present at pharmacy for cost savings on prescriptions.
    • Earn rewards each time you use their card—similar to credit card rewards. Each fill is 500 points and when you reach 5,000 points, you earn a gift card to various retailers.

Being a savvy consumer can save you money! Shop around to find the best cost for your prescription drugs and save time by locating the pharmacy that has your meds in stock. Discount drug programs are a great resource so do your research and find one that fits your needs.

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