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by Wyatt Bland

 

You probably already know the standard benefits and coverage options that your health insurance carrier is offering you, from doctor’s appointments to preventative care to routine tests. But do you use or even know about your hidden benefits and perks? To incentivize healthy lifestyles and compete with other plans, carriers will often include benefits and discounts for enrollees. Although this list is by no means exhaustive and benefits vary greatly from insurance company to insurance company and plan to plan, these may be some of your hidden benefits that you should inquire about from your broker, HR department, or health insurance carrier:

  1. Walk-in Clinics

Walk-in clinics are available around the country and may be located at your local pharmacy. Walk-in clinics are perfect options when you are travelling or can’t get an appointment with your regular physician. Places such as CVS, Walgreens, and Target offer walk-in clinic services as easy, quick, and simple as shopping. Under a physician or registered nurse practitioner, you can seek treatment for a wide array of ailments, have a prescription filled, and even have tests run.

  1. Telehealth and Virtual Care

Telehealth is a bit of a catch-all term with a wide assortment of definitions. Many insurance companies refer to telehealth as a system of accessing care remotely through the comfort of your computer or phone. With services like Teladoc, you can video chat with a certified physician while benefiting from low wait times and on-demand service at the touch of a screen.

  1. Healthy Meal and Activities Savings

Although not as common as other hidden benefits, insurance companies are beginning to explore subsidizing and offering discounts on healthier food and groceries. These benefits could also include discounts on registered dieticians and popular weight loss programs such as Jenny Craig®. Your insurance may even offer you their in-house weight loss programs and services.

  1. Chronic Illness Case Manager

If you have a qualifying illness you may be able to participate in your carrier’s chronic illness management program. Qualifying diseases could include, but are not limited to, heart conditions, diabetes, asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions, among others. In addition to online access and support, you could receive a case manager that helps to teach you how to navigate your symptoms and manage your illness.

  1. Discounted Fitness Memberships

Some insurance carriers partner up with fitness centers and gyms to offer discounts and savings on memberships to enrollees like you. You could also save further health costs down the road by staying fit and active. Not to mention that some insurance companies offer reward programs in which you are rewarded just for going to the gym or walking a certain amount of steps each day.

  1. House Calls

See if you can access one of the many companies that offer house calls like Heal. A house call is when a doctor comes to your home for a personal appointment, rather than you having to go to the doctor’s office. Many insurance companies cover house calls so they are an affordable and convenient option for when you are feeling sick.  Ultimately you can avoid germ-filled waiting rooms and enjoy the privacy and comfort of your home.

  1. 24/7 Nurse Lines

When you are feeling a minor illness or have a medical question, you could call up a 24/7 nurse line. These phone lines may be covered by your insurance through a partner organization or directly sponsored by your carrier. Typically the nurse line involves a registered nurse available 24/7 to answer questions and offer advice on symptoms, care, and minor illnesses. But a 24/7 nurse line is not a substitute for emergency services so as with any case if you are experiencing a medical emergency call 911.

  1. Away From Home Coverage

We have all had that moment when we took the family for a vacation and someone gets sick. While it depends on the carrier and your plan, realize that your insurance may reach across the country. Call your insurance company and the doctor’s office before setting up an appointment to see if a physician is contracted with your insurance. But don’t assume that just because you’re away from home means you won’t be covered.

 

There are numerous benefits that you may be underutilizing. These benefits include discounts, savings, and special programs and resources that you might be missing out on. Take advantage of your options and find out what may be hidden in your plan.

For more information on some of the hidden benefits of specific carriers please call your broker or insurance company. Call us today at AEIS, Inc. to help you explore hidden benefits at 650-348-6234.

 

Disclaimer: You should familiarize yourself with your available insurance benefits before you may need them and in case of an emergency seek immediate medical attention and call 911.

Next time you receive a bill from a physician or a hospital, you may want to compare it with an Explanation of Benefits (EOB).

As the insurer Cigna states, an EOB is “a statement from your health insurance plan describing what costs it will cover for medical care or products you’ve received.” While they may look different depending on the insurance company, EOBs help to explain how much the cost of your care for a visit was, how much your insurance carrier paid for it, and how much your provider may bill you for. Your insurance negotiates prices with your provider so there will be an “allowed amount” section on your EOB of how much a doctor could charge your insurance. An EOB could also include information on the claim, member details, deductibles, and copays.

But an EOB is NOT a bill. It is simply the explanation of charges, allowed charges, and insurance payments for a service to your medical provider. You will receive a bill separately from your physician or hospital.

While you look over your EOB, make sure to look at the section that states how much you owe your hospital or physician. This section could be worded as “total patient cost,” “total provider may bill you,” or something along those lines. When you receive your actual bill, check the charged amount with your EOB information because sometimes hospitals or physicians could make a mistake when billing you.

In addition be sure that your EOB shows any copays or amounts you have already paid to the provider at the time of your visit. If your copay that you already paid does not appear on your EOB or bill, contact your provider and insurance carrier to make sure that it is corrected.

If you have a PPO plan, you also want to make sure on your EOB that the insurance carrier has correctly coded your provider as “in-network,” if they are an in-network provider. A PPO plan gives you the option to see providers that are in or out of your network. Your insurance carrier has negotiated lower costs with in-network providers so you will almost always pay less out of your pocket if you stay with providers in your network as opposed to out of network providers.

Essentially EOBs are there to show transparency and to catch billing errors. Michelle*, a graphic designer from Northern California, quickly learned this lesson. Recently Michelle opened up her bill from her dermatologist and found that she was charged hundreds of dollars for a visit. She had an exam and a couple of procedures but was skeptical of the high price so she checked her EOB online. She realized that her doctor had charged her for a service that her insurance did not allow for her physician to charge. She called her doctor and explained what her EOB said. In a few weeks, her doctor’s office worked with her insurance and fixed their billing mistake. Because of her diligence, she saved nearly $300.

A few months later her husband, Jack, was charged thousands of dollars for procedures from his doctor. But Jack checked his EOB and quickly saw that all the charges were for preventative procedures, which Jack was not responsible for paying under his health plan. He called his doctor and explained what the EOB said. His doctor’s office realized that they had made a mistake and told him not to pay the bill. How much did he save by checking his EOB? Around $2,000. If Michelle and Jack hadn’t read over their EOBs, they may have ended up paying for these unnecessary charges.

EOBs will either be mailed to you or available for access online. If you have a digital account with your insurance, sign in and check under EOBs to download your latest ones. If you are not sure how to access your EOBs, contact your broker or insurance company for assistance.

While billing mistakes are rare and it may be extra work to check your EOB, it never hurts and you could avoid paying fees that should not be there. When in doubt, check your EOB.
*All identifying information has been changed and permission was granted to be included in this post.

Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. Should you require further compliance assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.

Source: https://www.cigna.com/individuals-families/understanding-insurance/explanation-of-benefits

By Wyatt Bland

Question: Are amounts an employer reimburses employees for mileage taxable?

Answer: They may be; the type of reimbursement plan will dictate whether reimbursement for business travel is or is not taxable. Both accountable plans and non-accountable plans allow an employer to reimburse employees for their business expenses.

With an accountable plan, the reimbursement is not taxable to your employee. Amounts paid under an accountable plan are not wages and are not subject to income tax withholding and payment of Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) taxes. Your reimbursement or allowance arrangement must meet all of the following conditions in order to quality as an accountable plan:

  • There must be a business connection to the expenditure. This means that the expense must be a deductible business expense incurred in connection with services performed as an employee of the employer. If not reimbursed by the employer, the expense may be deductible by the employee from their taxable income.
  • There must be adequate accounting by the employee. This means that the employee must give their employer a statement of expense, an account book, a diary, or a similar record in which they entered each use at or near the time it occurred, along with date, mileage, and the business purpose of the use.
  • Excess reimbursements or advances must be returned within a reasonable period of time.

A non-accountable plan does not meet the three requirements for accountable plans and is subject to all employment taxes and withholding. Payments under a non-accountable plan occur if: (1) the employee is not required to substantiate expenses with receipts or other documentation in a timely manner; and (2) the employer advances an amount to the employee for business expenses and the employee is not required to, and does not, return any amount he or she does not use for business expenses in a timely manner.

Employers should also check with their state department of taxation to understand any state tax rules applicable to them.

For more detailed information on federal mileage reimbursement, see the IRS page containing Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses, and updates to this publication since its publication date.

 

Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

2019 has ushered in many new trends such as retro cartoon character timepieces, meatless hamburgers, and 5G networks to name a few. Not surprisingly, trend-watching doesn’t stop with pop culture, fashion, and technology. Your company’s human resources department should also take notice of the top changes in the marketplace, so they are poised to attract and retain the best talent. These top trends include a greater emphasis on soft skills, increased workforce flexibility, and salary transparency.

SOFT SKILLS

Gone are the days of hiring a candidate solely based on their hard skills—their education and technical background. While the proper education and training are important factors in getting the job completed, a well-rounded employee must have the soft skills needed to work with a team, problem solve, and communicate ideas and processes. According to Tim Sackett, SHRM-SCP and president of HRU Technical Resources in Michigan, “Employers should be looking for soft skills more and training for hard skills, but we struggle with that.” While hard skills can be measured, soft skills are harder to quantify. However, soft skills facilitate human connections and are the one thing that machines cannot replace.  They are invaluable to the success of a company.

WORKFORCE FLEXIBILITY

As millennials begin to flood the workplace, the traditional view of the workweek has changed. Job seekers report they place a high importance on having the flexibility of when and where to work. The typical work day has evolved from a 9am – 5pm day to a flexible 24-hour work cycle that adjusts to the needs of the employee. Employers are able to offer greater flexibility about when the work is completed and where it takes place. This flexibility has so much importance that job seekers say remote work options and the freedom of an adaptable schedule have a higher priority to them over pay.

SALARY TRANSPARENCY

In the wake of the very public outing of the gender and race pay gaps, companies are opening up conversations about wages in the workplace. Once a hushed subject punishable by termination, salary information is now often being shared in the office. Employers have found that the more transparent and open that they are about the compensation levels in their organization, the more trustworthy they appear to their workforce. One way to stay educated on the welcome trend of pay equality is to visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics’s website to review wage ranges across the nation. Another great resource is the Department of Labor’s free publication called “Employer’s Guide on Equal Pay.”

By watching the trends in the marketplace, employers can focus on what is important to their staff. Honest discussions about salary and compensation, when and where to work, and developing the employee as a whole, including soft skills, sets your company up for success. When you listen to what the market is saying, you show you are sensitive to what their priorities are—and this is always on trend.


Spring is here! That means it’s time to ditch those Winter layers, and even that excess Winter weight. No matter what your current fitness level, Spring is a great time to refocus your habits and spruce up your routine.

Get a Check Up or a Physical

Before starting any new fitness regimen, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor. Your medical professional will be able to assess any potential risks associated with starting a new fitness routine and may advise you on the types of activities you should try or avoid. For example, if you suffer from low back pain, your doctor can suggest the types of activities that will strengthen your muscles without extra risk of injury, and they may even suggest avoiding certain types of workouts.

Hit the Trails

If you enjoy walking, jogging, or biking, it’s time to take your workouts into the great outdoors. Indoor workouts are convenient, not to mention climate controlled, but it’s time to take advantage of the Spring weather and enjoy those activities out of doors for a nice change of pace. While you’re at it, change your pace! Try increasing your speed or adding in some hills and add the extra challenge your current fitness level.

Sign Up for a Race

Spring is a great time to walk, jog, or run in a charity race. Whether it’s a cause close to your heart, or an event close to home, there are lots of 5K’s and fun-runs to choose from. Try searching on Facebook events for upcoming races. Sometimes the simple act of paying a registration can be all the motivation needed to get your running or walking back on track–figuratively and literally.

Join a Local Team

All work and no play can make for a very boring fitness routine. Try joining a local recreational sports league. Check with your local parks and recreation office for adult leagues. It can be a great way to get fit while making new friends. Soccer, softball, volleyball and even dodgeball are common. If you can find coworkers to join you, consider starting an office team of your own. Bragging rights can be very effective motivational tools!

Start a Fitness Challenge at Work

Start a sports team isn’t the only way to get the office involved. Consider starting an office fitness challenge. It could be something as simple as a “30-Day Water Challenge” or a “Biggest Loser” weight loss contest. The most important part of a fitness challenge at work is the opportunity to motivate one another, to challenge one another, and even to hold each other accountable.

Start by assessing your current fitness level, consult a medical professional as needed, and set realistic goals for improvement. From there, the possibilities are endless.

As schedules continue to get more and more packed with work, health, and personal responsibilities, prioritizing and organizing our lives becomes increasingly crucial. When you look at your daily to-do list, some tasks are obviously more important than others, but the significance of other tasks may be less apparent. Automating certain things, like paying bills, is a no-brainer, but there are other areas of our lives that can benefit from automation as well. Consider the benefits of taking automation beyond your Netflix subscription renewal to other important parts of your daily life.

Automate Your Finances

So many of us have automatic drafts for various accounts that we don’t even bat an eyelash at automating our finances. But think about those other bills stacking up on your desk. Have you ever forgotten to pay a utility bill only to discover the lights don’t come on when you get home from work? Automate your finances by setting up payments for everything from utilities to credit cards. If you give out of the generous pocket of your heart, you can even set up autopayments for donations to your favorite charities. And don’t miss out on the regular deposit you make into your 401k at work. If your company matches your contributions, make sure you automatically deposit the amount that they agree to match so that you are maxing out this benefit. Not only do you avoid late fees and added charges, but you gain the peace of mind that comes from planning ahead.

Automate Your Health

Few things in life are more important than our physical health, but so many of us put off taking care of ourselves. Be proactive and schedule tasks related to your health. Get your annual physical and annual dental exams on the calendar early in the year. Women need to schedule their routine breast cancer exam, and doctors recommend everyone 50 years and older, having routine colon cancer screening. By automating these health exams, you aid in early detection of diseases and reduce the impact should concerns arise.

In addition to annual health exams, you can schedule your family’s weekly meals. Planning out your menu of meals for the week saves time in deciding what to fix as well as time running to the grocery store for just one meal’s ingredients. Having a meal-prep day can be a weekly task that may end up saving you time in the kitchen every single day of the week. If planning and cooking aren’t things you enjoy, consider a meal kit service that delivers all the ingredients, recipes, and instructions to your door. There’s a meal kit service for every palate imaginable from vegan to kid-friendly to family style!

Automate Your Relationships

The most important part of our lives is whom we spend them with, so automating time with people is a great way to make them a priority in your schedule. Try starting each new month by looking at your calendar and planning relationship-building time. For instance, once a month schedule date night with your spouse. Book the babysitter, make a reservation, or whatever you both enjoy. You’ll have the added bonus of anticipating the fun, plus the ability to plan around what really matters rather than trying to “fit it in” after the fact. Maybe once a month, or every other month, you plan a girls’ night or get together with the guys every Monday to watch the football game. If you’re a parent, try scheduling one-on-one time with each of your kids.

Don’t stop there, though. Schedule a set time each week or month where you unplug from electronics and do something you enjoy. Read, spend time outdoors, take a class. When you automate investing in your relationships—with yourself and others—you are able to prioritize how you spend your extra time each day. You’ll also re-evaluate which relationships are truly important to you so that you can give them the time they deserve.

 

Automating your life doesn’t mean that you are stuck to a strict schedule with every minute accounted for or planned out. Instead, it means that you are looking at the things that hold the most value to you and devoting the time and resources you desire to make that part of your life healthy. Whether it’s finances, health, or relationships, you can save time and money and build stronger connections by adding simple automations to your life. Now get your calendar and computer out and automate what you appreciate!

 

As we begin our new year of 2019, we have also closed 2018 with lots of celebrations, gift-giving, and family time. Showing appreciation for others during this generous season comes second nature for some but for others, it doesn’t.  You may be looking for ideas on how to express your gratitude effectively to those around you and so we’ve compiled a list of five unique ways to say “thank you” to someone.

WRITE IT OUT

Receiving a handwritten note is a rare occurrence in this day. Speaking or emailing a thank you is more common and does effectively communicate the gratitude of the sender. However, the spirit of gratefulness that is communicated by sitting down and taking pen to paper to express your thankfulness for the act or gift received, is a bonus to the note receiver. Take the extra time to write out that thank you.

PHONE A FRIEND

In a day and age of emails and texts and social media, we rarely get phone calls from people who aren’t asking for something—billing issues, appointment reminders, robo-calls.  Even if the person on the other end of the call doesn’t pick up, leave that voicemail telling them thank you for their thoughtfulness for the gift you received. Be specific and mention the gift by name and what it meant to receive it. That phone call may be the brightest part of their day!

SAY IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA

We spend more time scrolling through social media than we do having face-to-face contact with people. Instead of getting caught up in a heated debate on NextDoor, take a few minutes to write on a friend’s wall to tell them thank you. It’s refreshing to see gratitude on display instead of incivility. And it’s always nice to see your friends get noticed for kindness!

FLASH A SMILE

The look of surprise on someone’s face is sometimes the greatest thank you that you can receive! The age old saying of “your face says it all” is true. When you open that gift and you can tell that the giver spent time thinking of the perfect thing to give you, look up and give them the thank you of a smile!

PAY IT FORWARD

Were you bowled over by the thoughtfulness of a gift or act? A beautiful way to show your gratefulness is to pay it forward. Buy the coffee of the person behind you in line. Say three nice things to strangers on the way in to your office. Tell your child a character quality you see in them that is fabulous. While this act of gratitude may mean that the original giver never knows about the ripple effect of their gift, you will, and hopefully that ripple is carried on and on and on.

These acts of gratitude are simple, effective, and most of all, meaningful. Take the time to say thank you!

 

 

 

On September 30, 2018, Governor Brown signed into law SB 1343 which amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and goes into effect January 1, 2019.  This new legislation requires all employers in California who employ 5 or more employees on a regular basis to provide sexual harassment training to all employees, both in supervisory and non-supervisory roles.

Employers have until January 1, 2020, to comply with the new requirements.

In short, employees are required to complete this training within 6 months of starting a position.  Employees in supervisory roles will be required to complete a 2-hour course; employees in non-supervisory roles will be required to complete a 1-hour course.  All employees will be required to complete the training once every two years.

The training can be completed online or in a classroom setting.  It can be integrated with other training sessions that you may require for new employees so long as the curriculum meets the requirements for time and content.

Remember that your required posters and fact sheets will need to be updated.  These posters can be requested directly from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Per the regulations, the Department will be providing two online training courses: a 2-hour course for supervisors and a 1-hour course for employees in non-supervisory roles.  These interactive courses will include questions that must be answered before a participant can continue the course.  After the course is completed, the Department will provide an option for the participant to save a certificate of completion electronically or print it.

For employees placed with a company through a temporary staffing agency, the responsibility of sexual harassment training falls to the temporary staffing agency.

For seasonal or temporary workers who are to be employed less than 6 months, training must be completed within the first 30 calendar days of being hired or within the first 100 hours of service, whichever occurs first.

Keep in mind that there are additional requirements for sexual harassment and record keeping per Labor Code section 1684 for migrant or agricultural workers and AB 1978 for employees that provide property services such as janitorial services.

We will provide an update when more information becomes available regarding the training courses provided by the State. If you have further questions, or would like alternate solutions besides the State provided ones, please contact us.

 

By Elizabeth Kay, Compliance and Retention Analyst at AEIS

An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the traits that make someone become a leader aren’t always the ones that make someone an effective leader. Instead, efficacy can be traced to ethicality. Here are a few tips to be an ethical leader.


Humility tops charisma
A little charisma goes a long way. Too much and a leader risks being seen as self-absorbed. Instead, focus on the good of the group, not just sounding good.

Hold steady
Proving reliable and dependable matters. Showing that—yes—the boss follows the rules, too, earns the trust and respect of the people who work for you.

Don’t be the fun boss
It’s tempting to want to be well liked. But showing responsibility and professionalism is better for the health of the team—and your reputation.

Don’t forget to do
Analysis and careful consideration is always appreciated. But at the top you also have to make the call, and make sure it’s not just about the bottom line.

Keep it up!
Once you get comfortable in your leadership role, you may get too comfortable. Seek feedback and stay vigilant.

A company that highlights what happens when leaders aren’t the ones to champion ethics is presented in Human Resource Executive. Theranos had a very public rise and fall, and the author of the article cites the critical role compliance and ethics metrics might have played in pushing for better accountability. The article also makes the case for the powerful role of HR professionals in helping guide more impactful ethics conversations.

One high profile case study of a company recognizing that leadership needed to do more is Uber. Here, leadership realized that fast growth was leading to a crumbling culture. A piece in Yahoo! Sports shows how explosive growth can mean less time to mature as a company. Instead of focusing of partnerships with customers and drivers, Uber became myopically customer-and growth-focused. This led to frustrations for drivers and ultimately a class-action lawsuit. New initiatives, from tipping to phone support to a driver being able to select riders that will get them closer to home, have been rolled out in recent months. These changes have been welcome, but, as the leadership reflected, could have been more proactively implemented to everyone’s benefit. The mindset of bringing people along will also potentially help Uber maintain better ties with municipalities, which ultimately, is good for growth.

Harvard Business Review Don’t Try to Be the Fun Boss” — and Other Lessons in Ethical Leadership

Yahoo! Sports – How Uber is recovering from a ‘moral breaking point’

Human Resource Executive – An Ethics Lesson

by Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Aristotle was right when he said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Companies and politicians like to say that they’re transparent, when in fact, they’re often the opposite. And, as in nature, in the absence of facts, people will often fill their minds with what is perceived.

If you’re working at a company, rather than being one of its customers, and you’ve been told by senior management that they’re transparent about what goes on, then make sure you take a close look at what they’re willing to share.

In the article titled “The Price of Secrecy” in Human Resource Executive Online, employers are quick to cite company policy, yet are reticent to share if and how those policies are being enforced. This has a huge impact on employee trust and can quickly have the opposite effect on employees following said policy.

Basically, employees want to know that if they follow the rules, others will also follow them, or there will be consequences for not doing so. Companies can hide behind the mantra of “it’s being handled,” or “it’s an employee issue,” but what the employer may forget is that gossip will sometimes fill in the unknown. Compounding matters is that employees want to know that if a colleague violates company policy, the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Employers seldom reveal any disciplinary process or policy enforcement simply because it may violate privacy, or it might embarrass either the employee or employer. For example, an employee has been stealing company property for months. Eventually, the employee is caught, but it may reflect poorly on the employer that it took a long time to realize this was happening, or that safeguards were not in place to prevent the theft in the first place. So, while the employer wants to inform its employees about this violation and how it was handled, they also don’t want to expose vulnerabilities that could undermine the employee’s trust in the company.

Another benefit of policy transparency is that it keeps the enforcers honest. That is, if a company employee is responsible for doling out punishment, then that person is more likely to do it fairly and impartially if they know everyone is watching.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

 

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