The age-old adage, “you get what you pay for,” certainly holds true in the stop loss industry. I cannot stress enough how important it is to look at more than just the premium rates on a spreadsheet.

To understand the importance, let’s use the auto insurance industry as a comparable example. If you were purchasing car insurance for yourself, would you always accept the lowest price without doing a coverage comparison? How would you know if that insurance company might jack up your rates on renewal, or once you have an accident, or possibly delay your claims and find every reason or loophole not to pay them?

Apply that same thinking to stop loss coverage with larger dollar amounts at risk. Not every stop loss policy is alike and not every carrier is going to provide you with the coverage you are seeking. As an employer, you want to make sure the employee benefit plan you sponsor for your employees will not result in any significant liabilities for your company. You want the peace of mind of knowing there won’t be any surprises along the way.

All stop loss carrier policies are different. Over my 20-plus years in the industry, I have seen some very unique language and provisions in stop loss policies that most people would not notice without looking at the fine print. You must be aware of these potential provisions that could cause significant gaps in coverage between your employee benefit plan and your stop loss policy.

How can you best protect your company? You can start by working with your broker or administrator to narrow down the list of stop loss providers to those that best meet your needs. Brokers and administrators are best suited to understand the complexities of stop loss insurance and provide you with the best possible information regarding policies and choices.

By keeping this, and the following items, in mind during your selection process, you should be able to find a carrier to serve your needs.

The most important advice I can provide is to look beyond just price and at the actual stop loss policy. The lowest price doesn’t always mean the best value. So make sure to:

  • Read the stop loss policy before you purchase your coverage
  • Ask for a sample policy
  • Understand ALL the provisions of the policy itself
  • Ask your broker or administrator to review the policy if you don’t understand all the provisions

Additionally, there are a few other things you will want to look for, or ask about, when selecting a stop loss carrier. In part two of this blog, which will be posted the first week of April, I will discuss some of the most frequent items I have seen that cause issues or gaps in coverage.

By Steven Goethel, Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

Last fall, President Barack Obama signed the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE), which preserved the historical definition of small employer to mean an employer that employs 1 to 50 employees. Prior to this newly signed legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was set to expand the definition of a small employer to include companies with 51 to 100 employees (mid-size segment) beginning January 1, 2016.

If not for PACE, the mid-size segment would have become subject to the ACA provisions that impact small employers. Included in these provisions is a mandate that requires coverage for essential health benefits (not to be confused with minimum essential coverage, which the ACA requires of applicable large employers) and a requirement that small group plans provide coverage levels that equate to specific actuarial values. The original intent of expanding the definition of small group plans was to lower premium costs and to increase mandated benefits to a larger portion of the population.

The lower cost theory was based on the premise that broadening the risk pool of covered individuals within the small group market would spread the costs over a larger population, thereby reducing premiums to all. However, after further scrutiny and comments, there was concern that the expanded definition would actually increase premium costs to the mid-size segment because they would now be subject to community rating insurance standards. This shift to small group plans might also encourage mid-size groups to leave the fully-insured market by self-insuring – a move that could actually negate the intended benefits of the expanded definition.

Another issue with the ACA’s expanded definition of small group plans was that it would have resulted in a double standard for the mid-size segment. Not only would they be subject to the small group coverage requirements, but they would also be subject to the large employer mandate because they would meet the ACA’s definition of an applicable large employer.

Note: Although this bill preserves the traditional definition of a small employer, it does allow states to expand the definition to include organizations with 51 to 100 employees, if so desired.

By Vicki Randall
Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

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

Only certain benefits can be offered through a cafeteria plan:

  • Coverage under an accident or health plan (which can include traditional health insurance, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), self-insured medical reimbursement plans, dental, vision, and more);
  • Dependent care assistance benefits or DCAPs
  • Group term life insurance
  • Paid time off, which allows employees the opportunity to buy or sell paid time off days
  • 401(k) contributions
  • Adoption assistance benefits
  • Health savings accounts or HSAs under IRS Code Section 223

Some employers want to offer other benefits through a cafeteria plan, but this is prohibited. Benefits that you cannot offer through a cafeteria plan include scholarships, group term life insurance for non-employees, transportation and other fringe benefits, long-term care, and health reimbursement arrangements (unless very specific rules are met by providing one in conjunction with a high deductible health plan). Benefits that defer compensation are also prohibited under cafeteria plan rules.

Cafeteria plans as a whole are not subject to ERISA, but all or some of the underlying benefits or components under the plan can be. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has also affected aspects of cafeteria plan administration.

Employees are allowed to choose the benefits they want by making elections. Only the employee can make elections, but they can make choices that cover other individuals such as spouses or dependents. Employees must be considered eligible by the plan to make elections. Elections, with an exception for new hires, must be prospective. Cafeteria plan selections are considered irrevocable and cannot be changed during the plan year, unless a permitted change in status occurs. There is an exception for mandatory two-year elections relating to dental or vision plans that meet certain requirements.

Plans may allow participants to change elections based on the following changes in status:

  • Change in marital status
  • Change in the number of dependents
  • Change in employment status
  • A dependent satisfying or ceasing to satisfy dependent eligibility requirements
  • Change in residence
  • Commencement or termination of adoption proceedings

Plans may also allow participants to change elections based on the following changes that are not a change in status but nonetheless can trigger an election change:

  • Significant cost changes
  • Significant curtailment (or reduction) of coverage
  • Addition or improvement of benefit package option
  • Change in coverage of spouse or dependent under another employer plan
  • Loss of certain other health coverage (such as government provided coverage, such as Medicaid)
  • Changes in 401(k) contributions (employees are free to change their 401(k) contributions whenever they wish, in accordance with the administrator’s change process)
  • HIPAA special enrollment rights (contains requirements for HIPAA subject plans)
  • COBRA qualifying event
  • Judgment, decrees, or orders
  • Entitlement to Medicare or Medicaid
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave
  • Pre-tax health savings account (HSA) contributions (employees are free to change their HSA contributions whenever they wish, in accordance with the their payroll/accounting department process)
  • Reduction of hours (new under the ACA)
  • Exchange/Marketplace enrollment (new under the ACA)

Together, the change in status events and other recognized changes are considered “permitted election change events.”

Common changes that do not constitute a permitted election change event are: a provider leaving a network (unless, based on very narrow circumstances, it resulted in a significant reduction of coverage), a legal separation (unless the separation leads to a loss of eligibility under the plan), commencement of a domestic partner relationship, or a change in financial condition.

There are some events not in the regulations that could allow an individual to make a mid-year election change, such as a mistake by the employer or employee, or needing to change elections in order to pass nondiscrimination tests. To make a change due to a mistake, there must be clear and convincing evidence that the mistake has been made. For instance, an individual might accidentally sign up for family coverage when they are single with no children, or an employer might withhold $100 dollars per pay period for a flexible spending arrangement (FSA) when the individual elected to withhold $50.

Plans are permitted to make automatic payroll election increases or decreases for insignificant amounts in the middle of the plan year, so long as automatic election language is in the plan documents. An “insignificant” amount is considered one percent or less.

Plans should consider which change in status events to allow, how to track change in status requests, and the time limit to impose on employees who wish to make an election.

Cafeteria plans are not required to allow employees to change their elections, but plans that do allow changes must follow IRS requirements. These requirements include consistency, plan document allowance, documentation, and timing of the election change. For complete details on each of these requirements—as well as numerous examples of change in status events, including scenarios involving employees or their spouses or dependents entering into domestic partnerships, ending periods of incarceration, losing or gaining TRICARE coverage, and cost changes to an employer health plan—request UBA’s ACA Advisor, “Cafeteria Plans: Qualifying Events and Changing Employee Elections”.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

Employers I’ve talked to all have the same goal: to help employees build a sound retirement plan to achieve financial success and security. The main components to protect an employee’s financial future are managing a nest egg, growing investments, and safeguarding against uncertainty.

The Missing Component

As an employer, you may be missing a key component in safeguarding against uncertainty – the need for long-term care. Seventy-five percent of people over the age of 65 will need some form of long-term care in their lifetime1, however, far fewer are financially prepared to handle that need. With nursing home costs averaging $84,000 per year2, it’s not surprising that many Americans are having to spend down their retirement savings to pay for care. Long-term care is custodial care received in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or your own home should you need assistance with activities of daily living or suffer from a severe cognitive impairment.

Long Term Care Insurance

Savvy employers are helping fill the uncertainty gap by introducing long-term care insurance to employees. Employers can offer long-term care insurance plans with reduced underwriting and group pricing that employees wouldn’t be able to get as an individual. Better pricing and easier approval make the product accessible to employees that couldn’t normally qualify for coverage.

Long-term care education is key to helping employees protect their retirement savings. Without your help, employees can fall victim to widely held misconceptions. They may think:

  • Other benefits will cover them
  • The government will pay for their care
  • This is only for old people

The truth is that long-term care insurance is the only benefit that covers this type of custodial care, and government options (Medicaid) are only available to people with low income and limited resources.

Shield and Supplement the 401(k)

Do you already contribute to your employees’ 401(k) plan? If so, you can spend the same amount of employer dollars, but provide richer benefits by pairing a 401(k) with long-term care insurance. By taking a small amount of contributions from the 401(k) plan and directing those toward your long-term care insurance premium, the resulting benefit can provide more than $200,000 of long-term care coverage and only slightly adjust the total 401(k) plan value.

Unlike other benefits, where providers may change from year to year, the majority of long-term care insurance purchasers will hold on to their original plan for life, and 99 percent of employees who have the coverage keep it when they move to their next employer, or into retirement. You can think of it as a “legacy benefit” that employees maintain for life to protect their retirement savings.

By Megan Fromm
Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

 

I just want to let you know that YOU ARE AWESOME. You’re always on top of things and answer questions promptly and in detail. I love working with you."

- Office Operations Administrator, IT Consulting Firm

Categories