The quality of a therapeutic relationship depends on the ability of the healthcare provider to communicate effectively. The term “therapeutic communication” is often used in the field of nursing; however, the process isn’t limited to nursing. Other healthcare professionals, friends and family members of a patient can implement the strategies of communicating in a therapeutic manner. The ideal therapeutic exchange provides the patient with the confidence to play an active role in her care.

Facilitates Client Autonomy

Therapeutic communication techniques, such as active listening, infer autonomy or independence on the patient or client. Rather than making assumptions about the client who is almost a stranger, the healthcare professional facilitates therapeutic expression. The client, ideally, will then become more comfortable sharing potentially difficult information. The role of the healthcare professional is then to use this information to help the client to further investigate his own feelings and options. In the end, the client gains more confidence in making decisions regarding his care.

Creates a Nonjudgmental Environment

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a therapeutic relationship is the development of trust. Trust facilitates constructive communication; it also encourages confidence and autonomy. Being nonjudgmental is necessary in verbal and nonverbal communication. People are acutely adept at identifying nonverbal cues that may communicate something very different from what is said.

Provides The Professional With a Holistic View of Their Client

An individual does not usually exist without a network of family, friends and healthcare professionals. Therapeutic communication emphasizes a holistic view of a person and his network of people who provide support. A person’s individual perspective regarding his health and life is viewed through a lens built from the context of his experiences. Those experiences cannot be ignored when communicating in a way that is therapeutic. Within the therapeutic relationship, the individual is learning the skills of communication with other people in his life, ideally also improving those relationships.

Reduces Risk of Unconscious Influence By The Professional

It’s human nature to want to infer some part of yourself into an interaction; however, in order for therapeutic communication to occur, it’s important to temper your influence. Therapeutic communication requires maintaining an acute awareness of what is being said as well as any nonverbal cues. Communicating that you are open to hearing what a person has to say while folding your arms creates confusion and inconsistency that can mar a healthy interaction. Be aware of your tone of voice and any reactions.

Originally Published By LiveStrong.com

The end of the year is upon us and a majority of companies celebrate with an end-of-year/holiday party.  Although the trend of holiday parties has diminished in recent years, it’s still a good idea to commemorate the year with an office perk like a fun, festive party.

BENEFITS OF A YEAR-END CELEBRATION

  • Holiday staff parties are a perfect way to thank your employees for a great year. All employees want to feel appreciated and valued. What better way to serve this purpose, than with an end of the year office celebration. Hosting a night out to honor your employees during a festive time of year boosts morale. And if done right, your party can jump start the new year with refreshed, productive employees.
  • End-of-year celebrations allow employees to come together outside of their own team. The average American will spend 90,000 hours (45 years) of their life at work. Unless you have a very small office, most employees only engage in relationships within their department. When employees have a chance to mingle outside of their regular 9 to 5 day, they’ll build and cultivate relationships across different teams within the organization; creating a more loyal, cohesive and motivated
  • Seasonal parties can provide employers insight on those who work for them. Spending the evening with your employees in a more casual and relaxed atmosphere may reveal talents and ideas you may not have otherwise seen during traditional work hours.

CREATING THE RIGHT FIT

Regardless of office size, if planned right, employers can make a holiday party pop, no matter your budget. Whether this is your first go at an end-of-year celebration for your employees, or you host one every year, keep a few things in mind:

  • Plan early. Establish a steering committee to generate ideas for your holiday party. Allow the committee to involve all employees early on in the process. Utilize voting tools like Survey Monkey or Outlook to compile employee votes. This engages not only your entire workforce, but serves you as well when tailoring your party to fit your culture.
  • Create set activities. Engaging employees in some type of organized activity not only eases any social anxiety for them and their guests, it cultivates memories and allows colleagues to get to know each other. Consider a “Casino Night”, a photo booth (or two if your company can justify to size), an escape room outing—anything that will kick the night off with ease.
  • Incorporate entertainment during the dinner. Have team leads or management members come up with fun awards that emphasize character traits, strengths, and talents others may not know of. This is a great way to create cohesiveness, build relationships, and have your employees enjoy a good laugh at dinner.
  • Offer fun door prizes every 15 minutes or so. Prizes don’t have to be expensive to have an impact on employees, just relevant to them. However, with the right planning you may be able to throw in a raffle of larger gift items as well. Just keep in the specific tax rules when it relates to gift-giving. Gift cards associated with a specific dollar amount available to use at any establishment, and larger ticket items, can be subject to your employees having to claim income on them and pay the tax.
  • Make the dress code inclusive of everyone. Employees should not feel a financial pinch to attend a holiday office party. Establish a dress code that fits your culture, not the other way around.

 

TAKE AWAY TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL HOLIDAY PARTY

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, statistics show in recent years only 65% of employers have offered holiday parties—down from 72% five years ago. Consider the following tips when hosting your next year-end celebration.

  • Keep it light. Eliminate itineraries and board-room like structure. Choose to separate productivity/award celebrations and upcoming year projections from your holiday party.
  • Invite spouses and significant others to attend the party. Employees spend a majority of their week with their colleagues. Giving employees this option is a great way to show you value who they spend their time with outside of work.
  • Allow employees to leave early on a work day to give them time to get ready and pick up who is attending the party with them.
  • Show how you value your employees by chatting with them and meeting their guests.
  • Provide comfortable seating areas where employees can rest, eat and talk. Position these in main action areas so no one feels anti-social for taking a seat somewhere.
  • Consider tying in employees that work in different locations. Have a slideshow running throughout the night on what events other office locations have done throughout the year.
  • Create low-key conversation starters and get people to chat it up. This is valuable especially for those that are new to the company and guests of your employees. Incorporate trivia questions into the décor and table settings. Get them to engage by tying in a prize.
  • Keep the tastes and comfort level of your employees in mind. Include a variety of menu items that fit dietary restrictions. Not all employees drink alcohol and not all employees eat meat.
  • Limit alcohol to a 2 ticket system per guest. Opt for a cash bar after that to reduce liability.
  • Provide access to accommodations or coordinate transportation like Uber or Lyft to get your employees somewhere safely after the party if they choose to drink.

 

Ultimately, holiday parties can still be a value-add for your employees if done the right way. Feel free to change it up from year to year so these parties don’t get stale and continue to fit to your company’s culture. Contemplate new venues, ideas and activities and change up your steering committee to keep these parties fresh. Employees are more likely to enjoy themselves at an event that fits with their lifestyle, so don’t be afraid to get creative!

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the instructions for Forms 1094/1095 for the 2017 tax year, announced PCORI fees for 2017-18, and announced cost-of-living adjustments for 2018. The IRS provided additional guidance on leave-based donation programs’ tax treatment and released an information letter on COBRA and Medicare. Here’s a recap of these actions for your reference.IRS Announces Cost-of-Living Adjustments for 2018

The IRS released Revenue Procedures 2017-58 and Notice 2017-64 to announce cost-of-living adjustments for 2018. For example, the dollar limit on voluntary employee salary reductions for contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) is $2,650, for taxable years beginning with 2018.

Request UBA’s 2018 desk reference card with an at-a glance summary of the various limits.

IRS Announces PCORI Fee for 2017-18

The IRS announced the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for 2017-18. The fee is $1.00 per covered life in the first year the fee is in effect. The fee is $2.00 per covered life in the second year. In the third through seventh years, the fee is $2.00, adjusted for medical inflation, per covered life.

For plan years that end on or after October 1, 2016, and before October 1, 2017, the indexed fee is $2.26. For plan years that end on or after October 1, 2017, and before October 1, 2018, the indexed fee is $2.39.

For more information, view UBA’s FAQ on the PCORI Fee.

IRS Provides Additional Guidance on Leave-Based Donation Programs’ Tax Treatment

Last month, the IRS provided guidance for employers who adopt leave-based donation programs to provide charitable relief for victims of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Irma. This month, the IRS issued Notice 2017-62 which extends the guidance to employers’ programs adopted for the relief of victims of Hurricane and Tropical Storm Maria.

These leave-based donation programs allow employees to forgo vacation, sick, or personal leave in exchange for cash payments that the employer will make to charitable organizations described under Internal Revenue Code Section 170(c).

The employer’s cash payments will not constitute gross income or wages of the employees if paid before January 1, 2019, to the Section 170(c) charitable organizations for the relief of victims of Hurricane or Tropical Storm Maria. Employers do not need to include these payments in Box 1, 3, or 5 of an employee’s Form W-2.

IRS Releases Information Letter on COBRA and Medicare

The IRS released Information Letter 2017-0022 that explains that a covered employee’s spouse can receive COBRA continuation coverage for up to 36 months if the employee became entitled to Medicare benefits before employment termination. In this case, the spouse’s maximum COBRA continuation period ends the later of: 36 months after the employee’s Medicare entitlement, or 18 months (or 29 months if there is a disability extension) after the employment termination.

 

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s time to act on the money sitting in your Flexible Spending/Savings Account (FSA). Unlike a Health Savings Account or HSA, pre-taxed funds contributed to an FSA are lost at the end of the year if an employee doesn’t use them, and an employer doesn’t adopt a carryover policy.  It’s to your advantage to review the various ways you can make the most out of your FSA by year-end.

Book Those Appointments

One of the first things you should do is get those remaining appointments booked for the year. Most medical/dental/vision facilities book out a couple of months in advance, so it’s key to get in now to use up those funds.

Look for FSA-Approved Everyday Health Care Products

Many drugstores will often advertise FSA-approved products in their pharmacy area, within a flyer, or on their website. These products are usually tagged as “FSA approved”. Many of these products include items that monitor health and wellness – like blood pressure and diabetic monitors – to everyday healthcare products like children’s OTC meds, bandages, contact solution, and certain personal care items. If you need to use the funds up before the end of the year, it’s time to take a trip to your local drugstore and stock up on these items.

Know What’s Considered FSA-Eligible

Over the last several years, the IRS has loosened the guidelines on what is considered eligible under a FSA as more people became concerned about losing the money they put into these plans. There are many items that are considered FSA-eligible as long as a prescription or a doctor’s note is provided or kept on file. Here are a few to consider:

  • Acupuncture. Those who suffer from chronic neck or back pain, infertility, depression/anxiety, migraines or any other chronic illness or condition, Eastern medicine may be the way to go. Not only are treatments relatively inexpensive, but this 3,000 year old practice is recognized by the U.S. National Institute of Health and is an eligible FSA expense.
  • Dental/Vision Procedures. Dental treatment can be expensive—think orthodontia and implants. While many employers may offer some coverage, it’s a given there will be out-of-pocket costs you’ll incur. And, eye care plans won’t cover the cost of LASIK, but your FSA will. So, if you’ve been wanting to correct your vision without the aid of glasses or contacts, or your needing to get that child braces, using those FSA funds is the way to go.
  • Health-boosting Supplements. While you cannot just walk into any health shop and pick up performance-enhancing powder or supplements and pay with your FSA card, your doctor may approve certain supplements and alternative options if they deem it to benefit your health and well-being. A signed doctor’s note will make these an FSA-eligible expense.
  • Smoking-cessation and Weight-Loss Programs. If your doctor approves you for one of these programs with a doctor’s note deeming it’s medically necessary to maintain your health, certain program costs can be reimbursed under an FSA.

Talk to Your HR Department

When the IRS loosened guidelines a few years ago, they also made it possible for participants to carry over $500 to the next year. Ask Human Resources if your employer offers this, or if they provide a grace period (March 15 of the following year) to turn in receipts and use up funds. Employers can only adopt one of these two policies though.

Plan for the Coming Year

Analyze the out-of-pocket expenses you incurred this year and make the necessary adjustments to allocate what you believe you’ll need for the coming year. Take advantage of the slightly higher contribution limit for 2018.  If your company offers a FSA that covers dependent care, familiarize yourself with those eligible expenses and research whether it would be to your advantage to contribute to as well.

Flexible Spending/Saving Accounts can be a great employee benefit offering tax advantages for employees that have a high-deductible plan or use a lot of medical. As a participant, using the strategies listed above will help you make the most out of your FSA.

December 1, 2017 is the deadline for certain employers to use the Occupational Safety and Health Agency’s (OSHA) Injury Tracking Application (ITA) portal to report information from their 2016 Form 300A regarding employee illnesses and injuries. We previously reported (Breach Forces OSHA to Shut Down Reporting Portal) that OSHA suspended employer reporting through the ITA portal in August due to a possible security breach; however, the ITA portal is currently open for reporting.

OSHA announced that it is considering a proposed rule to modify the final rule on tracking and reporting illnesses, which could change some aspects of electronic reporting. Key topics for consideration include not making the reports public and eliminating the rule’s anti-retaliation provisions. At this point, however, there is no timeline for rule changes or any indication that electronic reporting will not be enforced beginning on December 1.

With just over a month before the reporting deadline, impacted employers are encouraged to review electronic reporting requirements in order to complete the online reporting process on time. Here is a summary of requirements:

Who must comply with the December 1, 2017 deadline

  • Most establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records.
  • Employers with 20-249 employees from certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries (high-risk industries) and illnesses.

States exempt from electronic reporting

Some states with OSHA-approved state plans have not yet adopted a requirement that illness and injury reports be submitted electronically. Establishments in the following states are currently not required to submit their reports using the ITA portal:

  • California
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Establishments in these states may contact their state plan for more information about reporting requirements.

State and local governments exempt from electronic reporting

State and local government establishments in the following states with OSHA-approved state programs have not adopted OSHA’s final rule requiring electronic reporting of illness and injury and are not required to submit their reports through the electronic portal:

  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • New Jersey
  • New York

How to submit data and get help

OSHA’s ITA portal offers three options for submitting data. Employers can:

  • Manually enter data on the site;
  • Upload a comma separated values (CSV) file; or
  • Transmit records electronically from an automated recordkeeping system using an application programming interface (API).

OSHA offers instructions for both the CSV and API processes as well as frequently asked questions related to the reporting process.

How long submission takes

For employers with 20-249 employees who are required to report, OHSA estimates that it will take approximately 20 minutes to complete the reporting process.

For employers with 250 or more employees, OSHA estimates it will take 32 minutes to complete the reporting process.

Additional reporting requirements will be rolled out over the next two years for impacted employers.

 

Originally Published By ThinkHR.com

I’m happy to report that this year’s UBA Health Plan survey achieved a milestone. For the first time, we surpassed 20,000 health plans entered—20,099 health plans to be exact, which were sponsored by 11,221 employers. What we were able to determine from all this data was that a tumultuous Presidential election likely encouraged many employers to stay the course and make only minor increases and decreases across the board while the future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) became clearer.

There were, however, a few noteworthy changes in 2017. Premium renewal rates (the comparison of similar plan rates year over year) rose nearly 7%, representing a departure from the trend the last five years. To control these costs, employers shifted more premium to employees, offered more lower-cost CDHP and HMO plans, increased out-of-network deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums, and significantly reduced prescription drug coverage as six-tier prescription drug plans exploded on the marketplace. Self-funding, particularly among small groups, is also on the rise.

Percent Premium Increase Over Time

UBA has conducted its Health Plan Survey since 2005. This longevity, coupled with its size
 and scope, allows UBA to maintain its superior accuracy over any other benchmarking survey in the U.S. In fact, our unparalleled number of reported plans is nearly three times larger than the next two of the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking surveys combined. The resulting volume of data provides employers of all sizes more detailed—and therefore more meaningful—benchmarks and trends than any other source.

By Peter Weber
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

Fall.  With it comes cooler temperatures’, falling leaves, warm seasonal scents like turkey and pumpkin pie, and Open Enrollment.  It goes without saying; employees who understand the effectiveness of their benefits are much more pleased with those packages, happier with their employers, and more engaged in their work. So, as your company gears up for a new year of navigating Open Enrollment, here are a few points to keep in mind to make the process smoother for both employees and your benefits department. Bonus: it will lighten the load for both parties alike during an already stress-induced season.

Communicate Open Enrollment Using a Variety of Mediums

Advertise 2018 benefit changes to employees by using a variety of mediums. The more reminders and explanation of benefits staff members have using more than one mode of media, the more likely employees will go into Open Enrollment with more knowledge of your company’s benefit options and when they need to have these options completed for the new year.

  • Consider explainer videos to simplify the amount of emails and paperwork individuals need to review come Open Enrollment time. These videos can increase the bottom line as well, eliminating the high cost of print material.
  • Opt for placards placed throughout your high-traffic areas. Communicate benefit options and remind employees of Open Enrollment dates for the new year by posting in such areas as the lobby, break room and bathroom stalls.
  • Choose SMS texting. Today, over 97% of individuals use text. Ninety-eight percent of those that use text open messages within the first three minutes of receiving them; 6-8 times higher than the engagement rate for email. Delivering a concise message to employees’ mobile devices creates more touch points along the Open Enrollment journey. The key, however, is making it quick so as to entice your employees to take action.
  • Promote apps and in-app tools. Push notifications and apps like Remind 101 can help drive employee engagement during Open Enrollment season simply by providing short messages reminding them to enroll. Notifications like these can also be tailored to unique employee groups based on location, job level, eligibility status and more.

Utilize Mobile Apps and Web Portals for Open Enrollment

Now that your company has communication down pat for Open Enrollment, simplify the arduous task employees have of enrolling for the coming year by going paperless. Utilize web portals through benefit brokers and companies like ADP to eliminate the hassle of employees having to fill out paperwork both at renewal, and at the time of hire.  With nearly three quarters of individuals in the United States checking their phone once an hour and 90% percent of this time is spent using one app or another as a main source of communication, mobile apps can make benefits engagement much easier due to the anywhere/anytime accessibility they offer.

The personal perks for employees are great too! Staff members with a major lifestyle event can make benefit adjustments quickly with the ease of mobile apps.  Employees recognize this valuable and time-saving trend and enjoy having this information at their fingertips.

Open Enrollment season can be a stressful time but hopefully these tips will help for a smoother transition into the next year for your business. Simple things like using explainer videos, placing reminders in high traffic areas and utilizing mobile apps and text messaging can save time and stress in the long run for your employees and benefit department.

 

What an informative luncheon (on Wednesday 10/25) with our very own Elizabeth Kay discussing the most recent updates of the Affordable Care Act! She discussed the most recent executive order and how if it takes effect, it will more likely impact the individual market, not the group market. Thank you to the San Mateo County EAC and the Employment Development Department for putting it all together!

 

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who owns a permanent life insurance policy (or are thinking about getting one!) you’ve probably done it primarily to protect your loved ones. But over time, many of your financial obligations may have ended. That’s when your policy can take on a new life—as a powerful tool to make your retirement more secure and enjoyable.

Permanent life insurance can open up options for you in retirement in three unique ways:

1. It can help protect you against the risk of outliving your assets. Structured correctly, your policy can provide supplemental retirement income via policy loans and withdrawals. Having a policy to draw from can take the pressure off investment accounts if the market is sluggish, giving them time to rebound. Some policies may also provide options for long-term care benefits. At any time, you may also decide to annuitize the policy, converting it into a guaranteed lifelong income stream.

2. It can maximize a pension. While a traditional pension is fading fast in America, those who can still count on this benefit are often faced with a choice between taking a higher single life distribution, or a lower amount that covers a surviving spouse as well. Life insurance can supplement a surviving spouse’s income, enabling couples to enjoy the higher, single-life pension—together.

3. It can make leaving a legacy easy. According to The Wall Street Journal, permanent life insurance is “a fantastically useful and flexible estate-planning tool,” commonly used to pass on assets to loved ones. Policy proceeds are generally income-tax free and paid directly to your beneficiaries in a cash lump sum—avoiding probate and Uncle Sam in one pass. Your policy can also be used to pay estate taxes, ensure the continuity of a family business, or perhaps leave a legacy for a favorite charity or institution.

“Having a policy to draw from can take the pressure off investment accounts if the market is sluggish, giving them time to rebound.”

If you do expect your estate to be taxed, you can even establish a life insurance trust, which allows wealth to pass to your heirs outside of your estate, generally free of both estate and income taxes.

Where to start? A policy review
If you’ve had a life insurance policy for awhile, schedule a policy review with your life insurance agent or financial advisor. By the time you reach mid-life, you may have a mix of coverage—term, permanent, group or even an executive compensation package.

Your licensed insurance agent or financial advisor can help you assess your situation and adjust a current policy or structure a new policy to help you achieve your retirement planning goals.

If you have no coverage at all, there’s no better time than today to get started. Life insurance is a long-term financial tool. It can take decades to build permanent policy values to a place where you can use them toward your retirement goals. And, health profiles can change at any time. If you’re healthy, you can lock in that insurability now and look forward to years of tax-deferred (yes!) policy growth.

Retired already? The best thing you can do is meet annually with your personal advisors to ensure your plans stay on track. Market conditions and family circumstances change, so that even the best-laid plans require course adjustments over time.

By Erica Oh Nataren
Originally Published By Lifehappens.org

On October 12, 2017, the White House released an Executive Order, signed by President Trump, titled “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States.”

It is important to note that the Executive Order (EO) does not implement any new laws or regulations, but instead directs various federal agencies to explore options relating to association health plans, short term limited-duration coverage (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), within the next 60 to 120 days.

The Department of Labor is ordered to explore expansion of association health plans (AHPs) by broadening the scope of ERISA to allow employers within the same line of business across the country to join together in a group health plan. The EO notes employers will not be permitted to exclude employees from an AHP or develop premiums based on health conditions. The Secretary of Labor has 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

Practically speaking, this type of expansion would require considerable effort with all state departments of insurance and key stakeholders across the industry. Employers should not wait to make group health plan decisions based on the EO, as it will take time for even proposed regulations to be developed.

The Department of the Treasury, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services (the agencies) are directed to consider expanding coverage options from STLDI, which are often much less expensive than Marketplace plans or employer plans. These plans are popular with individuals who are in and outside of the country or who are between jobs. The Secretaries of these agencies have 60 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

Finally, the EO directs the same three agencies to review and consider changing regulations for HRAs so employers have more flexibility when implementing them for employees. This could lead to an expanded use of HRA dollars for employees, such as for premiums. However, employers should not make any changes to existing HRAs until regulations are issued at a later date. The Secretaries have 120 days to consider proposing regulations or revising guidance.

By Danielle Capilla
Originally Published By United Benefit Advisors

I have joined the class that Ron invited me to regarding HR and FMLA, etc. Thank you for your ongoing support and assistance; it is a pleasure doing business with you.”

- Preschool Director

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