Archive for News You Can Use

CARES Act: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

Congress passes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

On March 27, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act comes as a continued response to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that is significantly impacting the United States. The Act is a $2.2 trillion economic package that is meant to stabilize individuals and employers, while the nation continues to experience shelter-in-place advisories/orders and hospitals report a surge of severely ill COVID-19 patients. The Act’s Paycheck Protection Program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, which is important for businesses that have been experiencing financial hardships starting in February.

Read more here.

Click here for Frequently Asked Questions about the CARES Act

Posted in: COVID-19, News You Can Use

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IMPORTANT HCR UPDATE: Employer Mandate Delayed until 2015

Have you heard the news? The ACA has been postponed!

Let’s talk details:

1. What’s Been Delayed

The play or pay provision requires employers with 50 or more employees to do the following to avoid penalties:

  1. Offer minimum essential coverage to 95 percent of full-time employees
  2. Offer minimum value (60 percent) coverage to full-time employees
  3. Offer affordable (less than 9.5 percent of income) coverage to full-time employees
  4. Consider employees who average 30 or more hours per week full-time for purposes of their health plan
  5. Count employees’ hours to determine whether they average 30 or more hours work per week
  6. Because of the delay, employers will not need to meet these requirements for 2014.

2. What’s Still Required

The delay in the play or pay requirement does not affect the insurance market reforms.  This means that these requirements are still scheduled to go into effect as of the start of the 2014 plan year (with penalties of up to $100 per person per day for non-compliance).  These requirements apply to all plans except as noted:

  1. Waiting periods cannot be more than 90 days from the date the employee becomes eligible
  2. All pre-existing condition limitations must be removed
  3. The out-of-pocket maximum cannot exceed $6,350 for individual and $12,700 for family coverage
  4. Essential health benefits may not have annual dollar limits
  5. Grandfathered plans must cover dependent children to age 26 even if the child has access to his/her own employer-provided coverage
  6. The new wellness program requirements
  7. For small insured plans, whether in or outside the exchange/marketplace, coverage must include the essential health benefits, at the bronze, silver, gold or platinum level, with a deductible of not more than $2,000 for individual and $4,000 for family coverage
  8. For small insured plans, whether in or outside the exchange/marketplace, modified community rating (rating classes are limited to age, tobacco use, family size and geographic area), guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewal (with some limitations) will apply

3. What other PPACA requirements must employers also meet:

  1. Reporting and payment of the PCORI fee by July 31, 2013 for plans that ended Oct. 1, 2012 through Dec. 31, 2012
  2. Timely distribution of any MLR rebates the plan may receive
  3. Providing a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) as part of open enrollment
  4. Distributing the DOL notice regarding the exchange by Oct. 1, 2013
  5. Reporting health care costs on the employee’s W-2 (the exemption for employers that issued fewer than 250 W-2s in the prior year or that contribute to a multiple employer plan will continue for the 2013 W-2)
  6. Paying the transitional reinsurance fee, due in January 2015

4. What’s Next?

The government stated in the delay announcements that the exchanges are still expected to begin open enrollment on Oct. 1, 2013.  It is unclear at this point how the delay of the play or pay requirement will affect determination of employee eligibility for subsidies.  Presumably the official guidance that Treasury has promised to provide next week will address this issue.

If you have questions about how this will impact you, never hesitate to contact us.

Posted in: Business Insurance, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use

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Less than 50 Employees – Does Health Care Reform apply to me??

(Most of these do not apply to grandfathered plans)

Text Highlighted in Red = Requires action by the employer

o Mandate to cover specific benefits in the small group market – preventive, no preexisting for children, no lifetime limit, limitedannual maximum, no rescission, dependent to age 26 – 2010

o Existing plans grandfathered as of date of enactment from some, but not all, of the new plan requirements – 2010

o Non-discrimination requirements for insured plans – 2010

o An internal and external appeals process – 2010

o No prior authorization for emergency services – 2010

o Plans must allow designation of a primary care provider – 2010

o Small employer tax credits (for those who qualify) – 2010

o FSA, HSA, HRA definition of medical expenses – 2011

o Increase to 20% penalty for non-health withdrawals from an HSA or Archer MSA – 2011

o Wellness grants ‐ 2011 through 2015

o Increase Medicare payroll tax by 0.9% on earned income in excess of $200,000/$250,000 (unindexed); wages received after December 31,   2012

o Impose fee on health insurance and fully self-funded employer plans to fund comparative effectiveness research – 2012

o 3.8% investment tax on unearned income for taxpayers with AGI in excess of $200,000/$250,000

(unindexed) – taxable years after December 31, 2012

o Uniform explanation of coverage – November 1, 2012 (Fully Insured Clients – Carrier

o Notice of material modifications – September 2010 

o Elimination of tax deduction for retiree drug subsidies to employers – 2013

o Employee Notification of the Exchange – March 1, 2013 (This regulation was delayed as of 1/23/13 – ETA late 2013)

o Limit salary deferrals to FSAs to $2,500 – 2013, then indexed to inflation

o Eliminate deduction for Medicare Part D employer subsidy – 2013

o Raise 7.5% adjusted gross income (AGI) floor on medical expense deduction to 10% – 2013

o No preexisting condition exclusions for all participants – 2014

o Guaranteed issue – 2014

o Guaranteed renewability – 2014

o Must cover minimum benefit package – 2014

o Allows HIPAA wellness discount up to 30%(50%at Secretaries’ discretion) – 2014

o Limits on out-of-pocket cost sharing, maximum deductibles – 2014

o Coverage of routine costs associated with clinical trials – 2014

o Prohibition on waiting periods more than 90 days – 2014

o Must provide a minimum actuarial value for benefits – 2014

o File an annual report with HHS on employer and plan information – 2014

o Eliminate annual limits on benefits – 2014

o Limits premium underwriting – 2014

o Plan disclosure of claims payment policies and rating practices – 2014

o New SHOP Exchange for small-group and individual markets – 2014

o Limits on underwriting – 2014

o W2 reporting – 2013 tracking to be reported 2014; > 250 W-2’s

o IRS reporting – 2014

o 40% excise tax on high-cost plans – 2018

As always, confused?  Have questions?  Not sure what applies? 

Call your Health Care Reform Experts at 916-932-2357.

Posted in: Business Insurance, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use

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Exchange Model Notices – EMPLOYER ACTION REQUIRED!

On May 8, the U.S. Department of Labor issued employer notices regarding the Health Insurance Exchanges (Marketplaces).

In a nutshell, employers have until October 1, 2013 to decide whether they will offer or not offer insurance coverage to their employees.

Below are links to two forms: one for employers offering coverage and those which will not. The notice text must be used and there are penalties for not distributing them by October 1, 2013, the date open enrollment in the exchanges is set to begin.

        Notices were also released regarding COBRA:

Please contact us if you have any questions, we’re happy to assist!

Posted in: Business Insurance, Covered California, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use

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Covered California Takes A Major Step To Launching SHOP


Contract Awarded to Pinnacle Claims Management, Inc. to Administer Innovative, Affordable Marketplace

Sacramento, Calif. — The Covered California Board has approved Irvine-based Pinnacle Claims Management, Inc. (PCMI) to administer its Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). The program will offer approximately 375,000 California small businesses unprecedented access to a considerable array of affordable health coverage options for its employees. California is one of a few states nationally that will be able to offer small businesses an array of health insurance options for their employees come this fall.  This contract is supported by federal funds provided under the Affordable Care Act, and continued funding will be provided by Covered California administrative revenue starting in 2015.

“We are excited to partner with PCMI in this historic moment when we can help thousands of small businesses provide affordable health care for their employees,” said Peter V. Lee, Executive Director for Covered California. “PCMI has demonstrated the requisite knowledge of California’s small business community and has shown us they can move quickly and effectively in providing all the services we require to help Covered California get up and running this fall.”

Small employers participating in the SHOP will be able to provide their employees with a broader choice of health plans that generally has only been available to large employers. Certain small businesses — those with 25 or fewer full-time equivalent employees paid an average annual wage of less than $50,000 — may be eligible to receive a 50 percent small business health care tax credit for coverage purchased through the SHOP.

Through SHOP, employers will be able to pick the level of support for their employees, and in turn employees will be able to pick from those options the specific health plan that is right for them and their families. All plans will provide a standardized set of benefits and cost sharing to make it easy for employers and employees alike to make apples-to-apples comparisons.

PCMI and its affiliates have more than 15 years of experience providing employer- sponsored health benefit management services, with a current client base of some 800 small employer groups in California and Arizona.

The contract with PCMI will cost an estimated $50 million over the three year term and includes the initial implementation of the program’s administration functions and ongoing operating costs. PCMI will provide eligibility, enrollment, marketing and fulfillment services, as well as agent and general agent sales management, financial management and the small business call center services.

“PCMI is thrilled to work with Covered California on this endeavor and to be part of this historic change in health care. We are looking forward to helping Covered California provide the services that will support employers and their employees as they enroll in the health plans offered through Covered California,” said David Zanze, President of PCMI.

Covered California will provide for health plan selection, certification and ongoing management of plan relationships, lead marketing efforts and provide policy guidance.

About Covered California

California was the first state to create a health benefit exchange following the passage of federal health care reform. Covered California is charged with creating a new insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to health insurance. With coverage starting in 2014, Covered California will help individuals compare and choose a health plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Financial help will be available from the federal government to help lower costs for people who qualify on a sliding scale. Small businesses will be able to purchase competitively priced health plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose only job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers, and is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and Legislature.

For more information on Covered California, please visit


Posted in: Business Insurance, Covered California, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use

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Affordable Care Act – Unsure of Personal Impact

The majority of Americans are still unsure how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will impact them. These are the findings from Kaiser Family Foundation’s March 2013 Health Tracking Poll. Here are the highlights of the March poll.

Affordable Care Act – Unsure of Personal Impact

According to the poll, two-thirds of the uninsured and a majority (57%) of Americans overall say they have too little information to know how the Affordable Care Act will impact them.

How ACA Will Impact Americans

Affordable Care Act – Unaware of Medicaid Expansion & Insurance Marketplaces

Generally, the public is not aware or knowledgable on the decisions states are making about ACA Medicaid expansion and establishing state insurance marketplaces. The poll found 78% did not know enough about their state’s decision to participate in Medicaid expansion, and 48% knew nothing about their state’s decision for the health insurance marketplace.

ACA Exchange Information

 Affordable Care Act – Favorable/Unfavorable

According to the poll, the country remains fairly evenly divided on the ACA, with 40% holding an unfavorable view of the law and 37% holding a favorable one.

How ACA will impact americans

Affordable Care Act – Future Personal Impact

Looking ahead, the public’s expectations about ACA’s likely impact on their own families tends to be more negative than positive, with 29% saying the ACA will make them worse off, 21% saying it will make them better off, and four in ten saying it won’t make much difference.

ACA Impact on Americans

Affordable Care Act – Most Popular Provisions

The most popular provisions of the ACA, including tax credits to small businesses and the closure of the Medicare drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole,” remain among its least widely recognized, while the law’s least popular provision, the individual mandate requiring most people to obtain health coverage, is its most widely recognized.

ACA Impact on Americans

Read the full Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll here.

Posted in: Business Insurance, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use, Personal Insurance

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The Affordable Care Act – It’s Time to Start Counting Hours

Melissa Weaver and Julie Song -Triad Business Journal

April 4, 2013

The 2010 enactment of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA” or the “Act”) ushered in an enormous social reform effort aimed at improving the nation’s health care system through a series of mandates, premium subsidies, and taxes. Although the full impact of the Act will not be known for years to come, its intended goals were to expand health insurance coverage and to reduce costs.

After much discussion and debate, as well as legal challenges all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, implementation of the ACA is upon us. As a result, employers must comply with the Act’s myriad requirements, the most significant of which become effective on January 1, 2014. Regulatory guidance is pouring forth, and it is not too early for employers to determine how the rules of the Act apply to their businesses. In fact, employers with calendar-year plans may want to take action as soon as next month.

Where we are today and preparing for 2014. Many provisions of the ACA have already taken effect. Still, for most employers the most significant aspects of the Act are on the horizon beginning January 1, 2014 – including the individual mandate, employer shared responsibility provisions (including the provision of minimum essential health coverage that is affordable), and the establishment of health exchanges (insurance marketplaces to facilitate individuals’ and small businesses’ purchase of health insurance meeting certain benefit and cost standards).

Individual Mandate.Beginning in 2014, the ACA’s individual shared responsibility provision, or individual mandate, requires that individuals have basic health insurance coverage, qualify for an exemption, or pay a penalty initially set at $95 per person or 1% of income, whichever is greater. The effect of the Act on sole proprietors will be much like the impact on individuals with respect to the individual mandate. As a one-person business, subject to certain exemptions, a proprietor can buy insurance through an exchange scheduled to roll out in 2014.

Employer Play-or-Pay Mandate. For employers with employees, the Act’s shared responsibility provisions – known as the “play-or-pay” mandate – are complicated and require careful review and application of the detailed rules. Under the play-or-pay provisions, “applicable large employers” that employ an average of at least 50 full-time employees on business days during the preceding calendar year will be required to provide certain minimum levels of health coverage to “substantially all” of their full-time employees and their dependents or else pay a penalty. In calculating the penalty, the first 30 full-time employees do not count toward the computation.

For a large employer that does not offer coverage and any full-time employee receives subsidized coverage – i.e., a premium tax credit or cost-sharing reduction – in a health plan through an exchange, the penalty is $2,000 per all full-time employees per year.

For a large employer that does offer coverage but the coverage is considered not “affordable” or does not provide “minimum value”, and any full-time employee receives subsidized coverage in a health plan through an exchange, the penalty will be the lesser of $3,000 per full-time employee who actually receives a subsidy, or $2000 per all full-time employees per year.

Coverage is considered “not affordable” by any full-time employee if the premium for employee-only coverage is greater than 9.5% of the employee’s household income, as measured by the income reported in Box 1 of Form W-2. The coverage does not provide “minimum value” if the plan pays less than 60% of the expected costs under the plan.

Identifying Full-Time Employees. Large employers may choose to offer coverage to all of their employees, both full-time and part-time, thereby avoiding the issue of which employees qualify as full-time employees. However, many employers will need or desire to provide health coverage only to full-time employees. Thus, the identification of the employer’s full-time employees becomes critical for purposes of determining whether to play-or-pay.

Full-time employees are defined as those who work more than 30 hours on average per week. Complex rules have been proposed, and can be relied upon, to identify these employees and determine if they must be offered coverage. The rules address how to treat current employees, new hires, seasonal employees, students and interns, those who go from full-time to part-time and vice versa, etc. Employers who do not want to offer coverage to part-time, seasonal, or other “variable hour” employees will need to begin planning now for 2014.

The regulations require that employers classify their employees as full-time or part-time based on their actual hours during a prior look-back period. If an employee is paid by the hour, an employer can easily determine how many hours they worked. For employees who are paid on a salaried basis, employers have several methods available to determine whether those employees worked at least 30 hours per week, including counting actual hours worked or using one of two equivalency methods.

If an employer hires employees whose schedule will vary, or who will be seasonal employees, they will need to determine if such employees will regularly work 30 hours per week on average. The regulations under the Act provide a method for making these determinations using a pre-determined look-back period to count the employee’s hours worked, and an additional administrative period to offer the coverage to the employee and complete the enrollment process. The look-back period is selected by the employer, and can extend from 3-12 months. The administrative period can be up to 90 days in length. Once the full-time employees are identified, the regulations prescribe the length of time those employees must be offered health coverage, and when their status as full time employees can be re-evaluated.

Employers Must Act Now. Full-time or part-time classification in 2013 will drive the play-or-pay requirements for 2014. Employers who plan to use a 12-month look-back period going forward may use a transition rule that allows a six-month look-back period during 2013 to determine which employees will be considered full-time for all of 2014. Employers with a plan year beginning on January 1, 2014, should begin counting employee hours in April of this year if they would like the maximum permitted time to make these full-time employee determinations. Employee hours can be counted during the six-month period between April and September 2013, and the employer can use a 90-day administrative period between October and December to notify employees, handle enrollment, and have all eligible full-time employees enrolled and receiving coverage on January 1, 2014. Employers with a plan year beginning later in 2014 will have a little more time to start counting hours, but all employers should begin planning now so as to be able to use all the time allowed if needed.

Identifying whether employees qualify as full-time for purposes of the ACA can be complicated for employers with employees who work variable hours or seasonally, or for those with frequent turnover. The length of the look-back period chosen impacts the length of time the employer must offer such employees health coverage before their full-time status can be re-evaluated. Employers should consult with their legal and benefits advisors if they need assistance in making these determinations.

Posted in: Business Insurance, Health Care Reform (ACA), News You Can Use

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Survey: Most Small Businesses Concerned About Healthcare Law

The Hill By Vicki Needham –

April 4, 2013:

A majority of small businesses say the healthcare law is their biggest concern, finally eclipsing their long-held worry over economic uncertainty.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s latest quarterly small-business survey finds that 77 percent say the Affordable Care Act will make coverage for their employees more expensive, while 71 percent say it will be harder to hire more employees under the law.

Of those surveyed, 79 of small businesses believe the economy is on the wrong track.

“While the general trends of the economy appear to be improving, a closer look shows workforce participation still falling and full-time employment still historically low,” said Dr. Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist said on Thursday.

About one-third of small businesses say, in response to the healthcare law, they plan to cut back hours to reduce the number of full-time employees to avoid qualifying for the employer mandate.

In addition, 32 percent of small businesses plan to reduce hiring because of the mandate. That would likely affect many firms with right around 50 employees.

“In today’s economy, we need policies that will breed confidence and encourage small businesses to expand, not cut back staff and employees’ hours. With the right policies in place, small-business owners’ optimism and confidence in the economy will improve,” Regalia said, read more.

Small businesses are looking to Congress to lead on policies like increased energy production, comprehensive tax reform, removing government barriers and immigration reform.

Eight out of 10 small businesses support comprehensive tax reform and 52 percent said the tax code should be simplified.

A clear majority (84 percent) says that regulations, restrictions and taxes negatively effect their ability to do business.

Two-thirds of respondents said that immigration reform would increase the nation’s global competitiveness and help strengthen the economy.

Amid debate over the nation’s inflated debt levels, 78 percent of small businesses said they view the debt and deficit as a threat to the success of their business.

They also squarely put the onus on Senate Democrats for failing to bolster economic growth.

The survey showed that 86 percent of small firms disapprove of Senate Democrats compared with 46 percent who disapprove of the House Republican majority is doing.

The survey was conducted online from March 14-26 of more than 1,300 small-business executives.


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