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Benefits of an Annual Exam | Maryland Employee Benefit Brokers

Have you ever heard the proverb “Knowledge is power?” It means that knowledge is more powerful than just physical strength and with knowledge people can produce powerful results. This applies to your annual medical physical as well! The #1 goal of your annual exam is to GAIN KNOWLEDGE. Annual exams offer you and your doctor a baseline for your health as well as being key to detecting early signs of diseases and conditions.

The #1 goal of your annual exam is to  GAIN KNOWLEDGE

According to Malcom Thalor, MD, “A good general exam should include a comprehensive medical history, family history, lifestyle review, problem-focused physical exam, appropriate screening and diagnostic tests and vaccinations, with time for discussion, assessment and education. And a good health care provider will always focus first and foremost on your health goals.”

Early detection of chronic diseases can save both your personal pocketbook as well as your life! By scheduling AND attending your annual physical, you are able to cut down on medical costs of undiagnosed conditions. Catching a disease early means you are able to attack it early. If you wait until you are exhibiting symptoms or have been symptomatic for a long while, then the disease may be to a stage that is costly to treat. Early detection gives you a jump start on treatments and can reduce your out of pocket expenses.

When you are prepared to speak with your Primary Care Physician (PCP), you can set the agenda for your appointment so that you get all your questions answered as well as your PCP’s questions. Here are some tips for a successful annual physical exam:

  • Bring a list of medications you are currently taking—You may even take pictures of the bottles so they can see the strength and how many.
  • Have a list of any symptoms you are having ready to discuss.
  • Bring the results of any relevant surgeries, tests, and medical procedures
  • Share a list of the names and numbers of your other doctors that you see on a regular basis.
  • If you have an implanted device (insulin pump, spinal cord stimulator, etc) bring the device card with you.
  • Bring a list of questions! Doctors want well informed patients leaving their office. Here are some sample questions you may want to ask:
    • What vaccines do I need?
    • What health screenings do I need?
    • What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
    • Am I on the right medications?

Becoming a well-informed patient who follows through on going to their annual exam as well as follows the advice given to them from their physician after asking good questions, will not only save your budget, but it can save your life!

 

 

Maryland Employment Law Update – January 2018 | Maryland Benefit Consultants

Unemployment Poster Updated

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Office of Unemployment Insurance updated its Unemployment Insurance Law poster (revised 9-17). The notice must be posted in a conspicuous area in the workplace.

Download the poster

So Who Is a Paid Intern Now? | MD Benefit Advisors

On January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) created new guidance for determining whether a worker could be classified as an unpaid intern under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA requires “for-profit” employers to pay employees for their work. Interns, however, may not be classified as “employees” under the FLSA and therefore are not entitled to compensation for their work. The new rules give employers more flexibility in establishing unpaid internships.

Under the previous six-factor test, an intern was considered an employee entitled to compensation unless all of the following factors were met:

  1. The internship, even though it included actual operation of the facilities of the employer, was similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience was for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern did not displace regular employees, but worked under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provided the training derived no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually have been impeded;
  5. The intern was not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understood that the intern was not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

In its new guidance (Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2018-2), the WHD has adopted the “primary beneficiary test,” favored by several federal Circuit Courts, as the standard for determining whether interns at for-profit employers are employees under the FLSA. The primary beneficiary test examines the economic reality of the intern-employer relationship to determine which party is the primary beneficiary of the relationship. The following seven factors are used to make this determination:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee — and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job after the internship.

What is different now is that not ALL of the seven factors must be met in order to determine employee status. According to the WHD, no single factor is decisive and the determination must be made on the unique circumstances of each case.

If analysis of these facts reveals that an intern is actually an employee, then he or she is entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay under the FLSA. Conversely, if the analysis confirms that the intern or student is not an employee, then he or she is not entitled to either minimum wage or overtime pay under the FLSA.

What This Means for Employers

As a result of the new guidance, employers should review the status of any person working for them that they consider an “intern” and update their current internship programs to consider the WHD’s new rules.

Originally posted by www.ThinkHR.com

New Year, New Penalties | Maryland Benefit Advisors

Department of Labor Publishes Updated Penalties for OSHA Violations

On January 2, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published updated, inflation-adjusted penalties for violations of various laws regulated by the DOL and its internal components or divisions, including the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The DOL is required to adjust the level of civil monetary penalties for inflation by January 15 each year pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Inflation Adjustment Act).

Because of the Inflation Adjustment Act, rates for OSHA penalties have increased three times in the last 17 months (August 1, 2016, January 13, 2017, and January 2, 2018). Therefore, for violations occurring after November 2, 2015, the penalty amounts incurred by employers will depend on when the penalty is assessed, as follows:

  • If the penalty was assessed after August 1, 2016 but on or before January 13, 2017, then the August 1, 2016 penalty level applies.
  • If the penalty was assessed after January 13, 2017 but on or before January 2, 2018, then the January 13, 2017 penalty level applies.
  • If the penalty was assessed after January 2, 2018, then the current penalty level applies.

The applicable January 2, 2018 penalty levels for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) are as follows:

  • Willful violations: $9,239 – 129,936 (up from $9,054 – $126,749 after January 13, 2017 and $8,908 – $124,709 after August 1, 2016)
  • Repeated violations: $129,936 (up from $126,749 after January 13, 2017 and $124,709 after August 1, 2016)
  • Serious violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
  • Other-than-serious violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
  • Failure to correct violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)
  • Posting requirement violations: $12,934 (up from $12,675 after January 13, 2017 and $12,471 after August 1, 2016)

These increases apply to states with federal OSHA programs and states with OSHA-approved state plans. Violations occurring on or before November 2, 2015 are assessed at pre-August 1, 2016 levels.

Employers are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these increased penalties and consult counsel if they have questions about the penalty level applicable to a potential violation.

By Nicole Quinn-Gato

Originally posted by www.ThinkHR.com

Driving in to 2018 | Maryland Benefit Advisors

How Changes to the Mileage Reimbursement Rate and Qualified Transportation Benefits Will Impact Employers in 2018

On December 14, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service released the 2018 standard mileage rates used to calculate deductible costs of operating vehicles for business purposes. The rate increased by one cent  from 53.5 cents in 2017 to 54.5 cents in 2018. Employers who adopt the IRS standard mileage reimbursement rate in their employee handbook or other employment policy will need to update their reimbursement practices to reflect this change.

Additionally, as we previously reported, the tax plan signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017 impacts qualified transportation benefits (also known as commuter benefits). In the past, employers could deduct the amount they provide toward an employee’s qualified parking, transit passes, or vanpool expenses up to certain federal limits ($255 in 2017 and $260 in 2018) as a business expense. However, under the new tax law, employers can no longer deduct this expense beginning in 2018. Moreover, while employees can continue to exclude qualified parking and transit benefits from their income, qualified bicycle commuting expenses will no longer be excludable.

The tax law requires the Secretary of Treasury to issue regulations or other guidance as necessary to implement these changes; however, the law goes into effect for all amounts paid or incurred after December 31, 2017. Employers who have already budgeted for 2018 may need to review their assumptions to measure the impact of these taxable expenses.

Employers should consult tax or legal professionals to determine the best options for handling parking and other commuter policies should they want to change existing policies.

By Nicole Quinn-Gato

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

U.S. House Passes Health Care Bill. The Senate Now Holds the Cards. | Maryland Benefit Advisors

On May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). An earlier version of the House bill, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), had been debated in March but was not voted on due to opposition from Democrats and insufficient support from Republicans. This time around, after revisions were made regarding Medicaid funding, coverage of pre-existing conditions, and insurance market reforms, the bill squeaked through on a 217-213 vote.

Yesterday’s House vote was held without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the cost and impact of the bill. The AHCA now moves to the Senate for consideration, which will require CBO scoring. The bill’s fate in the Senate is far from certain. Without support from at least 50 of the 52 Senate Republicans, the bill will fail. At this time, at least five of those Senators have given public statements expressing doubts on the House version of the bill.

The primary focus of the AHCA is on funding for Medicaid and other state programs, maintaining stability in the individual insurance markets, and giving individual states more flexibility in opting out of insurance reforms. Also included are a number of provisions offering relief to employers and reducing the scope of requirements on group health plans. Below are highlights of provisions of the most interest to employers.

Employer Highlights:

  • Employer Mandate: The proposed legislation would repeal the ACA’s employer shared responsibility provision, that is the so-called “employer mandate” or “play or pay,” as of 2016. The rules for 2015 would not change, which would still be an issue for certain large employers that did not qualify for transition relief that year.
  • Employer Reporting: The existing rules requiring completion of Forms 1094 and 1095 would continue to apply, although the IRS may have the ability to soften them in the future.
    Taxes and Fees: The Cadillac tax on high-cost health plans would be delayed six years, then take effect in 2026. The PCORI fee would continue as previously scheduled for plan years through September 2019. The additional Medicare tax on high earners would be repealed starting in 2023.
  • Health Plan Requirements: Current ACA rules regarding eligibility for children to age 26, limits on waiting periods, prohibitions against annual or lifetime dollar limits, and most other provisions would continue unchanged. Coverage for pre-existing conditions also would be protected, at least for persons that maintained continuous coverage.
  • Essential Health Benefits (EHBs): The ACA currently requires broad coverage of all EHBs in the small group insurance market (unless grandfathered or grandmothered). The AHCA would give individual states more flexibility in defining EHBs and determining coverage requirements.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs): The annual HSA contribution limits would be increased significantly.
  • Health Flexible Spending Accounts (HFSAs): ACA restrictions regarding over-the-counter medications and the annual benefit cap would be repealed.

Summary
The bottom line for employers is this: The proposed AHCA includes many provisions that most employers would welcome as good news, such as relief from the employer mandate, repeal of various health plan fees and taxes, and fewer restrictions on group insurance and benefit plan designs. Those provisions, however, are part of a large piece of legislation that is not likely to pass the Senate without significant modification. Therefore, for now, nothing has changed and employers are advised to continue complying with current law.

Get a section-by-section summary of the bill passed by the House.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

Long-Awaited Repeal and Replacement Plan for ACA Unveiled | Maryland Benefit Advisors

On March 6, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee released a proposed budget reconciliation bill, entitled the American Health Care Act, to replace portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If enacted, the American Health Care Act would provide some relief from provisions of the ACA for employers and make other significant changes to employee benefits. While the proposal is 53 pages long and covers a range of tax and benefit changes, below is a summary of key provisions impacting employers and employee benefits.

Employer and Individual Mandates

The proposal effectively eliminates the employer and individual mandate by zeroing out penalties for an employer’s failure to offer, and an individual’s failure to obtain, minimum essential coverage retroactive to January 1, 2016.

Health Care Related Taxes

The proposal extends the applicable date for the “Cadillac tax” from 2020 to 2025 and repeals the medical device tax, over the counter medication tax, indoor tanning sales tax, and Medicare hospital insurance surtax beginning in 2018.

Reporting Requirements

Because the proposal is through a budget reconciliation process, employer reporting requirements for reporting offers of coverage on employees’ W-2s cannot be repealed; however, the proposal creates a simplified process for employers to report this information that, according to the House Ways and Means Committee’s section-by-section summary, makes the current reporting redundant and allows the  Secretary of the Treasury to cease enforcing reporting that is not needed for taxable purposes.

Contribution Limits

Additionally, the proposal eliminates the cap on contributions to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and almost doubles the maximum allowable contributions to health savings accounts (HSAs) by allowing contributions of $6,550 for individuals and $13,100 for families beginning in 2018. This aligns the HSA contribution amount with the sum of the annual deductible and out-of-pocket cost expenses permitted under a high deductible health plan. The proposal also allows both spouses to make catch-up contributions to one HSA beginning in 2018.

Patient Protection Provisions

Finally, the proposal retains some key patient protection provisions of the ACA by continuing to prohibit insurers from excluding individuals with pre-existing conditions from obtaining or paying more for coverage and continuing to allow children to stay on their parent’s plan to age 26.

What Employers Should Know Now

We are still in the first round of the new government’s strategy to repeal and replace the ACA. The Congressional Budget Office will next review and score the plan before it goes back to the House and the Senate for full votes before making it to President Trump’s desk for approval. This will take time.

In the interim, the provisions of the ACA still apply. While applicable large employers may not be assessed penalties for failing to offer minimum essential coverage to employees if the proposal is eventually enacted, please note that employers are still obligated to report offers of coverage and should finalize their ACA reporting for the 2016 tax year if they have not completed their e-filing with the IRS (due March 31, 2017).

By Nicole Quinn-Gato, JD
Originally published by www.thinkhr.com