Client Login
toll free: 800-225-3242    office: 301-718-4637
 

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!

 

 

CMS Disclosure Requirement for Employer Health Plans | Maryland Benefit Consultants

Do you offer health coverage to your employees? Does your group health plan cover outpatient prescription drugs? If so, federal law requires you to complete an online disclosure form every year with information about your plan’s drug coverage. You have 60 days from the start of your health plan year to complete the form. For instance, for a calendar-year health plan, this year’s deadline is March 1, 2018.

Background

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is a federal agency that collects data and administers various federal programs. The agency utilizes the CMS online tool to collect information from employers about whether their group health plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or noncreditable. Creditable coverage means the group health plan’s prescription drug coverage is actuarially equivalent to Medicare’s Part D drug plans. In other words, the group plan is considered creditable if its drug benefits are as good as or better than Medicare’s benefits.

To confirm whether your plan provides creditable or noncreditable coverage, check with the plan’s carrier or HMO (if insured) or the plan’s actuary (if self-funded). CMS provides guidance to help plan sponsors, carriers, and actuaries determine the plan’s status.

Deadline for Disclosure

All group health plans that include any outpatient prescription drug benefits, regardless of whether the plan is insured, self-funded, grandfathered, or nongrandfathered, must complete the CMS disclosure requirement. There is no exception for small employers.

Complete the CMS online disclosure form every year within 60 days of the start of the plan year. For instance, for calendar-year plans, this year’s deadline is March 1, 2018.

Additionally, if your plan terminates or its status changes between creditable and noncreditable coverage, you must disclose the updated information to CMS within 30 days of the change.

Completing the Disclosure Form

The CMS online tool is the only method allowed for completing the required disclosure. From this link, follow the prompts to respond to a series of questions regarding the plan. The link is the same regardless of whether the employer’s plan provides creditable or noncreditable coverage.

The entire process usually takes only 5 or 10 minutes to complete. To save time, have the following information handy before you start filling in the form:

  • Information about the plan sponsor (employer): Name, address, phone number, and federal Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Number of prescription drug options offered (e.g., if employer offers two plan options with different benefit levels, the number is “2”).
  • Creditable/Noncreditable Offer: Indicate whether all options are creditable or noncreditable or whether some are creditable and others are noncreditable.
  • Plan year beginning and ending dates.
  • Estimated number of plan participants eligible for Medicare (and how many are participants in the employer’s retiree health plan, if any).
  • Date that the plan’s Notice of Creditable (or Noncreditable) Coverage was provided to participants.
  • Name, title, and email address of the employer’s authorized individual completing the disclosure.

We suggest you print a copy of the completed disclosure to keep for your records.

Note: Employers that receive the Retiree Drug Subsidy (RDS), or sponsor health plans that contract directly with one or more Medicare Part D plans, should seek the advice of legal counsel regarding the applicable disclosure requirements.

Additional Disclosure Requirement

Separate from the CMS online disclosure requirement, employers also must distribute a disclosure notice to Medicare-eligible group health plan participants. The deadline for distributing the participant notice is October 14 of the preceding year. It often is difficult for employers to identify which employees and spouses may be Medicare-eligible, so most employers simply distribute the notice to all participants regardless of age or status. For information about the notice requirement, see our previous post.

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

Federal Employment Law Update – February 2018 | MD Employee Benefit Brokers

IRS Releases Publication 15 and W-4 Withholding Guidance for 2018

On January 31, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 15 — Introductory Material, which includes the following:

  • 2018 federal income tax withholding tables.
  • Exempt Form W-4.
  • New information on:
    • Withholding allowance.
    • Withholding on supplemental wages.
    • Backup withholding.
    • Moving expense reimbursement.
    • Social Security and Medicare tax for 2018.
    • Disaster tax relief.

Read Publication 15 and further details here.

EEOC Penalty Increases for Failure to Post Required Notices

On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a final rule increasing the penalty amount from $534 to $545 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) notice posting requirements.

The final rule is effective February 20, 2018.

Read the rule

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

Benefits Easy: Intro to Self-Funding | Maryland Benefit Advisors

As the first month of 2018 wraps up, companies have already begun the arduous task of submitting budgets and finding ways to cut costs for the new year. One of the most effective ways to combat increasing health care costs for companies is to move to a Self-Funded insurance plan. By paying for claims out-of-pocket instead of paying a premium to an insurance carrier, companies can save around 20% in administration costs and state taxes. That’s quite a cost savings!

The topic of Self-Funding is huge and so we want to break it down into smaller bites for you to digest. This month we want to tackle a basic introduction to Self-Funding and in the coming months, we will cover the benefits, risks, and the stop-loss associated with this type of plan.

THE BASICS

  • When the employer assumes the financial risk for providing health care benefits to its employees, this is called Self-Funding.
  • Self-Funded plans allow the employer to tailor the benefits plan design to best suit their employees. Employers can look at the demographics of their workforce and decide which benefits would be most utilized as well as cut benefits that are forecasted to be underutilized.
  • While previously most used by large companies, small and mid-sized companies, even with as few as 25 employees, are seeing cost benefits to moving to Self-Funded insurance plans.
  • Companies pay no state premium taxes on self-funded expenditures. This savings is around 5% – 3/5% depending on in which state the company operates.
  • Since employers are paying for claims, they have access to claims data. While keeping within HIPAA privacy guidelines, the employer can identify and reach out to employees with certain at-risk conditions (diabetes, heart disease, stroke) and offer assistance with combating these health concerns. This also allows greater population-wide health intervention like weight loss programs and smoking cessation assistance.
  • Companies typically hire third-party administrators (TPA) to help design and administer the insurance plans. This allows greater control of the plan benefits and claims payments for the company.

As you can see, Self-Funding has many facets. It’s important to gather as much information as you can and weigh the benefits and risks of moving from a Fully-Funded plan for your company to a Self-Funded one. Doing your research and making the move to a Self-Funded plan could help you gain greater control on your healthcare costs and allow you to design an original plan that best fits your employees.

2018 W-4 Forms Won’t Be Released Until Late February | MD Benefit Advisors

If you’ve been getting questions from your employees about completing new 2018 W-4 forms to take advantage of the tax reform rules, we’ve finally received some answers. You can continue to rely on the current W-4 forms for now until the new 2018 form is released in late February.

The January 29th Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Notice 2018-14 provides additional guidance on the income withholding rules that were changed under the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The guidance:

  • Extends the effective period of Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 until February 28, 2018.
  • Permits employees to claim exemption from withholding for 2018 by temporarily using the 2017 Form W-4. This procedure will expire 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
  • States that employees experiencing a change in status that causes a reduction in the number of withholding exemptions are not required to furnish employers with new withholding certificates until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
  • Provides that employees who have a reduction in the number of withholding allowances solely due to changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are not required to furnish employers with new withholding certificates during 2018. However, employees may choose to update their withholding at any time in response to the act. Employees who choose to update their withholding may use the 2017 Form W-4 instead of the 2018 Form W-4 to report changes in withholding allowances until 30 days after the 2018 Form W-4 is released.
  • Confirms that the optional withholding rate on supplemental wage payments is 22 percent for 2018 through 2025.
  • Specifies that, for 2018, withholding under IRC 3405(a)(4) on periodic payments when no withholding certificate is in effect will be based on treating the payee as a married individual claiming three withholding allowances.

In addition to the guidance, the IRS also released a new Publication 15, (Circular E), Employer Tax Guide, for 2018. Publication 15 includes the 2018 withholding tables and explains an employer’s tax responsibilities, such as withholding, depositing, reporting, paying, and correcting employment taxes.

ThinkHR will continue to follow developments in this area and report on the availability of the new 2018 W-4 Form and other IRS guidance as it becomes available.

By Rick Montgomery

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

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

Nothing Is Certain, But Death and LESS Taxes… | MD Benefit Consultants

On January 11, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service released its income tax withholding tables for 2018 reflecting changes made by the December 2017 tax reform legislation. The updated withholding information provides the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers are encouraged to use these tables as soon as possible but must use them by no later than February 15, 2018. Employers should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until they implement the 2018 withholding tables.

According to the U.S. Treasury, an estimated 90 percent of paycheck recipients are likely to see an increase in their take-home pay by February. However, when employees see these changes in their paychecks depends on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid (usually weekly, biweekly, or semimonthly).

To help individuals identify the correct amount of withholding, the IRS is releasing a revised withholding calculator by the end of February, which will be posted on IRS.gov. The IRS encourages taxpayers to use the calculator to adjust their withholding once it is released.

Changes for 2018 and Looking Forward

The new law makes many changes for 2018 that affect individual taxpayers, including an increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions, and changes in tax rates and brackets. In relation to Form W-4, these new withholding tables are designed to work with employees’ current W-4, as filed with their employer; so, there are no steps employees must currently take regarding the new tables and law.

The IRS is also working on revising the Form W-4 to reflect the newly available itemized deductions, increases in the child tax credit, the new dependent credit, and repeal of dependent exemptions. However, there is no set release date for the revised form.

Once released, employees may use the new Form W-4 to update their withholding in response to the new law or changes in their personal circumstances in 2018, and by workers starting a new job. Until a new Form W-4 is issued, employees and employers should continue to use the 2017 Form W-4.

For Now

At this time, employers should be reviewing these new tables and implementing necessary changes. For 2019, the IRS has said that it anticipates making even more changes involving withholding. But don’t despair; the agency provides FAQs, which employers and employee may find useful, and pledges to work with the business and payroll community to encourage workers to file new Forms W-4 next year while sharing information on changes in the new tax law that impact withholding.

Stay tuned though, because 2018 has only just begun.

By Samantha Yurman

Originally published by www.ThinkHR.com

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

Oral Health = Overall Health | Maryland Benefit Consultants

Have you heard the saying “the eyes are the window to your soul”? Well, did you know that your mouth is the window into what is going on with the rest of your body? Poor dental health contributes to major systemic health problems. Conversely, good dental hygiene can help improve your overall health.  As a bonus, maintaining good oral health can even REDUCE your healthcare costs!

Researchers have shown us that there is a close-knit relationship between oral health and overall wellness. With over 500 types of bacteria in your mouth, it’s no surprise that when even one of those types of bacteria enter your bloodstream that a problem can arise in your body. Oral bacteria can contribute to:

  1. Endocarditis—This infection of the inner lining of the heart can be caused by bacteria that started in your mouth.
  2. Cardiovascular Disease—Heart disease as well as clogged arteries and even stroke can be traced back to oral bacteria.
  3. Low birth weight—Poor oral health has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight of newborns.

The healthcare costs for the diseases and conditions, like the ones listed above, can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Untreated oral diseases can result in the need for costly emergency room visits, hospital stays, and medications, not to mention loss of work time. The pain and discomfort from infected teeth and gums can lead to poor productivity in the workplace, and even loss of income. Children with poor oral health miss school, are more prone to illness, and may require a parent to stay home from work to care for them and take them to costly dental appointments.

So, how do you prevent this nightmare of pain, disease, and increased healthcare costs? It’s simple! By following through with your routine yearly dental check ups and daily preventative care you will give your body a big boost in its general health. Check out these tips for a healthy mouth:

  • Maintain a regular brushing/flossing routine—Brush and floss teeth twice daily to remove food and plaque from your teeth, and in between your teeth where bacteria thrive.
  • Use the right toothbrush—When your bristles are mashed and bent, you aren’t using the best instrument for cleaning your teeth. Make sure to buy a new toothbrush every three months. If you have braces, get a toothbrush that can easily clean around the brackets on your teeth.
  • Visit your dentist—Depending on your healthcare plan, visit your dentist for a check-up at least once a year. He/she will be able to look into that window to your body and keep your mouth clear of bacteria. Your dentist will also be able to alert you to problems they see as a possible warning sign to other health issues, like diabetes, that have a major impact on your overall health and healthcare costs.
  • Eat a healthy diet—Staying away from sugary foods and drinks will prevent cavities and tooth decay from the acids produced when bacteria in your mouth comes in contact with sugar. Starches have a similar effect. Eating healthy will reduce your out of pocket costs of fillings, having decayed teeth pulled, and will keep you from the increased health costs of diabetes, obesity-related diseases, and other chronic conditions.

There’s truth in the saying “take care of your teeth and they will take care of you”.  By instilling some of the these tips for a healthier mouth, not only will your gums and teeth be thanking you, but you may just be adding years to your life.

 

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