Posted January 31, 2018 by Megan DiMartino
Tomorrow (already!) begins the second month of 2018, but is also the kickoff to Heart Health Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the U.S., but is also one of the most preventable diseases by making healthy choices and managing health conditions.
Here are some statistics to give an idea of the annual effects of heart disease:
- Heart disease claims approximately 1 million lives annually.
- Heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing nearly 380,000 people annually.
- In the U.S., someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds, and every 60 seconds, someone dies from a heart disease-related event.
- Direct and indirect costs of heart disease total more than $320 billion each year which includes health expenditures and lost productivity.
- Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
- Approximately 1 in 31 deaths of women is attributable to breast cancer, whereas 1 in 7.5 female deaths is attributable to coronary heart disease.
How can YOU make a difference during Heart Health Month?
- Educate yourself, your family and friends, and your community about the strategies to prevent heart disease and encourage them to have their hearts checked and commit to a heart-healthy lifestyle. For example:
- Encourage friends and family to make small changes, like using spices to season their food instead of salt.
- Motivate teachers and administrators to make physical activity a part of the school day. This can help students start good habits early.
- Ask doctors and nurses to be leaders in their communities by speaking out about ways to prevent heart disease.
- Register for heart disease events and fundraisers in your community to not only provide more awareness on this silent killer, but to raise money for heart disease foundations to help support heart research.
- And join us this Friday, February 2, and wear RED on National Wear Red Day to increase awareness of heart disease. Post photos of you, your family, your friends and your coworkers wearing red on social media with the hashtag #WearRedandGive to support the Go Red For Women movement, which provides educational programs to increase women’s awareness about their risk for heart disease and stroke as well as critical research to discover scientific knowledge about cardiovascular health.
Posted January 22, 2018 by PHaynes
While we all may not wish to applaud Congress today, many Employers and Plan Sponsors have something to be grateful for. The leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives included a two-year delay of the 40% “Cadillac Tax” in their proposal to continue funding the government until February 8, 2018. This two-year delay will push the effective date for the “Cadillac Tax” to 2022, and will help to protect health care coverage for the more than 178 million Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance.
“We applaud efforts to delay the ‘Cadillac Tax’ that is driving up health care costs for millions of Americans,” said James A. Klein, President of the American Benefits Council. “Employer-sponsored health coverage is efficient, effective, and stable. We will continue our efforts to fully repeal this onerous tax that forces employers to reluctantly cut benefits and increase out-of-pocket costs for employees in an attempt to avoid it. We appreciate Congress including this two-year delay as a down payment for full repeal.”
“Employers create innovative and cutting-edge benefit plans to help maintain a healthy workforce. Taxing these benefits could compel employers to stop offering wellness programs or on-site clinics and ultimately drive up costs for workers and employers, alike,” said Klein.
The Cadillac Tax imposes an annual 40 percent excise tax on plans with annual premiums exceeding $10,800 for individuals or $29,500 for a family. The Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB) continues to strongly advocate for legislation that exclusively repeals the Cadillac Tax as championed by Senators Dean Heller (R-NV) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Representatives Mike Kelly (R-PA) and Joe Courtney (D-CT). The major hurdle to the effort continues to be the $87 billion cost associated with the bill, a figure with which The Council and our allies take issue. We will continue to work with our Congressional allies to see a full repeal of the tax.
Repealing the Cadillac Tax is a top legislative priority for The Council and we’re pleased to see the two year delay included in this agreement. The agreement will also delay the medical device tax for two years and the health insurance tax for one year.
Health Insurance Industry Fee (a.k.a. Health Insurer Tax)
The short-term spending bill also suspends the Health Insurance Industry Fee for 2019. This fee began in 2014 and only affects fully-insured health plans. It was previously suspended for 2017, but went back into effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
Medical Device Tax
Previously suspended for 2016 and 2017, the 2.3% excise tax on U.S. medical device revenues also restarted on Jan. 1, but will now remain suspended for two years through the end of 2019.
Posted January 19, 2018 by Megan DiMartino
In May 2016, we blogged about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Wellness Rules Update, which proposed incentives (or penalties) for participating (or not participating) in wellness programs that may not exceed 30% of a group health plan. Next, we followed up in September 2017 with how the EEOC’s New Wellness Program Rules were a Bust as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) argued that the requirements were in no way “voluntary” as employees who did not want to participate and can’t afford to pay the 30% penalty would be forced to disclose their protected information, when otherwise, they wouldn’t have to do so.
Fast forward to December 20, 2017, when Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the wellness plan incentive rules, forcing the EEOC to go back to the drawing board to rewrite the regulations and to pursue and follow the true, dictionary-defined term, “voluntary.”
The EEOC was first given a rather lackadaisical timeline: new proposed regulations – August 2018, final rule – October 2019, and an effective date in January of 2021. Now, the EEOC has been given a year to adjust the rules: status report to review rules – March 30, 2018, new proposed regulations – August 31, 2018, and an effective date of January 1, 2019.
What does this mean for you and your health and welfare plans?
If you’ve already engaged your health and welfare benefit consultants, claims payers and others to craft, build and roll out your wellness plans, then you’ve already made a strategic decision to have a wellness plan. You invested in a process to drive education, cost-sharing and to engage employees to take control of their health. Given this new guidance, there’s little to be gained by eliminating, revamping or second-guessing the decisions you’ve already made. Besides, take advantage of the confusion and continue your competitive offering, because you can believe other employers will.
So, for now, maintain your plans and continue to provide incentivized achievements for your employees to better improve their well-being, and we will update you when new regulations and guidance become available.
Crawford Blog: May 2016 – EEOC Wellness Rules Update
Crawford Blog: September 2017 – EEOC’s New Wellness Program Rules a Bust
Posted January 18, 2018 by Megan DiMartino
On Friday, January 12, 2018, the Maryland Senate voted 30-17 to override Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act (the “Act”), which passed the Maryland General Assembly last year. That was one more vote than the bill received in the Senate last year. You can find a summary, documents and history of the Act on the General Assembly of Maryland’s website.
The Act will become Law in 30 days, unless the General Assembly acts to delay its implementation. It requires employers to provide paid “Earned Sick and Safe Leave” to hundreds of thousands of Maryland workers. Governor Hogan put forth a vigorous fight to pick off a few Democrats in each chamber to sustain his veto, but his efforts fell short. The sick leave bill was the single most politically charged issue leftover from the 2017 Legislative Session. It pitted progressive groups and some labor unions against business groups in the six-year struggle that culminated in Friday’s vote.
Senator Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who opposed the bill last year, switched his vote to support the override. After the vote, Hogan’s spokeswoman, Amelia Chasse, issued a statement urging lawmakers to change the bill they just passed to bring it closer to the “compromise” bill the governor had offered as an alternative. This law is currently scheduled to take effect on February 11, 2018, but Senate President, Thomas Middleton, stated that they may be seeking an extension to make the law effective after 90 days instead.
In the meantime, as the political posturing is over, it’s time to get down to business. Governor Hogan is creating a State Office, the Office of Small Business Regulatory Assistance, to assist small businesses in response to the mandate for paid sick leave workers. While trying to help small businesses cope with the law’s impact, Hogan had urged lawmakers to support an alternative that would have applied to businesses with 25 or more workers by 2020.
The Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide their employees with at least one (1) hour of Sick and Safe Leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of paid Sick and Safe Leave per year. Smaller employers with 14 or fewer employees will be required to provide their employees with up to 40 hours of unpaid Sick and Safe Leave annually. Employees who have accrued unused Sick and Safe Leave at the end of each year must be permitted to carry over that leave to the following year, though employers may impose a 40-hour carry over cap.
Under the Act, employees can use Sick and Safe Leave to care for or treat the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or condition; to obtain preventive medical care for the employee or the employee’s family members; to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or condition; for maternity or paternity leave; or in situations where the absence is necessary due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking committed against the employee or the employee’s family member. A family member includes the employee’s children, parents, spouse, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.
The Act contains several important exceptions and carve-outs. The Act will not apply to:
- Employees who regularly work less than 12 hours a week;
- Employees who are employed in the construction industry and are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expressly waives the requirements of the law; and
- Certain “as-needed” employees in a health or human services industry.
In addition, employers will not be required to allow employees to:
- Carry over more than 40 hours of accrued, unused Sick and Safe Leave from year to year;
- Use more than 64 hours of Sick and Safe Leave in a year;
- Accrue more than 64 hours at any time; or
- Use Sick and Safe Leave during the first 106 calendar days that the employee works for the employer (although leave must accrue during this initial employment period).
Once the Act goes into effect, Maryland will join Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, Arizona, Washington, and Rhode Island to become the ninth state to require employers to provide paid sick leave. Washington D.C. also has a paid sick leave law.
In summary, some employers will need to revise their current Paid Time Off policies to reflect the requirements of the new law, which becomes effective February 11, 2018.
General Assembly of Maryland
Posted January 16, 2018 by Megan DiMartino
Although the ACA has occupied your time and attention for almost 8 years now, it may be hitting your bottom line in a distinct and powerful way as the IRS begins to assess Play or Pay penalties. This is mail no one wants to receive – both because the IRS provides only 30 days to respond and because the assessed penalties can be huge dollars. Join us, AssuredPartners and Steptoe & Johnson, PLLC’s Counsel, Jamie L. Leary, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar to learn how the assessment works and what you can do NOW, so that if you receive one of these, you won’t be caught off guard.
- Short refresher course on the ACA’s Play or Pay mandate
- How the IRS is notifying employers of potential assessments
- How employers can analyze the assessment to determine whether it is correct
- How – and how quickly – an employer must respond
- Wednesday, January 24, 2018
- 2:00 – 3:00pm EST
- No cost to attend
- This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals, but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.
*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.
**AP Benefit Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.