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The end of the open enrollment season is in sight, and human resource professionals are breathing a sigh of relief as they close the door on the 2019 enrollment. Smart benefit managers are already beginning to assess new products and services for the next enrollment season and looking at how to improve their programs and processes.

Many employers now see voluntary benefits as mandatory for their companies and employees. Providing choice is seen as instrumental to attracting and retaining good employees, especially the new millennial workers that are so vital to most firms.

However, there is a lurking danger in that choice when employees are not educated on the importance of protecting against low incidence but high severity events. One such situation is the financial impact of an accident or illness.

Nearly 71% of all Americans do not have adequate savings to handle the basic “emergencies” of life according to a survey by Bankrate. Experts uniformly recommend individuals have at least six months of expenses saved in a readily available cash savings vehicle, but only 29% of respondents indicated they have such a reserve of cash.

Clearly even a short-term disruption in income will devastate most households. However, the emphasis in voluntary benefits seems to be directed toward new programs with “sizzle” but not a lot of “steak” when difficult financial times arrive.

Programs like legal plans, employee purchase programs, critical illness policies and even pet insurance are making inroads and claiming wallet share from employees at the expense of vital insurance like short-term and long-term disability programs.

A recent survey by LIMRA, an association of financial services and insurance companies, indicated that 65% of respondents surveyed indicate that most people need disability insurance, but the figure shrank to 48% when people were asked whether they believe they personally need it. There was an alarming reduction to 20% when people were asked whether they actually have disability insurance.

Everyone agrees that disability insurance lacks the cachet of some of the new glitzy programs that appeal to the immediate gratification most of us crave. We all understand everyone loves their pets, but the reality is we are setting employees up for a tragic result if we don’t encourage them to consider the critical importance of protecting income.

According to the Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 people who are 20 years old now will be disabled for more than 90 days before they reach age 67. Even so, only 41% of employers offer long-term disability insurance, according to LIMRA. The cost of basic group long term disability insurance is a mere fraction of the cost of health insurance, at approximately $256 annually per employee based on a 2016 LIMRA analysis, making it a great option for employers to offer more benefits to employees without breaking the bank.

Even those employers that provide these programs should consider supplemental disability insurance for higher income employees. Group long term disability does not fully protect most employees and those that earn the most are the most vulnerable. Executive disability insurance plans have been available for years for larger employers, but these plans are now common in mid-size to small companies too, as insurance carriers have extended lower pricing and underwriting concessions to smaller groups.

Planning now to better educate your employees and provide more valuable disability income insurance programs will pay dividends in attracting and retaining employees and, more importantly, will help avert a tragic situation where an employee loses their lifestyle because they allocated precious dollars to a pet insurance plan.

 

by Mitchell Nelson
Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

 

According to recent studies disability income is a rising star in the employee benefits market. This is due to a variety of factors. Most poignantly insurance company attempts to court and educate employee benefit advisers about the product, historically low national unemployment and financial impact of the recent tax reforms.

In discussions with successful financial and employee benefits professionals across the country, one of the common traits observed is their ability to adapt their business in the midst of market change.  To accomplish this, professionals must not only pay attention to industry trends, but also anticipate how to shift an organizational process to maximize positive outcomes.  Of equal importance is optimizing the client experience.  Executed successfully, this type of innovation will result in phenomenal business rewards.

Is this disability income protection trend an opportunity wave you should ride?

When reviewed more closely, Disability Income Protection placements within the context of employee benefits programs is a triple-win scenario for today’s economic environment.

The employer wins because it enhances the ability to attract, retain and recruit employees.

The employee wins as they are provided easy and efficient access to more adequately protect their most valuable asset, the ability to earn income.

The advisor wins because these new product placements drive new revenue and deepen the engagement with the customer.

If your clients believe in providing traditional group long term disability coverage to their employees, they will likely engage in a discussion pertaining to enhanced disability income protection for executives and key contributors.

In an April 2018 article featured in Think Advisor titled, “Maybe Employers Are Ready to Be Aware of Disability Insurance”, Allison Bell cites comments on two major disability insurance companies’ recent earnings calls that securities analysts see increased employer interest in adding to disability benefits. This is thought to be attributed to the current state of the U.S. economy where near full employment levels have convinced employers that they have to do more to attract and retain good workers.

How can you position this opportunity?

  1. Focus On Incentive-Based Compensation – Most group long term disability insurance programs insure only base salary. However, most executives, sales professionals and other key contributors within an organization are compensated beyond base salary alone. Bonus, ownership distributions, stock bonus plans, and other fringe benefits add up to a significant portion of income uninsured by the group disability insurance program. When disability occurs without any other form of planning beyond a group program, these valuable employees are left in a devastating financial state, drastically disrupting their lifestyles.
  2. C-Suite Engagement. Although disability income programs are often implemented by an HR Team, they may not always have influence to make company decisions or recommendations for benefit programs. These programs are most successful when the executive team is engaged in the initial discussions for development. Focus on your clients where you have a strong relationship with the C-Suite to gauge their interest. After all, they are the most likely to benefit from this type of disability income protection program.

A Life Happensr ecent study called “What Do You Know About Disability Insurance?” concluded 7 in 10 employed Americans would have trouble in a month or less if they couldn’t earn a paycheck. This statistic emphasizes the importance of disability income protection insurance and why advisers need to be talking to clients about their options.

By Nicole Blodgett

Originally published by www.UBABenefits.com

No one foresees needing disability benefits. But, should a problem arise, the educated and informed employee can plan for the future by purchasing disability insurance to help cover expenses when needed.
Watch this short video to learn more!

The Department of Labor’s new claim rules for disability benefits took effect April 2, 2018. The changes were announced over a year ago, but the effective date was delayed to give insurers, employers, and plan administrators adequate time for implementation. Although we’ve reported on the key issues in this blog previously, now seems like a good time for a refresher on how the new rules affect employer plans.

Affected Plans

The new claim rules apply to disability benefits provided under plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA); that is, plans sponsored by private-sector employers. Then the new rules apply if the ERISA plan must make a determination of disability in order for the claimant to obtain the benefit. Group short- and long-term disability plans are the most common examples, but pension, 401(k), and deferred compensation plans also may be affected.

Many plans do not make their own determination of disability, but instead condition the plan’s benefit on another party’s determination. For instance, employer plans that base the benefit on a disability determination made by the Social Security Administration (SSA) are not affected by the new rules.

New Rules

For ERISA plans affected by the new rules, the following additional requirements apply to disability claims filed on or after April 2, 2018:

  • Disclosure Requirements: Benefit denial notices must explain why the plan denied a claim and the standards used in making the decision. For example, the notices must explain the basis for disagreeing with a disability determination made by the SSA if presented by the claimant in support of his or her claim.
  • Claim Files and Internal Protocols: Benefit denial notices must include a statement that the claimant is entitled to request and receive the entire claim file and other relevant documents. (Previously this statement was required only in notices denying benefits on appeal, not on initial claim denials.) The notice also must include the internal rules, guidelines, protocols, standards or other similar criteria of the plan that were used in denying a claim or a statement that none were used. (Previously it was optional to include a statement that such rules and protocols were used in denying the claim and that the claimant could request a copy.)
  • Right to Review and Respond to New Information Before Final Decision: Plans are prohibited from denying benefits on appeal based on new or additional evidence or rationales that were not included when the benefit was denied at the claims stage, unless the claimant is given notice and a fair opportunity to respond.
  • Conflicts of Interest: Claims and appeals must be adjudicated in a manner designed to ensure the independence and impartiality of the persons involved in making the decision. For example, a claims adjudicator or medical or vocational expert could not be hired, promoted, terminated or compensated based on the likelihood of the person denying benefit claims.
  • Deemed Exhaustion of Claims and Appeal Processes: If plans do not adhere to all claims processing rules, the claimant is deemed to have exhausted the administrative remedies available under the plan (unless exceptions for minor errors or other conditions apply). In that case, the claimant may immediately pursue his or her claim in court. Plans also must treat a claim as re-filed on appeal upon the plan’s receipt of a court’s decision rejecting the claimant’s request for review.
  • Coverage Rescissions: Rescissions of coverage, including retroactive terminations due to alleged misrepresentations or errors in applying for coverage, must be treated as adverse benefit determinations that trigger the plan’s appeals procedures.
  • Notices Written in a Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Manner: Benefit denial notices must be provided in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner in certain situations. Specifically, if the claimant’s address is in a county where 10 percent or more of the population is literate only in the same non-English language, the notices must include a prominent statement in the relevant non-English language about the availability of language services. The plan would also be required to provide a verbal customer assistance process in the non-English language and provide written notices in the non-English language upon request.

Action Steps for Employers

Employers are reminded to work with their carriers, third-party administrators, and advisors to make sure their plans comply with the new requirements. Consider these steps:

  • Identify all plans that are subject to ERISA. (Plans sponsored by governmental employers, such as cities and public school districts, and certain church plans, are exempt from ERISA.)
  • Does the ERISA plan provide any benefit based on disability? If so, is the benefit conditioned on a determination of disability made by the plan or by another party, such as Social Security?
  • For insured plans, such as group STD and LTD insurance plans, the carrier generally is responsible for compliance with ERISA’s claim rules. The employer, however, does have a duty to make reasonable efforts to ensure the carrier is complying.
  • For self-funded plans, the employer is responsible for compliance. Although the employer may engage the services of a third-party claims administrator, the employer remains responsible for the plan’s compliance with all rules.

Originally Published By ThinkHR.com

When we hear the word insurance, most of us tend to think of things like car or health insurance. Critical illness insurance most likely isn’t one of the types of insurance that comes to mind.

It makes sense—we often don’t want to think about the scarier health-related risks in life—especially not critical illness. Unfortunately this inclination to turn away also often leaves us vulnerable and unprotected should we be diagnosed with a critical illness.

The reality is by the time we reach retirement age, one out of every four of us will be out of work due to illness or injury for longer than our accrued paid time off allows.

What Counts as a Critical Illness?
Illnesses can happen to any of us, at any time. They might be simple like a cold, or one of the several critical illnesses that affect Americans. The three major critical illnesses are:

  • Cancer
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Other critical illnesses can include:

  • Blindness
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Organ transplants
  • Kidney failure
  • Paralysis
  • Heart valve replacement

According to The American Association for Critical Illness Insurance, statistics show annually:

  • Some 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer.
  • Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. has a stroke; 600,000 people will experience their first stroke.
  • Every 34 seconds, an American will suffer a heart attack; 785,000 will have a new coronary attack.
  • 1.5 million Americans will declare bankruptcy this year; 60% are due to medical bills (up 50% over six years).

These numbers are alarming and that’s why protecting your income with disability and/or critical illness insurance is so important. Naturally, when we’re unfamiliar with certain types of insurance, many questions come to mind:

• Why do I need critical insurance?
• If I already have disability insurance should I get critical illness insurance as well?
• Which one is the best option?

Differences Between Critical Illness Insurance and Disability Insurance
Critical illness insurance pays you a lump-sum cash amount if you are diagnosed with any one of the critical illnesses covered by your policy, even if you make a full recovery. Disability insurance on the other hand pays you a regular payout when you’re ill or hurt and can’t work. It protects your income from the very real possibility you’ll become disabled for a period of time during your career, whether due to injury or illness.

There are several differences between critical illness and disability insurance.
Income protection: Critical illness insurance is meant to provide you a source of income to pay for your health costs if you are diagnosed with a critical illness, while disability insurance is meant to pay a portion of your income in the event that you cannot work.

Frequency of payment: Critical illness insurance generally provides you a lump sum payment as specified in the policy while disability insurance pays you a monthly benefit, usually a percentage of what you earned before becoming disabled.

Qualification of benefits: Critical illness benefits depend on the diagnosis of one of the policy-listed illnesses, while disability insurance benefits rely on your inability to work.

Tax implications: Critical illness gives you a lump sum tax-free cash payout, while disability coverage is calculated as a percentage of your after-tax income and is paid for a certain amount of time.

Requirement of proof of loss: Critical illness insurance generally doesn’t require any ongoing proof of loss of income, and is not affected by any other income you make, while disability insurance requires ongoing proof of loss of income. Disability insurance payments can stop when you go back to work and start earning income.

Which Critical Illness Policy Is Right For You?
Each critical illness policy has specific terms and conditions, which must be reviewed very carefully. Make sure you understand which types of illnesses are considered critical and will qualify for payment.

If your diagnosed illness is not included on the policy list, your claim may be denied by the insurance company. Also, be aware of the survival period of your policy. Critical illness policies typically have a survival period or waiting period, This is a period of time which specifies how long you must wait after you’ve received your medical diagnosis to collect the lump sum benefit from the insurance company. This period can vary from one policy to another.

Be sure to ask all your questions before buying a critical illness policy. This is where an insurance agent can be a valuable resource. They can help you understand the language in your policy, explain the specific terms and conditions, and guide your decision around which critical insurance policy is right for you.

 

By Sean Hanson
Originally Published By ThinkHr.org

With all the expenses of everyday living, it’s tempting to think of insurance as just another cost. What’s harder to see is the potential cost of not buying insurance—or what’s known as “self-insuring”—and the hidden bargain of coverage.

The Important vs. the Urgent
We’ve all experienced it: the tendency to stay focused on putting out fires, while never getting ahead on the things that really matter in the long run. For most people, there are two big things that matter in the long run: their families and their ability to retire. And being properly insured is important to both those concerns.

Life Insurance: a Hidden Bargain?
It’s exceedingly rare, but we all know it can happen: someone’s unexpected death. Life insurance can prevent financial catastrophe for the loved ones left behind, if they depend on you for income or primary care—or both.

The irony is that many people pass on coverage due to perceived cost, when in fact it’s far less expensive that most people think. The 2016 Insurance Barometer Study, by Life Happens and LIMRA showed that 8 in 10 people overestimate the cost of life insurance. For instance, a healthy, 30-year-old man can purchase a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for $160 a year—about $13 a month.

Enjoy the Benefits of Life Insurance—While You’re Alive
If budget pressures aren’t an issue, consider the living benefits of permanent life insurance—that’s right, benefits you can use during your own lifetime.

Permanent life insurance policies typically have a higher premium than term life insurance policies in the early years. But unlike term insurance, it provides lifelong protection and the ability to accumulate cash value on a tax-deferred basis.

Cash values can be used in the future for any purpose you wish. If you like, you can borrow cash value for a down payment on a home, to help pay for your children’s education or to provide income for your retirement.

When you borrow money from a permanent insurance policy, you’re using the policy’s cash value as collateral and the borrowing rates tend to be relatively low. And unlike loans from most financial institutions, the loan is not dependent on credit checks or other restrictions. You ultimately must repay any loan with interest or your beneficiaries will receive a reduced death benefit and cash-surrender value.

In this way, life insurance can serve as a powerful financial cushion for you and your family throughout your life, in addition to protecting your family from day one.

Disability Insurance: For the Biggest Risk of All
The most overlooked of the major types of insurance coverage is the one that actually covers a far more common risk—the risk of becoming ill or injured and being unable to work and earn your paycheck.

How common is it? While no one knows the exact numbers, it’s estimated that 30% of American workers will become disabled for 90 days or more during their working years. The sad reality is that most American workers also cannot afford such an event. In fact, illness and injury are the top reasons for foreclosures and bankruptcies in the U.S. today. Disability insurance ensures that if you are unable to work because of illness or injury, you will continue to receive an income and make ends meet until you’re able to return to work.

It’s tempting to cross your fingers and hope misfortune skips over you. But when you look at the facts, it’s easy to see: getting proper coverage against life’s risks is not just important, but a bargain in disguise.

By Erica Oh Nataren
Originally Published By LifeHappens.org

Most health insurance plans cover emergency treatment, hospital stays and medical exams. If you are injured in an accident, your health insurance plan might not pay for all the incurred medical expenses. Supplemental accident insurance coverage pays cash benefits for illnesses or injuries caused by an accident, including fractures and physical therapy. The coverage is designed to help alleviate the burden of unexpected costs. Depending on how the policy is paid, the payouts may be classified as taxable income.

How it Works

Accident insurance coverage generally covers death or injuries caused by accidents on or off the job. There are a variety of coverage options available. Some employers offer the accidental coverage as a voluntary supplemental plan. You can also purchase private accident insurance to protect yourself if the coverage is not offered through your employer.

Self-Paid Plans

According to the IRS, if you paid the premiums on an accident or health insurance policy, the benefits are not taxable. Payouts from an insurance policy taken out through the employer are not taxed if you paid the premiums with after-tax dollars. If you pay the premiums of an accident insurance plan through a cafeteria plan, the premium was not included as taxable income and is considered paid by the employer and therefore the benefits are taxable.

Employer-Paid Plans

Accidental insurance payouts are taxable if the employer paid for the insurance plan. If you paid for an accidental insurance plan through the employer using pre-tax dollars, your benefits are taxable income. Any benefits received from your employer while injured are considered salary or wages and taxable as ordinary income. Additional taxable disability benefits include income from a welfare fund, state sickness or disability fund and association of employers or employees.

Withholding and Reporting

Report any taxable insurance payouts as wages, salaries, tips, etc., on your taxes. If you are suffering a long-term disability and receive taxable benefits, avoid a hefty tax bill by submitting a Form W-4S, Request for Federal Income Tax Withholding From Sick Pay, to the insurance company.

By Jeannine Mancini, Originally Published By LiveStrong

Dear Ron, Thank you so much for generously supporting [us] and our AIDS walk team this year. It was a lovely foggy Sunday morning in Golden Gate Park, with thousands of folks walking to fight AIDS. It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. You have saved us LOTS of money! I want you to know how much we appreciate all that you do!

- San Francisco, Non-profit organization

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