Employers I’ve talked to all have the same goal: to help employees build a sound retirement plan to achieve financial success and security. The main components to protect an employee’s financial future are managing a nest egg, growing investments, and safeguarding against uncertainty.

The Missing Component

As an employer, you may be missing a key component in safeguarding against uncertainty – the need for long-term care. Seventy-five percent of people over the age of 65 will need some form of long-term care in their lifetime1, however, far fewer are financially prepared to handle that need. With nursing home costs averaging $84,000 per year2, it’s not surprising that many Americans are having to spend down their retirement savings to pay for care. Long-term care is custodial care received in an assisted living facility, nursing home, or your own home should you need assistance with activities of daily living or suffer from a severe cognitive impairment.

Long Term Care Insurance

Savvy employers are helping fill the uncertainty gap by introducing long-term care insurance to employees. Employers can offer long-term care insurance plans with reduced underwriting and group pricing that employees wouldn’t be able to get as an individual. Better pricing and easier approval make the product accessible to employees that couldn’t normally qualify for coverage.

Long-term care education is key to helping employees protect their retirement savings. Without your help, employees can fall victim to widely held misconceptions. They may think:

  • Other benefits will cover them
  • The government will pay for their care
  • This is only for old people

The truth is that long-term care insurance is the only benefit that covers this type of custodial care, and government options (Medicaid) are only available to people with low income and limited resources.

Shield and Supplement the 401(k)

Do you already contribute to your employees’ 401(k) plan? If so, you can spend the same amount of employer dollars, but provide richer benefits by pairing a 401(k) with long-term care insurance. By taking a small amount of contributions from the 401(k) plan and directing those toward your long-term care insurance premium, the resulting benefit can provide more than $200,000 of long-term care coverage and only slightly adjust the total 401(k) plan value.

Unlike other benefits, where providers may change from year to year, the majority of long-term care insurance purchasers will hold on to their original plan for life, and 99 percent of employees who have the coverage keep it when they move to their next employer, or into retirement. You can think of it as a “legacy benefit” that employees maintain for life to protect their retirement savings.

By Megan Fromm
Originally published by www.ubabenefits.com

 

Most employers should be reviewing payroll budgets and job descriptions to ensure that changes to salaries and job classifications are all in order by the December 1 deadline based on the new overtime exempt salary threshold and other final rule changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Another area that will be impacted by these changes and needs review now is employee benefits.

Review Now

This is the best opportunity to review your company’s eligibility requirements for certain benefits and benefit levels. Some benefit plans may include eligibility requirements based on exempt versus nonexempt status or salary versus hourly status. With the FLSA changes soon approaching, and many companies preparing for their annual open enrollment periods, you may want to use these next few months to review your eligibility requirements and make any necessary changes. These classification changes may unintentionally cause a reduction or loss of certain benefits for some of your employees. Retirement Plans

Retirement Plans

Often, company contributions to retirement savings plans are based on an employee’s salary level. These contributions will increase as you raise salaries or incur additional overtime costs. The costs of short-term disability, long-term disability, and group life insurance plans are frequently based on an employee’s annual earnings; therefore, there may be an increase in these benefits costs as well. Review the eligibility requirements for health and welfare benefits and other fringe benefits offered by your company. Determine if any employees may be impacted and consider whether you will make any changes to those benefit plans.

Affordable Care Act

With regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), higher pay may increase the employee threshold for affordability if your company is using the rate of pay or W-2 safe harbor methods to determine health care affordability. Additionally, higher pay may reduce any government-provided health care subsidies that employees may currently be able to receive.

Tracking

Your company’s tracking method for recording hours of service when reviewing your employees’ measurement and stability periods should also be reviewed. Some employers may use different methods for different classes of employees. A change in class for certain employees may impact their measurement and stability period for health care benefit eligibility.

Time Off

Paid time off accruals, paid sick leave accruals, and workplace flexibility will all need to be addressed as you work through these changes. It is extremely important for you to be able to explain the changes to your employees and reinforce the fact that the new overtime law does not negate their importance to the company.

Communicating Changes

Managers should already be talking to employees about these changes and allowing employees to ask questions. Companies need to think about new ways of maintaining the same level of flexibility and autonomy that many of their exempt employees have enjoyed in the past. This may mean thinking of new and different ways of getting the work done that will provide a sense of empowerment and autonomy to the employees. Cross training, work sharing, and fine-tuning processes will allow better efficiencies enabling employees to accomplish more without the need for excessive work hours.

Employee engagement and morale issues are critical concerns as many currently exempt employees, particularly managers, will feel that they have lost their status and prestige. HR professionals and other senior leaders in the organization should be available to have open discussions with these employees to explain the new law and reinforce that this has nothing to do with their overall job performance or level of responsibility. For most, this does not mean a change in job duties; it merely means a change in the recording of hours and method of payment. When managed correctly, employees should not see a reduction in their wages. They should earn approximately the same as or more than their current salary, based on a wage increase, overtime earnings, or adjustment to a comparable hourly wage.

There is no argument that these changes will be significant for many employees. The continued FLSA minimum salary adjustments scheduled to occur every three years will create a new paradigm shift in how exempt and nonexempt employees are viewed. No longer can it be said that all managers are exempt employees, as many will continue to manage employees and also be eligible for overtime. Remember that you can pay your nonexempt employees a salary, but you also must have a method to record their hours worked and you must compensate them for overtime.

These changes are estimated to impact 4.2 million employees across the United States. How you communicate these changes to your employees will help tremendously in preserving a positive morale in your workplace.

Originally published by www.thinkhr.com

Deadline text on the calendar (or desk planner) underlined withAre you an employer that offers or provides group health coverage to your workers? Does your health plan cover outpatient prescription drugs — either as a medical claim or through a card system? If so, be sure to distribute your plan’s Medicare Part D notice before October 15.

Purpose

Medicare began offering “Part D” plans — optional prescription drug benefit plans sold by private insurance companies and HMOs — to Medicare beneficiaries many years ago. Persons may enroll in a Part D plan when they first become eligible for Medicare. If they wait too long, a “late enrollment” penalty amount is permanently added to the Part D plan premium cost when they do enroll. There is an exception, though, for individuals who are covered under an employer’s group health plan that provides “creditable” coverage. (“Creditable” means that group plan’s drug benefits are actuarially equivalent or better than the benefits required in a Part D plan.) In that case, the individual can delay enrolling for a Part D plan while he or she remains covered under the employer’s creditable plan. Medicare will waive the late enrollment premium penalty for individuals who enroll in a Part D plan after their initial eligibility date if they were covered by an employer’s creditable plan. To avoid the late enrollment penalty, there cannot be a gap longer than 62 days between the group plan and the Part D plan.

To help Medicare-eligible persons make informed decisions about whether and when to enroll in a Part D drug plan, they need to know if their employer’s group health plan provides creditable or noncreditable prescription drug coverage. That is the purpose of the federal requirement for employers to provide an annual notice (Employer’s Medicare Part D Notice) to all Medicare-eligible employees and spouses.

Employer Requirements

Federal law requires all employers that offer group health coverage including any outpatient prescription drug benefits to provide an annual notice to plan participants. This notice requirement applies regardless of the employer’s size or whether the group plan is insured or self-funded.

  • Determine whether your group health plan’s prescription drug coverage is “creditable” or “noncreditable” for the upcoming year (2017). If your plan is insured, the carrier/HMO will confirm “creditable” or “noncreditable” status. Keep a copy of the written confirmation for your records. For self-funded plans, the plan actuary will determine the plan’s status using guidance provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
  • Distribute a Notice of Creditable Coverage or a Notice of Noncreditable Coverage, as applicable, to all group health plan participants who are or may become eligible for Medicare in the next year. “Participants” include covered employees and retirees (and spouses) and COBRA enrollees. Employers often do not know whether a particular participant may be eligible for Medicare due to age or disability. For convenience, many employers decide to distribute their notice to all participants regardless of Medicare status.
  • Notices must be distributed at least annually before October 15. Medicare holds its Part D enrollment period each year from October 15 to December 7, which is why it is important for group health plan participants to receive their employer’s notice before October 15.
  • Notices also may be required after October 15 for new enrollees and/or if the plan’s creditable versus noncreditable status changes.

Preparing the Notice(s)

Model notices are available on the CMS website. Start with the model notice and then fill in the blanks and variable items as needed for each group health plan. There are two versions: Notice of Creditable Coverage or Notice of Noncreditable Coverage and each is available in English and Spanish:

Employers that offer multiple group health plans options, such as PPOs, HDHPs, and HMOs, may use one notice if all options are creditable (or all are noncreditable). In this case, it is advisable to list the names of the various plan options so it is clear for the reader. Conversely, employers that offer a creditable plan and a noncreditable plan, such as a creditable HMO and a noncreditable HDHP, will need to prepare separate notices for the different plan participants.

Distributing the Notice(s)

You may distribute the notice by first-class mail to the employee’s home or work address. A separate notice for the employee’s spouse or family members is not required unless the employer has information that they live at different addresses.

The notice is intended to be a stand-alone document. It may be distributed at the same time as other plan materials, but it should be a separate document. If the notice is incorporated with other material (such as stapled items or in a booklet format), the notice must appear in 14-point font, be bolded, offset, or boxed, and placed on the first page. Alternatively, in this case, you can put a reference (in 14-point font, either bolded, offset, or boxed) on the first page telling the reader where to find the notice within the material. Here is suggested text from the CMS for the first page:

“If you (and/or your dependents) have Medicare or will become eligible for Medicare in the next 12 months, a Federal law gives you more choices about your prescription drug coverage. Please see page XX for more details.”

Email distribution is allowed but only for employees who have regular access to email as an integral part of their job duties. Employees also must have access to a printer, be notified that a hard copy of the notice is available at no cost upon request, and be informed that they are responsible for sharing the notice with any Medicare-eligible family members who are enrolled in the employer’s group plan.

CMS Disclosure Requirement

Separate from the participant notice requirement, employers also must disclose to the CMS whether their group health plan provides creditable or noncreditable coverage. The plan sponsor (employer) must submit its annual disclosure to CMS within 60 days of the start of the plan year. For instance, for calendar-year group health plans, the employer must comply with this disclosure requirement by March 1.

Disclosure to CMS also is required within 30 days of termination of the prescription drug coverage or within 30 days of a change in the plan’s status as creditable coverage or noncreditable coverage.

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.

Originally posted by www.thinkhr.com

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