Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

Free Child Education Resources

Posted On: November 24, 2020 | Categorized as: HR Consulting

Free Child Education Resources As most children are learning virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many parents are looking to compliment their education with additional resources.  Especially now, there are a great deal of free resources available for all subject matter.  Check out some of the most popular resources here! Khan Academy https://www.khanacademy.org/ Virtual Field Trips and World Tours https://www.tripsavvy.com/best-virtual-vacationsaround-the-world-4799910 https://www.tripsavvy.com/childrens-museums-virtualvisit-4800065 https://www.thoughtco.com/virtual-field-trips-4160925 You don’t have to leave the house to see the world! Take your children through the numerous virtual field trips and tours on these lists. Many of these virtual experiences also offer enhanced learning experiences, such as livestream events and interactive tools. Scholastic Learn at Home https://learnathome.scholastic.com/thanks.html Scholastic is offering a one week free trial of their Learn at Home All-Access subscription which provides children aged 4-10 with fun educational activities. The curriculum includes stories, articles, videos and activities in a variety of subjects such as…


End of Year Wellness Initiatives to Drive Employee Well-Being

Posted On: November 24, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

End of Year Wellness Initiatives to Drive Employee Well-Being As we near the end of the year, don’t let your wellness program slip through the cracks. With the holidays approaching, flu and germ season here, and 2021 planning in full effect, now is the perfect time to evaluate your organization’s end of year wellness initiatives in order to keep your team healthy and off on the right foot in 2021. Consider these 8 tips as you approach the end of year: Educate employees on how to reduce the spread of illness and encourage them to receive a flu shot (provide education and coverage information when possible) With the number of COVID-19 cases rising across the country, we must try to prevent the spread of the flu.  Not only do you want your team to be healthy, but this also ensures that proper resources needed to treat critical COVID-19 patients will…


How to Host a Virtual Company Holiday Party

Posted On: November 24, 2020 | Categorized as: HR Consulting

How to Host a Virtual Company Holiday Party This holiday season may be different for many organizations than it has in the past, but that doesn’t mean that the holidays need to be disregarded all together.  One thing is for certain, and that is that your team has worked diligently all year and deserves to be valued and there is no better time to do so than during the holidays. Here are some tips to host a successful virtual holiday party: Pick a theme Create a formal invitation reflecting the theme of your virtual party, which will help your team to get excited.  Additionally, encourage virtual backgrounds to set the mood and be more festive! Make a Holiday Playlist Every great party needs music, including virtual ones! Set the tone for this year’s holiday party by creating a holiday playlist on a platform such as Spotify so that the whole…


Understanding Key Health Insurance Terms

Posted On: November 23, 2020 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Understanding Key Health Insurance Terms The language of health insurance can be confusing but understanding some key terms will help your employees comprehend the basics of your organization’s plan, allowing them to make smart decisions that will benefit their family. Rather than feeling confused, encourage them to review the following key terms and ask questions when necessary. Premium - sometimes referred to as contributions, payroll deductions, or per pay costs, are the amount employees pay each month for covered health insurance. Copay - the fixed amount the employee pays for health care services, such as $25 for a doctor's visit. After your copay, the insurance pays the balance of the bill. Deductible - a fixed dollar amount the employees pay each plan year for health care services before their health insurance begins to pay. Coinsurance - the percentage of costs the employee will pay. If your organization’s plan has a…


The CDC Redefines “Close Contact”

Posted On: November 23, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

The CDC Redefines “Close Contact” As the number of reported cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, employers are increasingly confronted with questions and obligations regarding their workforce.  With that being said, employers should be aware that as of October 21st, the CDC revised the definition of “close contact” to include the following: Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over 24 hours* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to testing specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated. * Individual exposures added together over 24 hours (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;” however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact…


Healthy Thanksgiving Side Swaps

Posted On: November 18, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Healthy Thanksgiving Side Swaps Who doesn’t love the tasty sides that come with a traditional Thanksgiving meal? Why not try something a little healthier this year along with your staples! Tangy Glazed Brussel Sprouts Ingredients: 3 tbsp olive oil ¼ tsp ground cardamom ⅛ tsp crushed red pepper 1 lb trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts ¼ cup pomegranate juice 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar Optional: 1 oz crumbled feta cheese and 3 tbsp chopped toasted pecans Directions: Heat olive oil, ground cardamom, and crushed red pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until browned, about 7 minutes. Add pomegranate juice and white balsamic vinegar. Cook until sauce is syrupy, another 5 to 6 mins. Top evenly with feta cheese and toasted pecans. Serves 4 (serving size is ¾ cup) Skillet Green Bean Casserole Ingredients: 1 lb green beans 2 slices whole-wheat bread ¼ cup chopped…


October Compliance Recap

Posted On: November 16, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

October was a busy month in the employee benefits world. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) renewed the public health emergency due to COVID-19 which took effect on October 23, 2020. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2020-76 regarding deadline extensions and requirements for reporting of group health coverage offered in 2020 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it has done in prior years. The IRS released final instructions for both the 1094-B and 1095-B forms and the 1094-C and 1095-C forms and the final forms for 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C. The IRS released Notice 2020-79 and Rev. Proc. 2020-45 regarding health plan limits as well as various compensation, benefit, and contribution levels under qualified retirement plans for 2021. The Department of Labor (DOL), HHS, and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) (collectively, the Departments), released interim final rules regarding implementation of…


Final Rules on Coverage Transparency

Posted On: November 16, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

Final Rules on Coverage Transparency On October 29, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Labor (DOL), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (collectively, Departments), released final rules on coverage transparency, in order to provide health coverage recipients with an estimate of their potential cost-sharing liability for health related services prior to the receipt of care. The final rules require group health plans and insurance issuers in the individual and group markets to disclose cost-sharing information and negotiated rates in electronic or paper form. The final rules also allow issuers to reward plan enrollees with “shared savings payments,” without running afoul of medical loss ratio (MLR) requirements. Issuers are permitted to provide employees who use lower-priced providers with a percentage of the savings relative to a benchmark. Effective Dates Public Disclosure of Negotiated Rates and Historical Allowed Amounts: January 1, 2022 Disclosure of Cost Information: January…


Better Sleep for Better Health

Posted On: November 12, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

woman sleeping peacefully on white bed

Better Sleep for Better Health As we approach the holiday season, it is important to remember to take some time to care for yourself. The holidays can be extremely busy, stressful, and even draining at times. Don’t forget to make yourself a priority. Self care is about taking time for yourself, and one way to ensure you are dedicating some time to yourself is to work on improving your sleep and sleep habits. Research shows that as many as 60% of Americans suffer from poor quality sleep. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night because sleep plays a vital role in promoting physical health, longevity, and emotional well-being. Take some time to read these tips provided by Innovative Benefit Planning's Nurse Advocate in order to improve your sleep during these stressful times. Stick to a sleep schedule. Set aside a minimum of 7 hours of…


6 Self-Funding Strategies to Suit Your Needs

Posted On: November 12, 2020 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Self Funded Plan printed on keyboarded key

6 Self-Funding Strategies Self-funding is nothing new as it has been a common form of health plan financing since 1974. Self-funding provides great flexibility with plan designs and provides freedom from most state laws. In fact, over 60% of US employees are covered under a self-insured medical plan. Under self-funded arrangements, the employer assumes all the risk of claims with backup protection from stop-loss coverage and retains the savings over fully insured. Employers partner with TPA and other vendors to provide claims administration, case management and network access. Employers with as many as 50 employees can consider self-funding, however we see employers with 100 or more participating in this funding arrangement. Advantages and Benefits The employer, which is also known as the plan sponsor in a self-funded arrangement, can determine the plan design that best suits the needs of their employees. Regulatory is defined at federal only, not state. The…


NJ Employers Must Adhere to Latest Executive Orders Mandating Health and Safety Protocols for COVID-19

Posted On: November 4, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

NJ Employers Must Adhere to Latest Executive Orders Mandating Health and Safety Protocols for COVID-19 On October 28, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order No. 192 (EO 192), which mandates that New Jersey employers abide by certain health and safety standards in an effort to protect employees and other individuals at workplaces during the pandemic. The executive order, effective 6:00am November 5th,  will take the following actions in three areas: Workplace health and safety standards to cover all NJ workers: The executive order will require both private and public sector employers to follow health and safety protocols that will serve to protect their in-person workforces.  The Order mandates all employers: Require individuals at the worksite to maintain at least six feet of distance from others to the maximum extent possible; Require employees, customers, visitors, and other individuals entering the worksite to wear cloth or disposable face masks…


2021 IRS Contribution Limits for FSA and Commuter Benefits

Posted On: November 2, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

2021 IRS Contribution Limits for FSA and Commuter Benefits On Tuesday, the IRS released 2021 contribution limits for medical FSA and Commuter Benefits for 2021. There are no changes to flexible spending account (FSA) and commuter benefits contribution limits for 2021. The IRS did adjust the contribution limits for adoption assistance programs, increasing the limit from $14,300 to $14,440. Last, HSA contribution limits were announced earlier this year. The limit for an individual is $3,600, while the family contribution limit increased to $7,200. The current and new contribution limits include: Medical FSA Contribution Limit remained the same: $2750 Monthly Commuter Benefits Contribution Limit remained the same: $270 HSA Contribution Limit: Single - $3600; Family - $7200 Adoption Assistance Limit: Increased to $14,440 For a downloadable PDF, click here. If you have any questions about 2021 limits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your account management team or email us…


IRS Announces 2021 Plan Limitations

Posted On: November 2, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance, Retirement Plans

IRS Announces 2021 Plan Limitations The IRS has recently announced the qualified plan limitations for 2021, which are determined based on annual increases in the cost of living index. Because there was only a modest increase in the index, most of the plan limits have not changed from 2020. For your convenience we have included a downloadable compliance bulletin, detailing the current and new plan limitations: 401k Deferral Limit remained the same: $19,500 The maximum amount that can be contributed by and for a participant to a defined contribution plan - Increased to $58,000 The maximum amount of compensation taken into account for plan purposes - Increased to $290,000 The catch-up contribution for participants who have attained age 50 remained the same: $6,500 The compensation-based definition of highly compensated employee remained the same: $130,000 The maximum annual benefit payable from a defined benefit plan remained the same: $230,000 The definition…


How Working With a Qualified Plan Advisor Can Improve Your Audit Experience

Posted On: November 2, 2020 | Categorized as: Retirement Plans

How Working With a Qualified Plan Advisor Can Improve Your Audit Experience Hiring a quality qualified plan advisor provides many advantages to employers that sponsor a retirement plan. Specifically, one of those advantages is improving your annual qualified plan audit. As each audit season begins, employers often dread having to coordinate with their accounting firm while juggling their day-to-day tasks. The good news is, we have outlined three ways your qualified plan advisor can improve this administrative burden. Quick Access to Information Audits by nature involve many questions and requests for data. In some cases, the information in question is not regularly requested, making it difficult for employers to find. Advisors on the other hand have knowledge of the plan and recordkeeping systems to access certain information quickly, saving valuable time for everyone. Relationship with the Auditor Many advisors develop relationships with various auditing firms. By doing so, the advisor…


CARES ACT & FFCRA Tax Credits for Eligible Employers

Posted On: October 26, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

CARES ACT & FFCRA Tax Credits for Eligible Employers Eligible employers are entitled to receive a credit in the full amount of the required sick leave and family leave, plus related health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax on the leave, for the period of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.  The refundable credit is applied against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees. Eligible employers can reduce federal employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit.  They can also request an advance of the paid sick and family leave credits for any amounts not covered by the reduction in deposits. The advanced payments will be issued by paper check to employers. To learn more about these tax credits, click here.


3 ACA Reporting Errors and The Pandemic’s Impact

Posted On: October 22, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

3 ACA Reporting Errors and The Pandemic’s Impact As we approach the end of 2020, we must consider how the various enrollment fluctuations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic will impact the ACA Employer Mandate and the already tedious 1095/1094 ACA Reporting. The IRS recently granted a March 2nd deadline extension for the 1095 reporting and this extra time will likely be needed for employers to accurately audit their data as we are expecting to see additional errors due to furloughs, layoffs and coverage extensions. Prior to filing, employers should audit their reporting for the following common errors to avoid an unnecessary penalty letter. Enrollment Changes and Code Errors For each month an employee is offered coverage and one of codes 1B through 1E is entered in line 14, an employee should have a dollar amount indicated in line 15. If there are blank entries this could trigger a penalty for…


September Compliance Recap

Posted On: October 15, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

September Compliance Recap September was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world. President Trump issued an executive order on An America-First Healthcare Plan, noting the Administration’s actions on healthcare and planned actions going forward. A federal district court halted the repeal of certain provisions of the prior final rule on Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Department of Labor (DOL) released additional temporary regulations on the leave laws under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in response to a federal district court’s invalidation of certain provisions under the original temporary regulations issued by the DOL. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Security Risk Assessment Tool Version 3.2. The DOL released a final rule on Promoting Regulatory Openness Through Good Guidance…


Vegetable Chili Recipe

Posted On: October 14, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Vegetable Chili Recipe As the weather starts to turn, there’s nothing more comforting than a hot bowl of chili.  This recipe is loaded with lots of vegetables but it’s tasty too! You can certainly add to it if you’d like such as rice, quinoa, barley, small pasta or even shredded chicken.  You can swap in your favorite vegetables and beans as well. INGREDIENTS ¼  cup olive oil 2 zucchini, cut into ½-inch dice 2 onions, cut into ½-inch dice 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped 2 large red bell peppers, cored and cut into ¼-inch dice 1 can (35 ounces) Italian plum tomatoes, with their juice 1½ pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1 inch dice 2 tablespoons good-quality chili powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 1 tablespoon dried basil 1 tablespoon dried oregano 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon fennel seeds ½ cup Chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley 1 cup canned dark red kidney beans, drained 1 cup canned chick-peas (garbanzos), drained ½ cup chopped fresh dill 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1 cup sour cream 2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese 4 scallions (green onions), white bulb and 3 inches green, sliced…


Have You Received an MLR Rebate Check? What To Do Next?

Posted On: October 9, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

Have You Received an MLR Rebate Check? What To Do Next? The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance carriers to spend at least 80-85 percent of premium dollars on medical care and healthcare quality improvement. If the carrier does not meet this medical loss ratio (MLR) obligation, it must give affected customers a rebate.  Rebates must be distributed by the carriers each year by September 30. Any employer that receives a refund then needs process and distribute within 90 days to avoid triggering ERISA trust requirements. For your convenience we have included more information regarding this topic in our compliance bulletin, including: How should the rebate be divided? Are former plan participants entitled to a share in the rebate? How may the employer use the rebate? How should the rebate be provided? Additional Q&As on how the rebate should be used If you have any questions about distribution or how…


Dust Off That Old Policy: Why Now is a Good Time to Review Your Life Insurance Policies

Posted On: October 8, 2020 | Categorized as: Retirement Plans

Dust Off That Old Policy: Why Now is a Good Time to Review Your Life Insurance Policies As a result of the COVID-19 National Emergency, insurance companies have modified their underwriting requirements to help individuals secure additional life insurance protection. Through new “relaxed” underwriting guidelines, insurers are offering coverage without an exam that requires a nurse to visit your home or office. These relaxed guidelines offer a convenient way to increase insurance amounts, with death benefits up to $3,000,000 available for most age groups.  Due to these relaxed guidelines, now is a good time for employers and individuals to review their existing in force policies for key person, buy/sell or estate planning purposes. Innovative recommends the following when reviewing your life insurance programs: Term Insurance Understand your conversion options, particularly the date at which the conversion period ends. Does the period end at a specific age, a specific number of…


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