Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

Innovative Launches New Online Health Plan Benchmarking Tool

Posted On: April 14, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Innovative Launches New Online Health Plan Benchmarking Tool Benchmarking is more important than ever. Knowing how your health plan compare to your peers allows you to be competitive in recruiting and retaining the best employees, assist with making data-driven decisions during renewal planning, and see how your health plan costs compare to other companies in your industry. Imagine going into your renewal armed with these facts! With that being said, Innovative is excited to launch our new, online, exclusive health plan benchmarking tool for mid-size employers. Often employers feel as if they are shooting in the dark when it comes to evaluating your health plan design, manage rising costs, and prepare for the future of healthcare. Innovative, in conjunction with United Benefit Advisors, conducts annually the nation’s largest and most comprehensive benchmarking survey of plan design and cost. To help employers see the target, we have taking this data and…

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Recipe

Posted On: April 14, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Recipe Ingredients ½ tsp olive oil 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 1 cup baby spinach leaves 1 cup baby arugula leaves 2 slices of turkey bacon 2 Italian bread slices ¼ cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded  ¼ cup fontina cheese Directions Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add garlic to pan; sauté 1 minute. Add spinach and arugula; stir until wilted. Remove spinach mixture from pan. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook until crisp. Remove bacon. Top bread slice evenly with cheeses, bacon pieces, spinach mixture, and the remaining bread slice. Add sandwich to drippings in pan; weigh down with a plate. Cook 2 minutes on each side

Innovative Launches New Digital Employee Benefit Guide Technology

Posted On: April 12, 2021 | Categorized as: Company News, Employee Benefits

Innovative Launches New Digital Employee Benefit Guide Technology As technology continues to transform the workplace, HR professionals are seeking new and improved ways to deliver their health plan benefits, while gaining rich backend intelligence to improve the utilization of the plan. We have the solution! Innovative Benefit Planning is excited to launch a new, digital technology platform for our client’s employee benefit guides. This new, cutting-edge technology allows employees to view their health plan guides through a dynamic, video rich, interactive experience. Our new, easy to navigate digital guide, provides employers with: Increased Employee Retention- The platform allows for video education and an interactive experience, which has been shown to increase messaging retention by 73% when compared to static content. Engaging Experience- Engage your employees with a fresh, highly visual content experience for maximum impact. Mobile Friendly- Regardless of the device or location of your employees, their guide will automatically…

The DOL Issues ARPA COBRA Subsidy Forms

Posted On: April 9, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

The DOL Issues ARPA COBRA Subsidy Forms On April 7, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued the much awaited COBRA Model Notices required under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), implementing the 100% COBRA Subsidy for eligible individuals. In order to assist plan sponsors with implementing the subsidy as required under the ARPA, the DOL has established a dedicated COBRA Subsidy web page. Additionally, FAQs are available here. Model Notices: General Notice and Election Notice Notice in Connection with Extended Election Period Alternative Notice Notice of Expiration of Premium Assistance Summary of the COBRA Premium Assistance Provisions Please review our latest blog on the COBRA Subsidy. If you have any questions, please contact your Innovative account team or contact us at

Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) Fund Best Practices for Plan Sponsors

Posted On: April 8, 2021 | Categorized as: Retirement Plans

Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) Fund Best Practices for Plan Sponsors Socially responsible investing has grown in popularity as investors become more aware of how organizations operate from an environmental, social and governance perspective. Environmental factors may include a company’s carbon output, overall resource consumption and impact to air and water quality. Social factors include the types of business relationships the company maintains and how the organization treats people overall. Structural or governance factors include the level of transparency, conflicts of interest and Board composition. As a result, plan sponsors are considering Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) fund options as employee’s interest in ensuring their money has a positive impact on society continues to grow. Rules Surrounding ESG Funds: In December of 2020, the DOL released a rule for plan sponsors when considering Environmental, Social and Governmental (ESG) focused investments as options in their retirement plans. The rule required that…

March 2021 Compliance Recap

Posted On: April 6, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

March 2021 Compliance Recap The employee benefits guidance issued in March 2021 was largely focused on providing relief to individuals and businesses impacted by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Significantly, on March 11, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the Act) was enacted into law which, in part, mandates that eligible individuals receive a six-month 100% COBRA. The following summarizes other important regulatory developments during March 2021. ACIP Recommends the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) Vaccine On February 28, 2021, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued an interim recommendation for use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in persons aged 18 or older for the prevention of COVID-19, which must be covered as preventive care no later than March 19, 2021. Under the CARES Act, non-grandfathered individual and employer-sponsored group health plans are required to cover the entire cost of preventative services by not imposing cost-sharing in the…

Innovative’s 2020 Consulting Highlights

Posted On: April 6, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits, HR Consulting

Innovative's 2020 Consulting Highlights 2020 was a challenging year for many, but here at Innovative, we were dedicated to delivering the best value and results for our clients. Not only were we successful in reducing costs for our clients, but we were able to provide them with a number of resources to help them navigate through the year. Contact us at

PPE as Section 213(d) Qualified Medical Expenses

Posted On: March 31, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

PPE as Section 213(d) Qualified Medical Expenses The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Announcement 2021-7 providing that amounts paid for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes, for the primary purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19, are qualified medical expenses under Internal Revenue Code Section 213(d). Therefore, these expenses are eligible for reimbursement from account-based plans, including health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs), Archer medical savings accounts (Archer MSAs), health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs), and health savings accounts (HSAs). Note that if the expense is reimbursed under an account-based plan, it is not deductible for the taxpayer under Section 213 (no double benefit). The IRS provides that group health plans, including health FSAs and HRAs, will need to be amended if the plans prohibit reimbursement of PPE. Group health plans may be amended to provide for such reimbursement of PPE expenses incurred for any period…

Grilled Sesame Chicken

Posted On: March 24, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Grilled Sesame Chicken Did you know that certain foods high in tryptophan and healthy carbohydrates can help induce sleep? For a good night’s sleep, try to eat an early evening meal and a bedtime snack that contains at least 300 mg of tryptophan.  Two cutlets from this recipe provide 700 mg tryptophan! Ingredients 6 thin boneless skinless chicken cutlets, 3 oz each 2tbsp lemon juice 2tbsp toasted sesame seeds 2cloves garlic, minced 2tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced 2green onions, minced 1/4cup low sodium soy sauce, for gluten free, use tamari 1/4cup teriyaki sauce 1tsp honey 2tsp sesame oil Directions Combine all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the chicken, turn the pieces to coat evenly, cover and place in refrigerator a minimum of three hours, but preferably overnight. Preheat grill to high. Grill chicken top side down first until well browned charred, about 5 minutes, turn and cook on the second side about 3 more minutes. Transfer…

American Rescue Plan Act Brings Several Health Plan Provisions

Posted On: March 15, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Act). The Act is a $1.9 trillion legislative package that includes pandemic relief for individuals and families. The Act contains several provisions including funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, the child tax credit, tax credits for paid sick leave and family and medical leave, the Paycheck Protection Program, grants to state educational agencies, and low-income family assistance. The Act also contains several provisions affecting group health plans. Below is a high-level overview based on Innovative Benefit Planning’s review of the Act but more detailed information on the COBRA relief can be found in a link following the COBRA explanation. COBRA Continuation Coverage Subsidies The Act provides COBRA relief for assistance-eligible individuals. An assistance-eligible individual is an individual who is eligible for COBRA due to a COBRA qualifying event of…

Is Level Funding a Good Fit for Your Employee Benefits Plan?

Posted On: March 10, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Is Level Funding a Good Fit for Your Employee Benefits Plan? Level funding is a great strategy for employers that are interested in self-funding, but like a plan that looks and feels like it is fully insured. Level funding acts just like a fully insured plan, except it provides the opportunity for a surplus in a good claims year, enhanced claims reporting and limited administrative burden. Advantages of Level Funding There are many advantages to considering level funding. Without going straight to stop-loss carriers and third-party administrators, groups can work with the carriers that they're probably already working with on a fully insured basis. It provides the opportunity to receive reporting they may not be receiving today. The opportunity for a surplus that in good years when you're fully insured, you would not receive. Not to mention, you don't have the administrative burdens and potential risk of going fully self-insured…

Seared Salmon with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli

Posted On: March 9, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Seared Salmon with Spicy Red Pepper Aioli Ingredients 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 Tablespoon chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, chopped 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice ¼ cup jarred roasted red peppers, chopped 1 cup mayonnaise Kosher salt & fresh black pepper 4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless, center-cut salmon steaks Olive oil 1 lime, quartered for serving Directions Preheat oven to 400 degrees Aioli: Combine garlic and chipotle peppers to make a course paste. Place paste in food processor along with lime juice, roasted red peppers, and puree. Add the mayo, ¼ teaspoon salt & pepper, process until smooth. Salmon: Heat dry cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes. Place salmon fillets on a board, pat dry with paper towels, and rub all over with olive oil. With the fillets rounded side up, sprinkle them with 1 ½ teaspoons salt and ¾ teaspoon black pepper.   Place salmon in skillet…

February 2021 Compliance Recap

Posted On: March 8, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

February 2021 Compliance Recap February was a relatively busy month in the employee benefits world. The Department of Labor (DOL) issued EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 regarding the end of the COVID-19 outbreak period. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued Notice 2021-15 providing guidance on health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs), dependent care flexible spending arrangements (DCAPs), and cafeteria plan relief. The DOL, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) (collectively, the Departments) issued additional FAQs regarding coverage of COVID-19 testing and vaccines. The Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court (Supreme Court) regarding its position in the court case challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) withdrew its previously released proposed wellness program rules. The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to a delay…

Final Rule on the Extension of Certain Timeframes For Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Due to COVID-19

Posted On: March 5, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

Final Rule on the Extension of Certain Timeframes For Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Due to COVID-19 The DOL issued EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 providing that the outbreak period relief noted below ends on the earlier of one year from the date an individual or plan was first eligible for relief (extension period) or the original outbreak period of 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19 National Emergency. As of the date of this writing, the COVID-19 National Emergency has not ended. If a deadline noted below fell on March 1, 2020, it would be extended until February 28, 2021 (one year from March 1, 2020). However, if a deadline fell after March 1, 2020,the deadline would be extended to a date after February 28, 2021 because the extensions up to one year following the deadline or 60 days after the announced end of the COVID-19…

Incorporating Wellness into Your Employee Benefits Strategy

Posted On: March 4, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits, Workplace Wellness

Incorporating Wellness into Your Employee Benefits Strategy Wellness is a strategy that continues to gain in popularity as employers are looking for ways to help their employees become healthier, more engaged, and happier at work. Wellness is typically broken into three categories. The first category is educational wellness. With an educational program, employers are providing educational guidance on how to be healthier through newsletters, seminars, and webinars, and maybe even a health fair onsite at the employer's office. The second type of wellness program is a participatory wellness program. Under this arrangement, the employer would provide a reward for participation by employees in an event such as a walking challenge, attending a health fair, or maybe a weight loss challenge. The third type of wellness is a results-based or outcomes-based plan design. Under this plan, the employer would provide a reward to employees that satisfy a standard set in the…

Reference Based Pricing

Posted On: February 26, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Reference Based Pricing With healthcare costs skyrocketing at unsustainable levels, employers are considering nontraditional methods of funding their medical plans. One nontraditional method that employers are starting to consider is called reference based pricing, or RBR. This method has proven to reduce overall benefit spend 20 to 30%, when compared to the traditional discount healthcare delivery model. What is Reference Based Pricing? The reference in RBR refers to Medicare. In a typical, traditional PPO carrier discount model, the claim after discount ends up being 250 to 450% of what Medicare reimburses for that claim. That's two and a half to four and a half times what providers accept for Medicare patients. Employers that want to bridge that gap can partner with an RBR vendor to skirt the traditional carrier discount system. Instead of the claim passing through and have the typical carrier discount applied to the gross claim, the RBR,…

Avocado Pesto Dip Recipe

Posted On: February 23, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Avocado Pesto Dip Recipe Did you know that avocado is a heart-healthy fat?  Healthy fats can help lower your LDL or “bad cholesterol”.  Avocados also contain a lot of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are beneficial to your heart health.  Try this quick and easy dip for a heart-healthy appetizer during National Heart Month. Ingredients 2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, pitted, and cut into pieces 1 cup fresh basil leaves 1/4 cup unsalted pine nuts 3 tablespoons olive oil (extra virgin preferred) 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 3 medium garlic cloves 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper Directions In a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy and creamy. Serve with fresh vegetables or pita chips.

Innovative Launches Employee Management Training; PeopleForce 2030

Posted On: February 22, 2021 | Categorized as: HR Consulting

Innovative Launches Employee Management Training; PeopleForce 2030 Innovative Benefit Planning, LLC is excited to launch PeopleForce 2030, a three-part employee training series consisting of facilitated and interactive 90-minute sessions that discuss leadership competencies including “Interpersonal Savvy”, “Dealing with Ambiguity”, and “Building Resilience”. Whether your employees are charged with leading and managing people or managing work processes, the skills required to do so in today’s business environments have continued to evolve as quickly as the business itself. These three training sessions are designed to help managers within your organization build meaningful relationships, make collaborative decisions, and show up as authentic leaders.  Each session builds upon the next – and even includes some “homework” that attendees can complete to both prepare for the next session and to engender discussions within their teams. Bring this 3-Part management training series to your organization virtually, coordinated around your organization’s calendar.  Find more details and request…

Innovative Launches COVID-19 Employee Monitoring and Advocacy Solution

Posted On: February 18, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Innovative Launches COVID-19 Employee Monitoring and Advocacy Solution Innovative Benefit Planning, LLC is here to help your organization bring your employees back to the workplace safely and securely. In order to so, we are proud to launch our COVID-19 Employee Health Tracker, which will provide employers a COVID-19 monitoring and advocacy solution. By using our Employee Health Tracker, employees will get alerted each morning to begin their screening. This process only takes a matter of minutes to complete, and then compliance reporting will be provided, as well as return to work guidance for the employee. This application focuses on evaluating symptoms and helping individuals identify if it is safe to go to work that day based on their responses. Following implementation, your organization will have an affordable solution that will help remain complaint, reduce HR burden, be HIPAA complaint, protect your team and workplace, and provide employees with a dedicated…

What is Bundled Pricing?

Posted On: February 15, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

What is Bundled Pricing? Many employers are frustrated with a lack of financial and quality transparency in the healthcare marketplace. As such, many employers have considered offering a bundled pricing solution to their employees. Bundled pricing is a unique solution that provides employees the opportunity to shop for a procedure with an all-in price upfront. How Does Bundled Pricing Work? A bundled pricing vendor will negotiate directly with providers for non-emergent healthcare services. In other words, an employee can go on and choose when and where they'd like to have the procedure at an all-in cost. These prices are often a fraction of the typical cost of those services and there's no surprise when an invoice comes in the mail. Bundled pricing provides employers and employees alike the opportunity to have a transparent healthcare environment. Some pitfalls to consider are the fact that bundled pricing is relatively new to the…

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