Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

EEOC Issues Updated COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance

Posted On: June 22, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

EEOC Issues Updated COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued this information related to vaccinations: Employers must be aware that certain individuals may opt to not be vaccinated, either for religious reasons or for medical reasons Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII, reasonable accommodations must be offered to these persons instead of requiring them to be vaccinated. Reasonable accommodations approved by the EEOC include: Face masks Social distancing from co-workers Working different shift hour Telecommuting and working from home Reassignment to a different role Employers may not require vaccinations for such employees unless they can show that the unvaccinated employee poses a direct threat to the employee's health and safety in the workplace. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Supreme Court Effectively Upholds ACA in Texas v. United States Ruling

Posted On: June 18, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

Supreme Court Effectively Upholds ACA in Texas v. United States Ruling On June 17, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) by a 7-to-2 vote. The Court heard oral arguments in the case, California v. Texas, on November 10, 2020, which was a consolidation of 20 cases filed by state attorneys general and governors. The three main issues in California v. Texas were: Whether Texas, the accompanying states, the federal government, and two individual plaintiffs have “standing” to sue, which means having a sufficient connection to and harm by the ACA as a precondition to challenging the law. Whether the elimination of the ACA’s penalty for individuals who do not maintain minimum essential coverage (MEC), also known as the individual mandate, renders the individual mandate unconstitutional. If the individual mandate is unconstitutional, whether the remainder of the ACA’s provisions are…

4 Ways Digital Open Enrollment Guides Improve Employee Engagement

Posted On: June 18, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

4 Ways Digital Open Enrollment Guides Improve Employee Engagement Every year open enrollment season allows employees to start, stop, or change their existing health insurance plans. Often, however, open enrollment can be a source of confusion, leaving employees with a lack of understanding and underutilizing their plan. Digital open enrollment guides can be the most effective solution for educating and connecting with employees about their healthcare benefits. So how can digital open enrollment guides improve employee engagement? Apart from giving employees convenient access to benefit information, digital open enrollment guides also help your staff better understand their benefits, promote healthier habits, provide direct contact with advocates, and allows leadership to utilize direct analytics for increased employee interaction. Here are four ways digital open enrollment guides can improve employee engagement: 1.     Digital open enrollment guides can help employees better understand their benefits. A digital open enrollment platform allows for embedded videos,…

Grilled Cherry Pepper Popper Recipe

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

June is not only Men’s Health Month but also a month where we celebrate all of the fathers in our lives. Try this healthy "Grilled Cherry Pepper Popper" recipe for your Father’s Day celebration this year. Grilled Cherry Pepper Popper Recipe Ingredients: 14 fresh cherry peppers 4 ounces plain cream cheese, softened 2 tbsp chopped cilantro ¼ tsp salt Fresh cracked pepper 6 ounces cooked crab meat 3 ½ ounces Manchego cheese, cubed Lime wedges and tortilla chips for serving Directions: Flatten the bottom of each pepper by cutting a thing slice off the bottom being careful not to cut all the way through. Remove top, scoop out and discard seeds. In a small bowl combine cream cheese, cilantro, and crabmeat. Season with salt and pepper and mix gently with a fork to combine. Stuff each pepper with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese mixture and top each with a…

May 2021 Compliance Recap

Posted On: June 10, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

May 2021 Compliance Recap May 2021 was a somewhat busy month in the benefits industry. The absence of a significant of amount of agency guidance during the summer months is to be expected. However, the IRS finally issued guidance on the temporary 100% COBRA subsidy mandated by the American Plan Rescue Act of 2021 (the ARP), following guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The IRS also issued guidance on the Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP) carryover of unused benefits and on the child tax credit under the ARP. In addition, the IRS issued the 2022 limits for health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). The Biden Administration lowered the cost of marketplace plans and the DOL issued guidance on fiduciary cybersecurity obligations under ERISA covered plans. IRS COBRA Subsidy Guidance On May 18, 2021, the IRS issued IRS Notice 2021-31 in the form of FAQs,…

BCBSA Antitrust Settlement Classes Eligible for Proceeds

Posted On: June 9, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

BCBSA Antitrust Settlement Classes Eligible for Proceeds November 5, 2021 is the deadline for filing a claim in connection with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) $2.67 billion settlement reached in October 2020. The class action lawsuit was filed more than eight years ago by subscribers seeking injunctive and compensatory relief arising out of BCBSA’s alleged violation of federal antitrust laws. Although final court approval for the settlement has not been granted, the official administrator of the BCBSA has established a website to provide information and instructions for filing claims online and by mail. Payment of the settlement proceeds will be distributed to the settlement classes from the settlement fund after final court approval of the settlement. Settlement Classes Eligibility for settlement proceeds extends to individuals, insured groups (and their employees) and self-funded arrangements (and their employees) that purchased or were enrolled in a Blue Cross or Blue Shield…

IRS Draft Form 941 Reflects COBRA Subsidy Tax Credit

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

IRS Draft Form 941 Reflects COBRA Subsidy Tax Credit The IRS recently released a draft of the revised 2021 version of Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, in order to, in part, reflect the tax credit in connection with the 100% COBRA subsidy under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). The COBRA subsidy is required to be provided to eligible individuals who experience an involuntary termination of employment or reduction in hours and that have not exhausted the maximum COBRA coverage period as of April 1, 2021. The ARP extended to those individuals an opportunity to make a COBRA election during a special election period that began on April 1, 2021, and ends on May 31, 2021. The duration of the COBRA subsidy period is six months, ending on September 30, 2021. Under the ARP, employer are entitled to a 100% tax credit for subsidizing COBRA on behalf of…

Upcoming Challenges with ACA in 2021

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

Upcoming Challenges with ACA in 2021 IRS Eliminates Transition Relief and Removes Threshold Expanding Eligibility In previous year, the IRS has provided relief of penalties to reporting entities that report incomplete or incorrect information as long as these entities can show they made a good-faith effort to comply with the information reporting requirements. In late 2020, the IRS released Notice 2020-76, which among other things, provided for a good-faith waiver for 2020 ACA Reporting to apply to missing and inaccurate taxpayer identification numbers and birthdates, as well as other information. Unfortunately, in this same Notice the IRS states: “As this good-faith relief was intended to be transitional relief, this is the last year the Treasury Department and the IRS intend to provide this relief.” However, the IRS did renew their request for comments related to furnishing requirements under 6055 and 6056 of the ACA regulations. They further state: “Unless we receive comments that explain why this…

Frequently Asked Questions About the Patient-Centered Outcomes/Comparative Effectiveness (PCORI Fee)

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

Frequently Asked Questions About the Patient-Centered Outcomes/Comparative Effectiveness (PCORI Fee) Q1: What plans does the PCORI fee apply to? A1: All plans that provide medical coverage to employees owe this fee. Medical coverage includes preferred provider (PPO) plans, health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, point-of-service (POS) plans, high deductible health plans (HDHPs), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). The fee does not apply to: Stand-alone dental and vision plans (stand-alone means these benefits are elected separately from medical, or the benefits are provided under separate insurance policies from the medical coverage) Life insurance Short- and long-term disability and accident insurance Long-term care Health flexible spending accounts (FSAs), as long as the employee also is offered medical coverage and any employer contribution is (in most cases) $500 or less Health savings accounts (HSAs) Hospital indemnity or specified illness coverage Employee assistance programs (EAPs) and wellness programs that do not provide significant medical care…

2021 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Fee

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

2021 Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Fee The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee deadline is around the corner. In Notice 2020-84, the IRS adjusted the applicable dollar amount to be multiplied by the average number of covered lives for purposes of calculating the fee for policy years and plan years that end on or after October 1, 2020, and before October 1, 2021. The fee for the forgoing period is $2.66. Although the PCORI fee is based on the plan year, the reporting and fee due date is always July 31. However, for 2021 the deadline will be August 2, instead of the usual July 31 deadline because the 31st falls on a Saturday. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurers and sponsors of self-funded group health plans to pay the fee using IRS form 720. The PCORI fee is based on covered lives. Accordingly, both employees and…

Why Employers Should Benchmark Their Health Plan Before Renewal

Posted On: June 2, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Why Employers Should Benchmark Their Health Plan Before Renewal Benchmarking your health plan during renewal ensures that the benefits being offered continue to be a right fit for the company and employees based on data-driven decisions. On the other hand, a poorly planned renewal done in the dark can cause unnecessary expenses for the company. These worst-case scenarios are preventable by benchmarking your health plan so you can evaluate your employee benefits and see how they measure up to your peers. So why should employers benchmark their health plan offerings prior to renewal? There are two reasons why benchmarking is advantageous: cost savings and data-driven decisions. With benchmarking, your business can see if your costs are in line within your industry, size, region, and State (and implement cost-containment strategies if needed) and optimize your health plans for the long-term so they remain competitive. Benchmarking allows you to answer questions such…

Innovative Welcomes Dan Jordon as Managing Partner, Employee Benefits

Posted On: May 24, 2021 | Categorized as: Company News, Employee Benefits

Innovative Welcomes Dan Jordon as Managing Partner, Employee Benefits It is with great excitement we announce that prominent employee benefits consultant, Dan Jordon, has joined the Innovative team as Managing Partner of Employee Benefits. As part of the Executive Leadership team, Dan will play an essential role in driving the company’s business revenue, while empowering and supporting our clients in their effort to build strategic, stable, benefit offerings. This role includes managing our employee benefits consulting practice, continuing to build our sales team, and participate on our ongoing desire to enhance the client service and engagement experience. “As a respected leader, Dan is an outstanding addition to our team and clients. He brings extensive experience in helping employers reduce cost and delivering multi-year strategies that generate cost savings”, stated CEO, Terriann Procida. “We’re excited to merge his background with Innovative’s strengths to continue to provide a best-in-class service while growing…

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajita Recipe

Posted On: May 20, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

shrimp fajitas on wooden board

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajita Recipe May is Arthritis Awareness Month.  Celebrate Arthritis Awareness Month by trying out this anti-inflammatory recipe.  Anti-inflammatory meals are typically high in vegetables, fruits, certain spices, nuts, omega-3 fats, and low in sugar and trans-fat.  These sheet pan shrimp fajitas are so quick and easy and contain anti-inflammatory spices and a ton of veggies.  Opting for a whole wheat tortilla in this recipe increases your intake of fiber and decreases your intake of sugar when compared to a white or corn tortilla. Ingredients 1 ½ lbs shrimp peeled and deveined 1 yellow bell pepper thinly sliced 1 red bell pepper thinly sliced 1 orange bell pepper thinly sliced 1 small red onion thinly sliced 1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 tsp salt Freshly ground pepper 2 tsp chili powder ½ tsp garlic powder ½ tsp onion powder ½ tsp ground cumin ½ tsp smoked…

Discover How We Helped One Client Reduce Their Retirement Plan Fees by 30%

Posted On: May 18, 2021 | Categorized as: Retirement Plans

Discover How We Helped One Client Reduce Their Retirement Plan Fees by 30% When offering your plan directly with a qualified plan provider, many employers are not aware of what they might be missing. As a result, we often find that many Plan Sponsors are paying more and receiving less. Innovative’s experience allows us to assist and educate our clients on the most effective ways to negotiate better fees and receive additional services. We have found that: Many plans are often overpriced – we have been able to reduce fees in some cases by 50%. Additional services at no charge – we’ve been able to add more services, such as -hardship distribution services, QDRO services, and Annual Required Notice Distribution Services (SAR, QDIA, 404(a)(5)). Administration and recordkeeping savings- we are also able to free up funds to add advisory services, proving further fiduciary protections for plan sponsors and resources for…

April 2021 Compliance Recap

Posted On: May 12, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

April 2021 Compliance Recap April was a busy month in the benefits industry, largely due to the temporary 100% COBRA subsidy mandated by the American Plan Rescue Act of 2021 (the ARP). The Departments of Labor, Treasury and Health and Human Services (the Departments) jointly issued FAQs regarding the amendments to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) made by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, enacted December 27, 2020 (CAA). Additionally, the Biden Administration encouraged every employer in America take advantage of the ARP tax credit by offering full pay to their employees for any time off needed to get vaccinated and for any time it takes to recover from the after-effects of vaccination. The Department of Labor (DOL) also issued important information on self-funded plans. COBRA Subsidy The COBRA Subsidy is required to be provided to eligible individuals who have not exhausted the maximum COBRA…

5 Steps to Create a Financial Wellness Program

Posted On: May 5, 2021 | Categorized as: Retirement Plans

5 Steps to Create a Financial Wellness Program Many employers offer health wellness programs for their organization. However, financial wellness is equally as important. Studies show that 47% of employees are stressed about their finances, which can impact their productivity in the workplace. While starting a financial wellness program may seem intimidating, here are five steps that you can take to create a successful financial wellness program: Step One: Discovery Period Understand your organization's goals and objectives for the program. Review the plans demographics and survey your employees to identify concerns and engage the financial literacy. Step Two: Analyze Review the information from your discovery to understand where changes might need to be made. Review resources available to the plan that can be utilized by employees and prioritize the goals by importance. Step Three: Design Your Program Once you understand the data and resources you have available, it's time to…

5 Reasons Employers Should Carve Out Prescription Drug Benefits

Posted On: May 4, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

5 Reasons Employers Should Carve Out Prescription Drug Benefits Prescription Drugs typically makes up 20% of an employer’s overall spend, and with the rise in specialty drugs, industry experts expect that number to encroach 50%. Employers have the ability to “carve-out” this coverage from their medical plan, resulting in significant savings. A Prescription Drug “Carve-Out” is when an employer separates, or “carves-out” their pharmacy plan, typically in a self-insured model and contracts directly with a Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) vendor to administer and manage their prescription drug benefits. This opens the door for five areas of savings for employers: Transparency A bundled prescription drug plan with an employer’s medical plan has little to no transparency. When carved-out, employers get access to useful claims data and more control over costs. Flexibility and Control with Plan Design Employers can customize their plan design using utilization data and cost control management strategies to…

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie Recipe

Posted On: May 2, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Orange Creamsicle Smoothie Recipe Try this super simple and quick smoothie recipe when you are in a hurry or need a Vitamin C boost!  Vitamin C is proven to improve your immunity, boost mood, and decrease your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease. Ingredients: 1 cup Frozen Banana Slices 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 1 cup 100% Orange Juice ½ cup of ice Directions: Place frozen bananas, vanilla extract, and orange juice into a blender and blend until smooth. Add a handful of ice and any additional add-ins desired (protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, etc). Blend one more time and then serve immediately.

Veggie Lasagna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Posted On: April 21, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Veggie Lasagna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms Looking for a healthier version of the classic “Lasagna”?  Try these "Veggie Lasagna Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms" by Skinnytaste! This can be prepared for lunch or dinner and served with a garden or Caesar salad.  With only 13 grams carbohydrates and 20 grams of protein per mushroom cap, this is a great low-carb meal recommended by Nurse Advocate, Erica Polaneczky! Ingredients: 1teaspoon olive oil 2loose cups baby spinach, chopped 3cloves chopped garlic 1/3cup chopped onion 1/3cup chopped red bell pepper kosher salt 3/4cup part skim ricotta 1/2cup grated parmesan cheese 1large egg 4large basil leaves, chopped 4large portobella mushroom caps 1/2cup marinara sauce 1/2cup part skim shredded mozzarella Directions: Preheat the oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet with oil. Gently remove the stems, scoop out the gills and spray the tops of the mushrooms with oil, season with 1/8 tsp salt and fresh pepper. Heat a large nonstick sauté pan over medium heat, add oil,…

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