Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

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,…

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

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