Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

January 2021 Compliance Recap

Posted On: February 11, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

January 2021 Compliance Recap January was a busy month in the employee benefits world. President Biden issued a memorandum putting a regulatory freeze on new rules. President Biden also issued an executive order on strengthening Medicaid and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Department of Labor (DOL) released inflation-adjusted federal civil penalty amounts. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its parameters for the defined standard Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit for 2022. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released final rules on individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRAs). Former President Trump signed an amendment to the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act) that requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to consider recognized security practices that a covered entity or business associate had in place for purposes of HHS determining penalties and audit outcomes. HHS extended the…

Understanding Captives and Consortiums

Posted On: February 3, 2021 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Understanding Captives and Consortiums As health insurance costs continue to rise, many small and mid-size employers have looked for ways to alternatively fund their plans and potentially save costs. Self-funding can be daunting and unmanageable for many small to mid-size employers, but there are many self-funding options to consider. Captives and consortiums provide the ability to self-fund your plan while offsetting risk and having some cash flow efficiencies. They allow employers to band together with other employers, to get enhanced pricing, bundled services, and to offset risk in bad years. Captives A captive provides more direct risk sharing as the group is in a pool of other employers where they'll have their own stop-loss, but also a captive layer that will kick in for high cost claimants. Consortiums A consortium provides the ability to band together with other groups for purchasing power, to purchase things such as stop-loss and administrative…

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe

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

Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars *176 caloriess each Ingredients ¼ cup butter ¼ cup honey 1/3 cup packed brown sugar 2 cups quick-cooking oats 1 cup crispy rice cereal ½ tsp vanilla extract 2 tbsp mini chocolate chips Directions In a bowl, stir oats and rice cereal together. Set aside. In a small pot, melt butter, honey and brown sugar together over medium heat until it bubbles. Reduce the heat and cook 2 minutes or until the sugar dissolves (should take 1-2 minutes). Pour in vanilla and stir. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well to moisten all ingredients. Pour into lightly greased small jelly roll pan {12x8x1} and press out to be about 3/4 inches in thickness.  Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and press down lightly. Cool on a countertop to room temperature for two hours or until the chocolate chips are set before cutting into bars. Wrap in…

EEOC Releases Proposed Wellness Rules under ADA and GINA

Posted On: January 20, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance, Workplace Wellness

EEOC Releases Proposed Wellness Rules Under ADA and GINA The EEOC recently released proposed language revising the wellness incentive rules under the ADA and GINA. This proposed language is a revision to the rules released in 2016. Below is a summary of the proposed changes and how they may impact wellness programs. Removing the ADA Notice Requirement Currently, employers are required to provide a notice before collecting employee health information. This notice advises employees how their collected health information will be used and disclosed. According to the proposed rules, providing this notice will no longer be necessary. The EEOC states that employers should have these specific policies and procedures in place, however, there is not going to be a guideline that requires them to. Removing the Reasonably Designed Requirement Previously, the requirement stated that any health information collection activity completed by an employee wellness program must be reasonably designed to…

2021 Minimum Wage Increases

Posted On: January 18, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

2021 Minimum Wage Increases As of January 1, 2021, several US states increased their minimum wage rate. Please note, however, that some cities or municipalities may have a minimum wage rate even greater than their statewide rate. Below outlines effective wages for states where the rate will be changing. Alaska: $10.34 Arizona: $12.15 Arkansas: $11.00 California: $14.00 (26 or more employees); $13.00 (Fewer than 26 employees) Colorado: $12.32 Connecticut: $13.00 (effective 8/1/2021) Delaware: $10.25 Florida: $10.00 (effective 9/30/2021) Illinois: $11.00 Maine: $12.15 Maryland: $11.75 (15 or more employees); $11.60 (14 or fewer employees) Massachusetts: $13.50 Michigan: $9.87 Minnesota: $10.08 (Large employers – gross receipts greater than $500,000); $8.21 (Small employers) Missouri: $10.30 Montana: $8.75 Nevada: $8.75 (effective 7/1/2021); $9.75 (for employees not offered health insurance) New Jersey: $12.00; $11.00 (seasonal and fewer than 6 employees) New Mexico: $10.50 New York: $12.50 (effective 12/31/2020) Ohio: $8.80 (Large employers) Oregon: $12.75 (effective…

December Compliance Recap

Posted On: January 13, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

December was a busy month in the employee benefits world. President Trump signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which includes the No Surprises Act and other group health plan provisions. The Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued two interim recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines. The Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS) released a final rule on grandfathered health plans. The Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released advance information copies of the 2020 Form 5500 Annual Return / Report (including Form 5500-SF and Form 5500-EZ) and related instructions. DOL released a final rule on proxy voting and shareholders rights under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued guidance on Health Insurance Portability and Protection Act of 1996 (HIPAA) covered entities disclosing protected health information for public health purposes due to COVID-19 and…

2021 Plan Sponsor Considerations

Posted On: January 11, 2021 | Categorized as: Company News, Retirement Plans

The events of 2020 created many new considerations for plan sponsors as individuals were faced with uncertainty and sought safety both financially and personally. The CARES Act was passed to assist individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic, and investors witnessed a volatile investment market causing many to adjust their investment strategy. Plan sponsors should consider how regulatory changes and investor behavior impacted their retirement plans. Below are 3 important retirement plan considerations for plan sponsors to review in the first quarter of 2021: Non-Discrimination Testing (NDT) Impacts As employee populations were impacted by the pandemic, it is important to understand how any changes in plan participation will affect your Non-Discrimination Testing. Employment uncertainty and market volatility caused many participants to lower or stop their 401(k) contributions. In addition, there were reductions in force, including layoffs and furloughs, which need to be reviewed for potential partial termination issues and whether…

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021: Temporary Health FSA and DCAP Relief

Posted On: January 7, 2021 | Categorized as: Compliance

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 Temporary Health FSA and DCAP Relief The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Appropriations Act), enacted on December 27, 2020, contains temporary rules to provide relief for participants in health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and dependent care flexible spending arrangements (DCAPs) in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Appropriations Act builds on previously issued Internal Revenue Service (IRS) guidance (IRS Notice 2020-29 and 2020-33), by expanding the opportunities for plan sponsors to amend their plans to give employees additional opportunities to use their currently unused FSA and DCAP balances through 2022. Carry Over of Unused Amounts The Appropriations Act provides that FSAs and DCAPs may permit participants to carry over any unused contributions remaining from the 2020 plan year to the plan year ending in 2021. Additionally, FSAs and DCAPs may permit participants to carry over any unused contributions remaining in the FSA or DCAP from the 2021…

Spinach, Chicken, and Wild Rice Soup

Posted On: January 6, 2021 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Spinach, Chicken, and Wild Rice Soup Ingredients 3 cups water 14 oz can reduced-sodium chicken broth 10.75 oz can reduced-fat and reduced-sodium condensed cream of chicken soup 2/3 cup uncooked wild rice ½ tsp thyme ¼ tsp black pepper 3 cups cooked and chopped chicken or turkey 2 cups shredded fresh spinach Directions In a slow cooker, combine water, brother, cream of chicken soup, uncooked wild rice, thyme, and pepper Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 ½  to 4 hours To serve, stir in cooked chicken or turkey and spinach

Mandatory Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines under Group Health Plans

Posted On: December 23, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance, Employee Benefits

Mandatory Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines Under Group Health Plans On December 11, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer vaccine). The following day, December 12, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) issued an interim recommendation for use of the Pfizer vaccine in persons age 16 years or older for the prevention of COVID-19. Alternative COVID-19 vaccines are likely to be approved by the FDA under emergency authority in the coming weeks. Group health plans are encouraged to prepare to cover the cost of the Pfizer and other approved COVID-19 vaccines. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (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 form of deductibles, copays, coinsurance or other amounts on…

Congress Passes New $1.4 Trillion Stimulus & COVID-19 Relief Bill and Awaits President’s Signature

Posted On: December 23, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

Congress Passes New $1.4 Trillion Stimulus & COVID-19 Relief Bill and Awaits President's Signature Details have emerged on the new $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill which provides a $900 billion COVID-19 Stimulus package. The bill awaits President Trump’s signature and as of last night, he requested that Congress amend the bill to increase the amount of stimulus checks. In the meantime, below highlights many important facets of the bill as it stands now relating to employers and the benefits industry, but as more information becomes available, we will provide subsequential communications. In relation to employee benefits, the bill includes relief for employees participating in Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), a surprise-billing ban, and additional transparency provisions: Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) Employees will be able to rollover unused amounts in their health and dependent care FSAs from 2020 to 2021 and from 2021 to 2022. Employers are also allowed to provide employees…

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Tentative $2.67 Billion Antitrust Settlement

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

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Tentative $2.67 Billion Antitrust Settlement  Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) has recently reached a tentative $2.67 billion settlement arising out of a class action lawsuit filed more than eight years ago by subscribers seeking injunctive and compensatory relief arising out of BCBSA’s alleged violation of federal antitrust laws. The settlement will result in the dismissal of the case and a finding of no liability against BCBSA for the subscriber’s claims, which BCBSA continues to reject in their statement regarding the litigation. Alleged Violations The subscribers alleged that BCBSA violated several provisions of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which is a federal law prohibiting interference with trade and competition, by entering into an unlawful agreement that interfered with competition in the health insurance market by: (1) allocating geographic territories among members of the Blues association, thereby limiting subscriber choice; (2) limiting Blue member plans from competing…

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars Recipe

Posted On: December 15, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Cranberry Oatmeal Bars Recipe Ingredients: 1 ½ cups quick cooking rolled oats 1 cup all-purpose flour ⅔ cup brown sugar ¼ cup whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour ¼ cup flaxseed meal ½ tsp baking soda ½ cup fat free milk 2 egg whites, lightly beaten 1 tsp vanilla extract ¼ cup dried cranberries 3 tbsp butter ¼ cup chopped pecans or almonds Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, stir together oats, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, whole wheat flour and flaxseed. Set aside ½ cup for topping. Stir baking soda into the remaining oat mixture. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg whites, and vanilla. Add to the oat mixture and stir until combined. Stir in cranberries. Pat mixture into a foil-lined 9x9x2 inch baking pan. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into reserved topping and then stir in pecans. Sprinkle over mixture in pan. Bake…

Healthy for the Holidays

Posted On: December 15, 2020 | Categorized as: Workplace Wellness

Healthy for the Holidays Tis' the Season for Temptations While the holidays are an exciting and eventful time of year, holiday festivities can often revolve around eating and drinking. Traditions involve baking cookies, high calorie drink making, and eating plentiful holiday meals.  We tend to get so busy around this time, we may put our healthy eating habits and exercise on the back burner.  It’s important to remember that indulging occasionally is normal, but to avoid doing so every day during the holiday season. Make the effort to create a balance and shift the focus off the food and to more of the conversations and interactions with family and friends. Try some of these helpful tips this holiday season: Stay active. Keep moving each day to balance out the extra calories which may be consumed. Remember balance and portion control. Try using a smaller plate so you don’t overfill. Wait…

November Compliance Recap

Posted On: December 11, 2020 | Categorized as: Compliance

November Compliance Recap November was a relatively busy month in the employee benefits world. The U.S. Supreme Court (Supreme Court) heard oral arguments in the case of California v. Texas, which is the case challenging the constitutionality of the ACA. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released the updated Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for plan years that end on or after October 1, 2020, and before October 1, 2021. The Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule on financial factors in selecting plan investments that imposes requirements on ERISA plan fiduciaries under their duties of loyalty and general prudence. The IRS released an information letter on the relief available under IRS Notice 2020-29 as it applies to dependent care flexible spending arrangements (DCAPs). The IRS also released an information letter on unused qualified transportation benefits due to COVID-19. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an…

Fostering Company Culture in a Remote Environment

Posted On: December 3, 2020 | Categorized as: HR Consulting

Fostering Company Culture in a Remote Environment It has been a challenging year for all of us, to say the least. Many businesses were forced to make the move to a remote environment, while others have maintained in-person operations with serious restrictions on gatherings. While business as we know it has changed significantly since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, there is one thing that has not: the human need for social interaction. No matter where your company is in this process, here are some ideas to re-build team engagement while working remotely. Host a Virtual Game Virtual games might feel overdone at this point but there are still plenty of ways to make them feel fresh! If you plan to host the game yourself, take advantage of the features available to you within the virtual meeting software you are using. For example, we’ve found that there is an increase…

Partially Self-Funded Plans with an HRA

Posted On: December 3, 2020 | Categorized as: Employee Benefits

Partially Self-Funded Plans with an HRA As health insurance costs continue to rise, more and more small and mid-size employers are looking for ways to take control of their healthcare costs. A health reimbursement account, or an HRA, is a way in which employers can step into self-funding and start to take some control. A health reimbursement account is an opportunity for the employer to self-fund a portion of the health insurance plan. Typically, employers will choose a plan with a higher deductible, higher co-pays, and potentially higher co-insurance, and will decide to self-fund that portion of the plan to take on some risk. Companies that have considered self-funding, but are wary of some of the risks, might want to take a step towards self-funding with a health reimbursement account. By utilizing increased deductibles, co-pays and co-insurance and putting an HRA into place, an employer is taking the risk that…

Updated PCORI Fee Released

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

Updated PCORI Fee Released Employers that sponsor certain self-insured health plans are responsible for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fees. Under the Affordable Care Act, PCORI fees were originally scheduled to apply to policy or plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2012 and before Oct. 1, 2019. However, in Dec. 2019, PCORI fees were extended for an additional 10 years. Thus, the fee continues to apply for the 2020-2029 fiscal years. New Fee The IRS announced in Notice 2020-84 for plan years that ended on or after October 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021, the fee will adjust to $2.66 per participant. Employers must report and pay the required PCORI fees annually via IRS Form 720 by July 31 of the year following the last day of the plan year. If you have any questions, please contact Innovative Benefit Planning at

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 Virtual Field Trips and World Tours 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 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…

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