Innovative Benefit Planning Blog

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…


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…


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