How a New Law Affects Group Health Plans & Cost Transparency

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

The newly enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 contains a number of provisions that will affect group health plans, with most changes aimed at helping insured workers with flexible spending accounts (FSAs), cost transparency and surprise billing. Some of the provisions are permanent while others are temporary, slated to run through the anticipated end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Highlights of The Consolidated Appropriations Act FSA carryover rules loosened The new law authorizes employers to amend their cafeteria plans and FSAs to either: Allow participating staff to carry over unused amounts from the 2020 plan year to the 2021 plan year (and…
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Commissioner Rejects COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Surcharge

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

When California’s insurance commissioner in December ordered that the workers’ compensation benchmark rate for this year be cut 4.6% on average, he also rejected a recommendation that all policies be subject to a COVID-19 workers comp surcharge. When the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau made its rate filing for 2021, it also recommended that all policies in the state be subject to a COVID-19 workers comp surcharge that ranged from 1 cent per $100 of payroll for the least risky professions to 26 cents per $100 of payroll for the riskiest (such as health care workers). The Rating Bureau had…
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Why Every Business Needs Non-Owned Auto Coverage

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

Even businesses that own fleets of autos sometimes use vehicles that do not belong to them. Often, a business asks an employee to run an errand or visit a customer or vendor using that employee’s car. The organization may become legally liable for anything an employee acting on its behalf does while behind the wheel. Lawsuits and accompanying legal costs may confront the business if they have an accident. Many business automobile insurance policies cover this situation, but they do not do so automatically. This is why non-owned auto coverage is crucial. What Is Covered? The standard Insurance Services Office Business…
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Health Insurance Rates Mostly Holding Steady

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, personal and family health insurance rates are staying stable going into 2021. In fact, it’s the third year in a row of premiums barely moving in most areas, while the number of insurers writing policies in the personal market continues to grow. According to the ACAsignups.net website, which tracks enrollment, the average requested premium increase for 2021 is 2.1%, and in 18 states where regulators have approved rate hike requests, the average increase was just 0.4%. Under Affordable Care Act rules, each summer insurers must file proposed rates for the next year with the states they operate…
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California’s COVID-19 Tracking Requirement Challenges Employers

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SB 1159, signed into law in September, requires that when a California employer “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee has tested positive for coronavirus, it must report that positive case to its workers’ compensation carrier within three business days along with other COVID-19 tracking requirements. There is a lot of ground to cover in these reports and the legislation was passed without much publicity, so many employers may not even know about their obligations. And that could cost them: the fine for non-compliance is $10,000 per incident. The law goes further than merely reporting a positive case: The…
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How Will COVID-19 Change Health Insurance

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

With talks of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, many are asking about the long term effects of the pandemic, like how will COVID-19 change health insurance. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses and other organizations in multiple ways. Lost revenue and the overnight change to remote workforces, among other things, have caused significant changes to operations and finances. A new report shows that there will be long-term effects on employee benefit programs as well. Health insurers are forecasting continued cost increases that dwarf general inflation rates, according to the report by Mercer Marsh Benefits. Most expect 2021 medical cost inflation…
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Pandemic Telecommuting and the Wage and Hour Dilemma

| posted in Blog, Newsletter

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing so many employees to work remotely, and with mobile technology allowing them to work from anywhere, your employees may be working when they are off the clock. They may feel pressured to do so or maybe they just want to get their work done, but if they are working past normal working hours, it could spell trouble for your organization in the form of wage and hour disputes. The proliferation of smartphones had already led to a rising number of lawsuits by employees claiming they were required to work uncompensated on evenings and weekends when…
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How to Reduce the Risk of Theft, Vandalism at Your Business

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Protecting your business from burglary, robbery, and vandalism is crucial as they can be particularly devastating to small businesses in terms of money, customers, and employee safety. You can see thousands of dollars of merchandise or equipment damaged or stolen, and your employees and customers can be in mortal danger if your facility is robbed. These types of risks to your business are unpredictable, but there are crime prevention steps business owners can take to protect their assets and employees. How To Protect Your Business Burglary prevention Establish and enforce clear policies about employee theft, substance abuse, crime reporting, opening…
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New Law AB 2257 Adds Independent Contractor Exemptions

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A new law has come to the rescue of a number of freelance professions by exempting them from the onerous requirements of AB 5, which required most independent contractors to be classified as employees in California. Governor Gavin Newsom on Sept. 1 signed AB 2257 as an urgency measure, so that it took effect immediately after it passed unanimously in both houses of the state Legislature. If you remember, AB 5 set a new standard for hiring independent contractors, requiring many to be reclassified as employees covered by minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, unemployment and disability insurance. It created a…
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Cal/OSHA Conducts COVID-19 Sweeps, Proposes Huge Fines

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Cal/OSHA COVID-19 inspections and subsequent fines have caught some employers off guard. The agency has been conducting sweeps of employers in California to root out those who are not protecting their workers from COVID-19 exposure. Cal/OSHA has targeted companies in industries that have a heightened risk of exposure to the coronavirus, which resulted in 11 citations being issued. While Cal/OSHA has been inspecting facilities since April for COVID-19-related infractions, the recent sweeps are part of a new targeted and ongoing enforcement effort that California employers should be aware of. Cal/OSHA COVID-19 inspections & fines issued For an example of what’s at…
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