Monday, September 24, 2018

Will Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Choices?

New provisions to Medicare Advantage might endanger some patients
A large portion of the population is aging out of private health care and into Medicare coverage, and with that shift comes a growing enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans. Coverage for Medicare Advantage plans comes through private companies approved by Medicare.

Also called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” a Medicare Advantage Plan offers coverage for all of your Hospital Insurance (Medicare Part A) and Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B). A Medicare Advantage Plan covers everything Original Medicare would, with the exception of hospice.

In recent weeks, the freedoms available under Medicare Advantage for the next year have fallen under speculation.

Will Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Choices?

The short answer is yes. Benefits Pro just reported that starting next year, a Medicare Advantage Plan can start adding restrictions to injectable drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, cancer, and other serious illnesses.

The concern is that these restrictions might enable private Medicare insurance plans to try cheaper versions of drugs before they’re allowed to use the ones their physicians are prescribing.

The Disadvantage to Medicare Advantage

Speculation has been raised that elderly and more infirm patients might be endangered under these new restrictions. Depending on the patient’s condition, being unable to immediately seek their doctor’s first choice in prescription drugs could be the difference between life and death.

These constrictive stipulations are part of the current administration’s attempt to deliver on promises of lower drug prices. And while the Medicare Advantage Plan patients are certainly being offered cheaper drugs, these Medicare Advantage restrictions create a grey area. There is currently no threshold to determine when the cheaper-tier drugs are deemed “ineffective” and patients can being pursuing their doctor’s initial prescription.

The Path Forward

Benefits Pro reports that Federal health officials told insurance providers last month that they were cleared to substitute a less expensive Part B drug to treat a medical condition the FDA has not approved it for so long as it could be documented that the drug was safe and effective.

Patients that do not want to risk trying the cheaper drug first have two options: an appeal, or an exemption, although their physician’s support is needed to continue. The physician will need to explain the situation to the insurers and provide heavily detailed documentation as to why their patient needs to have the more expensive, top-tier drugs. The insurance plans then have 24-72 hours to respond to these appeals and exemption requests. You read a more detailed description of the appeals process here.

If non-Medicare health insurance is weighing on your mind after these developments, then we have good news. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting is certified to help you ease the burden of distributing your 1094 and 1095 forms! Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

How To Easily Make Your Work From Home Policies Effective

Studies show that employees that work from home tend to save employers money, have increased productivity, and give most employees the flexibility that they desire. As with any type of employment, those who do remote work should have policies, expectations, and guidelines in place to ensure they adequately perform their job. With remote work becoming more popular, especially in specific fields, it is important to know how to easily make your work from home policies effective.

Are your company's work from home policies effective?

How To Easily Make Your Work From Home Policies Effective

Set Guidelines

While work from home jobs have policies that vary, all employees should know when it is okay for them to work remote and when they should be in the office. Vague policies lead to unnecessary friction and confusion. Take time to think about and analyze various scenarios that you would and would not allow remote work employees to complete their jobs from home. Make these scenarios very clear and put them in writing so all parties understand what is expected.

Make Your Expectations Known

Many companies never reach their full potential because they rarely communicate their expectations to employees clearly. Clear and direct expectations are vital to the success of work from home jobs. Here are some things you should assess:
  • Are employees that do remote work required to “clock-in” or begin work at a specific time?
  • Is it a requirement to respond to messages, emails, and voicemails by a certain time?
  • Should breaks or lunch times be reported?
  • Do remote work employees need to virtually attend meetings?
Have the answers to these questions prior to hiring a candidate for remote work. These questions may also arise during an interview, so it always good to be prepared!

Be Positive

When running a team with individuals that work from home or in the office, be mindful of what you say and keep a positive attitude. The slightest remark with a negative connotation regarding those that work remotely can cause division between your team, especially those that do not have the option to work from home.

To avoid this type of discord to arise within your company, take a few moments to educate all employees on remote work facts and the employment benefits and cons that come with it. Clarity and understanding go a long way!

Protect Your Work From Home Policies

As you continue to grow your company both in-house and remotely, be sure to have an ACA compliance and reporting solution in place to handle your tax needs as they arise. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. To learn more about ACAwise, schedule an appointment today!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Are Your Parental Leave Benefits Competitive Enough?

Industry leaders are starting to mandate better paid parental leave
With industry leaders starting to offer competitive employee benefits ––paid parental leave chief among them––this is your chance to get ahead of the curve. Paid parental leave is wading into the employee benefits pool, but will you be ready for when it makes a splash?

Employee Benefits: Paid Parental Leave

Before we dive into how paid parental leave is starting to shake up the employee benefits sector, here’s a primer. Paid parental leave is considered time taken off by new-parent employees to welcome a child through either adoption or birth. Paid parental leave does not involve an employee’s PTO, sick, or personal leave, but those stores can certainly be dipped into to supplement the parental leave period.

Some key differences between paid parental leave and maternity leave or paternity leave: American paternity leave is often restricted to the arrival of a biological child. Similarly, maternity leave in the United States is often for biological mothers only, to be taken when delivering and caring for the baby.

According to BenefitsPro, Only 13 percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. receive paid parental leave.

The State of Paid Parental Leave

Quite literally, whether or not your company offers parental leave as part of their employee benefits package can depend on the state in which your company operates. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are currently the only states that mandate paid parental leave.

However, there has been employee benefits activity at the city level. Cities like St. Paul, MN. and San Francisco, CA, among others, have their own paid parental leave policies.

Turning the Tide of Employee Benefits

Companies like Microsoft are placing mandates on subcontractors, stating at the close of August that they would only offer contracts to companies with a three-month paid parental leave policy that provides the person on maternity leave or paternity leave with up to $1,000 a week. The software leader plans to roll out this paid parental leave policy over the course of the next year.

And Microsoft is far from alone. Just last week, Glassdoor assembled a slideshow of the 15 American companies with the best parental leave policies among them Spotify, Twitter, and Johnson & Johnson.

It may be worth examining the paid parental leave path being blazed by industry leaders. As we approach an era where employees are beginning to feel heard, and the talent pool has the privilege to weigh their options more, it could hurt your company if you do not offer competitive employee benefits. Paid parental leave can take a while to roll out, so if you take notice now, you could be in the sweet spot to start offering competitive employee benefits in a few years.

Regardless of the benefits you offer, you’re still responsible for your employees’ ACA reporting. But you don’t have to shoulder all that paperwork alone–– or at all. ACAwise is a full-service ACA reporting solution. We are IRS-authorized and designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Behavioral Interview Questions and How To Get Great Talent

Behavioral interview questions narrow down candidates
The process of finding new talent to build your company’s team is easier than ever with the help of the internet and social media. With just one or two job postings on the right platform, you can attract hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants ready to schedule an interview. But how do you find the true gems during that influx of applicants? Simple: behavioral interview questions.

You’ve had your fair share of interviews by now, but while you can certainly fall back on your experience don’t let that be your sole skill during the interview process. Interview preparation is not just for the interviewee. You need to know what you’re looking for, and behavioral interview questions offer you a somewhat subtle way to make sure the person sitting before you truly has the tools you’ll both need to succeed. 

Behavioral Interview Questions and How To Get Great Talent

Although it is difficult to learn everything about someone in one interview, behavioral interview questions give you a closer look at the applicant and how well they would fit into your company’s work culture and environment. Just like those that apply, the interviewer must devote some time to interview preparation in order to ask the right interview questions.
Choosing the Right Questions

The first step in choosing the right behavioral interview questions to ask is to determine what behaviors you are looking for. Typically, the best behaviors to see in new employees include: 

Effective Communication
Time Management Skills

Once you have selected the type of behavior(s) you are seeking, draft several interview questions that reflect these behaviors and alternate between interviews. 

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Tell me about a business or academic situation that you felt being honest was inappropriate. Why did you feel it was inappropriate and what did you do in that situation?
Share with me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this situation?
Give me an example of a time where you had to manage multiple projects/assignments at once? What steps did you take to handle this type of workload?
Tell me about a time where you worked under very close or very loose supervision. How did you handle that?

Tip: Listen closely to each response and take notes. Also, be mindful of applicants that respond with vague answers, generalized responses, repeat examples, or tend to use the word “we.”
Bonus Tip: Topics to Avoid During an Interview

We want you to build the perfect team for your company, and part of that is putting your best foot forward even though technically you’re not the one who needs to be impressive. Here are some general interview tips on topics to avoid while interviewing an applicant: 

Arrest record
Current/past salary
Irrelevant questions to job
Marital status/family
Military background (unless the experience is job-related)
Sexual orientation

Using behavioral interview questions narrows the candidate pool

Build Your Team With The Right Applicants

Behavioral interview questions make a difference in your search for new talent. Whether you are new to the hiring/interview process or just want to improve your interview techniques, hopefully, you can use these interview tips to benefit you for years to come.

Now that you have more of a lock on interview preparation, what about tax preparation?––more specifically, ACA reporting. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What To Do If Your Business Is In The Hurricane Florence Path

How to protect your inland business from Hurricane Florence
Disclaimer: This blog is not for the people on the coast who should have evacuated or hunkered down by now. This is for those of you on the edges of Hurricane Florence who might have questions about how to safeguard your business when it comes to preparing for a hurricane while in the path but not on the coast.

Weather reports are calling for heavy rains and winds in the projected inland sections of the Hurricane Florence path. This means that you will need to prepare for flooding, power outages, and possible infrastructure failure.

Tips for Preparing for a Hurricane

Plan for the worst. Not apocalypse-level, but you don’t want to come out on the other side of Hurricane Florence wishing you had done more to prepare. This hurricane preparation primer is aimed at making sure Hurricane Florence doesn’t destroy your business, but the following is by no means a comprehensive guide.

Protect Your Files From Hurricane Florence

The Digital Age is not waterproof. Floods could invade your office, or the roof could falter and let water in. If your company’s important paperwork (payroll, HR, production documents, photos, etc) are stored somewhere cloud-based, double check to make sure there are no sensitive files that exist solely on one person’s desktop. Encourage your employees to make a Hurricane File on a shared cloud drive if they have any crucial data they don’t have time to back up properly. They can encrypt it if it’s not meant for everyone to see; the main point is to ensure that access to the information is not lost forever if the office floods.

If your company is not cloud-based, back everything up in multiple places. Since you’re in a time-crunch, have your employees use their best judgment as to what is crucial. Unless you have a list of important documents that everyone needs to back up, tell them to save anything a new hire in their position would need to do their job effectively.

Ideally, you have a couple external hard drives in your possession people can back up to, but if not there are thumb drives and email. You want to have every important document available in at least two places, whether that is floating around your Gmail or saved to a bag full of thumb drives.

Protip: Do not store valuable papers in any office dishwashers. Just because office dishwashers keep water in does not mean they can keep water out.

Hurricane Prep List: Office Food

If you have a refrigerator in your office you can do three things about all the food that will be in there unattended during Hurricane Florence: you can eat it all, throw it out, or use the penny-cup trick

The penny-cup trick takes a day to take effect, and will determine if the food in your refrigerator is edible once you return to the office following Hurricane Florence. Fill a mid-size cup (like the disposable kind used at parties) to the top with water, and freeze it overnight. Once the water is frozen, place a penny on top of the ice. Put the cup back in the freezer during the storm. Once you return, check to see how far below the top of the ice the penny now is––if you lost power, the ice would have thawed and the penny would have sunk. If the penny is still at or near enough to the top, the food in your office freezer and fridge should still be viable.

What you can do to minimize Hurricane Florence's damage to your business

Take Pictures of Your Valuables

Having insurance is a good start, but with such a high volume of people also making insurance claims after the storm it helps to have proof of what you owned. Document your possession of printers, supplies, and any technology. Get serial numbers if you can. 

Seek High Ground

If you have company vehicles that are not in use every day, check your local listings about parking garages that are open to the public. Park your vehicles there if you can. If you have employees who live on a hill, ask if they’d be willing to host a company car in exchange for a small bonus.

Seek high ground for what is inside of your business as well. As a last-ditch effort to preserve valuable documents or other important items, wrap them in plastic or a few layers of coats from the Lost and Found, and then store them on the middle or mid-top shelf of a closet. This way, they have extra insulation from potential floodwaters.

Hopefully, this primer has provided you with a few tools you can use to prepare your business for Hurricane Florence. Once the storm settles, we hope we can give you other tools as well––the tools to handle your ACA reporting for 2018. We provide full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

DOJ Warns Of Health Insurance Chaos Without Obamacare

Health insurance markets could be in upheaval if the ACA is shelved before January
Last week, Texas vs. The United States, the court case centered around the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, hit the courtroom. The first thing to be decided during the litigation of Texas vs. The United States is whether or not the Affordable Care Act should be put on hold the entirety of this legal battle. According to BenefitsPro, on Wednesday the federal government warned that such an immediate and nationwide halt of Obamacare could trigger “chaos” when it comes to the insurance market.

Health Insurance Chaos Without Obamacare?

The state of Texas and the attorneys general representing the interests of the GOP have requested that the Affordable Care Act be blocked as soon as possible, while the Justice Department wants to postpone the effect of that court order until after Jan. 1, around the time the provision penalizing people for not having health insurance is phased out.

The Merits of Insurance Market Stasis

Leaving the Affordable Care Act intact through the end of 2018 does not sit well with GOP plaintiffs, who believe that people will want to make insurance decisions during the coming fall open-enrollment periods. The Democrats litigating on behalf of Obamacare say that the law has too many factors at play in the insurance market, Medicare, and Medicaid to be disbanded now.

Impending Health Insurance Chaos

The federal government announced in June that it did not plan to defend Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean that there are not some benefits to keeping the law around a little longer. On Wednesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate told Texas vs. United States’ presiding U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that blocking Obamacare before January would “cause chaos in the insurance market.”

The Future Of The Health Insurance Market

Politico reports that Judge O'Connor noted Wednesday that in upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, Supreme Court justices often assumed that the individual mandate and the insurance protections of Obamacare were inseparable. With the individual mandate gone, there is no guarantee that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld again.

Until there’s a ruling, ACA reporting should still be a going concern. If you need someone to handle your 1094 and 1095s, look no further than ACAwise. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Why Today Is a Big Day For Obamacare

Wednesday is a big day in the Texas vs. United States ACA case
Today is a big day for the Affordable Care Act. In a Fort Worth, Texas courtroom, attorney generals from both sides of the aisle are going to duke out whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

Why Today Is a Big Day For Obamacare

In this case, known officially as Texas vs. The United States, the Republicans plan to argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance last year, entire health law is now unconstitutional. The Democrats will prepare the counterargument describing the Affordable Care Act’s solid legality.

The GOP believes that since the Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012 by citing the requirement to carry insurance was a legitimate use of taxing power wielded by Congress, the fact that there is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance renders Obamacare unconstitutional.

The Outlook on The Future of Obamacare

According to BenefitsPro, while the Justice Department does not wholly agree with the GOP plaintiffs about the removal of the penalty nullifying the whole law, it does believe that without the penalty, the part of Obamacare that requires insurance companies to 1) still offer health care coverage to people with preexisting conditions and 2) not upcharge people with preexisting conditions when they do sell them health care might need to go.

The GOP seems willing to accept the elimination of the protections safeguarding preexisting conditions as a compromise if the whole of the Affordable Care Act cannot be struck down. Should the court vote in favor of removing the preexisting conditions protection, changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, when the penalty disappears.

Progress will be made today on the Affordable Care Act case TX vs. USWhy Wednesday Is a Big Deal For The Affordable Care Act

Today is important in the case of Texas vs. The US because the two sides will argue whether or not the Affordable Care Act should be put on hold the entire time this case is in court. 

The GOP plaintiffs are asking a “preliminary injunction” on the law, stating in their brief that people will want to make insurance decisions during fall open-enrollment periods, and also that the turnaround on state insurance plans/ Medicaid operations is slow, so the process should start sooner rather than later. 

Democrats are combatting this ideology by stating that pausing the Affordable Care Act during litigation would cause utter chaos, given the arms Obamacare has in both individual and employer insurance markets, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We will update this blog with the verdict as soon as one is available. While the Affordable Care Act is on your mind, have you thought about how you’re going to handle this year’s reporting? If you’re starting to stress, let ACAwise take it off your hands. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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