Detroit Chapter Hosting DOL on Thursday, Don’t Miss Out


The Detroit Chapter of ISCEBS is hosting a talk by a Senior Benefits Advisor of the U.S. Department of Labor. Sherry, a CEBS graduate, is our guest and speaker and will address various issues regarding the investigation of employee benefit plans.

Topics that are on the agenda include;

– How to be prepared for an audit,
– Self-audit and Correction Programs
– Civil versus Criminal Investigations,
– Enforcement Initiatives.

All are welcome to attend this public event sponsored by the Detroit Chapter of ISCEBS.

More information and registration is on the Chapter Linkedin page here:

http://cebsdet.org/index.cfm?display=pages&pageid=10408&sub=k

What are ACA changes going to mean?

 Answer: More changes for businesses; it makes the case for a PEO.

ACA image
ACA image

Everyday I’m asked what’s going to happen with Obamacare/ACA now that Mr. Trump has been elected.

After reviewing in detail some of the proposals, like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) aei-improving-health-and-health-care-online-2015 , a D.C. think tank, I’d have to say more changes are coming to healthcare. It’s hard to imagine more change than ACA but change is imminent. I shudder to think we could have more change in healthcare, we’ve had so much change since Obamcare/ACA was enacted in 2010. But the fact is, even to undo it, more regulations are needed to undo it. Continue reading “What are ACA changes going to mean?”

How is a benefit plan like a bus route?

family_schoolbusflasher
School bus flashers are for the safety of the children on and off the bus.

A benefit office is supposed to make decisions for the benefit of the beneficiaries. A bus route should be concerned first for the safety of the children.

On the main road connected to my subdivision, two different school districts have bus routes running in opposite directions. The road is a two lane semi-rural, 50 MPH road. I’d add, drivers routinely move at 60 MPH or more.

Lake Orion School District buses travel southbound. Rochester Community Schools travel northbound on the very same road; it’s Adams Rd. for those interested in the particulars. In both districts, the bus stops on the road or shoulder but does not turn into the subdivision.

Lake Orion has chosen to tell bus drivers not to use the red flashing stop safety lights when picking up the children. And, by contrast, Rochester Community Schools does instruct drivers to turn on their red safety flashers. Continue reading “How is a benefit plan like a bus route?”

5 Reasons to Avoid Self Funding Your Health Plan

Bring balance to your decision making with an independent evaluation.
Bring balance to your decision making with an independent evaluation. www.DonWatza.com

Small Businesses are putting their businesses at serious risk

In talking with prospective employers one of the most popular topics that arise is self-funding. It being sold like it is the magic solution for employers. The fact is, it’s being sold because it’s an expedient way for carriers and group agents to “stay in the group market.” This means, by offering self funding as the preferred option to “save money” the agent can keep an employer in a “group” policy.

A group policy is much better for a group agent because they can maintain the employer relationship and write greater premium with one policy, the commission is greater too. It is much easier to sell the “popular” fad solution than to dig into the specific details of your plan. There is a large investment of time needed to do the best job comparing all the possible options.

Unfortunately, in the process to “win the sale” important facts about self-funding are left out. There are pitfalls to self funding no matter what your agent, consultant, carrier, TPA or administrator may say. Employers must consider the small print about self-funding before jumping in.

For larger employers, there are benefits to self-funding, but for a group of 25, 40 or 75 employees it is a bad idea. The proposed gain can easily be outweighed by an unexpected $1,000,000 unpaid claim.

Here’s a short list of reasons that should give a small business owner pause before self funding.

1 – Being an Insurance Company Isn’t On Your Bucket List

Being self funded means you move out from under the safety of having an insurance company paying claims. There’s the potential that you may have to pay claims when the TPA/administrator/insurer decides not to pay.

Not to mention, all the new rules and obligations.

2 – You Want to Buy Coverage, Not Be the Coverage

Here is a quote that most people would call the “small print.” You won’t find it in the typical sales material or presentation. You will find it when you’re asked to defend the non-payment in court.

“The participating employer agrees to be solely responsible for compliance with all laws, including the payment of any required benefits that are not covered as illustrated in the Summary Plan Description or the stop loss policy.”

Administrator Actual Policy Language

3 – You Become The Expert In Making This Decision

This carrier is being honest when they say, you should have experts telling you what to expect before you choose self-funding. This quote is a warning found in the sales material.

“While many employers can benefit from a self-funded plan, it may not be the right choice for every business. The biggest question a small group employer has to consider is if the additional risk will jeopardize their business.”

Administrator Advertising Materials

If you self-fund you will need a qualified person to evaluate your risk before making the decision. Your sales agent, consultant, insurer, CFO, HR person are not qualified to make this assessment. Will they pay the claim or will that come from you, the owners pocket?

This is a skill that is working for others every day why not ask for help after all, you hope people hire you for your expertise.

4 – You Didn’t Have Time to Read the Small Print

"If a material or fraudulent omission or misstatement is made in the application form, We have the right to deny any claim."
“If a material or fraudulent omission or misstatement is made in the application form, We have the right to deny any claim.”

The Big Print makes promises but the small print takes those promises away. When your self-funded administrator, TPA,insurer decides not to pay a claim, you’re on the hook. You as a business owner become the checkbook.

It’s true, in today’s sophisticated and complicated healthcare world it’s becoming more necessary to independently evaluate your options.

CAN YOU SAY DOUBLE TALK

This is just one example of the big print:

“Your maximum self-funding cost for the plan year is determined up front – and it’s guaranteed not to change, …

And here’s one example of the corresponding small print written into the policy of the carrier who published the “big print” quote above. There are many statements like this and you should know them all, or have someone who does.

  1. “We issued this coverage in reliance upon the accuracy and completeness of the information provided in the application form and during the enrollment process. If a material or fraudulent omission or misstatement is made in the application form, We have the right to deny any claim, rescind the coverage and/or modify the terms of the coverage or the premium amount.”

Actual policy language, page 1.

5 – You Didn’t Make a Benefit Plan to Tell Employees They Aren’t Covered

It happens, google the topic of “self-funded plans that couldn’t pay claims” and you will find 42 million website hits (graphic below).  The point is, there’s not shortage of problems for those who get in over their head.

Google search on self funded plans that couldn't pay claims.
Google search on self funded plans that couldn’t pay claims.

 

Do you Still Need Convincing?

Show me the options in front of you and I’ll show you the trouble.

Send any quote you have received and the comparisons I’ll give you my two cents for free.

This offer is available to owners only. Send them to my email without PHI, djwatza@gmail.com.

Source: Actual administrator and carrier language from marketing promotions and specimen policy.

A Real Life Story of Accepting ACA Changes for a Small Business; Part II

Part II – a Small Business Looking to Do Better

The story starts with a business who engaged us for our Decoder because they asked the simple question, “we know it’s different than it use to be, and we perceive we could do better but we don’t know how to make the right decision.” In the first post, a couple days ago, you learned about the background a little bit. Feel free to review that post below.

Today, we’ll begin to cover details about who is being covered and who is not. It’s very common to have employers who cover individuals that should not be covered. Would you be surprised to know that employers have been known to cover deceased employees, or family members? When we visit with employers we never expect problems but we’re never surprised to find them either.

Job One, Research

Our first job is to research the details about all those covered and all those who are, or were, working for a company. We ask for lists that would show us this information. For instance, tax statements that provide lists of employees and payroll reports that show hours worked plus HR rosters of employees and former employees and other data. The research starts almost immediately and it usually entails asking questions about documentation that’s available that an insurance company would ask to prove the status of an employee or dependent. Identifying problems can be as easy as doing this research.

Our research immediately draws our attention to questions about a former board president who is still covered. In asking questions, it’s obvious there is no current relationship with the former executive. They had been involved and were made promises by the company. As we discuss this with current ownership, no one wants to address the issue with the board or the former executive. We helped solve the problem by including a proper commentary about the liability to both parties for covering someone who should not be covered.

But the former executive had an agreement?

Insurance companies can audit large claims any time, that’s in the small print. If they audit a claim on a former executive, like in our story, and they discover this person is covered it would be bad for both the employer and former employee. Coverage for groups means employees of the group must be covered and individuals who are not employees can not be covered. This is why it’s called group coverage.

So what actually would happen?

If an audit were to occur by the insurance company they would deny the claim of the former employee stating they’re not an employee of the company and not eligible for “group” coverage.  This is bad because the former employee and covered individual could use promises by the government to impose upon the employer the need to pay the claim. To keep the story simple, I’ve eliminated all the details and possibilities for how this could happen. The point is, there’s a chance the employer would be stuck paying the claims of the employee without insurance coverage. This is bad for everyone.

When we arrived the former employee had been on the plan more than 10 years. Why this had been left to linger is anyone’s guess.

What was the outcome?

The employer and former employee understood the risk to both employer and former employee. We introduced an agent who could help with individual coverage. We directed them to seek individual coverage immediately. This was completed within a week. As a note about how this worked, ACA makes transition from group to individual possible because it eliminated pre-existing conditions and medical underwriting. In the old days, these two rules made doing what we did much more difficult.

This small adjustment to the rules gave us the understanding to help the employer. Because the Decoder puts all of these facts in writing, it made it much easier for the employer to make the change with confidence. They just had to see it in writing and be able to show the former employee as well. This is the purpose of the Decoder.

If you enjoyed the story, or learned something from it, please let me know in the comment below. Do you have your own insurance story?

An Obamacare Article Written for CPA’s is Right On

“Choosing the right plan requires the knowledge to make the right choice.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 6.08.54 AMDuring the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses classes and work I learned just how difficult it is for an owner to hear my message. It’s because when I say the word insurance, the label “insurance dude” is applied. That’s fine, except with it usually comes the connotation that I’m going to sell them insurance. It’s a logical conclusion but it would be wrong. Why?

If what I was doing was popular people wouldn’t get to that conclusion, instead they might ask, “are you selling a product or are you providing independent advice?”

The quote I found while reading an article makes my case why I’ve left the “agent/broker/consultant” world to help America do better (watch my video).

So, I’m reading an article written for CPA’s on the topic, PPACA – Obamacare. It’s a 4 page article making recommendations to CPA’s on how to advise their clients on these complicated topics: insurance markets, metal levels, pricing and benefits, government sponsored exchanges, SHOP, private exchanges, self funding, pay-or-play, employer reporting, limited networks and finally underwriting.

“numerous strategies are available to businesses as they try to make the best health insurance choices for themselves and their employees in this new regulatory environment. Choosing the right plan requires the knowledge to make the right choice.”

“Health Care Reform Essentials”, Journal of Accountancy, July 2014; Dietrich, Marks.

This statement could be the description of BenStaff’s Decoder work.

Two critique’s I have about this, first, what a great list of all the new options in healthcare, it demonstrates what I’ve been saying now since March of 2010. The very reason I built BenStaff and BenStaff’s team built the Decoder. On one hand it’s as easy as the article states. But, to optimize the right balance between taking risk (self funding) and low cost and access (limited networks) the question is, who is better suited to advise on these matters?

My team is independent, we don’t sell insurance, and we have much deeper knowledge of benefits especially healthcare. Having former underwriters we know risk and pricing in groups and individual markets, our actuarial team provides expertise to the Decoder, our CEBS specialists cover the plan in operation requirements of the DOL, HHS, CMS and the IRS. And, we encourage a businesses advisors to offer their best thinking so don’t miss something. A small businesses CPA, CFO, HR executives, attorney’s or other advisors are welcome to contribute. No one person has all the answers but we believe we’re as close to that as possible.

Our structure gives us dominance and reach into every market and option available. Overall, our Decoder is the answer to the question posed to owners and CPA’s at the end of the article, beautiful;

“Choosing the right plan requires the knowledge to make the right choice.”

I couldn’t agree more.

How is it financial firm doesn’t understand it’s own fees?

It is remarkable that a financial institution like Citigroup is being sued by it’s own employees, who should have known they had fees included in their own 401k’s. How is it that employees who build these plans for use by small business accepted the practice of excessive fees in their customers plans.

Where was the outcry, education to their own customers?

Nearly seven years after their awsuit was filed, the plaintiffs in a “self-dealing” case against Citigroup will be allowed to move ahead with their claims.

On Sept. 30, U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein denied Citigroup’s motion for summary judgment, which would have thrown the case out of court based on Citigroup’s assertion that the statute of limitations had passed.

The suit, brought by former Citigroup employees Marya Leber and Sara Kennedy, is one of a number of excessive-fee cases filed in recent years.

It alleges that Citigroup breached its fiduciary duty by including its own fund options, and those of its affiliates, in the company’s 401(k) plan despite having higher fees than competing funds of equal

Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Citigroup’s funds “charged higher fees than those charged by comparable Vanguard funds— in some instances fees that were more than 200 percent higher than those of comparable funds.”

Court documents show that in 2003 Citigroup’s investment committee eliminated 10 unaffiliated funds and added the new funds, including three of Citigroup’s own options. Participant assets were then automatically transferred to the new or remaining funds, four of which were Citigroup’s own or Citigroup-affiliated.

Citigroup’s motion to dismiss the case was rooted in the claim that the plaintiffs were aware of both the affiliated status of

the funds in question and their fees more than three years prior to the suit’s filing.

Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, if plaintiffs have “actual knowledge of the breach,” then they must

bring their claim to court within three years of acquiring that knowledge.

Stein wrote that the plaintiffs did not have “actual knowledge,” as Citigroup claimed, because Citigroup failed to prove that

the plaintiffs were given data on the fees of comparable funds.

In denying the motion, Stein said Citigroup had “not even attempted to offer evidence that plaintiffs possessed the fee data

“Citigroup employees could have earned millions more for their retirement if Citigroup had followed the law,” alleged Greg

The plaintiffs are expected to ask the court to certify theirs as a class-action claim.

Benefits Pro; link: http://www.benefitspro.com/2014/10/08/judge-rejects-citigroup-bid-to-dismiss-401k-fee-ca