The FreedomCare Difference

The FreedomCare DifferenceWith the fear of the Employer Mandate last year, savvy employers had to do something fast. Some rolled the dice and went with plans that were on the fence of whether or not their plans would be compliant with the laws.

With 2015 half over, a lot of companies have failed in multiple ways: poor administration, covered employees not receiving their cards, misinterpretation of the laws and more.

Now that you or your clients are looking for something else, what separates FreedomCare from the rest?

  • No application is needed for enrollment, we are able to auto-enroll employees from a census the employer submits via a secure site.

  • We handle the payment for the required PCORI fees on behalf of the employer.

  • We handle ALL COBRA administration on behalf of the employer.

  • A bronze level Minimum Value Plan (MVP) will be offered to all eligible employees. This program has no participation requirements for employers to meet.

  • In addition to the Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) and MVP, employees have the ability to design a healthcare package that fits their health and financial needs through additional products available for them to purchase.

  • Flexible commission rates for brokers.

  • Unlimited 24/7 telemedicine program and discount RX program available to all employees at no additional cost.

  • Unused claims funding will be returned to the employer on a quarterly basis.

  • We assist the employer with the completion of required ACA forms (6055, 6056, 1094, 1095).

  • We supply our exclusive legal guarantee of compliance to employers that choose the Advanced and Preferred programs.

From day one we haven’t taken shortcuts, we don’t plan to start now. Our administration services can’t be beat. Give us a call today.

7 tips to keep your top talent!

It’s expensive, time consuming and something all business owners struggle with..constant employee turnover. The service industry struggles the most with trying to instill loyalty and encourage their employees to stay more than a couple of months. As a business owner or manager, what can you do to change that? Here are 7 ways you can change your habits to reduce turnover and hang on to your top talent.

  1. Be choosy with who you hire.

    • Before you can even think about keeping your employees, you have to make sure you’ve hired the right people to begin with. Be sure to interview and vet candidates carefully, you want to make sure they fit well with the company culture, managers and co-workers.
  2. Offer a benefits package.

    • A salary isn’t always the deciding factor when employees begin to seek employment elsewhere. Many times they are looking for health benefits. Providing health insurance, life insurance and even a retirement savings plan can increase loyalty. Check out our previous blog, “Could the employer mandate help you reduce turnover?” for more.
  3. Provide a comfortable working environment and culture.

    • Employees want and need to feel safe and comfortable at work. Your culture needs to match your industry, engage your employees, and motivate them.
  4. Offer preventative and wellness programs.Offer preventative and wellness programs

    • Many companies have instituted wellness programs to engage their employees and encourage a healthier workforce. Doing so can also reduce your claims on self-insured health benefits plans.
  5. Offer training.

    • According to Human Capitalist, 76% of employees want on-the-job training. Offering skills enhancement to all of your workers can help employees to feel appreciated and allows them to have a future within your company. New technology, new selling techniques, changes in employment laws, and the ever changing internet are all great reasons to encourage your employees to continue their education.
  6. Offer additional benefits for purchase.shutterstock_29717131

    • Offering limited medical, dental, vision, accident, critical illness and more can make your employees feel like they have options when it comes to their health. This can relieve a lot of the burden off of the employer having to provide expensive health plans.
  7. Recognize their accomplishments.

    • Praise goes a long way. Recognizing the accomplishments of employees creates loyalty and trust. This could be a simple thank you or a handwritten note. Praising employees for completing performance goals is one of the most effective ways to make them feel appreciated, which will make them want to stay with you for the long haul.

A lot of these tips sound expensive but one thing you can start with is self-insuring your health benefits plan. That one step will separate you from other employers competing for the same talent. Not sure how to even begin? Give FreedomCare a call today.

How to control your “out of control” insurance premium increases.

Insurance premiums expected to riseAmerica is sicker than we thought. The nation’s leading health insurers are seeking rate increases of 20 to 40 percent for the 2016 open enrollment season citing sicker than expected customers who purchased health benefit policies under the Affordable Care Act.

The rate requests, from some of the most popular health plans, suggest that the insurance market is still adjusting to the shock waves set off by the Affordable Care Act. Experts believe the root cause of this problem is the failure of several marketplaces to attract enough young, healthy applicants.

With increasing expenses already hurting your bottom line, how are you going to keep your business alive while facing inflated insurance premiums or massive penalties from the IRS?

  • Self-Insure your health benefits.

This isn’t a new concept, large companies have been self-insuring their health benefits and workers comp for years. We’ve now made it available to any size employer; so why would you pay a large insurance carrier for something you can do yourself?

  • Stop-loss or reinsurance to limit your liability.

When you self-insure, you need to have reinsurance to protect your business.

  • Claims funding is returned to you.Control your insurance premiums

When you self-insure, you are contributing monthly to a fund that claims are paid out of. Any money that goes unused will be returned to you on a quarterly basis. In a nutshell, you only pay for what you use and that unused money ends up back in your pocket.

  • Implement Health and Wellness Programs to keep your costs low

It’s no secret that America is unhealthy. Bringing health and wellness programs to your employees and encouraging yearly checkups can cut down on illnesses and increase the possibility of claims funding coming back to you.

Simple enough, right? Give FreedomCare a call to learn more about self-insuring and avoiding these premium increases.

4 Major ACA Reporting Myths Debunked

With so many oACA Reporting Myths Debunkedf the ACA reporting requirements are difficult to interpret, business owners and brokers are struggling to see right from wrong. We did some of the leg work for you and here are 4 major ACA reporting myths you may have fallen for.

"I don't have to offer any employees medical benefits even though I have employed more than 50 full-time equivalent employees during 2014."

ALL applicable large employers are subject to the ACA Employer Shared Responsibility requirements and must report, even if the employer chooses not to offer benefits or offers benefits that don't meet minimum value and affordable requirements. In other words, you can't just avoid the law hoping to fly under the radar. You have to report it whether you comply or not.

"I don't have to report for 2015 because I had less than 100 full-time equivalent employees during 2014."

ALL applicable large employers must report, even if the employer qualifies for transition relief. What is transition relief? Not sure if you qualify? Check out ACA expert, Kaya Bromley's webinar here.

"I can wait and decide later this year how I'm going to meet the reporting requirements."

Data MUST be reported each month of the 2015 calendar year. Be prepared to hire a professional to sort it all out for you if you don't have accurate historical records of all changes made.

"There aren't going to be any fines until next year."

They've given you plenty of time. You can't claim you forgot your homework. There may be some relief from fines for employers submitting incomplete forms or forms with minor inaccuracies, however, the IRS has made it clear that there is no relief for employers that cannot show a good faith effort to comply. If you don't have something in place, you need to act now.

Are you still confused? Give us a call at FreedomCare and we can walk you through what you need to know.

Seasonal Workers and Seasonal Employees – Clarifying Misunderstood Terms

Seasonal Workers & Seasonal Employees

Summer is here and that means the agricultural season will soon be in full swing. Unfortunately, we have heard of several non-compliant strategies being implemented throughout the agriculture industry. Part of the confusion is being generated from two terms with distinct meanings under the Affordable Care Act (ACA): seasonal workers and seasonal employees. The purpose of this article is to review the difference between seasonal workers and seasonal employees and to explain when each definition is applicable to an employer.

A seasonal worker is an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis. The final regulations state this definition includes retail workers employed exclusively during holiday seasons and workers covered by 29 CFR 500.20(s)(1). A worker is covered by 29 CFR 500.20(s)(1) if ordinarily, the employment is of the kind exclusively performed at a certain period of the year and which, from its nature, may not be continuous or carried on throughout the year. A worker can still be covered by 29 CFR 500.20(s)(1) (and thus still be considered a seasonal worker) if the worker moves from one seasonal activity to another even if the worker is employed during a major portion of the year. Employees with comparable positions to the two examples included in the final regulations can also qualify as seasonal workers so long as the employer is making a reasonable, good faith interpretation of the term.

Seasonal workers are only applicable for the seasonal worker exception which determines if an employer is an Applicable Large Employer (ALE). Only employers who are ALEs have to comply with the Play or Pay Mandate. For the seasonal worker exception to apply an employer must satisfy two requirements:

  1. The employer must not be in excess of 50 full-time employees (including FTEs) for more than 120 days in the preceding calendar year; and
  2. The employees employed during the period that is no more than 120 days who cause the employer to exceed 50 full-time employees (including FTEs) must be seasonal workers.

If these conditions are satisfied, the employer will not be an ALE despite averaging 50 or more full-time employees (including FTEs) throughout the preceding calendar year. The seasonal worker definition is not relevant for any other determination under the ACA.

A seasonal employee is defined in the final regulations as “an employee who is hired into a position for which the customary annual employment is six months or less.”   The preamble to the final regulations provides further context to the definition saying the period that is six months or less should begin in approximately the same part of the year, such as summer or winter.

The seasonal employee definition can be broken into the following two factors:

  • The position must typically last for a period of six months or less; and
  • The position must begin in roughly the same part of the calendar year.

The seasonal employee is unique compared to part-time, variable hour, and full-time employees (the only other classification options for new employees) because it does not factor in an employee’s hours of service. A seasonal employee could work 80 hours a week and still be classified as a seasonal employee so long as the two factors discussed above are true. If an employee is classified as a seasonal employee, the employee is placed into an initial measurement period and treated the same way as a part-time or variable hour employee.

Employers need to be careful with the distinction between seasonal workers and seasonal employees. Remember, seasonal workers are only relevant for determining if an employer is an ALE. Seasonal employees are only relevant when determining if a new employee can be placed into an initial measurement period. However, make sure an employee classified as a seasonal employee meets the two criteria discussed above. Currently, there are no correction procedures for misclassified employees so an employee who is misclassified as a seasonal employee could trigger huge fines for an employer.

The 5 things you need to know if you hire seasonal workers.

Did you know that a Seasonal “Worker” is not the same as a Seasonal “Employee.” Yes, they sound the same but they have very different meanings to you as an employer. Now let’s pretend we already rolled our eyes and commiserated about how confusing the ACA is and let's move on to the five important things you need to know:

1. You only worry about seasonal “workers” when you are determining if you are an Applicable Large Employer (ALE).

An ALE has over 100 full-time and full-time equivalent employees in 2015 and over 50 in 2016. If most of the time you are too small to be considered an ALE and only become an ALE because you hire extra workers for up to 120 days, then you can use the seasonal worker exception.

ALE Definition

EXAMPLE: Tom's Tomato Growers has 49 Full-Time Employees for 365 days per year. Tom's Tomato season is less than 120 days. Tom hires 200 employees for less than 120 days to pick tomatoes. If Tom uses a twelve-month measurement period, Tom can claim the Seasonal Worker exception and will not be considered an ALE.

Toms Tomato Growers

2. A seasonal “employee” is a defined term… not just someone you believe is “seasonal.”

A seasonal employee is

  • (a) hired into a position which typically lasts for six months or less; and
  • (b) the position must begin at about the same time each year (e.g. every summer or every winter.)

 

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3. It does not matter how many hours a seasonal employee works during the season.

This is a big deal. Consider this: if you are classifying employees as variable, you will have to offer them insurance next year if they work on average more than 30 hours per week this year. Alternatively, if your employees are truly seasonal (i.e. in a position that is six months or less) then no matter how many hours they work per week during the season, you will not be penalized if you do not offer them insurance.

4. In order to benefit from the seasonal employee rules, you must be using the lookback measurement method.

When you use the lookback measurement method, you are required to classify your employees as full-time, part-time, variable, or seasonal. You must be able to prove that the position you are categorizing as seasonal really is seasonal. For example, if your season has been more than 6 months for the past 5 years, you cannot all of a sudden claim it is less than 6 months this year for ACA purposes.

5. If you do not have a reliable and accurate way of measuring and documenting seasonal employees, you must offer coverage to avoid penalties.

BEWARE. While the seasonal employee rule sounds good, you can only take advantage of it if you understand it clearly, apply it correctly and document it so that an IRS agent believes you. Many employers are misapplying this rule as a way to avoid offering insurance. Many other employers are trying to comply but do not even realize that they are getting it wrong. Both are costly.

Employee Tracking Paperwork

Employers have a couple of choices here:

Farm Labor Contractors vs. Growers – 3 Steps to Compliance

The good news is that this article simplifies everything you need to know so that you can make the best decisions for your company. The bad news is that you are not going to like our answers whether you are the Farm Labor Contract (FLC) or the Grower.

The Rule: Applicable Large Employers (ALE) are required to offer affordable, minimum value insurance to their full-time employees or face penalties. An ALEs is any employer who employs more than 100 full-time and full-time equivalent employees in 2015 (more than 50 in 2016 and beyond).ALE Definition

 

The Problem: The only reason there is even a question here is because of one word: ‘Employer.’ And forget what you already know about this word in other areas of the law because the ACA broadened the definition. Under the ACA, the word ‘employer’ means any ‘common law’ employer. Typically, that would be the employer responsible for payroll taxes and withholdings and the one that does the hiring and firing. However, under the common law rule adopted by the ACA, the one who also controls and directs (or has the right to control and direct) the actions of employees is also considered the employer. This means that without clear guidance from the IRS or the courts, both the FLC and the Grower could be seen as the common law employer.

This is especially problematic if you are the Grower, for example, and you believe the FLC complied with the ACA with regard to the employees working for you. Let’s say you don’t find out until December 31, 2015 that your FLC offered a plan that did not comply with the ACA or that your FLC did not offer the coverage to all full-time employees. In that case, the IRS could penalize you, the Grower, for the entire year from January to December.

Alternatively, if you are the FLC, you face a different issue. You now have additional costs for your labor because you have to factor in the price of offering an ACA compliant plan. Your challenge is often how to convince the grower that the additional cost should be shared by both of you, right?

Here are the three things you need to know to protect yourself:

1. Growers may pay a fee. Growers may pay a feee

The employer mandate applies directly to the common law employer. In this situation, the Grower who is arguably also the common law employer will want to argue that the FLC’s offer of coverage satisfies the Grower’s obligations under the mandate. The only way the Grower can make such a claim is if the Grower pays a higher fee for ACA compliant labor than it would otherwise pay. The best way for a Grower to protect itself is to verify the cost of the coverage being offered and document the additional fee being paid to the FLC for such coverage.

2. Put it in writing.Put it in writing-01

 

A written contract is not a get out of jail free card but it will definitely help. In the contract you should specify (a) who is agreeing to offer coverage; (b) what fee is being paid by the party who plans to rely on the third party offer of coverage to satisfy their employer mandate; (c) what type of coverage is being offered and a verification that it complies with the ACA; and (d) an indemnification provision specifying who is responsible if there is an ACA violation.

3. Adopt a compliant plan.Adopt a compliant plan

 

Seems obvious right? It is more common that you might think than an employer believes they are complying with the ACA and finds out too late that their plan fell short. Whether you are the Grower or the FLC, you are both obligated to make sure that the plan being offered is:

  • (a) Minimum Essential Coverage;
  • (b) Affordable; and
  • (c) offering a Minimum Value Plan.

Your best bet is to adopt a plan that guarantees ACA compliance.

 

Affordable Care Act events coming to a venue near you!

KayaIs your business going to be affected by the ACA employer mandate?

Do you know what the penalties are? How do you comply with the laws to avoid penalties?

Leading ACA expert Kaya Bromley will walk you through exactly what you need to know in several seminars being presented in the California area.

These events are free and available to all business owners and brokers but space is limited so RSVP today!

Could the Employer Mandate help with employee turnover?

Happy EmployeesWe talk about this a lot, pay or play, right? We tend to focus on the fines and penalties if you choose not to offer your employees benefits but what if offering a variety of benefits could help you and your clients retain employees and reduce turnover?

Earlier this month MetLife released their 13th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, it was jam packed with useful information employers and brokers can use. We found it really interesting to see the importance employees place on whether or not their employer offers benefit options.

If a company offers no benefit options, only 46% of employees would recommend it as great place to work. This number jumps up to 53% if the employer offers between one and five available benefits. If a company offers 11 or more benefits the number jumps again to 66%. These percentages can not be ignored. Employees want and need options from their employer when it comes to healthcare.

Todd Katz of Met Life said, “Throughout the study, the positive impact of the number of benefits an employer offered was clear, likely because the greater number of options provides employees with the opportunity to tailor benefits to their specific needs. Offering a comprehensive suite of benefits that goes beyond standard benefits, such as medical, dental and vision including voluntary benefits like critical illness and accident.”

When you self-insure your benefits plan with FreedomCare, your employees have a wealth of options to choose from that fit within their budgets. Product availability varies by state and include;

  • Additional Health Insurance Coverages
  • Short Term Medical
  • Dental Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Life Insurance
  • Disability Insurance
  • Vision Insurance
  • Active Care Plans (cancer, heart & stroke, critical conditions, hospital & accident)

Education is just as important as offering the benefits in the first place. Employees need to know what the options they have available, how they can purchase them and how they will benefit by utilizing them. Less than half (45%) of employees polled strongly agree their benefits communications helped them to understand how they pay for specific services and understood their options. This education is especially important with new benefit offerings being introduced because of the Affordable Care Act.

Here at FreedomCare we have programs available and materials tailored toward employees who have never had health coverage in the past. This makes the process easier and their experience a positive one.

41% of employers ranked retention as their top employee benefits objective. So, not only do you avoid thousands of dollars in potential penalties and fees but you will have healthy, happy employees who will stay with you for longer amounts of time.

Give FreedomCare a call today and let’s improve your employee retention.

5 years later..is Obamacare working?

Obamacare 5 years later“Like most five-year olds, [the ACA] still needs direction” – James Klein, president of the American Benefits Council.

It’s been five years, the employer mandate is in full effect. How has it been effecting your business and your clients? Has it done all it promised to do or has it been more of a burden? Many industry experts are saying the Affordable Care Act has forced employers to alter their business practices to comply with the new laws.

According to Employer Benefit Adviser, Employers have said they have been forced to drop or alter their benefit offerings, hire brokers to keep them abreast of the changing laws and for many, spend an increased amount of time administering their company’s employee benefit plans. Is that what the ACA was designed to do?

Sally Roberts, the Director of Human Resources at Morris Communications Company testified to the U.S. House of Education & the Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions and said, “The ACA has made benefits much more complicated than they ever were before.” She says she spends twice as much time administering health care benefits for her employer than before the ACA was enacted. What can you do as a business owner or broker to ease these burdens?

In a hearing about the individual and employer mandates, Scott Womack, president of Womack Restaurants told the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee that, “The reporting required is costly, complex and confusing. All employers have had to either create or buy new software as we have, or contract with a service to do so.”

What is the worst case scenario? Penalties right? Penalties that could potentially put you out of business.

Ease the burden and receive some peace of mind. Use our blog as a resource to help educate and calm the nerves of your clients.

We have a catalog of very informative webinars by ACA legal expert, Kaya Bromley and as always, we are here to answer your questions.

FreedomCare, Compliance Guaranteed.