2018 Shared Responsibility Affordability Percentage

November 06, 2017 | Leave a Comment

2018 Shared Responsibility Affordability Percentage

The Affordable Care Act requires applicable large employers (those who employ at least 50 full-time employees) to offer affordable, minimum health coverage to all full-time employees and their dependents. This ACA mandate is known as employer shared responsibility or “pay or play”.

The IRS announced the shared responsibility affordability percentage will decrease for plan years beginning in 2018. Employer-sponsored coverage will be considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution (for the least-expensive, self-only coverage option) does not exceed 9.56% of the employee’s annual household income.

This is down from 9.69% in 2017. This decrease, announced in May, is the first time the percentage has not increased in the past few years. Because the affordability rate is lower in 2018 than 2017, employers may need to lower employee contributions for the new plan year. An applicable large employer will face a penalty if a full-time employee receives a subsidy through the healthcare exchange.

For more information on shared responsibility rules, please click here.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  ,

Employee Benefit Plan Limits Increasing for 2018

November 01, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Employee Benefit Plan Limits Increase 2018

The Internal Revenue Service has increased the annual dollar limits for various welfare and retirement plan limits for 2018, including HDHPs, HSAs, FSAs, and 401(k) plans.

These changes may affect employer benefit plan designs. Employers should ensure their plan administration will be consistent with the new limits and communicate the new limits to employees during open enrollment periods.

Click here for more information on the upcoming increases. Please contact us with any questions by emailing your Cornerstone Consultant or cig@cornerstoneinsurancegroup.com.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Legislative Alerts

New Executive Order Designed to Change ACA Rules

October 13, 2017 | Leave a Comment

New Executive Order Designed to Change ACA Rules

On Oct. 12, President Donald Trump signed an executive order intended to change current ACA rules and reform the U.S. health care system by expanding choices and increasing competition. While it does not implement any immediate change, the order provides guidance for federal agencies to issue new regulations.

It will take time to see the full impact of the executive order, and it is unlikely any significant change will be seen before the Nov. 1 open enrollment period. All employers should continue to prepare for upcoming ACA requirements and deadlines.

The order is expected to relax regulations on association health plans, allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance policies across state lines and avoid certain ACA requirements.

For more information on the executive order and association health plans, click here.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Health Care Reform Info | Tagged  , , ,

Employee Discipline and Terminations: Company Policies and the Employee Handbook

August 31, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Documenting Discipline and Terminations to Mitigate Risk as an Employer

Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. When employees take legal action, it can also cause emotional discomfort and tension in the workplace.

In hopes of avoiding any business interruption related to employee discipline, companies may discontinue a relationship with a troublesome employee immediately – but a snap decision can lead to more problems down the road.

This is the first in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. 

So, what can employers and HR managers do to mitigate the risk of a disgruntled employee seeking a lawsuit? The first step is to develop policies and procedures that facilitate accurate documentation. Keeping a detailed record of disciplinary actions will create an objective narrative of the situation and help settle differences whether the claim is handled at the company level or in court.

Company policies can help prevent a claim before it happens. Employees who are treated fairly and consistently, with documents that answer their questions on harassment claims and the company code of conduct, will feel confident that the company is objective in its use of discipline policies.

The employee handbook can be a great tool for communicating these policies to employees. From topics such as medial leave and sick days to compensation and benefits, the handbook is necessary for all employees at any size company. It sets a clear precedent for new hires that begins on their first day and should discuss all aspects of the disciplinary process as a reference for employees.

Most importantly for employers, an “employment-at-will” disclaimer will grant companies the ability terminate an employee at any time for any legal reason. Keep in mind, however, that while employers with this statement can terminate an employee under this clause, it doesn’t always mean they should. If you have questions about what to include in your employee handbook, contact your Cornerstone Consultant.

For more information on employee terminations, view our webinar on the topic hosted by Cornerstone’s Director of HR Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Human Resources | Tagged  , , ,

Preparing for Crisis

June 22, 2017 | Leave a Comment

min wage increase (2)

We believe protecting businesses helps build a strong community. Because when disaster hits a business, its effect is devastating and long-lasting for employees and their families. Without a plan for protection and recovery from an unexpected and dangerous event, the livelihood of an organization will be at stake.

Taking steps to prepare for the worst is the only way to minimize the impact of an incident and shorten the recovery time.

Disasters come in a variety of packages: terrorist attacks, natural disaster, criminal activity. While it’s easy to fall into the mindset that one or all of these will never impact your business, it’s imperative to start planning for recovery before they occur.

Download our Business Continuity Toolkit to begin preparing your plan today.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Risk management, Safety

IRS Announces Raises to HSA/HDHP Dollar Limits for 2018

May 17, 2017 | Leave a Comment

IRS Announces Raises to HSA/HDHP Dollar Limits for 2018

Dollar limits for Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) will be increased for plan years beginning after Jan. 1, 2018, to account for inflation, as announced by the Internal Revenue Service this month.

The following chart outlines the changes in contribution limits to occur in 2018:

Changes to 2018 HSA and HDHP Limits

HSA Contribution Changes

The HSA contribution limit will increase $50 for self-only plans and $150 for family plans, to a total limit of $3,450 and $6,900 respectively. HSA catch-up contributions for people age 55 and older are not subject to increases to account for inflation and will remain the same.

HDHP Eligibility Changes

To qualify as an HDHP in 2018, a plan will require a minimum deductible of $1,350 for self-only plans, up $50 from the 2017 minimum. The minimum deductible for family HDHP plans will increase $100 from 2017 to $2,700 in 2018.

Out-of-pocket maximums have also increased for the 2018 plan year. Maximum expenses for HDHP plans will be $6,650 for self-only and $13,300 for family, up $100 and $200 from 2017 respectively.

Next Steps

Employers sponsoring HDHPs may need to make changes to plan designs for 2018 and update any enrollment materials to reflect these new HSA limits.

Please contact your Cornerstone Consultant with any questions about the IRS’ announcement to raise HSA/HDHP dollar limits for 2018.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  , ,

Updates on Replace and Repeal of the ACA: American Health Care Act Sent to the Senate

May 10, 2017 | Leave a Comment

AHCA sent to senate

On May 4, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act and replace it with the American Health Care Act. The new bill is now being deliberated by the Senate.

Although there is much media coverage surrounding the bill, all ACA requirements will remain in effect until the AHCA is passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump.

As the Senate considers the AHCA as it has been passed by the House of Representatives, it may pass or dismiss the bill in its entirety – or it could change the legislation so much that it passes a drastically different bill.

If the House and the Senate do pass separate versions of the bill, a committee will be formed to compromise and draft a hybrid of both bills. If a committee produces a hybrid bill, the Constitution requires that both the House and the Senate pass identical versions of the bill before it can be signed into law by President Trump.

This process may take weeks or months.

If it was signed into law as it stands now, the AHCA would make the following revisions to the ACA:

How will this affect your employer health plan?

  • Employer shared responsibility rules—

The ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules require applicable large employers (employers with 50 or more full-time employees) to offer an acceptable minimum level of health coverage to full-time employees and their dependents – or pay a penalty. Under the new bill, this provision will be canceled. However, Form 1094 & 1095 reporting requirements will remain.

  • Federal subsidies for small businesses—

In 2020, the ACHA will repeal the ACA’s small business tax credit.

  • Relief from Cadillac tax—

The start date of the excise tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health plans will be pushed back, so the tax will begin after Dec. 31, 2025.

How will this affect your employees?

  • Increases in HSA contribution limits—

The ACHA will increase the maximum Health Savings Account contribution limit beginning in 2018. Where the maximum out-of-pocket limit allowed by law is currently $3,400 for self-only and $6,750 for family coverage, the ACHA will increase those maximums to $6,550 and $13,1000 respectively.

  • HSAs covering prior expenses—

Under the new bill, HSA funds will be able to pay for health care expenses incurred prior to the start date of the HSA (at least for funds occurring after the start date of a high deductible health plan, given the HSA is opened within 60 days from the start date of the HDHP).

  • OTC medications—

Tax-advantaged HSAs will be able to be used for a wider variety of over-the-counter health purchases.

  • FSA limits—

The ACHA will repeal the ACA’s clause imposing a limit to the funds an individual can contribute annually to a health Flexible Spending Account.

How will this affect the health care exchange?

  • Individual mandate—

The ACA requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and dependents or pay a penalty. Under the AHCA, this mandate will be repealed. Instead, the ACHA will impose a 30 percent penalty onto the premiums of small groups and individuals that have lapses in coverage.

  • Federal subsidies for individuals—

The ACA currently offers tax credits to low-income individuals who purchase health care coverage through the exchange. The AHCA will repeal these credits in 2020 and replace them with a monthly tax credit for all individuals.

Things that will not be changed by the ACHA include that coverage will still be allowed for children up to the age of 26 and there will be guaranteed availability and renewability of coverage.

Click here to read the American Health Care Act.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Health Care Reform Info, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  , ,

St. Louis City Minimum Wage Increase to Go Into Effect Friday, May 5

May 04, 2017 | Leave a Comment

min wage increase

On May 4, 2017, St. Louis City announced the minimum wage increase will go into effect on Friday, May 5.

The minimum wage increase has a zero-day grace period and employers are expected to comply with the new regulations, which increase the city’s minimum wage to $10 per hour and $5 and hour for tipped employees.

The mayor’s office issued a statement indicating that failure to comply with the new law is “subject to prosecution in Municipal Court, and also may be subject to revocation of business licenses and occupancy permit.”

Per the city’s official website, the Department of Human Services has established a complaint center for employees to notify them of employer non-compliance and all complaints will be investigated within a 45 day period. The contact information for the city is minimumwage@stlouis-mo.gov or 314-589-6735.

The minimum wage will increase to $11.00 an hour on January 1, 2018.

Posted in Benefits, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  , ,

Upcoming Circuit Court Decision to Determine St. Louis City Minimum Wage Increase

April 27, 2017 | Leave a Comment

ladder safety month (5)

On April 26, the Missouri Supreme Court affirmed St. Louis City’s 2015 minimum wage increase, which has been on hold since October 2015 due to a Circuit Court injunction.

The Missouri Supreme Court declined to reconsider its February 2017 ruling, which essentially allows the wage increase to move forward.  This decision leaves only the Circuit Court’s injunction as the last remaining barrier, and the City expects the Circuit Court to lift its injunction within the next week. Once this occurs, the minimum wage increase will take effect immediately.

The increase will raise the minimum wage hourly rate for city employees from $7.70 to $10 immediately and raise it again to $11 effective January 1, 2018.  The tipped employee rate will also increase to $5 per hour and then raise again to $5.50 on January 1.

We recommend that, if you have not yet done so, you prepare for this increase as it will affect all employees conducting work within the St. Louis City limits.

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Human Resources, Legislative Alerts

Ladders 101: Basic Ladder Safety

March 14, 2017 | Leave a Comment

ladder safety month

Did you know that, on average, work-related ladder falls result in one death and more than 180 nonfatal injuries every two days in America? Don’t be a part of the statistics.

This blog is a part of a series of posts recognizing National Ladder Safety Month. For the first blog in the series, please click here.

Step Safely

Ladders are tools. Many of the basic safety rules that apply to most tools also apply to the safe use of a ladder. To avoid preventable injuries, keep the following safety tips provided by the American Ladder Institute in mind.

  • If you feel tired or dizzy, or are prone to losing your balance, stay off the ladder.
  • Do not use ladders in high winds or storms.
  • Wear clean slip-resistant shoes.  Shoes with leather soles are not appropriate for ladder use since they are not considered sufficiently slip resistant.
  • Before using a ladder, inspect it to confirm it is in good working condition.
  • Ladders with loose or missing parts must be rejected. Rickety ladders that sway or lean to the side must be rejected.
  • The ladder you select must be the right size for the job.
  • The Duty Rating of the ladder must be greater than the total weight of the climber, tools, supplies, and other objects placed upon the ladder. The length of the ladder must be sufficient so that the climber does not have to stand on the top rung or step.
  • When the ladder is set-up for use, it must be placed on firm level ground and without any type of slippery condition present at either the base or top support points.
  • Only one person at a time is permitted on a ladder unless the ladder is specifically designed for more than one climber (such as a Trestle Ladder).
  • Ladders must not be placed in front of closed doors that can open toward the ladder. The door must be blocked open, locked, or guarded.
  • Read the safety information labels on the ladder.
  • The on-product safety information is specific to the particular type of ladder on which it appears. The climber is not considered qualified or adequately trained to use the ladder until familiar with this information.

The Three Point-of-Contact Climb

Factors contributing to falls from ladders include haste, sudden movement, lack of attention, the condition of the ladder (worn or damaged), the user’s age or physical condition, and the user’s footwear.

Although the user’s weight or size typically does not increase the likelihood of a fall, improper climbing posture creates user clumsiness and may cause falls. Reduce your chances of falling during the climb by:

  • wearing slip-resistant shoes with heavy soles to prevent foot fatigue;
  • cleaning the soles of shoes to maximize traction;
  • using towlines, a tool belt or an assistant to convey materials so that the climbers hands are free when climbing;
  • climbing slowly and deliberately while avoiding sudden movements;
  • never attempting to move a ladder while standing on it;
  • keeping the center of your belt buckle (stomach) between the ladder side rails when climbing and while working. Do not overreach or lean while working so that you don’t fall off the ladder sideways or pull the ladder over sideways while standing on it.

When climbing a ladder, it is safest to utilize Three Points-of-Contact because it minimizes the chances of slipping and falling from the ladder.

At all times during ascent, descent, and working, the climber must face the ladder and have two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand in contact with the ladder steps, rungs and-or side rails. In this way, the climber is not likely to become unstable in the event one limb slips during the climb.

It is important to note that the climber must not carry any objects in either hand that can interfere with a firm grip on the ladder. Otherwise, Three Points-of-Contact with the ladder cannot be adequately maintained and the chance of falling is increased in the event a hand or foot slip occurs.

The easiest step you can take to ensure ladder safety in your workplace is to familiarize yourself with the American Ladder Institute’s simple steps towards safety and post it in your workplace. Click here to access the checklist.

The information on this page was provided by the American Ladder Institute. For more resources, click here

Posted in Benefits, Commercial, Risk management, Safety