House Republicans Release Legislation to Repeal and Replace the ACA

March 23, 2017 | Leave a Comment

On March 6, 2017, the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee each released budget reconciliation bills. These pieces of legislation are part of the House Republican’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), the legislation designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Though both bills must pass through the legislative process before becoming law, it is important to understand the potential changes to come if the legislation becomes effective. This article outlines the major changes proposed in the legislation:

  • Changes to the ACA
    The AHCA proposes to repeal both the individual and employer mandate penalties. It would also eliminate ACA-imposed taxes on over-the-counter medications, medical devices, prescription drugs and health insurance premiums.
  • Changes to Tax Credits
    The AHCA would repeal the ACA premium tax credits beginning in 2020 and replace them with a new age-adjusted, fixed-dollar refundable tax credit. The tax credit would be adjusted for inflation and be available only to people who are not eligible for employer- or government-sponsored health insurance. The AHCA would also repeal the ACA small business tax credit beginning in 2020.
  • Changes to Health Spending Accounts
    The AHCA would lower taxes on health savings account (HSA) distributions on nonqualified medical expenses to pre-ACA rates effective after Dec. 31, 2017, and allow both spouses to make catch-up contributions to one HSA beginning in 2018. The legislation would also repeal the contribution limits on flexible spending accounts (FSAs), effective for taxable years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017.
  • Changes to Health Insurance Markets
    The AHCA would repeal the cost-sharing subsidy program. It would also establish a continuous health insurance coverage incentive and the Patient and State Stability Fund, which is designed to lower patient costs and stabilize state markets.

The bills that make up the AHCA were primarily focused on what changes would be made to existing ACA rules. What will not change under the proposal?

  • Pre-existing Conditions
    The ACA mandate prohibiting insurers from denying or charging more for coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions would be preserved.
  • Coverage for Adult Children
    The AHCA would preserve the ACA’s rule allowing young adult dependents to remain on their parents’ plans until they are 26.
  • Cost-sharing Limits
    Out-of-pocket maximum limits imposed on non-grandfathered plans by the ACA would continue to apply. These limits are currently $7,150 for single and $14,300 for family coverage.
  • Annual and Lifetime Limits
    The AHCA would retain the prohibition on annual and lifetime limits on essential health benefits.

For more information, visit the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee websites.

Posted in Blog, Health Care Reform Info | Tagged  ,

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

Every Step Matters: Ladder Safety and How It Affects Everyone

March 07, 2017 | Leave a Comment

ladder safety month

Falls from portable ladders (including step, straight, combination, and extension) are consistently one of the top 10 leading causes of occupational fatalities and injuries, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

There are 2,000 ladder injuries every day and 364 deaths caused by falls each year. Whether you’re using a ladder at home or at work, these numbers affect you.

Presented by the American Ladder Institute, National Ladder Safety Month is the only movement dedicated exclusively to the promotion of ladder safety, at home and at work.

This is the first blog post in a series containing important information about ladder safety.

Choosing the Right Ladder

There are three things to consider when choosing the safest ladder to use for a job: material, length, and duty rating

  1. Material
    The material from which your ladder is constructed should depend on the worksite. If you are near live wires or sources of electricity, do not use an aluminum ladder. Aluminum is a conductor of electricity and you could be affected by any contact with wiring. Wood or fiberglass is a great, but heavier, alternative when there are electrical power sources in the work area.
  2. Length
    Ladder length is an important consideration because any ladder that is too long or too short is unsafe. If you need to stand on the top cap or the step of a step ladder or the top three rungs of an extension ladder, you need to use a taller ladder.

    On the other hand, a straight ladder is too long if the height of the ceiling prohibits the ladder from being set up at the proper angle. An extension ladder is too long if the ladder extends more than three feet beyond the upper support point because the portion of the ladder that extends above the upper support point can act like a lever and cause the base of the ladder to move or slide out.

  3. Weight
    The Duty Rating found on the specifications label of a ladder is an indication of the maximum weight capacity the ladder can safely carry. Do not assume that a longer ladder will have a higher weight capacity; there is no correlation between length and the amount of weight a ladder can safely hold.

    To figure out the total amount of weight your ladder will be supporting, add the weight of the person climbing the ladder, the weight of clothing and protective equipment, and the tools and supplies being carried or stored on the ladder.

OSHA has provided a quick guide to ladder safety that you can download to print and distribute. Click here to access the guide.

From step stools to extension ladders, make sure you’re putting the right foot forward this March during Ladder Safety Month.

Posted in Blog, OSHA, Risk management, Safety | Tagged  , , ,

St. Louis Minimum Wage Increase

March 03, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Minimum Wage

On March 1, the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the St. Louis City minimum wage increase, which was previously placed on hold in October 2015. 

This increase will gradually raise the minimum wage hourly rate for city employees from the state’s minimum wage to $10 in 2017 and $11.00 by 2018. Missouri’s minimum wage is currently $7.70 an hour.

According to St. Louis Major Francis Slay, businesses will be given a “reasonable grace period” to comply with the law. At this time, no specific timeline has been provided regarding when businesses will be required to comply with the new wage.  

Posted in Benefits

The DOL Overtime Rule: An Update

February 16, 2017 | Leave a Comment

blog- ben admin technology (2)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule is unlikely to come to fruition. The rule—which was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1, 2016—was delayed by federal court injunction on Nov. 22, 2016. In December, the DOL filed for an expedited appeal of the court injunction.

However, on Jan. 25, 2017, the DOL, which is now under the direction of President Donald Trump, requested a 30-day extension to file a brief in its appeal. Recent actions by the Trump administration suggest that it is unlikely that the overtime rule will ever become effective, even if the DOL is successful in its appeal.

For now, employers can rely on existing overtime exemption rules. Employers that have already made adjustments to comply with the new rule may find it difficult to reverse any changes.

For employers looking to roll back salary adjustments, carefully consider employee morale and the potential impact that rescinding promised changes will have on your company. The HR department can be a valuable resource for communicating any changes to employees.

Posted in Blog, Human Resources, Legislative Alerts

I-9 Forms: An Update in Compliance

February 01, 2017 | Leave a Comment

The I-9 is a federal Employment Eligibility Verification Form established in 1986, used to ensure all employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

All businesses must have an I-9 for all current employees. However, as with any rule, there are a few exceptions.

Who doesn’t need an I-9? 

  • Any employee hired on or before Nov. 6, 1986, who is still currently employed
  • Employees for casual domestic work in a private home (e.g., babysitters, kid who mows the lawn)
  • Independent contractors
  • Anyone not working on U.S. soil
  • Anyone providing labor who’s actually employed by a contract service (e.g., temp agency or employee leasing)

When to fill out the I-9?

Employers MAY NOT begin the I-9 process until the employee has accepted the job. If you send out documents to new hires before their first day, including emergency contact forms or training materials and policy information, you can include the I-9. Keep in mind that newly hired employees must complete and sign Section 1 of the I-9 form no later than their first day.

Who enforces the I-9?

Three federal agencies enforce the I-9: U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Customs & Boarder Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE). Failing to comply with I-9 verification requirements can be as much as $1,500 for each violation. A business with 50 employees could owe $75,000 in fines for not be in compliance. Click here for more information on the penalties of failing to comply with immigration law.

Tips for Auditing I-9s at Your Business

All employers should be using the updated I-9 form released in November 2016. We recommend keeping all I-9s in one place instead of in the individual employee personnel files. This way you can easily sort them and reference them when necessary.

If you go through our I-9 file and notice some information is out of date or missing, take the time to update the files. You can make edits to the information on the form by crossing out information and writing today’s date next to the edits (this is why the updated I-9 form has additional space for you to make changes).

To protect yourself and your business, it’s better to have something that shows you tried in good faith to update information.

For more information on the I-9 and a walk-through of how to fill out the new form, please click here to watch a webinar on the topic hosted by our Director of TotalHR, Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP.

Posted in Blog, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  , , ,

Reminder: Post OSHA 300A Summary by Feb. 1, 2017

January 25, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Certain Employers Subject to OSH Act Must Post Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses from February 1 – April 30

Employers subject to the recordkeeping requirements of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act are reminded to post the OSHA Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, from February 1 – April 30, 2017. The Form 300A lists the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred during the previous year and must be posted even if no work-related injuries or illnesses occurred during the year. It should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted so that employees are aware of the injuries and illnesses occurring in the workplace.

A company executive must certify that he or she has examined the OSHA 300 Log and that he or she reasonably believes—based on his or her knowledge of the process by which the information was recorded—that the annual summary is correct and complete.

From  Zenith Solution Center HR & Benefits Library. For more information go to www.osha.gov/recordkeeping

Posted in Blog, Legislative Alerts, Risk management

Congress Clears Path for ACA Repeal

January 18, 2017 | Leave a Comment

On Jan. 13, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget resolution for fiscal year 2017 to begin the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The budget resolution does not, itself, repeal the ACA. However, any bill drafted as a result of the resolution is likely to include a number of provisions to repeal, or replace, ACA provisions. This budget resolution is a nonbinding spending blueprint that is used to create federal budget legislation through a process called “reconciliation.” As a result, it does not need presidential approval, and does not become law.

House and Senate committees have targeted Jan. 27, 2017, as the deadline to draft a budget reconciliation bill following the budget resolution, although some have indicated that the process may take longer. Once drafted, a reconciliation bill can be passed by both houses with a simple majority vote. If legislation is passed in both the Senate and the House by at least a simple majority vote, it would then go to President-elect Donald Trump for approval.

sidebarACA Provisions That May Be Affected

Because this repeal is taking place as part of a budget reconciliation, Congress cannot repeal any ACA provisions that are not related to the federal budget (for example, the requirement to cover young adults to age 26 or the prohibition on pre-existing condition exclusions).

However, many of the ACA’s tax and spending provisions are likely to be affected. This may include a number of key ACA provisions, such as:

The individual mandate
The ACA’s individual mandate requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty. Because this provision is enforced as a tax, it is a key target for repeal through the budget reconciliation process.

The employer shared responsibility rules
The ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules require applicable large employers to offer an acceptable level of health coverage to full-time employees (and their dependents) or pay a penalty. This provision is also enforced as a tax, and therefore, is also a key target for repeal through the budget reconciliation process.

Federal Exchange subsidies for low-income individuals
The ACA created health insurance subsidies to help eligible individuals and families purchase health insurance through an Exchange. These subsidies have long been a target for opponents of the ACA, and are currently being challenged in federal court. Therefore, it is likely that the budget reconciliation bill will include provisions affecting these subsidies.

Looking Ahead

Despite Democratic opposition, Republicans have enough votes in both the Senate and the House to pass a budget reconciliation bill to repeal aspects of the ACA. In addition, Trump has vowed to approve legislation repealing the ACA.

Nevertheless, there is growing concern over the impact that a full or partial repeal of the ACA would have on the American public. Although Republicans have expressed an intent to enact a repeal and replacement simultaneously, members of both parties have concerns over whether that may be possible.

This ACA Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Please contact us with questions at cig@cornerstoneinsurancegroup.com.

© 2017 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Posted in Blog, Legislative Alerts | Tagged  

Cornerstone’s Director of Wellness Featured in Constructor Magazine

January 14, 2017 | Leave a Comment

whatswithwellness

Leah Hammel, Cornerstone’s director of wellness, was featured in the January/February issue of Constructor Magazine, discussing why wellness is important for businesses in the construction industry. From leading by example to knowing your audience, her wellness tips are useful for any industry interested in implementing an employee wellness program.

Click here to read the full article, on pages 20-23 in Constructor Magazine’s digital issue.

If you have plans to implement a workplace wellness program at your company, please contact Leah Hammel, director of wellness, at leahh@cornerstoneinsurancegroup.com. 

Posted in Benefits, Blog, Wellness | Tagged  ,

Creating a Workers’ Compensation Process

December 28, 2016 | Leave a Comment

dec blog workers comp process

For the unprepared, workers’ compensation issues can be both confusing and costly. Fortunately for employers, there are ways to actively engage WC issues to influence their outcomes.

Through management controls and active involvement in the WC process, your organization can effectively influence related costs. To do so you will have to establish a number of your own processes that guide decision making throughout your organization.

Areas requiring WC management can be divided into three main categories. These categories include facets that may range from the simple to the complex, but as a whole, address vital issues that can negatively influence WC costs in your company.

Workplace Safety Means Fewer Claims

Simply put, reducing claims reduces costs. Establishing a safety-minded culture throughout every level of your company is essential to keeping workers injury free. However, establishing such a culture isn’t an overnight solution. To be successful, an ongoing commitment to safety must be made. Such a commitment must be supported by management and given the necessary resources to succeed.

Developing comprehensive safety policies for employees builds a firm foundation for your safety culture to grow. Such policies also encourage OSHA compliance, further improving your safety efforts while helping you avoid costly fines.

Mitigate Loss After an Injury

Unfortunately, even with all the right programs in place, it is still possible for accidents to happen. When a workplace incident occurs how you respond can greatly influence the outcome of the claim. Prompt claim reporting is essential to keeping costs down. It is also important to have a designated injury management coordinator, someone who can supervise open claims and work with both employees and medical personnel to facilitate the timely recovery.

The longer an employee is out of work the more expensive their claim will be. Return-to-work programs that allow injured employees to come back to work at a limited capacity during the recovery process, are one of the most effective tools business owners have to reduce the severity of a claim.

Managing Your Mod

Insurers use what is known as an experience modification factor, or mod, to calculate the premiums you pay for workers’ compensation coverage. By managing your exposures and promoting safety it is possible to manage your mod and decrease your premium rates.

Like a good safety program, controlling your mod is an ongoing process. To reap the benefits of lower premiums you will have to keep in regular contact with your insurance provider to ensure they have the most accurate data to use in their calculations.

Posted in Blog, Commercial, Risk management, Safety | Tagged  , ,