Category: Benefits

Adapting to Changing Workforce Trends in a Post COVID-19 Environment

Coronavirus-19 forced us to time travel to a workforce that may have developed gradually over the next few decades but became the new norm almost overnight. We watched a rapid shift to virtual work and education as well. The recovery isn’t over, but businesses must continue to adapt to the changing workforce trends. 

Addressing Evolving Recovery Concerns

The workforce reacted and responded to the pandemic with unprecedented levels of flexibility, new partnerships and adaptability in just weeks. Businesses experienced rapidly evolving organizational priorities.

Given the severity, intensity and impact on both employees and business, the recovery for workforce strategies moving forward requires actions based upon informed and continuous reflection.

Reflection

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Small Business Index shows 65% of business owners were optimistic that the worst of the pandemic passed by mid-year 2021. But, employers’ are now reflecting on the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

The contagious virus is not necessarily the top concern for organizations looking forward. After almost a year and a half of quickly shifting and adapting to the situation, other issues like sustainability, navigating a hybrid work environment, and competing for talent are taking precedence.   

Employers are more vigilant than ever in reflecting on what has worked during the pandemic and which opportunities were missed. In reflecting upon the changing workforce, employers are bringing in the employees’ perspectives and concerns. 

Prioritize Human Resources

Looking forward, businesses are choosing different operational models and alternate resources to use dependent on the employer/employee situation. Businesses and employees are able to focus on addressing

  • Individuals or families contracting the Delta virus
  • Compliance with ever-changing laws and regulations
  • Job protection/reduced layoffs

These pressing business and workforce priorities pivot around human resource departments to address concerns regarding compliance for the safety and protection of their employees to increase productivity, so businesses can financially benefit. 

One of the major contributing factors to these concerns is financial stress and limited resources which affects employee productivity. A never-ending cycle of reflection on alternative options and prioritization is required to keep businesses moving in the right direction. It’s all cyclical. Cornerstone Insurance is here to help provide you with solutions and clear direction to create an exceptional HR team

Improving Employee Well-Being

Focusing on the physical, psychological, and financial concerns of your employees through employee well-being and benefits has a positive and significant impact on COVID-19 recovery. 

Flexibility

Employers need to recognize the diversity of workers’ individual expectations and support them in the transition to recovery, which includes being flexible. Workers may return to onsite work, but others may continue to work remotely. Some will adopt a hybrid approach.

Organizations need to help prepare employees with the skills and capabilities required for such a wide range of workforce approaches and practices to address a worker’s mental and emotional health.  

The evolving recovery will require a shift in focus to new priorities, new work routines and schedules. How organizations prepare and support their workforces will be a key driver to workforce performance and retaining talent. 

The Growing Importance of Benefits

Employers are challenged to attract and retain the workforce they need. Employee benefits can play a pivotal role because they provide protection and support when employees need it most. 

As we approach a new benefits enrollment period, now is the perfect time to reflect on what your employees utilize or require to address their concerns that could be impacting their productivity during this COVID-19 recovery period.

Custom Benefits Packages

Employers know  a benefits package that is customized to employees’ personal and household needs are: 

  • 18% more likely to be productive
  • 36% more likely to feel engaged
  • 37% more likely to feel resilient
  • 45% more likely to feel motivated
  • 54% more likely to feel valued/appreciated

Many employers can optimize their benefits strategy without significantly affecting the budget but reaping the tremendous impacts, and Cornerstone Insurance Group can help you find solutions

Clear Communication

Cornerstone values the importance of employee education of your benefits program. The value of traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement savings are well-known, but employees may need additional insights to help them recognize how other options can provide just as much support and enhance their financial security. 

Cornerstone Insurance can help you determine the best way to adopt an employee-centric approach to benefits as well as a clear communication strategy to help your employees reap the most from what you can and do offer. 

With a commitment to your team and your business, we can help you navigate the evolving recovery and to adapt to the continuous changes in workforce trends to emerge stronger than ever. 

Are you ready for your business to thrive on the “new normal?” Contact Cornerstone Insurance today with any questions or inquiries. We’re here to help.

Promote Healthy Eating in the Workplace

Healthy employees tend to be less stressed, more productive, and take fewer sick days. A key factor in employee health is nutrition which is why you want your employees to eat well. When employees eat healthier, they are fueling their brains and bodies.  

How to Get Started

The first thing you will need to do as an employer is to decipher your organization’s current understanding of health and eating practices. 

Create an Assessment

You can start with an assessment of the variety and types of foods and beverages your employees consume. These ‘food diaries’ can help you to understand the foundation of their diets which will help to illuminate where reasonable improvements can be made.

Some of your employees may lack information and education on how to eat in a way that supports their health; others may know how but lack the desire or support they need to follow through on that knowledge.

What people eat is ultimately their decision. Employers are in a unique position however to provide healthy options while their employees are at work and to provide resources for employees looking to expand their knowledge as it relates to diet. In order to make an educated decision, employees must understand the impact to themselves. Thus, education is a key element of any workplace wellness program.

How to Help Your Employees Be Healthier

Including educational tips on health and nutrition through informative newsletters is a great way to educate and remind employees to focus on their health. It also helps them to know that their employers are prioritizing the well-being of their employees.

When providing recommendations and tips remember this: rather than building the message around what not to eat, consider forming the basis of your recommendation around healthy options and the benefits they have. Recommendations should always be additive to their diets, not restrictive.

What is a Healthy Diet?

One type of diet that is rising in popularity right now is the flexitarian diet. It’s a flexible, plant-based diet but is based on the following principles: 

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains
  • Focus on protein from plants instead of animals
  • Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time 
  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods
  • Limit added sugar and sweets

Due to its flexible nature and focus on what to include rather than restrict, the Flexitarian diet is a popular choice for people looking to eat healthily and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Suggesting this type of eating style and including tips on the specific foods to eat and recipes to start with can help guide your employees in making healthy choices. 

What is Portion Control?

Choosing the right food isn’t everything. While portion control can be an off-putting term, it’s the key to enjoying a non-restrictive diet. There are no bad foods and everything can be quite literally – on the table – as long as people portion correctly.

Many have either an exaggerated or limited idea of what it means to choose a healthy amount of food. Teaching portion control that uses everyday items as examples of portion size equips people with the tools they need to indulge or limit themselves when choosing certain foods. 

As an example, a serving size of any animal protein is 3 oz which is no bigger than a deck of cards.

Portion control helps individuals get the benefits of the food: flavor, taste, and nutrients while limiting excessive calorie intake.

How Do Employees Benefit?

Losing weight is not always the goal. Ideally, your employees should be able to gain or maintain a healthy weight when being attentive to their diet but there are other major benefits as well. 

A majority plant-based diet can lead to increased heart health, reduced blood pressure and is proven to lower the risk of cancer and type 2 diabetes. The benefits of portion control include: 

  • Reduction in binging or stress eating
  • Improvement in digestive functions
  • Glucose/fat level balances
  • Increase in satiety level
  • Money savings   

How Does Healthy Eating Translate Into Work Performance

Having healthy employees may seem to impact the individuals themselves, but it actually has a huge impact on your business’s success. 

More Productive

Employees who eat nutritious foods benefit from improved cognitive functions which include better focus, concentration, memory, and creativity. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a lack of essential nutrients can cause fatigue and reduced immunity resulting in more illness. 

The foods employees eat will also have a direct effect on their moods and attitudes. Healthy balanced diets are associated with fewer incidences of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Encouraging a healthy diet will lead to more productive, energetic, and positive employees. 

Less Cost to Businesses

According to the CDC, workplace health programs can impact insurance costs. Employees with preventable health issues increase health care costs. Encouraging healthy habits keeps employees in the low-risk category while also supporting all employees to adopt good health practices.

How Cornerstone Can Help 

Cornerstone Insurance can help you help your employees implement healthy habits and choices to improve productivity and save on insurance costs. Cornerstone Insurance can help you launch a wellness program that caters to your employees for the benefit of your business.

Contact Cornerstone Insurance today for assistance in creating happier, healthier and more productive teams.

Why Simplifying Employee Benefits Information Is Important

Employee benefits can be complex, but if employees don’t fully understand their benefits packages, you may risk them not taking full advantage of what you’re offering. 

Take a look at how you can better communicate your employee benefits so that all parties involved can be successful. 

A Clear Communication Strategy Benefits You 

Did you know that, according to a recent report by Watson Wyatt Worldwide, more than 80% of employees respond positively to a benefits plan that’s been effectively communicated as opposed to less than 26% when it has not been effectively communicated? 

An effective communication plan that simplifies benefit information enhances the way your employee perceives their benefits plan and in turn, you. 

Here are some additional benefits:

Employees Feel Valued

Employees (especially those who are just entering the workforce) may not always understand the language that’s used in benefits explanations. For instance, with health insurance terminology, only 7% of individuals can define terms such as premium, deductible and coinsurance according to UnitedHealthCare. 

If benefits information is too complex, employees may skim over it or ignore it completely. Employees are more likely to pay attention and understand when you make the information relatable and personable. If the information is understood and emphasized, an employee will feel more valued within the company and appreciate the benefits you offer. 

Productivity Increases

Employees are more dedicated when they are valued, but they are also more productive when they are healthy and happy. If your employees understand their benefits package, they are more likely to take a proactive role in participating in the benefits to the fullest extent. And when they have access to health insurance or other perks that make their lives more satisfactory, they will likely be able to manage their health better — reducing unnecessary absenteeism due to illness. 

Easier to Acquire and Retain Talented Employees

When you’re hiring new employees, clearly explaining benefits can give you a competitive edge in obtaining and retaining the top employees.

If you have a communication strategy to simplify benefits information, candidates will understand the value of your benefits package which can be even more attractive than a higher salary. 

More Efficient Use of Your Resources

The value you present to employees with benefits, especially health insurance plans, can be monetarily equal to a raise in salary for them. This can, in turn, cost you less due to group rates and lower payroll taxes. Employers can avoid the hidden cost of paying extra payroll taxes on higher salaries by instead offering benefits that provide similar value to employees. 

How Cornerstone Helps Simplify Employee Benefits

When it comes to communicating employee benefits, the biggest hurdles for employers may include:

  • Reaching a diverse audience of employees
  • Budget and time commitment required
  • Complexity of information 

Cornerstone Insurance Group offers employee benefits administration that analyzes and uses data to create a custom benefits package for your employees as well as concrete methods for simplifying benefits information — methods that make sense for your particular organization, employees and goals.

Our goal is to not only create a comprehensive employee benefits package and communication strategy but also use the latest tools and technology to improve on the benefits experience by implementing an enrollment solution that helps employees make better decisions about their benefits. 

At Cornerstone, we use applications like Alex by Jellyvision and Nayya to simplify the benefits experience for your employees. These applications combine everything into one place for the employees which can drive value perception of the plan and encourage employees to be better stewards of their healthcare costs. 

We offer the opportunity to hold on-site company meetings to explain benefits, walk through and optimize wellness plans, talk about financial wellness and more to make sure your employees can make fully informed decisions about their benefit options. It’s important to both the employee and employer to provide easy-to-understand information.  

If you’re struggling to understand how to simplify benefit information for your employees or you are looking for a solution for providing employee benefits, reach out to Cornerstone Insurance Group because we’re here to help.

COBRA Subsidy 2021: What Should I Know?

It was recently announced that there would be a new 100-percent COBRA premium subsidy under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This coverage — which extends from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021 — has been the source of a lot of confusion.

If you’re an employer, here are some things you need to know about the COBRA subsidy.

Who is Covered By the COBRA Premium Subsidy?

The temporary 100 percent COBRA premium subsidies cover eligible current and former employees. These Assistance Eligible Individuals (AEIs) are COBRA-qualified beneficiaries who may be eligible because they experienced:

  • An involuntary job loss
  • A reduction in hours that made them eligible for COBRA

This includes both the employee and their dependents. These AEIs should also meet one or more of the following requirements:

  • Be enrolled in COBRA as of April 1, 2021, or
  • Became eligible for COBRA between April 1 and September 30, 2021, or
  • Would have been eligible for COBRA on April 1, 2021, but did not choose to be covered or dropped coverage altogether.

Some examples of group health plans (GHPs) that are not covered under this subsidy include:

  • Healthcare FSAs and HSAs
  • Church plans that aren’t subject to ERISA
  • Retiree-only plans

Nearly all qualified beneficiaries aged 65+ will not be eligible for the COBRA subsidy since they are eligible for Medicare, but more on that later. 

A Note On Involuntary Termination

One of the biggest questions since the COBRA subsidy was announced was what exactly is involuntary termination? For instance, if a teacher is employed under a one-year contract and that contract has finished, is it a voluntary or involuntary termination? 

While we wish there was a black and white answer, this is entirely situational (for instance, was the employee given the opportunity to renew their contract and they turned it down?). 

We recommend staying in close contact with your legal counsel to ensure you’re making the right decisions for your past and current employees. 

What is the Amount and Duration of the COBRA Subsidy?

Coverage for the COBRA subsidy is at 100 percent, is free and is not taxable to the AEI. The period is a maximum of six months, from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. 

The COBRA subsidy will end for the qualified beneficiary if any of the following situations occur: 

  • The individual is eligible for Medicare (first day of the month on or after)
  • The individual is eligible for other GHP coverage (first day of the month on or after)

There are penalties if an AEI fails to notify the appropriate parties about their eligibility for Medicare or other GHP coverage. 

How Do Individuals Validate Their COBRA Subsidy Status?

Employers are required to provide a notice to AEIs and their qualified beneficiaries of the COBRA premium subsidy and the ways in which they may qualify. Remember that the only qualifying event for being an AEI is to have either been involuntarily terminated or had a reduction of hours. 

If this is the case, your COBRA vendor will send eligible employees a second-chance election where they confirm they are eligible. At that point, employees will fill out a form and elect their free coverage.

If an employee or former employee is an AEI who prepaid for coverage during the six-month COBRA subsidy period, they will be refunded for those premiums. 

If you’re looking for more information, check out the Department of Labor’s COBRA Premium Assistance FAQ page. 

Need help navigating the COBRA subsidy or have other health plan questions? Cornerstone’s employee benefits team is here to help. Contact us today.

Pharmacy Benefit Managers: What Are They and How Can They Help?

Prescription drugs can be exceptionally costly, and prices continue to be on the rise. According to Bloomberg, Americans spend an average of $1,200 per person per year on prescription drugs — more than anyone else in the world. 

But there are ways you can help employees drive these costs down. One of those ways is leveraging a pharmacy benefit manager to control your healthcare spending and make your employee benefits more affordable.

What is a Pharmacy Benefit Manager?

Pharmacy benefit managers (or PBMs) are companies that can help manage your prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers, Medicare Part D drug plans, large employers and more. 

By mediating between insurers and other members of the healthcare industry, PBMs can help negotiate customer contracts to get the best rates, ultimately helping employees prioritize their wellness without unnecessary costs. 

How Can a Pharmacy Benefit Manager Help My Business?

At Cornerstone, our clients that are self-funded or have an interest in creating a solution to reduce their prescription drug spend may benefit greatly from working with pharmacy benefit managers. 

PBMs are “behind-the-scenes” negotiators to control drug spending and lower medication costs for your employees. Our clients often see 30 to 35% — often as high as 50% — of their claims costs coming from prescription drugs. An effective PBM and management program can be implemented to save your employees hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How Does Cornerstone Work With Pharmacy Benefit Managers?

As an employee benefits company, Cornerstone works with several PBMs directly to ensure the correct fit for our self-funded clients. We will personally “shop” for the right pharmacy benefit manager for your needs.

You may have lots of questions regarding prescription drug coverage, such as:

  • How are these prescriptions covered? 
  • How are rebates from the manufacturer handled?
  • How do you determine which drugs are eligible for the rebates?
  • What type of clinical management programs are used in conjunction with the prescription drug list to ensure the best fit and correct dosage?

By working with insurance consultants like Cornerstone, we can help you have these conversations — and more — with your PBM. We have access to the tools, knowledge, expertise and relationships to ensure our self-funded clients have the right PBM to keep them as competitive as possible while offering high-quality benefits to their employees.

Cornerstone’s benefits administration specialists also have the technology that can analyze your business’s healthcare claims to know exactly how your benefits are being used so you can rest assured we’re making the best-educated decision for our clients’ programs.

Data analytics continues to be an extremely effective tool for managing claims within a self-funded client and having an efficient PBM can continue to drive your costs down.

Healthcare and employee benefits administration can be complex. Let Cornerstone’s experts help your company find the best rates so your employees can stay happy and healthy. Get in touch today.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

UnitedHealthcare is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

UnitedHealthcare is providing its fully-insured small and large employer employers with a Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.

  • The enrollment opportunity will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 13, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.
  • Employers are not required to adopt the Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity. Because of this, no opt out action is required on their behalf. UnitedHealthcare realizes each situation is unique, and each customer must make their own decisions on the enrollment opportunity.
  • Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.
  • Standard waiting periods will be waived; however, existing eligibility and state guidelines will apply.
  • For small employers (2-50), a wage and tax statement will be needed to validate the employee’s eligibility.

 

Please note that if a group has more than one plan option, this Special Enrollment Opportunity does not allow current members to change plans.

UnitedHealthcare All Savers

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

United Healthcare All Savers is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

All Savers is providing its fully-insured small and large employer employers with a Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.

  • The enrollment opportunity will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 13, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.
  • Employers are not required to adopt the Special COVID-19 Enrollment Opportunity. Because of this, no opt out action is required on their behalf. UnitedHealthcare realizes each situation is unique, and each customer must make their own decisions on the enrollment opportunity.
  • Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.
  • Standard waiting periods will be waived; however, existing eligibility and state guidelines will apply.
  • For small employers (2-50), a wage and tax statement will be needed to validate the employee’s eligibility.

Please note that if a group has more than one plan option, this Special Enrollment Opportunity does not allow current members to change plans.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Cigna

Cigna

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

If an active, enrolled employee working 30 hours or more per week as of March 1 is furloughed or has hours reduced below normal full-time eligibility, Cigna will agree, at the request of the employer, to allow the employee to remain on the plan for the duration of the extended relief period as long as fee and premium payments are made.

These changes to eligibility would be available for all funding types – fully insured, partially self-funded and self-funded plans.

Clients must confirm that the employees who remain on the plan through the extended relief period were active and covered by the plan as of March 1, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

At this time, there has not been an announcement by Cigna regarding a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment opportunity.  We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Blue Cross of IL is temporarily (through April 30, 2020) relaxing its contractual eligibility requirements. From now through April 30, 2020, employers can maintain employees on their respective plans even though they may not meet the eligibility definition stated in their plan. This includes reduced work hours, furlough, leave of absence or layoff. This does not create a scenario whereby employees that previously waived coverage who now drop below minimum eligibility requirements can be added to the plan. This only pertains to employee’s enrollment in the plan as of March 20, 2020. Payments are still required on a timely basis. The employer does need to do anything related to these eligibility issues. No paperwork or email is needed. If a group wants to change their eligibility guidelines beyond April 30, 2020 then a new BPA would be needed for a May 1, 2020 or later effective date redefining the group’s eligibility.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Blue Cross Blue Shield of IL is offering groups an optional special enrollment period from March 30 – April 30, 2020 with an effective date of April 1, 2020. This would apply to eligible employees and their dependents who previously declined coverage and now want to enroll, or currently enrolled employees who wish to add an eligible spouse or dependent to their existing coverage.

Guidelines: Applicable enrollment changes must be received on or before Friday, May 2020. Effective date of coverage will be April 1, 2020. This enrollment event will be for medical/pharmacy and dental coverage only. Employers should notify their account representative if they plan to use this special enrollment option and use the standard eligibility process to add employees.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Anthem Blue Cross

Anthem Blue Cross

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Anthem Blue Cross is temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing its requirement that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that coverage must be offered on a uniform, nondiscriminatory basis to all employees, and employee premium contributions must be the same or less prior to the reduction in hours/layoffs.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Anthem Blue Cross is providing its fully-insured small and large employer customers with a Special Enrollment Period to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.  The enrollment period will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 3, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.  Employees are not required to participate in the Special Open Enrollment Period.  Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.

Anthem Blue Cross – MCF MEWA PLANS (Missouri Chamber Federation)

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

Anthem MEWA Plans are temporarily (through May 31, 2020) relaxing requirements that employees be actively working to be eligible for coverage and will allow employers to cover reduced hour employees, as well as furloughed and laid off employees, as long as the employer continues to pay the monthly premium.  Please note that coverage must be offered on a uniform, nondiscriminatory basis to all employees, and employee premium contributions must be the same or less prior to the reduction in hours/layoffs.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived for employees rehired by May 31, 2020.

Special Open Enrollment Period

Anthem MEWA Plans are providing its fully-insured small and large employer customers with a Special Enrollment Period to enroll employees who previously did not to enroll in coverage. The opportunity will be limited to those employees who previously did not elect coverage for themselves (spouses or children) or waived coverage.  The enrollment period will extend from March 23, 2020, to April 3, 2020, with an effective date of April 1, 2020.  Employees are not required to participate in the Special Open Enrollment Period.  Dependents, such as spouses and children, can be added if they are enrolled in the same coverage or benefit option as the employee.

COVID-19 Carrier Updates – Aetna

Aetna AFA (Groups with 2-50 Employees)

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs

If an active, enrolled employee working 30 hours or more per week is furloughed or has hours reduced below normal full-time eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aetna AFA will allow employers to allow the employee to remain on the plan for the duration of the extended relief period – through July 31, 2020.  This is allowed  as long as fee and premium payments are made, the employees are not terminated from the plan and the reduction in hours/la off is a temporary measure resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please note that employers must offer this coverage on a uniform, non-discriminatory basis, without regard to health status-related factors.

The rehire waiting period for re-hired employees who were terminated due to COVID-19 will be waived.

Special Open Enrollment Period

At this time, there has not been an announcement by Aetna AFA regarding a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment opportunity.  We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

Aetna – Fully Insured Plans and Large Groups

Eligibility Requirements – Reduced Hours/Layoffs and Special Open Enrollment Period

At this time, there has not been an announcement by Aetna Fully Insured Plans / Large Groups regarding relaxed eligibility requirements or a Special COVID-19 Open Enrollment opportunity.  We will continue to provide updates as they are received.

What Can Benefits Administration Technology Do For My Company?

Benefits administration is a necessary piece to running a company — but it can be both complex and expensive. There is a good chance you or your human resources team are looking for ways to simplify the benefits administration process and lighten the burden of everyday tasks. 

That’s where benefits administration technology comes in.

Benefits Administration Technology: An Overview

In the past, in order to administer company benefits to employees, companies would have to embark on a very manual process, with a higher risk of reporting errors and employee frustration. 

But with benefits administration technology, companies can implement a simpler, streamlined solution to manage their employee benefits. The tools can automate manual processes and provide a better employee experience.

How Benefits Administration Technology Can Help

Here are other ways in which these tools can help your business run more smoothly: 

Reduce HR’s Workload

By automating processes — such as creating a checklist that sends employees reminders to enroll — HR can spend less time tracking people and information down.

One of the biggest problems that it can solve for HR departments is related to compliance around benefit enrollment. It’s much simpler to look through a system to ensure all employees are compliant than it is to shuffle through papers to do so. 

Benefits administration systems also provide the ability for companies to manage eligibility and easily add, change or terminate employees with the insurance carriers — without having to deal with paper enrollment forms. 

More good news for HR teams: these systems can integrate with various payroll providers which reduces the need for additional information input. 

Better Employee Experience

These systems can incorporate artificial intelligence to help employees make decisions that are best suited to their needs. This boosts their perception of the company creating a happier more informed workforce.

From onboarding a new hire, conducting open enrollment virtually or running different initiatives that are important to your company, this technology can increase the overall efficiency of your office. Benefits administration technology provides a single source that houses all benefit information, can simplify processes and boost ROI on your healthcare spend. 

How Cornerstone Implements Benefits Administration Technology

While human resources departments can utilize this technology themselves, you can also work with a group like Cornerstone to implement the tool for you. We walk through your unique situation and evaluate what solution would be the best fit. These systems are customizable so clients receive what is valuable to their organization. 

Once the platform is chosen, we then take over all of the heavy lifting required to implement and roll this out to your employees. In most cases, we can bring a solution like this to you through our partnerships with various companies.

Interested in implementing benefits administration technology, or have any other questions? Feel free to contact the employee benefits experts at Cornerstone Insurance Group today.

Flu Shots: What You Need To Know

Considering the recent events in 2020, it should be more apparent that the seasonal flu is taken seriously. With the COVID-19 vaccine still in preproduction stages, numerous sources are citing it won’t be available until late in 2021. While we are taking more precautions than ever before due to COVID-19, we still need to keep the approaching flu season top of mind.

Protecting yourself against the flu is more important than ever. This fall there will be two respiratory viruses circulating making it possible to contract a double infection. The influenza vaccine can minimize at least one of the potential respiratory infections. If you were to get sick with influenza your body’s immune system is weakened making it more vulnerable to a possible coronavirus infection. Besides protecting yourself, you help prevent the spread of the virus to your family and those in the community who may not be able to get the vaccine.

By now, I’m sure you’ve seen the reports of people testing positive for COVID-19, without ever having any symptoms. The same thing is possible with the influenza virus, you can spread it without ever having symptoms of being sick. This is the reason healthcare professionals are required to get the flu vaccine every year, protecting themselves and the people around them.

Transmission

The main mode of transmission is by particles in the air and on contaminated surfaces, making washing your hands and using hand sanitizer important to stopping the spread of the flu virus. An infected person can spread the flu virus to an average of 1.3 other people. This number may be higher in families living together and those who are working in close proximity to each other. The virus can be transmitted one day prior to the infected person experiencing any symptoms and can continue to be contagious 5-7 days after the onset of symptoms. Individuals with compromised immune systems may remain contagious for several days longer than that.

Prevention

The most important step you can take to prevent getting and spreading the flu is getting vaccinated every year. Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often is are also important ways to reduce the transmission of the virus. Take care to help younger children wash and sanitize their hands often as well. The CDC estimates that over 20 million people each year will contract the flu, however, it is estimated that the flu shot will save around 40,000 lives each year. Even if you are young and healthy, the flu vaccine can prevent you from spending 2 long sick weeks in bed and can save the lives of those around you.

Flu Facts

  • The flu infects an estimated 20-40 million people a year in the US alone.
  • Of those infected, over 61,000 deaths occurred in the 2017-2018 flu season.
  • There were a reported 600,000+ flue related hospitalizations in the 2017-2018 flu season.
  • Each year the CDC watches trends and tracks the different strains or mutations of the virus to formulate the most effective vaccine for the current flu season.
  • The best time to get the flu shot is early on in the season and as it takes up to two weeks for your body to build up an immunity to the virus.
  • Once you have the flu, antibiotics will be useless to help with symptoms. Instead, use of antivirals should be taken under doctor supervision as early as possible for best results.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we need to take care of ourselves and those around us. Be mindful of those who are more vulnerable, or those who can’t get vaccinated due to underlying health issues. Getting vaccinated helps everyone in the long run. For more information on the flu shot, don’t forget to check out our webinar on flu shots.

Navigating Multiple Leaves of Absence Requirements

Navigating the different types of leave available for employees can quickly get confusing. FMLA, ADA, Company Leave, FFCRA, PTO, STD, LTD – it’s a sea of acronyms, each with their own set of rules and guidelines that often overlap or weave together. Keeping track of the various types of leave available can be challenging, but employers would be best suited to strategize which leaves may be applicable to them and develop policies around them. Because employees will inevitably need to take time off, employers need to have a basic knowledge of laws and policies that protect both the employee and protect the company.

Types of Leave

Generally, when looking at the wide variety of time the employee can take off, employers should understand that there are two main functions of defining leave: How does the employee receive pay and How long must the employer hold the employee’s job and/or benefits? Both of these items are very clearly defined in the federal FMLA regulations applicable to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Outside of the standard FMLA, employers are encouraged to have a company leave policy that defines these same benefits.

Where FMLA protects the employee for not only their own health condition but that of their immediate family member, the ADA may protect just the employee by providing a reasonable accommodation, which could include a short-term leave of absence. The ADA doesn’t require employers to hold the employee’s job or their benefits nor does it require continuation of pay. However, the employee may be eligible to use Short-Term or Long-Term Disability along with company Paid Time Off, Sick Time and or Vacation time during this absence.

Because these leaves can stack together, employers need to closely evaluate every situation to determine what different leave options may apply.

What to Do Now

Take a moment to review your current employee handbook to ensure that you have a clearly defined FMLA policy if applicable.  Even if you are subject to FMLA, all companies should also have a leave policy defined for those employees who are either not yet eligible for FMLA or where FMLA doesn’t apply.  In that company leave policy, the employer can define whether the leave is paid or unpaid and how long the employee is allowed to remain on the company benefit plan during leave.  Additionally, the employer can define how long they will hold the employee’s job during leave.  It is important to be consistent with these guidelines to prevent discriminatory practices.

Employee Benefits …”Can We Talk?”

Employee BenefitsThe late comedy legend Joan Rivers used the catchphrase “Can we talk?” in discussing various topics. She explained her use of the phrase, saying “I always try to be very honest. My humor is truly stripping everything. Bam!” she explained. She went on to describe her approach: “Let’s stop the nonsense.”

One area of Corporate America that could use a similar approach is the area of employee benefits. Insurance companies and consultants would like to talk trends, utilization, probabilities and the like. But what is missing from the conversation is the person. Not “employees,” but the individual person. How the person thinks, what he or she fears, how and what he or she will choose and why.

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Have You Considered a Self-Funded Approach?

Self-Funding for Health BenefitsSelf-funding has been used as a tool to maintain the cost of health-related employee benefits for many years.

Historically, this approach has been utilized by groups of 100 or more employees.

However, due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a new market is being created for smaller groups allowing them to take advantage of self-funding health care plans to save money and gain control over costs. As an employee benefits administration company, we’re here to help you understand the different approaches to health care.

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How to Launch a Wellness Program

How to Launch a Wellness Program

Approximately, 80% of the US population is in the workforce or linked through family relationships/retirement putting employers in a key role for health and wellness issues. People spend the majority of their week at the workplace, making the worksite and excellent place to conduct a wellness program. Launching a worksite wellness program doesn’t always mean spending large amounts of money by installing fitness facilities and hiring an on-site wellness coach. However, in order to launch a successful wellness program there are some key steps and planning required. Read More