Benefits Communication with Social Media

Whether it is promoting open enrollment, explaining plan changes or educating on how to use benefits, communicating benefits information to employees is a perennial challenge for employers. A fast-growing trend among leading companies is to include social media in their benefits communication strategy to extend their reach.

The benefits of social media
Social media provides potential solutions to some of employers’ toughest benefits communication challenges.

  • One difficulty employers have is reaching a diverse audience of employees. Social media helps companies expand their reach. Although some employees may still expect printed materials, many would prefer reading a post online or watching a video. Plus, considering the amount of personal time employees spend daily on social networks, it makes sense to target them there.
  • Budget can be another hurdle for benefits communication efforts and social media is a way for employers to do more with less.
  • Benefits information can be overwhelming and complex, making some employees more likely to skim over or ignore it. Using social media, such as posting videos to Facebook or tweeting reminders, makes benefits information more relatable and personable—and employees are more likely to pay attention and understand.
  • Benefits communication must encompass many topics. Employers need to promote open enrollment, educate employees about plan changes, explain how to use the plan, promote consumerism and more. Social media helps break down this overload of information into easy-to-digest posts and reminders—in a place employees are already spending time.
  • Posting updates year-round can provide valuable reminders to employees about using their benefits wisely.
  • Social media offers two-way communication, so employees can easily ask questions about their benefits or interact with other employees.

Getting started

To get started, think about how you want to use social media for this purpose. Facebook and Twitter are good places to start, as they are likely the most popular among your employee population.

Whichever platforms you choose, create separate accounts from your external company accounts. Consider using employee-facing accounts not only for benefits communication, but also for wellness and other internal communications.

To get off to a strong start, you need to promote your new social media efforts widely among your employees—your strategy won’t work if your employees don’t follow your online accounts. As you’re getting the message out, promote it in several areas. Add a tagline in email signatures, post links on your intranet, post announcements around the office, etc. Emphasize the benefits for employees, such as the following:

  • Timely benefit enrollment reminders
  • Easy-to-understand information on plan changes that simplify enrollment decisions
  • Plan utilization tips that help save time and money
  • Ability to ask questions about plan changes or benefit details
  • Quick access to information anytime that can be shared with spouses and families

Suggestions for content

There are innumerable ways your company can take advantage of social media to communicate your benefits. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Reminders about open enrollment deadlines
  • Short videos, blogs or posts explaining plan changes
  • Tweets or Facebook® posts about frequently asked questions or definitions
  • Health care and prescription money-saving tips (choose generics, only use ER for a true emergency, etc.)
  • Reminders about cost-free preventive care available to them
  • Tips on how to use a health plan (example: How to submit an FSA claim)
  • Retweet or link to relevant documents about consumerism or general benefits education
  • Education about voluntary benefits, such as long-term care or dental

Don’t forget to interact! Encourage employees to ask questions, and ask them to share their own experiences or tips for better plan use. And as with any social media initiative, be sure to reply if an employee contacts you or asks a question—engagement is a vital component of social sites.

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Donating to Disasters and Avoiding Scams

Hurricane Harvey is the strongest storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004. News of the damage it has caused to southeastern Texas is prompting people to help in whatever ways they can. Unfortunately, there are dishonest people who prey upon people’s good intentions, creating fake charity campaigns to exploit victims and take advantage of those who want to help.

How to Avoid Scams

Despite the sense of urgency to help when disaster strikes, it is important to do some research before donating. Consider the following best practices to ensure that your resources go to a legitimate charity with experience in disaster relief:

  • Never wire money to someone who claims to be a charity. Legitimate charities do not ask for wire transfers. Once you wire the money, you’ll probably never get it back.
  • Be cautious about bloggers and social media posts that provide charity suggestions. Don’t assume that the person recommending the charity has fully researched the organization’s credibility.
  • Only donate through a charity’s official website, never through emails. Scammers have a knack for creating fake email accounts that seem legitimate.
  • Ensure that the charity explains on its website how your money will be used.
  • Be wary of charities that claim to give 100 percent of donations to victims. That is often a false claim, as well-structured organizations need to use some of their donations to cover administrative costs.
  • Never offer unnecessary personal information, such as your Social Security number or a copy of your driver’s license. However, it is common for legitimate charities to ask for your mailing address, and it is safe for you to provide it.

How to Choose a Charity

Even legitimate charities need to be considered with care. The Federal Trade Commission suggests avoiding new charities because, despite their legitimacy, they may not have the resources needed to get your money to its intended recipients.

Donors looking for a worthy charity can access an unbiased, objective list on a website called Charity Navigator. The site receives a Form 990 for all of its charities directly from the IRS, so it knows exactly how the charities spend their money and use their donations. It also rates charities based on their location, tax status, length of operation, accountability, transparency and public support.

Gaining popularity for charitable donations is a crowd funding website called GoFundMe, which allows people to raise money for a wide variety of circumstances. Despite its popularity, visitors to the site should be cautious about the campaigns to which they donate. Visitors can report suspicious campaigns directly to GoFundMe via its official website or to their state’s consumer protection hotline.

National Organizations

The following national organizations have long-standing reputations for providing disaster relief and accepting donations:

  • The American Red Cross provides shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to people affected by disasters.
  • AmeriCares takes medicine and supplies to survivors.
  • Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts that include direct assistance, rebuilding and health care services.
  • The Salvation Army provides shelter and emergency services to displaced individuals.

Remember that there are other ways to provide disaster relief that don’t involve monetary donations, especially if you live near the affected area. Local food banks and blood centers commonly ask for donations during relief efforts.

 

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2018 Open Enrollment Checklist

To prepare for open enrollment, group health plan sponsors should be aware of the legal changes affecting the design and administration of their plans for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2018. Employers should review their plan documents to confirm that they include these required changes.

In addition, any changes to a health plan’s benefits for the 2018 plan year should be communicated to plan participants through an updated summary plan description (SPD) or a summary of material modifications (SMM).

Health plan sponsors should also confirm that their open enrollment materials contain certain required participant notices, when applicable—for example, the summary of benefits and coverage (SBC). There are also some participant notices that must be provided annually or upon initial enrollment. To minimize costs and streamline administration, employers should consider including these notices in their open enrollment materials.

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Antique & Classic Car Insurance

Since you have purchased a classic or antique vehicle, you’ll want to insure it properly, as it is an investment.

Coverage Inclusions

A typical classic car insurance policy includes the following:

  • Agreed value coverage: Pays for the car’s full-insured value with no depreciation in the event of a total loss, less your deductible.
  • Inflation guard: To compensate for how classic cars increase in value over time, the policy increases the vehicle’s value quarterly.
  • Spare parts coverage
  • Flexible usage: Ability to drive the vehicle up to 2,500 or 5,000 miles annually. Not limited to “parades only.”

Additional Coverage Options

You can also purchase these additional coverage options for more specific protection:

  • Emergency towing in case of a breakdown.
  • Roadside assistance for items such as a flat tire, dead battery or running out of gas.
  • Emergency lockout
  • Lost key return
  • Emergency travel expenses in case your classic vehicle breaks down while away from home.
  • Car show expenses: Policy will pay for expenses associated with missing a car show due to a breakdown.
  • Theft reward
  • Personal effects: Policy will reimburse you for items that are vandalized or stolen when reported to police.

Live in the past while protecting your vehicle for the future! Contact Lovitt & Touché, Inc today at mailto:lhaas@lovitt-touche.com to learn more about all of our insurance solutions for your automobile needs.

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DHS Issues Electronic Device Ban for Certain U.S. Inbound Flights

On March 21, 2017, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a directive that bans carrying any electronic device larger than a cellular or smartphone into an airplane cabin in U.S. inbound flights that originate from certain countries. Affected devices include laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, portable DVD players, electronic game units (larger than a phone), and travel printers and scanners.

The ban affects only flights from 10 international airports in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Domestic U.S. flights and flights departing the United States are not affected.

Airlines are expected to comply with this directive by March 25, 2017. The directive will remain in force indefinitely, until the threat currently perceived by DHS diminishes.

Impact on Employers

  • Employers should review their travel procedures to evaluate whether their personnel may be affected by this directive.
  • Employers should ensure that affected employees are aware of the directive so they can plan ahead with respect to electronic devices (such as checking luggage).

The Electronic Device Ban

The ban requires affected passengers to check affected electronic devices with their luggage. This means that affected passengers will not be able to carry affected devices with them into the cabin or simply store them in their carry-on luggage. DHS explained that the directive was issued to prevent possible terrorists from smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items.

More Information

Please visit the DHS website or consult the corresponding FAQs for more information regarding this directive.

 

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Future of Certain ACA Taxes & Fees

Several steps have been taken in 2017 toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the introduction of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Although the AHCA was withdrawn by Republicans, Congress may choose to pursue another ACA repeal and replacement bill in the future.

While the future of the ACA as a whole is currently unclear, some definitive changes have been made to some ACA taxes and fees for 2017.

  • Implementation of the Cadillac tax on high-cost group health coverage was delayed for two years, until 2020.
  • A moratorium applies for 2017 on the health insurance providers fee and the medical device excise tax.
  • The reinsurance fee expired after 2016.

ACTION STEPS

Employers should be aware of the evolving applicability of existing ACA taxes and fees so that they know how the ACA affects their bottom lines. Lovitt & Touché, Inc will continue to keep you informed of changes.

Overview

A federal budget bill enacted for 2016 made the following significant changes to three ACA tax provisions:

  • Delayed implementation of the ACA’s Cadillac tax for two years, until 2020;
  • Imposed a one-year moratorium on the ACA’s health insurance providers fee for 2017; and
  • Imposed a two-year moratorium on the ACA’s medical device excise tax for 2016 and 2017.

In addition, the ACA’s reinsurance fee expired after 2016, although the 2016 fees will be paid in 2017.

Failure of the AHCA

On March 24, 2017, Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the AHCA—their proposed legislation to repeal and replace the ACA. A House vote was scheduled to take place on that day, but House Republicans could not secure enough votes to approve the legislation and, instead, canceled the vote. As a result, the ACA will remain in place at this time.

Because the House was unable to pass the AHCA, the ACA remains current law, and employers must continue to comply with all applicable ACA provisions. Both President Donald Trump and House Republican leadership have stated that they now intend to focus on other issues. Despite this, Congress may choose to pursue their own ACA repeal and replacement in the future.

Cadillac Tax Delayed

The ACA imposes a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost group health coverage, also known as the “Cadillac tax.” This provision taxes the amount, if any, by which the monthly cost of an employee’s applicable employer-sponsored health coverage exceeds the annual limitation (called the employee’s excess benefit). The tax amount for each employee’s coverage will be calculated by the employer and paid by the coverage provider who provided the coverage.

Although originally intended to take effect in 2013, the Cadillac tax was immediately delayed until 2018 following the ACA’s enactment. The 2016 federal budget further delayed implementation of this tax for an additional two years, until 2020. The 2016 federal budget bill also:

  • Removed a provision prohibiting the Cadillac tax from being deducted as a business expense; and
  • Required a study to be conducted on the age and gender adjustment to the annual limit.

There is some indication that this additional delay will lead to an eventual repeal of the Cadillac tax provision altogether. Over the past several years, a number of bills have been introduced into Congress to repeal this tax. Although President Trump has not directly indicated that he intends to repeal the Cadillac tax, he has stated that repealing and replacing the ACA is a main goal for his administration.

The AHCA would have delayed the Cadillac tax’s effective date even further, so that it would have applied only for taxable periods beginning after Dec. 31, 2025. However, the AHCA was withdrawn before the House vote.

Moratorium on the Providers Fee

Beginning in 2014, the ACA imposed an annual, nondeductible fee on the health insurance sector, allocated across the industry according to market share. This health insurance providers fee, which is treated as an excise tax, is required to be paid by Sept. 30 of each calendar year. The first fees were due Sept. 30, 2014.

The 2016 federal budget suspended collection of the health insurance providers fee for the 2017 calendar year. Thus, health insurance issuers are not required to pay these fees for 2017. Employers are not directly subject to the health insurance providers fee. However, in many cases, providers of insured plans have been passing the cost of the fee on to the employers sponsoring the coverage. As a result, this one-year moratorium may result in significant savings for some employers on their health insurance rates.

Moratorium on the Medical Devices Tax

The ACA also imposes a 2.3 percent excise tax on the sales price of certain medical devices, effective beginning in 2013. Generally, the manufacturer or importer of a taxable medical device is responsible for reporting and paying this tax to the IRS.

The 2016 federal budget suspended collection of the medical devices tax for two years, in 2016 and 2017. As a result, this tax does not apply to sales made between Jan. 1, 2016, and Dec. 31, 2017.

Reinsurance Fees

Under the ACA, health insurance issuers and self-funded group health plans must also pay fees to support a transitional reinsurance program for the first three years of Exchange operation (2014-16) to help stabilize premiums for individual market coverage. Fully insured plan sponsors do not have to pay the fee directly.

Because the transitional reinsurance program was operational only through 2016, reinsurance fees do not apply for 2017 and beyond (although the 2016 fees will be paid in 2017). Reinsurance fees may be paid in either one lump sum or in two installments. For the 2016 benefit year, reinsurance fees are due as follows:

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In Touch Newsletter – March 2017

Welcome to the latest edition of the Lovitt & Touché newsletter.

LVT15_3812_Newsletter_Social_Graphic-MonthlyNews

In this edition:

Wellness Corner:

 

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