Like many other sectors of the economy, the commercial insurance industry is experiencing changes to both its market cycles and its operating procedures. In particular, 2020 brought an acceleration of a hardening insurance marketplace—one that is less friendly to insurance buyers—which is now nearly two years old. Capacity has left the market, reinsurance has become more expensive, underwriting has gotten stricter and, most importantly, premiums are on the rise for nearly every line of insurance.
In any economic climate, it is of the utmost importance to partner with an insurance broker who has the experience and resources to suggest ways to mitigate risk. Implementing effective long-term risk management strategies can help businesses become more desirable to insurance companies in a difficult market and sometimes even assist in negotiating better coverage terms and pricing. At Crane Agency, we understand our clients’ needs because our organization was built by business owners and families just like you. We can help you prepare for uncertainty by suggesting the types of insurance products and services to help support your commercial and personal needs. For more information, please contact your Crane Agency Broker, or call us today.
Effective May 18th, St. Louis City and St. Louis County, in coordination with the Economic Development Partnership, will begin navigating toward the re-opening of our community. Here you will find their most current guidance for businesses and individuals as of May 12th, 2020. As always, for the most recent developments and updates please visit the following:
“The information we’re providing today will help Medicare-eligible Americans make key decisions regarding their healthcare coverage,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “As many individuals face economic hardship related to coronavirus, the Department will continue to inform workers and help them avoid incurring unnecessary health costs.” Scalia added, “This change was prompted by a letter from members of Congress –Representatives Kevin Brady, Virginia Foxx, Richard Neal, Frank Pallone, Bobby Scott, and Greg Walden. We thank them for their attention to the issue.”
In general, COBRA allows employees (and their families) who would otherwise lose their group health coverage due to certain life events to continue their same group health coverage. These events include termination or reduction in hours, death of a covered employee, divorce or legal separation, Medicare entitlement and loss of dependent status. COBRA generally lasts for 18 months but, in some cases, can last up to 36 months.
Under COBRA, group health plans must also provide covered employees and their families with certain notices explaining their COBRA rights. The revised model notices provide additional information to address COBRA’s interaction with Medicare. The model notices explain that there may be advantages to enrolling in Medicare before, or instead of, electing COBRA. It also highlights that if an individual is eligible for both COBRA and Medicare, electing COBRA coverage may impact enrollment into Medicare as well as certain out-of-pocket costs.
These documents will provide important information to COBRA-eligible individuals as they make healthcare choices for themselves and their families while assisting employers that must comply with the notice requirements under COBRA.
EBSA’s mission is to assure the security of the retirement, health, and other workplace-related benefits of America’s workers and their families. EBSA accomplishes this by developing effective regulations; assisting and educating workers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and service providers; and vigorously enforcing the law.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
As you may know, a new federal law expands how members can use their Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs – Member Pay), and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). We have attached a brochure prepared by Anthem outlining these changes, but please know this information applies to any carrier. As an employer, you don’t need to do anything to make this change effective. Here are the highlights:
Members can now use these accounts to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) medicines that had previously required a prescription. They can also use the accounts to purchase menstrual products.This will help them save on health care costs because the funds in these accounts are pre-tax.
For now, members may need to pay for these items out of their pockets and file claims for reimbursement.They’ll need to keep their receipts for these purchases. All eligible purchases they make after December 31, 2019, qualify.
They’ll be able to use their debit cards soon. Retailers are updating their systems to accept the cards for newly-approved items. Some stores may be ready now for OTC medicines and by May 15 for menstrual products. Others may need several weeks for the update.
Other updates you will find in our most recent edition of the Crane Agency Benefits Info Newsletter include our Employer’s Guide to COVID-19, COVID-19 scenarios related to available benefits, Reopening a Business After the Shutdown, Guidance from EEOC on ADA, Preventing Remote Employee Burnout, and the Form 5500 Deadline Extension just to name a few.
For additional COVID-19 related resources, please visit our Coronavirus Preparedness Resources (COVID-19) page. As always, if we can be of service in any way, please do not hesitate to contact your Crane Agency Broker Team. Until next time, stay safe and be well.
The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has received numerous questions in the last few weeks regarding COVID-19 and the impact it may have on the workers’ compensation industry. This FAQ speaks specifically to recent changes related to furloughed and reassigned workers.
What can a business owner expect when workers are furloughed but still being paid?
The NCCI has proposed a new classification code – 0012. This code will apply to payroll for workers who have been laid off (furloughed) from their jobs but are still being paid. This is a change from the existing NCCI rule concerning “idle time,” which requires payroll to be included in the employee’s usual classification.
This new 0012 classification would not be included in the premium calculation (effectively a $0.00 rate), but the employer would be required to track this payroll in their accounting records as a separate item. The percentage allocation of payroll would not be allowed. Consult your Crane Agency Broker if you are paying employees who are not working to determine if your current policy can be adjusted now, or if the new classification will be applied during the audit process at the end of the policy term.
My business has limited operations due to COVID-19. As a result, employee job assignments and duties have been changed. Does this affect how my payroll is classified on my current policy?
The answer to this question is, “it depends” on the specific circumstances. The first thing to remember is that it is the overall nature of the business’s operations that are classified, not the activities of individual employees (unless they are in one of the standard exceptions such as clerical, outside sales or drivers, etc.) Therefore, it may be that the new duties are still within the scope of the original policy’s classifications.
If the business operations have changed substantially, then a new classification may apply. For example, if your business is making beer, but you are now making a hand sanitizer, that may require a new classification. The new classification would be effective on the date the change in operations was made. Your Crane broker can assist in determining if a new classification is needed.
Remember that it is the employer’s obligation to maintain payroll records in a manner that accurately tracks payroll for the different classifications.
Many of our employees are now working remotely from their homes. Does this result in a change of classification?
As with many aspects of the unique situation caused by COVID-19, the answer again is, “it depends.” Clerical employees who are now performing their duties from home might be switched from class code 8810 “Clerical” to class code 8871 “Clerical Telecommuter.” Other employees, such as drivers or outside salespeople, would remain in their existing classification, as would construction workers or repair service employees.
Note that if an employee’s residence is in a different state from their usual work location, the employer will want to add that state to section 3.A. of their workers’ compensation declarations page if it is not already shown in the policy declarations.
As with any rapidly changing topic, please visit the NCCI website for current guidance and the most recent updates related to COVID-19. If you should have questions about your specific policy, please contact your Crane Agency Broker Unit to discuss the options available for your business.
U.S. Department of Labor Considers Employer’s Good Faith Efforts When Enforcing Compliance During Coronavirus Pandemic
WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued opens in a new windowinterim guidance to advise compliance safety and health officers to evaluate an employer’s good faith efforts to comply with safety and health standards during the coronavirus pandemic.
Current infection control practices may limit the availability of employees, consultants, or contractors who normally provide training, auditing, equipment inspections, testing, and other essential safety and industrial hygiene services. Business closures and other restrictions may also preclude employee participation in training if trainers are unavailable and access to medical testing facilities may be limited or suspended.
During an inspection, compliance safety and health officers should assess an employer’s efforts to comply with standards that require annual or recurring audits, reviews, training or assessments. Officers should evaluate if the employer:
Explored all options to comply with applicable standards (e.g., use of virtual training or remote communication strategies);
Implemented interim alternative protections, such as engineering or administrative controls; and
Rescheduled required annual activity as soon as possible.
Employers unable to comply with OSHA requirements because local authorities required the workplace to close should demonstrate a good faith attempt to meet applicable requirements as soon as possible following the re-opening of the workplace.
OSHA will take employers’ attempts to comply in good faith into strong consideration when determining whether it cites a violation. The agency may issue a citation if it finds an employer cannot demonstrate any efforts to comply. To ensure corrective actions employers have taken once normal activities resume, OSHA will develop a program to conduct monitoring inspections from a randomized sampling of cases where the agency noted, but did not cite, violations.
This guidance takes effect immediately, and remains in effect until further notice. It is time-limited interim guidance in effect due to the current public health crisis. Visit OSHA’s opens in a new windowCOVID-19 webpage frequently for updates.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and providing training, education, and assistance. For more information, visit opens in a new windowwww.osha.gov.
The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.
For more information, please contact your Crane Agency Broker Unit.
To help our clients stay informed, Crane Agency has created a Coronavirus Preparedness Resources page to answer your most frequently asked questions. Many of our carriers have also made a variety of COVID-19 Resources available to assist clients during these uncertain times. We have included links to their websites below:
Please visit our blog for the latest Crane Agency updates, FAQs, and additional information related to COVID-19. We have also provided many additional resources below. For specific questions about your account, please contact your Crane Agency Broker Team.
What you need to know: Take steps to care for yourself and help protect others in your home and community.
– Anyone can have mild to severe symptoms. – Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.
Watch for Symptoms: People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposureto the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
-Fever or chills -Cough -Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing -Fatigue -Muscle or body aches -Headache -New loss of taste or smell -Sore throat -Congestion or runny nose -Nausea or vomiting -Diarrhea
Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you. Everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat by following the CDC’s most recent recommendations on opens in a new windowHow to Protect Yourself & Others.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect on April 1, 2020, and provides eligible workers with paid leave for reasons related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Covered employers should post notice of the FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. A copy of the notification is linked below, along with a link to the US Department of Labor website, which provides additional guidance on paid leave requirements related to COVID-19. We have also provided an FFCRA Compliance Bulletin, which includes frequently asked questions issued by the DOL to assist employers and employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA, as well as a resource on the US Chamber website that outlines what businesses need to know.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes two new significant paid leave laws: (1) the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act, and (2) the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. Both statutes address absences from work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both provisions are effective April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.
Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA) This act creates a new form of FMLA leave covering up to 12 weeks of an eligible employee’s inability to work or telework “due to a need for leave to care for the son or daughter under 18 years of age of such employee if the school or place of care has been closed, or the child care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to a public health emergency.”
Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) Employees covered under the EPSLA are entitled to paid leave for several different types of absences related to the COVID-19 pandemic: – Is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19 – Has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19 – Is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis – caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2) – Is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons – Is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Due to the speed at which these laws were enacted, the US Department of Labor has created a Q&A page to address questions and provide additional guidance:
With a massive $2 trillion allocated for businesses, individuals, federal agencies, and state and local governments, the CARES Act is designed to distribute capital quickly and broadly. Below you will find links to additional information, along with a few attachments, that may help covered businesses access the additional resources available through the recently passed stimulus package:
Monthly Wellness Newsletter and Benefits Info Updates:
opens in a new windowJanuary 2021 – Crane Agency Wellness Newsletter, Benefit News & Compliance Updates This month’s Crane Benefits Newsletter includes a number of updates including Reminders of the Importance of Focusing on Employee Mental Health, FAQ from Final Rule on Tip Regulations, COVID-19 Vaccine Coverage, an Attraction and Retention Newsletter, and Highlights of the Stimulus Bill including Special Rules for FSA’s. The FSA rules are very important to pay attention to as the Act provides temporary special rules for health and dependent care FSA’s that would give employees additional time to use these funds.
opens in a new window12/21/2020 – Emergency Stimulus Package Update On Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, Congress passed an emergency stimulus package designed to deliver approximately $900 billion in COVID-19-related aid. Notably, the bill provides funding for unemployment benefits, small businesses, direct economic payments to individuals, vaccine distribution and rental assistance. This article provides an overview of what is included within the emergency relief bill.
opens in a new window08.11.2020 – Pandemic Relief Update On Aug. 8, 2020, President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order and three memorandums to address pandemic relief in response to the ongoing impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. After ongoing negotiations for a relief package between the White House and lawmakers collapsed, the executive actions extend pandemic unemployment benefits, student loan payment deferrals, eviction protections for renters, and payroll tax cuts. The linked News Brief explains further.
opens in a new window06.04.2020 – Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 Congress has passed the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020, which is a bill that provides borrowers with greater flexibility in spending Paycheck Protection Program funds without compromising forgiveness eligibility. The bill has been sent to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it into law. This In the Know article provides an overview of the bill.
opens in a new windowJune 2020 – Crane Agency Wellness Newsletter, Benefit News & Compliance Updates Updates include Common Employment Practices Claims Arising Out of COVID-19, Guidance for handling the influx of remote work requests as offices and work sites reopen, HSA/HDHP Limits Increase for 2021, Guidance for creating and maintaining a strong company culture in the remote workplace, COVID-19 Guidance for Section 125 Mid-year Election Change Rules, Exploring options to help employees manage their chronic conditions during these uncertain times, an Employee Welcome Back Packet (which requires customization on your end to make this specific to your situation/company) & a Welcome Back to Work letter. We have also included our June Wellness Newsletter, HR Brief & Benefits Buzz.
opens in a new window05.11.2020 – DOL Issues Emergency Extensions to Cobra On May 7, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued additional answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how employers should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) during the coronavirus / COVID-19 pandemic. The additional FAQs were added to guidance that the EEOC originally issued on March 18, 2020, and updated on April 9, 17, and 23, 2020. The attached HR Compliance Bulletin contains the EEOC’s FAQs. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, employees may have questions about their dependent care benefits, including whether they can make changes to their pre-tax contributions. The attached Compliance Bulletin highlights key legal rules for dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs) and summarizes how the rules apply to employees impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.
On May 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor issued new model notices that group health plans may use to use to comply with COBRA notification requirements. Use of the models is not mandatory but considered to be good-faith compliance with COBRA’s content requirements. As explained in a set of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) the DOL also issued on May 1, 2020, the updated model notices aim to help qualified beneficiaries better understand the interactions between Medicare and COBRA. The notices can be found here: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/cobra
Other updates include our Sample Return to Work Action Plan Discussion Guide, Post-Coronavirus Workplace Preparedness Checklist, Post-Coronavirus Workplace Preparedness Checklist, our HR Toolkit focused on Onboarding Remote Employees & a Guide to Creating a Return to Work Action Plan.
04.22.2020 – Benefits Accounts & High Deductible Health Plans
Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts If you have an HSA or FSA, you can now purchase over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and medications without the need for a prescription. Feminine hygiene products have also been deemed qualified medical expenses and can be purchased with both HSA and FSA funds. Both are permanent changes to the eligible expenses list and include retroactive purchases made after 12/31/2019. Retailers are updating their systems so you may need to pay out-of-pocket for these expenses and file claims for reimbursement so please keep your receipts.
HDHP (HSA Medical) The IRS announced (Notice 2020-15) that High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) can cover the cost of testing and treating of COVID-19 before participants have met their deductible without losing the plan’s status as an HDHP. This means individuals enrolled in an HSA that covers the cost of COVID-19 related expenses will remain eligible to make tax-advantaged contributions to their Health Savings Account (HSA).
Where can I find guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19?
Where can I find additional information on Health & Safety Topics related to COVID-19?
National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI)
opens in a new windowImpact of COVID-19 on Workers’ Compensation Insurance (Video) NCCI and the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) held a live webinar on the impact of COVID-19 and workers compensation. Experts discussed top-of-mind issues and reviewed important tools and resources that support informed decision-making for the industry. View the video below to see highlights from the webinar.
Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
Ensure that your sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies.
Talk with companies that provide your business with temporary employees about the importance of sick employees staying home and encourage them to develop non-punitive leave policies.
Do not require a healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. Employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members than is usual.
Separate sick employees
CDC recommends that employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees
Provide tissues and no-touch disposal receptacles for use by employees.
Instruct employees to clean their hands often with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60-95% alcohol, or wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Soap and water should be used preferentially if hands are visibly dirty.
Provide soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs in the workplace. Ensure that adequate supplies are maintained. Place hand rubs in multiple locations or in conference rooms to encourage hand hygiene.
Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs. Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label.
No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended at this time. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (for example, doorknobs, keyboards, remote controls, desks) can be wiped down by employees before each use.
Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps
Ensure employees who become sick while traveling or on temporary assignment understand that they should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
If outside the United States, sick employees should follow your company’s policy for obtaining medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19
If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers should inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for opens in a new windowhow to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
If you need help understanding the 2 Trillion Dollar Stimulus Package, you are not alone. In this update we have included a document that provides an overview of the package, which is designed to provide financial assistance for those struggling as a result of the coronavirus (COVD-19) outbreak. Another attachment contains answers to questions employees may have about those payments.
COVID-19 has caused many employers across the country to make significant changes to their standard procedures, including shifting their employees from working at the office to working from home. We have prepared a guide to serve as an introduction to managing remote employees which includes best practices for keeping employees engaged. It should be used for informational purposes only and not be considered as legal advice. You will also find a Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) Poster. Applicable employers should post and/or send employees electronically no later than April 2nd.
Finally, carriers continue to schedule webinars and FAQ’s as they attempt to keep us all posted on changes as a result of COVID-19. Here are a few you may consider:
We have included the schedule below for the next round of COVID-19 Update Briefings for UnitedHealthcare brokers, consultants and customers. Due to the fluidity of this situation, replays are not available for the external calls. UnitedHealthcare is committed to keeping its brokers, consultants, and employers informed, and they encourage attendance to the live weekly calls., which are scheduled as follows:
As business closures increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers are faced with questions about compensation and health benefits coverage for their employees. Government relief measures may provide compensation for businesses and individuals in certain situations. In other cases, existing rules on employee rights will apply. The attached Compliance Overview provides a summary of the issues that employers may encounter when terminating or suspending employment due to COVID-19.
Please also be aware of a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) currently offered by the major medical providers. UHC has published the details of their SEP which we have attached here. Others have simply shared the range of dates. In essence the medical carriers are affording plan administrators the ability to hold open enrollment for those who previously waived during the last open enrollment to join between now and early April (for example, April 3rd with Anthem or April 6th with UHC) to be effective April 1st. Major medical carriers are also relaxing the requirement that eligible employees maintain 30+ hours per week to be eligible through at least the end of May for those who wish to maintain benefit eligibility.
If you have any questions, please contact your Crane Agency Service Team. We are here for you and will keep you posted on major developments. For the latest information and updates on COVID-19, please visit the opens in a new windowCrane Agency Blog. Be well.
Crane Agency continues to monitor the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and we are doing everything we can to assist you during these difficult times. First and foremost, we hope this finds you and your families all doing well, remaining healthy and adjusting to your new work environments for those who are now working remotely. Here are some of the latest updates we have prepared in response to this fluid situation. As we await word from Washington regarding the latest proposal for a COVID-19 Relief Bill, we will share some resources we have available now: