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DOL Issues Emergency Extensions to COBRA

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) today issued opens in a new windowFrequently Asked Questionsopens PDF file under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) and revised opens in a new windowCOBRA model notices. Plan administrators can use these model notices to notify plan participants and beneficiaries of their rights under COBRA and qualified beneficiaries of their rights to elect COBRA.

“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.

Source:  opens in a new windowU.S. Department of Labor News Release, May 1st, 2020

 

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Reopening after the Shutdown, HSA/HRA/FSA Expansion, EEOC Updates, Preventing Burnout and more…

opens in a new window04.23.2020 Benefits Info Resources Newsletter (link)

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 opens in a new windowCoronavirus 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.

Understanding the $2 Trillion Stimulus Package, Managing Remote Employees and more…

opens in a new window03.27.2020 – Benefits Info COVID-19 Resources Newsletter

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:

Aetna has provided the latest information on their response and steps consumers should take to stay healthy through their opens in a new windowfrequently-updated COVID-19 resource center.

Anthem will host their next session at 12:00 p.m. (CST) on Tuesday, March 31. They will cover a variety of relevant topics and look to address many of the most common questions they are receiving. opens in a new windowPlease click this link to register for the event and save to your calendar.

Cigna Group Insurance has updated their opens in a new windowFrequently Asked Questions sheet with new information.

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 always, if you have questions we have not addressed, please do not hesitate to contact your Crane Agency team member.  We hope you have a great weekend!

Families First FAQ and the Coronavirus Relief Bill

opens in a new window03.25.2020 – Benefits Info COVID-19 Resources Newsletter

We hope this post finds you well… here are some of the latest updates related to COVID-19.

Under the opens in a new windowFamilies First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), covered employers must post a notice of the FFCRA requirements in a conspicuous place on its premises. The attached HR Compliance Bulletin includes frequently asked questions issued by the DOL on this notice requirement.

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.

COVID-19 Resources from Crane Agency

opens in a new window3.24.2020 Benefits Info COVID-19 Resources Newsletter 

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:

Upcoming webinars:

Resource Centers:

For the latest information and updates on COVID-19, please visit the opens in a new windowCrane Agency Blog.

Benefits Brief – January 2019

Happy New Year!  Welcome to the opens in a new windowJanuary 2019 edition of the Crane Agency Benefits Brief.  This month you will find information on several legislative and compliance updates, which may impact your benefits program in 2019.  These changes include updated minimum wage rates for 2019 and the EEOC’s removal of incentive limits from employer-sponsored Wellness Plans.  In addition, we have provided an overview of Paid Family & Medical Leave laws recently enacted in MA, NY, WA & DC.  In the HR Brief, we have provided some updated plan limits for 2019, along with tips to prepare for “Gen Z” entering the workforce.  Finally, our Live Well, Work Well Newsletter provides health & wellness tips for your work and life in the coming year.

Thank you for your continued confidence in the Crane Agency Benefits Department.  It is our pleasure to serve you.  Please do not hesitate to contact your agent or service representative if we can be of assistance.

We made the list! 2018 St. Louis Largest Employee Benefits Firms

For the 3rd year in a row, Crane Agency is proud to announce it has made the opens in a new windowSt. Louis Business Journal Largest Employee Benefits Firms list.

At Crane Agency, we know our clients benefits package is their #1 tool for attracting and retaining the best talent. Offering a strong benefits package shows employees that a company is not only invested in their health, but their future.  Our Employee Benefits team understands the importance of delivering timely service and simplifying the administrative process, so you can focus on what matters most… your business.

For more information, please contact us today.

Crane Agency – May Wellness Newsletter, HR Brief, Benefits Buzz

Welcome to our May Wellness Newsletter.  The opens in a new windowLive Well, Work Well newsletter opens PDF file is an employee newsletter that is produced monthly and covers topics like health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and personal finance.  This month’s issue discusses reasons to quit smoking today, offers tips for alleviating spring allergies and covers the importance of aging well as you near retirement.

You will also find attached this month’s opens in a new windowBenefits Buzzopens PDF file and opens in a new windowHR Briefopens PDF file .  This month’s opens in a new windowBenefits Buzzopens PDF file is already outdated with the passage of the AHCA today, but it provides an overview of the future of certain Affordable Care Act taxes and fees, explains the cost-saving potential of generic drugs and highlights the Department of Health and Human Services’ promotion of ACA Section 1332 waivers.   This month’s opens in a new windowHR Brief opens PDF file explains the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) plans to maintain its bipartisan strategic enforcement plan in the coming years, discusses President Donald Trump’s labor secretary nominee, Alexander Acosta, and his comments on the overtime rule, and highlights the highest increase in the quits rate since February 2001.

Thank you for your continued confidence in the Benefits Department of the Crane Agency.  Please do not hesitate to contact your agent or service representative with any additional questions.

Crane Agency – April Wellness Newsletter, HR Brief, Benefits Buzz & Compliance Updates

Welcome to our April Wellness Newsletter.  The opens in a new windowLive Well, Work Well newsletter opens PDF file is an employee newsletter that is produced monthly and covers topics like health, wellness, fitness, nutrition and personal finance.  This month’s issue provides information on how phlegm can help fight off illnesses, lists tips on how to monitor rice intake to minimize arsenic consumption and highlights the importance of getting enough calcium.

You will also find attached this month’s opens in a new windowBenefits Buzzopens PDF file and opens in a new windowHR Briefopens PDF file .  This month’s opens in a new windowBenefits Buzzopens PDF file provides an overview of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and its implications, and explains the most recent extension to the existing transition policy for certain noncompliant health care plans under the Affordable Care Act.  This month’s opens in a new windowHR Brief opens PDF file discusses best practices for retirement preparation, explains the value of health literacy and provides insight about millennial retention.

On March 24, 2017, Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives withdrew the American Health Care Act – their proposed legislation to repeal and replace the ACA.  As a result, the ACA will remain in place at this time.  The attached opens in a new windowACA Compliance Bulletin opens PDF file provides an overview of the proposed legislation and the impact going forward.

Thank you for your continued confidence in the Benefits Department of the Crane Agency.  Please do not hesitate to contact your agent or service representative with any additional questions.