Category: For Employers

September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group’s heritage and culture.

Started as Hispanic Heritage Week by president Lyndon Johnson in 1968, September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. All declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively.

As a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), one of our core beliefs as a company has always been to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Sterling Administration supports our Spanish-speaking Employer Clients and Members with services including a Spanish language option for our full-service website, online enrollment, educational materials, forms, and customer service.

¿Habla Español?
Nuestro compromiso con los latinos no es simplemente hablarles en español, sino realmente entender y hablar su mismo idioma. Aprende más.

Are you an Industry Partner with clients looking for a solution in Spanish?
Contact us today to learn more.

For Producer Partners & Employers: COBRA – Am I Doing it Wrong?

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) of 1985 requires employers of 20 or more full time equivalent employees to offer their employees the opportunity to continue their group healthcare coverage under the employer’s plan, if the coverage would end due to employee termination, layoff, or certain other employment status changes (referred to as “qualifying events”). This includes any event that changes the employee’s eligibility for benefits except gross negligence. The continuation of coverage applies to surviving spouses, ex-spouses, and dependents of employees as well.

Even though the law impacts healthcare insurance, COBRA is an “employer law.” This means that the employer has certain responsibilities under COBRA and is liable for COBRA failures. Non-compliance can result in financial penalties to the employer. Below is a 10-question quiz to test your knowledge.

  1. COBRA is a ___________ law.
  2. There are as many as ______ types of notices a qualified beneficiary could receive.
  3. _________ can pay anyone’s COBRA premium.
  4. Define the 10 potentially qualified beneficiaries: ____, ____, ____, ____, _____, ____, ____, ____, ____, _____.
  5. _____________ is required at the tail end of COBRA.
  6. ____ states have state continuation requirements.
  7. Employers are subject to COBRA if they have ____ employees on ______________ days of the preceding calendar ____. Both full and part time (counted as a fraction of an employee, with the fraction equal to the number if hours that the part-time employee worked divided by the hours an employee must work to be considered full-time) employees are counted to determine whether a plan is subject to COBRA.
  8. _________ are required to maintain written processed and procedures related to how and when they notify participants of their initial COBRA rights, how and when qualified beneficiaries are informed of their rights and responsibilities and timelines.
  9. Employers have up to ______ days to notify their COBRA administrator (if they have one) of qualified events, the administrator has an additional ____ days to notify the qualified beneficiaries, another ____ days to elect COBRA, and another _____ to send in all retroactive payments.
  10. If a qualified beneficiary is choosing between COBRA and the marketplace, they need to consider that COBRA is _________ while the marketplace is _________.

COBRA Quiz Answers

  1. Federal employer
  2. 15 (Only four are required of which three are provided by the TPA. The QBs could receive more than that including coupons, subsidy notices, plan change notices, etc.) 1) General Notice/Initial Rights Notice 2) Election Notice 3) Notice of Unavailability 4) Notice of Termination of Coverage
  3. Anyone
  4. Active employee, termed employee, retired employee, dependents, officers, directors, self-employed individuals, partners in a partnership, agents, independent contractors
  5. State continuation
  6. Forty
  7. Twenty or more; most regular business; year
  8. Employers
  9. 30; 14; 60; 45
  10. Retroactive; prospective

The proper notices and tedious recordkeeping involved with COBRA make it a perfect opportunity for outsourcing to Sterling to provide COBRA administration.

Sterling Administration can establish and maintain an integrated COBRA and HIPAA system for employers. We can manage and control plan administration, required documentation, and adherence to the law’s eligibility requirements, working with the employer.

Learn more about our standard and optional COBRA services.

The Competing Interests to Financial Well Being

by Jim McCabe, Vice President, Sales Strategy

Employee Benefit communication strategy seems to be about options for employees, but competing discretionary income options. These offerings are not necessarily about education or risk profiling of the potential participant. Whether a new colleague at orientation or an existing colleague working through open enrollment, competing interests cause concern and analysis by paralysis. This creates less than optimum participation in employer match programs and those subject to discrimination testing.

A company could be offering a HSA, HRA, 401K, Voluntary Benefits, Stock Purchase Plan, or FSA, with each option providing a separate website for information. Depending upon age and role within the firm, each option in and of itself is appealing, but which one is right for the particular circumstances of each colleague that is investigating those options?

The more discretionary income there is available, the more options that can be enrolled in. However, if you are under 30 years of age, with average educational debt of $23,000, or putting money aside to create a down payment for a primary residence, how is one to know the best way to save for future retirement, retiree medical expenses, current large deductible health plans or protection from life’s adversities or seminal events?

The competition for “Mind Share” is difficult in an age of multiple sources for information. The ability to highlight and educate about Macro and Micro economic issues affecting both investment vehicles and personal risk tolerance is not coordinated in any way, and do not address the issues effecting the potential plan participant.

The future needs to encompass individual risk profiling and subsequent advice that takes into account each individual’s unique characteristics. The day when an employee can access a singular portal with benefit offerings and recommendations based on current Life status and risk profile will be the day that Financial Well Being will be achieved as part of a companies overall communication strategy.

What are your thoughts? I would appreciate any feedback or dialogue on this subject.

Hawaii’s Groundbreaking HSA Plans

by Gary Asato, Sterling Director of Sales – Hawaii

Employees in Hawaii are fortunate to have mandatory health insurance offered by their employers. But, they have limited choices with the number and type of health insurance policies offered by the employer. People who are self-employed, sole proprietors, or who are working part-time have even more limited choices for health insurance. Now, there appears to be a glimmer of hope for our community to have a financing tool to pay for their healthcare.

For Hawaii employers, however, some additional regulatory steps would still need to be taken before they could offer HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) to their employees. Under the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Law, all health insurance plans offered by Hawaii employers must be approved as a qualified plan by the state government’s Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Council. In 2014, an employer sponsored HSA qualified plan was approved by the Hawaii Prepaid Health Care Council for 2015. The first approved employer HSA plan in Hawaii – unprecedented success. As of mid year 2015, two more employer sponsored HSA qualified plans were approved for 2016. Employers are able to offer additional choices as well as educating their employees to be smarter health care consumers.

Hawaii’s self-employed individuals, sole proprietors and those working part-time will have access to HSAs as a new and effective healthcare financing tool for themselves and their families through high deductible individual health plans via the Health Exchange and Hawaii insurance carriers. Individuals can purchase a high deductible health plan and a Sterling HSA online to create a personal healthcare financing tool.

Health Savings Accounts will be an important step to improve community health in Hawaii by giving consumers control over their own healthcare expenditures, the economic motivation to get healthy and stay healthy, and freedom of choice to blend medical practices and products in the best way to meet their own personal healthcare needs.

Learn more about the 2014 Year-End Devenir HSA Research Report.

Learn more about Health Savings Accounts.