Family-owned Agency Adds To UBA’s Growing Network of Independent Employee Benefits Advisory Firms Spanning North America and Europe
Indianapolis, Ind. – September 9, 2014 – United Benefit Advisors (UBA), the nation’s leading independent employee benefits advisory organization, is pleased to announce Providence Insurance Group as its newest Partner Firm.
Founded as Georgia Health Administrators in 1984 in Marietta, Georgia, Providence Insurance Group has remained dedicated to serving small and mid-size employers. Since 2009, they have experienced more than 25% organic growth year over year with more than $50 million in annualized premiums.
With an average of 17 years of industry experience, the Providence Insurance Group team has grown to 21 employees and is comprised of a unique blend of tenured veterans and youthful energy. Providence Insurance Group is one of the few agencies that maintain a full-time Certified Medicare Specialist on staff and each employee is devoted to meticulously helping clients manage the responsibility of providing health insurance for themselves, their employees, and families. To learn more about Providence Insurance Group, visit www.pg-ins.com.
“We are excited about becoming a Partner Firm of UBA. We believe this partnership will help us deliver the technical support in the ever changing landscape of employee benefits,” said Karle Stinehour, President of Providence Insurance Group.
As the newest Partner of UBA, Providence Insurance Group joins a network of more than 130 employee benefits advisory firms that serve employers of all sizes across the United States, Canada, and Europe. As a combined group, UBA’s annual employee benefit revenues rank it among the top five employee benefit advisory organizations in the U.S. UBA is a unique community, which provides its Partner Firms the ability to tap the expert knowledge of nearly 2,000 benefit professionals and offers world class products and services to best meet the needs of employers offering competitive benefits packages.
“As UBA’s network of Partner Firms expands, it’s always gratifying to add successful, family-owned agencies like Providence Insurance Group,” said Les McPhearson, CEO of United Benefit Advisors. “Having been in the industry for quite some time, insurance to them has become more than just a business. It has become a way of life — one that has allowed them to form lasting friendships and cultivate a tremendous sense of pride with their clientele. It is truly a pleasure to welcome them to UBA.”
About United Benefit Advisors
United Benefit Advisors is the nation’s leading independent employee benefits advisory organization with more than 200 offices throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. As trusted and knowledgeable advisors, UBA Partners collaborate with more than 2,200 fellow professionals to deliver expertise, thought leadership and best-in-class solutions that positively impact employers and make a real difference in the lives of their employees and families. Employers, advisors and industry-related organizations interested in obtaining powerful results from the shared wisdom of our Partners should visit UBA online at www.UBAbenefits.com.
Beginning January 1, 2014, individuals and employees of small businesses have access to affordable coverage through a new competitive private health insurance market – the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Marketplace offers “one-stop shopping” to find and compare private health insurance options. This year, open enrollment for health insurance coverage through the Marketplace begins November 15, 2014. ACA requires employers to provide all new hires with a written notice about ACA’s Exchanges, as well as current employees if the employer failed to send out notices prior to the original October 1, 2013 deadline.
Employers may use the applicable DOL’s model Exchange notices to satisfy this requirement using the interactive form available online:
- Model Exchange notice for employers who do not offer a health plan; http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithoutplans.pdf
- Model Exchange notice for employers who offer a health plan to some or all employees. http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/FLSAwithplans.pdf
Employers Subject to the Notice Requirement
The FLSA section 18B requirement to provide a notice to employees of coverage options applies to employers to which the FLSA applies. In general, the FLSA applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for, interstate commerce. For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies.(4) The FLSA also specifically covers the following entities: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state and local government agencies.
The Department’s Wage and Hour Division provides guidance relating to the applicability of the FLSA in general including an internet compliance assistance tool to determine applicability of the FLSA.
Providing Notice to Employees
Employers must provide a notice of coverage options to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status (if applicable) or of part-time or full-time status. Employers are not required to provide a separate notice to dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan but who are not employees.
Form and Content of the Notice
Pursuant to the statute, the notice to inform employees of coverage options must include information regarding the existence of a new Marketplace as well as contact information and description of the services provided by a Marketplace. The notice must also inform the employee that the employee may be eligible for a premium tax credit under section 36B of the Code if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace; and a statement informing the employee that if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace, the employee may lose the employer contribution (if any) to any health benefits plan offered by the employer and that all or a portion of such contribution may be excusable from income for Federal income tax purposes.
To satisfy the content requirements for FLSA section 18B, model language is available on the Department’s website www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform. There is one model for employers who do not offer a health plan and another model for employers who offer a health plan or some or all employees. Employers may use one of these models, as applicable, or a modified version, provided the notice meets the content requirements described above.
In general, the Exchange notice must:
- Inform employees about the existence of the Exchange and describe the services provided by the Exchange and the manner in which the employee may contact the Marketplace to request assistance;
- Explain how employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit or a costsharing reduction if the employer’s plan does not meet certain requirements
- Inform employees that if they purchase coverage through the Exchange, they may lose any employer contribution toward the cost of employer-provided coverage, and that all or a portion of this employer contribution may be excludable for federal income tax purposes; and
- Include contact information for the Exchange and an explanation of appeal rights.
Who Must Receive a Notice?
Employers must provide the Exchange notice to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status or of part-time or full-time status. Employers are not required to provide a separate notice to dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan but who are not employees.
MLR Rebate Considerations – Private Plans
As was the case last year, insurers with medical loss ratios (MLRs) that were below the prescribed levels on their blocks of business must issue rebates to policyholders. Insurers must pay rebates owed on calendar year 2013 experience by August 1, 2014. The rules for calculating and distributing these rebates are largely the same this year as they were last year.
The guidance provided by the regulatory agencies on how employers should distribute rebates has been fairly general, so employers have some discretion as to how to calculate and distribute the employees’ share. These general principles apply:
- Assuming both the employer and employees contribute to the cost of coverage, the rebate should be divided between the employer and the employees, based on the employer’s and employees’ relative share. Employers may divide the rebate in any reasonable manner — for example, the rebate could be divided evenly among the employees who receive it, or it may be divided based on the employee’s contribution for the level of coverage elected.Employers are not required to precisely determine each employee’s share of the rebate, and so do not need to perform special calculations for employees who only participated for part of the year, moved between tiers, etc.The employer may pay the rebate only to employees who participated in the plan in 2013 and are still participating, only to current participants (even though the rebate relates to 2013), or to those who participated in 2013, regardless whether they are currently participating.Insurers must send a notice to all employees who participated in the plan in 2013 stating that a rebate has been issued to the employer, so employers who choose to limit rebate payments to those who are currently participating should be prepared to explain why the rebate is only being paid to current participants. This might include the fact that since the rebate would be taxable income, the amount involved does not justify the administrative cost to locate former participants and issue a check.
- The employer may pay the rebate in cash, use it for a premium holiday, or use it for benefit enhancements. The rebate must be applied or distributed within 90 days after it is received.A cash rebate is taxable income to the employee if it was paid with pre-tax dollars.A premium holiday should be completed within 90 days after the rebate is received (or the rebate needs to be deposited into a trust).Benefit enhancements include reduced copays or deductibles (which may not be practical due to the timing requirements) or wellness-type benefits that the employer would not have offered without the rebate, such as free flu shots, a health fair, a lunch and learn on nutrition or stress reduction, or a nurse line.
- The employer should consider the practical aspects of providing a rebate in a particular form.Generally speaking, the larger the amount that would be due to an individual, the more effort the employer should make to directly benefit the person (either through a cash rebate or premium holiday). While benefit enhancements are permissible, a large rebate should be used to provide a direct benefit enhancement, such as a reduced co-pay, and not for a general benefit, such as flu shots.The agencies have not provided any details as to what amount is so small that it does not need to be returned to the employee. (Insurers are not required to issue a rebate check to individuals if the amount is less than $5.00.) A cash rebate is taxable income if the premium was paid with pre-tax dollars, so issuing a check that is very small after taxes should not be necessary. If an employer knows it costs it $2.00 to issue a check, issuing a rebate check for $1.00 should not be necessary However, an employer cannot simply keep the rebate if it determines that cash refunds are not practical — it will need to use the employee share of the rebate to provide a benefit enhancement or premium reduction.
- Many plans now state how a rebate should be used. If the plan describes a method, that method must be followed.
The following Q and A provides additional details.
Q1. If an employer pays most of the premium, and its contribution far exceeds the rebate, can it just keep the rebate?
A1. With one exception, no. If participants paid part of the premium, the participants (as a whole) should get a pro rata share of the rebate. So, if the employer pays 80% of the premium, the employer must return 20% of the rebate to the participants.
The exception applies if employees paid a fixed dollar amount and the employer paid the balance of the costs. In that case, if the employer’s contribution equaled or exceeded the rebate, the employer could keep the entire rebate.
Q2. How does as an employer determine the percentage it can keep?
A2. The percentage of the premium paid by the employer and the percentage paid by employees should be calculated on a representative date, such as the first day of the plan year. If the relative shares changed during the calendar year because of a renewal, the percentages likely should be averaged. If contribution percentages changed during a year because of a change in demographics (e.g., virtually all new hires elected family coverage, for which the employer pays a smaller share), recalculating does not seem to be needed.
Q3. How does an employer determine the employer percentage if the employer contributes different percentages for different groups? For example, if the employer pays 80% of the cost of employee only coverage and 50% of the cost of dependent coverage.
A3. It is acceptable to look at the participant group as a whole, so an employer could use a blended contribution percentage. If the employer prefers to use different percentages for different classes, based on each classes’ actual contribution percentage, that is fine, but not required. An exception would be if the employer pays 100% of the cost of single coverage, and nothing toward dependent coverage. In that case, those with single coverage would have no “overpayment” to be returned, and the rebate probably should be limited to those with dependent coverage.
Q4. How should an employer distribute the participants’ shares of the rebate?
A4. The agencies have not provided detailed instructions on how to distribute rebates. The primary options are to pay the rebate in cash, use it to reduce future premiums in the current year (a “premium holiday”) or apply it to enhance benefits (e.g., moderating a planned increase in co-pays or the deductible or providing onsite, free flu shots to participants). The Department of Labor (DOL) recognizes that because of the administrative costs of cutting checks and the tax consequences that may follow a cash refund, it may make more sense to provide a premium holiday or to provide a benefit that otherwise would not have been offered. If the per head rebate is more than 90 days’ worth of premium, however, serious consideration should be given to a cash refund.
The DOL has interpreted ERISA to require that participant monies in private employer plans be put into a trust within 90 days after they are received. Very few insured plans operate through a trust, so it would be a burden to create a trust due to delays in dispensing the rebates. To avoid the 90 day rule, private plans should take steps to use or pay out the rebate within 90 days after it is received.
Q5. The rebate is based on last year’s results. Does an employer need to pay part of the rebate to last year’s participants?
A5. The DOL has not specifically addressed whether plans sponsored by private employers should or should not pay rebates to former participants. In similar situations the DOL has said that as long as the participant share is used to benefit the participant group as a whole employers do not need to specifically apportion the payment to specific individuals based on each individual’s contribution to the fund. (This is partly because it is so difficult to determine how much, exactly, any person did contribute, as participants come and go. Moreover, these MLR rebates are based on the block, not individual employer experience, so total precision seems impossible to achieve.)
Q6. Should a rebate be paid to COBRA participants?
A6. The agencies have not issued anything that specifically addresses this question. However, in many situations COBRA participants are considered plan participants, so the most conservative approach would be to include individuals currently on COBRA or in the COBRA election period in the rebate. If former active participants are given a rebate, a person who was a COBRA participant during that time also should receive a rebate. It should be acceptable to use the standard method of allocating the rebate amount (even though the individual may have paid the full cost of coverage).
Q7. The employer has two plans/policies. One received a rebate and one did not. How does it handle the rebate?
A7. Normally, the rebate is tied to the policy that received it, so only those covered by that policy would get a portion of the rebate. This is true even if those in the non-recipient policy say they would have elected the receiving policy if they’d known the rebate would impact the cost.
Q8. Are there issues under the Section 125 Plan if the employer gives a premium holiday?
A8. As long as the plan recognizes a change in cost as a qualifying event, the premium holiday would not be a problem under the Section 125 plan. Because the amount the employee expected to pay on a pre-tax basis is now smaller, their taxable wages will increase.
Q9. If the employer decides to give rebates in cash, are those amounts W-2 or 1099 income?
A9. If the premium was originally paid on a pre-tax basis, the refund is taxable wages, which would be handled like any wages (i.e., subject to income tax, FICA and FUTA) and reported on the person’s W-2. If the premium was paid with after tax dollars, there are no tax consequences (unless the employee claimed the premium as a deduction on their tax return).
See the IRS FAQ on taxation of rebates for more information: Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) FAQs
Q10. Is the employer required to provide an explanation of its rebate distribution method to participants?
A10. An explanation is not required, but it likely will reduce questions and misunderstandings over the long run, particularly since if a rebate is paid the insurer is required to send a notice to those who participated in the plan in 2013 stating that a rebate is being paid. The insurer notice that will be sent when the rebate is paid to the employer is available at:http://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Resources/Files/Downloads/mlr-notice-2-group-markets-rebate-to-policyholder.pdf
An employer’s explanation does not need to be involved; something like this may be enough:
XYZ Company has determined that it is in the best interest of our participants to use the Medical Loss Ratio Rebate to provide a “premium holiday” for the month of September 2014. This means that your share of premium for September will be [zero] [reduced to $___]].
XYZ Company has determined that it is in the best interest of our participants to return your share of the rebate to you in cash. The rebate will be added to your ______, 2014 pay as taxable income.
Additionally, when making fiduciary decisions under ERISA (which is what a decision about applying participant monies is for a private employer’s plan), the process is just as important as the result. Therefore, it would be a good idea to do a short memo to file explaining the basic method used and why it is used.
Q11. What can the employer do with its share of the rebate?
A11. Unless the insurance policy is part of a trust, the employer can use its share of the rebate however it sees fit. If the policy is in a trust, the entire rebate — both the employer’s and employees’ share — must be used to benefit plan participants (through reduced contributions or enhanced benefits).
Q12. Are grandfathered plans eligible for rebates?
Q13. Are self-funded plans eligible for rebates?
Q14. How are rebates determined?
A14. Medical loss ratios (MLRs) are based on the cost of claims and health care quality improvements as a percentage of total premium (federal taxes and assessments are excluded from the premium). All of the insurer’s policies in a market, in each state, are combined when calculating its MLR. A policy issued in the large group market is eligible for a rebate if its MLR is less than 85%. A policy in the small group or individual market is eligible for a rebate if its MLR is less than 80%.
Q15. If the employer has employees in several states, how is the rebate determined?
A15. The rebate is based on the state the policy was issued in It should be shared with all participants, regardless where the participant lives.
This information is general and is provided for educational purposes only. It reflects UBA’s understanding of the available guidance as of the date shown and is subject to change. It is not intended to provide legal advice.
Disregard the notices that do not apply to your situation. You should also review each notice you do need to give, modify it as needed to describe your plan, and fill in any blanks or highlighted areas.
- Important Notice About Your CREDIBLE Prescription Drug Coverage and Medicare – Provide this notice by October 14 to all participants and dependents who are or may become eligible for Medicare Part D in the next 12 months if the prescription drug coverage provided by the plan is “creditable.” (Providence Insurance Group can tell you if the coverage is creditable.)
- Important Notice About Your NON-CREDIBLE Prescription Drug Coverage and Medicare – Provide this notice by October 14 to all participants and dependents who are or may become eligible for Medicare Part D in the next 12 months if the prescription drug coverage provided by the plan is not “creditable.” (Providence Insurance Group can tell you if the coverage is not creditable.)
- Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act Notice – Provide this notice at least once a year to all participants
- Premium Assistance Under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – Provide this notice before the start of the plan year if you have any employees in a state listed in the notice. (These states provide premium assistance for CHIP and/or Medicaid coverage.) Caution: This notice is updated regularly. Check at www.dol.gov/ebsa/chipmodelnotice.doc for the most current version if you do not promptly distribute this notice.
- Wellness Program – Notice of Reasonable Alternatives – Provide this notice only if you have a wellness program that considers health status
- Notice to Enrollees Regarding Opt-Out – Provide this notice only if the plan is a self-funded nonfederal governmental group health plan that has opted out of some or all of HIPAA; tailor as needed to describe what the plan has opted out of
ADDITIONAL NOTICES FOR NEW ENROLLEES
- Notice of Special Enrollment Rights – Give this notice to all new enrollees
- ** Continuation Coverage Rights Under COBRA** – Give this notice to all new enrollees – including new spouses – if you employ 20 or more people
- New Health Insurance Marketplace Coverage – Provide this notice to all new employees (even if they are part-time/temporary/not eligible for the plan) within 14 days after their hire date if you offer coverage to any employee. Note that completing questions 13 – 16 is optional. At this time, providing information on minimum value and affordability is required.
- New Health Insurance Marketplace Coverage – Provide this notice to all new employees (even if they are part-time or temporary) within 14 days after their hire date if you do not offer coverage to any employee.