Keep It Simple, Silly

By John Stanford, WIPP Government Relations

 

hc - wippIt’s a favorite phrase of my boss – and WIPP’s Chief Advocate – Ann Sullivan. The idea is nothing new: a simple solution is usually the best. That is why, for years, women business owners used the simplest possible idea for providing health benefits – you (employee) go out and get your own insurance and I (employer) will reimburse you. Simple, right?

They are called Healthcare Reimbursement Arrangements, or HRAs, and bringing them back (for the second time) is one of WIPP’s top healthcare priorities. We are making great progress. The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation that would allow HRAs to be used for firms with fewer than 50 employees. The House as a whole is expected to vote on the bill next week.

The bill would allow employers to reimburse employees for qualified medical expenses like premiums and out-of-pocket costs. Importantly, employers must offer it to all eligible employees and cannot offer a separate group plan. The reimbursement is capped at around $5,000 for an individual and $10,000 for families and does not count as employee income (meaning no taxes!).

Again, the idea is simple. Employers select an amount to reimburse employees, instead of locking in an insurance plan that may not fit their employees or their budget. But why did we lose HRAs in the first place? That is not so simple.

The Affordable Care Act eliminated caps on health insurance plans—an undoubtedly good thing for when disaster or disease strikes. But, in the opinion of the IRS, these HRAs, by definition, had a cap (however much the employer contributed). So they were outlawed in 2013 or 2014.

2013 or 2014 is a strange way to describe when the IRS banned a certain healthcare plan. But that is what it was – the IRS notices on the issue were so confusing they had to issue additional regulations three times. Policy wonks, insurers, and healthcare consultants were unsure – let alone business owners – about whether they were allowed. And making a mistake on this carries severe penalties; offering a non-conforming plan can trigger a penalty of $100 per day per employee –more than $350,000 a year for a company with 10 employees.

Because of this confusion, WIPP stepped in asking Secretary Burwell to intervene on behalf of women business owners. She did and HRAs were allowed through June 2015. Legislation is needed to bring them back permanently and WIPP is optimistic Democrats and Republicans can work together, as they already have, to get this done. After all, ten million women business owners and their nearly nine million employees are pretty active voters.

It’s pretty simple.

More on how WIPP is working with Congress and the Administration to bring competitively-priced and accessible health options to women business owners is in our blog, Making the Affordable Care Act Work.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Ways Employee Policies Can Protect Your Business

K Prinz

By Kristen Prinz, Founder and Managing Partner of The Prinz Law Firm

A study by specialty insurer Hiscox was recently published finding that U.S.-based companies have at least an 11.7 percent chance of facing an employment law charge. The study claims that the average cost for small and mid-sized businesses to defend these claims is $125,000. That’s a lot of money. It makes having effective employee policies all the more important.

On November 16, 2015, at 1:00 pm CST, I will be presenting the webinar 10 Employee Policies that Minimize Business Risk for WIPP and the WBDC. Participants will learn about 10 policies that can help businesses avoid the $125,000 average. Here are three ways that these polices can help protect your business:

  1. Address claims before they become lawsuits.

Employee policies can provide employees with an internal method to resolve a potential claim. Businesses can use policies to encourage and require that concerns about discrimination, harassment or even wage issues be reported. Knowing the concerns of your employees puts an organization in a much better position to swiftly resolve an issue that could otherwise become a lawsuit.

  1. Show the government your business is committed to compliance.

Having anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies shows the EEOC that your business has taken a stance against discrimination and retaliation. Similarly, an effective time keeping policy can show the DOL that your business is taking appropriate steps to comply with wage laws. These policies can bolster a defense when an agency audits your business or investigates a claim.

  1. Create a positive workplace culture.

Your business shouldn’t just have policies; it should abide by them and enforce them. Having well publicized policies that demonstrate your business’s dedication to a positive workplace is one of the best ways to deter employment law claims. Employees are far less likely to sue an employer they believe supports and values them.

To learn about the 10 policies that can help your business (i) address claims before they become lawsuits, (ii) show the government your business is committed to compliance, and (iii) create a positive workplace culture, register now for the WIPP and WBDC webinar 10 Employee Policies that Minimize Business Risk.