Alera Group Appoints John Clark to Lead Employee Benefits Practice

Posted on August 14th, 2017

Alera Group, a national employee benefits, property/casualty, risk management and wealth management firm, appointed John Clark as the national Employee Benefits Practice Leader.

Clark’s responsibilities will include directing the organization’s employee benefits practice. He will leverage Alera Group’s resources by coordinating employee benefits services and support, as well as identifying additional capabilities with Alera Group firms.

“We’re excited to welcome John to Alera Group,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “His considerable expertise and years of industry experience bring new depth and breadth to Alera Group resources and capabilities. As we continue to grow and expand, we look forward to welcoming more talented professionals like John to our team.”

Formerly the Senior Vice President and Benefits Practice Leader for Assurex Global, Clark has gained extensive agency and carrier experience through working with some of the most prominent independent insurance agents and brokers in the world.

“I’m excited to leverage the employee benefit resources of Alera Group across each individual firm,” said John Clark. “Our continued development of a wealth of employee benefit resources will allow us to provide unparalleled services and support to each of our firms and, as a result, our clients.”

This step furthers Alera Group’s goal to continue growing since its formation in December 2016. For more information about partnering with Alera Group, visit Partnership Opportunities at www.jmjwebconsulting.com.

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About Alera Group

Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 750 employees serve more than 20,000 clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group was created by merging 24 high-performing, entrepreneurial firms across the U.S. It is the 14th largest independent insurance agency and the 7th largest independent employee benefits firm in the country. For more information, visit www.jmjwebconsulting.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS

Media Contact:
Jessica Tiller, Weiss PR, Inc.
Email: jtiller@weisspr.com
Phone: 443-451-7144

Do You Need Property Insurance Even If You’re Just Renting?

Posted on August 1st, 2017

You buy property insurance to cover damage or loss to property. But what if you don’t own the property or you rent it? Your liability policy might provide some coverage…but probably not enough.

In the world of residential real estate, landlords buy property insurance to cover damage to buildings they own. If you rent a home or apartment, your renter’s policy will cover your contents and other personal belongings. If the loss or damage isn’t your fault, the landlord’s policy will cover it. But let’s say you accidentally cause a fire by leaving a pot unattended on a stove. The liability portion of your renter’s policy would cover your liability for this negligent act.

It works the same way in commercial real estate. If you rent your business premises, you’ll buy property insurance to cover your business personal property and inventory, if applicable. Your policy doesn’t cover your premises, since you don’t own them. But if you accidentally cause fire damage to your landlord’s premises, your liability coverage would apply.

Businesses obtain liability coverage either through a commercial general liability (CGL) policy or through a business owner’s policy, which combines property and liability coverages. The CGL includes coverage for “damage to premises rented to you.” Although this coverage is automatically included in the Coverage A section of your policy, it provides only limited coverage. “Damage to premises rented to you” protects you only from damage due to fire, and a separate, lower limit might apply. If your business premises are damaged by any other cause, the policy would not cover you.

Damage must also be caused by your negligence, otherwise the contractual liability exclusion would apply. For example, let’s say your lease requires you to pay for any fire damage to your leased premises, even if you are not at fault. You have accepted contractual liability for fire damage. The policy’s contractual liability exclusion states it won’t pay for any loss you become obligated to pay by contract. Therefore, the “damage to premises rented to you” coverage would not apply.

Buying tenant coverage will insure your on-premises property, but it won’t cover the building itself. Check your policy to see whether it provides “building occupied by the insured” coverage. This section covers a building you regularly use but do not own—for example, a building you lease, rent or borrow.

You’ll also want to check what “perils,” or causes of loss, your policy covers.

  • Basic form policies cover losses due to common perils, such as fire, lightning, explosion, windstorm or hail, smoke, “physical contact” of an aircraft or vehicle, riot or civil commotion, vandalism, sinkhole collapse or volcanic action.
  • Broad form policies cover the basic perils, plus water damage, structural collapse, sprinkler leakage, and damage caused by ice, sleet or weight of snow.
  • Special form policies, formerly called “all risk” policies, cover all perils except those specifically excluded by the policy. Typical exclusions include damage due to flood, earth movement, war and terrorism, nuclear disaster and wear and tear.

Policies can vary from insurer to insurer. We are more than happy to prepare a comprehensive policy review to make sure you have the coverage you need for your rented premises.

The Pros and Cons of AD&D

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Accidental injuries rank as the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance can give your employees financial assistance when the unexpected happens.

AD&D insurance can be a valuable and low-cost addition to your current benefits package. But before offering AD&D coverage, it’s important to understand what AD&D covers and what it doesn’t.

Definition of “Death”

An AD&D policy will pay the policy’s face amount, or death benefit, to the beneficiary if the insured accidentally dies. “Accidental death” under the policy means a death caused by an unforeseen circumstance unrelated to the body. In other words, the death cannot be caused in any way by illness or the insured’s physical condition.

As with most life and health policies, AD&D policies do not cover claims resulting from illegal or criminal activities. They also exclude death by “malfunction of the body,” such as someone suffering a stroke or heart attack while driving. If the heart attack or stroke occurred before the accident and the accident resulted from that bodily malfunction, the policy would not pay. Many policies exclude coverage for death by suicide; others exclude coverage until the policy has been in effect for a certain time period, such as 24 months.

Many policies also impose a time limit on deaths caused by accident. In many cases, if an insured is involved in an accident that ultimately causes death, the policy will pay only if death occurs within 90 days of the accident. Most policies also stipulate that death must result directly from the injuries sustained in the accident. As an example of how this clause would apply, if an insured involved in an auto accident died from an infection contracted in the hospital, the policy would not pay.

Definition of “Dismemberment”

In addition to covering accidental death, AD&D policies pay if the insured suffers an accidental dismemberment. In most cases, the policy provides a scheduled benefit, or a specified portion of the death benefit, for dismemberment.

For example, if the insured accidentally loses one arm or one leg, the policy might pay half of the death benefit. If the insured loses two or more limbs (any combination of arms and legs), then he or she might receive the entire face value (death benefit) under the policy. After this, the insurer would likely terminate the policy because it would have paid out the entire face value.

Many AD&D policies also cover sudden and accidental loss of vision or hearing. The same principles apply: if one eye is lost, the insured receives half of the death benefit; if both eyes are lost, then the insured will receive the policy’s entire face value.

Some AD&D policies provide coverage for loss of speech or hearing, triplegia (the paralysis of three extremities), paraplegia (paralysis characterized by loss of movement or feeling in the lower half of the body), hemiplegia (paralysis of one half of the body), the loss of a thumb and index finger of the same hand, and a condition known as uniplegia, which is the complete and irreversible paralysis of one limb.

Pros

  • Low premiums: Accidental death and other covered losses occur rarely, so AD&D costs much less than term life coverage with similar limits. This makes it an attractive benefit for your employees, even if offered on a voluntary basis.
  • Pays for certain disabilities: AD&D holds particular appeal for young workers, who statistically are more likely to die from accident than from illness. The vast majority of these workers do not have individual disability insurance. AD&D benefits could help an insured recoup some of the income lost if he or she lost a limb, sight or hearing in an accident and couldn’t work. AD&D is especially valuable for employees whose jobs depend on their physical capabilities.
  • “Double indemnity”: You can offer AD&D coverage to employees as a standalone policy or as an addition (endorsement) to a group term life policy. If bought as an addition to a term life policy, AD&D will provide “double indemnity,” or twice the death benefit, to the insured’s beneficiary.

Cons

  • Limitations: AD&D insurance coverage has some important limitations. For example, many AD&D insurance policies do not pay benefits if the insured dies during surgery, has a mental or physical illness, has a bacterial infection or hernia or dies as the result of a drug overdose. That’s why AD&D coverage is no substitute for term life insurance. Policies also exclude death or dismemberment resulting from war.Some financial advisors say AD&D is a poor investment, since the conditions under which it pays benefits occur so rarely. However, if a breadwinner dies suddenly in an accident, AD&D benefits can make the family’s financial circumstances less stressful. And if a young person loses a limb, vision or hearing in an accident, AD&D benefits can help make up some of the income loss likely to result.

If you’re interested in offering AD&D for your employees, contact us! We can help you design a benefits plan that meets the needs of your employees and your organization.

 

The Pros and Cons of AD&D

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Accidental injuries rank as the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. Accidental death and dismemberment (AD&D) insurance can give your employees financial assistance when the unexpected happens.

AD&D insurance can be a valuable and low-cost addition to your current benefits package. But before offering AD&D coverage, it’s important to understand what AD&D covers and what it doesn’t.

Definition of “Death”

An AD&D policy will pay the policy’s face amount, or death benefit, to the beneficiary if the insured accidentally dies. “Accidental death” under the policy means a death caused by an unforeseen circumstance unrelated to the body. In other words, the death cannot be caused in any way by illness or the insured’s physical condition.

As with most life and health policies, AD&D policies do not cover claims resulting from illegal or criminal activities. They also exclude death by “malfunction of the body,” such as someone suffering a stroke or heart attack while driving. If the heart attack or stroke occurred before the accident and the accident resulted from that bodily malfunction, the policy would not pay. Many policies exclude coverage for death by suicide; others exclude coverage until the policy has been in effect for a certain time period, such as 24 months.

Many policies also impose a time limit on deaths caused by accident. In many cases, if an insured is involved in an accident that ultimately causes death, the policy will pay only if death occurs within 90 days of the accident. Most policies also stipulate that death must result directly from the injuries sustained in the accident. As an example of how this clause would apply, if an insured involved in an auto accident died from an infection contracted in the hospital, the policy would not pay.

Definition of “Dismemberment”

In addition to covering accidental death, AD&D policies pay if the insured suffers an accidental dismemberment. In most cases, the policy provides a scheduled benefit, or a specified portion of the death benefit, for dismemberment.

For example, if the insured accidentally loses one arm or one leg, the policy might pay half of the death benefit. If the insured loses two or more limbs (any combination of arms and legs), then he or she might receive the entire face value (death benefit) under the policy. After this, the insurer would likely terminate the policy because it would have paid out the entire face value.

Many AD&D policies also cover sudden and accidental loss of vision or hearing. The same principles apply: if one eye is lost, the insured receives half of the death benefit; if both eyes are lost, then the insured will receive the policy’s entire face value.

Some AD&D policies provide coverage for loss of speech or hearing, triplegia (the paralysis of three extremities), paraplegia (paralysis characterized by loss of movement or feeling in the lower half of the body), hemiplegia (paralysis of one half of the body), the loss of a thumb and index finger of the same hand, and a condition known as uniplegia, which is the complete and irreversible paralysis of one limb.

Pros

  • Low premiums: Accidental death and other covered losses occur rarely, so AD&D costs much less than term life coverage with similar limits. This makes it an attractive benefit for your employees, even if offered on a voluntary basis.
  • Pays for certain disabilities: AD&D holds particular appeal for young workers, who statistically are more likely to die from accident than from illness. The vast majority of these workers do not have individual disability insurance. AD&D benefits could help an insured recoup some of the income lost if he or she lost a limb, sight or hearing in an accident and couldn’t work. AD&D is especially valuable for employees whose jobs depend on their physical capabilities.
  • “Double indemnity”: You can offer AD&D coverage to employees as a standalone policy or as an addition (endorsement) to a group term life policy. If bought as an addition to a term life policy, AD&D will provide “double indemnity,” or twice the death benefit, to the insured’s beneficiary.

Cons

  • Limitations: AD&D insurance coverage has some important limitations. For example, many AD&D insurance policies do not pay benefits if the insured dies during surgery, has a mental or physical illness, has a bacterial infection or hernia or dies as the result of a drug overdose. That’s why AD&D coverage is no substitute for term life insurance. Policies also exclude death or dismemberment resulting from war.Some financial advisors say AD&D is a poor investment, since the conditions under which it pays benefits occur so rarely. However, if a breadwinner dies suddenly in an accident, AD&D benefits can make the family’s financial circumstances less stressful. And if a young person loses a limb, vision or hearing in an accident, AD&D benefits can help make up some of the income loss likely to result.

If you’re interested in offering AD&D for your employees, contact us! We can help you design a benefits plan that meets the needs of your employees and your organization.

 

How to Control Employee Dishonesty

Posted on August 1st, 2017

One in every 27 employees was apprehended for theft from their employer in 2016, according to the 29th Annual Retail Theft Survey. 53,786 dishonest employees were apprehended in 2016, up 9.3% from 2015.

Employee dishonesty is the most important crime coverage for most businesses. Most basic business package policies do not include crime coverage beyond a baseline amount, so unless you already have employee dishonesty coverage, you will need to add it to your basic policy.

When adding commercial crime coverage to your package, you typically get a limit of at least $10,000 for “loss of and direct loss from damage to money, securities and property other than money and securities resulting directly from employee dishonesty.” You will also usually get a $10,000 limit for “theft, including disappearance or destruction, of money and securities,” with separate $10,000 limits applying to loss inside or outside the premises. Most policies also provide up to $10,000 in forgery coverage.

Prevent Employee Dishonesty

While insurance for employee dishonesty helps you recover from losses, employers need to implement sound risk management practices to prevent or at least control employee dishonesty.

Keep in mind that in most incidents of embezzlement (theft by a person in a position of trust), the people involved often possess the following characteristics. They:

  • Are trusted and long-term employees
  • Embezzle property rather than money
  • Have been doing this for a long time
  • Rarely take vacations or time off
  • Have debt or gambling problems
  • Act in collusion with outside people

With a good system of internal controls, you can reduce or eliminate opportunities for employee dishonesty in the first place.

It is critical, when hiring, to thoroughly screen and obtain background information on job candidates, to the legal extent possible. This may by difficult in certain states. At least ten states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington) have laws restricting or forbidding employers from pulling credit reports, even with permission. There is also legislation pending in many other states. Check the National Conference of State Legislatures website for an update: http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/use-of-credit-info-in-employ-2013-legis.aspx

In states where obtaining credit reports as well as criminal reports, workers’ comp records and other background information is legal, the federal Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) requires employers to obtain the candidate’s written consent. You must also let them know you may reject their application on the basis of what’s in the report and you must provide notice once your decision is made, sending an “adverse action notice,” if necessary.

Providing notice not only gets you off the hook for violating any privacy rights or concerns, but candidates with something they want to keep private will take themselves out of the running. For full details on “What Employers Need to Know” about complying with the FCRA and laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, visit https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/background_checks_employers.cfm

In addition to obtaining background information, where possible, an effective employee dishonesty risk management plan will also:

  • Focus on hiring only people who seem truly interested in the company’s future
  • Create internal controls and supervision standards
  • Require and verify countersignatures on all checks
  • Require all payments be made in non-cash form
  • Reconcile bank accounts monthly
  • Develop written audit procedures and perform annual audits
  • Be sure to include inventory audits, which are high theft targets

Employee Dishonesty is Increasing

There is a general perception that “theft and abuse in companies” are “isolated acts that cost an organization little,” according to Jack L. Hayes International, authors of the 29th Annual Retail Theft Survey. Many people also think “most employees are caught stealing inexpensive items such as ‘pens, pencils and paper-clips’ from their employers.” This is not true. $42,352,229 was stolen and recovered from dishonest employees in 2016, an increase of 9.28 percent over 2015.

For information about adding employee dishonesty coverage to your business insurance plan, please contact us! We’d love to help you design coverage that is perfect for you and your organization.

Asthma and Allergies: How Companies Can Breathe Easier

Posted on August 1st, 2017

About one in four Americans suffers from asthma today. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates the annual cost of asthma at about $56 billion. Direct costs, such as hospital stays, accounted for nearly $50.1 billion, while indirect costs, such as lost pay, accounted for $5.9 billion.

According to a CDC study, asthma has triggered:

  • 1.8 million emergency room visits (2011)
  • 1.3 million hospital outpatient visits with asthma as the primary diagnosis (2010)
  • 10.5 million physician office visits (2012)
  • 3,651 deaths (2014).

Asthma is a chronic disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. An asthma attack occurs when the body’s airways constrict and allow less air to get in and out of the lungs. The body also produces extra mucus during an attack, which further hinders breathing.

Treating Asthma

Although asthma is a chronic disease, sufferers can take steps to prevent or minimize the severity of asthma attacks. There’s no single strategy to prevent asthma. But a good place to start is in getting the proper diagnosis.

Employer-sponsored wellness programs can help screen employees and their dependents for asthma. Once someone receives an asthma diagnosis, they should consult a medical professional who specializes in asthma to determine whether the asthma symptoms are an irritant reaction or the much more serious allergic reaction.

Disease management programs can help your plan participants with chronic conditions better manage their health. Disease management professionals educate employees and their dependents on dealing with their health conditions. They also define care protocols and evaluate and measure effectiveness of treatment. Some health plans include disease management services. But if your company self-insures, make sure to select a vendor that is accredited with an agency such as the NCQA (National Committee for Quality Assurance), URAC (Utilization Review Accreditation Commission) or the JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).

Preventing Asthma

From dust mites, mold spores, cockroaches and animal dander, to cotton fibers, acid anhydrides, formaldehyde and latex, the modern home and workplace are veritable minefield of substances that trigger asthma and allergies and associated medical claims.

You have no control over your employees’ homes, but you can control allergens found in the workplace. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 200 substances found in the workplace can cause asthma. Millions of workers are exposed to substances that can cause allergic reactions and other respiratory problems. Using proper management, many of these problems can be avoided or eliminated.

Some of the worst potential exposures to asthma triggers occur in general merchandise stores, food stores, the furniture and lumber industries, banking, schools, trucking, warehousing and metal industries. Some of these sectors have no obvious exposures to dangerous substances—asthma can easily be caused by something as innocuous as poor indoor environmental quality. That helps explain why computer operators and financial record processors had the highest prevalence of asthma in a CDC study.

To control exposure in your workplace, the following steps can help:

  • Get workers to keep their work areas uncluttered and, if appropriate, have them dust and use HEPA-type tabletop air purifiers. Alternatively, if dust is a pervasive problem, hire a cleaning crew to regularly maintain your premises. Ensure they use nontoxic, non-irritating cleaners.
  • Give workers exposed to dusty environments or particulates dust masks or even better, fully enclosed respirators.
  • Check that the air exchange system in your building is functioning properly.
  • If the source of the asthmatic reaction has been identified, move affected workers to different parts of the building, especially in severe cases where staying in contact with the substance can be life-threatening.

For more suggestions on preventing and managing the cost of chronic disease, please contact your local Alera Group firm. Our team of wellness and benefits experts can help you to manage chronic disease in your organization.

 

How to Make Dental Coverage More Accessible to Older Americans

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Experts agree that steps must be taken to make dental care coverage more accessible and affordable for older Americans. Fortunately, there are several solutions available.

The Crisis

A 2016 Oral Health America report states that retirees are less likely to seek dental care if they have no dental insurance. At the same time, those who do have coverage are two and a half times more likely to regularly visit a dentist.

Private insurance only covers a portion of dental care costs. Dental insurance usually provides “100-80-50” coverage, which means it pays 100 percent of the cost of routine preventive and diagnostic care; 80 percent for basic services; and 50 percent for major procedures.

Low-income adults have access to Medicaid, but coverage varies from state to state. Forty-two percent of the states that offer Medicaid provide no dental benefits or only emergency coverage. Retirees have access to Medicare coverage, but less than one percent of dental services are covered.

Regular dental care is critical because it reduces the high risk of oral diseases and other problems, including strokes and heart attacks.

Solutions

Solutions usually focus on what states and the federal government can do for older Americans. An example: Congress considered the Comprehensive Dental Reform Act of 2013, which would extend comprehensive dental coverage to all individuals covered by Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration.

Other recommendations include:

  • Labeling adult dental coverage and services as “essential health benefits” under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Sustaining or advocating for Community Water Fluoridation. Most water has some fluoride, but usually not enough to prevent cavities.
  • Promoting community outreach and education about the need for good oral health.

The good news is that private dental insurance is probably far more affordable than you’d think! We can help you with your healthcare needs. Contact your local Alera Group firm for more information.

Voluntary Benefits: The Upside of Giving Employees a Choice

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Many employers rely on a robust benefit package to attract and retain employees. The challenge is determining which benefits will appeal to a diverse employee base.

The best solution for many employers is customization. A benefits package that goes beyond the usual medical, dental and vision insurance can include a selection of voluntary benefits. According to findings in MetLife’s 15th annual U.S. Employee Benefits Trends Study, gone are the days of “one-size-fits-all” benefits programs.

Voluntary benefits are products offered by employers to employees at group rates. Employees pay all or part of the costs. These optional products cover a wide range of interests and can include life and disability insurance, pet coverage or financial counseling.

A big advantage for employers is that it’s relatively simple to offer voluntary benefit programs. Once an employer chooses a vendor, the vendor handles the rest, including claims, forms, insurance cards and customer service. Premiums are taken out of employees’ paychecks on a pre-tax basis for most benefits.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers some cautions. It’s important employers ensure the benefits offer a tangible value to employees. For instance, group home and auto insurance may sound like a good idea, but may not provide better prices than employee-purchased policies because the policies would still have to be underwritten.

The main advantage is that employees can choose the voluntary benefits that best fit their lifestyle at any particular time. Benefits appealing to single employees may not be optimal after they get married, have children or get close to retirement.

Almost three-fourths of the employees surveyed by MetLife said that being able to customize their benefits was an important consideration when deciding to take a job. Experts say this attitude is not surprising given the many personalized choices available today, from how our coffee is made to the vast number of apps we can select from for our smart phones.

So, what benefit options do employees want? The MetLife study showed that 36 percent of the employees were most interested in wellness benefits and financial planning.

Wellness Health Benefits

A well-run wellness program can improve employees’ health and reduce health care costs. Doctors Richard Milani and Carl Lavie conducted a study showing that for every dollar invested in a wellness program, $6 were saved in health care costs.

Low-cost passes to a local gym can be a nice perk. However, experts caution that for wellness benefits to truly have a positive impact, they must be part of a comprehensive, accessible plan that is communicated clearly to all employees. Wellness plans also should focus on more than physical fitness and weight loss. Harvard Business Review reports that depression and stress can be major sources of lost job productivity and are worth addressing.

Financial Wellness

Employees who are worried about their financial situation are usually stressed out on the job as well.

According to SHRM’s Financial Wellness in the Workplace Survey, 38 percent of human resource professionals say their employees have greater financial challenges now than in the early part of the 2007 recession. These HR professionals also felt that personal financial challenges affected seven out of 10 employees’ job performance.

Employer-sponsored financial wellness benefits can include tools to help employees better handle their finances. Benefits include budgeting software, financial education programs and company-matched savings plans. Employers could also offer services to help employees save money, such as discount purchasing programs; access to a credit union; short-term loans; or financial assistance for college expenses.

Other Popular Benefits

Some voluntary plans focus on lifestyle choices. Employers can help employees balance work lives with personal lives through services such as onsite daycare, subsidized eldercare, legal support or adoption assistance.

Our voluntary benefits experts can help you evaluate your options and show you how to create a plan that gets your employees excited, boosts productivity and differentiates your program.

 

A New Trend: Runners Get Discounts on Life Insurance

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Perhaps you’ve seen the ad on Facebook or elsewhere, noting runners have a “35 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality” and may be eligible for life insurance discounts.

In light of research revealing the health benefits of running—lower blood pressure, cholesterol and ratio of weight to height—one insurer, John Hancock, now offers a plan to that gives discounts of up to 15 percent to customers who meet exercise goals.

“Since running improves HDL (or good cholesterol) and keeps weight and blood pressure down, those who run may be at an advantage when it comes to being eligible for the best life insurance premium rates available from insurers,” Dr. Steven Rigatti, vice president and chief medical officer at the mutual life insurance company MassMutual, told Runners World magazine.

An Iowa State University study of 50,000 adults found running as little as four to five miles a week, even at 11 or 12 minutes a mile, reduces the risk of dying from heart problems by 45 percent and extends life spans by as much as three years compared to those who don’t run.

However, insurers take a number of items into consideration when determining premiums and experts say personal or family medical history could overshadow exercise routines. While running reduces the chance of having high blood pressure by more than 4 percent, according to the American Heart Association, some runners still may have high blood pressure or medical histories with surgeries and other problems.

“Some runners may not check out as healthy as they appear,” Kyle Winkfield, managing partner of the Washington, D.C. financial planning firm O’Dell, Winkfield, Roseman & Shipp, told Runners World. “Just because you run doesn’t mean you’re going to get these awesome rates.”

It’s the Law: Benefits You Must Provide Employees

Posted on August 1st, 2017

Employers have a lot of options for increasing the appeal of their benefits plans. But there are also certain minimums to comply with — benefits required by law.

Here is a list of benefits required by either the federal government or by state governments.

Required

The federal government requires all employers to offer these benefits to their employees:

Social Security Taxes – Employers must pay Social Security taxes on each employee’s earnings at the same rate paid by their employee. That rate in 2017 is 6.2 percent on taxable earnings up to $127,200 as of 2017 — which means your company must pay the Internal Revenue Service a total of 12.4 percent of payroll.

Medicare Tax – withholding of 1.45 percent paid by employers and employees. In addition employers must pay an additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax if the employee’s compensation exceeds the threshold amount, which is $200,000 for someone filing single.

Workers’ Compensation – In every state except Texas, where an opt-out with certain conditions is available, employers must purchase insurance to provide benefits to any employee who suffers a work-related injury or illness. The coverage is no-fault but employers are protected from lawsuits by injured employees. Each state has different laws regarding the rates paid to employees injured on the job.

Paid Leave for Service – You must allow your employees time off to serve on a jury or perform military service. The Fair Labor Standards Act does not require employers to pay employees for jury duty service, although some states do. You must rehire employees at a comparable level after they return from military service.

Check to see if your company must comply with the federal or state requirements for offering these benefits:

Unemployment Insurance – This insurance pays compensation to employees who lose their job through no fault of their own. Employers must pay both state and federal unemployment taxes if they pay wages totaling $1,500 or more in any quarter of a calendar year; or if they had at least one employee on any day of a week during 20 weeks in a calendar year (regardless if the weeks were consecutive). However, some state laws differ from the federal law. Register your business with your state’s workforce agency to learn your state’s requirements.

Disability Insurance – You must purchase partial wage replacement insurance for your employees for non-work related illness or injury if you operate in the following states and territories: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico and Rhode Island.

Family and Medical Leave – The Family Medical Leave Act provides eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected time off during a 12 month period for maternity leave, adoption, foster care, care of an immediate family member, or an employee’s illness. Several states and local jurisdictions require employers to provide leave under additional circumstances. Contact your state labor department to determine if you need to provide Family and Medical Leave. Usually, only companies employing 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks during the current or previous calendar year are subject to these regulations. However, some states have family leave laws for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

COBRA Benefits – The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires employers with 20 or more employees to allow their employees and the employees’ family members to maintain their health insurance coverage at the employer’s group rates for up to 18 months after leaving their job and longer in some cases.

Paid Leave for Service – You are not required by federal law to allow your employees time off to vote, but most states have regulations in place that make it easier for employees to vote during work hours.

If you want to evaluate the legality and compliance of your benefit offerings, contact your local Alera Group firm or send us an email today at info@aleragroup.com.

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