Employee Retention and Benefits

How to Increase Your Employee Retention Through Benefits and Incentives

Employee retention and company attraction stem from making your employees feel valued and appreciated at work — praising employees makes them feel as though their work is important. One way to do this is to provide benefits and incentives that are competitive. Not all benefits have to have a monetary effect on your company. Here are a few creative ways to offer good benefits and incentives to improve employee satisfaction. 

It is extremely important to make your employees feel empowered to work independently. Most employees do not respond well to being micro-managed and are typically more productive when they aren’t. Allow your employees to collaborate on their schedule and choose to work when they are most productive. For hourly employees, give them the ability to offer their availability and communicate when they prefer to work so they can be most productive.

Giving your employees the ability to be independent at work simply allows them to freely collaborate on projects and tasks. Once you have done this, give them the space to succeed and show your trust in their work.

Provide healthcare options that meet their needs. Offering diverse options for your diverse workforce. Options like telehealth services, dental, vision, accident, and life insurance give your employees more expansive offerings. 

Another way to improve your employees’ satisfaction is to provide educational and developmental opportunities.  Not only will these benefits improve your employees’ resumé, but offering educational benefits will give them more skills to further grow within your company. Most employees want to be able to develop further within their companies, so as an employer can be your duty to provide those opportunities for them.

Lastly, employers can offer bonuses based on performance to make employees feel appreciated for their hard work. These don’t always have to be a monetary bonus — you can also offer extended vacation time or other ways to show you appreciate their hard work. 

Benefits and incentives are some of the best ways to show your appreciation for your employees. Offering competitive benefits and showing employees you care will increase employee morale and satisfaction within your company. Contact us for more information on benefits for your employees.

Unemployment and COVID-19

What You Need to Know About Unemployment and COVID-19

Unemployment numbers have hit a record high over the last few weeks. The global pandemic has caused many people to lose their job, as businesses were forced to close. Losing a job typically brings a loss of benefits. What do you need to know about unemployment benefits, and how they have changed due to COVID-19?

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  • Receive unemployment benefits plus $600: The stimulus bill provided those who applied for unemployment an additional $600 for up to four months.
  • Free-lancers, self-employed, and gig employees are now eligible: Unemployment has expanded to protect these employees if COVID-19 has affected their business.
  • Sick pay and family leave might be the first available: Under the FFCRA employees can receive 80 hours of sick leave will full pay if they are unable to work due to COVID-19. They may also receive up to 12 weeks of family leave if they need to stay home with their children.
  • Furloughed employees are also eligible: Those who have been furloughed, but not completely laid off are also eligible to receive benefits. These employees can receive unemployment benefits and keep their company health insurance.
  • The 7-day waiting period and other eligibility requirements may be waived: The Federal government has decided to provide full funding to applicants in the first week. Those who haven’t been laid off, but can’t work due to COVID-19 are eligible to receive unemployment. Those who were scheduled to begin working, but were unable to due to Coronavirus are also eligible for unemployment benefits.
  • There is a shortage of staff due to last years unemployment rates: In one week 3.4 million unemployment insurance claims were filed during the global pandemic, however, there are not enough people to assist with those claims. The staff numbers for this year are based on last year’s unemployment rates, because last years numbers were low, the staffing is low. Even with the influx of claims, they will get to everybody!

During this uncertain time, be sure to utilize the resources you can, while you can. For more information on COVID-19 Resources, visit our site.

Medicaid Coverage Can Save Lives!

Having coverage is extremely important in ensuring your health and wellbeing especially during today’s environment. While some states believe that it’s too late to expand Medicaid coverage, it could help those unemployed greatly. Over the last few months, all but 15 states have participated in the expansion of Medicaid. This coverage can help save lives.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that the expansion of Medicaid has resulted in a near 30% drop in cancer-related deaths. Similarly, the National Bureau of Economic Research found that if all 50 states implemented the expansion of Medicaid, 15,6000 deaths could have been avoided.

Over 4 million people who are currently uninsured would gain coverage from the expansion of Medicaid. In states that have already implemented expansion, those who have lost their jobs, or lost a significant amount of income, will be able to gain coverage. Not only does this expansion aid in today’s crisis, but it also increases access to care, improves financial security, and Medicaid coverage can save lives in a normal circumstance. 

Those without coverage, today, might be hesitant to seek testing and treatment of COVID-19, with the fear that they cannot afford it. This endangers the individual along with others who they may transfer the virus to. Under the changes to the ACA, Medicaid covers testing and treatment for COVID-19, as well as treatment for other health conditions.

States that have not implemented the expansion of Medicaid, always have the option to expand. Once they send in the information regarding the implementation of Medicaid coverage, a state can ask CMS to approve of retroactive coverage. This coverage can allow those who apply for Medicaid to receive coverage up to 3 months prior.

If states submit their expansion plans before June 30, their expansion will be retroactive to April 1, so Medicaid can pay for any medical costs incurred starting on April 1. This also applies to those who do not apply for Medicaid until July. Retroactive coverage also helps the financial stability of health care providers through the reduction of uncompensated care costs. 

So, there you have it, Medicaid coverage can save lives, by helping to prevent and treat those who may be unsure if they can afford proper healthcare. At SBMA, we offer competitive Medicare packages for everyone. Learn more about our insurance offerings on our site! Contact us for information regarding your plan, and what you need going forward.

OCR Relaxed HIPAA Enforcement Increases Telehealth

With the recent pandemic, many things have changed in regard to healthcare services. One major way healthcare has changed over the last few months is through the expansion of telehealth services. The Office of Civil Rights has recently relaxed the constraints surrounding which video conferencing applications are HIPAA compliant provided that these services are provided in good faith. As OCR relaxed HIPAA enforcement, there have been increases in telehealth services. The article below details how these relaxed regulations have changed the telemedicine world, and why we can expect it to stick post-COVID:


OCR’s Relaxed Enforcement Of HIPAA During COVID-19 Paves The Way For Increase In Telehealth Services

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country, doctors, dentists, therapists, and other healthcare providers have turned to telehealth use with their patients by way of videoconferencing applications such as Zoom, Skype and WebEx. The Office of Civil Rights and the Department of Health and Human Services (“OCR”) defines telehealth as “the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications.”

There are a number of privacy concerns healthcare providers should consider when utilizing telehealth technology. Generally, healthcare providers providing telehealth services are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). However, not every videoconferencing application is HIPAA-compliant. HIPAA requires that a healthcare provider who utilizes a vendor to transmit or maintain protected health information, or who utilizes a vendor who has routine access to protected health information (PHI), must have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with each vendor.

In light of COVID-19, the OCR recently relaxed its enforcement of HIPAA’s privacy and security rules and issued a notification stating that it will practice “enforcement discretion” regarding HIPAA’s privacy and security rules. The OCR will not impose penalties for noncompliance with HIPAA for healthcare providers’ “good faith provision of telehealth using such non-public facing audio or video communication products during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency”, whether the telehealth services are related to a COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment or not, including for example, “a sprained ankle, dental consultation or psychological evaluation, or other conditions.”

The OCR advises healthcare providers to use public facing videoconferencing applications including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, Zoom, or Skype, to provide telehealth without the risk that the OCR will issue penalties for non-compliance with HIPAA. However, the OCR also specifically disallows the use of certain other public facing video apps such as TikTok, Facebook live, and Twitch to provide telehealth services.

Notwithstanding the OCR’s practice of enforcement discretion, healthcare providers should continue to engage in best practices to safeguard patient data. For example:

1. Consent. Before using video conferencing for medical consultations, request permission from the patient to do so and document their approval in their medical record.

2. BAA. Despite the fact that the OCR will not impose penalties against covered health care providers for the lack of a BAA, the OCR encourages healthcare providers to enter into a BAA with any vendor that provides videoconferencing services, and in its notification provides a list of vendors which represent that they are HIPAA-compliant video conferencing applications that will enter into a HIPAA BAA, including:

  • Skype for Business / Microsoft Teams
  • Updox
  • VSee
  • Zoom for Healthcare
  • Doxy.me
  • Google G Suite Hangouts Meet
  • Cisco Webex Meetings / Webex Teams
  • Amazon Chime
  • GoToMeeting
  • Spruce Health Care Messenger

3. Encryption. Healthcare providers should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using the videoconferencing technology.

4. Password Protection. Healthcare providers should create a unique meeting ID and a strong password to access a virtual consultation.

5. Monitor. Healthcare providers should monitor all communications containing PHI. Additionally, healthcare providers should check that both employees and patients are accessing via a secure network connection prior to consultations.

According to analysts at Forrester Research, the adoption of telehealth services has increased dramatically, with virtual healthcare interactions projected to exceed 1 billion by year’s end. While the OCR’s relaxed enforcement of HIPAA during COVID-19 likely will end when the pandemic is brought under control, it appears telehealth services may become the “new normal” for healthcare providers.

Telehealth is Here to Stay!

Telehealth has expanded leaps and bounds in the past few months. With the outbreak of Coronavirus, and the high infection risk, people have turned to telehealth services to supplement non-emergent doctor appointments. By the end of the year, the use of virtual health services could hit 1 billion users. In March, the number of telehealth services increased by 50% compared to last year. As we see the number of telehealth visits continue to increase, it is safe to assume that this may be the new normal.

Coronavirus has caused the telehealth industry to fast-track the wide implementation of the usage. Before COVID-19, there were multiple regulatory changes that may have taken years to implement but were fast-tracked to begin usage in a few weeks. 

These changes have reduced or eliminated barriers to usage, to give both providers and patients easier and more convenient access to telehealth services. Before the pandemic, Medicare regulated the availability of telehealth services to only those who resided in rural areas, now it is available to all locations. There were also regulations surrounding those that could receive, previously it could only be patients who had been in the office within the last three years. Now, physicians can treat any new or current patients. 

One large regulation that has been lifted is the restrictions the HIPAA put on the privacy for telehealth platforms. The Office of Civil Rights stated that during the pandemic, the discretion against providers who use Facetime, Zoom, or Skype, will not be enforced. But providers must ensure that they are using good faith when utilizing these tools. 

Providing easier access to telehealth services, along with the stay-at-home orders that were mandated, the adoption of this technology has skyrocketed. It has helped those at home to not only screen for COVID-19 symptoms, but also have routine checkups and follow-ups. 

Some healthcare industries that have seen the most success with telehealth is dermatology and behavioral health. Both industries do not need to meet in person in order to deliver a diagnosis. Dermatologists have used this to treat acne, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis. Behavioral health professionals have seen a rise in appointments, especially with the current pandemic. People’s mental health has been impacted largely by Coronavirus, so implementing telehealth services for this industry can help people when they need it most.

Previously, physicians using telehealth services have seen limited resources and financial compensation. This reality made physicians less likely to utilize these services. Due to the public health emergency, Medicare has waived all restrictions placed on telehealth reimbursements and has expanded coverage to a wider variety of the population. Some payers, like Medicaid, have reimbursed virtual doctor’s visits at the same rate they do for in-office appointments. 

Over the last few months, we have seen telehealth grow massively and it has played an important role in managing the Coronavirus pandemic. As we look to the future, understanding the value of telehealth will be vital to its survival. As physicians and patients alike adopt the new technology, it will begin to become the new normal. With the widespread implementation of virtual visits, it is likely people will be more in tune with their health due to the convenience. 

At SBMA, we offer the most competitive medical benefits plans in the industry. We offer 24/7 access to doctors, with no cost to you! Along with the option for behavioral health services with a $50 co-pay. To learn more about our virtual health options, contact us!

Coronavirus Testing: Who Should Pay?

COVID-19 Testing is Essential to Slow the Spread: Who Should Pay?

Coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout the world, especially in places with more vulnerable populations. Specifically, in the nursing homes, there has been a massive spike in COVID-19 related deaths. With this information, many state officials have called for nursing home workers and residents to be tested consistently. These health care workers are some of the most underpaid workers in the industry, yet they might have to take on the financial burden of paying for their weekly testing. 

Regular testing of these workers is important to help control the spread of Coronavirus, as they may be in contact with COVID-19 carriers daily. The initial outbreak of the virus occurred in a nursing home in Seattle, and has seen a large death toll in nursing homes in both New York and New Jersey. 

State by state there has been various information being relayed, which makes it confusing for workers who are unaware if their insurance will cover the cost of the testing. Federally, the CMS states that nursing homes should be tested weekly, while the CDC said each facility can adjust their testing frequency depending on the presence of COVID-19. 

Testing all nursing home workers and the residents would add up to 150,000 tests per day. With tests costing around $100, this would be a large undertaking for whoever takes the cost. 

Because nursing home workers are the lowest paid health care workers in the industry, it is likely that many of them don’t have insurance coverage to help with the costs. These nursing homes also don’t feel as if they can cover the full cost of the tests, they need assistance from the state. 

At SBMA, we offer the best, limited medical coverage in San Diego. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you stay safe during the health crisis.

Navigating Individual and Voluntary Benefits

How to Understand the Differences Between Voluntary and Individual Benefits

Navigating the similarities and differences between individual and voluntary benefits can seem challenging. Which ones do your employees want? What can employees get from individual benefits that they can’t from voluntary? How can benefits attract and retain great talent? Here is a list of the major similarities and differences between the two to help you navigate what benefits you want to provide.

Some similarities include:

  • Customizable options: Both benefit options have multiple coverage options available. These customizations give people the ability to change their options to cater to their needs, their family size, and their budget.
  • Dependent coverage: You have the ability to add eligible dependents, like your spouse and children, for an additional charge.
  • There are various areas that are covered: Both types of insurance cover dental, vision, disability, and life insurance.

Some differences include:

  • Voluntary benefits are sponsored by your employer: Voluntary benefits are only offered through employer-sponsored healthcare plans. Those who are not employed do not have access to voluntary benefit options. The employer also chooses what options are offered and what the coverage levels are. As an employer, this can be a great way to differentiate your company.
  • Individual insurance is completely paid for by an employee: Some business owners pass the cost of voluntary benefits on to their employees, though it is not required. Some employers will also cover a portion of voluntary benefit elections for their employees. With individual coverage, the employees take the entire cost.

At SBMA, we understand how important your employees are to your organization. Offer your employees the most options for coverage. When you offer your employees more options when it comes to benefits, they will likely have higher engagement levels as they feel you care for their wellbeing. Contact us to learn more about the voluntary benefits you can offer your employees.

ACA Compliance and COVID-19

How to Prevent ACA Penalties due to COVID-19

Due to COVID-19, ACA compliance has become a bit more complicated. As an employer, you must ensure that all your paperwork and practices are ACA compliant. If individuals wrongly receive a PTC, the employer is responsible for proving to the IRS that the individual did not qualify. It is now more important than ever to have your information in order, in case of future issues. In the ACA times article below, you will see why ACA penalties may increase this year, and how you can prevent potential penalties for your business.

A new data analysis report from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) finds the vast majority of Americans who lost their job amid COVID-19will be eligible for government-subsidized health coverage.

The KFF report, issued May 13, identifies 79% of Americans that lost their job due to COVID-19 related factors “are likely eligible for subsidized coverage, either through Medicaid (12.7 million) or through the ACA’s marketplaces (8.4 million).”

Of the nearly 13 million potentially eligible for Medicaid, individuals will have a more affordable option if their home state was one of the 37 to have expanded Medicaid.

The remaining eight million and counting will apply for a Premium Tax Credit through either a state or federal health exchange. Some of these individuals may wrongfully receive the government subsidy, as a recent TIGTA report finds. Whether they correctly receive the subsidy or not, the onus will be on employers to maintain accurate records as they gear up to file their 1094-C and employee 1095-C’s with the IRS next year. Without detailed record-keeping and an accurate ACA filing, employers could potentially expose themselves to significant ACA penalties.

As a reminder, PTCs are the trigger for the IRS issuing Letter 226J penalty notices to employers identified as having failed to comply with the ACA’s Employer Mandate for a specific tax year.

Under the ACA’s Employer Mandate, Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) organizations with 50 or more full-time employees and full-time equivalent employees) are required to offer Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) to at least 95% of their full-time workforce (and their dependents) whereby such coverage meets Minimum Value (MV) and is Affordable for the employee or be subject to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 4980H penalties.

If individuals wrongfully received a PTC, the burden falls on the employer to not only have their ACA practices and filing tight-nit, but to also prove to the IRS that the individual did not qualify. For those who correctly received the PTC, it is important that employers code the employee’s 1095-C correctly to prove why the PTC should not result in a corresponding penalty.

And with states passing special enrollment periods allowing individuals to enroll in their health exchanges indefinitely, employers may see a significant uptick in the number of IRS penalty assessments in the mail due to more PTCS being issued.

This could prove problematic for employees, currently facing financial challenges from COVID-19, among other issues including furloughs, layoffs, changes in employee classification and so on.

Employers should explore ACA Complete as a solution to ACA compliance and have peace of mind knowing their workforce changes are being documented and handled by a third-party expert who specializes in data consolidation, analysis and regulations.

To learn more about ACA compliance in 2020, click here.

Voluntary Benefits and Your Employees

How Can Voluntary Benefits Help You Attract and Retain Employees?

Benefit programs are essential to keeping your employees engaged and happy at work— but not just standard benefit programs. You also need to be providing voluntary benefits. Voluntary benefits allow employees to feel cared for and important in your organization. Here are a few ways voluntary benefits might benefit your business:

  • They enhance your existing benefits: Offering voluntary benefits help your employee protect what matters to them the most. For example, cancer insurance, critical illness insurance, and life insurance all contribute to employees feeling safe and secure in their health.
  • Support your employee’s financial well-being: Voluntary benefits are paid directly to employees. Your employees can use cash benefits for any reason, like deductibles, coinsurance, and non-covered treatments.
  • It helps attract and retain employees: The best talent looks for organizations that offer great employee benefits. Not only do benefits attract talent, they help retain it, which helps avoid onboarding costs, reduces training costs, and gain a more skilled workforce.
  • Appealing to multiple generations: Offering voluntary benefits allow you to tailor your benefits programs to fit the needs of your specific workforce.
  • Reduces both 401(k) and 403(b) loans and withdrawals: Because voluntary benefits are paid directly to employees, your employees can use this cash for unexpected medical bills that might result in withdrawals otherwise.
  • Engage, motivate, and encourage productivity within your workforce: When employees feel satisfied with their benefits, they are more likely to bring enthusiasm to their work.
  • The company receives cost-savings benefits: Employers can choose to pay all, none, or some of the premiums. Voluntary benefits are typically affordable for both the employee and the employers.

At SBMA, we understand how important your employees are to your company. Contact us to learn more about how voluntary benefits can help your business.

Voluntary benefits

COVID-19 & the Health Care System

How Will Coronavirus Affect the Health Care System?

COVID-19 & the Health Care System: Coronavirus has sent shockwaves throughout the world over the past few months. While we work to combat the virus right now, we also must consider what might happen in the future. How will the pandemic, the shutdown economy, canceled elective surgeries, and other coronavirus-related issues affect the future of our well being as a whole?

COVID-19 has already cost our nation about 143,000 deaths.

Along with those who have been hospitalized due to the illness. These numbers are from the beginning of the pandemic, and we may experience more waves of the outbreak, so we must be prepared. 

Because the virus is so unknown, we are unaware of the potential effects that come with recovering from the virus. Some of these potential effects could be lung scarring, strokes, embolisms, blood clotting, and heart damage. People may be living with the effects of the virus for years to come.

Not only are there direct effects related to this virus, but there are also indirect implications.

With canceled doctors appointments, non-essential surgeries, and other non-essential health care procedures, it could cause lasting effects on the healthcare system and the patients. If people delay care for much longer, they might skip treatment that would help them in the long run. 

Once elective surgeries resume, there might be people who are hesitant to go into hospitals and doctor’s offices due to the fear of contracting COVID-19. If people do get comfortable coming back into the office, it will likely cause a pile-up of appointments, which could delay life-saving surgeries that are non-essential.

With the stay-at-home order and social distancing protocols in place, the collective mental health has been a concern for some.

The economic crisis and the stress and reality of the actual virus can take a toll on people’s mental health. Virtual health options are available to speak to therapists now, but we will likely see the effects of this later on. 

Luckily the expansion of telehealth services has allowed people to have a routine check-up or consultation without coming into the doctor’s office. Virtual health services are now considered a must-have with the current health crisis. This technology is likely here to stay, as both patients and physicians have adopted the wide usage of it. The convenience and safety of these services are among the many reasons it has been used widely.

Lastly, the economic effects of Coronavirus will likely take a toll on people’s access to healthcare and the industry itself.

Those who have lost their jobs due to Coronavirus have likely lost their health insurance coverage as well. Without access to proper healthcare services, the overall health of Americans will likely decrease. People will be less likely to seek health services if they do not have the proper insurance to cover the costs. 

At SBMA, we understand how important health insurance coverage is to your overall well being. We offer the best, affordable, limited health care services in San Diego. Contact us to learn more about the services we offer.