Employee Benefits

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NEWSLETTER: August 2018

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There are over 42,000 opioid-related deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—a figure that has been rising steadily since the turn of the century. The opioid death rate is now more than five times greater than it was in 1999.

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing

In addition to the skyrocketing opioid-related deaths, there are countless Americans who are still abusing prescription medications. This means employers must figure out how to best address this crisis with employees. That is where The Plexus Groupe can help.

The purpose of this toolkit is to help employers understand and deal with the opioid epidemic, create a healthier and more productive workforce, and reduce costs. This toolkit is not intended to replace the advice of a medical or legal professional. In many cases, you may need to contact a professional for assistance. However, this information can serve as a starting point for developing a meaningful opioid strategy.

What Are Opioids?

In the most basic terms, the CDC defines opioids as “a class of drugs used to reduce pain.” However, not all opioids are the same. There is a wide range of legal and illegal drugs that are classified as opioids. For example, Vicodin, a legal painkiller commonly prescribed to patients, is an opioid. By comparison, heroin, an illegally manufactured drug that has no medical use, is also an opioid. Both are killing thousands each year.

Opioids vs. Opiates

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These terms are used interchangeably by many who report on the opioid crisis. While this may be fine for a basic understanding, knowing the difference between opioids and opiates could matter to your organization’s plan administrator.

This toolkit uses the term “opioid” exclusively to include both categories of drugs.

Common Types of Opioids

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It should be clear by now that many drugs are considered opioids. Here are the names of some commonly abused opioids, with their brand names listed for recognition. These include prescription medications and illegal offshoots.

What Employers Can Do

The opioid crisis is not going away. Estimates show this epidemic costs the U.S. economy over $95 billion annually, with employers paying $18 billion of that themselves. And, these figures are only expected to rise. Employers need to do everything possible to combat the impact opioids have in the workplace.

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There is no silver bullet for this crisis. However, exploring new initiatives can help you develop your own strategy to best suit the needs of your employees. This section provides examples that may help you.

Understanding the Impact

Employers across the country are working to curb the misuse of prescription opioids. With more employees falling victim to addiction, employers are seeing lower productivity, higher health care costs and fewer qualified job applicants.

When so much of the workforce is at risk of opioid abuse, that can put a strain on benefit programs—especially health care costs. Overprescribing creates ample room for abuse, which can result in employers paying more for their drug plan than they need to be.

It can be hard to identify illegitimate use, especially with prescribed medications. Employers may need to try more unique approaches to curb opioid abuse. Addressing the problem with employees directly can be a good place to start.

Employee Education

Opioid abuse is not happening in a vacuum. Even if employees themselves are not using opioids, their lives may be affected by loved ones who are. This can indirectly affect their job performance and contribute to the overall crisis.

Employers should do their best to provide employees with educational materials to help them understand and take action against the opioid crisis. Lasting reform can only happen if individuals take charge of their situation. Educating employees is the first step.

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Consider the following suggestions when developing your own communication campaign:

Explain the Risks

Reminding people about addiction’s tragic side effects could help motivate them to abstain from or seek treatment. Directly facing the consequences of your actions can be powerful, especially when paired with other resources. Try putting up posters or sending information directly to employees that calls attention to the dangers of opioid misuse.

Encourage Employees to Speak With a Doctor

Sometimes employees do not think to speak to their doctors about opioid abuse. This could be because employees are worried about losing their prescriptions, or perhaps they do not know how their doctor could help. Regardless, a doctor is more qualified than your organization’s HR department to help with medical issues stemming from opioids.

Educate employees on the importance of speaking openly with their doctors. If they are worried about losing a prescription, explain that there are other effective ways to treat chronic pain. Most importantly, reassure employees that their doctors are there to help, not get them in trouble for misusing medication.

Promote Your EAP

Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can be extremely beneficial for your workforce. Traditionally, EAPs help with personal issues, like smoking cessation or stress management. However, they can also help with opioid usage.

Like any other EAP, a program geared specifically toward opioids can help employees deal with this debilitating addiction and put energy back into their job. Read more about EAPs in the following section.

Employee Assistance Programs

Because substance abuse and mental health issues can impact the workplace so significantly, many companies choose to offer EAPs. However, an EAP is only useful if it is tailored to your employees’ needs. In this case, employees need resources to fight their opioid addictions.

An EAP supplies professionals who provide counseling to employees and their families in a safe and private atmosphere. Generally, all the information disclosed will remain confidential, and no disclosure to employers will be made without written permission. Using an EAP will not jeopardize an employee’s job or chance for promotion, which are two repercussions many drug users fear. These factors lower barriers and can encourage more people to seek help.

The EAP makes a limited number of counseling sessions available to employees at no cost. Should an employee and his or her counselor decide that a referral to an outside provider is necessary, those costs will then be the employee’s responsibility.

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Consult your EAP vendor to determine what the payment structure looks like so you can advise employees on best usage practices.

Benefits of an EAP

An EAP not only helps employees, it helps the entire business. When employees are in good mental and physical health, the whole organization benefits.

Offering an EAP can put employees in touch with experts who can help start their treatment.

Opioid addiction should be treated like a chronic illness. Simply providing one treatment option will not help create lasting change. It takes time, energy and ongoing treatment to help reverse opioid addiction.

Speak with your EAP vendor to discuss adaptions that can better meet the needs of your workforce.

Have questions regarding opioid addiction in the workplace, this newsletter, or any other employee benefits matters? Contact a client service team representative from The Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Illinois at 847-307-6100, Chicago at 312-606-4800, Dallas at 972-770-5010 or Oklahoma City at 405-840-3033.

We’re here to help and we’re happy to help.

Content provided by Zywave.

EMPLOYEE BENEFITS NEWSLETTER: July 2018

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The #MeToo and #TimesUp movement is fairly new but sexual harassment is not. Women, usually the victims of sexual harassment at work, are just no longer taking the abuse. They are finding their voice, speaking up and demanding change causing human resource departments across the nation to scramble to reform their ways and find new solutions.

The movement has resulted in more workplace complaints, companies fine-tuning their policies and procedures and even developing new prevention education.

Enter Work Shield and its ERISA-qualified Employer Harassment Prevention Plan (“EHP Plan”), a new and innovative workplace harassment solution that works for everyone and is offered by The Plexus Groupe. This plan can be purchased and added at any time. The Work Shield solution provides an independent platform for employees to address -- and employers to prevent -- harassment issues in the workplace.

As set forth by the EEOC, more than 33 million women have experienced sexual abuse and about half of those incidents took place at work. However, that number may be low because according to the EEOC, 75 percent of workplace harassment incidents go unreported.

Most victims of workplace harassment don't report the incident because of fear - fear of not being believed, fear of retaliation, fear of losing their job, fear of being ridiculed, and fear of having the incident “swept under the rug”, among other factors. Employees rarely feel safe and protected with their employer's current sexual harassment policies and procedures.

Work Shield serves a third party that provides a safe and secure conduit between all parties involved in a workplace harassment incident. An employee who is feeling harassed can use the Work Shield platform to report the incident on a HIPAA-secured portal – both anonymously and not.

Once an incident report is filed, Works Shield and its team of experts begin an investigation that is based on listening and understanding, while finding the facts surrounding the incident.

Within 45 days, Work Shield will provide an incident report of the findings and make a qualified recommendation to the employer regarding the incident – all with compliancy, confidentiality (as it relates to keeping the matter between only those applicable parties) and sensitivity as the key components to the determination and recommendation.

The existing system of handling workplace harassment issues is broken. The only resource for employees is to file EEOC charges and even lawsuits. Oftentimes, these employees win – BIG – due to an employer not appropriately handling, investigating and procuring the right solution. Since 2010, companies have paid out nearly $700 million in settlements to victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Workplace harassment not only impacts companies through legal costs, but impacts job turnover, sick and low productivity. It is estimated that companies spend an additional $327 million –on these three issues due to workplace harassment. In total, that’s over $1 billion dollars spent on workplace harassment in the past seven years.

But for the price of a cup of coffee per employee per month, the Work Shield platform is the key to preventing and resolving workplace harassment before it gets to a hefty and costly lawsuit.

Have questions regarding Work Shield, this newsletter or other employee benefits matters? Contact a client service team representative from The Plexus Groupe in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033).

We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.

Plexus Hires Christa Oldham as Vice President, Client Executive in Employee Benefits

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CHICAGO -- The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham as Vice President, Client Executive in Employee Benefits. She will be based out of the national insurance brokerage and risk management consultancy firm's Chicago office. Christa brings nearly two decades of employee benefits consulting and brokerage success to The Plexus Groupe. The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham because she has executed numerous high-level benefits initiatives. She has expertise creating, developing, and deploying strategies that positively impact clients and their employees. She will be responsible for personally managing a portfolio of clients.

“The Plexus Groupe hires Christa Oldham to fill a niche area with her strengths,” said John Dwyer, Plexus Senior Vice President. “Her impressive scope of experience and ability to build client relationships makes her a great addition to our firm. She will be a big part of our efforts as we continue to grow our presence in the greater Chicagoland area.”

WHO IS THE PLEXUS GROUPE?

The Plexus Groupe offers expertise in employee benefits, property and casualty, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration/consulting. It also offers benefits technology services and mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the Plexus Global Network gives clients access to insurance placement in 130 countries around the world. The Plexus Groupe's headquartered in Deer Park, Ill., with additional locations in Chicago, Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

For more information on Plexus’s strategic insurance solutions, contact the firm at 847-307-6100 and ask to speak to a client executive or visit PlexusGroupe.com.

The new tax law has changed the way employers can treat some fringe benefits. Here's what you need to know.

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The Plexus Groupe explains new fringe benefits tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Job Act released by the IRS for employers. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released the 2018 version of Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits. This contains information for employers on the tax treatment of fringe benefits.

The new fringe benefits tax law, released in 2018, incorporates the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act to the following fringe benefits:

→ Qualified transportation plans.

→ Moving expense reimbursements.

→ Employer-provided meals.

→ Employee achievement awards.

IRS Publication 15-B also discusses the new fringe benefits tax law for a variety of other benefits and includes key benefit limits for 2018.

Fringe Benefits: Tax Rules

A fringe benefit is a form of additional pay for an employee’s performance of services. Fringe benefits may include, for example, employer-provided cars, discounts on property or services, memberships in country clubs or other social clubs, and tickets to entertainment or sporting events. Fringe benefits are generally included in an employee’s gross income, unless a specific tax exclusion applies.

The Internal Revenue Code includes tax exclusion rules for certain types of fringe benefits. These include transportation benefits, meals, achievement awards, educational assistance and dependent care assistance. The new fringe benefits tax law excludes all or part of the value of certain fringe benefits from employees’ pay. In most cases, the excluded benefits are not subject to federal income or employment tax withholding, and are not reported on IRS Form W-2.

IRS Publication 15-B: An Overview

IRS Publication 15-B contains information for employers on the tax treatment of certain kinds of fringe benefits. The IRS updates Publication 15-B each year for tax law changes. The 2018 version of Publication 15-B is significant because it includes changes made by the new tax law.

Key provisions of Publication 15-B include the following:

Qualified Transportation Benefits

The new fringe benefits tax law, effective for 2018, does not allow employer deduction for qualified transportation benefits. IRS Publication 15-B clarifies that when an employer directly pays for qualified transportation benefits, through a bona fide reimbursement arrangement or through a compensation reduction agreement, their is no employer deduction. Thus, employers cannot deduct the wages that employees choose to contribute on a pre-tax basis for qualified transportation benefits.

IRS Publication 15-B does not address the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) issue for tax-exempt employers that provide transportation benefits.

While employers may no longer deduct payments for qualified transportation benefits, the fringe benefit exclusion rules still apply and employee wages may exclude deductions for qualified parking, commuter expenses and transit passes. However, the tax exclusion suspends qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026.

Moving Expense Reimbursements

Also, the tax exclusion suspends qualified moving expense reimbursements for tax years beginning after Dec. 1, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026. The exclusion is limited to members of the U.S. armed forces on active duty who move due to changing stations.

Employee Meals

The 50% limit on food or beverage expense deductions also applies to these expenses that are excluded from employees’ income. However, food or beverage expenses related to employee recreation, such as holiday parties or annual picnics, are not subject to the 50 percent limit on deductions when made primarily for the benefit of employees, other than certain highly compensated employees.

Employee Achievement Awards

Employers may exclude the value of tangible personal property that is given to an employee as an award for either length of service or safety achievement. The new tax law clarifies that the tax exclusion does not apply to awards of cash, cash equivalents, gift cards, gift coupons or gift certificates (other than arrangements in which the employee selects from a limited array of items preselected and preapproved by the employer). The tax exclusion also does not apply to vacations, meals, lodging, tickets to theater or sporting events, stock, bonds, other securities and similar items.

Let Plexus Lend a Hand

Have questions regarding this newsletter or or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We’re here to help — and we’re happy to help.

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Plexus Points: Insurance stories we're reading

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We enjoy reading about insurance. Here are seven insurance stories we're sharing, bookmarking, and highlighting as the work week rolls on:

Insurance Stories

The Economist takes a look at how insurance is working to tailor policies for the freelance workforce.

→ Fixing something and need insurance fast? One agency is offering on-demand coverage.

→ Why are major non-insurers like Walmart suddenly looking to get into the business?

→ Dog bite insurance claims totaled close to $690 million in 2017, according to one study.

→ The state of Kansas allows teachers to be armed in schools, but the state schools' insurer has made it clear it won't cover schools with armed teachers.

→ Here's a neat story from the Lansing (Mich.) State Journal on how area insurers and schools are working to attract students to careers in insurance.

→ The deadly Montecito mudslide has led to more than $400 million in insurance claims.

 

San Francisco Employer Annual Report Due April 30

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The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement requires their Annual Employer Report to be filed by Monday, April 30, 2018. This Plexus Benefits News Alert answers some FAQs regarding these regulations:

Q: Which firms have to file the Annual Employer Report?

A: Employers covered by San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance or Fair Chance Ordinance are subject to the annual reporting requirement.

Generally, this means that employers of 20+ employees with at least one employee within the city or county of San Francisco are covered.

Additionally, employers who are contractors, subcontractors, or leaseholders of the city of San Francisco are covered.

Q: When is the deadline?

A: Covered employers must file the San Francisco 2017 Employer Annual Report by Monday, April 30.

Q: What penalties are possible for missing the deadline?

A: The penalty for not filing in a timely fashion is up to $500 per quarter.

Q: What other requirements do employers face under San Francisco law?

A: In addition to the annual report, there are several other requirements under San Francisco law for covered employers, including but not limited to:

→ Mandatory paid parental leave.

→ Paid sick leave.

→ Posting employee notifications.

→ Keeping specific records in-house.

Therefore, if your clients have at least one employee within the city or county of San Francisco, please inquire as to whether these laws apply to their businesses.

Let Plexus Lend a Hand

Have questions regarding today's Alert or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus benefits client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We're here to help, and we're happy to help.

Plexus Hires Wes Hornsby as Vice President of Business Development

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The Plexus Groupe (Plexus), a national insurance brokerage and risk management consultancy with an international network, has hired sales executive Wes Hornsby as a Vice President of Business Development. Hornsby will work out of Plexus's Dallas, Texas office.

Wes Hornsby

Hornsby brings more than 20 years of sales leadership, business operations experience, and strategic planning expertise. He was most recently with Aflac, where he tailored benefit plans for clients via brokers, self-funded groups, and enrollment/software-solution companies. He has also held key sales roles with SurePoint Medical LLC, Rocky Brands, Inc., Allstate, and Bayer/Siemens.

"We are excited to welcome Wes to Plexus," said Brian F. Griffin, Plexus President and Chief Revenue Officer. "His innovative, strategic, client-focused approach, coupled with his vast experience and success in employee benefits and property and casualty, makes him a perfect fit for us. His addition is yet another example of our commitment to bolstering our already strong Dallas market presence."

The Plexus Groupe

Plexus offers expertise in property and casualty, employee benefits, corporate retirement plans, personal lines insurance, human resources administration/consulting, benefits technology services, and mergers and acquisitions. Additionally, the Plexus Global Network gives clients access to insurance placement in 130 countries around the world. Plexus has four offices: Deer Park, Ill. (headquarters), Chicago (Loop), Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

For more information on Plexus's strategic insurance solutions, please contact the firm at 847.307.6100 and ask to speak to a client executive, or contact us via the Web.

The staggering cost and consequences of not taking your medicine

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Study shows that fear of dependence on medication prescriptions is a major reason for patients skipping their recommended doses.

By Integrated Health Concepts, LLC

In the United States, 20 to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled, and approximately 50 percent of medication prescriptions are not taken as prescribed for chronic diseases.1,2  It's estimated this non-adherence causes approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations and  estimated to cost the U.S. health care system between $100 and $300 billion annually.1,3

Non-adherence and its consequences are concerning to Employer Plan Sponsors, raised frequently by those offering high-deductible plans. Numerous strategies have examined external barriers, with little long-term impact. These include financial incentives paying patients for taking their medications, social support nudges from apps or family/friends, electronic pill bottles alerting patients when a dose is due, and low or no co-pays.

A recent study, however, sheds light on a particularly challenging factor in non-adherence: patient beliefs about medications. 4 The study found 51.9 percent of respondents viewed medications negatively. Fear of dependence came as the most reported negative belief, followed by disbelief that medication works. These negative beliefs were significantly associated with lower medication adherence. This study concluded that “… negative beliefs about medicines were a more significant deterrent to adherence than external barriers to accessing medicines.” 4

Medication non-adherence comes with multifaceted problems, with many barriers and beliefs that must be overcome. Simply targeting one area, such as member cost share, will not be sufficient. It will take the entire health care team (physicians, nurses, pharmacists, insurers, PBMs and plan sponsors) working cohesively with the patient to improve patient adherence.

Let Plexus lend a hand

Have questions regarding this newsletter or or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We’re here to help – and we’re happy to help.

Publishing credit: Content provided by Integrated Health Concepts, LLC, a pharmacy consultant for The Plexus Groupe. 

References

1. Peterson AM, Takiya L, Finley R. Meta-analysis of trials of interventions to improve medication adherence. Am J Health Syst Pharm 2003; 60:657-65.

2. Haynes RB, Ackloo E, Sahota N, McDonald HP, Yao X. Interventions for enhancing medication adherence. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008; CD000011.

3. Benjamin RM. Medication adherence: Helping patients take their medicines as directed. Public Health Rep. 2012; 127(1):2–3.

4. Gagnon MD et al. Patient beliefs have a greater impact than barriers on medication adherence in a community health center. J Board Fam Med. 2017 May-Jun; 30(3):331-336.

Plexus Points: Insurance stories we're reading

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At Plexus, we enjoy reading about insurance. Here are a half-dozen insurance stories we are sharing, bookmarking, and highlighting as the work week rolls on:

Insurance Stories

-- A major carmarker will begin a program allowing owners to rent their cars out when they are not using them, a la Airbnb and homes.

-- In case you are wondering, Airbnb does provide some free liability coverage to users, and homeowners insurance may also cover some issues, as this Kiplinger's Personal Finance article points out.

-- Here's a look at the type of coverages home-based businesses may want to explore.

-- Will marijuana-related businesses utilize captives for insurance solutions?

-- Dental implants are effective, but will your insurance cover them?

-- On homeowners policies and firearms.

Plexus Benefits Alert: IRS lowers 2018 HSA family contribution limit to $6,850

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On Monday, the IRS announced a limit change affecting families contributing to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). For 2018, families are limited to $6,850 in contributions to their HSAs, a $50 decrease from the original 2018 threshold of $6,900.

The self-only HSA deduction limit remains $3,450.

Please note: This change is an IRS regulatory change only applicable to HSAs. Unless another qualified event occurs, the change in the HSA amount is an administrative change to comply with the new rules. Any other change in general elections must be a part of a qualified life event.

Next Steps for HSAs

Firms will want to notify their employees of this HSA limit change. Employees and firms may also need to make some election changes in their payroll systems to comply with the new limit. Furthermore, firms will want to check to ensure their benefits systems have safeguards preventing family contributions of more than $6,850.

Let Plexus Lend a Hand

Have questions regarding today's Alert or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus benefits client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We're here to help, and we're happy to help.

Insurance stories we're reading

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At The Plexus Groupe, we enjoy reading about insurance stories. Here are five industry-related stories we're bookmarking, sharing, and thumbing through as the work week rolls on:

Insurance Stories

→ Here's a closer look at the kinds of insurance that major motion pictures might utilize.

→ Will Maryland require individuals to have health insurance?

→ Auto insurance rates are seemingly up everywhere, but they are really going up in Colorado.

→ A fisherman, a boat, and a half-million dollars in liability insurance.

→ Wisconsin recently adjusted the insurance program available to dairy farmers that pays out when the cost of producing milk nears the cost of selling milk.

Plexus, Hunton & Williams to host Cybersecurity Seminar in Dallas on February 20

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International law firm Hunton & Williams and insurance brokerage / risk management consultancy The Plexus Groupe are excited to host a series of cyber risk management panel discussions tomorrow, Tuesday, February 20, from 1-5 p.m. at Hunton and Williams's offices at 1445 Ross Avenue, Suite 3700, in Dallas. An on-site cocktail hour will follow the panel discussions. Join other local executives for cutting edge, actionable threat mitigation insights and fruitful networking opportunities featuring leading legal, security, insurance, and risk management experts.

To RSVP, contact Michael Iannaccone of Plexus Financial Services at miannaccone@plexusfs.com or 630.347.5939.

Topics to be covered by our panelists include:

Cyber Threats: Fixed and Mobile

The Internet of Things brings great opportunity for businesses. But hackers need just cheap, easily accessible technology to wreak havoc on your firm. We take an in-depth look at this dangerous landscape.

Panelists

Chris Risley, CEO, Bastille Networks Internet Security; has led nine venture-backed startups.

Andrew Hoog, Founder, NowSecure; mobile security expert.

Cyber Risk Management: Direct and Indirect

Every day, your brand and your business are on the line.

Panelists

Paul M. Tiao, Partner, Hunton & Williams; co-chair of firm's cyber and physical security task force and former senior counsel under FBI Director Robert S. Mueller.

Michael Berman, Founder & CEO, Ncontracts; leading risk management software provider for financial institutions.

Cyber Risk Mitigation

So you’ve been hacked. What’s the cost? Get ready for some sticker shock.

Panelists

Erik Tammearu, National Benefits Distribution, Symantec.

Michael Iannaccone, Vice President, Plexus Financial Services; banking and risk management consultant.

Cyber Liability

When cyber-attackers hit, cyber insurance and its many components can save the day.

Panelists

Lorelie S. Masters, Partner, Hunton & Williams; nationally recognized insurance coverage litigator.

Willie T. Lindsey, Vice President, Executive Liability, The Plexus Groupe; Executive Liability underwriting and insurance brokerage leader.

 

 

DOL announces new standard for unpaid interns 

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In January, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it would adopt a new standard for determining whether interns and students are “employees” who must receive pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The DOL clarified it would abandon its six-part test and adopt the “primary beneficiary” test used by federal courts. The six-part test says an intern at a for-profit company is an employee unless six factors are met. By contrast, the primary beneficiary test has a more flexible approach. It focuses on whether the intern or the business benefits more from the relationship.

The Old Six-Part Test

The benefit test is very specific and allows for interns to be unpaid if the following factors are met:

— The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training given in an educational environment.

— The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern.

— The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff.

— The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and, on occasion, impedes their operations.

— The intern's not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.

— The employer and the intern understand that the intern's not entitled to wages for the time in the internship.

The Primary Beneficiary Test

The primary beneficiary test looks at the “economic reality” nature of the employment relationship and includes seven factors to consider. However, unlike the six-part test, these factors provide only a reference frame to determine who is benefiting more from the intern-employer relationship.

The seven factors are:

 — The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee — and vice versa.

— The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.

— The extent to which the internship's tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.

— The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.

— The extent to which the internships duration's limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.

— The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.

— The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship's conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

Employers don't need to meet every factor, and also different considerations go with different factors. Instead, the courts will consider these seven factors and evaluate whether, in the totality of the circumstances, the employer is benefiting more from the relationship than the intern is.

When an employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship, the intern is an employee for purposes of the FLSA. When the intern is the primary beneficiary, he or she is not an employee under the FLSA.

Action Steps

— Employers should review how the primary beneficiary test applies to interns at their organizations. The DOL has provided an updated fact sheet for employers to use.

— Employers should also make sure that any unpaid intern programs primarily benefit their interns and not the company.

Let Plexus lend a hand

Have questions regarding this newsletter or or other employee benefits matters? Then, Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We’re here to help – and we’re happy to help.

Disclaimer and publishing credit: This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice. © 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

DOL Rule Requires New Disability Claims Procedures in Place by April 1, 2018

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The Department of Labor recently announced that the delay of its Final Rule regarding disability claims procedures is, in fact, final. This means all employee welfare plans providing benefits based on a determination of disability, including health plans, stand-alone disability benefits, 401(k), pension, and other retirement plans, must have these new procedures, including new contract provisions, in place by Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Which plans are affected?

Any plan governed by ERISA with provisions for disability determinations must implement new claims procedures, whether that be long-term disability benefits, most short-term disability plans, group health plans, stand-alone disability benefits, 401(k), pension, and other retirement plans. These new procedures must be in place by April 1, 2018 and apply to all disability-related claims received on or after April 1.

The new procedures will not apply to non-ERISA arrangements, such as instances where an employer continues paying salary during a time an employee's disabled.

What do affected plan sponsors need to do?

Fully Insured Plans

For employers that maintain insured disability plans, you will want to discuss with the insurance carrier how to apply and document the new procedures.

Self-Insured Plans

Employers with self-funded disability plans or retirement plans with benefits based on disability determinations will need to update plan documents and summary plan descriptions to reflect the new requirements. These employers will also need to update their claims procedures to include the new claims denials and appeals requirements outlined briefly below.

Self-Insured Plans with TPAs

Additionally, if an employer's self-funded but has a third-party administrator (TPA), the employer should amend the TPA administrator agreement to ensure the TPA's handling claims in compliance with this new rule.

What are the new requirements?

Similar to the new claims requirements for group health plans under the Affordable Care Act, new requirements for disability claims include but not limited to:

— The individual who decides a disability claim must not have any conflict of interest or incentive to deny or approve the claim. This includes certain aspects of that individual’s compensation, promotion, termination, etc.

— Claim-denial notices must be both culturally and linguistically appropriate, including assistance with filing claims in non-English languages.

— Certain appeals procedures must be put into place, such as providing the claimant, free of charge, with any new or additional evidence considered or relied upon before the administrator may deny an appeal.

— Potential "penalty" of faster access to litigation and court decision for claimants for whom the plan administrator did not comply with the new claims denials and appeals procedures.

Let Plexus lend a hand

Employers with applicable ERISA benefits plans must have these new procedures, including new contract provisions, in place by April 1, 2018.

Have questions regarding today's Alert or other employee benefits matters? Then, contact a Plexus benefits client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). You can also visit us online here, PlexusGroupe.com. We're here to help, and we're happy to help.

Creditable Coverage Report Due March 1 for Calendar-Year Plans

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Entities that provided prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D-eligible individuals during calendar year 2018 must report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) whether the creditable coverage is creditable prescription drug coverage. Disclosure to CMS is required whether the entity’s coverage is primary or secondary to Medicare.

Creditable Coverage

These entities include employers who provided group health coverage to employees eligible for Medicare Part D. Employers must submit these forms to avoid any penalties associated with providing non-creditable coverage during the previous plan year.

The report is due to CMS on Thursday, March 1, 2018 for calendar-year plans. For non-calendar-year plans, the report is due within 60 days from the beginning of the plan year.

You can find the form for reporting this information to CMS here.

Let Plexus lend a hand

Have questions regarding today's Alert or other employee benefits matters? Then contact a Plexus benefits client service team member in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033).

While a stormy 2017 was expensive for insurers, it could have been worse

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In our latest look at Property & Casualty news and notes, we dive into the subject of 2018 commerical insurance pricing for insurers after a disaster-laden 2017.

Market watch: Though plenty of roofs caved in last year, the sky isn't falling in 2018

Global weather and storm losses reached $330 billion in 2017, with insured losses at $135 billion, according to reinsurer MunichRe. However, these losses do not necessarily mean that insurance rates will significantly rise, with numerous published reports suggesting that insurers built up excess capacity before a tumultuous 2017 -- and that losses were within acceptable limits. Nevertheless, property, conmercial auto, business owners, and general liability rates were up slightly in the fourth quarter of last year, per the IVANS index, which tracks rate renewals from more than 380 insurers.

Report: Securities lawsuit filings jumped 53% in 2017

Directors and officers of publicly traded companies found themselves at the center of more lawsuits than usual in 2017. Per Business Insurance magazine, securities lawsuits increased from 271 in 2016 to 415 in 2017, according to data from Kevin LaCroix, executive vice president at RT ProExec, a division of insurance wholesaler RT Specialty. That's a 53 percent increase over the previous year. Whether your firm is publicly traded or not, having the right directors and officers is key. We can help. For more information, contact Plexus Vice President of Executive Liability Willie Lindsey at wlindsey@plexusgroupe.com or 847-307-6100.

Getting to know Plexus's Cyber Indication Form

Ever thought about getting cyber insurance for your business but didn't know where to start? Check out our quick and easy Cyber Liability Indication Form. Fill it out, and one of our client service team representatives can give you a sense of the coverage you need -- and what it could cost.

Dr. Rick Rigsby to Plexus associates: Selfishness is dangerous, growth is essential, change is up to you

Selflessness is a virtue -- and a necessity for a business to move foward. And if a business isn't growing, forget about it.

These were among the lessons from Dr. Rick Rigsby during Thursday's keynote address at the 2018 Plexus Team Building Event.

The best-selling author of "Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout," Rigsby imparted wisdom learned from his late father, whose formal schooling ended not long after kindergarden but whose committment to education never stopped. Among his father's lessons: Be a servant to others.

"Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity," said Rigsby, a former professor and TV sports anchor turned motivational speaker.

To begin his talk, Rigsby spoke of the risks people and businesses face when they do not keep evolving.

"I want to talk about forward momentum, because without forward momentum, entropy sets in," he said.

Rigsby also drew a link between entropy and the pursuit of adulation.

"We love hearing the accolades from others. Guess that that invites?" Rigsby said.

Rigsby also called on Plexus staff and other assembled guests at the American Society of Anesthesiologists to think and act strategically.

"Great people are thinking in muitiple dimentions," he said. "They’re not just showing up for a paycheck and some benefits."

Rigsby also took aim at the idea that businesspeople are just too busy to change their habits.

"The issue is not time. The issue is our management, or lack thereof, of time," Rigsby said.

Then, in his closing remarks, Rigsby told Plexus associates to look inside themselves. Company management, he said, shouldn't be expected to "raise your expectations for you."

Said Rigsby: "You raise them yourself."


For more information on Dr. Rick Rigsby, including booking information, please visit his website, RickRigsby.com. And be sure to check out the 2017 speech he delivered to California State University Maritime University, which has been viewed more than 130 million times. 

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The 2018 Plexus Team Building Event kicks off Wednesday. Here's what to look for.

It's time again for one of the biggest events on The Plexus Groupe's calendar, a foundational piece for our corporate culture. On Wednesday and Thursday, all Plexus associates will gather in suburban Chicago for our 2018 Team Building Event. It's a chance for our 100-plus team members to connect, learn, and grow, and it's an opportunity for our firm to look ahead to what's in store for the coming year. We also get a wonderful chance to connect with our insurance carrier partners, who will be attending a number of the events over the next two days.

Once again, we have lined up an outstanding and impactful keynote speaker to cap off the event: Dr. Rick Rigsby, author of the best-selling book, "Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout." We are thrilled to have him speak to us on Thursday.

We’ll be posting here all week, as well as on our social media accounts, so you’ll want to be sure to follow us on TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Instagram for the latest.

It is hard to put into words what Team Building means to Plexus. It is a jumping-off point for the rest of the year, a catalyst for growth. And on Day One, it feels a lot like the first day of school, when seeing friends after the summer break. There are smiles and handshakes and greetings with our colleagues from other offices.

Frankly, we can't wait to get started.

New tax law features a host of employee benefits changes

Last month, President Donald Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Act). The Act makes significant changes to the federal Internal Revenue Code (Code), including changes that impact employee benefits. Effective for 2018: → Employers cannot deduct expenses associated with qualified transportation fringe benefit programs;

→ Employees cannot exclude bicycle commuting reimbursements from their gross income; and

→ Qualified moving expense reimbursements cannot be excluded from employees’ gross income.

In addition, effective for 2018 and 2019, the Act creates a federal tax credit for employers that provide paid family and medical leave.

Because most of the Act’s provisions became effective on Jan. 1, 2018, employers should start working with their tax advisors to determine how the tax changes will impact their businesses.

Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits

Code Section 132 allows employers to provide certain transportation benefits to employees on a tax-free basis. These benefits include qualified parking, transit passes, and transportation to and from work in a commuter highway vehicle (“vanpooling”). Prior to 2018, bicycle commuting reimbursements also qualified for this tax exclusion.

Qualified transportation expenses paid by either the employer or employee can be excluded from an employee's gross income, up to certain limits. For 2018, the tax exclusion limits are $260 per month for qualified parking expenses and $260 per month for transit passes and vanpooling expenses, combined.

Beginning in 2018, the Act eliminates the employer deduction for expenses associated with a qualified transportation fringe benefit program. The Act also eliminates the deduction for any expenses incurred in connection with providing transportation to an employee in connection with travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment, except as necessary for ensuring the employee’s safety.

However, with the exception of bicycling commuting expenses, the tax exclusion for employees has not changed — qualified transportation benefits are still excludable from employees’ gross income. The tax exclusion for bicycling commuting benefits suspended for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026.

Qualified Moving Expense Reimbursements

Before 2018, employers could pay or reimburse an employee’s eligible moving expenses related to starting employment at a new principal place of work on a tax-free basis. The Act suspends this income exclusion from 2018 through 2025 tax years. It also suspends the employee deduction for qualified moving expense reimbursements for the same period of time. However, the income exclusion and deduction still apply in the case of a member of the U.S. armed forces on active duty who moves pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station.

Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave

The Act creates a new temporary tax credit for employers that provide paid family and medical leave to their employees. The tax credit, which applies to wages paid in 2018 and 2019, is equal to a percentage of wages paid to employees who are on family and medical leave. Paid leave that is provided as vacation leave, personal leave, sick leave, or required by state or local law is not taken into consideration.

To qualify for the tax credit, an employer must have a written policy in place that provides at least two weeks of paid family and medical leave for full-time employees (proportionally adjusted for part-time employees) and a rate of payment that is at least 50 percent of an employee’s normal pay rate.

Let Plexus lend a hand

Have questions regarding this newsletter or or other employee benefits matters? Contact a Plexus client service team representative in Deer Park, Ill. (847.307.6100), Chicago (312.606.4800), Dallas (972.770.5010), or Oklahoma City (405.840.3033). We’re here to help – and we’re happy to help.

Want to join a growing Best Places to Work in Insurance honoree? Try Plexus.

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The new year brings new resolutions, such as a focus on eating healthier, or exercising more, or telling the people closest to us that we love them. For many, this list of resolutions also includes a vow to change jobs, to move up in their careers, to take the next step. Maybe this can be done at a current place of employment, but maybe not. Maybe it will take a fresh start at a new company to get to where you want to be.

This can be a tough decision to make. There is comfort in familiarity. Maybe your current role isn't so bad, and if you stick around, it might get better. That is possible.

So if you're going to look for another job in 2018, it better be worth your time. It better deliver a superior experience to what you already have.

That's why career seekers do their due diligence on prospective new companies.

And if you do your due diligence on The Plexus Groupe, you will find the following:

-- We're a Best Places to Work in Insurance honoree in each of the last eight years.

-- Our associates are proud of the workplace culture they have created, and a strong commitment to philanthropy and service is found throughout our organization.

-- We are a growing firm, with more than 100 employees across four offices in Deer Park, Illinois (corporate headquarters), Chicago (Loop), Dallas, and Oklahoma City.  The firm has more than 100 employees across offices in Deer Park, Illinois (corporate headquarters), Chicago (Loop), Dallas, and Oklahoma City.

-- We deliver advisory services and a superior client experience in the areas of property and casualty, employee benefits, retirement plans, personal lines insurance, HR consulting, and technology services.

-- A number of our team members have received recognition for excellence in their field. Furthermore, our associates are routinely interviewed by media, and asked to speak at conferences. We also jump at the opportunity to talk to students about our industry.

-- We offer our employees a wide variety of employee benefits, including medical, dental, life, short- and long-term disability, 401(k) retirement savings (with a generous employer match), wellness programs, Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Additionally, we offer many other workday benefits, including walking workstations and complementary fruits, vegetables, waters, iced teas, and other healthy drinks.

-- Each year, we set aside two days for an all-company Team Building Event to plan ahead for the coming year, and we invite a keynote speaker to deliver an address to inspire and inform our team.

Next Steps 

Interested in career opportunities at Plexus? Click here to be directed to our Careers page for our updated list of openings.

We get it: a career search can be intimidating. It takes work. You need a reason to go on with it. And if you are going to change jobs, it better be for something rewarding, fun, legit.

To this we say: welcome. You have come to the right place.