Employers Begin Preparing for New Insurance Regulations
Now that the election season is over, employers across the country are preparing for the coming Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly known as Obamacare. While many components of the law will not take effect until next year, employers need to set the stage this year.
The item of greatest interest to many employers is the shared-responsibility requirement that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014. This law requires employers with 50 or more full-time or FTE employees to offer minimum essential medical coverage or pay a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee (excluding the first 30 employees). The law defines a full-time employee as one working at least 30 hours per week.
Employers who offer some coverage, but fall short of meeting affordable or minimum value thresholds, must pay a penalty of $3,000 for each employee who receives a premium tax credit. Coverage is “not affordable” if the cost of single coverage is more than 9.5 percent of income, and it does not provide “minimum value” if it likely will pay less than 60 percent of anticipated claims. More details on this provision will come during the year.
Employers will find it in their best interest to understand their respective state health insurance exchanges, which will begin operation in January 2014 and impact the overall landscape of health insurance. Employees may choose to obtain coverage through these exchanges even if they have access to coverage through their employer. The exchanges likely will request information from employers when determining an employee’s eligibility for premium tax credits.
Other provisions garnering employers’ attention this year include:
Providing a notice regarding the upcoming state insurance exchanges to all eligible employees in March 2013
Providing information on the cost of coverage on each employee’s 2012 W-2 if the employer issued 250 or more W-2s in 2011
Withholding an extra 0.9 percent FICA on employees earning more than $200,000 beginning in 2013
Reducing the maximum employee contribution to flexible spending accounts to $2,500 beginning with the 2013 plan year
Working with the exchanges to identify employees eligible for premium tax credits
Employers can expect to receive timeline and requirement updates during the course of the year from several federal agencies, including the Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services.
To learn more about how to best prepare for the new insurance regulations, call Chad Clippard, referral services manager, at 573-331-3019.
Active Design Focuses on Encouraging Employees to Move
“Let’s take the stairs.”
Employers embracing “active design” concepts are banking on this simple statement to help fight the obesity epidemic and reduce healthcare costs. Active design encourages healthier lifestyles in the workplace by making it easier to choose options such as climbing stairs rather than riding an elevator.
Studies show that climbing stairs for just a few minutes per day can burn enough calories to prevent average annual weight gain. For workers who spend their day in a largely sedentary office environment, climbing six to eight flights of stairs per day can have a significant impact on calorie consumption.
The underlying focus of active design is getting people to move, even if it is just to access a printer located away from the employee’s desk or walking to a shared kitchen space. Creating outside spaces so employees can leverage mobile devices and get some fresh air also boosts productivity.
Stairs, however, remain the most effective active design strategy for burning off that morning bagel and coworkers’ treats. Architects and interior designers are reintroducing wide staircases as a design element in new buildings and making existing stairwells more attractive. Open staircases that are prominent elements of a room attract much greater traffic than those hidden in corners and behind doors.
Stairwells have a tendency to be drab, desolate areas never intended for general use. Most do not lend themselves to appearance enhancements such as carpeting because of fire codes. However, with inviting signage, better lighting and bright colors, employers can create a more welcoming vibe that generates higher usage.
While health-minded employees may use the stairs already, the goal of active design is to encourage a greater number of employees to say, “Let’s take the stairs.”
For more information, call Chad Clippard, referral services manager, at 573-331-3019.
Job Stress Produces a Slight Increase in Heart Attack Risk
A recent study confirms that workers who have high-stress jobs with little freedom to make decisions are more likely to have a heart attack than their less-stressed workmates, but that risk factor still pales in comparison to smoking and lack of exercise.
The Lancet medical journal published a study that analyzed job strain in employees who had no previous coronary heart disease. While finding that stressed workers are 23 percent more likely to have a heart attack than lower-stressed workers, researchers could attribute only 3.4 percent of heart attacks directly to job strain.
“Our findings suggest that prevention of workplace stress might decrease disease incidence,” the study’s authors wrote. “However, this strategy would have a much smaller effect than tackling standard risk factors, such as smoking.”
The study looked at the results of 13 European studies over the course of 20 years that tracked nearly 200,000 men and women. The researchers attributed 12 percent of heart attacks suffered by this group to lack of exercise and 36 percent to smoking.
To schedule a health and wellness screening for your workplace, call Chad Clippard, referral services manager, at 573-331-3019.