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Do you know what the benefits of having a broker are?

October 8, 2014

We offer a wide array of benefit packages from medical, dental, and vision to supplemental benefits such as accident, cancer and life insurance. We work with a multitude of providers that make working with Employee Benefits Advisors, Inc. the best choice. In addition to our own talented professionals we have a wealth of resources available that make working with us practical and effective. We will work with you to develop a customized strategic plan that defines objectives and steps you will need to execute your benefits plan effectively. Our specialized team will evaluate quotes and make sure you are receiving the best possible options. Our services ensure an organized and thorough approach to fulfilling your benefits needs.

Our team has over 40 years of combined experience and we pride ourselves on the level of knowledge and service that we bring to our clients. We strive to show our dedication and commitment to excellence in our services to the business community not only in Oklahoma but in several other states as well. We provide our clients with legislative briefs, employee communication materials, and benefits administration tools. Our agency offers up-to-date, easy-to-understand comprehensive health care reform information to help both employers and employees understand the law and its implications. Our Legislative Brief publications summarize recent federal legislative developments in insurance and employee benefits, to help our clients understand laws including COBRA, HIPAA, and FMLA.

Another great product that we offer is MyWave Connect. Our clients receive access to a personalized website where they choose what updates they see as well as have the ability to search a variety of topics. The site offers resources to help with plan administration, legislative compliance, employee communication and more. We can assist you with all phases of employee communication, from employee meetings to payroll stuffers to informative brochures about employee benefits and wellness. We have experienced and highly knowledgeable insurance professionals who are ready to help you with this growing and important area of employee benefits. We focus on enriching your benefits package whether it’s through core or voluntary benefits!

Employee Benefit Advisors, Inc. – Helping you Navigate the World of Benefits.

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What if the unexpected happens?

September 22, 2014

Can you afford to be out of work for an extended period of time, in addition to the medical bills that come with a serious illness or injury? Employee Benefit Advisors, Inc. can offer you peace of mind by helping you find short- and long-term disability coverage options for you and your employees.

Did you know?
• Over 36 million Americans are classified as disabled.
• Disabilities affect one-fifth of Americans (over 60 million people).
• Almost one-third of Americans entering the workforce today will become disabled before retiring.
• More than 25 percent of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before retirement.
• One in eight workers will be disabled for five or more years during their working careers.
• The average long-term disability absence lasts 2.6 years.

What may cause a disability?
• Illness
• Heart attack
• Pregnancy
• Cancer
• Mental disorders
• Accidents or injuries

Less than 10 percent of disabling injuries and illnesses are work-related: The other 90 percent are not, meaning workers’ compensation will not cover them.

Your biggest asset is your ability to work and earn a living. If you become disabled, your ability to earn a living is severely diminished.

If you were disabled, how would you pay for your home, your monthly bills, your children’s education? Did you know that one in every two home mortgage foreclosures are due to disability, not death?

What types of disability are available?

Short-term Disability (STD) is a type of disability insurance coverage that can help you remain financially stable should you become injured or ill and cannot work. Usually, STD coverage begins within one to 15 days of the event causing your disability. Short term disability coverage allows you to continue to receive pay at a fixed weekly amount, usually up to 60% of your average weekly earnings. This type of disability coverage usually lasts for 3 months or less.

Long-term Disability Insurance (LTD)

Long-term Disability (LTD) is a type of disability insurance coverage that pays employees a set percentage, usually 60%, of their average income after a specified elimination (waiting) period. Most LTD coverage has an elimination period of 3 months, but some coverages may have differing elimination periods. The length of LTD plans varies; some may be limited to a period between two and 10 years, while other plans continue paying out until age 65.

LTD insurance protects workers in the event they become disabled for a prolonged period prior to retirement. LTD policies are often offered through employers as part of their benefits package.

STD and LTD benefits can both be offered on a voluntary or involuntary basis. This means that employees can elect to take the coverage and pay the premium through payroll deduction or employers can cover these premiums for their employees.

If you have any questions regarding disability insurance don’t hesitate to give us a call at (405) 310 2040!

Do you know the difference between Traditional and Roth Retirement Plans?

August 18, 2014

When you set up a retirement account, one of the first decisions you face is whether to have a traditional plan or a Roth plan. The difference between traditional plans and Roth plans comes down to how your earnings are taxed.

With a traditional plan, money you deposit into your account can be deducted from your taxable income for the year. This can be a significant cost-saving measure if the amount you deduct places you in a lower tax bracket. When you withdraw money from your account, taxes will be assessed on it.

Contributions to Roth plans, on the other hand, are not deducted from your taxable income—they are made with money that has already been taxed. After you retire, withdrawals from Roth accounts will not be taxed.

Ebola: Its symptoms and how to protect yourself

August 13, 2014

US Ebola Threat Remains Low

The recent and deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa—the worst in history—has seized the world’s attention, along with the news that two Americans infected with the virus were brought to the United States for treatment. As the death toll creeps past 1,000, concerned citizens are assessing their risk and exploring preventive measures.
But U.S. residents should remain calm: There have been no reported cases in the United States aside from the two Americans who contracted the virus while in Africa. The outbreak is currently centered in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

What Are the Symptoms?

Ebola is an acute viral illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, debilitating weakness, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. People often confuse the illness’ early symptoms with cold or flu symptoms. The disease incubates in the sufferer’s body for between two and 21 days, and victims become contagious once they present symptoms.

As it progresses, Ebola causes vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, impaired kidney and liver function, and internal and external bleeding, particularly from the mouth, ears and eyes.

How Can I Protect Myself?
There is no vaccine for Ebola, although experts are currently testing several options. While the two infected Americans received experimental treatments, it’s not clear whether the medicines could be made widely available. The lack of a viable vaccine is made all the more troubling due to the disease’s high mortality rate—anywhere from 50 to 90 percent.

Ebola is spread by contact with the bodily fluids and organs of infected animals, many of which are not native to the United States. Humans contracted the disease in Africa after touching infected animals in the rain forest.

After humans are infected, Ebola can spread to other humans via contact with their bodily fluids, including saliva, sweat, blood and vomit. Ebola is not a respiratory disease like the flu, so it is not transmitted through the air. Nor can Ebola be contracted through contaminated food or water. People can only get Ebola from touching the bodily fluids of a person or animal that is sick with or has died from Ebola, or from exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles.

Right now, the best way to avoid contracting Ebola is simply to avoid unessential travel to the affected countries. While it is possible that Ebola could surface in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls that scenario remote, and is assisting with active screening and education efforts on the ground in West Africa to prevent sick travelers from getting on planes.

The CDC has provided guidance to U.S. airlines for managing ill passengers and crew and for disinfecting aircraft. It has also provided guidance to U.S. health care workers explaining how they can protect themselves from infection and how to test and isolate suspected patients.

Effective Benefit Plan Communication

August 5, 2014

The way that employers communicate benefits information to employees has a tremendous impact on how well the programs are understood, utilized and perceived by employees. Providing your employees with ample informative resources will help better convey your message.

Managers and supervisors can be effective in sharing important benefits information with employees, especially if it is scripted or “canned.” Since they are most likely to know what their employees understand, they might be better able to present benefits information. As an employee’s main point of contact, managers and supervisors also tend to be more approachable with questions. Opportunities to ask questions, express dissatisfaction and discuss problems regarding benefits information with supervisors and managers should be encouraged. Many employers use managers and supervisors to share benefits information, but this should be done with caution and help from the following tips.

Avoiding Verbal Communication Problems

Communicating inaccurate information to employees is always a major concern when using managers and supervisors to relate benefits information. Keep in mind that misinformation not only causes an employee relation problem, but has the possibility of causing litigation as well. Consider these tips to avoid problems:

• Consider allowing only specific Human Resources personnel to discuss benefits information with employees.
• Remind those who may be asked questions regarding benefits, such as supervisors and managers, to review their plan documents carefully. They should refer to the HR department any question they are at all unsure how to address.
• Whether formal or informal, do not make promises regarding any aspect of the benefits plan that the company will not be able to keep.
• State in the plan documents that plan amendments are to be made only in writing and approved by the corporate representative or plan administrator, if applicable.

Written Communication Cautions

Even if written material about benefits information is not an official plan document, informal written promises can still prevail in court. As a result, make sure even informal written communications about the plan is consistent with the official documents before distributing.

Employees often rely on summary plan descriptions to determine their rights under a specific plan. In the event of an issue due to discrepancies between plan documents and the summary plan document, the summary plan document can hold up in court. Because of this, it is crucial to make sure that the summary plan document is correct, current, clear and in agreement with the plan documents, handbooks and all other benefits information.

As a safety measure, be sure that the summary plan description, handbooks and other benefits communications state clearly that the plan document has absolute authority over them. This information should appear in a separate paragraph in a prominent position. Consider using larger, italic or boldfaced type, or by using a distinct border to make the information readily apparent.

Other general helpful tips include:

• Keep a copy of each communication or disclosure sent to employees, however informal.
• Grant discretion to fiduciaries in the plan document.
• Make sure all documents relating to the plan do not include any misleading information before distributing. Request additional information from the plan administrator regarding information that you believe may be misleading.
• Reserve the right to amend the plan at any time for any reason.

Summary of Benefits and Coverage

Since September 23, 2012 health insurance issuers and group health plans have been required to provide an easy-to-understand summary about health plans benefits and coverage.

Utilizing these simplistic health plan summaries can help you explain health benefits with your employees.

If you need further assistance call EBA at 405 310 2040!

MEN’S HEALTH: TIPS FOR A HEALTHY LIFE

July 31, 2014

The leading cause of death for males in the United States is heart disease—followed closely by cancer. Adhering to a healthy lifestyle can help you avoid becoming part of the statistic.

Watch What You Eat

What you eat and drink can make a significant difference in your overall health. Eating five or more fruits and vegetables a day, little saturated fat and avoiding trans fats can improve health, reducing the risk of cancer and other chronic disease.

Know Your Risks

Your parents and grandparents, work and home habits, environment and lifestyle all contribute to your health and health risks. These factors may put you at an increased risk for certain diseases or conditions. Since you can’t change many of those factors, focus on addressing any negative behaviors you do have control over, such as your diet, activity level or smoking. Make as many healthy changes as you can.

Get Moving

More than 60 percent of American men and women do not get enough physical activity to provide health benefits. For adults, 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week is recommended. It does not take a lot of time or money, but it does take commitment. Start slowly, work up to a satisfactory level, and do not overdo it. Develop one routine or try something different every day. Find fun ways to stay in shape and feel good, such as cutting the grass, gardening, swimming, walking or jogging.

Manage Your Stress

Perhaps now more than ever before, job stress poses a threat to the health of workers and, in turn, to the health of organizations. Balancing obligations to your employer and your family can be challenging. Protect your mental health by engaging in activities that help you decrease your stress, both at work and home, such as engaging in your favorite hobby, exercising, reading, spending time with friends or doing something else you enjoy. Reducing stress can help keep you mentally healthy.

Get Routine Exams

Routine exams and screenings can help save lives. Based on your age, health history, lifestyle and other important factors, you and your health care provider can determine how often you need to be examined and screened for certain diseases and conditions. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancers of the skin, prostate and colon. When problems are found early, your chances for treatment and cure are significantly greater, so getting routine checkups could save your life.

Federal Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Subsidies in Federal Exchanges: What it Means to You

July 29, 2014

Several lawsuits have been filed by individuals and employers to challenge the ability of the federal government to provide tax credits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to individuals in states that did not establish their own Exchanges (that is, in states with federally-facilitated exchanges, or FFEs). These lawsuits were filed in response to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rule that authorizes subsidies in all states, including those with FFEs.

On July 22, 2014, two federal appeals courts—the District of Columbia Circuit Court and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court—issued inconsistent rulings on the availability of subsidies in states with FFEs.

• In Halbig v. Burwell, the D.C. Circuit Court held that the IRS rule authorizing subsidies in states with FFEs is invalid. In a 2-1 opinion, the court ruled that the text of the ACA clearly restricts the subsidies to individuals in states that established their own Exchanges.

• In King v. Burwell, the 4th Circuit Court unanimously upheld the availability of the ACA’s subsidies in states with their own Exchanges and in states with FFEs.
Health Insurance Subsidies

The ACA created health insurance subsidies to help eligible individuals and families purchase health insurance through an Exchange. The subsidies are designed to make coverage through an Exchange more affordable by reducing taxpayers’ out-of-pocket premium costs.

There are two federal health insurance subsidies available with respect to coverage through an Exchange: premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. Both of these subsidies vary in amount based on the taxpayer’s household income, and they reduce the out-of-pocket costs of health insurance for the insured.

• Premium tax credits are available for people with somewhat higher incomes (up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)), and reduce out-of-pocket premium costs for the taxpayer.

• Reduced cost-sharing is available for individuals with lower incomes (up to 250 percent of the FPL). Through cost-sharing reductions, these individuals will be eligible to enroll in plans with higher actuarial values and have the plan, on average, pay a greater share of covered benefits. This means that coverage for these individuals will have lower out-of-pocket costs at the point of service (for example, lower deductibles and copayments).

Health Insurance Exchanges

Effective for 2014, the ACA requires each state to have an Exchange for individuals and small businesses to purchase private health insurance. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Exchanges allow for direct comparisons of private health insurance options on the basis of price, quality and other factors, and they coordinate eligibility for subsidies and other insurance affordability programs.

The ACA delegated primary responsibility for establishing the Exchanges to individual states. However, because the U.S. Congress cannot require states to implement federal laws, the ACA provides that HHS will operate the FFE in any state that refuses or is unable to set up an Exchange.

For 2014, only 16 states and the District of Columbia established their own Exchanges. HHS operates the FFEs in the remaining 34 states (in some cases with state assistance, but in most cases not).

Of the approximately 8 million people who selected private health plans from October through mid-April, over 5 million obtained coverage through an FFE. In addition, more than 4.5 million people have been determined eligible for subsidized insurance in the FFE.

Court Decisions

The lawsuits in Halbig v. Burwell and King v. Burwell were filed by individuals and employers in states that have FFEs. They argued that the IRS rule authorizing subsidies in all states conflicts with the text of the ACA. They assert that, according to the law’s plain language, the ACA only authorized subsidies to be provided in states that have established their own Exchanges.

In Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court struck down the IRS’ rule that authorizes subsidies in all states, including those with FFEs. The court concluded that the ACA “unambiguously restricts” the subsidies to insurance purchased on Exchanges established by the states. Thus, the court said that subsidies are only available to individuals who obtain insurance through state-based Exchanges.

In King v. Burwell, the 4th Circuit Court ruled that the text of the ACA is ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations. The court upheld the IRS’ rule that authorizes subsidies in all states, including those with FFEs, as a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion. Thus, the court said that the subsidies are available to individuals who obtain insurance through either state-based Exchanges or through FFEs.

The Obama administration disagrees with the D.C. Circuit Court’s ruling and intends to seek further review of the decision. It is anticipated that the Justice Department will ask the entire 11-person D.C. appeals court to review the decision. In the meantime, a Justice Department spokesperson has stated that the subsidies will continue to remain available.

Impact on Employers

Following the appellate court rulings, the Obama administration indicated that federal subsidies will continue to be available to eligible individuals in all states, including those with FFEs.

This availability of subsidies may have significant implications for employers as a result of the ACA’s employer mandate. Under the employer mandate, large employers may face penalties if they do not offer coverage that meets certain requirements to their full-time employees.

However, penalties apply only if an employee receives a subsidy to buy coverage through an Exchange. If the subsidy is available only in state-based Exchanges, employers would not be subject to penalties for employees living in states with an FFE.

Other Lawsuits

Other lawsuits challenging the subsidies in states with FFEs are still pending in federal courts.

In addition, although the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet agreed to consider it, it may decide to take up the issue in the future.

More Information

Please contact Employee Benefit Advisors, Inc. for more information on the ACA’s federal subsidies or the employer mandate.