“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” (H.R. 3590)

Stephanie PichardoBy: Stephanie Pichardo, Strategic Partner Consultant, MHRM, AAI

Many employers waited on the election results to begin implementing the health care reform’s requirements—and now many employers are confused about what they need to do to get their business in compliance.  If you are one of those employers, there are ways to get yourself “caught up” on the changing healthcare world.

As an employer, the first step is to evaluate your organization’s movement in complying with the health care reform law. If you are one of the many employers who chose to hold off on making plan decisions or preparing to comply with the Health Care Reform laws, you may find yourself needing to catch up on the efforts involved to meet the upcoming requirements.  

There is quite a bit that goes into understanding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and in order to feel comfortable with the upcoming changes, it is important to consider whether you will or will not continue to provide health insurance coverage as a benefit to your employees. As an employer, you may feel that not offering coverage may be the cheaper and easier way to deal with Health Care Reform, but you may be surprised by the outcome of taking this route. 

Here are a couple of items to consider when deciding whether you will be offering coverage or not:

  • Are you a large group employer? (Do you employ 50 or more full time employees, including full time equivalents?)
  • Do you employ more than 30 full time employees? (Employees that work 30 or more hours per week)
  • Is your employer-sponsored health insurance coverage deemed unaffordable? (Is the employee’s share of premium more than 9.5% of your employees’ W-2 income or is the plan’s share of the total allowed cost of benefits less than 60 %?)

These questions are essential in determining the strategy you will need to pursue because beginning in 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees may be subject to a penalty tax if they do not offer health care coverage to all full-time employees (and dependents). These employers can also be subject to a penalty if they do offer coverage, but the coverage is unaffordable or does not provide minimum value.

SIA Group has the resources available to guide you through these difficult questions. Contact us today for further clarification on the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.”

ARE YOU PREPARED IF A DISASTER OCCURS?

By: Sherry Whaley, CRIS, AAI, PWCA , Commercial Lines Account Manager

 

Disaster occurs all around us every day. How many times do we hear on the local news about a tornado that has damaged a community wiping out all homes and businesses or flooding in communities that have never flooded before or even the wild fires in California that damaged entire communities? It is easy to think that this will ever happen to us. But when disasters do strike, we seem to always be rushing to buy batteries, flashlights or whatever else is needed to prepare. Why not protect your family and be prepared for disaster rather than waiting until it is nearly too late?

 On another note, we often forget to protect our livelihood (our business). Business continuity planning can be a time consuming process, but it is very important to protect your business. Planning ahead and prioritizing your recovery needs will help your business survive if and when disaster strikes.

 The first step is to identify and analyze the types of emergencies that could threaten your business.  The second step is to focus on establishing procedures that your business will put into place before, during and after a disaster takes place. Your business needs to decide ahead of time how to best protect itself.  Direct your efforts to the areas of protection, preparation, response and recovery focusing on each of the many hazards your business can face.

 Protection, planning and preparation such as sprinkler systems to protect against fire, proper building design and construction help prevent building collapse from roof loss due to high winds or snow build-up while shutters protect glass from wind-driven flying debris. Proper bracing can reduce the chance of equipment and shelving tipping over and wall collapse.  If the electricity goes out, emergency generators can provide electricity when power lines are down.

 The third step is evaluating your business operations and facilities to determine what protection features will resist or reduce damages if a disaster was to occur.  The safety of your employees should be top priority. Do you have a response plan in place to deal with actions before, during and after an event occurs? Do you have team leaders to enforce safety if disaster occurs? These items need to be addressed and procedures established.

 Here is a simple check list for your review as you establish your disaster plan:

 Disaster Response Checklist:

  •  All-Hazards NOAA Weather Radio ( NWR)
  • Working Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguisher
  • First Aid Kit
  • Medications and personal items
  • Flashlights and Light Sticks
  • Battery Operated or Wind-Up AM/FM Radio
  • Bottled Water
  • Nonperishable Food & Utensils
  • Paper Supplies
  • Tools and Other Supplies
  • Blankets, Pillows
  • Camera
  • Cash, ATM/Credit Cards
  • Emergency Contact List ( For employees and emergency services)

 Feel free to call Sherry Whaley at SIA Group for additional information on disaster planning at swhaley@siagroup.net.

The Negative Effect Social Media Can Have On Your Business

 

By Bradley Carroll, Sales Executive

A survey by Convergys Corp revealed that one bad tweet on Twitter or a negative comment on Facebook can lose your business up to thirty customers.  On just one of the major social media sites, a negative review by a customer can typically reach up to 45 people.  Of these 45 people, 30 will not purchase anything from a company they’ve heard bad things about.

You might be asking yourself: So, what does this mean for my business?

Not every consumer will take up an issue with a company directly. Many consumers use social media as an outlet to express customer dissatisfaction.  A big change in today’s society is that with the increased use of sites like Facebook and Twitter, people who would have normally remained silent about their dissatisfaction have been given a voice to express such complaints.  Unfortunately for business owners, this voice is “heard” by many.  With just a click of a button consumers can submit complaints about anything on the internet.

Now you’re probably asking: What can I do about it?

The only solution from a business point of view is that you are going to have to develop some sort of monitoring mechanism.  It is crucial to know when someone says something negative about you or your services.  HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) and Twitter Search (www.twitter.com) are two beneficial sites that can help you keep track of your business’s brand on twitter.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How is your company monitoring customer comments and complaints? What tools are you using?
  • Who in your company is monitoring what is said about your business on social media?
  • Who has been trained to respond to any negative activity that takes place online to prevent it from flourishing?

If you don’t have an answer to these questions, you should.  Without a proactive strategy, you’re company is at risk. Now is the time to take action!

Using Subcontractors: Recent Court Guidance

By: James Kirkpatrick, CIC, Sales Executive

General contractors all know how important it is to obtain certificates of insurance for subcontractors they use.  However, as relationships between general contractors and subcontractors develop and strengthen, it is not uncommon for general contractors to become more lax with obtaining proper certificates for each and every job and making sure that those certificates meet the requirements of their workers’ compensation carrier.  Improper certificate administration can add significant liability onto the general contractor.

In a recent case heard by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, Jose Clemente Hernandez-Gonzales v. Jimmy Worrell d/b/a Worrell Construction, the Court issued guidance regarding the liability a contractor assumes when a subcontractor is used on a project.  This case illustrates the “liberal” interpretations of existing statutes the N.C. Industrial Commission often use.

The crux of this case, when it comes to the general contractor’s liability, results from the fact that the general contractor relied upon a subcontractor’s certificate obtained from a previous job.  This exemplifies the importance of proper certificate administration and obtaining a new certificate for every job, regardless of the relationship you have with the subcontractor.  Because of this mistake, the general contractor was found to be liable to the same extent as the subcontractor and, should the subcontractor default on medical and/or expense payments to the employee, would be responsible for those same payments.

This court case can impact general contractors’ insurance costs as well, even if there is no accident or workers’ compensation claim to be paid.  For example, a contractor’s workers’ compensation policy premium is determined by the estimated payroll for their employees.   Should a general contractor utilize an uninsured subcontractor, they will then be responsible for that subcontractor’s estimated payroll as well.  At the end of the workers’ compensation policy period during the final audit, if the general contractor cannot provide job-specific certificates on all subcontractors utilized during the policy year, they will owe additional premiums to their carrier.  More than likely, these will be costs that the contractor did not originally budget for.

We hope this illuminates the importance of proper certificate administration.  There are many different tools and resources available to assist in the management of this risk.  For more information, please feel free to contact one of our construction experts James Kirkpatrick at jkirkpatrick@siagroup.net or 800-682-7741.

Add Coverage for Damage to Electronic Data Liability

By: Beverly Mabee, CISR, CRIS, PWCA, Commercial Lines Account Manager.

Electronic Data is a coverage that many of us are overlooking these days.  Since we are now in the times of everything being sent via an Electronic Device – should we not be looking for a way to insure this exposure that is excluded from the normal General Liability policy.

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Storing data electronically increases the exposure faced by individuals and organizations caused by loss of, damage to, or inability to access or use electronically stored data.  The exposure is the subject of an exclusion in standard general liability policies and may be insured separately under a claims-made policy that covers “electronic data incidents” resulting in damage to, loss of, lose of use of, corruption of, inability to access, or inability to properly manipulate electronic data.

A covered property damage claim under the commercial general liability (CGL) policy requires either (1) physical injury to tangible property, or (2) loss of use of tangible property that has not been physically injured. Because the policy definition of “property damage” specifies that “electronic data is not tangible property,” the policy provides no coverage for damage to such property. An exclusion for damages arising out of the “loss of, loss of use of, damage to, corruption of, inability to access, or inability to manipulate electronic data” further clarifies the lack of coverage for losses arising out of the loss of, or loss of use of, electronic data.

Contractors’ biggest exposure regarding electronic data liability typically involves interrupting access to a customer’s or a third party’s electronic database. For example, a securities or investment firm can lose millions of dollars when it cannot perform trades or customers cannot access their accounts, even if only for a few minutes. An electronic data liability endorsement (such as standard endorsement CG 04 37) limits the “electronic data” exclusion to damage to electronic data “that does not result from physical injury to tangible property.” With this endorsement attached, a contractor would have coverage for damages arising out of a severed underground cable, for example. Contractors should discuss their exposure to electronic data liability with their agent or broker and make the appropriate modifications to their policies to protect against this risk. Subscribers to Commercial Liability Insurance can find out more about this exclusion or see the endorsement language here: http://www.irmi.com

Be Safe!

By: Sue Franck, Commercial Lines Account Manager

How many times have you heard that phrase in your life? I have heard it so many times that I now turn a deaf ear to it.  Why wouldn’t I be safe? It is easy for adults who are completely capable of taking care of themselves to ignore this phrase. But when the tables are turned and you are advising your children, it is easy for this to become the parent mantra. “I love you, honey and BE SAFE!”  Throughout the years I have said this to my children countless times. Fully expecting my children listen.

Even including children, who would intentionally not be safe? What exactly does “be safe” mean? The obvious answer is that it means putting oneself in safe surroundings (including work environments) and situations, but what does this really mean? What does being safe really entail? There are many factors that feed into a person’s safety and the more focus placed on these factors, the better equipped we’ll be to put this famous phrase to use. Here are a few important tips on how to be safe:  

  • Being safe is an attitude – being safe always starts with the individual and is always based on attitude.
  • Complacency can be public enemy #1 – Complacency brings about the feeling that nothing bad will ever happen to you – accidents only happen to other people. If you have the attitude that nothing bad will ever happen, you will close your eyes to the hazards that may surround you, which in turn may close your mind to warning signs. When you close your eyes to safety hazards or stop listening to the warning signs, you won’t know how to protect yourself because you won’t know about any surrounding dangers. Staying informed and alert is the first step in staying safe. With the right information and the right level of awareness, you will know where hazards are so you can avoid them and stay safe.
  • Safety – Don’t leave home without it – Before you leave for work, ask yourself a few questions. Are you well rested? Is your mind on work or are you preoccupied with other issues? Are you leaving for work with enough time to get you where you need to go without having to break some laws?  The answers to these questions can help you determine if you are already putting yourself in harm’s way. Getting to your work area – When youarrive at your work area, be it a machine or cubicle, take a moment to prepare yourself to work safely. Do not only look at your personal work area, but take a look at the surrounding work area, too. Is the area free of hazards? Ask yourself what you have to do to be safe right now and throughout the day. Think about the jobs you will do and what you must do to complete those jobs safely.

Think safe, work safe. Yeah, those are catchy slogans, but more importantly, it is a way to remember that you need to keep your head in the game.  If you are thinking about safety, then you will be working safely.

Spicing up your workplace safety

By: Jyl Shirley, Commercial Lines Customer Service

 Experienced business owners and managers understand that safe work environments contribute to overall business success in more ways than just reducing injuries to their valued employees. Safety at work increases productivity, employee morale and overall revenues. Increased revenues lead to business growth, success and greater opportunities for everyone.

 However, the general topic of safety in the workplace and how it is promoted is not usually very exciting at all. In a fast paced world with so much external stimulation, it is often difficult to effectively communicate, teach and enforce safety in ways that generate much attention, involvement or excitement out of employees. This low interest leads to inattention, and therefore lower success rates for many safety programs.

 Effective ways to “spice up” your workplace safety program are to promote employee participation and leadership, and to make it fun! When it’s not just the management promoting the program and fun is involved, positive employee attention is increased significantly, leading to stronger implementation and overall safety success.  

 Here are several ideas for adding some spice to your safety program:

 Encourage employee participation in safety meetings

Ask willing participants at the meeting to mention one near-miss accident or one idea they have for reducing accidents. Then have a brief group discussion after each situation is brought up. Employees enjoy group discussions on real situations that come up during their work day. Group discussions on these topics encourage teamwork, active listening, group interaction and awareness of the issues. Often times this is much more effective than listening to a manager’s PowerPoint presentation on safety.

 Ask employees to promote safety topics 

Divide the employees into groups of four and give each group a safety topic to promote within your company. Encourage each team to promote their topic to co-workers through posters, skits, games or any other creative method the team comes up with.

 Change up the venue

Hold your safety meetings in locations other than the office conference room or the jobsite. Many times a change in venue will encourage some excitement to an otherwise boring meeting. For example, you can meet outside and have a picnic lunch, or for construction workers, meet at a fun location such as a public park or at a restaurant with a large table for breakfast.

 Hold contests with prizes

For the competitive employees or even those that have a great quarter safety wise, offer rewards or prizes for their accomplishments. Anything from a prime parking spot for a month, gift certificates or even a couple hours of free time  can make employees more aware of implementing safety procedures and more likely to willingly do so.

 Add humor

Set a light tone and post funny posters around the office to remind employees to be safe. Studies show that humor promotes positive attitudes and increased retention of information.  Additionally, consider frequently posting new attention-getting safety quotes, fun pictures or funny renditions of safety situations at the time clock, water cooler or other frequently visited locations. These will grab employees’ attention, and remind them to think before they start their work day.

 Keep in mind that safety is something that needs to be fun, attention getting and promoted on a continuous basis. Human nature allows us to become more relaxed when time goes by without any incidents. This often leads to employees taking shortcuts and sometimes cutting back on safe practices in order to get the job done more quickly.  When a sudden accident occurs causing an injury, everyone is reminded again of the reason for the precautions. Regular safety promotion will reduce these real life reminders!