Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Aetna is buying Humana ~ So what happens next?

Aetna will acquire Humana for a reported $37 Billion. The newly combined company will have more than 33 million members.

This huge deal follows other proposed or rumored moves to merge or consolidate by U.S. health insurance companies, such as: Anthem’s interested in buying Cigna, and UnitedHealth’s previously reported interest in buying either Aetna or Humana. Many fear that these consolidations will result in fewer health carriers with much greater power. Basically, fewer insurers with more clout could raise premiums and reduce the number of doctors and hospitals in network coverage plans.

The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare has been a mixed blessing for the health insurance industry. It's created more business for major insurers because more Americans now have health coverage; however many say that the law has put more pressure on health carriers to generate profits.

So how does this industry consolidation this impact insurance agents and brokers?

Obamacare had already impacted the Life and Health Insurance broker community, now as industry consolidating occurs fewer solutions exist for brokers and their clients.  Making matters more complex (if not dire) are reports that Aetna is considering a plan to eliminate commissions built into group health plan premiums.   Of course, we’ve already seen many agencies and agents move (or attempt to move) towards collecting “consulting fees” from clients in lieu of commissions.  Many of those agents or brokers have shared with us that this concept has not been well received amongst their clientele.  Is this the future for how brokers must be compensated, billing your clients separate and apart from their policy premiums?

A result of this confusion and concern might very well be, yet another motivation to affiliate with a PEO or PEO Broker.  PEO’s can provide Insurance Agents or brokers another means of addressing their client’s health care needs while providing the agent/broker with a reoccurring revenue stream. For more information on how a PEO can solve many of your client’s employee administration and health care needs please contact the LL Roberts Group at 877.878.6463 and ask one of our Professional PEO Consultants about how you can use a PEO to better serve your clients while generating commissions for you and/or your agency. To learn more about PEOs and the LL Roberts Group visit our website at www.llroberts.com.  You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Staying Safe in Spring Weather

Now that Spring is here and several parts of the country are getting more than it's fair share of rain and might be in line to re-write water level records. This Spring has already proven to be volatile for some parts of the country and will continue to be dangerous as the weather heats up. We know that Spring weather can be very unpredictable, and just as unstable, but not everyone understands the dangers that accompany severe weather. Severe weather affects everyone with the potential for tornados, thunderstorms, lightning, flooding, and even hurricanes in some parts of the country. Severe or violent weather threatens everyone, but the truth is, the majority of people and businesses are not prepared. Having a game plan can save lives and property when Spring weather turns violent.

Some people think these are no big deal, but thunderstorms are dangerous. There are several associated dangers of thunderstorms including tornadoes, strong winds, hail, lightning, and flash flooding. The most dangerous situation arises when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended period of time. Thunderstorms typically produce rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. A severe storm produces hail at least three quarters of an inch in diameter, has winds of 58 miles per hour or higher, or produces a tornado.

A “Severe Thunderstorm Watch” tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to a radio or television for information. A “Severe Thunderstorm Warning” is issued when severe weather has been witnessed by spotters or by radar. A warning indicates danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. You should take cover immediately.

Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder. If possible, stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. Stay alert to your surrounding and always use good judgment when making decisions that could have lasting effects on friends, families, and co-workers.

On the average, 90 people die each year in the United States from lightning strikes. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from lightning: 

  • Get inside a building immediately. If you have to stay outside, keep away from metal objects and stay below ground level. Avoid hilltops, open beaches, or fields; most importantly, stay away from open water and tall trees.
  • Seek shelter inside your car. If you feel your hair standing on end, squat with your head between your knees. Do not lie flat.
  • Avoid using the telephone or other electrical devices. Do not take a bath, shower or stand near plumbing.

QUICK FACT: Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. “Heat Lightning” is actually from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. Lightning kills more Americans than tornadoes and hurricanes each year. 

We have all seen the news about vehicles which  tried to cross a flooded street, often with tragic results. Even a four-wheel drive vehicle isn’t safe in high water areas. Flash floods have surprising lifting power. Water displaces 1,500 pounds of weight for every foot it rises. If a car weighs 3,000 pounds, it takes only two feet of water to send it downstream. It only takes 6 inches of water to sweep a person off his/her feet. One foot of water can cause a compact vehicle to lose control and “float” away. Once the car is swept away, the vehicle may become a death trap because the electric windows and door locks can short out when water reaches them, trapping the occupants inside. Do not drive through high water or flooded areas. Observe all warning signs and don’t take any chances with your or life.

Spring is a prime time spawning ground for tornadoes. If a tornado is spotted in your area, here are some tips to follow and help keep you safe: 

  • Go low and get low. - Go to the lowest level of the structure you are in. If you are at home when a tornado strikes, go to the innermost part of the home on the lowest floor such as a bathroom or closet, preferably an enclosure  with no windows.
  • Crouch or lie down, cover and protect your head. If you live in a mobile home, go outside, and lie flat in a ditch or ravine.
  • If you are in an office building, go to the designated safe area for tornadoes. If you can’t get there in time, stay in an interior hallway or basement.
  • Do not take cover in your car. If you are driving down the road and see a tornado, leave your car immediately. If you have time, get inside a building. If not, lie flat in a ditch or ravine and cover your head with your arms.

QUICK FACT: A “Tornado Watch” watch means “watch” the sky. Weather conditions are right for tornadoes to form. A “Tornado Warning” means a tornado has been sighted or identified on radar. Take cover immediately. 
If you have any questions any information found in this posting, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hearing Protection Required? Let's Find Out Why!

It doesn’t really matter if you work in an office, construction site, or somewhere in between, you will find different levels of noise everywhere you go. The industry standard dBA or decibel level is 85, but what does that mean? Any prolonged exposure to noise above 85 dBA can result in hearing loss.  If you were to whisper, that would be around 30 dBA or a casual conversation registers at 60 dBA (not accounting for the loud talkers of the world).  Riding a motorcycle is 100 dBA while using a table saw is around 105 dBA.

One more thing we can all relate to is a concert which registers at 110 dBA. Remember how your ears rings for a little while after you leave the concert? That is a side effect of exposure to loud noises. This type of hearing loss is temporary and will disappear after some time away the exposure.  However, permanent hearing loss can result due to long-term exposure to noise, with normal hearing to be impaired indefinitely.
Now that we can see everyday causes of noise and how often we are actually around it, it is one of the most widespread occupational health problems that many of us don’t really do anything about.

Hearing protection must be made available to all workers exposed to noise levels over the permissible limit in order to prevent hearing loss. Hearing protection reduces the severity of the noise level for each employee’s work environment. One of the common reasons employees do not wear hearing protection is because they say it’s not comfortable. It is important that employees are given the chance to select protection from a variety of devices to find the product best suited for them.  Not only does the employer have to provide hearing protection, they must also provide training in the proper use and care of all hearing protection provided to employees.

The first step in understanding and controlling noise levels is to identify the sources of noise in the workplace. If you are not sure what noise levels are being produced, technology has made is it even easier to find this out.  Most smart phones now have apps that can be downloaded for free that will show you how loud your environment is. Once the sources have been identified, you can determine what hearing protection is needed.  Different types of hearing protection will list the dBA exposure levels they are designed to protect you from. Remember, that if you determine that hearing protection must be used, it is always a good idea to document what areas (including decibel levels) require what type of protection.

It is important to remember that PPE is your last line of defense. Any good hearing protection plan will look to eliminate or reduce noise levels through engineering controls.  This includes using low-noise tools and machinery, isolating the noise by distance, or using sound walls or barriers to isolate the noise.  In most cases, both engineering controls and hearing protection must be implemented together to ensure the proper protection against noise-induced hearing loss. 

The employer must ensure that employees are trained as to why, when and where they should use hearing protection. This training and PPE used must be re-evaluated whenever there is a change in the work environment.

If you have any questions concerning your hearing conservation program  and how you can improve your employees safety, please contact the LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

IRS To Scrutinize Distinction Between Employees, Contractors As ACA Mandate Takes Effect.

The New York Times reports that the IRS is expected to more heavily scrutinize the distinction between employees and self-employed independent contractors this year because of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers with more than 50 workers offer health coverage. Jeffrey Saviano, Americas director of indirect tax at Ernst & Young, said, “The stakes are higher for companies and the government because of the implementation of the A.C.A. and the employer mandate taking effect in 2015.” Tax lawyer Ian Shane suggested that the desire to avoid the expense and   hassle of compliance with the mandate provides an incentive for small businesses to classify some workers as contractors.

The New York Times  also reported that people “who overcame the challenges of Healthcare.gov and succeeded in buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act last year now face a new set of hurdles in the form of daunting tax forms.” The article offers tips for taxpayers navigating the ACA’s new requirements, noting that those with employer-based health insurance or Medicare or Medicaid coverage will only have to check a box on Form 1040. People who qualify for an exemption from coverage will “need to fill out Form 8965.”

For more updates on ACA and how it might affect your company and your employees be sure to visit The LL Roberts Group “Obamacare” page. This page is entirely devoted to providing our current and prospective clients, agents and affiliates with news, updates and opinions concerning the Affordable Healthcare Act or ACA.

If you have any questions on how a PEO can assist your company with the Afffordable Heathcare Act, please contact a LL Roberts Group PEO Consultant (toll free) at 877.878.6463. You can even talk to us on Facebook or Twitter.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

How To Handle Complainers In The Workplace

It’s seems like every workplace has that one employee (or maybe more) who just like to complain. Complainers at work can drain you and your co-workers of energy, focus, and desire, resulting in an adverse impact on moral and even your company’s bottom-line. Ignoring chronic complainers can be like sticking your head in the sand and hoping it changes over time is not a solution. Few seem to realize the actual impact that these staff members have on your company and its culture and the long term effects it can produce. In order to effectively deal with complainers, consider utilizing the following three courses of action (or steps):

Step One
As the business owner or manager assess how you feel about the complainer. Don’t get hung-up on the negative; instead focus on the positives that the employee brings to your company. Focus on having a non-emotional discussion with the complainer--be positive.  Address the complainer with the attitude that you are striving to create a positive change or solution. 

Step Two
Make a plan with the complainer on how you want to address his or her concerns or perceived issues moving forward. For instance:
  • Involve the complainer is developing a solution. Acknowledge the concerns of the complainer. During discussions with the complainer focus on solving the problem instead of just venting. Ask for solution ideas.  You want the complainer involved in the solution—they need to have buy-in. This approach with the complainer sets a good example for the rest of the staff. 
  • Make the complainer feel comfortable with offering ideas.  It may be necessary for you to throw out some ideas (prime the pump so that the complainer sees what you are looking for. Make them feel at ease.

Step Three
Be encouraging and appreciative for the complainer’s cooperation and constructive feedback. You have to avoid focusing on any negatives.  Just keep the complainer on track by acknowledging and supporting the constructive feedback from the complainer.  Be consistent in how you address the complainer or different complainers over time.

Remember, negativity breeds more negativity. So, it’s crucial to address complainers early. Strive to create a positive, professional, and productive environment at work.  Negativity is “contagious”, so it's important to recognize it, address it, and turn it around. With planning and follow-through, you'll create a business environment where positive attitudes are recognized and rewarded and where your employees can feel good about themselves and your company.

Remember that your PEO Services Provider can offer you and your managers a variety of Human Resources solutions and resources, in addition to consultative support.  So feel free to contact our HR Department or your LL Roberts Group PEO Consultant for more information or support.  Reach the LL Roberts Group (toll free) at 877.878.6463 or you can talk to us on Facebook!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

February 1 is quickly approaching and that means OSHA 300A's are here!

Another February is around the corner and it's that time again to look at the process to prepare the this year's 300A Summary using the previous year's OSHA 300 Log. The 300A contains all the information of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses in your 300 log in a condensed version. Employers with 10 or more employees must post a summary of the previous calendar year’s injuries and illnesses. If your company location has fewer than 10 employees, OSHA may still require your organization to complete the OSHA 300 log and summary if your total organization has more than 10 employees. Not all businesses must complete the OSHA log. Click HERE for a list of the exempt businesses.
To complete the 300 log, which contains all the information you need for the 300A Summary log, employers must classify work-related injuries or illnesses. The basic parts to the 300 Log that are recordable are death, loss of consciousness,  days away from work, restricted work activity or job transfer, and medical treatment beyond first aid. You must update the OSHA 300 log within seven days after each injury or illness. To complete the 300A Summary log, total up all the events from the 300 Log and complete the 300A. An employer subject to this requirement must post the OSHA 300A Summary log even if the employer had no reportable injuries/illnesses in the prior year. In addition to the posting requirement, employees with no fixed work site or no access to posted sites must be provided with a copy of the report.

While every injury on the job should be taken seriously, not every incident is “recordable” for OSHA record keeping purposes. For example, an employee may receive only first-aid treatment or the incident may be an exacerbation of an earlier injury already reported. If you need more details, the OSHA/ Department of Labor  Web site is very informative and can be very helpful.  Click HERE for "step by step" 300 & 300A record keeping information.
The 300A Summary Log must be posted from February 1st to April 30th. The log must be posted in a visible place that your employees can easily view. The break room or by the time clock are two good places that have a lot of employee traffic. The highest ranking company executive or manager at each location must sign the 300A certifying that he or she agrees with the 300A Summary. The OSHA 300 log and the posting of the OSHA 300A Summary is a complex process. After they are completed, do not send the forms to OSHA unless they specifically request them. However, any inspection will no doubt include a review of the forms. 

Should you have any questions concerning, your OSHA 300 and 300A Summary log please contact your LL Roberts Group PEO Risk Management Department (toll free) at 877.878.6463. or you can talk to us on Facebook!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Holiday Office Party Tips For Playing It Safe!

It’s that wonderful time of the year again and for those of us that have been in the workplace for many years, we can likely recall the crazy office parties that went well into the night and may have even ended the next day with an awful hangover and a few regrets. That fact is that when it comes to office parties the best advice for business owners and employees alike is “not to party like its 1999”.

While office holiday parties are a good way for a company’s owners and executives to show their appreciation to employees, clients, and vendors alike, these types of gatherings can get a company into plenty of legal trouble too. Why so? In a word…“alcohol”.

Many an office party has had an unhappy ending when and over served employee or guest made un unwelcomed sexual advance to a coworker or other guest; or possibly worse, was involved in a serious car accident on the way home. Either way, the company hosting the party can be held liable.

1. You are liable! A good idea is to check your business insurance and see if you are covered in the vent that a mishap occurs in conjunction with the party.  A commercial general liability policy may cover liquor liability, but that doesn’t cover sexual harassment or a physical assault by a party attendee. Call your insurance agent to see what your policy covers.
2. Establish expectations for your employees and guests. Office Parties are usually given to show the company’s appreciation for its employees, clients, vendors, or other supporters.  However, the key point is that it is still a “work related event”. Everyone needs to understand this point and be advised that normal office protocol and professional behavior is still expected (even if alcohol is being served).  Send out an email to the staff and post the same message on the company bulletin board that reminds everyone what is expected of them.
3. Pick a theme that doesn’t encourage trouble. Having a party at a local pub with an open bar sends a direct message to everyone attending…”Let’s Party!” Many companies have enjoyable events that do not serve alcohol; of course that’s an option that you may consider.  Having the party during the day as a luncheon or open house is another consideration; keep in mind that  these events can be alcohol free or simply encourage moderate alcohol consumption (as opposed to an afterhours or night time event). Maybe, you can just issue “drink tickets” to each guest (no more than 3 is advised), but watch out, unused tickets can easily end-up with someone getting over served.
4. Have a plan for the party’s end. Arrange for a car service to be ready at the party’s conclusion.  Keep the number for a local cab service ready and easily accessible for hosts to make quick arrangements for a ride. Make sure that the attendees know when the party is supposed to end in advance and then stick to that time. Keep a watchful eye out for anyone that may have had too much to drink and then take the necessary steps to get them home, safely.

So, keep in mind that holiday office parties are a company’s responsibility and may be a liability to be considered. Unfortunately, these types of events can be a human resources department’s nightmare. To learn more about how a PEO can augment or support your company’s human resources related needs contact the LL Roberts Group (toll free) at 877.878.6463.   You can even talk to us on Facebook!