What is COBRA? COBRA stands for Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985. In short, it is a federal law that ensures that employees can maintain Healthcare coverage that they might otherwise lose after something like resigning from a job or filing for unemployment.

COBRA guarantees employees the right to keep their group health care coverage for up to 18 months after leaving their job. Unless they were fired for “gross misconduct,” it generally covers any employees who were terminated.

While employees are guaranteed the option of continuing on with their previous health care coverage, they have to pay for it themselves. The employer does not have to subsidize any of the payments, so employees should understand that the cost can be expensive.

In order to secure COBRA coverage, employees should contact their HR department and HR is required to take the necessary steps to offer COBRA coverage. If an employer elects to take COBRA coverage, the payments will be made through either your company or through their healthcare provider.

Your HR Shield Advisor can offer assistance in setting up insurance plans and managing COBRA coverage. Contact us today for more information.

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What is HIPAA?

You may have heard the term “HIPAA Compliant” but aren’t really sure what HIPAA is or what exactly that term means.

HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which is about health insurance and the importance of privacy when it comes to medical information online. Privacy laws tend to make businesses anxious because it creates anxiety about the dangers of non-compliance. But HIPAA just exists to make personal medical information more private and inaccessible online, which is ultimately a good thing.

So who has to comply with HIPAA standards? The Privacy Rule applies to anyone who is involved with these medical records to have certain administrative, physical and technical safeguards in place that meet the standards of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If you work in the health care industry, you most likely need to adhere to HIPAA standards, particularly if you store health information or medical records online.

Basically, what this means is that your company has to be able to prove that this information is secure in a variety of ways, including:

• Workstations and servers having up-to-date antivirus software • Encrypted emailing • Screen lock password for phones and tablets that access sensitive email accountsFiles • Complete migration from Windows XP • ..and other security measures.

If you have any questions about meeting these compliances, don’t hesitate to reach out to our HR professionals. We can help you implement changes to ensure that your business stays HIPAA compliant.

ACA Updates

If you own a small business, you’re already aware of how the Affordable Care Act has changed the healthcare landscape in America. But what exactly do you need to know about what you need to tell your employees about Affordable Care?

If you or your employees choose to forego insurance, you might have to pay a penalty tax to the IRS. In 2014, the penalty was $95 per adult and $47.50 per child but in 2015 it will be raised to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child.

Enrollment in the Affordable Care Act lasts from November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015. You must enroll by December 15, 2014 if you would like your coverage to start on January 1, 2015. If you don’t sign up for a health plan by February 15, 2015, you will not be able to qualify for enrollment unless you meet the restrictions, such as having moved out of state recently or having a qualifying life event such as having a child or losing a job.

You can preview the available plans and rates before you apply to get better acquainted with what your options will be or contact your HR Advisor at HR Shield to see what your best options are.

It’s important to keep your employees advised of changes to their healthcare plans and options. If you need assistance with managing your healthcare plans and other HR needs, do not hesitate to contact your HR Professional today!

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HSA Enrollment is Increasing An HSA is a Health Savings Account, and more and more people are signing up for them as of late. Before now, many people weren’t signing up for HSAs because they can be confusing on top of already confusing insurance policies, but HSA enrollment has been increasing because they are a great way to get tax savings on medical expenses.

HSAs are savings accounts that cover your medical expenses. You can contribute to them throughout the year in order to have excess money to cover any planned or unforeseen medical bills. You can deduct HSA expenses from your taxes or else employer’s take contributions directly from employee’s paychecks.

For example, if you contribute $3,000/year to and HSA and have fairly average tax rates in your state, you could save up to $750 per year on your taxes. You can also earn interest on the money you put into an HSA and you can take it with you when you change jobs so you never have to worry about losing money. Employers can also make contributions on their employees’ behalf.

However, in order to contribute to an HSA, you have to be on a specific type of insurance plan which involves a High Deductible. This is usually at least $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for families. This scares people away sometimes, but the good news is that with an HSA the money continues to earn interest and act as a savings account which you can have set aside for medical expenses when you’re older.

If you have any questions about setting up insurance plans for your employees, contact one of our HR agents. We have years of experience with HR needs such as this and can help your company deal with HSAs and other insurance-related issues.

For many employers, minimum wage plays a big role in determining just how much help you can afford to hire. You may have various entry-level exempt and non-exempt positions available at your company, but what if minimum wage increases in the upcoming year – will you be able to afford all of your non-exempt workers?

Here’s your head’s up for 2014! If you weren’t already aware, the following states will have mandatory increases:

State minimum wage changes effective on January 1, 2014:

  • Arizona: $7.90 per hour (currently $7.80)
  • Connecticut: $8.70 per hour (currently $8.25)
  • Florida: $7.93 per hour (currently $7.79)
  • Missouri: $7.50 per hour (currently $7.35)
  • Montana: $7.90 per hour (currently $7.80)
  • New Jersey: $8.25 per hour (currently $7.25)
  • Ohio: $7.95 per hour for businesses with annual gross receipts in excess of $292,000 per year (currently $7.85)
  • Oregon: $9.10 per hour (currently $8.95)
  • Rhode Island: $8.00 per hour (currently $7.75)
  • Vermont: $8.73 per hour (currently $8.60)
  • Washington: $9.32 per hour (currently $9.19)

 

Additionally, California’s state minimum wage will increase on July 1, 2014 to $9.00 an hour. Right now it is $8.00 per hour.

When you need one-on-one support with payroll, compliance or hiring, a quick call to your HR Advisor is all it takes to tap into our team of licensed experts—each with a minimum of ten years HR experience.  Need help? Contact us!

Walk around any shopping mall, food court, hotel or sporting arena and you’ll see a defibrillator or two built into the wall.  Defibrillators deliver a therapeutic dose of electrical energy to the heart of someone who is under cardiac arrest. This “shock” depolarizes a critical mass of the heart muscle, terminates the dysrhythmia, and allows normal rhythm to be re-established.

Sounds high-tech doesn’t it? Because it is! These devices save people’s lives every day. But as a business owner or HR professional you probably can’t help but get anxiety over the thought of having one in the workplace.

What if the pads are applied in the wrong spot?   What if the defibrillator malfunctions? What if a bystander or person trying to help is injured in the process? Am I held liable because it’s my place of business?

Fortunately, the federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act was enacted in 2000. This Act has a Good Samaritan clause to protect anyone that attempts to aid an individual suffering from sudden cardiac arrest by using an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) and performing CPR. This person is free from any liability if the victim becomes injured or dies so long as they delivered CPR correctly and utilized the device correctly.

Any organization that purchases an AED is free from liability as long as it has notified the proper authorities of the medical equipment, and has maintained and performed tests on the medical equipment. Most defibrillators go unused for years, but still only have a 5-10 year lifespan.

The American Red Cross offers great resources for employers looking to educate their employees on the proper use of equipment and CPR technique. To access these resources, click here.

According to OSHA, about 10,000 cardiac arrests happen at work each year. If you do decide to install one in the workplace, training all workplace employees how to correctly utilize one is mandatory under the Cardiac Arrest Survival Act. It’s also very important to pay attention to details surrounding this act that may or may not concern you in an emergency situation. For specifics on this act, click here.

If you have questions about compliance, contact our team at HR Shield today.

 

As a small business owner with only 5 employees, you may not offer benefits. After all, it’s an added expense that isn’t necessarily needed for day to day operations. Many small businesses struggle with whether or not to provide their employees with benefits.

On the positive side, great benefits packages help attract and retain the very best employees. On the downside, as mentioned above, they’re an added expense.

Did your company file your taxes on time this year?  Does your tax bill leave you wondering how you can qualify for additional deductions?  The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit encourages small businesses to provide benefits for their employees by offering a generous tax deduction.  In the paragraphs below we’ll let you know just what you need to do to qualify and outline the potential impact to your bottom line.

What is the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit?

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is aimed at encouraging small businesses, less than 25 full-time employees, at offering health care benefits. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as non-profits or charities.

On Jan. 1, 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent for small business employers and 35 percent for tax-exempt employers!

So, what does this mean for you? If you contributed 75,000 towards your employees’ health care premiums this past year (or previous years), and you qualify for a 20-percent credit, you’ll save $15,000! If you contributed 75,000 towards your employees’ health care premiums in 2010 and 2011 as well, that’s $45,000; a $15,000 credit for each tax year.

Even if you are a small company that did not owe taxes this year, you can carry the credit forward to upcoming tax years.

Does My Company Qualify?

If your company has less than 25 full-time equivalent employees, and you pay an average wage of less than $50,000 a year, then yes, you may be eligible for this tax credit. You must be paying at least half of employee health insurance premiums.

How Do I Claim This Credit?

You must use Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums, to calculate the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. This form is available for download on the IRS website.

Need some help? Talk to your dedicated HR Advisor today at (877) 636-9525. New to HR Shield? Contact us for more information on strategically positioning your business for success through HR initiatives.

Wage and hour compliance can be confusing, especially when your state law requires one thing, and federal law requires another.

What happens if state law requires payment of a higher minimum wage than the federal law (which is currently $7.25 per hour for covered non-exempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act)?

In states where the state law requires a higher minimum wage, the higher standard applies. But, did you know that the federal law only requires a minimum wage of $4.25 per hour for workers under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment?

After 90 consecutive days of employment (or the employee reaching his or her 20th birthday), the employee must then receive a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In this particular case, if you are the employer of employees under the age of 20, you are going to want to refer to your state law’s specifications. If the state requires a higher standard, that is what will apply.

If your company operates in multiple states, and has employees in multiple states, you will need to review each employee’s particular state minimum wage (the state in which they reside and work in).

Need some help? With HR Shield, you get instant access to all the information, training, forms and expert advice you need to keep your workplace in compliance and protect your bottom line. We’ll help you identify exactly which regulations you need to satisfy and what you need to do to stay compliant across the board including the Fair Labor Standards Act and minimum wage specifics.

For more information, just contact us!