Trucking Safety Matters: Safety in Reverse

By | April 22, 2014

Trucking - Playing it SafeThe transportation industry is inherently dangerous. Whether you are on the road or at the loading dock, you have a variety of risk factors to consider. Backing accidents can result in personal injury, property damage and increased insurance expenses.

Backing up a vehicle, whether it is an automobile or large truck, can be a difficult task with a lot of dangers involved. In fact, many accidents occur when vehicles are backing up at only 5 mph, due to blind spots, poor planning and lack of skill.

 

Tips for Safety

When you can avoid backing up, do so. Otherwise, follow these safety tips:

  • Back up slowly and never hurry through the process. Keep the vehicle in control at all times.
  • If you have doubts about what is behind you or if space is too tight, do not back up.
  • Make use of your rearview mirrors and rear window before and during the process; don’t hang out your door to look behind you.
  • Back up only as far as needed and then proceed forward to move the vehicle the rest of the way.
  • Back in and then drive out going forward when parking in a lot.
  • Place a cone behind your vehicle when parking if you will need to back out later. This will allow you to maintain clearance if a vehicle parks behind you.
  • If you are in a blind spot, beep your horn twice or sound your backup alarm before backing.
  • Watch out for overhead power lines or any other obstructions that you may come in contact with.
  • Do not back around corners or exit ramps on the freeway.
  • Walk around the entire vehicle looking for hazards and remove them if necessary.
  • On the loading dock, turn off truck engine to prevent the release of carbon monoxide and be sure wheels are chocked.
  • Be sure wheels are chocked.

 

Spotters

Strongly consider using a spotter when backing your vehicle. When using a spotter, follow these general rules:

  • Make contact with your spotter at all times. If you cannot hear and see him/her, do not back up until you can.
  • Agree on hand signals that the spotter will use to signal you to back up and stop.
  • Ask the spotter to walk around the vehicle and survey the backing area to check for hazards. Have him or her check your overhead clearance as well.
  • Make sure the spotter is at least 8 feet away from the vehicle before you begin to back up.

 

 

Healthcare Reform Bulletin: Annual Deductible Limit Repealed for Small Health Plans

By | April 22, 2014

Know Your BenefitsOn April 1, 2014, President Obama signed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (Act) into law. The Act’s main provisions preserve the pay rate for physicians treating Medicare patients and delay the compliance deadline for converting to the updated International Classification of Diseases codes for at least one year.

The Act also eliminates the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) annual deductible limit that applied to health plans in the small group market. This change is retroactively effective to when the ACA was enacted in March 2010.

The Act does NOT eliminate the ACA’s out-of-pocket maximum, which applies to all non-grandfathered health plans for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.

Cost-sharing Limits

Effective for 2014 plan years, the ACA requires non-grandfathered health plans to comply with cost-sharing limits with respect to their coverage of essential health benefits.

Annual Deductible Limit

As originally enacted, the ACA included an annual deductible limit that applied to health plans offered in the small group market. This limit became effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.  Effective for 2014 plan years, the ACA provided that the annual deductible may not exceed:

  • $2,000 for self-only coverage; and
  • $4,000 for family coverage.

The ACA required the deductible limit to be adjusted annually. For 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that the annual deductible limit would increase to $2,050 for self-only coverage and $4,100 for family coverage.

HHS created an exception that allowed a small health plan’s deductible to exceed the ACA limit if a plan could not reasonably reach the actuarial value of a given level of coverage (that is, a metal tier—bronze, silver, gold or platinum) without exceeding the limit. This exception was available to all metal-level plans, but it was particularly useful for bronze-level plans.

Out-of-pocket Maximum

The ACA places an annual limit on total enrollee cost-sharing for essential health benefits, effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014. This annual limit, or out-of-pocket maximum, applies to all non-grandfathered health plans. This includes, for example, self-insured health plans and insured health plans of any size.

Effective for 2014 plan years, a non-grandfathered health plan’s out-of-pocket maximum may not exceed:

  • $6,350 for self-only coverage; and
  • $12,700 for family coverage.

The ACA requires the out-of-pocket maximum to be adjusted annually. For 2015, HHS announced that the out-of-pocket maximum will increase to $6,600 for self-only coverage and $13,200 for family coverage.

In addition, HHS provided transition relief for 2014 plan years for plans that utilize more than one service provider to administer benefits.

Repeal of Annual Deductible Limit

The Act eliminates the ACA’s annual deductible limit for health plans in the small group market. This change is effective as of the date of the ACA’s enactment in March 2010.

The repeal of the annual deductible limit will provide small employers with more flexibility to control premium costs by selecting a health plan with a higher deductible. However, the out-of-pocket maximum, which includes the deductible amount, and the ACA’s actuarial requirements for small health plans will continue to limit enrollee cost-sharing in small employer plans.

Small employer health plans that have started their 2014 plan years (for example, calendar year plans) were already required to incorporate the ACA’s annual deductible limit, unless a higher limit applied due to the actuarial value exception. It is not likely that these plans will be affected by the repeal of the ACA’s deductible limit until their 2015 plan years.

However, small employer health plans that have not started their 2014 plan years (for example, health plans with a Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 plan year) may be able to avoid the ACA’s deductible limit altogether.

Delay for ICD-10 Codes

The Act delays the deadline for HIPAA-covered entities to comply with the updated set of diagnosis and procedure codes known as the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition (ICD-10). The deadline is delayed from Oct. 1, 2014, until at least Oct. 1, 2015. This delay will give covered entities and their business associates more time to fully transition to the ICD-10 codes for their HIPAA standard transactions.

 

Maximizing Employee Benefits

By | April 22, 2014

Know Your BenefitsEmployee Benefits: Essential But Unruly

Employers and employees both know the critical role that the workplace plays in offering a better quality of life through a robust benefits package.

What employees may not know, however, is how to capitalize on benefit offerings, or how to select the right benefit options for themselves or their families. And employers may not know how to properly analyze claims made on benefit plans, how to interpret data to adjust their benefits offerings to deliver more of what employees want, or when to develop wellness programs to prevent excessive medical expenses for conditions caused in part by unhealthy lifestyles.

 

Technology-Driven Solutions

To help workers better grasp and employ benefits knowledge beyond orientation and yearly renewal periods, employers need an online collection of benefits and wellness materials that serves as a real-time solution generator for employee benefits questions.

Data collected and housed in a central online program will allow employers to refine popular offerings, pinpoint underutilized benefits and analyze employee insurance claims—all of which adds value your benefit package.

Besides data storage and sorting functions, employers need a central hub for educational materials that explain the complex world of health insurance to their employees, alleviating the burden of providing in-depth personal instruction.

 

For Employees

Providing a benefits suite can be a dynamic asset for your company that bolsters your bottom line in two critical ways: by acting as a magnet for attracting and retaining top talent, and by keeping your employees and their dependents healthy and free from expensive claims.

Sophisticated benefits analysis tools give workers a chance to research various

benefits options and discuss their elections for the coming year with their families.

To recoup the costs of offering benefits and to achieve gains in productivity, morale, and talent acquisition and retention, it is critical to highlight the value of your company’s benefit package. Having a proper platform in place to disseminate information is crucial. An ideal platform should include support in the form of:

  • Notifications that send out alerts prior to important benefits deadlines
  • Multiple education resources that explain differences between health plan options, medical savings accounts and retirement information, customized to the needs and ages of a diverse workforce
  • A plan selector tool that uses personalized lifestyle data to help employees decide what benefit options are best
  • A tracking calendar that enables users to stay informed about important deadlines pertaining to medical savings accounts
  • Comprehensive plan information for health insurance companies or network providers
  • A direct line of communication with the HR department

For Employers

The cost of health care is rising at an unsustainable rate, placing a significant burden on employers. With new health care reform rules, some employers may be tempted to drop coverage and accept a penalty instead, but should also consider the employee satisfaction implications.

Instead of potentially overreacting by dropping benefits altogether, employers can choose to manage costs through claims analysis. While Health claims data analysis has long been an option, getting good data can often be challenging. To get full value out of claims analysis in as quickly as possible, employers need a tool that is extensive and illuminating, and includes certain features, such as:

  • Outlining rules and calculating model or projected budgets for various types of health and retirement plans and medical savings accounts
  • Using health and prescription claims data to uncover high-cost problem areas
  • Benchmarking costs and claims against national data
  • Illuminating cost drivers for targeted wellness initiatives
  • Showing the impact of plan design changes
  • Surveying your employee population to determine their priorities
  • Gauging what employees value from underused offerings

For more information, contact The Buckner Company today.

Agriculture Safety Matters: Put a Stop fo Poor Lifting Techniques

By | April 22, 2014

Agriculture Safety Matters

Whether you are lifting a particularly heavy object or a cumbersome load, you could get seriously injured by using improper carrying technique. Injuries caused by poor lifting and unsafe handling practices are some of the most common in the agriculture industry today.

When you are handling large loads without the help of a machine or another person, you put your health in danger. Use these ergonomic tips to ensure you are using safe handling practices on the farm.

Lifting

  • Before lifting, determine whether you will need assistance from a person or a machine to complete the job safely.
  •  Find out if the route you will take with the load is clear of obstructions and slip, trip or fall hazards.
  •  Make sure you have a back support belt and are wearing it properly.
  • Grip the load with your palms instead of your fingers for more support.
  •  Keep your arms and elbows as close to the body as possible.
  • Get as close as possible to the load, keep it close to your body, bend at When lifting from overhead, stand on a stable surface and bring the load
  • Avoid reaching and lifting at the same time.

Carrying:

  •  Look ahead instead of down to make sure your path is clear.
  •  Plan your route in advance so you avoid stairs and uneven surfaces, if possible.
  •  Have someone else open doors, gates or other closed entries for you.
  •  Change direction by moving your feet, not your hips.
  • Keep shoulders, hips and feet aligned – do not twist at the waist.
  •  Set the load down if it becomes too heavy or unstable.

Transporting

  •  Remember to push, not pull, whenever possible.
  • Position the load so that your legs supply the force.
  • Use hands and arms to control the load.
  •  Keep hands and fingers inside the load whenever possible.
  • Watch for pinch or shear points on carts, dollies and hoists.

Setting Loads Down:

  •  Bend your knees, not your waist.
  • Do not stoop to set the load down.
  • Make sure your hands and feet are clear before setting the load down.
  • Set down the corner or edge of the object closest to you first, and push the item into proper position on the shelf, ground or other surface. 

 

Agriculture Safety Matters: Handling Flammable and Combustible Liquids

By | April 22, 2014

Agriculture Safety MattersFlammable and combustible liquids are present in many frequently used substances. Gasoline, diesel fuel, oil, and many common products such as solvents, thinners, cleaners, adhesives, paints, waxes, and polishes may be highly flammable or combustible. And if used or stored improperly, these types of liquids can cause serious injury or death.

To understand the dangers of flammable and combustible liquids, it is important to know that it is the vapor that burns, not the liquid. For instance, an explosion can occur when a worker drains a gasoline tank and begins repairs involving welding on the tank. Although the tank is empty, it contains gasoline vapors. If the vapor concentration is within the explosive range and a source of ignition is introduced, an explosion can easily occur.

 

General Safety Rules and Precautions

The following work practices must be followed when handling flammable and combustible liquids:

  • Use Class I flammable liquids (any liquid that can ignite at less than 100° F) only where no open flame or other ignition source is in the path of the vapor.
  • All containers must be properly labeled and marked with the complete chemical name.
  • All containers must be metal, sealed with a cap or lid, and not damaged or leaking.
  • Don’t store flammable liquid containers next to exits, aisles, stairways or doors – even for a brief time. Flammable containers may also not be placed where they can interfere with the exit from an area or building in an emergency situation.
  • Dispense flammable and combustible liquids with approved pump or metal self-closing faucets only.
  • Do not transfer liquid unless an employee who is trained to stop the transfer in the event of a spill is present.
  • When transferring flammable liquids from one container to another, the two containers must be connected by a conducting wire and one container must be grounded.
  • Remember that welding, flame cutting and soldering, and other flame-, heat- or spark-producing work is not allowed within 25 feet of liquid use and storage areas.
  • Never smoke in storage and handling areas of combustible and flammable liquids, or in a 25-foot radius around these areas.
  • Maintain access to fire extinguishers and other emergency response equipment at all times. At least one fire extinguisher must be located within 10 feet of any flammable and/or combustible liquid storage area, and within 50 feet of a flammable liquid use area.

 

Handling Flammable and Combustible Liquids

Healthcare Reform Bulletin: Final Rules Released on Reporting for Issuers and Self-Funded Employers

By | March 10, 2014

Know Your Benefits

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance issuers, self-insured health plan sponsors, government agencies that administer government-sponsored health insurance programs and any other entity that provides minimum essential coverage (MEC) to report information on that coverage to the IRS and covered individuals. This requirement is found in Internal Revenue Code section 6055.

On March 5, 2014, the IRS released final regulations on the section 6055 reporting requirements. These regulations finalize proposed rules issued on Sept. 5, 2013.

The final regulations apply for calendar years beginning after Dec. 31, 2014. This date reflects the one-year delay provided in IRS Notice 2013-45. However, the IRS is encouraging voluntary compliance for 2014.

These reporting requirements are intended to provide the IRS with information necessary to administer other ACA mandates, such as the large employer shared responsibility penalty and the individual mandate.

Entities Subject to Section 6055 Reporting

Under the section 6055 reporting requirements, every person that provides MEC to an individual during a calendar year must report on the health coverage provided. Reporting entities include health insurance issuers, self-insured plan sponsors, government-sponsored programs and other entities that provide MEC. To ensure complete and accurate reporting, the final regulations require section 6055 reporting for all covered individuals.

Health Insurance Issuers

Health insurance issuers are responsible for section 6055 reporting for all insured coverage except:

  • Coverage under certain government-sponsored programs (such as Medicaid and Medicare) that provide coverage through a health insurance issuer; and
  • Coverage under QHPs through the individual market Exchange.

To avoid collecting duplicate or unnecessary information, issuers are not required to report on coverage under a QHP through an individual market Exchange. The Exchange will provide the necessary information to the IRS and the individual. However, issuers must report on QHPs in the small group market enrolled in through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), because the Exchanges will not be reporting information on these plans.

Sponsors of Self-insured Group Health Plans

The plan sponsor is responsible for section 6055 reporting for a self-insured group health plan. In general, the plan sponsor is the entity that establishes or maintains the plan. The employer is the plan sponsor for self-insured group health plans established or maintained by a single employer, and each participating employer is the plan sponsor for a plan established or maintained by more than one employer (other than a multiple employer welfare arrangement).

For a multiemployer plan, the plan sponsor is the association, committee, joint board of trustees or other group of representatives who establish or maintain the plan.

For purposes of identifying the employer, the section 414 employer aggregation rules do not apply. Thus, a self-insured group health plan or arrangement covering employees of related companies is treated as sponsored by more than one employer, and each employer is required to report for its employees. However, one member of the group may assist the other members by filing returns and furnishing statements on behalf of all members.

Controlled Group Rules

Most employers that sponsor self-insured group health plans are applicable large employers (ALEs) required to report under both section 6056 and section 6055. ALEs apply the rules under section 6056 for identifying the reporting entities in a controlled group.

Employers in controlled groups that are not ALEs, and reporting entities (such as issuers) that are not reporting as employers, may report under section 6055 as separate entities, or one entity may report for the group.

Use of Third Parties

Reporting entities are permitted to use third parties to facilitate filing returns and furnishing statements to comply with section 6055 reporting requirements. However, these arrangements do not transfer the potential liability for failure to report.

In contrast, a government employer that maintains a self-insured group health plan or arrangement may designate (in writing) another governmental unit, agency or instrumentality as the person responsible for section 6055 reporting.

Coverage Not Subject to Section 6055 Reporting

Section 6055 reporting is not required for arrangements that provide benefits in addition or as a supplement to MEC. Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) are considered supplemental coverage to which this rule may apply.

In addition, reporting is not required for coverage that is not MEC. Thus, no reporting is required for health savings accounts (HSAs), coverage at on-site medical clinics or for Medicare Part B. However, Medicare Part A qualifies as MEC and is subject to reporting.

Wellness programs that are an element of other MEC (such as wellness programs offering reduced premiums or cost-sharing under a group health plan) do not require separate section 6055 reporting. The final regulations clarify that MEC that supplements a primary plan of the same plan sponsor or that supplements government-sponsored coverage (such as Medicare) are supplemental coverage not subject to reporting.

Combined Reporting

Section 6056 requires ALEs subject to the pay or play rules to report to the IRS and covered individuals information on the health care coverage offered to full-time employees. The final regulations provide that ALEs will file a combined return and statement for all reporting under sections 6055 and 6056.

An ALE that sponsors a self-insured plan will report on Form 1095-C, completing both sections to report the information required under sections 6055 and 6056.

An ALE that provides insured coverage also will report on Form 1095-C, but will complete only the section of Form 1095-C that reports the information required under section 6056.

Section 6055 reporting entities that are not ALEs or are not reporting as employers (such as health insurance issuers, sponsors of multiemployer plans and providers of government-sponsored coverage) will report under section 6055 on Form 1095-B. Section 6055 information returns must be submitted to the IRS with a transmittal form, Form 1094-B.

These forms will be made available in draft form in the near future.

Information Required to be Reported

Section 6055 requires the reporting of several data elements that are not required by taxpayers for preparing their tax returns or by the IRS for tax administration. The section 6055 information return must include:

  • The name of each individual enrolled in MEC;
  • The name and last known address of the primary insured or other related person (for example, a parent or spouse) who submits the application for coverage (the responsible individual);
  • The TIN and months of coverage for each individual who is covered under the policy or program; and
  • Other information specified in forms, instructions or published guidance.

For employer-provided coverage, the proposed rules required reporting the name, address and EIN of the employer maintaining the plan and whether coverage was enrolled in through the SHOP. The final regulations do not require sponsors of multiemployer plans to report the EINs of the participating employers. The regulations require only health insurance issuers to report the EIN of the employer sponsoring an insured group health plan.

Although TINs are required for section 6055 reporting, reporting entities may report a date of birth in lieu of a TIN only if the reporting entity is informed that an individual has no TIN or the reporting entity is unable to obtain a TIN after making reasonable efforts. In general, a reporting entity acts responsibly in attempting to solicit a TIN if, after an initial, unsuccessful request for a TIN (for example, at the time of enrollment), the reporting entity makes two consecutive annual TIN solicitations. A penalty may be imposed if the reporting entity fails to make the two additional solicitations.

Time and Manner of Filing

Any reporting entity who is required to file at least 250 returns under section 6055 must file electronically. The transmittal (Form 1094-B or 1094-C) is not treated as a separate return, but must be electronically filed in the form and manner required by the IRS when the Form 1095 is electronically filed.

All other reporting entities that are required to file fewer than 250 returns under section 6055 are permitted, but not required, to file electronically. A substitute form may be used, as long as it complies with IRS procedures or other guidance.

Reporting entities must file the section 6055 information return with the IRS by Feb. 28 (or March 31, if filed electronically) of the year following the calendar year in which they provided MEC.

Statements Furnished to Individuals

Reporting entities must also furnish a statement to the covered individual on or before Jan. 31 of the year following the calendar year in which MEC is provided. Reporting entities showing good cause may be allowed the flexibility to apply for an extension of time, not exceeding 30 days, to furnish statements.

Individual statements must provide (1) the policy number, (2) the name, address and a contact number for the reporting entity, and (3) the information required to be reported to the IRS.

Reporting entities may furnish the Form 1095-B or 1095-C with the Form W-2 in the same mailing. Substitute statements that comply with applicable requirements may be used, as long as the required information is included.

Electronic delivery of statements to individuals is permitted only if the recipient affirmatively consents. The final regulations explicitly allow statement recipients to provide consent and to access section 6055 statements in response to a notice on a website. A reporting entity may simultaneously request consent to receive an electronic section 6055 statement and consent regarding other statements. However, each form must be specifically referenced.

If mailed, the statement required under section 6055 must be sent to the individual’s last known permanent address or, if no permanent address is known, to the individual’s temporary address. A reporting entity’s first class mailing to the recipient’s last known permanent address, or if no permanent address is known, the temporary address, discharges the requirement to furnish the statement, even if the statement is returned. A reporting entity that has no address for an individual should send the statement to the address where the individual is most likely to receive it.

Statements furnished to individuals under section 6055 are not required to disclose their complete TINs.

Penalties

Reporting entities that do not comply with the filing and statement furnishing requirements of section 6055 may be subject to penalties for failure to file a correct information return and failure to furnish correct payee statements. However, penalties may be waived if the failure is due to reasonable cause and not to willful neglect.

The final regulations also include short term relief from penalties to allow additional time to develop appropriate procedures for data collection and compliance with these new reporting requirements. For returns and statements filed and furnished in 2016 to report coverage in 2015, the IRS will not impose penalties on entities that can show they make good faith efforts to comply with the information reporting requirements.

This relief is provided only for incorrect or incomplete information reported on the return or statement, including TINs or dates of birth. No relief is provided for entities that do not make a good faith effort to comply with these regulations or that fail to timely file an information return or statement.

Voluntary Reporting for 2014

Although these reporting requirements were delayed until 2015, reporting entities were encouraged to voluntarily comply for 2014 (that is, by filing and furnishing section 6055 returns and statements in early 2015).

Reporting entities that wish to voluntarily comply with the information reporting requirements in 2014 should do so in accordance with the final regulations. This means that reporting entities should provide both section 6055 and, if applicable, section 6056 information on a single form.

According to the IRS, real-world testing of reporting systems and plan designs, built in accordance with the final regulations, through voluntary compliance for 2014 will contribute to a smoother transition to full implementation for 2015.

More Information

Please contact The Buckner Company for more information on the ACA’s employer reporting requirements.

 

Source: Internal Revenue Service

Final Rules Released on Reporting for Issuers and Self-funded Employers

Healthcare Reform Bulletin: HHS Issues Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2015 Final Rule

By | March 10, 2014

Know Your BenefitsOn March 5, 2014, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its 2015 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule. The final rule describes payment parameters applicable to the 2015 benefit year and standards relating to the:

  • Premium stabilization programs;
  • Open enrollment period for 2015; and
  • Annual limitations on cost-sharing.

Among other provisions, the final rule also implements patient safety standards for qualified health plans (QHPs) offered in the Exchanges and includes standards related to the employee choice and premium aggregation provisions in federally-facilitated Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOPs).

Reinsurance Program

Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires a three-year transitional reinsurance program to be established in each state. This program is intended to help stabilize premiums for coverage in the individual market during the first three years of Exchange operation (2014 through 2016) when individuals with higher-cost medical needs gain insurance coverage. This program will impose a fee on health insurance issuers and self-insured group health plans.

The final rule modifies the definition of “contributing entity” for the 2015 and 2016 benefit years to exempt certain self-insured, self-administered group health plans from the reinsurance contribution requirement.

The final rule implements a two-installment contribution schedule for the reinsurance fees.  For example, the $63 per capita reinsurance contribution for the 2014 benefit year will be collected in two installments: $52.50 in January 2015 and $10.50 late in the fourth quarter of 2015. The final rule also refines the definition of “major medical coverage” to prevent more than one payment per enrollee.

In addition, the rule finalizes the annual reinsurance contribution rate of $44 per enrollee for 2015.

Open Enrollment Period for 2015

The rule finalizes the Exchange’s annual open enrollment period for the 2015 benefit year, which will begin on Nov. 15, 2014, and extend through Feb. 15, 2015.  According to HHS, this schedule gives issuers additional time before they need to set their 2015 rates and submit their QHP applications, gives states and HHS more time to prepare for open enrollment, and gives consumers until Feb. 15, 2015, to shop for coverage.  The rule does not change the schedule for the Exchange’s initial open enrollment period, which began on Oct. 1, 2013, and goes until March 31, 2014.

Annual Limitations on Cost-sharing

Effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014, the ACA requires certain non-grandfathered health plans to comply with cost-sharing limits with respect to their coverage of essential health benefits. The cost-sharing limits include both an overall annual limit, or an out-of-pocket maximum, and an annual deductible limit.

The ACA requires that these limits be updated annually based on the percent increase in average premiums per person for health insurance coverage. The final rule establishes the cost-sharing limits for 2015, which are lower than the limits HHS originally proposed.  For 2015:

  • The annual deductible for a health plan in the small group market may not exceed $2,050 for self-only coverage and $4,100 for family coverage; and
  • The annual out-of-pocket maximum for all health plans is $6,600 for self-only coverage and $13,200 for family coverage.

 

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

HHS Issues Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2015 Final Rule

Home Matters: Swimming Pool Liability Precautions

By | March 10, 2014

Personal Home & Auto InsuranceFun in the sun is even better when you have a swimming pool in your backyard to stay cool on hot, summer days. Despite all the entertainment that a swimming pool offers, there are also homeowner liabilities. To help you minimize your risk, we’ve gathered some safety tips to keep you in the know as you swim.

 

Sink Swimming Pool Dangers

To Minimize Drowning Risks:

  • Install safety fences around the pool with a locked latch and place a cover over the pool when you are not using it. This should deter unwelcome guests from entering your property and trying to swim.
  • Always supervise welcome swimmers at all times.
  • Do not allow swimmers to dive in shallow water.
  • Keep lifesaving equipment near the pool and learn how to properly use it.
  • Do not allow swimmers to horseplay in the pool.

 

To Minimize Disease Risks:

  • Keep the pool water properly filtered and chemically treated.
  • Do not allow swimmers with open wounds or illnesses to go in the water.
  • Do not allow babies to swim unless they are wearing swim diapers. Regular diapers do not provide protection in water and will not protect against accidents.
  • Keep pets out of the pool.
  • Before going in the pool, make all swimmers take a shower.
  • Do not allow swimmers to drink pool water.

 

 

To Minimize Chemical Risks:

  • Avoid over-shocking the pool; keep chemicals at the proper levels.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully when adding chemicals to the pool or filtration system.
  • Keep pool chemicals stored and locked away, so they are out of children’s reach and those who may try and enter your property to use the pool without your permission.
  • Store chemicals in a cool, dry place where they are away from fire hazards and lawn care products.

 

Helping you to avoid claims is just one of the many value-added services we provide. Call us today to learn more about all of our personal risk management solutions for your auto, home and life.

 Swimming Pool Liability Precautions

Home Matters: Smoke Detector Maintenance

By | March 10, 2014

Personal Home & Auto InsuranceSmoke detectors are one of the most important safety devices you can install in your home to protect your personal belongings and your family. The good news is, they are inexpensive, too. Once you’ve installed smoke detectors, it is absolutely necessary to test them regularly to ensure that they will sound during a fire. After all, what good are they if they are not working when you need them the most!

 

Types of Smoke Detectors

 

When selecting a smoke detector, keep the following in mind:

  • Photoelectric units are better for smoldering fires, such as electric fires in the walls, so they are ideal for kitchens and bathrooms where these fires tend to occur.
  • Ionization units give nearby air an electrical charge and then measure whether the charge stays constant or whether a fire is consuming oxygen in the air. These units are better suited to areas where fires get out of control, such as a basement near a furnace.

 

Testing a Smoke Detector

 

To ensure that smoke detectors are working properly, test them on a regular basis. To do so:

 

  • Press the test button on the unit and wait for it to sound.
  • Light a candle and hold it six inches below the detector so the heated air will rise into the detector.
  • If the alarm does not sound within 20 seconds, blow out the candle and let the smoke rise.
  • If the alarm still does not sound, open the detector up and clean the unit. Also make sure that all of the electrical connections are in good working order.
  • Then, test the unit again. If it is still not working, replace it immediately.

 

Helping you to avoid claims is just one of the many value-added services we provide. Call us today to learn more about all of our personal risk management solutions for your auto, home and life.

Smoke Detector Maintenance

 

 

Auto Insights: Beware of Deer on the Road!

By | March 10, 2014

Personal Home & Auto InsuranceStaying safe on the road can be a challenge, especially when it involves an unexpected deer or other animal jumping across the road. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly one-quarter of all animal and vehicle crashes result in some form of bodily injury or vehicle damage. Whether you’re driving in the city or the country, here are some tips to keep you safe on the road.

 

Safe Driving Tips

Animal and vehicle collisions are especially commonplace between October and December when animals are migrating to other habitats for the winter months to find food and to breed. Drivers should be aware of this danger and take the necessary precautions to remain accident-free.

  • Remain alert at all times and watch out for animals.
  • Slow down if you see an animal up ahead, as it is generally unpredictable. Sound your horn with a long blast to scare it away.
    • Slow down at designated animal crossing areas marked by road signs. These signs indicate that the area has a lot of animal traffic and an increased potential for accidents.
    • Watch your speed, especially during dusk and at night.
    • Use your high beams at night to see animals easier.
    • Have your vehicle’s brakes and tires checked regularly to ensure that they are in safe working order.
    • Watch out for movement and shiny eyes on the roadsides. Slow down if you see anything suspicious.
    • If you see an animal in front of you, do not swerve because it may cause you to hit another vehicle, side rail or lose control all together. BRAKE!
    • Slow down on blind curve areas of the roadway.
    • Always wear a seat belt—it’s your best safety defense.

     

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Beware of Deer on the Road