Vote on Health Care Won’t Come Until After 2020 Elections

President Donald Trump stated in a series of recent tweets that a vote on a Republican Party (GOP) replacement health care plan for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) won’t take place until after the 2020 elections.

GOP’s Health Care Plan

President Trump’s tweets stated that the ACA’s deductibles and premiums are “far too high” and that a replacement is needed. He continued to state that the GOP’s replacement plan for the ACA will have “far lower premiums (cost) [and] deductibles” and will be “much more usable.” He also affirmed that the GOP’s plan would support those with pre-existing conditions.

These tweets came one week after the president directed the Department of Justice (DOJ) to support a federal court ruling that the ACA is unconstitutional.

What does this mean for my organization?

While the recent developments may seem like major health care change is on the horizon, employers and employees can expect things to remain the same for the time being. You can expect that health care will be a hot topic on 2020 campaign platforms.

As such, all existing ACA provisions will continue to be applicable and enforced. Although the individual mandate penalty will be reduced to zero beginning in 2019, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other applicable ACA requirements.

DOJ Supports Federal Court Ruling Invalidating the ACA

On Dec. 14, 2018, a federal judge ruled in Texas v. Azar that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is invalid due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2019. In response, on March 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a letter with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreeing with the lower court’s ruling. This means that the DOJ believes the lower court’s ruling should stand, and the ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Following the ruling, however, the federal judge issued a stay and partial final judgment in the case. As a result, the ACA will remain in place pending appeal. The Department of Health and Human Services also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA.

All briefs and responses in this appeal are due by mid-May 2019, and oral arguments will be scheduled shortly thereafter. Following oral arguments, a decision on the appeal will be issued. However, many industry experts anticipate that the Supreme Court will likely take up the case, which means that a final decision will not be made until that time.

While these appeals are pending, all existing ACA provisions will continue to be applicable and enforced. Employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other applicable ACA requirements. This ruling does not impact the 2019 Exchange enrollment, the ACA’s employer shared responsibility (pay or play) penalties and related reporting requirements, or any other applicable ACA requirement.

EEO-1 Filing Deadline Has Been Extended!

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has extended the deadline for employers to submit EEO-1 Reports for 2018. The reports are now due by May 31, 2019.

What is the EEO-1 Report?

The EEO-1 Report is a federally mandated survey that collects workforce data from employers. The data is categorized by race, ethnicity, sex and job category. The EEOC uses this information to enforce federal prohibitions against employment discrimination and discriminatory pay practices.

The EEO-1 Report is an annual survey required under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act (Title VII). Under the law, employers with 100 or more employees and certain federal contractors must use the EEO-1 Online Filing System to submit employment data by March 31 every year. The EEOC extended the 2019 deadline because the federal government shutdown delayed the online system’s opening for 2018 reports. The EEOC expects the system to become available for 2018 submissions in early March 2019. 

What’s Next?

Employers should monitor the EEO-1 website for more information about EEO-1 filing requirements and about when the filing system will be open for 2018 Reports. In the meantime, employers filing EEO-1 Reports for the first time should register to receive a company login, password and further instructions from the EEOC.

If the preparation or filing of an EEO-1 Report would create undue hardship, an employer may send a written request for an exemption or for special reporting procedures to the EEOC. Employers may also obtain a one-time, 30-day extension of the EEO-1 filing deadline by emailing a request to the EEOC.

BLS Data on Worker Access to Family Leave in 2018 Now Available

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) recently released a The Economics Daily (TED) report on civilian access to paid and unpaid family leave in 2018. These statistics provide insight into family leave benefits trends across the country. For this report, family leave included leave to care for family members, maternity and paternity leave.

Paid Family Leave Access

In March 2018, 16 percent of workers in the private sector and 17 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave. In the public sector, 25 percent of state and local government workers had access to this type of leave. Leave access varied by the size of the employer.

Unpaid Family Leave Access

In March 2018, 89 percent of civilian workers and 88 percent of private sector employees had access to unpaid family leave. Ninety-four percent of state and local government workers had access to this type of leave. As with paid family leave, access to leave varied by employer size.

For access to the BLS data, click here.

The Key to Employee Engagement

According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of U.S. workers aren’t engaged at work. This statistic should alarm employers across the country, as low engagement means employees are not committed to their own success in the workplace, let alone the organization’s.

Investing in employee engagement might seem unjustifiable for a business that is focused solely on profits, as it might not recognize the benefits of engaged employees. One simple and cost-effective way that you can improve employee engagement at your organization is by improving and expanding your communications strategies.

Typical benefits and workplace communications can be bland and difficult to understand, but they don’t have to be. The key messages for each topic in an effective communications plan should be simple, relatable and actionable—and presented in a variety of content formats that you can use to communicate through multiple channels.

By implementing a multichannel communication strategy, where you use posters, emails, flyers and videos to communicate company and benefits information, your message will reach more employees. This will help employees feel more informed about your company, which, in turn, will improve their workplace engagement.

For more information on multichannel employee communications, contact Arista!

8 Ways to Better Time Management

Feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day? It might sound strange, but you might want to slow your pace. When we try to operate at warp speed, we sometimes make more mistakes and often feel more stress.

Check out these tips to make the most of your time without pushing yourself too hard.

1. Log your time.

Take a week to track how you spend most of your time at home and at work. In particular, pay attention to time spent on social media and recreational screen time such as video games, TV and web video. The average Facebook user spends 20 minutes per day on the site. That can add up. At work, look at how much of your time is focused on dealing with email vs. getting things done.

2. Set limits.

Once you know where you’re spending your time, set limits for yourself. Look for apps that can let you set time limits for certain online activities. Or just use a timer to limit time writing emails or using social media.

3. Make clear goals.

Give yourself an easy way to set and track goals and tasks. Whether you have an online planner or just a written to-do list, update it every day.

4. Use your calendar.

Whenever you take on a new project, try to think right away about how long it will take and when you can spend that time. If you use a calendar like Outlook, schedule time to work on projects in advance.

5. Be mindful.

Practicing mindfulness can help you become more aware of how you are spending your time. And some research shows mindfulness can actually extend your perception of time as it passes.

6. Learn to say no.

For some of us, this can be really hard. If you care about your job, you want to please your co-workers and managers. So pushing back about a task can be difficult. But if a project or task is going to really overextend you, it’s worth having a conversation with your manager about your time. Likewise, in your personal life consider your time before committing to projects.

7. Find your focus.

Interruptions can disrupt your concentration. When you really need to concentrate on something, try to get yourself away from distractions, turn off any notifications and put away your phone.

8. Ask for help.

This can be another hard one for certain people. But sometimes a task or project might be easier for someone else at a given time. If you’re asking for help, be respectful and if possible offer to reciprocate if you can.

Georgia Has a New Transit Bill

Last year, the Georgia General Assembly created The Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority (ATL) to oversee transit planning in metro Atlanta. Today, lawmakers are proposing new legislation that would create another eight ATL’s and would cover the entire state.
These eight additional areas, called “mobility zones”, would allow local citizens to give input into Georgia transit planning and provide consistently funded transit projects for the first time in state history.

This funding would be sourced from eliminating the state sales tax on taxis and limos with a standard charge of 50 cents per ride that would also apply to ride sharing services. The charge is decreased to 25 cents for any passenger who pools their rides.

The fee, estimated to raise between $30 million – $60 million, is to be used exclusively on transit improvements in Georgia. With the lack of transportation to and from work being a leading cause of rural unemployment, the bill is expected to have a large positive ripple effect throughout the state. Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle

Out of Pocket Maximums Could be Increasing Soon

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published its proposed Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2020. This proposed rule describes benefit and payment parameters under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that would be applicable for the 2020 benefit year. Proposed standards included in the rule relate to:

  • Annual limitations on cost-sharing
  • The individual mandate’s affordability exemption
  • Direct enrollment in the Exchanges
  • Special enrollment periods in the Exchanges

HHS is also seeking comments on other issues, like “silver loading,” automatic re-enrollment through the Exchanges, and any measures that would potentially reduce eligibility errors and government misspending.

Proposed Changes

The out-of-pocket maximum (OOPM) and the ACA’s affordability exemption threshold would both increase with the new rule.

  • OOPM: $8,200 for self-only coverage and $16,400 for family coverage in 2020
  • Affordability threshold: 8.39 percent of household income

The proposed rule would also expand opportunities for individuals to directly enroll in Exchange coverage by enrolling through the websites of certain third parties rather than through HealthCare.gov.

40% of People Have Shockingly Little Saved to Retire

Cultivating a culture of wellness at organizations is a common trend for employers across the country. In fact, according to the Employer Health Benefits 2018 Annual Survey, 82 percent of large firms and 53 percent of small firms offer some sort of wellness program.

Historically, many of these programs focus on physical well-being, with employers creating programs intended to encourage smoking cessation and exercising. Unfortunately, health-conscious employers and employees alike often overlook one important component to wellness: financial health.

The Hard Truth

A recent Bankrate survey revealed that 65 percent of Americans save little or nothing at all from each paycheck. This, compounded with the fact that over 40 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for when they retire, is alarming.

How You Can Help

When employees are stressed about money and saving for their long-term goals, the chronic stress can be detrimental to their overall health and workplace engagement. Investing in employee financial wellness can be beneficial to both you and your employees.

Consider implementing a financial wellness program that focuses on planning for the future and budgeting. You may want to bring in a financial expert or consultant for your employees as well.

Contact us today to learn more about our financial planning assistance resources.

7 Weight Loss Myths That Keep You from Losing Weight!

In your quest to lose weight by improving your diet and getting more exercise, you might be confused by all the information out there. Maybe you read something in a magazine. Maybe you saw an infomercial. How do you separate fact from fiction? Let’s look at some common misbeliefs—and get the lowdown on what’s actually legit.

No pizza. No ice cream. Ever.

This simply isn’t true. You can still enjoy your favorite fattening foods as long as the portions are small. Of course, the more you avoid these foods the better, because they are high in calories.

You have to exercise for hours at a time to make a difference.

Not so. It’s recommended that we get a minimum of 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity. Spread that out over the week in any way you choose. Of course, if you go above the 150, that’s even better. And don’t forget to do strength training twice a week to build muscle.

Gluten-free is good for me.

Nope. Only if you have an issue with gluten or have celiac disease. And some gluten-free foods lack important nutrients. Gluten-free does not mean calorie-free.

Lifting weights just bulks you up.

Highly unlikely, unless you’re training to be an NFL player. Doing strength training at least twice a week is super good for you. And it can help you lose weight because more muscle means you burn more calories.

Carbs are a big no-no.

No, no, not true. Sure, carbs in sugary foods like cookies and cake should be avoided, but whole grains, fruit, and other complex carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet.

The only way to lose weight is to do it slowly.

This can be true for some people, but not for all. Check with your doctor on the best way for you to lose weight and keep it off long term.

No fats for you.

In fact, the body needs certain fats to function properly. But you should avoid saturated fats and, even more important, trans fats. “Good” fats like olive oil and avocados are higher in calories than foods like proteins and carbs, so keep portion size in mind.

The big takeaway.

The formula for losing weight through diet and exercise is really, really simple: Unless you burn more calories than you take in, you will gain weight. If you burn more than you eat, you’ll lose. And if you take in the same number of calories as those you burn, your weight will stay the same. No fad diet or exercise contraption will make a bit of difference unless you adhere to that basic fact.

Be sensible.

Eat healthy foods most of the time. If you have a treat, exercise more to make up the difference. Move your body—every little bit helps. And make sure the information you get about weight loss comes from sources you can trust.