No “Fake News” on the Employee Benefits Front!

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The year has been off to a fast and furious start with the new administration in Washington. The President and Republican leaders in Congress are working hard to formulate a plan to “repeal and replace” PPACA (Obamacare). As my father once told my brothers and me after we put a baseball through a large picture window, “it is much easier to break the glass than replace it.” The same will certainly hold true for Obamacare.

Anyone paying attention to the news can see there is keen interest in what will happen to health insurance under the new administration. And we have been fielding a lot of concerned calls from EMCCC members.

Despite its many challenges, including vastly higher premiums, higher out of pocket costs and less choice, the Affordable Care Act gave access to millions of Americans who had previously been uninsured. Without question, as the raucous town hall events have shown, people that now have insurance want to keep it and are understandably concerned about what potential changes will mean to them and their families.

So what is going to happen? Historically, Republicans have never agreed on how to approach healthcare. And coming to a strong consensus will be required for any major changes, given the stated opposition of Democrats on the hill. Despite years of campaign rhetoric, there are many elements of the ACA that everyone likes (no pre-existing conditions, coverage for kids up to age 26, limits on insurance company profits, etc.). So the law will not actually be completely repealed. That ship sailed once the program was fully implemented.

Look for many changes to the program, once Republicans come to grasp with the understanding that they will not agree on a full replacement. While there is much angst about what will happen (and understandably so), major changes are unlikely until 2019. Insurance companies are already working on their filings for the 2018 plan year and any significant changes will take time to implement.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that very few people in Washington understand how insurance actually works. There are many proposals that sound good on the political stump but that could dramatically, adversely affect the insurance markets. For example, if there is a repeal of the “mandate” (more like a suggestion given the historic lack of teeth of the “mandate”) with no guidance of how insurance companies can reduce risk, there could be some states left with no insurance company willing to write individual coverage.

Thankfully the Congressional leadership appears to understand that elements of the ACA cannot be repealed without a plan to move forward.

The upcoming changes will undoubtedly affect both individuals and employers (for better or worse depending on one’s situation). We are following all of the developments on a daily basis. If you are interested in staying on top of the changes to come, please send me an email and we will add you to email alerts and newsletters.

The EMCCC Insurance Program, powered by iSolutions, is here to assist EMCCC members with all of their health care, employee benefits, insurance and HR needs. We are here to help you keep benefits affordable, stay compliant and prepare for the changes and challenges ahead. We look forward to seeing you at upcoming EMCCC events!

By Thomas Cox, EMCCC Insurance Program / iSolutions Insurance Advisors.

TOP FIVE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR EMPLOYERS

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You survived the holidays, and the (sometimes scary) holiday party. But now it’s 2017. What will you do differently?  What goals have you set for your company? How are you going to deal with THAT employee.

No business resolution list is complete without an examination of your HR policies and employee issues. Specifically, here are the top five issues an employer should examine in 2017:

1. Are your employees classified correctly?

Even though the new overtime regulations seem to have died on the vine, it doesn’t change the fact that many of your employees may be misclassified and entitled to overtime anyway. And for those that you have classified correctly, are you paying them correctly?  Yes, I am talking to you — the employer that banks an employee’s earned overtime instead of paying it out. To ensure good health, and good wealth in the new year, you should examine your workforce and make sure that those employees that are entitled to overtime are getting it.

2. Are your independent contractors really employees?

You know that contractor that has been working full-time with your company for years, or is now performing a function that is core to your operations? Perhaps they are not (or no longer) really independent.  The Department of Labor’s crusade on this issue has not (and likely will not) die.

3. Has your employee handbook been reviewed and updated?

With all of the changes in the law in just the last year or two, it’s time to dust off that employee handbook, make sure it’s still accurate and that it says what you want it to say. Remember, if you have a dissatisfied employee, the first place they will look is your handbook.  Do you know what it says?

4. Are you hiring in 2017?

Great! Hiring is a sign of growth. But, hiring has become its own landmine. Make sure you comply with the FCRA, the new I-9 regulations (effective Jan. 22, 2017), Ban the Box, and the anticipated regulations on asking about salary requirements.  If you have no idea what I am talking about, time to talk to your trusted employment attorney.

5. And once you have them on board, it’s time to train them — and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to retrain your existing staff.

Did you know that the EEOC updated its guidance on National Origin Discrimination in November, and that it issued proposed regulations for Harassment Enforcement just last week? Time to update your training manuals and then give a crash course in what is now called “Civility Training” to all of your employees. What’s that? You don’t do any training,? Now is a good time to start.

So there you have it. I could go on, but that should be enough to keep you busy for quite some time.

Wishing all of you a prosperous and litigation-free new year!

Christina M. Reger, Esq. is a shareholder at Bazelon Less & Feldman, PC. She is licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Christina works with small and mid-sized business to prevent litigation from employees and applicants by ensuring that the employer has the proper policies and procedures in place, providing training and educating staff, and generally reviewing the operation to ensure compliance with the morass of employment laws.  Christina offers a unique fee structure that provides predictability and accessibility to the legal services her clients need.

 

End of the Year Tax Tips: How You Can Save Money…

It is never too early or too late to start tax planning. With a new president entering the 00012271White House in January, there are many unknowns. However, based on what has been discussed and proposed, tax rates for both corporations and individuals will be going down. How much and how soon is still subject to debate.

That being said, both businesses and individuals should consider these basic tax-planning tips:

Businesses

  • Establish a qualified retirement plan. In many cases, the plan must be established by December 31, but does not need to be funded until the due date of the tax return, including extensions.
  • If you purchase, and place in service, furniture, fixtures or equipment by December 31, you may be able to expense up to $500,000 currently (section 179). The balance would be written off over the useful life of the assets. Also, there is a 50% bonus depreciation that may be available.
  • If you are a cash basis entity, try to defer income until 2017 when the tax rates may be lower; likewise pay as many expenses in advance as possible to get a deduction in 2016.

Individuals

  • Maximize your 2016 401(k) contributions, especially if your employer matches.
  • Accelerate into 2016 charitable contributions you would make in early 2017.
  • Try to minimize your 2016 capital gains by selling stocks/bonds with losses or by deferring gains until 2017.

Everyone’s situation is different, so you should consult with your tax advisor to discuss what is proper for your particular circumstances.

Marty Kalos, CPA, Kalos, Hutchings & Co., LLC

Register for Leadercast 2016!

The Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to bring Leadercast to Montgomery County. We would like to invite you to attend on May 6, 2016!

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Leadercast is a live leadership simulcast out of Atlanta that is presented in over 22 countries and 600 host sites here in the United States. Over 60 local businesses and organizations to date have chosen to be a part of Leadercast this year, and the Chamber hopes you will join us in attending one of Montgomery County’s largest leadership events.

Speakers include Coach Nick Saban, Steve Wozniak, Kat Cole, James Brown, Dr. Henry Cloud, Andy Stanley, Chris Barez Brown and Rorke Denver.

This year’s Leadercast theme is “Architects of Tomorrow.” This is a great opportunity to fuel your vision and get your team onboard with you. Please click the video link and read below to learn more. Ticket prices will increase on April 1 and since seating is limited, we encourage you to reserve your seats this week to guarantee your seating and save money on your tickets. Tickets include breakfast, lunch, networking breaks, and post event cocktail hour. For details visit event.leadercast.com/location/montgomerycounty or call (215-887-5122).

Leadercast Live 2016 Sneak Peak
Why Leadercast?

Leaders worth following: We hope you will join in the movement to become leaders worth following. People want to follow leaders who are solving problems instead of talking about them. We hope you will set the example and attend, bringing others with you.

Vision: Visionary leaders don’t just see the problems, they see the solutions. If you are a visionary, you will be refueled by this seminar and become equipped with new tools and insights that will enhance your capabilities as a visionary leader. If you bring your team with you, it will help them to see the things you already see and it will help them to unite around the vision you have for your business, your church, your non-profit, or your family.

You become who you hang around: Associating and connecting with like-minded people is vital to being successful. Part of our vision of Leadercast Montgomery County is to help our community connect and build relationships.

Investing in yourself and your team: As a leader, you know the value of refueling and investing in yourself whether it’s listening to a podcast, going to a seminar, or reading a new leadership book. For the price of dinner and a movie for your family, you can attend a conference without the expense of traveling and hear from eight successful speakers. This is less than $20 a speaker.

Why YOU?

If you consider yourself a leader or you want to grow in your leadership, then this seminar is for you. If you are leading others, we encourage you to bring your leaders and those that you believe have great potential. In general, we usually see the following groups attend each year.

  • Business owners, sales managers, administrative leaders and their staff
  • Large corporations – CEOs and their staff
  • Non-profit CEOs and their staff
  • Church members and pastors
  • Human resource directors – HR CUE credits are available.
  • School principals, administrative staff, teachers, and students
  • Police chiefs, sheriffs and officers
  • Government leaders and staff
  • Doctors, nurses and staff – Nurses will receive CEU credits.

Save $10 on each ticket by registering before April 1!

Space is limited, so register you and your team today here

For more information about the event, visit event.leadercast.com/location/montgomerycounty

 

Leadercast Live 2016:  World’s Largest One-Day Leadership Conference

Leadercast is the world’s largest one-day leadership conference, broadcast LIVE from Atlanta and simulcast to hundreds of locations around the world on May 6th, 2016.  This year marks the sixteenth year of the annual leadership conference and the first year that the Eastern Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the event at Movie Tavern in Flourtown.

http://event.leadercast.com/location/montgomerycounty

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The theme of this year’s conference is, “Architects of Tomorrow,” focusing on visionary leaders who imagine and build a future that is rich in innovation, collaboration and full of hope. A future where problems are solved, questions are answered, and confusion gives way to clarity.

The conference will equip attendees to create their own visionary path.  Key speakers – visionaries in their own fields – will inspire the hundreds of people who attend locally, and the more than 100,000 people who will attend the event live in Atlanta or at hundreds of other simulcast locations in more than 20 countries.  Among the keynote speakers are:

  • Kat Cole—Group President, FOCUS Brands, Inc. (including Cinnabon®, Moe’s Southwest Grill®, Auntie Anne’s®, and more)
  • Steve Wozniak—Co-founder of Apple, Inc.,
  • Henry Cloud—Acclaimed Leadership Expert, Clinical Psychologist, and Best-Selling Author
  • Nick Saban—Head Football Coach, The University of Alabama
  • Andy Stanley—Leadership Author and Communicator
  • James Brown—Network Broadcaster, CBS Sports and News
  • Rorke Denver—Navy SEAL Commander and Author
  • Chris Barez-Brown—Author and Creativity Guru
  • Tripp Crosby—Host of Leadercast, Comedian and Director

In its simplest form, leadership is casting a compelling vision and mobilizing those around you to help you fulfill that vision. That is the role of Architects… they design the path, they clarify the direction, and they lead their team toward that preferred future with little deviation.

Today is better because of the visionary leaders of yesterday, and the future will be righter because of the Architects of Tomorrow.

For more information and to purchase your ticket or group tickets to the Leadercast Montgomery County event, visit http://event.leadercast.com/location/montgomerycounty.

Join us on May 6, 2016 as we hear from world renown leaders and build a community that is architecting a new tomorrow.

The Power of Networking Effectively

strength-in-numbersToday it may be viewed as a cliché to offer the advice, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” when talking about the path to career success. But this phrase has become a cliché for a reason – it works. In fact, networking effectively takes this mantra to another level – “It’s not what you or who you know, but who knows you.”Most successful people know effective networking is critical whether they are an entrepreneur, business professional or job seeker.

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