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The Traditional Benefits Fair Goes Virtual

A tried-and-true technique for annual enrollment education has been the benefits fair. Employees love them for getting the information they need, along with some freebies.  Unfortunately, benefits fairs don’t lend themselves to a public health crisis where people are working remotely, social distancing is the norm and congregating in groups is curtailed.  

One option to consider is the virtual benefits fair.  Tech-enabled benefits fairs aren’t new. They take advantage of applications that can host multiple types of content as well as live and recorded events to build on the best components of an in-person fair. 

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Benefit-Related Provisions of the CARES Act and Other Federal Relief

Various retirement, health and welfare and fringe benefit related changes have come out of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) and other relief that has been provided by the Department of the Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor and/or the Department of Health and Human Services.

Retirement Plan Liquidity Options
In the CARES Act, Congress made 4 key changes that apply generally to tax-favored retirement vehicles: 

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Nontaxable Payments to Employees? A New Way to Help Employees in the Age of COVID-19

On March 13, 2020, the President issued a determination under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (the “Stafford Act”). A consequence of that action is that payments from employers to employees that meet the requirements of a qualified disaster relief payment under Internal Revenue Code Section 139 are excludible from income, a rather unusual result, for the reasons discussed below. Although Section 139 cannot be used to exempt income replacement payments (wages), other amounts may be considered exempt.

Background – The tax law has long wrestled with the issue of when various payments are subject to income tax in light of the general rule that gross income means all income from whatever source derived. Various exceptions to taxation have existed over the years for payments in disaster-related situations. A “general welfare” exception, for example, excludes from income payments made by a governmental unit under a social benefit program designed to promote the general welfare. This exception has been relied on in excluding federal and state payments to disaster victims. In a similar vein, relief payments made by charities are generally not taxable because the tax law views those payments as gifts.

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World Oral Health Day Spotlights the Importance of Dental Care to Your Overall Health

Want to improve your bottom line and help your employees live healthier lives? Encourage them to take care of their teeth and gums. A 2018 study found that not being able to afford dental care was associated with more work hours lost to unplanned dental visits, and that cost is the number-one reason adults skip dental care1. These lost employee work hours can have a big impact on your company’s overall productivity.

March 20 marks World Oral Health Day – an annual reminder that taking care of your mouth is critical to taking care of your overall health and well-being, particularly at this time. As an employer, you can play a key role in helping to improve health outcomes for your employees by prioritizing oral health care in your organization. Solutions that make dental care affordable for employees, such as dental benefits that include preventive care, along with policies that make it easy for employees to make and keep dental care appointments, are a great place to start.

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What Employers Need to Know About Health Plans and the Coronavirus

We want to share with you our views on some benefits-related questions affecting group health plans recently posed by employers dealing with the coronavirus.

HIPAA in the Age of COVID-19 – In February, the Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance reminding covered entities and health care providers of their HIPAA privacy obligations. Because a group health plan is a "covered entity" for this purpose, the plan cannot generally share information with the plan sponsor/employer about who, for example, is getting tested or what the results of the test may be.

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Fighting for Universal Healthcare: A Call to Women on International Women’s Day

Healthcare is one of America’s most dysfunctional and confusing industries, and women bear the brunt of the problem when it comes to both access and treatment. Women, who make 80 percent of healthcare decisions for their families,1 are disproportionately impacted by the complex nature of our healthcare system—but are also uniquely poised to fix it. 

Through my work as the Founder and CEO of Day Health Strategies, my many years as a personal activist and now, as the author of a new book, Marching Toward Coverage – How Women Can Lead the Fight for Universal Healthcare,2 I endeavor to help transform healthcare.  I hope to do so in part by inspiring a groundswell of activism, led by everyday women, that can create the incentives our political leaders need to change course.

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Highlights of 2019 Summit & Trade Show (Keynote & Morning Sessions)

As someone who has made a professional home in the employee benefits space, there are a number of events that I look forward to each year. One of them is the NEEBC Annual Employee Benefits Summit & Trade ShowI had the privilege of not only attending this year, but of also being asked to blog about the event. As a former prolific blogger (that’s debatable), I was happy to oblige.

NEEBC has been in existence for nearly 40 years, and each year they do a great job of getting a top-name speaker to keynote the event. This year was no different. Dr. Martin Makary was the first speaker.  He is a Johns Hopkins surgeon and New York Times bestselling author, was the lead author of the first publication on The Surgical Checklist and later served in leadership with Atul Gawande on the World Health Organization Surgery Checklist project.

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2019 Health Insurance Market Outlook

Innovation
     Disruption
          Social Determinants...

...were just some of the themes of NEEBC’s 2019 Health Insurance Market Outlook panel discussion. Twenty-year employee benefits veteran and Principal with Strategic Benefit Advisors, David Chamberlain, gave the opening "outlook" which included top health care concerns.

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