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Dependent Coverage Verification – Are You in Compliance with the DOL?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been quietly talking about ACA compliance, which means dependent verifications aren’t far behind.  As far as compliance goes, the DOL wants to ensure that coverage is available to dependents up to age 26. However, dependent verifications go beyond that to verify that group plans comply with ERISA.  They also help companies get a more accurate picture of current and future health insurance costs as they decide whether to “pay or play” under ACA.

“ACA compliance is a real concern,” said Meghan Sullivan, Managing Partner, Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn. “Dependent verifications should be carefully conducted to ensure all provisions of the ACA are met.”

Larger groups tend to find inconsistencies in their employees’ dependents – but that doesn’t mean smaller groups shouldn’t conduct dependent verifications. Employees may not always know that their spouses or other dependents aren’t eligible for coverage.  Here are a few examples:

  • An employee enrolls her boyfriend as her spouse
  • Children aging out at age 26 but inadvertently left on plan
  • An employee enrolls his niece who is living with him as a “child”
  • A divorce has occurred, but the spouse is accidently left on the plan

To conduct the verification, employers must require each employee to complete the dependent verification form and attach copies of the appropriate documentation.   Often, companies will conduct these verifications at the same time as open enrollment, which makes it easier for employees to remove dependents without worrying about repercussions.

It is also helpful to have the verification available in multiple languages, where applicable.

When employees can’t produce the documentation, or when employees realize that a dependent on their plan isn’t eligible, the employer has the right to terminate the coverage.  Employers typically remove dependents from the plan prospectively and must also provide resources for insurance for those dependents that will be removed, especially if the dependents are 18 and older.

“Ineligible dependents do have options, but it may be difficult to help them identify them,” said Bill Trudeau, CEO of ICNE. “We work with a variety of providers and can help dependents find a plan that suits their needs.”

The verification typically takes anywhere from 30 to 90 days for implementation, the verification process itself, appeals, and removals.  Because of the time involved and amounts of paperwork an audit includes, some employers may prefer to outsource their audits. ICNE can recommend providers.

Finally, once the audit is complete, employers will want to implement an ongoing maintenance program. This will help identify eligible and ineligible dependents, keeping the list “clean” and fostering compliance.

Ultimately, dependent audits can be sticky subjects. However, they are necessary to ensure compliance.  A well-conducted audit will remove ineligible dependents; assist with ERISA compliance and save money.  Contact ICNE today for guidance and sample forms.

 

Spotlight Business Insurance: Cleaning & Janitorial Services

One of the fastest growing industries today is cleaning services. Naturally, it has also become a competitive industry. Small cleaning services should always be thinking of ways to distinguish themselves from the competition. Being able to Cleaning Servicesoffer your services as a fully insured contractor can really set you apart. It can give your client the peace of mind they need to go with you. All types of cleaning services such as power washers, window washers, carpet cleaners, and janitorial services need to carry liability insurance at the very least. This includes residential and commercial services.

 

Although running a cleaning service can seem relatively safe, many hazards can exist no matter how careful you are. Take a look at these examples of possible claims:

  • Spilling a cleaning solution without noticing and somebody slips on it, injuring themselves in the process
  • Damaging a door or wall in a commercial building with a piece of your equipment
  • Slandering another competing business publically which could result in a personal or advertising injury claim

 

These are examples of claims that could arise and cause a lawsuit. Even small businesses should at the very least carry General Liability coverage with a minimum of $1 million dollar per occurrence limits. Other coverage’s to consider on an insurance policy besides liability, can sometimes be included or added for very little. If you have Business Personal Property, that can be included for a nominal fee generally. An Additional Insured by written permit or contract clause should always be included as well, so the cleaning service won’t have to pay an additional fee each time it needs a certificate of insurance. Most carriers we work with have low monthly payments so this insurance can be afforded by small businesses as well.

 

Worker’s Compensation can be a tricky subject. Each state has their own laws when it comes to requiring certain businesses to obtain it. Some states, it’s not mandatory while others it is. Nevertheless, having worker’s com
pensation insurance will help cover potential claims an employee may make if injured while on the job. If you’re a subcontractor, most contractors will require you to show proof that you’re covered as well.

 

Insurance Center of New England is an insurance agency which specializes in this type of exposure. Feel free to call our licensed business insurance agent Eric Holt at 1-800-243-8134 ext. 7157 with any questions or for a free quote.

Direct Writers vs Independent Agent

Every day we are faced with numerous insurance ads.  A talking lizard says buy direct from him while another ad tells you you’re in good hands if you buy direct from them. There are so many insurance ads that it’s hard to know what’s best for you and your family.

Difference between a “direct” writer and a independent agent.

The direct writer is someone that works for one company.  This means that they can only sell you a policy from their particular company. They are not able to shop around for you to find the best coverage at the best premium. They have a commitment to the company they are working for.

An independent agent is someone who works on your behalf. They can provide the customer with many different quotes from several companies to find the best coverage for the best rates.

According to a recent study by the Hanover Insurance Group, most customers that leave independent agents and go to direct writers, are promising lower pricing however they ultimately return to an independent agent.

The Study

Results of the study state that, nearly 60 percent of consumers who had purchased insurance through a direct writer reported switching back to an independent agent because they wanted more value.

This study was conducted for Hanover, an independent agency company, by the research firm InsightExpress, which surveyed 1,000 consumers who purchased insurance through direct channels 10 or more years ago.

Most consumers who switched back to independent agents cited expertise and convenience for their decision. According to the survey, the motivators for consumers who switched to work with independent agents also included the benefits of having one point of contact to handle insurance needs and questions and having the guidance of an experienced personal insurance professional.

“This research demonstrates that consumers really value the advice provided by independent agents and the personal relationships they build with their customers,” said Mark R. Desrochers, president, personal lines insurance at The Hanover. “The majority of respondents said their number one reason for switching from a direct insurance provider was to have someone to guide them through their insurance buying decisions. Clearly, trust and expertise are important to consumers.”

Summertime is pool time

Summertime is pool time. When the temperatures soar, kids and adults flock to pools to cool off in and play some classic pool games. pool

Marco Polo

Diving For Treasure

Handstand Contest

Finding a pool to play these games is not that hard, at least in the U.S. There are more than 10.4 million residential pools and 309,000 public swimming pools in America [source: CDC].

But, as fun as pools can be they can also be a big liability.  If someone gets injured at your, pool, even if they are uninvited you are still liable. You need to protect yourself from the potential losses of a lawsuit by raising the liability limits of your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy or by purchasing a Personal Umbrella liability policy which provides you additional protection in addition to your homeowner’s policy coverage. . Both will offer you coverage in the event of a tragedy at your pool for which you will be held liable.

Talk to your ICNE agent today about your options for increasing the coverage for your home owners insurance. They can help you find the best possible policy and the best possible price.

And of course if you have any question about personal or business insurance you can always give us a call at 800-243-8134 we are always here to help.

For more swimming pool safety information from The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission go to www.poolsafely.gov.

Home Inventory: How to Document Your Personal Property

Although no one likes to think about it, a catastrophic event can happen to any homeowners. Preparing and maintaining a home inventory, a detailed listing of possessions and assigning a value to them, can be a lifesaver. The inventory list will be extremely helpful during an incredibly stressful time because it helps homeowners get their insurance claims settled faster. The inventory can also assist in purchasing the correct amount of insurance.

Although it sounds like a daunting task, preparing a home inventory can be broken down into manageable steps. Below are some tips to make the job easier:

  • Just start: Take one room of your house at a time and make a record of all of that room’s possessions. Describe each item, noting where you purchased it if possible. Clip to your list any sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals you have.
  • Take a picture: Save the digital image file with the item name, year purchased and amount spent. If the item has a serial number take a picture of that too.
  • Videotape belongings: Walk through your house or apartment videotaping and describing the contents.
  • Storing the list/photos/videotape: Whether you place electronic files on a disk, or have a handwritten list , storing your home inventory away from the home is essential. A safe deposit box is usually the best place.

Once you’ve completed this ( yes, time- consuming) task, it’s a good idea to update your home inventory list annually to include new items, and also remove items that you no longer have.

More bear sightings in WMass

If a wild animal damages your property, Bill Trudeau from the Insurance Center of New England told 22News your home insurance probably covers you, with some exceptions, like insects and vermin.

“You’re not going to be covered for birds, you’re not going to be covered for skunk damage, rodents, mice, termites etc. Those things unfortunately are things that the homeowners has to deal with without the benefit of insurance,” said Trudeau.

Bears are more active early in the morning or at night.

ICNE AGENTS EVEN MORE COMMITTED TO SERVICE WITH UPDATED HEALTHCARE.GOV

According to an article from Insurance Business, the updated Healthcare.gov site still presents challenges to agents, like those at ICNE, who need to assist customers with enrollment through the federal health care exchange site. While in Massachusetts we don’t need to use Healthcare.gov, the difficulties underscore the commitment of insurance agents to the well-being of their customers.

However, some agents have reported that the fixes for Healthcare.gov mean they’re breezing through the site in 20 minutes or less, finding their customers the right plan in record time. In Alaska, for example, Tyann Boling, COO of Enroll Alaska, has found that the agents are quickly assessing subsidies and enrolling families in 20 to 45 minutes, and there is new optimism in the ranks.

Those that are reporting problems are reporting big problems, though. In Utah, one agent found that he could get onto Healthcare.gov but could not enroll his customers. An agent in Texas is able to enroll his customers, but it takes him almost two hours to walk them through the process of enrollment.
But despite the glitches, agents agree on one thing: it’s important to make sure their customers have the best plans to suit their needs in place before December 23. ICNE agrees; we’re entirely committed to our customers and to ensuring that they comply with the new requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known asObamacare.

ICNE has even entered into an agreement with Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn and appointed a specialist within our company to make sure we’re giving our clients the right answers to their questions about the healthcare law as it continues to take effect. Rarely will anyone at ICNE give an “I don’t know” answer; we’ll make sure we find the answer. Because, like the agents across the country who dive into the Healthcare.gov site every day to find the best policies for their customers, we’re committed to helping ours.

CYBERSECURITY INSURANCE A NECESSITY FOR BUSINESSES

Hacking and cybertheft is not just limited to big-box retailers. According to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, 20 percent of cybercriminal attacks are on small businesses with less than 250 employees. Yet companies cannot do business in today’s climate without the Internet, mobile devices, and other technology that can cut both ways: as a source of productivity or as a source of trouble.
At ICNE, we strongly recommend that our customers, no matter how large or small, invest in cybersecurity insurance. This type of policy helps protect companies in case of data breaches, hacking, data theft, viruses, employee sabotage or error, and/or identity theft. These are the unfortunate realities of doing business today, and having cybersecurity insurance can mean the difference between staying in business or losing it all due to one disgruntled employee or well-timed attack. According to a Ponemon Institute study, security professionals responded that cybersecurity is just as important as guarding against fires or natural disasters.
The costs associated with cyberattackes are high. The Ponemon Institute estimates that it costs:

  • $214 per record breached, such as credit card information
  • $1 to $3 per person to notify each customer of the breach
  • $20 to $100 per year per customer to provide required credit monitoring.

Those are just the tangible costs, not counting forensics to determine the source of the breach or the damage done to a company’s reputation.
There are a variety of policies available today, and ICNE can help you choose the right coverage for your business to protect against cyber mishaps. Protecting businesses is our specialty, and with the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace, cloud-based storage, and even email attachments that can carry malicious code, there is no time like the present to insure your business against attacks.
Contact ICNE to find out more about cybersecurity insurance.

NAIC’S FINAL DECISION ON EXTENDING NON-COMPLIANT POLICIES? NO DECISION.

When members of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) met with President Barack Obama to see if insurance companies could extend the health insurance policies that would no longer be compliant under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as Obamacare, there was cautious optimism at ICNE that a compromise could be reached. And caution was warranted, as the NAIC emerged with no consensus on how to move forward. That was their final answer.

Instead, NAIC is turning it over to the state insurance commissioners, including Massachusetts’ own Division of Insurance, to decide if these policies can be salvaged. It is the states, not the NAIC, that will set the guidelines for non-compliant policies while customers search for health insurance that meets the requirements set by the PPACA.
The consensus among most states is that the President’s proposal to extend non-compliant policies for an extra year makes sense. In that vein, 13 states have already decided to allow renewals. This allows consumers on these health insurance policies an extra year to shop for health insurance that meets PPACA standards. It’s still a coin toss for 29 states, whose insurance commissioners have not yet reached a decision.

However, states with their own exchanges are less likely to extend these health insurance policies, preferring to move forward as planned because they fear that the marketplace will be unbalanced if consumers are able to purchase non-compliant policies. Eight sates, including Massachusetts, have declined to extend these policies to consumers. This means that some of ICNE’s customers may need to revisit their health insurance coverage and consider utilizing ICNE’s Compliance Checkup, developed specifically to help businesses comply with PPACA regulations. This Checkup, and corresponding prescription, was developed with ICNE customers in mind and validated by Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn, a Springfield-based management-side labor law firm. ICNE individual customers may also need to reevaluate their existing policies.