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The following articles were posted in 2014.

Common Corporate Wellness Practices under Scrutiny of EEOC

The ACA (Affordable Care Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) provide several means of promoting and expanding corporate wellness programs (see Wellness Rules), as well as ample guidance on acceptable corporate wellness program practices. By-and-large most employers seem to have been good about adhering to the spirit and letter of the guidance. The EEOC, however, seems to disagree.

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Posted on December 08, 2014 by BEN COHEN, CEBS, PRACTICE LEADER, HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS

No Pre-Tax or Post-Tax Reimbursement of Individual Health Insurance Premiums

The ACA overturned a decades-old Revenue Ruling that allowed employers to reimburse employees pre-tax for individual health coverage. Nevertheless, in the face of multiple pronouncements from the IRS, DOL, and HHS implementing provisions of the ACA (known collectively as the Agencies for ACA purposes), some agents and vendors still convinced unknowing employers that it was fine for them to continue or start that practice, and now even make it seem a win-win for both the employer (tax deductions, lower payroll taxes) and employee (premium tax subsidies at the Exchange, pre-tax income). Only one small catch: the ACA’s infamous general penalty section, IRC 4980D, which imposes a penalty of $36,500 per employee per year.

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Posted on November 07, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

Updated 2015 Benefit Limits

With the recent release of Rev. Proc. 2014-61, all 2015 benefit limits have now been updated. This includes for the first time an update to the Health Flexible Spending Account limit. That limit has been increased to $2,550 from $2,500. We’ve compiled the complete list of changes for 2015 here.

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Posted on October 30, 2014 by BEN COHEN, CEBS, PRACTICE LEADER, HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS

Kushner & Company on DriveThruHR

Join Gary Kushner SPHR, President and CEO of Kushner & Company, this Thursday, October 30th from 1-1:30pm EDT, as he chats with the folks at DriveThruHR on topics like the ACA and strategic HR.

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Posted on October 27, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

2015 PA 152 Hard Cap Limits Announced for Michigan Public Employers

Public Act 152 requires public employers in Michigan to adopt a contribution limit to health plans of 80/20%, a hard cap on employer contributions, or elect to opt-out of the contributions (if applicable). Opting out results in a loss of certain state revenue sharing for the employer.

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Posted on October 02, 2014 by BEN COHEN, CEBS, PRACTICE LEADER, HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS

New FSA Change in Status Regulations for Coordination with the Public Exchange

New official guidance (IRS Notice 2014-55) has been issued by the IRS on September 18, 2014 regarding a new qualified change in status for election changes for group health coverage under a Section 125 plan.

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Posted on September 22, 2014 by BEN COHEN, CEBS, PRACTICE LEADER, HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS

HR Key to Nonprofit Capacity Building

As with many for-profit companies, nonprofits are beginning to emerge from the great recession and are now focusing on “capacity building” initiatives – many of which reside in the Human Resources realm.

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Posted on September 02, 2014 by BEN COHEN, CEBS, PRACTICE LEADER, HEALTH AND WELFARE BENEFITS

What Organizations Need Now From Human Resources

In HR, we’d like to think we’ve evolved since the days of “personnel” and that we’re more than just pencil-pushers and company compliance commandants. However, unless we truly can integrate our HR strategies with the organizational strategies, we’ll be doomed to floating on Redemption Island.

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Posted on August 25, 2014 by JOEL KUSHNER, SPHR

Unhappy Thinking About a Chief Happiness Officer

A recent article in Inc. magazine highlights the idea of a Chief Happiness Officer. I can say with certainty that I’m not waiting in line to get on the “Chief Happiness Officer” bandwagon. The entire concept is so absurd that I experienced an unpleasant visceral reaction reading an article advocating for the position recently. Having over 25 years of professional experience as a manager, small business owner and strategic HR consultant focusing on employee engagement, I am compelled to raise the flags of reason and common sense around this bizarre notion.

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Posted on August 11, 2014 by JOHN FARNER, SENIOR ORGANIZATIONAL ADVISOR

Affordable Care Act and COBRA Considerations

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made a number of changes to health plans and alternative options for health coverage, but did not change or eliminate COBRA continuation rules. However, COBRA has been impacted by ACA changes in ways not previously considered.

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Posted on August 08, 2014 by Jennifer Alfieri, Operations Manager

Halbig and Subsidies in Federally-Facilitated Exchanges

On July 22, 2014, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled 2-1 that premium tax subsidies were not available to health care purchasers in the 36 states that chose not to adopt a state-run health care Exchange under the ACA. Rather, according to the ruling, premium tax subsidies were not available to health care purchasers in states that had federally-facilitated exchanges. To make matters more interesting, two hours later the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit issued the exact opposite ruling on the same issue.

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Posted on July 22, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

When Employees Become Managers, Additional Training is Often Needed

An issue we hear often from clients is a frustration with former employees who are now managers and don’t necessarily have the skills needed to be successful – without additional training. Often times the best social worker or engineer or sales person is promoted to a management position without receiving the necessary formal or informal leadership and management training.

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Posted on July 15, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

Are Traditional and Non-Traditional Benefits the Key to Recruiting and Retaining Low Wage

Will industry leaders find that offering benefits to low wage employees both financially viable and a competitive advantage to attract and retain the best talent necessary to be successful? Will the evidence and competition force other businesses to do the same? What’s your strategic initiative to recruit and retain the best employees in your industry?

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Posted on July 15, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

Better Solutions Provide Better Results

In a recent issue of HuffPost’s The Blog, Josh Bersin writes that “Simplicity is the Next Big Thing.” He describes how overly complex HR systems and designs are hindering employees’ work and life balance. However, many of his examples appear to be straw men, easily dispensed.

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Posted on July 02, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

Tapping The Potential Of Your Company's Hidden Superstars

Your organization’s future leaders are probably already working at your place of business. Do you know how to recognize them? Succession Planning isn’t just for the CEO and owners of an organization. Kushner & Company’s CHRO will be discussing this topic in our July webinar.

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Posted on June 17, 2014 by Joel Kushner, SPHR

Wellness: The Next Frontier

To be serious today in affecting the ever-increasing health care costs, reducing absenteeism (and its related costs), presenteeism, and the general productivity of the workforce, a much more data-driven, scientific approach to wellness must be considered.

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Posted on June 04, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

Cost of Moving Employees to the Exchange

Benefits remain a key component of most employer’s total rewards strategy. For those employers whose strategy is to pay employees to go to the Exchange, this latest guidance confirms that the incentive better be after tax.

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Posted on May 29, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

Sharing Health Care Costs with Employees

There are only two ways to share health costs with employees – charge everyone via employee premium contributions or charge more to those that utilize the plan via high deductibles, copays, etc.

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Posted on May 28, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

How To Speak CFO: A Primer For HR

Bill Tincup is a brilliant writer on all things HR. This informational (and very funny) piece informs HR professionals how to speak and understand CFO-ese. A great read!

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Posted on April 30, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

HSA and FSA Interaction Reminder

Recent guidance in the form of a Memo from the IRS’ Office of the Chief Counsel from February 24, 2014, provided additional direction on the interaction between Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs). The Memo primarily dealt with how the new Carryover provision available for FSAs would impact eligibility to make or receive contributions to an HSA. However, it also serves as a good opportunity to cover an area that creates constant confusion from clients and participants – the restriction on contributions to an HSA when enrolled in a health plan that is not a qualified High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), including general-purpose Health FSAs.

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Posted on April 06, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

Congress Repeals ACA Cap on Small Group Health Plan Deductibles

As a small part of the almost-annual Medicare “Doc Fix” that establishes reimbursement rates for providers, on April 1, 2014 Congress and the President have eliminated the maximum annual deductibles allowed for small employer group health plans (previously $2,000 individual/$4,000 family) imposed by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), effective retroactively to the initial ACA enactment (March 23, 2010).

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Posted on April 03, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

Transformation in Action: Moving from Traditional HR to Strategic HR

Prior to the 1970’s, the “Personnel Department” existed to hire, fire and handle disciplinary issues. It was strictly an administrative role with no involvement in broader organizational strategic direction or planning. Over the past 40 years, the function has slowly evolved into the Human Resources Department of today. The new name is much more meaningful (and accurate) as it captures the concept that people represent the organization’s talents, skills and expertise. Employees and their strengths are the “resource” that drive the engine of the company whatever the product or service may be. Savvy employers know how to tap into and develop this resource to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Savvy employees know when they have a great job with an employer who encourages career path development and embraces a culture of continuous improvement, learning and accountability.

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Posted on March 10, 2014 by John Farner, Senior Organizational Advisor

The Daily Show's View of the US Healthcare System

In an interesting take on what many call “the best healthcare system in the world,” Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show does an interesting segment on the US system versus what is in other parts of the world.

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Posted on March 09, 2014 by Gary B. Kushner, SPHR, CBP, President and CEO

Employer Responsibility Mandate Changed Again

Medium-sized and large employers are once again receiving a reprieve from one of the key elements of the ACA, the employer mandate to provide affordable, comprehensive health benefits to full time employees or pay a penalty. On Monday, February 10, 2014, the Treasury Department announced that employers with 50 to 99 FTEs will be given until the first day of their plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2016 (an additional year) to comply with the “Play or Pay” requirements of the Act.

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Posted on February 11, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader Health and Welfare Benefits

Transform the Workplace

Congratulations, you’ve survived the economic downturn! Now you’re ready to prepare your organization for long awaited growth and prosperity. The challenge may be that you’ve had to slash headcount and infrastructural expenses. You’re alive but potentially badly battered. How do you rebuild in a way that doesn’t recreate the issues that you’ve had to overcome?

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Posted on January 30, 2014 by David Bowman

Time to Begin Counting Hours for Variable Hour Employees

With the delay of the Employer Mandate in PPACA until January 1, 2015, many employers set aside their plans to track the hours of their variable hour employees. It is time to pull that back to the top of the pile as we enter 2014.

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Posted on January 13, 2014 by Ben Cohen, CEBS, Practice Leader, Health and Welfare Benefits

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