Archive for the ‘Human Resources’ category

One Simple Way to Assess Your Broker – Do They Comply With Federal Law?

February 4, 2010

We have been focused to date on trying to get broker’s focused on their legal responsibilities as BA’s under HIPAA HITECH and the 2/17/2010 deadline.

Now we are shifting to viewing this issue as an employer/covered entity and how you should assess your benefits broker or consultant. You have been subject to HIPAA for the last 6 years as have the health insurers, hospitals et al. Now your broker is as well and HITECH adds new responsibilities and penalties for both of you.

Clearly many, many brokers are diligently working to comply. Hats off to all of you. Complying with HIPAA HITECH is time consuming and painful but the right thing to do. If you are one of these real professionals stop reading now.

Let’s be very clear on the HIPAA HITECH law and how it applies to business associates who help you using ePHI (i.e brokers).

FACT – Brokers are BA’s and have signed or accepted BA agreements with ALL their insurance carriers saying they are fully compliant with the new law. (whether they understand the law or even know what compliance means!)

FACT – You need to have updated BA agreements in place with your organization just like the carriers have done already.

Sue McAndrew, deputy director for Health Information Privacy for OCR, asked at this week’s HIPAA Summit if a business associate could end up paying out of its own pocket for a breach. The answer was yes.

“Business associates going forward will be directly liable for violations that occur in their possession,” McAndrew said.“The fines would be imposed upon the BA, and if they can’t pay, we send them to jail.”

OK. So the repsonsibilities of BA’s are VERY SERIOUS..and oh by the way are Federal law. So Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent or Tea Partier you are subject to full compliance.

Now you may think that this seems harsh or over the top but ask yourself this. If you found an employee violating any law in your office what would you do? Or found out that your lawyer or accountant disobeyed the law when they did work for you? Obviously you would fire them.

Far too many of the responses I have gotten from seasoned benefits consultants have been very disappointing and frankly irresponsible as it relates to their clients and their employees information privacy and security. These range from “not my problem”, “someone is dealing with it here”, “scr*w the government”, “they will never prosecute a broker”. “I can’t be responsible for my client’s behavior and much more.. and much worse.

FACT – If your broker or any other BA is not fully complying with HIPAA HITECH it endangers your company as the covered entity (CE) responsible for tracking and reporting any security breaches from your BA’s and if they are not compliant not only do they face major fines and legal action so do you.

Put another way your broker’s lack of compliance – and even understanding what that means – shows a total disconnect from your company and your most important asset – your employees. Also their own E&O policies don’t cover fines here which tells you something as well.

Their cavalier attitude may reflect itself in not securely managing census, enrollment, medical information, bills et all that contain personally identifiable health information can lead to identity theft, lawsuits and having to report your own organization to HHS and all local media if over 500 lives information is deemed compromised.

As a 35 year veteran of this industry I am  baffled by what I am seeing and could give you a laundry list of  questions to use to assess a benefit’s consultant’s true competence and that of his organization but to get to the heart of the matter just ask your brokerage firm these simple questions:

  • Is your firm HIPAA HITECH compliant?
  • Can you demonstrate that compliance to us with your plan and policies?
  • How do you encrypt any PHI we work with you on via email, in your office and when on staff laptops?

Unfortunately many of you are going to find that the folks you trust and work with are not going to be able to answer and are woefully non compliant on really clueless on what is required of them and as such not serving your best interests.

It is also called “willful neglect” under the law and subject to the most serious penalties.

What do you do about it?

Find a new broker who takes Federal laws seriously if for no other reason than it shows a respect for you and your employees and the same laws and requirements that you live by everyday.

If you do not you put your  company’s well being and employees privacy at risk. That is your requirement under the law – to be sure your BA’s  are compliant…or face the consequences yourself.


How Many HR Blogs Does The Industry Radar Follow?

July 2, 2009

Over 300 as of today! Thats alot of HR!!

We aggregate these so you don’t have to look for them. All the blogs from Alltop and much, much more…

Between 150 and 200 new posts daily in the total feed

Check out our list here and email us if you see one missing that we should include!!

Demystifying COBRA Subsidy Denials

June 3, 2009

From our friends at  Keller Benefits in the Washington DC area comes a good reference post on COBRA Subsidy Denials:

A number of our clients have asked me about the confusing issue of COBRA subsidy denials, and the quick answer was that the former employee should contact the DOL. The Employer does not need to notify the denied person (other than the Summary of ARRA sheet) about the denial process, but seeing how the DOL is handling things is helpful.

SHRM had this to say about this topic:

On May 22, 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued guidance to help employees appeal claims for denial of the federal COBRA subsidy enacted under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), generally known as the stimulus package. This form is five pages in length and affected parties are encouraged to file online.

As part of the process, participants must attach copies of COBRA election notices; information regarding employers; plan sponsors of medical plans; insurance companies and/or plan administrators; the request for treatment as an assistance-eligible individual or other forms used to request the COBRA subsidy; insurance cards; payroll stubs showing deductions for health benefits; any documents relating to the date and circumstances of the termination and documentation regarding the denial of the premium reduction. Employers are encouraged to review their forms in any situations in which they intend to deny the subsidy. Employers are further encouraged to provide detailed explanations to employees when the subsidy is denied.

When in Doubt, Deny COBRA Subsidy
Employers also must carefully consider when they will deny the COBRA subsidy. The two reasons to deny the subsidy include a termination for gross misconduct (as provided under COBRA) and a voluntary termination. If an employer is in doubt regarding the status of a termination, the employer may be better served to deny the subsidy and let an employee appeal the decision. This approach is recommended due to the penalties that may apply if any employer “guesses” wrong. If an employer informs an employee that he or she is eligible for the COBRA subsidy, and it is subsequently determined that the individual was not eligible for the subsidy, the employer would have taken the payroll tax credit on its Form 990, and would not have been entitled to the 65 percent payment for the COBRA subsidy from an employee.

In circumstances when an employer is determined to be wrong, the employer will not be able to recover the 65 percent not paid by an employee; and an employer will also be liable for additional penalties for underpayment of payroll taxes. The payroll tax penalty for late deposits is 2 percent if one to five days late; 5 percent if six to 15 days late; and 10 percent if over 15 days late, as provided under Section 6656 of the Code and illustrated in Revenue Procedure 99-10.

These penalties can be severe, even when abated. Therefore, if an employer must choose between providing the federal subsidy when uncertain, or denying the subsidy, employers may prefer to deny the subsidy.

Lastly, it is also important to note that appeals for plans that are subject to COBRA (i.e., employers with 20 or more employees) are filed with the DOL. For claims with smaller employers where state continuation benefits exist, employees must file their appeals with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Summary of ARRA Fact Sheet directs them to the DOL website if denied:

There is supposed to be an online form to download for review of denied subsidy but I couldn’t find it.

More articles can be read here at The Industry Radar:

Bottom line – As an employer then there is nothing special for to do except maintain your documentation.

Lessons from the New “Star Trek” On Leadership and Teamwork

May 11, 2009

STAR TREKThe new Star trek movie is a spectacular summer fun ride whether you are a “Trekkie”, or like my 9 year old Star Wars crazed son, a newbie to this iconic story and its characters.

I have loved Star Trek since it came out in 1966 when I was 13. Until seeing the new movie I had never really thought how revolutionary it was in 1966 presenting a crew made up of a black woman, an Asian, a Russian, a Scot, a rebellious Iowa farm boy and an alien. 1966…43 years ago..

Today a team this diverse is not that unusual and the movie is also is a great reminder, especially in difficult times like these, what is required for any organization to succeed:

  • Leadership
  • Vision
  • Intelligence
  • Competence
  • Creativity
  • Diverse opinions and discussion
  • Properly recruited people who are
  • Well trained and
  • Allowed to do their jobs and the
  • Right technology to support them

Now your business may not have Klingons or Romulans to fight but your challenges are just as real.

It is challenging times like these that demand some bold thinking and action and true team work if,  as Spock would say, you want to “Live, long and prosper”.

So on this Monday morning are you ready to say – “Beam me up Scotty”  – I am ready to go?

“Aye Captain!”….Have a good week!!

Global HR | Insurance | Healthcare Radars Released

May 6, 2009

Tonite we released the beta version of our Global Newsradars for the following continents and nations:

  • Asia – China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, India
  • Africa – South Africa
  • Latin America – Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile
  • North America – Canada
  • Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Spain
  • Australasia – Australia/New Zealand

You will find the links for these new radars in the lower right hand corner of the top navigation bar.

Please let us know what you think and what we need to add.

We are still refining the content filters and sources as well as seeing what nations we need to add so let us know what you think.

What Does “The Global Business of People” Look Like?

May 6, 2009

This is a great picture of the “Global Business of People” and how we view our interconnected industry and world that we will be blogging about: