Thank You For A Successful AEP!

On behalf of Cornerstone, we would like to thank our broker partners and carrier representatives for another successful annual enrollment period!

It is the dedication and continued support of our partners that make our business model successful.

REMINDER: Open Enrollment ends December 15!

 

Are you prepared for post-AEP? Find out what you should focus on after the enrollment season here.

How to Prep for After the Enrollment Season

You spent months prepping yourself and your clients for the enrollment season. But do you have a game plan for when it’s all over?

Thank your clients for their business. Ready your portfolio with a stack of “Thank You” cards that will be handwritten and sent out to both loyal and new clients. A simple, thoughtful message expressing your gratitude for their business is a great way to cultivate new professional relationships and ensure long-lasting rapport.

Keep open communication with your clients. After the enrollment season, it’s still important to maintain contact with your clients to ensure that they are happy with their coverage. Consider adding newsletters to your marketing portfolio with health tips, coverage options, basic health care education, industry news, etc.

Evaluate your brand. What marketing tactics worked during this enrollment season? Was your website effectively drawing in prospective clients? Are you happy with your branding? Post-enrollment is the best time to take a look at your brand and make changes that will positively impact the offseason and your next busy season. Create a consistent brand that your clients can trust. Click here to enhance your brand with new marketing pieces.

 

Retention is just as important and prospecting. Put your focus on maintaining your client base after this enrollment season.

5 Tips For Managing Stress This Enrollment Season

The enrollment season is the busiest, and most stressful, time of the year. It’s easy to get caught up in your inbox, your voicemails, paperwork, and more, especially with deadlines looming closer. However, in order to properly take care of your clients and stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to manage your stress.

Keep yourself mentally and physically at the top of your game by following any of the stress management tips below:

  1. Recognize signs of stress and your stressors. Does tackling the mountain of papers on your desk feel like an inconceivable task? Is your desk too disorganized to focus on much else? Are you lacking the tools necessary to help you through the busy season? Take a minute to identify and tackle your stressors so you can learn how to properly manage them.
  2. Set your major priorities at the beginning of the day, leaving room for emergencies. It’s difficult to avoid multitasking with a heavy workload. You find yourself answering emails while trying to accomplish 50 other tasks at the same time. At the beginning of the day, set between 3–5 priorities that you need to accomplish, be it a call to a client, answering an important email, focusing on marketing, etc. But be sure to leave some room for emergencies that may pop up throughout the day. Priorities will sometimes shift, so you want to prepare yourself to manage new priorities as they come along.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take a break. An article from The Atlantic stressed the importance of walking away from your desk throughout the day. The article referenced a study by the DeskTime productivity app which concluded that higher performer workers in the study would work for an average of 52 minutes, followed by a 17-minute break, often away from the computer. This means taking a short walk around the office, speaking with a coworker, stretching, getting a cup of coffee, etc.
  4. Take care of yourself. Get rid of that 3 pm fatigue! Even on your busiest days, be sure that you are eating the proper amount of nutrient-dense foods, focus on gaining as much rest as possible, and remain active. When your body is at its peak, it will run more efficiently to get the job done.
  5. Use the resources and materials available to you. Cornerstone has a number of online resources that are specifically designed to streamline and maximize the efficiency of your business. Check these out here.

On-Exchange Policy Status Updates

Tracking Your Individual On-Exchange Business

Your support team is ready to help you with tracking the status of your on-exchange business with Cornerstone.

Complete the Enrollment Status Check form and we will track the status of the policy for you and respond back with any updates.

If you have any questions, please reach out to Danielle Flesch at dflesch@crnstone.com.

ACA Reporting for 2017 Filings: Coding Cues for 1095

NAHU, the National Association of Health Underwriters, recently did a webinar on this topic presented by Trey Tompkins of AdminAmerica. This article is a summary of the key points related to the forms themselves. NAHU members can access the recorded presentation at www.NAHU.org.

What changed for 2017 filings?

  • 1094-C – any references to “Section 4980H Transitional Relief” because it no longer applies.
  • No more Penalty Relief protections for GOOD FAITH COMPLIANCE. This is where penalties were waived for incomplete or incorrect filings if employers could show they made a good faith effort to comply.

Tips for the Tricky Parts on 1095 Forms

  • Line 14
COBRA – For terminated employees (and their dependents), use CODE 1H with Code 2A on line 16

– For current employees eligible for COBRA (and COBRA eligible dependents) use the appropriate code for the offer (i.e., who was actually eligible to elect COBRA for those months)

Retiree – Retiree coverage is not reported as an offer of coverage (1H on Line 14 and 2A on Line 16)
  • Line 15 considerations
    • Only completed if Line 14 response is: 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E, 1J, or 1K
    • Rules allow for smoothing reported premiums evenly across months for employees paying weekly or biweekly premiums.
  • Line 16 Safe Harbor Codes and considerations
Priority – Use the first that applies in this order: 2A, 2B, 2E, 2C, then whichever others apply
2A – Employee not employed during month
2B – Employee not a full-time employee
2C – Employee enrolled in health coverage offered

– Do not use for EX-employee COBRA continuants

– Do not use if coverage was not for the entire month

2D – Employee in a Limited Non-Assessment Period

– For use in Waiting Periods (90 days) and Variable Hour Employees in Measurement Period

– Do not use for employees to which Code 2E applies (union)

2E – Multiemployer interim rule relief (Union employees)
2F – W-2 Safe Harbor

– Can’t be used for months employer didn’t offer MEC to 95% of FTEs and dependents

– If used, must be used for each month the employee was offered coverage

– For partial year employees, can be applied using a fraction of the employee’s W-2 wages versus cost of coverage for the eligible months

2G

2H

– Federal Poverty Line Safe Harbor

– Rate of Pay Safe Harbor

– Can’t be used for months employer didn’t offer MEC to 95% of FTEs and dependents

blank – Sometimes applies, but it predicts a potential penalty assessment for employer
Waivers – There is no specific code for a waiver of offered coverage, but one of the affordability safe harbor codes will usually apply
    • Affordability Thresholds

 

YEAR Affordability %
2016 9.66%
2017 9.69%
2018 9.56%

IRS NOTICE 2015-87 has some real gems to remember when calculating affordability. Here are few:

  • Employer HRA contributions can count towards an employer’s required contribution in certain instances.
  • Wellness Program Incentives – Discounted contributions for participating are generally not In other words, you report the contribution as if the wellness incentive was NOT earned unless the program was designed to prevent tobacco use.
  • Flex Credits may reduce the reported cost of coverage unless: the credits can be used to purchase non-health coverage or can be cashed out or contributed to HSAs. Flex Credits do not apply to plan years that began prior to January 1, 2017 (Flex Credits in the IRS notice relates to a cafeteria plan or defined contribution plan—not necessarily a Flexible Spending Account, although FSAs can be one of the offerings).
  • Opt Out Payments increase the reported cost of coverage unless:
    • They are conditioned on providing proof of other coverage
    • They are part of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) entered into before December 16, 2015
    • The unconditional arrangement began before December 16, 2015
  • Amounts paid to satisfy Prevailing Wage Laws reduce the cost of coverage even if they are paid in cash to employees who waive coverage.

If your customers are struggling with the requirements of ACA reporting, there are several other tools, software, and outsourcing solutions that can help employers needing more support. Employers with high turnover and lots of different kinds of employee populations (e.g., seasonal, variable hour, part-timers, etc.) often need much more help. If you need to review some of the tools available, please contact your Cornerstone Employee Benefits Advisors.

 

This article is provided for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. Please consult with your tax advisor, CPA, or legal counsel for details specific to your group.

Cut-Off Date for Referral Submissions Set

ATTENTION BROKERS:

Due to increased referral volume and the shortened individual enrollment period for 2018, a cut-off date of December 1, 2017, has been set for accepting both Senior and Individual/Family referrals.

Cornerstone cannot guarantee that referrals received after this date will be managed in time for the respective December 7, 2017, AEP enrollment deadline or the December 15, 2017, OEP enrollment deadline.

Thank you to our valued broker partners for their continued participation in our referral program. We apologize for any inconvenience this imposed deadline may cause and we appreciate your understanding. Our goal is to ensure we have sufficient time to effectively fulfill the client needs for all referrals received through December 1, 2017.

 

Questions? Contact your Cornerstone representative for more information.

Individual Market Referral Program Update

Close-up of female and male handshaking over workplace with business documents

On November 2, 2017, Cornerstone released an email relaying Medical Mutual’s decision to manage all MMO sales and service support for their in-force Individual policies starting on January 1, 2018. This decision includes MMO policies with a January 1, 2018, effective date.

In response to several inquiries regarding this update, Cornerstone would like to confirm that this change does not, in any way, affect our referral program. We continue to accept individual referrals and will quote and process enrollments with products available from all our carrier partners, including Medical Mutual.

It is an extremely busy time of the year and we are available to provide you with the help and support you need. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Cornerstone representative with any questions you may have.


About Cornerstone’s Referral Program

Not looking to write Individual business? Refer your clients to Cornerstone where our experts will provide a service and resource platform that ensures they receive the proper support for all things benefit related. Plus, receive lifetime commissions for as long as the member is in force.

 

Contact your local Cornerstone representative for more information about this very beneficial program.

Exploring ACA Alternatives

Gregg Amato

Gregg Amato | Director of Employee Benefits (Cleveland)

Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many small group employers and brokers alike have experienced constant change and confusion. Premiums continue to rise and many feel there are limited options available to them. Small groups with fewer than 50 employers are not mandated to provide health insurance, but many would like to offer it as a way to fill full-time positions and attract talented employees. Before health care reform, health insurers were allowed to rate up or charge higher premiums to small groups based on their medical history, age, and gender. This made it difficult for unhealthy groups to find affordable coverage.

Healthcare.gov defines community rating as: “A rule that prevents health insurers from varying premiums without a geographic area based on age, gender, health status, or other factors.” Community rating means that all enrollees pay the same premium amount regardless of their health status. The cost is pooled or spread out over a large number of insured people. For groups with fewer than 50 employees, ACA community rating benefitted some and hurt others. Small groups with multiple health conditions or an aging population benefitted from lower rates, while younger healthier groups pay more.

Under ACA guidelines, the “Adjusted Community Rating” methodology is being used. Health insurers aren’t allowed to charge higher premiums based on health conditions, medical claims, or gender. However, they are allowed to charge higher premiums based on the number of employees enrolled in the plan and where the group is located within areas that have higher costs of care. Insurers can consider an employee’s age and whether they use tobacco products. The age ratio of 3:1 means that an older adult cannot be charged more than three times the rate of a younger adult. The tobacco ratio of 1.5:1 means that a person using tobacco cannot be charged more than 1.5 times the non-tobacco user rate.

The ACA’s Health Insurance Tax is due to return in 2018 and threatens to increase already high insurance premiums even more. According to America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), “The health insurance tax (HIT) is a $100 billion+ tax on health coverage for individuals, small businesses, seniors, states, and tax payers. For example families in the small-employer market could see their premiums go up an additional $7,000 over the next 10 years because of this tax. AHIP will continue to push for a full repeal of the health insurance tax because it makes health care less affordable for the very people who need the most help affording health care.”

ACA-compliant plans are fully insured plans. All the risk is passed on to the insurance carrier. These small group plans offer a wide variety of plan designs that can benefit the small employer, however many factors continue to threaten additional premium hikes in the upcoming years. Small business owners are faced with controlling their costs. It’s not surprising that over half of small group employers do not offer health insurance coverage. As ACA premiums continue to rise, so does the need for ACA alternatives. When ACA plans arrived, small employers were allowed to keep their coverage with only minor changes to their plan or risked losing their transitional (grand-mothered status). Now, as these small group employers consider moving to ACA plans, some may see a premium reduction, while others will see significant increases. The employer groups that can’t find a reduction will stay on their transitional plans to avoid ACA as long as possible. However, with transitional plans soon to expire, employers need alternative options.

Level-Funding Options

Many of the health insurers have already provided alternatives to ACA plans and are currently available to small businesses. Historically, self-funding has been a viable option for large group employer with 100 or more employees. The introduction of level-funding has created an alternative for groups in the small group market. Level-funded plans are self-insured plans with predictable premiums and are available to groups down to 10 employees. These plans have a low specific attachment point. The healthier groups usually receive the more attractive rates since they are medically underwritten. Groups that select a level-funded product option will have level or fixed monthly premiums. To be considered for coverage, groups must be healthy and approved by the underwriters. Lower risk groups may pay premium rates lower than ACA rates, while higher risk groups will pay premium rates higher than ACA rates. Many of the small groups that qualify for level-funding options will not be familiar with the concept and will rely heavily on their broker for expertise.

Level-Funding Cost components:

  • Administrative Expenses
  • Stop loss (Specific and Aggregate)
  • Claims fund (paid by the level-funded entity). At the end of the coverage period, a shared savings opportunity exists for groups with claims surplus.

At renewal and if the group had a low claims year, there should be minimal rate increase. In a bad claims year, the employer never has to pay more than the level premium amount because the stop loss coverage protects them. However, they should expect to see a rate increase and now have the option of moving to a community-rated ACA plan if premium savings exists.

Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangements (MEWA)

A Multiple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA) is another popular alternative to ACA plans. MEWAs were created several years ago and can benefit small groups down to two employees. They are a self-funded insurance plan where multiple employers pool their financial resources and share their risk. MEWAs are member-owned profits that stay within the group and can be dispersed among the member companies. Much like the level funding, employer groups must qualify medically.

Typically a board of trustees is formed to manage the MEWA, enabling greater flexibility in selecting plan designs and meeting the overall needs of the group. MEWAs can implement programs that promote wellness and can save overall claims costs of the group, which ultimately lower premiums. Since the group is in control within the MEWA, there is increased stability and lower tax rates for the member companies that don’t exist with fully insured plans.

Small group employers, along with their brokers, are facing a dilemma. Many employers want to offer coverage for their employees while attracting talented future employees. Premiums are on the rise and options were limited, but adversity breeds solutions. The insurance industry has answered and created alternatives for the small group market by providing level funding and MEWA plans.

Please contact your Cornerstone sales representative to learn more about our partner carriers that offer MEWA and level funded alternatives now available to your small group clients.

Open Enrollment is Here! Are You Prepared?

This year’s Open Enrollment began November 1, 2017, and runs through December 15, 2017. Are you prepared with the right resources? Cornerstone’s tools and resources are designed to help you streamline your business throughout the busy season and beyond. Be sure to check out the resources that are available to you throughout the year:

 

Broker Centric

Broker Centric is your one-stop shop for carrier and Cornerstone knowledge base resources and customizable marketing materials. This repository offers carrier-specific guides, certification processes, forms, checklists, training tutorials, and appointment standards, sorted by line of business, as well as a catalog of customizable marketing materials and promotional items that are available at the click of a button.

Quoting Tools

Save valuable time with any of Cornerstone’s quoting resources, including the Medicare quoting tool which enables you to run customized quotes for leading plans in the senior market. Quoting tools and resources are available for Senior, Group, and Individual business.

RockEnroll Group Medical Underwriting Tool

Powered by FormFire technology, RockEnroll is a paperless e-signature prescreen and enrollment tool that eliminates the paper chase and upgrades client communication and services. Gain an advantage over the competition by increasing opportunities to sell instead of spending valuable time tracking down missing information.

Referral Program

Don’t have the time or resources to manage your client overflow? Cornerstone’s referral program can help! Refer your overflow to Cornerstone and our experts will provide a service and resource platform for your clients, ensuring that they receive the proper support for all things benefit related. Earn money and save time. It’s that simple!

 

Questions? Contact your Cornerstone representative for answers!

In Honor of Our Veterans

On Saturday, we pay special tribute to the brave men and women who have devoted their time to serve in the armed forces. November 11th is a day dedicated to those who should be honored. In honor of Veterans Day, please take some time to remember that it is because of our veterans that we enjoy the freedom to express ourselves. Please pause to recall the sacrifices that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen have and will continue to make, serving our Nation where and whenever they have been called upon. Their service deserves acknowledgment. These courageous and brave individuals have sacrificed family life, careers, and for many, their own lives, willingly taking on the greatest responsibility of upholding our freedom. They have voluntarily joined the ranks of America’s Armed Forces, fully aware of their obligations as citizens and the risks they are to take in order to stand for what our country believes in and what it was founded upon. They sacrifice with courage and unquestioned commitment for each of us, enabling us the opportunity to fulfill our dreams in a country in which we are proud to represent.

Through their sacrifices, they have secured for millions of others the blessings of freedom, democracy, and the unmatched opportunity that we enjoy in the United States today.

Please PERSONALLY thank these special folks. Some of Cornerstone’s employees, Eric Pouncy and Hal Demmerle, have voluntarily joined the ranks of America’s Armed Forces, fully knowing the risks that they are taking to fight for our country. Many more have family members currently serving or who have served in the past, and they deserve to be recognized and respected.

We have chosen to give our Cornerstone Veterans ½ day off on Friday November 10th to show our appreciation corporately.

Thank you to our employees and families for making this sacrifice.  We are grateful to you for allowing us to continue to live in a thriving, peaceful, FREE country. Have a safe Veterans Day, and as always, God bless the United States of America.

—Jennifer Agnello, President