Employer-Sponsored Health Plans are Major Preference for Workplace Perks

According to a recent post by PlanSponsor, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) conducted a study that explores workers’ preferences for employer-sponsored benefits. EBRI concluded that companies with employer-sponsored health plans have a stark advantage over the companies that do not offer these benefits.

Companies are continuing to understand the true value of an employer-sponsored benefit plan. Recently, we have seen companies who had disbanded their plan or didn’t have one, make the decision to offer their employees a benefit package.

Employers recognize that the need to attract new and retain existing employees is significantly impacted by a strong employee benefits package. At the heart of a benefits package is a medical plan, though ancillary packages are just as important for employees’ overall health and satisfaction. An ancillary package usually consists of Dental, Life, Vision, and Disability.   With these, an employer can decide to contribute to the cost or offer as a voluntary option. The important factor is to offer these benefits to employees and give them the choice to elect coverage. In addition to these, you may also see companies offering products like LifeLock or Telemedicine services.

Employers should consult with their broker when designing a benefits package to ensure the right package is developed for each company with their budget.

If you have any questions, reach out to one of Cornerstone’s Employee Benefits experts.



Health Benefits Still Top Draw for Many Employees


Medical Mutual to Implement Drug Surveillance Program on July 1st

To combat a noticeable trend in increased pricing of existing brand and specialty drugs by pharmaceutical manufactures this past year, Medical Mutual is implementing a new Drug Surveillance program, beginning July 1, 2017. The program will be for all groups and members with MMO’s prescription drug benefits. It is non-customizable by group, and the option to opt out of this drug management policy is not available. The program itself will be and enhanced version based on a standard Express Scripts offering.

Click here to learn more.

For more information, or to get appointed with Medical Mutual, contact a Cornerstone representative today.

SAVE THE DATE: 2017 NW Ohio CE Training Days

Toledo — 4444 Keystone Drive, Suite F | Maumee, OH | 43537
Lima — 3745 Shawnee Road, Suite 104 | Lima, OH | 45806

WHAT: Four hours of CE available each day with product updates and training from our carrier representatives.


May 16, 2017May 15, 20178:00 am – 3:15 pm
July 19, 2017July 18, 20178:00 am – 3:15 pm

RSVP: Please RSVP to Jenni Henry no later than 2 weeks prior to the event to reserve your place.

WEBINAR: Washington National Group Solutions

Offer more for your worksite clients with Washington National Group Solutions:

  • Coverage to help fill the gaps in medical plans
  • Integrated enrollments with core and voluntary benefits
  • Flexible plan design to meet employer and employee needs
  • Premium payments through easy payroll deduction
  • Guarantee issue option


Join the training call to learn how to:

  • Grow your income—starting right now—with Washington National Group Solutions
  • Position Group Accident, Group Cancer and Group Critical Illness with employer groups and major medical prospects
  • Group Solutions in Action: a case study


Download the presentation to follow along during the training call:



DATE: Thursday, March 23, 2017

TIME: 11 A.M. ET

(800) 672-8406

WEBINAR: VBA Product Training

www. written in search bar on virtual screen.Right now we are in uncertain times regarding the future of ACA. But that does not stop business; we all need to keep moving forward. Brokers and agents need products to sell and employers need to keep employees happy by providing the best benefits that meet their employees’ needs.

VBA has you covered with their wide range of products and services including:

  • ANSR Products
    • MEC
    • MEC + Limited Medical
    • Alternative MVP Plans
  • Limited Medical
  • Dental and Vision
  • Voluntary Worksite Benefits including:
    • Disability
    • Life
    • Accident
    • Critical Illness
    • Cancer
    • Hospital Indemnity
    • GAP Plans

DATE: Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TIME: 9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. EST


*After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Cornerstone Meet N’ Greet: Gregg Amato

Gregg Amato

Gregg Amato, Director, Employee Benefits

Gregg Amato is Cornerstone’s newest addition to the Employee Benefits team with an extensive career in the health insurance industry. We sat down with Gregg to discuss his experience:

CS: Tell me about how you got started in insurance.

GA: Several years ago my cousin Joe encouraged me to get into the insurance business right after he became a Nationwide Insurance agent.  At first I resisted but soon found out that I really enjoyed the business.


CS: What is the best piece of advice that you can give to brokers?

GA: Hire people with good a work ethic that will treat your clients like family.


CS: Why do you enjoy working in the industry?

GA: I enjoy helping people navigate through the myriad of rules and regulations within the health insurance industry.


More About Gregg

Favorite hobby: Golf

Favorite movie: It’s A Wonderful Life

Best advice you’ve ever received: My father always told me to be true to yourself and always conduct business with honesty and integrity.

To contact Gregg, click here.

WEBINAR: Washington National Worksite Portfolio Training Call

Closeup shot of a woman typing on mobile phone isolated on white background.. Girl's hand holding a modern smartphone and pointing with finger. Blank screen to put it on your own webpage or message.

Washington National has the products and technology you need to complete successful worksite enrollments.

Did you know new worksite sales topped $7.13 billion in 2015? That’s up nearly 4% from 2014.

What’s more, 63% of employees see voluntary benefits as increasing the overall value of an employer’s offerings–and 62% of employees want their employer to offer more voluntary benefits.

That’s why Washington National is proud to offer you a robust portfolio of worksite products to sell.

Dial in to learn more about Washington National worksite portfolio so you can leverage the demand for worksite voluntary benefits and close more sales.

Get details on Washington National’s worksite portfolio products:

  • Active Care©
  • Accident Assure©
  • Solutions© Cancer Plus
  • Group Solutions
  • Worksite UL2© + living benefit rider

DATE: March 9, 2017

TIME: 11:00 am EST

(800) 672-8406

Download the presentation


IRS Extends QSEHRA Notice Deadlines

The IRS issued Notice 2017-20, which provided welcome relief for employers who have chosen to move forward in implementing qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSEHRAs). In general, QSEHRAs allow small employers that meet certain criteria to offer a health reimbursement arrangement, which can provide for reimbursement of individual premiums. While we’ve previously covered the available statutory details related to QSEHRAs, there are still a number of questions facing employers and brokers.

One of the requirements for employers choosing to offer a QSEHRA is that the employer must provide notice to eligible employees. The statute provided deadlines for notice distribution, but was scarce on the information required to be included in the notice. In Notice 2017-20 the IRS acknowledged the need for greater detail and indicated it was prepared to issue such guidance in the near future. In the meantime, the IRS extended the previous March 13th deadline to not less than 90 days following the issuance of applicable guidance.

Additionally, the IRS stated, “Employers that furnish the QSEHRA notice to their eligible employees before further guidance is issued may rely upon a reasonable good faith interpretation of the statute to determine the contents of the notice.”

Despite remaining questions, this notice from the IRS will likely provide some welcome reassurance for brokers and employers that have begun implementing QSEHRAs.

For more information, contact Cornerstone today.

What’s Happening in Washington?

Danny Bradford

Danny Bradford, Corporate Counsel and Compliance Officer

Thanks to Cornerstone and the Ohio Association of Health Underwriters, I was fortunate enough to spend several days witnessing the chaos in our capital first hand. Though I won’t pretend to have answers about what may come next from Washington, I’m excited to share an update from my recent experience attending the National Association of Health Underwriter’s (NAHU) Capitol Conference.

NAHU and its local chapters across the country actively work to ensure that agent and broker interests have a voice in the discussion about the future of health care reform (a breakdown of NAHU legislative issues can be viewed on the NAHU website). While Congress continues the debate over repealing and replacing, NAHU has focused on the stabilization of the individual and small group markets. Regardless of the future of health care reform, everyone, including politicians, carriers, brokers, and consumers benefit from stability in a turbulent marketplace.

Nearly every speaker at the conference began by acknowledging the rapidly changing landscape of health care reform. Though some expect drastic action to come quickly, politicians on both sides of the aisle acknowledged that any change would likely take time.

So what might this “action” look like?

While I will not try to predict the outlook of the post-ACA health insurance market, it’s relatively clear that Republicans will use at least three different prongs to effect change:

1. Administrative Action

2. Budget Reconciliation

3. Legislation

Each prong provides means for changing the existing ACA structure, but also requires greater partisan and bi-partisan support.

As many brokers are aware, significant pieces of the ACA were implemented through administrative action, which can also be modified by administrative action. For example, on Friday, February 10, Tom Price was confirmed as the secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and then February 15, HHS took administrative action and issued proposed regulations addressing market stabilization.

While administrative action can begin quickly through the executive branch, budget reconciliation bills will require the support of 51 senators, while legislative bills will likely require the support of 60 senators.

A number of proposals, including House Speaker Paul Ryan’s “A Better Way” and Price’s “Empowering Patients First Act,” have been discussed in Congress and the in the media. However, most congressional representatives expect a comprehensive plan to be outlined in the coming weeks, which may clarify where the market is headed next. In the meantime, many brokers will continue to do what they have always done: Let politicians worry about Washington, and focus on taking care of their clients.

Cornerstone is committed to being a trusted resource in an ever-changing market, and our experts will keep you updated as we approach complex legislative modifications ahead.

For more information, contact Cornerstone today.

21st Century Cures Act

Nelson Culp, Director, Employee Benefits

On December 13, 2016, President Barack Obama signed into law the 21st Century Cures Act. This new law reverses a prohibition on small-employer funding of individual health insurance premiums. Effective January 1, 2017, small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees will be able to offer employees a standalone health reimbursement account (HRA) without being subject to an excise tax. Prior to January 1, 2017, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibited such an arrangement because it did not meet the ACA’s market reforms, and employers were subject to a tax of $100 per day for each affected participant. Under the new law, a small employer that does not offer a group health plan to its employees may offer their employees a health reimbursement arrangement, though it must be considered qualified. A Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA) must meet the following conditions:

  1. The employer must be a small employer, not subject to the pay or play mandate (i.e. they must have fewer than 50 full-time employees and full-time employee equivalents) and the small employer must not offer a group health plan to its employees.
  2. This arrangement must be offered to all full-time employees on the same terms and conditions. The benefit can vary based on the cost of individual health insurance in the market due to age and number of enrolling family members. For example, an older employee could be provided with a greater benefit than a younger employee based on the age-based pricing under the ACA.
  3. The QSEHRA must be funded solely by the employer. No employee contributions are permitted.
  4. Reimbursements under the HRA is capped annually at $4,950 for an individual, but may be increased to $10,000 if the QSEHRA also provides benefits for the employee’s family members. The maximum annual benefit would be pro-rated for employees not covered by the QSEHRA for the entire year (such as a newly hired employee). Please note the employer is required to report the available benefit under the QSEHRA on each employee’s W-2 form beginning in calendar year 2017.
  5. The QSEHRA can reimburse any medical expenses as defined in Section 213(d) of the Internal Revenue Code including, but not limited to, the cost of individual health insurance. Reimbursement is tax free to the employee, provided the employee is enrolled in minimum essential health coverage.

There are a few exclusions to who would be eligible for the QSEHRA. To name a few, employees that have not yet met the employer’s waiting period (which, under the ACA, cannot be longer than 90 days), employees younger than age 25, part-time and seasonal employees, union employees and non-resident aliens.

Small employers must provide eligible employees with a written annual notice at least 90 days before the beginning of the year regarding the option of the QSEHRA. Due to the fact that the law was just passed in December, employers have until March 13, 2017 to provide the notice to their employees for the 2017 plan year. If the employer has a newly hired employee, the employer must provide notice to the new employee prior to the employee’s date of eligibility. This notice must include the annual amount of the benefit under the QSEHRA. The notice must also include a statement explaining to the employee that the amount of the benefit could affect their eligibility or amount of a premium tax credit if coverage is purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace/Exchange. The employee must inform the marketplace of the amount of the permitted benefit under the QSEHRA. Lastly, the notice must include a statement that if the employee is not enrolled in minimum essential coverage, he or she may be subject to the individual mandate penalty and that the QSEHRA reimbursements will be taxable. Employers will be subject to a penalty of $50 per employee for failure to provide the notice, up to $2500 per year.

Please note, a QSEHRA is not considered a group health plan and therefore is not subject to COBRA continuation coverage. Therefore, upon termination of employment or occurrence of another qualifying event under COBRA, the employer is not required to provide a COBRA notice to the employee.

However, there are still many reasons for employers to offer a group health plan, especially with the confusion and network limitations of the individual marketplace. In the individual health insurance market, carrier options are much scarcer and the costs of individual plans are much higher, though an employer-funded QSEHRA will offset the employee’s out-of-pocket expense on premiums.

Employers that offer a group health insurance plan are more likely to attract and retain good employees. Contact Cornerstone today and let our experts assist with providing creative plan solutions that align with the business objectives of your small group clients.

For more information, contact Cornerstone today.