All posts by Lewis Marty


DID YOU KNOW?

The Trump administration unveiled an outline for potentially lowering the price of prescription drugs.

The blueprint identifies four key areas of focus:

  1. Improved competition
  2. Better negotiation
  3. Incentives for lower list prices
  4. Lowering out-of-pocket costs

Stay tuned for updates later in the year.


ACA Affordability Percentages Will Increase for 2019

The IRS recently issued a Revenue Procedure to index the contribution percentages used to determine the affordability of an employer’s plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

These updated affordability percentages are effective for taxable years and plan years beginning Jan. 1, 2019. They represent a significant increase from the affordability contribution percentages for 2018.

As a result, some employers may have additional flexibility with respect to their employee contributions for 2019 to meet the adjusted percentage.

Affordable Coverage Test

For plan years beginning in 2019, employer-sponsored coverage will be considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage does not exceed:

  • 86 percent of the employee’s household income for the year, for purposes of both the pay or play rules and premium tax credit eligibility
  • 3 percent of the employee’s household income for the year, for purposes of an individual mandate exemption (adjusted under separate guidance)

This adjustment means that employer-sponsored coverage for the 2019 plan year will be considered affordable under the employer shared responsibility rules if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage does not exceed 9.86 percent of the employee’s household income for the tax year.

The 2018 affordability percentage for the pay or play rules and premium tax credit eligibility was 9.56 percent. The 2018 percentage for the individual mandate exemption was 8.05 percent.


IRS Announces HSA Limits for 2019

The IRS recently announced that limits for HSA contributions will increase for 2019. The HDHP maximum out-of-pocket limits will also increase for 2019. The HSA contribution limits will increase effective Jan. 1, 2019, while the HDHP limits will increase effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.  

HSA Contribution Limit

  • Family – $7,000
  • Single – $3,500

HDHP Maximum Out-of-pocket Expense Limit (deductibles, copayments and other amounts, but not premiums)

  • Family – $13,500
  • Single – $6,750

Because the cost-sharing limits for HDHPs will change for 2019, employers that sponsor these plans may need to make plan design changes for plan years beginning in 2019.


 

? 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


DID YOU KNOW?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is now in effect. This regulation affects U.S. businesses that have international ties.

The GDPR provides individuals with more control over their personal data.

Failing to comply with the GDPR can mean millions in fines. Speak with us to learn more about how this regulation may impact you.


IQ or EQ: What’s More Valuable to Your Company?

The smartest person is usually considered the best person for a job, especially when it comes to leadership. However, HR experts argue that traditional intelligence (book smarts) may not be as important as emotional intelligence (people smarts).

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EQ, or emotional quotient) can be summed up by a few characteristics:

  • The ability to evaluate one’s own emotions and their greater impact
  • Solid understanding of one’s abilities and self-worth
  • An innate desire to help toward the greater good

In other words, having a high EQ means you work well with others because you understand how your and your co-workers’ emotions affect each other. The argument goes: if our behavior is dictated by our emotions, then understanding them is the key to long-term success.

Making Emotions Work for You

Leaders who understand emotions can channel that energy into producing desired results. For instance, managing employees is much easier when you can empathize and understand them on an emotional level. Nothing builds barriers faster than a perceived misunderstanding from a manager.

Considerations

Overall, EQ is a fluid area of study, like most aspects of the brain. There are still many unknowns, so one cannot definitively say if emotional intelligence is the trump card for leaders. However, raising the EQ of managers even slightly can help with employee relations.

Consider offering EQ training to managers to help them relate better with their employees. You may be surprised how far a little emotional understanding can go.


Ignoring Diversity Training? You Should Reconsider

Starbucks made national news in May when it closed over 8,000 stores so its employees could undergo diversity training.

The training was in response to an incident where police were inappropriately called on two black men who were sitting peacefully in the store.

The incident sparked a national conversation about race and caused many companies to reassess their diversity training efforts, none wanting to be part of a future headline.

Make sure employees are properly trained so customers and members of the community can enjoy a pleasurable experience with your company.


 

? 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


Tips for Managing Workplace Fatigue

Hectic schedules, stress and lack of sleep can all contribute to fatigue, which is a common and dangerous workplace hazard. Symptoms of fatigue include moodiness, drowsiness, loss of energy, and lack of motivation and concentration.

These are not ideal qualities to display at your job. Not only does fatigue make you less productive and personable, it can also cause a serious safety risk if you work with hazardous equipment or materials.

To help manage workplace fatigue, consider doing the following:

  • Eat a snack that includes complex carbohydrates and protein (like an energy bar or half a peanut butter sandwich on whole-wheat bread).
  • Avoid sugar, which will make you crash later.
  • Go for a short walk to re-energize yourself.
  • Drink a glass of water.
  • Manage your stress, and get more sleep.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit your caffeine intake to one or two drinks per day.

Fatigue can also be linked to an underlying medical problem, psychological condition or sleep disorder. Talk to your doctor if you experience chronic or debilitating fatigue.


5 Ways to Eat Healthier at Work

Most full-time employees eat at least one meal at work. Not only are a significant number of meals eaten in the workplace, but work is also where employees are most susceptible to distracted or stress-related eating.

Good nutrition is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, and eating healthier can increase your productivity, lower the number of sick days you take and reduce your risk of being in an on-the-job accident.

To start eating healthier at work today, consider doing the following:

  1. Avoid junk food. Clean your desk or work area of junk food. This includes snacks like candy, chips or crackers.
  2. Make time to eat full meals. While work can get busy, it’s critical that you make time to eat a healthy meal. Not only does eating a nutritious breakfast or lunch increase your energy, but it can also help you remain fuller for longer, thus reducing snacking.
  3. Bring leftovers into work. When cooking your dinner each night, consider setting aside portions for your lunch the next day. Not only does this make meal planning easier, but it can also save you money.
  4. Bring in bottles of water. Make an effort to drink water throughout the day. This can help energize you, supress your appetite and aid in weight loss.
  5. Snack smart. Snacks aren’t entirely off the table when you’re trying to eat healthy. Foods like dried fruit, jerky, nuts and applesauce are all good alternatives to unhealthy chips and candy bars.

While eating home-cooked meals is one of the easiest ways to eat healthier, certain jobs require employees to be on the road often. This, unfortunately, can lead to eating out more.

In this case, being careful about the kinds of food you order and the portion sizes can make all the difference in managing weight gain.


Safety Tips for Proper Lifting

Lifting is a common activity in the workplace, an activity that can be potentially dangerous if the proper techniques are not used. In fact, lower back injuries caused by improper lifting are some of the most common work-related injuries.

In order to protect yourself when lifting heavy items in the workplace, do the following:

  • Look over the load. Decide if you can handle it alone or if you need assistance. When in doubt, ask for help. Moving an object that is too heavy or bulky can cause severe injury.
  • Clear away any potential obstacles before carrying an object.
  • Use good foot positioning. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees. Bending over at the waist to reach for an object you want to lift puts strain on your back, shoulder and neck muscles.
  • Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as you can while lifting.
  • Use your feet to change direction. Don’t twist your body.

Responding to a Workplace Accident

Accidents in the workplace can occur without warning, and it’s important to respond quickly to help those in need. In some cases, supervisors may not be around to provide the proper response guidance, and it’s up to employees to take action.

The following are some general tips to keep in mind if a co-worker is involved in a workplace accident:

  • Take control of the scene and try to restore order.
  • Call for emergency services if needed. Provide any immediate first aid, if you are qualified to do so.
  • Protect co-workers from potential secondary accidents. You can accomplish this by dismissing unnecessary personnel and denying access to the area.
  • Identify people at the scene. If they witnessed the incident, be sure to make a note of their names, as they can provide a report on what happened at a later date.
  • Notify upper management of the issue.
  • Do not put yourself in harm’s way.

Following an accident, follow up with your supervisor to ensure the appropriate paperwork is completed. Supervisors may require you to file an accident report or further detail what happened.

If you have any ideas of how the accident could have been avoided, share them with your supervisor or at a safety meeting. If your workplace does not have a first responder program in place, it may a good idea to suggest it to your employer.

Trained first-aid responders can provide immediate care to workers who become ill or injured on the job. The quick response and training of these individuals can make all the difference following an accident.


 

 

? 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.


Sun Rays Aren’t the Only Thing You Can Catch at the Pool

As the temperature climbs, many Americans will flock to the pool to find some relief from the heat. While the cool waters can be refreshing, they could also be contaminated with bacteria that can make you sick. Read on to learn about the three most common illnesses you can catch from spending a day at the pool.

Cryptosporidium (Crypto for Short)

Crypto, a chlorine-resistant parasite, is one of the most common culprits for post-pool day illness and causes diarrhea, stomach pain and nausea. Unfortunately, symptoms can last for up to two weeks.

To avoid getting sick, don’t swallow pool water or touch your face until you’ve showered with soap and hot water.

Pinkeye

Between the chemicals and other people’s bodily fluids in the pool, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you can catch pinkeye from swimming in a shared pool or hot tub.

To avoid getting this infection, wear well-fitted goggles every time you get into the water.

Hot Tub Rash

The warm water in hot tubs causes chlorine to break down quickly, making the chemical ineffective in killing the germ that causes an itchy skin infection that can lead to a bumpy, red rash.

To avoid getting this rash, shower immediately after going into the hot tub and be sure to wash your swimming suit before wearing it again.


Trouble Sleeping? Your Phone May Be to Blame

Yes, you read that headline right. According to a new study, using your phone before you go to bed can disrupt your sleep schedule and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Specifically, the study found that those who use smartphones or tablets before bed went to bed later and had a later sleep onset than those who didn’t. The study also found that those who used their phone or tablet before going to sleep had lower levels of the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin. Lastly, the study found that electronic device usage before bed reduced the period of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a vital component in our sleep patterns.

So, if you’re having trouble sleeping, try putting your phone or tablet away before heading to bed.


Are You Up to Date On Your Immunizations?

Every August, the National Public Health Information Coalition sponsors National Immunization Awareness Month to promote the importance of immunizations at all life stages. Vaccination protects everyone, from infants to the elderly, from serious illnesses and complications of vaccine-preventable diseases.

Being properly vaccinated not only protects you, but everyone else around you, from falling ill with serious illnesses like measles, polio, hepatitis and meningococcal meningitis.

Follow the provided links to learn if you and your loved ones are up to date on the recommended vaccinations for each stage of life:

For more information on vaccines, or to learn more about what vaccines you may need, click here or talk with your doctor.


 

? 2018 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


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