On December 14th a federal judge ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is invalid due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2019. With the penalty’s elimination, the court in this case rules that the ACA is no longer valid under the U.S. Constitution. The ACA will likely be taken up by the Supreme Court and will remain in place pending appeal. As a result, a final decision is not expected to be made until that time. We will continue to post updates as new developments take place. Click the link below to view the article.
On his first day in office, President Trump signed an order promising to give states flexibility to create a more free and open healthcare market. On Thursday, the Trump administration released an official set of examples to help states flex these powers.
The administration wants states to innovate in ways that could produce more lower-cost options. It is intended to roll back key elements of Obama-era requirements, which were designed to promote enrollment in ACA (Affordable Care Act) plans that cover a broad range of medical needs and meet uniform national standards. These requirements were seen by many as burdensome, and “virtually impossible” for states to meet according to Seema Verma, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator.
Policy experts predict the ideas would further foster a parallel market of cheaper, less robust coverage that could draw younger or healthier consumers, but drive up premiums for those who remain in ACA market plans.
States could change who gets subsidies
Currently, federal subsidies are strictly targeted to lower-income Americans and are seen as key to bolstering enrollment in marketplace plans.
The Trump administration will allow states to revamp how these subsidies are used and give them wider latitude to expand or narrow the income eligible for subsidies.
Critics believe this will “potentially upend the subsidy structure” and bring back the days when insurance rules varied widely state by state; while supporters feel this could improve the market overall and would give consumers more control over how they choose to spend their health care dollars and the types of coverage they want to buy.
Changes to the individual insurance market
An estimated 14 million people buy their own coverage through health marketplaces or brokers.
Premiums in those markets have risen substantially since the law took effect in 2014 due to:
lower-than-expected enrollment by healthy people
the removal of the tax penalty for failing to have coverage
other moves that eliminated some payments to insurers and loosened restrictions on alternative marketplace proposals
The official set of examples released by Trump administration on Thursday add a new twist to a provision of the ACA that gave states the option of seeking a federal waiver to develop alternative marketplace proposals.
The states have to provide access to affordable and comprehensive coverage, but will not be held to a strict tally of how many people actually enroll.
To read the full article in depth, click here.
North Wales, PA., October 22nd – Capstone Group, a leading provider of risk management, employee benefits, and insurance brokerage services, has announced the hiring of Brett Kraemer as a Senior Benefits Consultant.
For the past 10+ years, Brett has held various positions within some of the largest Employee Benefits and Human Capital Management companies in the country. Brett’s diverse experience in these areas, coupled with his consultative approach to creating and implementing cost-effective employee benefit programs, make him a tremendous asset to Capstone’s current and prospective corporate clients.
Kevin Fox, Managing Partner, commented: “We are extremely excited to welcome Brett to Capstone. The landscape in healthcare is more competitive than ever. As such, clients are looking to partner with consultants who have a firm understanding of their business and organizational goals. Brett’s innovative approach to problem solving, broad insurance expertise, network connections in the business, and strategic initiatives will make him successful. His constant drive to innovate affirms our commitment to delivering fresh and transformative solutions to clients across all industries, which is why we are so fortunate to have him joining our team at this exciting time in our company’s growth.”
Brett’s core responsibilities as a Senior Benefits Consultant will be to work with C-Suite executives, human resources departments, and their employees in the creation, implementation, and management of impactful employee benefits, health & wellness programs.
About Capstone Group:
Founded in 2013, Capstone Group is an independent risk management, employee benefits, and insurance brokerage firm. As an emerging firm in a mature industry, Capstone's mission is to provide results-driven solutions that transcend what our clients have come to expect from traditional insurance and benefits brokers. To accomplish this goal, Capstone’s efforts begin and end with attracting and retaining the very best industry experts and client service representatives as a part of the team. To learn more about Capstone or submit an inquiry, visit https://www.capstoneinsgroup.com/contact.
Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th with the peak season being mid-August to late October. With hurricane season in full swing it is smart to keep in mind the following:
Damage from flooding is excluded from standard homeowners’ policies, which means separate coverage is required for protection.
Anyone considering flood insurance shouldn’t wait until a storm is approaching. It takes 30 days for a policy to become effective.
Additionally, policies typically come with a hurricane deductible.
Currently, Hurricane Florence is gaining strength and has been upgraded to a Category 4 hurricane as it nears the East Coast. Homeowners outside the projected path might feel relief, but should probably consider checking their insurance coverage. While it’s too late for homeowners in its path to make insurance changes, people in other hurricane-prone areas should take it as a reminder that the next big storm could be headed their way.
It only takes one major weather event to seriously damage a home, making not having sufficient coverage a big risk. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last year Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused a combined damage of $265 billion.
Here are tips to consider to help prevent such catastrophes:
CHECK YOUR DEDUCTIBLE
PREPARE FOR FLOODING
RENTERS ARE VULNERABLE, TOO
REBUILDING AN OLDER HOME CAN BE COSTLY
SAFEGUARD YOUR DOCUMENTS
To read the full article and get a better understanding of the above tips click here.
The House of Representatives passed two pieces of legislation that, among other things, purport to improve and “modernize” health savings accounts (“HSAs”). Both pieces of legislation have been sent to the Senate for consideration. Whether the Senate will take up these bills, let alone approve them “as is,” remains uncertain. There appears to be some bi-partisan appetite to loosen the current HSA rules, which means it is possible that we may see changes to these arrangements, which could be effective as early as January 1, 2019.
VISIT CAPSTONE'S HEALTHCARE REFORM WEBSITE: WWW.CAPSTONEHEALTHREFORM.COM
It is almost that time of the year for college students to either return to school or begin their new journey as a college student. For most, this is an exciting time and marks the first major step on the road to independence. For parents, it can be a bit scary and sad to watch their child leave home. A main concern for both parents and students is if their possessions will be safe away from home.
Insurance coverage for college students is not always clear. It can be confusing trying to decipher what type of insurance is needed from renters insurance to auto coverage. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when choosing insurance.
Typically possessions are protected under a homeowners policy but what happens when a child is away at school? Are their possessions still covered? When a student is living in a dorm room the family's homeowners insurance can protect many of their possessions. This is not always the case, so it is important to contact an independent agent to verify the coverage you may already have. Some policies limit coverage on dependents' dorms to 10% of the value of the home's total coverage amount.
When a student is living in an apartment off campus they should consider renters insurance. Coverage on most homeowners policies is limited to dorms, not other forms of student housing. So a renter without a stand-alone policy might not have any protection at all. According to the Insurance Information Institute renters insurance costs an average of $190 per year.
When students go away to school driving becomes significantly less important. Campus transportation and walking to class are common. For students who bring their cars to college it is important to notify their insurance company where the car is located primarily in order to maintain appropriate coverage. For students commuting from home to college it would be beneficial to reconsider their coverage, especially if they are driving long distances.
Having the proper insurance while away at school will make the college experience a more enjoyable one.
Check out the full article here.
The Philadelphia Business Journal honors Capstone Group as one of the 2018 Best Places to Work in the Greater Philadelphia Region:
North Wales, PA., July 9th – Capstone Group, a leading provider of risk management, employee benefits, and insurance brokerage services, has announced today that it has been named as a 2018 Best Places to Work by the Philadelphia Business Journal. This is the first year that Capstone has been awarded this recognition.
The Philadelphia Business Journal’s “Best Places to Work” recognition is based upon quantitative employee survey data gathered by Quantum Workplace in conjunction with the Journal. The Philadelphia Business Journal selects the top employers based on how employees rate their company's culture, teamwork and employee engagement. The list honors Capstone Group as one of the top small businesses in Greater Philadelphia. A record number of applicants were submitted for 2018 consideration.
“We are honored that our employee family believes Capstone Group is a great place to work,” said Kevin Fox, Managing Partner. “Our goal is to foster a culture and environment that empowers our team members to be their best, which in turn allows them to build genuine relationships with our clients and deliver unmatched experiences. Our success is attributed entirely to the passionate people that walk through our doors every day and I am truly proud to have Capstone recognized as an exceptional workplace.”
Founded in 2013, Capstone has established itself as an industry leader by delivering truly customized programs and creating efficiencies to their partner clients in an otherwise “commoditized” industry. With a rapidly growing organization of risk management professionals and employee benefits consultants, Capstone is always looking for talented individuals to join its team. To learn more about Capstone or submit an inquiry, visit https://www.capstoneinsgroup.com/contact.
About Capstone Group:
Capstone Group is an independent risk management, employee benefits, and insurance brokerage firm. As an emerging firm in a mature industry, Capstone's mission is to provide results-driven solutions that transcend what our clients have come to expect from traditional insurance and benefits brokers. Our ultimate goal is to make a positive difference within each our clients' organizations and exceed expectations with every interaction. To accomplish this goal, our efforts begin and end with attracting and retaining the very best industry experts and client service representatives as a part of our team.
With the median vacation home costing approximately $200,000 it is important to ensure your property is adequately protected. Many people may be unaware of the various factors that need to be taken into account when insuring their vacation homes. The following are a few things to take into consideration when purchasing insurance.
- Property Crime
- Vacation homes are a temporary home-away-from-home and typically only used by families during certain parts of the year. This leaves the premises unoccupied for most of the year, especially if vacation homeowners do not rent out their property- making it susceptible to theft. Click here for tips on securing your home from burglary. Also, speak with your agent to make sure your homeowners insurance policy is up to date and consider performing a home inventory so you know the proper amount to secure.
- Condominium or Single-family?
- The type of property you own determines the type of insurance needed. Your condo association may already provide coverage- although the coverage they have may only protect the structure not your belongings. It is important to discuss with your agent the risks you may face and protection you need.
- Flood Insurance
- Flooding is among the most destructive natural disasters and can happen in a wide range of regions, no matter the time of year. Flooding damage is not covered by a traditional homeowners insurance policy. In order to keep your property safe, it is wise to take preventive action against the risk of flooding.
- Vacation homes often come equipped with various amenities including swimming pools, hot tubs, trampolines, etc. Because accidents are possible with these kinds of recreational items, you want to speak with your independent agent about the liability portion of your insurance policy and your liability limit to ensure your assets are protected in the event someone is injured on your property and files a lawsuit against you.
Click here to check out the full article.
Don't have an independent agent? Call Capstone Insurance Group at 215-542-8030 to discuss the services we offer.
Several states have lodged a legal challenge to the entire Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) on the basis that the lack of an Individual Mandate tax makes the remaining provisions unconstitutional. While the Administration is not intervening, several other states are, defending the ACA’s sustainability without the Individual Mandate tax. No resolution to the legal questions is expected imminently, although the uncertainty that it causes could result in higher premiums now.
How will this affect employers?
Thanks to advances in technology, cars come equipped with more capabilities than ever while also being assembled with speed and precision. Technologies, such as blind spot detection and backup cameras, have become standard features and new concepts are being explored daily.
Such advanced vehicles impact the type of insurance coverage needed. Among other factors, the make and model of the vehicle affects the type of coverage required. Between 2010 and 2016 car insurance premiums have increased by 33%. In a given year, insurance companies make claim payments of roughly $900 on average per vehicle. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 25 most expensive cars to insure and according to their analysis large or midsize luxury vehicles take the lead. The least expensive vehicles to insure are small to midsize SUVs. The data was provided by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, a nonprofit research organization funded by auto insurers.
Click here to check out the complete list of the 25 most expensive cars to insure.
After an initial spike in commercial property insurance rates due to record catastrophic losses in 2017, we are finally seeing reprieve. This is not to say that we are not still facing upward pricing pressures on many lines of business for the remainder of 2018.
The industry's swift recovery following 2017 losses without widespread hardening or any insurer insolvencies indicates a "new level of resilience," said Joe Peiser, head of Broking, North America, Willis Towers Watson. Overall, the property/casualty marketplace remains well capitalized.
According to Willis Towers Watson's 2018 Insurance Marketplace Realities-Spring Update report, most buyers can expect their insurance to rise in 2018, although not as dramatically as some expected last quarter. Individual lines of business are undergoing a combination of price increases and price decreases.
The WTW spring report also acknowledges several lines of business where pricing has changed direction since their November report. For directors and officers liability, many buyers will now face increases of up to 5%. The environmental sector is experiencing its first hard market in over a decade. Buyers could face rate increases as high as 20% for site pollution liability coverage.
"Navigating this dynamic marketplace demands a strategic approach, and buyers facing renewals should focus on creating submissions using distinguishing data and narratives to set themselves apart from their peers," advises Peiser.
Read the full article and check out spring report highlights along with price predictions for the remainder of 2018 here .
Navigating roads during the winter season can be difficult and dangerous, especially during severe weather. Ice, snow and sleet create hazardous driving conditions for those on the road. Let's take a look at how you can keep yourself, your family and your vehicle safe when experiencing this extreme weather.
Prepare your car for the winter season
Ensuring that your vehicle is prepared for icy roads is the key and first step in making sure you are safe on the roads this winter. U.S. News & World Report, an online news magazine, suggests all vehicle owners follow several best practices to ensure their cars are ready for wintry conditions. This includes maintaining the proper inflation of tires at all times, as well as having them rotated and aligned regularly. Snow tires are also an option that should certainly be considered for the winter.
Check those breaks! Brakes and brake pads should be regularly checked during the winter. Not only should you guarantee your brakes and brake pads are safe, but also that all of the mechanical aspects of your vehicle are in optimal working order in case you encounter ice and heavy snow. It is a smart idea to increase the amount of times you visit your car service center during the winter season.
Know how to handle ice
Once your car is prepared for the winter weather, it is important to know how to properly operate a vehicle on an icy road. Edmunds, an automotive publication, suggests being gentle with the brakes when you encounter ice. Slamming on your brakes can result in total loss of vehicle. If you do begin to lose control, the website argues that you first take your foot off of the gas but not attempt to brake and allow the car to slow down. Braking is one of the most common mistakes drivers make during a slide on an icy road.
Winter roads are difficult to navigate no matter how long you have been driving. As such, Edmunds did note that taking a professional driving course that focuses on training for icy conditions can be beneficial. These courses are somewhat expensive, but can provide useful information to save your life (and your car). So consider taking a look at courses offered in your area.
Check out the original article here.
Giant insurer Chubb has joined a list of financial industry companies that are halting business deals with the National Rifle Association (NRA). Symantec, which is a software company that offers an identity protection product called Lifelock, MetLife Inc., and several car rental firms and banks have announced they are ending benefit offerings for NRA members.
However, the insurer confirmed to Insurance Journal that the decision was made several months ago, before the latest mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. "Three months ago, Chubb provided notice of our intent to discontinue participation in the NRA Carry Guard insurance program under the terms of our contract," the company stated. Lockton, the insurance broker for the NRA-branded personal liability insurance policy for gun owners, said it would no longer sell NRA-endorsed products.
One gun control lobbying organization, Guns Down America, said that last November it petitioned Chubb to stop selling what it called "murder insurance" in cooperation with the NRA. NRA Carry Guard provides coverage for gun owners who face legal or other costs for self-defense shootings. The NRA website claims the insurance plans are for "those who lawfully carry firearms and their families" and include the cost to defend against civil and criminal legal actions and access to attorneys. There are four plans associated with the policy: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Gold Plus with benefits ranging from $250,000 to $1.5 million in civil protection and from $50,000 to $250,000 for criminal defense costs.
To read more check out the following original articles:
The Trump Administration wants to allow insurance companies to offer more policies with more limited health benefits. Also, they would give these companies the authority to reject customers for pre-existing medical conditions.
These policies would not meet the legal requirements under the Affordable Care Act, as they offer only limited coverage. The argument for the relaxed requirements is that though the plans are limited, they would allow customers who cannot afford insurance now to find cheaper plans. These limited coverage plans are meant for individuals between jobs, or going through a life-transition when they cannot afford a more comprehensive plan.
The Trump Administration also intends to extend the terms for short term plans from three months up to a year, or more. Short term plans do not have to include the minimum essential health benefits required to be an ACA-compliant policy; such as mental health care and prescription coverage. Also, insurance companies can refuse to offer coverage to someone with a preexisting condition, or charge more money if an individual is more likely to need more care.
"The expansion of short-term health insurance plans is part of a strategy to create a parallel insurance market that does not comply with the ACA's rules," Larry Levitt, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said on Twitter. The goal of the ACA was to ensure that everyone has access to quality health coverage without discriminating against those who have pre-existing medical conditions.
The new rules "can make these policies inexpensive, they also create plans with potentially inadequate coverage." They will also make it harder for sicker people to obtain the coverage they need, at a cost they can afford.
The proposed rule is open for public comment for the next 60 days. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which runs the federal ACA exchange, is looking for input as to how long short-term policies should last, and whether consumers will be able to renew them, essentially turning them into permanent insurance options.
You can read more by checking out the original article written by Allison Kodjak for NPR, here.
In 2015, Congress passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 (the “Inflation Adjustment Act”) to direct federal agencies to adjust the civil monetary penalties for inflation every year. Civil penalties ensure compliance with federal regulation by incentivizing employers not to violate federal regulation and providing federal agencies the power to ensure compliance. However, when penalties are too low, or have failed to be increased for inflation, compliance with federal regulation remains stagnant.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently published the annual adjustments for 2018 that increase certain penalties applicable to employee benefit plans.
The updated penalties went into effect on January 2, 2018 and apply to penalties assessed after the effective date.
Private employers, including non-profits, should ensure employees receive required notices timely (SBC, CHIP, SPD, etc.) to prevent civil penalty assessments. In addition, employers should ensure Form 5500s are properly and timely filed. Finally, employers facing document requests from EBSA should ensure documents are provided timely, as requested.
To read more, check out the original post on Capstone Compliance, here.
Winter is snow joke. Snow, sleet, ice... there are plenty of winter perils to prepare for. Follow these simple steps and protect your home from the damage cold weather events can cause:
1.) Energy Efficient Improvements
The very same steps you need to take to keep your heating costs down can also be viewed as protective for your home's structure and systems. These steps include:
- Have a professional service provider inspect prepare your A/C, water, fuel, cent and other systems and pipes for the season
- Consider replacing normal doors and windows with storm-proof products
- Have your furnace serviced and change your filters
- Evaluate your home for drafts and leaks. These are most common in attics, crawl spaces and basements
2.) Prevent Flooding - Roof and Drainage Updates
- Clear all gutters of leaves and debris before the first snowfall.
- Remove snow from the roof after heavy accumulation
- If your roof is sloped, place ice melt products on ice dams for safe, easy removal
- Make sure drain pipes point away from your home to prevent flooding. Also be sure your irrigation system and lawn have been winterized
3.) Protect Your Plumbing - Prevent Bursts
- Wrap exposed pipes and plumbing with insulation. Heat tape can be used to protect outside pipes; or those inside the home in non heated areas
- Keep values and taps open to keep water moving. This prevents freezing and expansion, which causes cracks and damage
- If the temperature is below freezing, keep your sinks dripping
- When you leave your home, keep the temperature set warm enough to prevent freezing of any kind
You can read more from the original article here.
Stay safe and warm this winter season!
Snow, sleet, ice... oh my! Winter can interrupt your business operations at the drop of a snowflake. Prepare and protect your business from the perils of winter by following these risk management tips:
1.) Winterize - Deter Physical Threats
Some of the biggest risks of the season are frozen pipes and flooding. Be sure that your pipes are insulated and monitored. "Cost Helper, a website that aggregates statistics related to repairs and maintenance, states that a burst pipe can cost in excess of $3,800 if it is located in a wall or the building's foundation, while subsequent water damage can run up to $70,000."
Also, check that your building is protected from flooding. A little flood insurance never hurt anyone, and can be vital in the event of a major event. "The Federal Emergency Management Agency reports that about 40 percent of small businesses never reopen after a flood, as the average claim for one of these events is about $85,000."
2.) Watch the Walkway
Icy sidewalks and parking lots are other major risks to your business. If someone were to slip and fall outside of your building, you can be held liable for their medical bills. Some cities even penalize companies with tickets even if no one falls. Better to be safe than slippery!
3.) Have a Plan B
Make a plan in case a winter storm or other event were to endanger your employees' commute. If travelling becomes unsafe, it is important to have a contingency plan for telecommuting, if possible. If not, be prepared to possibly miss several days of productivity.
Be sure to have a reliable way to efficiently communicate with your employees in the event of an unfavorable forecast.
Prepare, be safe and stay warm!
Article Source: http://social.selective.com/winter-preparation-business.html?utm_source=NYCU-1-18-18&utm_medium=email
On Thursday, December 21, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to extend the National Flood Insurance Program once more, as part of a continuing resolution to keep the U.S. government open until Jan. 19. This vote was followed by U.S. Senate approval, and will temporarily avoid a government shutdown.
In response to this decision, SmarterSafer* noted:“Kicking the can down the road is not a viable way to preserve the nation’s broken and bankrupt flood insurance system, especially as countless communities continue to recover from this year’s devastating hurricane season. Although we are pleased that Congress has avoided a lapse in the program, temporary extensions maintain an unsustainable status quo that resulted in a $45 billion taxpayer bailout and inadequate incentives for important mitigation measures. With the NFIP now set to expire on January 19th, we urge lawmakers to use this time to pass much-needed reforms to the NFIP, so the program can better protect lives, property and taxpayer dollars from a future of more frequent and severe storms.”
The House adopted a bill in November to reauthorize the NFIP for five years, implementing several new forms, but the Senate has yet to vote on it. Currently, the program is about $25 billion in debt.
To read more, visit the original article here.
*SmarterSafer is a a national coalition of taxpayer advocates, environmental groups, insurance interests, housing organizations and mitigation advocates
Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Harvey
Pennsylvania Legislation Update:
House Bill 1553 takes on in-network balance billing. On December 11, 2017 the House Health Committee reported on House Bill 1553. This bill prevents a situation that occurs when a patient goes to an in-network hospital or emergency room wherein the provider subcontracts services such as Emergency Room Physicians, anesthesiology, to a non-network provider. In this scenario, the patients were hit with a large non-network bill.
House Bill 1553 requires in-network billing for all services of in-network facilities. The bill has the support of 20 republican sponsors and 11 Democrats. Both the majority and minority chairs of the House Health and House Insurance Committees support this bill.
This bill will make many Pennsylvanians lives easier when accessing emergency care.
More to come soon as this passes through the House and Senate!
National Republican Tax Reform Bill:
The final tax reform bill, set to be voted on today, includes a repeal of the individual mandate, lifting the penalty imposed on individuals who decide not to buy coverage.
What this will do for individuals purchasing health care currently is unclear.
The change takes place for 2019. I believe this will be the first step for the GOP to unravel the ACA law that it failed to repeal and replace earlier this year.
Image Source: http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Building-Capitol-United-States-Government-Congress-1746335
As last-minute holiday shopping ramps up, the Boston-based nonprofit World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc. (W.A.T.C.H.) has released its annual list of the 10 worst toys of 2017, informing shoppers of this year’s most potentially hazardous toys.
W.A.T.C.H. says consumers are expected to spend 51% of their holiday budget online. This year’s report highlighted retail store purchases and also took close look at the impact of online purchasing when it comes to toy safety.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2015 there were over 254,200 toy-related injuries, and between 2010 and 2015, 72 children died in toy-related incidents.
W.A.T.C.H. says consumers buying toys on the Internet are already at a disadvantage, as they are unable to touch and physically inspect a toy and its packaging at the time of sale for more obvious hazards. In some cases, limited product information on e-commerce sites can lead to misinformed, and potentially dangerous, consumer toy purchases.
The organization's annual list provides highlighted information about the products' warning labels, specified hazards, manufacturers and sellers.
Source: Property & Casualty 360