Effective Jan. 1, 2019, EEOC Removes Incentive Limits from Wellness Plan Rules

Overview

On Dec. 20, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) removed the incentive limits from its final wellness plan rules. The rules allowed employers to offer wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the cost of health plan coverage.

The AARP successfully challenged the EEOC’s incentive limit by arguing that it was too high to be consistent with federal laws that require “voluntary” employee participation in wellness programs. The court vacated the EEOC’s incentive limit for employer-sponsored wellness plans, effective Jan. 1, 2019.

Consistent with the court’s decision, the EEOC has removed the incentive limit portion of its final wellness plan rules.

Next Steps

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the final rules’ guidance on permissible incentive limits for voluntary wellness programs no longer applies. Due to this new legal uncertainty, employers should carefully consider the level of incentives they use with their wellness programs. Employers should also continue to monitor any developments related to the EEOC’s rules.

Final Wellness Rules

Federal laws affect laws enforced by the EEOC—the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

  • Under the ADA, if they are job-related and consistent with business necessity, an employer may make disability-related inquiries and require medical examinations after employment begins. However, these inquiries and exams are permitted even if not job-related and consistent with business necessity if they are part of a voluntary wellness program.
  • Under GINA, employers cannot request, require or purchase genetic information, including information about an employee’s genetic tests, the genetic tests of family members and the manifestation of a disease or disorder of a family member. Like the ADA, GINA includes an exception that permits employers to collect this information as part of a wellness program, if the provision of information is voluntary.

Neither the ADA nor GINA define the term “voluntary” in the context of wellness programs. For years, the EEOC did not address whether incentives to participate in wellness programs are permissible under the ADA and, if so, in what amount. On May 17, 2016, the EEOC issued final rules that describe how the ADA and GINA apply to employer-sponsored wellness programs. These rules became effective on Jan. 1, 2017.

  • The final ADA rule provided that incentives offered to an employee who answers disability-related questions or undergoes medical examinations as part of a wellness program may not exceed 30 percent of the total cost for self-only health plan coverage.
  • The final GINA rule clarified that an employer may offer an incentive of up to 30 percent of the total cost of self-only coverage to an employee whose spouse provides information about his or her current or past health status as part of the employer’s wellness program.
Court Ruling
First Decision Incentive Limit is Arbitrary

On Aug. 22, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled against the EEOC and remanded the final wellness rules back to the agency for reconsideration. In this case, the AARP argued that the 30 percent incentive limit is inconsistent with the voluntary requirements of the ADA and GINA and that employees who cannot afford to pay a 30 percent increase in premiums will be forced to disclose their protected information when they would otherwise choose not to do so.

The court concluded that the EEOC’s basis for establishing this incentive level was not well reasoned and not entitled to deference from the court. Rather than vacating the rules altogether and risking potential disruption for employers, however, the court remanded them to the EEOC for reconsideration.

Second Decision – EEOC’s Rules are Vacated on Jan. 1, 2019

 On Dec. 20, 2017, the court stated that the EEOC’s slow approach for reconsidering its final wellness rule is not what the court envisioned when it remanded the rules. The EEOC indicated that it would issue a new final wellness rule in October 2019 that would be applicable, at the earliest, in 2021. This lengthy timeline, per the court, was unacceptable.

Thus, the court vacated the EEOC’s limits on wellness incentives, but stayed its ruling until Jan. 1, 2019, to avoid disruption for employer-sponsored wellness plans. According to the court, this extended deadline provided employers with the time they needed to structure their wellness plans for 2019. The court also encouraged the EEOC to speed up its timeline for issuing new rules on wellness program incentives.

New EEOC Regulations

The EEOC has indicated that it will publish new proposed regulations on employer-sponsored wellness programs in the future. It is not clear, however, when these proposed regulations will be released. The EEOC, which is a bipartisan commission comprised of presidentially appointed members, is still waiting for the confirmation of two members (including a commission chair) and a general counsel. The EEOC has indicated that it may wait until mid-2019 to release new wellness regulations.

This Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

What is the Current State of the ACA?

On Dec. 14, 2018, a federal judge ruled in Texas v. United States that the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) is invalid due to the elimination of the individual mandate penalty in 2019. The decision was not stayed, but the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place pending appeal. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA.

Twenty states filed this lawsuit because of the 2017 tax reform law that eliminates the individual mandate penalty. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA on the basis that the individual mandate is a valid tax. With the penalty’s elimination, the court, in this case, ruled that the ACA is no longer valid under the U.S. Constitution.

Next Steps

The ruling will likely be appealed, and be taken up by the Supreme Court. Thus, a final decision is not expected to be made until then. The federal judge’s ruling left many questions as to the current state of the ACA; however, the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place pending appeal.

Background

Since early 2014, the ACA has imposed an “individual mandate” requiring most individuals to obtain adequate coverage for themselves and their family or pay a penalty. In 2011, many lawsuits were filed challenging the constitutionality of this individual mandate provision.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA in its entirety, ruling that Congress acted within its constitutional right when enacting the individual mandate. The Court agreed that, while Congress could not use its power to regulate commerce between states to require individuals to buy health insurance, it could impose a tax penalty using its tax power for individuals who refuse to purchase health insurance.

However, a 2017 tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, reduced the ACA’s individual mandate penalty to zero, effective beginning in 2019. Therefore, beginning in 2019, individuals will no longer be penalized for failing to obtain adequate health insurance coverage.

Texas v. United States

Following the tax reform law’s enactment, twenty Republican-controlled states filed a lawsuit again challenging the ACA’s constitutionality. The plaintiffs, first, argued that the individual mandate could no longer be considered a valid tax since there will no longer be any revenue generated by the provision.

Also, in its 2012 ruling, the Supreme Court indicated (and both parties agreed) that the individual mandate is an essential element of the ACA, and that the remainder of the law could not stand without it. Therefore, the plaintiffs argued that the elimination of the individual mandate penalty rendered the rest of the ACA unconstitutional.

The U.S. Justice Department chose not to defend the ACA in court fully and, instead, 16 Democratic-controlled states intervened to uphold the law.

 Federal Court Ruling

In his ruling, Judge Reed O’Connor ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs, determining that the individual mandate can no longer be considered a valid exercise of Congressional tax power.

Per the court, “[u]nder the law as it now stands, the individual mandate no longer ‘triggers a tax’ beginning in 2019.” Thus, the court ruled that “the individual mandate, unmoored from a tax, is unconstitutional.”

Because the court determined that the individual mandate is no longer valid, it now had to decide whether the provision is “severable” from the remainder of the law (meaning whether other portions of the ACA can remain in place or whether the entire law is invalid without the individual mandate).

In determining whether the rest of the law could stand without the individual mandate, the court pointed out that:

“Congress stated three separate times that the individual mandate is essential to the ACA, [and that] the absence of the individual mandate would ‘undercut’ its ‘regulation of the health insurance market.’ Thirteen different times, Congress explained how the individual mandate stood as the keystone of the ACA … [and,] ‘together with the other provisions’ [the individual mandate] allowed the ACA to function as Congress intended.”

Thus, the court determined that the individual mandate could not be severed, making the ACA invalid in its entirety.

Impact of the Federal Court Ruling

Judge O’Conner’s ruling left many questions as to the current state of the ACA because it did not order for anything to be done or stay the ruling pending appeal. However, this ruling is expected to be appealed, and the White House announced that the ACA will remain in place until a final decision is made. On Dec. 17, 2018, HHS also confirmed that it will continue administering and enforcing all aspects of the ACA.

While the appeals are pending, the current ACA provisions will continue to be enforced. Although the individual mandate penalty will be reduced to zero beginning in 2019, employers and individuals must continue to comply with all other applicable requirements.

This ruling does not impact the 2019 Exchange enrollment, the ACA’s employer shared responsibility (pay or play) penalties and related reporting requirements, or any other applicable ACA requirement.

This ACA Compliance Bulletin is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.

 

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder: What It Is and How It Can Be Alleviated

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is like any other condition. It doesn’t make you a weak person because you suffer from it. And like any disorder, it can be treated, and prevented, if proper measures are taken. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is SAD?

Seasonal affective disorder can be far more debilitating than milder conditions. Evidence suggests that it is caused when our circadian rhythm is disrupted. Our well-being can rely on consistent light exposure, and those dark, winter months create a light shortage. SAD is common in areas where colder temperatures and short days are more prevalent. If you have the condition, you likely are aware of the symptoms and its effects. Otherwise, it’s important to know certain warning signs, so you can take action. For example, do you find yourself sleeping more, perhaps in conjunction with diminished energy and an increasingly erratic sleep schedule? Are you less inclined to socialize or be active, to the point of isolation? Has your diet changed, with a greater focus on comfort foods? These can be compelling signs that you may be developing SAD, and this is especially true if you or your family has a history of depression. If you notice any signs, it’s imperative that you reach out to a doctor for further advice.

Keep Routines

Cold can be a major inhibitor for maintaining healthy routines and can contribute to the onset of SAD. Eating healthily is one habit that can fall by the wayside. Having a nutritious diet can influence gut health and help our bodies to stay in good condition and produce chemicals that can enhance mood. Also, think about your daily schedule and what you can do to stay active and stimulated. Getting outside is beneficial. Find ways to go outdoors, not only to raise your energy levels through physical activity but improve mood. Socialize with loved ones, no matter how brief. Make visits to your local park, or take a walk around the neighborhood. At home, find ways to process your emotions. Those dark nights can leave us restless, with only one’s thoughts for company. Meditation or journaling, even a fun movie night with loved ones, can potentially make a world of difference in the home.

Harness Light

Thankfully, there are ways to replicate the brightness of summer. At the very least, keep curtains and blinds open throughout the day. Trim hedges or trees — anything that deprives your home of some natural light. Adding artificial light through the home can be beneficial, as well. Dedicated devices might also be something to invest in. Dawn simulators, which use full-spectrum lighting, can reproduce a bright morning. This helps us wake up more naturally, and aids efforts to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. Light boxes, meanwhile, can provide a form of light therapy. Many of these use fluorescent lights and, when used daily, can offer light comparable to a summer’s day. While it is not a complete substitute for natural light, it is still a welcome brightness during the winter months.

Adapt Your Environment

Consider making adjustments to your environment. Look at the rooms you spend most of your time in. What could be done to brighten them? A fresh coat of paint in a radiant, happy color can positively influence mood and spirit. Even a few embellishments on furniture, such as some colorful throw pillows or bedding, can transform the ambiance of a room. Decor, too, can be impactful. Add paintings you find emotionally inspiring or photographs that remind you of joyous and happy moments in your life. You might even place a few motivational posters around your home to give you gentle reassurances. As an extra touch, use plants to further your home’s coziness and color. They may have the additional benefit of providing you with a low-intensity responsibility that you can add to your daily routine.

Winter can be a difficult time, so we need to monitor ourselves closely during the darker months. If you notice any signs, speak to your doctor immediately, and do your best to maintain healthy routines. This winter, take positive steps to make your mental well-being a priority in your life.

This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal or medical advice. 

 

Kimberly Hayes enjoys writing about health and wellness and created PublicHealthAlert.info to help keep the public informed about the latest developments in popular health issues and concerns. In addition to studying to become a crisis intervention counselor, Kimberly is hard at work on her new book, which discusses the ins and outs of alternative addiction treatments.

 

The Wakeup Call I Needed

Happy Birthday to Me, The Wakeup Call I Needed

A Story by Ileana Miranda, Benefits Educator at Sapoznik Insurance

Visiting the doctor gave me the wakeup call that I needed. I had just turned 60 years old and went for my annual check-up. Everything seemed normal until the doctor prescribed cholesterol medicine. My heart sank. Never in my life did I have cholesterol issues, but on my 60th birthday, this changed. Happy birthday to me!

Having the attention of my doctor, I was desperate for him to give me another option. He told me it was time to get into shape, stop eating everything in sight and stop starving myself when I feel guilty.

Driving home from the appointment, I had a rush of feelings that I was forced to confront. Was the reason I was feeling uncomfortable with myself, not fitting into my clothing, and my lack of energy due to my unhealthy lifestyle? The wheels were turning in my head, and I knew I had to make a change.

At first glance, I may not appear unhealthy or overweight, but my body was telling me otherwise. There is nothing worse than feeling down about yourself, and my weak attempts to lose weight made me feel worse. Having turned 60, I thought my age was the reason I was feeling increasingly tired. It wasn’t. It was my poor diet and my on the go lifestyle that had finally caught with me.

Having observed our internal health and wellness efforts over my tenure at Sapoznik, provided me the environment I needed to make a change. They offered seminars for healthy eating, rumba classes and so much more. But frankly, I wasn’t ready to make the drastic change that I needed to. My responsibilities at work require that I am available to clients at any given moment, thus spending most of my time on the road. I convinced myself that eating fast food multiple times a week was the only option.

Enter Sapoznik’s latest endeavor, UnitedHealthcare’s Real Appeal. Real Appeal is a weight loss program designed to help people like me learn how to lead a healthy lifestyle. The program is provided to eligible members over the age of 18 at no additional cost as part of our benefit plan with United. Through Sapoznik’s partnership, they provide support, instructions and one-on-one coaching. Taking an active role in my diet, I have lost 30 pounds in three months.

At this point, I don’t even consider it a diet. It is a lifestyle change, and approaching it one day at a time has made all the difference. The best part about the program is that the weight loss is sustainable.

The biggest lesson that I have learned is that there is no secret to healthy eating habits; it is taking the time to prepare your food in advance and not waiting until the last minute. In the moments where I feel weak, it is incredible to have a support system to get me back on track. Not only have I lost the weight, but I feel amazing on the inside and found a new pep in my step. Spending time with family is a joy.  Sharing jeans with my daughter is a bonus, and not having to take cholesterol medication is the cherry on top.

Multiple Storms and a New Category Introduced: What Dealerships Need to Know About Hurricanes

Preparation is key to getting through any natural disaster. In Florida, the main risk to your dealerships are hurricanes and tropical storms. As hurricane season begins earlier each year, there is no time like the present to start.

Ask yourself these questions:
  1. Could business continue if the city or streets near my dealership are closed?
  2. How could I serve my customers’ needs if my facility needed to close for months?
  3. Could my business survive if it was closed for weeks or months?
  4. Will it affect deliveries or my business contacts?

As reported by the American Red Cross, almost half of all small businesses affected by a major disaster, such as a tornado, flood, earthquake or hurricane, do not reopen their doors because they were unprepared. Even if your dealership is not in danger of a storm, there are plenty of other natural disasters to worry about and having a plan is vital.

Preparation Is Key

Consider incorporating the following before disaster strikes:

  1. Check local flood maps and have your building inspected by a licensed professional to ensure the roof and other connections comply with the wind loading requirements for your area.
  2. Consider installing impact-resistant film on your windows.
  3. Gather a list of vendors and telephone numbers that are critical to your daily operations. If you heavily rely on one or two vendors, consider adding one outside of your area.
  4. Prepare a list of companies that can assist you in recovery efforts, such as removing debris, moving and computer services.
  5. Prepare a list of your employees and their contact information.
  6. Arrange for communication with clients, customers, and employees to keep them informed.
  7. Diversify your customer base, products, and sales locations, this will prevent significant loss if most of your customers are affected by the hurricane.
  8. Take before and after pictures of the business for insurance purposes.
  9. Shut down all incoming power, electric, gas, water lines, computers, copiers, etc. to not create excessive surge when power is restored.
Prepare for Business Continuity and Recovery

Dealers in South Florida should be concerned about flood damage. While business interruption and many property and casualty policies do not cover flood damage, The National Flood Insurance Program includes the option of buying the coverage.

Beyond reviewing the policies, have your business appraised every five years, conduct an inventory of your supplies and equipment, and leave this information in an off-site location.

In the wake of a disaster, the primary goal should be to restore customer confidence by getting the doors open as soon as possible.

Additional tips, provided by the Florida Automobile Dealers Association:
  1. Be aware of your responsibility to mitigate damages following a storm. Your insurers require you to secure your premises and prevent further damage from wind and rain following a storm.
  2. Develop a plan for your replacement inventory; several dealers noted that it was vital to remove damaged vehicles before new inventory can be brought in.
  3. Most dealerships have difficulties locating skilled labor to help with damaged roofs and other structural work. Contact contractors in advance as supplies may be unavailable after a major storm.

A disaster preparedness plan is something you hope you never use but, proper planning can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that your business is ready, willing, and able to shift into disaster response mode, if necessary.

This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice.

 

 

6 Tips to Tailor Your Healthcare to Fit Your Company’s Needs

The Perfect Fit: How to tailor your healthcare coverage to fit your employee’s needs.

A robust employee benefits package can be an excellent way to retain the talent you have, and to recruit top talent. But choosing the right healthcare coverage is difficult and often seems like a one-size-fits-all package: expensive coverage with options you may not need.

Whether you’re a CFO, HR Director, or company leader, you’ve got a difficult decision to make. How do you keep employees happy and control costs in a high insurance premium environment? Going with a traditional, fully insured health insurance plan may not help you reach your goals, but you’re not sure what alternatives exist.

If only you could design your own plan….

You’d choose a plan you could monitor for cost-effectiveness and retain your talented staff members. It would have the benefits designed specifically for your employee demographics without paying for benefits you don’t need. And it would fit your budget.

Creating your own healthcare insurance plan is no longer a dream, but a reality. So, how do you do it?

Find a reliable partner that can provide you with these 6 things:

1. Data Analytics

To control costs, you must understand what is driving those costs and monitor them regularly. With a data analytics dashboard, you don’t just hope and pray your costs to stay in line. You have immediate access to your plan’s performance and the individual factors that drive costs including pharmacy claims, utilization rates, and clinical outcomes. You can’t control what you don’t monitor – but we give you the tools to keep your costs and plan aligned.

2. Disease Management

Recent studies indicate that rising healthcare costs can range in the million-dollar (or more) for chronic illnesses. Keeping on top of those conditions and managing their outcomes can make or break your budget. Find a partner that can provide you with the management tools you need to monitor and address these difficult conditions and their impact on your company.

3. Wellness Management

Healthy employees are the key to controlling healthcare premiums. Investing in their health can play a huge part in holding down premiums. Explore innovative, easy to understand wellness programs that encourage your staff to stay healthy by engaging with their providers.

4. Employee Demographics

Your company’s line of business and employee demographics are the basis for designing insurance plans. Whether you’re a car dealership, tech startup, non-profit or call center, you have specific demographics that drive the cost of your plan. Understanding how to leverage those demographics to create a tailored plan is the key to creating cost-effective plans that keep employees happy.

5. Technical Integration

Gone are the days of unused paper benefit booklets, claim forms, and enrollment applications. HRIS systems increase efficiency for both the HR department and employees. Find a partner with an intuitive system designed to easily integrate with most HRIS systems to make it easier for your HR department and employees to have access to their enrollment, payroll, and benefits information.

6. Plans Your Employees Will Enjoy

In this era of unprecedented low unemployment, losing key staff members is a significant hardship on the entire company. Valuable benefits that are easy to access, meet their own and family needs, and have affordable premiums are key to keeping staff members productive and around for the long term. With options for Telemedicine, EAP, HRIS system access, keep your talented staff around for the long term.

Benefits should be designed to fit your unique needs, at a price you can afford, and that employees will like and use. Here is a case study from our friends at Evolution Healthcare that will walk you through the advantages of a customizable, self-funding insurance plan.

If you want to find out more about how to create a unique plan that fits your budget, satisfies your team members, and lets you keep more of your profits contact Sapoznik today!

Why Wellness? A Story by Mary Kreischer

“Why Wellness?” The definition today of wellness is the process of becoming aware and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. It’s more than being free from illness; it is a process of change and growth. “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

My journey, or my awareness, started when I was 10.  I was around my older relatives and was exposed to all their health issues. Some were physical, and some were mental.  We had cancer, heart disease, depression, and alcoholism, to name a few.  My parents would talk to my sister and me to help us understand what was going on around our family. I was one of those kids that always asked, “why,” and observed everything.

Some of my older relatives worked in factories where the environment was not ideal, and many of them had heart and lung issues. Most of my family members were overweight, smoked and drank regularly. My one great uncle never married and was a male nurse who always cared for whoever in the family needed it. Once they were all gone, including my grandmother who died horribly of cancer, (his sister, whom he was the closest to), he lost his purpose in life, fell into a deep depression, started drinking and died shortly after.

My father smoked from the time he was a young teen, developed lung cancer, and died at the age of 57.  My mother, also a smoker, had emphysema and her heart finally gave out, but she made it to 75. My Father-in-law, also a smoker, died from hardening of the arteries from smoking and had a major heart attack at 71.  Two Brothers-in-law…gone at 57 and 51.

My husband and I always kept an eye on our children’s and personal health.  I stopped smoking at 19, my husband never smoked.  We were mindful of our weight, and we would diet and exercise when necessary. I would research and learn all I could and nurture health not destroy it. I even studied nursing to learn more.

After years of seeing so many factors play parts in an individual’s well-being, whether it be environmental, physical or mental, I learned that the human body has an enormous capacity to heal itself if given the right atmosphere and tools.  I became an advocate and wanted to support others to do the same.  I want to help people come to the same awareness that I did.  Today, with my clients, if I can reach just one person at a time and help them to change and encourage their awareness, then I have done something good in this life.” – Mary Kreischer, CCWS, Sapoznik Insurance

Are You Protected?

Imagine This

Imagine you had a machine in your living room that generated $100,000 per year. Would you spend 3% of that $100,000 to ensure that machine keeps working?

Imagine you had a Triple Crown racehorse that generated over a $1,000,000 a year in winnings.  How far would you go to protect your winning racehorse? Would you insure the horse?

Having traditional medical insurance is essential. However, it doesn’t cover every expense related to an injury or illness, and bills can quickly pile up.

Why do you need disability insurance?

For working-age individuals, a disability refers to a medical condition that reduces your ability to perform your office duties, and the risk is higher than most employees realize. Nearly one-third of employees will miss more than one month of pay due to injury or illness, and unfortunately, over one-quarter of Americans entering the workforce today will become disabled before they retire.

Disability insurance is designed to protect you in the event of an unexpected illness, accident, or death. You may be skeptical about needing disability insurance, especially since 70 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. Ask yourself if you could afford to be disabled and without a paycheck for weeks or months, in addition to having to pay medical bills.

According to a recent survey from Bankrate, 57 percent of Americans don’t have enough cash to cover a $500 unexpected expense, nearly 23 percent of Americans have less than $100 saved for a car repair, and 25 percent of Americans have less than $100 in savings for medical expenses. If not prepared, an unforeseen medical expense can bankrupt you.

With disability insurance, you have coverage that provides you with income protection should you lose time on the job due to an injury or illness, which means you will receive a partial replacement of lost income. Some causes of disability are mental disorders, spine and joint disorders, arthritis, back pain, cancer, diabetes, heart attack, etc.  Unfortunately, the risk of disability is greater than most employees realize.

Less than 10 percent of disabling injuries and illnesses are work-related; the other 90 percent are not, so workers’ compensation does not cover them.

Are you protected?

Health insurance provided by your employer guarantees that the doctors, the hospital, and the nurses, get paid. Who assures that you get paid? Paying a small premium now can help protect you financially later. Disability insurance can offer you peace of mind with short- and long-term disability coverage options.

Studies show that working-age adults are more likely to suffer from lengthy disabilities in any given year than they are to die. Unless it is offered through their employer, most adults have little, if any, disability insurance coverage, and when you become disabled and lose time at work, your source of income is eliminated. In addition to lost income, you are most likely experiencing an increase in medical expenses to deal with your disabling injury or illness.

The possibility of becoming disabled is very real for working Americans, and so are the financial consequences and costs associated with it. For more information about protecting yourself and your family against an unexpected disability, contact Sapoznik Insurance, your current insurance broker or human resources department today.

Lowell Richard, a New York native, almost made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as his mother went into labor while attending. Residing in Florida since 1975 and a graduate of the University of South Florida, he has spent the last 31 years providing quality health, life, and disability insurance products to both his group and individual clients.  Lowell is particularly passionate about disability insurance due to unfortunate accidents and debilitating sicknesses that have affected his immediate family.  Lowell joined Sapoznik Insurance in January of this year and is eager to be working with such an established and diverse organization.

This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. 

Top Reasons for Workplace Discrimination Claims

Last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) settled more than 99,109 workplace discrimination claims—securing more than $398 million from employers in the private and public sectors. Discrimination lawsuits can be time-consuming and expensive for employers and result in a loss of employee morale or reputation within the community.

Top 10 Causes of Discrimination Claims:

Per the EEOC, below are the top 10 reasons for workplace discrimination claims in the fiscal year of 2017:

  1. Retaliation—41,097 (48.8 percent of all charges filed)
  2. Race—28,528 (33.9 percent)
  3. Disability—26,838 (31.9 percent)
  4. Sex—25,605 (30.4 percent)
  5. Age—18,376 (21.8 percent)
  6. National origin—8,299 (9.8 percent)
  7. Religion—3,436 (4.1 percent)
  8. Color—3,240 (3.8 percent)
  9. Equal Pay Act—996 (1.2 percent)
  10. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act—206 (0.2 percent)

The percentages add up to more than 100 percent because several lawsuits were filed alleging multiple reasons for discrimination.

What Should Employers Do?

Employers should take the following six steps to protect themselves from discrimination claims:

  1. Audit their practices to uncover any problematic situations
  2. Create a clear anti-retaliation policy that includes specific examples of what management can and cannot do when disciplining or terminating employees
  3. Provide training to management and employees on anti-retaliation and other discrimination policies
  4. Implement a user-friendly internal complaint procedure for employees
  5. Uphold a standard of workplace civility, which can reduce retaliatory behaviors

For more information on discrimination claims and for tips on how to protect your business, contact Sapoznik Insurance today.

This is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. 

Tips for Selecting a Mental Health Professional

For many Americans seeking help from mental health professionals, selecting a provider is an important decision that should be made carefully. Credentials, competence and your comfort level with the provider are worth considering.

There are different types of professionals out there to help. The following are the most common for mental health care:

Psychiatrists

Have medical degrees, can prescribe medication and have completed three years of residency training (beyond medical school) in mental health care.

Psychologists

Have a doctorate in psychology and, generally, complete one or two years of internship before licensure.

Professional Counselors

Have a minimum of a master’s degree in a mental health discipline, and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience.

Marriage and Family Therapists

Typically have a master’s degree or doctorate in marriage and family therapy, and at least one year of supervised practice.

Social Workers

Have a minimum of a master’s degree in social work and at least two years of post-graduate supervised experience.

Who’s the Best Fit?

Finding the right mental health professional requires a bit of work. If you are depressed or have another serious mental illness, it can be challenging to do that work on your own. If you are in this situation, ask family, friends or your primary physician for assistance. Here are some reliable ways to locate a provider:

  • Through referrals by physician, friends or family members
  • Ask your health insurance company for a list of providers
  • Check your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work for a referral

Also take into account factors that are important to you like age, race, gender, religion and cultural background. It is not wrong to rule out certain providers because they don’t meet the criteria; you will be establishing a long-term relationship with this person, and you need to feel as comfortable with him or her as possible.

9 Essential Questions to Ask

  1. What types of treatment do you provide?
  2. What is your training or experience with my problem area?
  3. How will we determine treatment goals?
  4. How will we measure my progress?
  5. What do you expect from me?
  6. What are your office hours?
  7. How do you handle emergencies?
  8. Do you charge for missed appointments?
  9. Are you in my health plan’s provider network?