Thursday, 01/13/22
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Walt Podgurski, Editor


Washington State’s Celebrated Long Term Care Program Is Headed Towards Trouble
Elizabeth Bauer, Senior Contributor / Forbes / / Read Article

“The policy’s universal structure and funding is also significant. All working people will pay into the fund through a payroll tax and then be able to claim a benefit when they need it. The same structure has ‘stood the test of time’ with Social Security and Medicare, Ryan noted. Politically speaking, ‘it mattered a lot that it was set up as a social-insurance program,’ Caring Across Generations’ [Sarita] Gupta said.”

It sounded great — but too good to be true.

Now officials in Washington are recognizing there are problems with the plan.

In December, Gov. Jay Inslee announced a delay in the start of the payroll tax, so that the legislature could make changes when the new session convenes on January 10th, following a multitude of complaints about the program, in particular because workers who move out of state, or who were less than 10 years away from retirement, would be paying into the system without ever being able to benefit from it. The tax is now planned to begin in April, but if House Bill 1732 passes, the tax would be delayed until July 0f 2023. In addition, House Bill 1733 would allow people working in Washington but residing elsewhere, as well as temporary workers with nonimmigrant visas, and disabled veterans and spouses of active duty military members, to opt out. Neither of these bills, however, would deal with the issues posed by the eligibility requirements themselves.

But these eligibility requirements are in place for a reason, to reduce costs with lower numbers of recipients, and to build up reserves which are spent down as current workers ultimately retire. Here’s what the 2017 feasibility study itself reported:

How the Pandemic Transformed Our Approach to Employee EngagementThe drivers of engagement never changed--but everything else did.

Research shows that positive interactions are one of the most influential factors in helping employees feel a sense of belonging at work. In pre-pandemic days, proximity made organic interactions easier. Think about how natural it was to ask about someone's weekend, talk about a shared interest, or give a compliment in passing.

Today, being separated physically doesn't mean that has to disappear. It just means we have to be more intentional about making those interactions happen. The key is creating opportunities for employees to interact in a positive way that scales virtually. This is easier said than done. Sometimes, creating opportunities for engagement that are inclusive, decentralized, and feel organic can seem at odds with one another in a virtual setting.

So how can employers provide the tools employees need to feel engaged? It comes down to two things: recognition and feedback.

Headspace Health acquires AI-powered mental health and wellness company Sayana
Aisha Malik / TechCrunch / / Read Article

Headspace Health has acquired Sayana, an AI-powered mental health and wellness company, for an undisclosed amount. Headspace Health says the acquisition of the San Francisco-based company will expand its ability to provide personalized self-care to its users. The acquisition comes as Headspace and Ginger merged last year to form Headspace Health, which is valued at $3 billion. The merger brought Ginger’s therapy and coaching offerings together with Headspace’s mindfulness and meditation services.

Employees’ Improved Finances Mean More Demand for Financial Wellness Tools
Two-thirds of employees surveyed said having access to a financial wellness program would make them more likely to stay with an employer.
NOAH ZUSS / / Read Article

Plan sponsors have a golden opportunity to assist participants in making lasting retirement planning decisions to achieve optimal outcomes, according to the 2022 annual John Hancock “Retirement Stress, Finances, and Well-Being” report.

The report found that 89% of respondents say it is important for employers to provide financial wellness programs, and 66% said having access to financial wellness programs would make them more likely to stay with the employer.

Stealth Captive Solutions formed to provide self-funded health plans
Stop-loss general agency Stealth Partner Group has launched Stealth Captive Solutions to provide employers with flexible, self-funded health insurance plans.
Captive Insurance Times / / Read Article

The agency works with brokers, consultants and third-party administrators to implement and manage medical stop-loss and ancillary benefits with leading carriers, while Stealth Captive Solutions is designed for companies with between 50 and 500 employees seeking to transition from being fully-insured to a self-funded healthcare plan.

Formed in response to the continued rising cost of healthcare, the cooperative risk share solution enables employers across any industry to associate together in a captive or an alternative customised risk-sharing environment.

Employer groups can band together under one umbrella with Stealth Captive Solutions to capitalise on economies of scale, while retaining flexibility in their own medical and prescription plans, as well as health and wellbeing programmes.

Outlook for the 2022 Federal Health Legislative Landscape
Michael Adelberg, Megan Herber, Nicholas Manetto
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP / JD Supra, LLC / / Read Article

Congress’ inability as of yet to finalize its fiscal year (FY) 2022 spending bills means the federal government is currently operating on a continuing resolution through February 18. If Congress does not finalize the bills by that date, which could be a stretch, it would need to pass another temporary extension that would continue funding the government at FY 2021 levels. Many stakeholders are hoping that does not occur, particularly those in the health care space that stand to benefit from increases contained in bills developed last year by the House or Senate.

If Congress is unable to fully resolve FY 2022 by February or March, the prospect of passing a year-long continuing resolution that funds operations at FY 2021 levels becomes increasingly likely, particularly as lawmakers will have to focus on preparing bills for FY 2023, which starts on October 1, 2022.

‘The IRS is in crisis.’ Here’s what to know as taxpayer advocate warns of potential for refund delays in 2022
Carmen Reinicke / CNBC / / Read Article

The upcoming tax-filing season is shaping up to be a chaotic one.

The National Taxpayer Advocate on Wednesday released a report to Congress detailing processing issues at the IRS last year and also offering a warning for this year’s tax season, which will begin when the agency starts accepting 2021 returns on Jan. 24.

“I am deeply concerned about the upcoming filing season,” said Erin M. Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate. “Paper is the IRS’ Kryptonite, and the agency is still buried in it.”

In December, the agency had 6 million unprocessed individual tax returns and 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual tax returns, according to the report. It also had backlogs of 2 million unprocessed employee quarterly tax returns and roughly 5 million pieces of taxpayer mail, some from April.

Many taxpayers remained without refunds some nine months after filing.

The IRS is urging Americans to file their 2021 tax returns online and as soon as possible to avoid delays in processing and receiving refunds.

The long-term view on long-term care: Only if you want to know
Irving Stackpole / McKnight's Long Term Care News / / Read Article

The vast majority of the population in the United States does not understand long-term care, and they do not know where to start to find out. Many of them wind up chasing their tails and making difficult, expensive and often inappropriate decisions. There is no “front door” to long-term care, no well-promoted agency, or category of individuals to whom families can turn when the inevitable arrives.

There are two good reasons for this lack of an authoritative resource.

First, fragmentation in the payment system leads to unnecessary, conflicted and duplicative provider systems. Even many healthcare professionals do not understand the difference between home care and home healthcare.

Second, providers are highly competitive among themselves. Home healthcare does not play nicely with skilled nursing, which does not play nicely with hospice, and on and on it goes. The result is short-term gain for long-term consumer confusion.

Obamacare Enrollment Up 21% To Record 13.8 Million
By John Drucker  / / Read Article

A record 13.8 million Americans have signed up for individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act … [+] known as Obamacare for 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. In this photo, then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden delivers remarks about the Affordable Care Act and COVID-19 after attending a virtual coronavirus briefing with medical experts at The Queen theater on October 28, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A record 13.8 million Americans have purchased individual coverage under the Affordable Care Act known as Obamacare for this year with another five days for people to sign up.

The Biden administration Monday said more than 13.8 million Americans have signed up for 2022 healthcare coverage that began Jan. 1, 2022 via the federal marketplace and state-based marketplaces.

“This year’s Open Enrollment Period, which started on November 1, 2021, and ends on January 15, 2022, continues to outpace previous years’ enrollment, including a 21% increase in plan selections through December 15, 2021, compared to the last year’s Open Enrollment in the 33 states using the platform,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said. “This increased enrollment builds on the success of Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to make health care accessible, with 4.6 million new enrollees who gained health care coverage in 2021 through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplaces.”

Hilb Group Acquires Tennessee-based Churchill Agency
The Hilb Group, LLC / PRNewswire / / Read Article

The Hilb Group announced today that it has acquired the membership interest in The Churchill Agency, LLC from The Churchill Agency Ventures, LLC based in Brentwood, Tennessee. The transaction became effective December 1, 2021.

The company has completed more than 125 acquisitions and now has over 100 offices in 22 states.

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Acquires Risk Transfer Insurance Agency, LLC
Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. / PRNewswire / / Read Article

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. today announced the acquisition of Orlando, Florida-based Risk Transfer Insurance Agency, LLC. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded in 2000, Risk Transfer Insurance Agency is a full-service commercial property/casualty agency and program administrator offering customized insurance solutions and risk management services for professional employer organizations (PEOs) and temporary staffing firms across Florida and throughout the U.S.

PrestigePEO Acquires StaffLink Outsourcing, LLC
BUSINESS WIRE / / Read Article

PrestigePEO, one of the nation’s leading professional employer organizations (PEO), announced today its acquisition of StaffLink Outsourcing, LLC, a Sunrise, Fla.-based PEO serving small businesses and their employees nationwide, with an emphasis on those across the Eastern seaboard. In particular, StaffLink Outsourcing has acquired a significant client base throughout Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, Georgia, and California.

Hub International Limited / PRNewswire / / Read Article

HUB International Limited (Hub), a leading full-service global insurance brokerage and financial services firm, announced today that it has acquired Raffa Financial Services, Inc. (Raffa Financial Services). Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, Raffa Financial Services is an insurance and employee benefit brokerage and consulting firm serving the greater Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. area. Services include employee benefits, executive benefits, retirement plan advisory services, risk management and individual financial and insurance planning.

Baig & McNatt Appointed Presidents of Amwins Brokerage
Amwins / PRNewswire / / Read Article

Amwins, a global distributor of specialty insurance products and services, today announced the appointments of Sam Baig and Jeff McNatt as presidents of Amwins Brokerage, effective immediately. James Drinkwater, who has served as president of the Brokerage division since 2008 and was also named president of Amwins Group in 2018, will directly focus on his roles as president of Amwins and executive chair of Amwins Global Risks.


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Monday, 01/10/22 - Mental Health, Digital Solutions Top List of Employee Wellness Trends for 2022, According to Wellable Labs Report

Tuesday, 01/11/22 - 'Huge, huge numbers:' insurance group sees death rates up 40 percent over pre-pandemic levels

Wednesday, 01/12/22 - Biden Requires Insurance Companies To Cover Free At-Home Covid Tests Starting This Weekend

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Editorial Mission Statement: The goal of this publication is to provide readers a broad selection of what is being written about the insurance industry and related issues. Some articles may have a “tilt” towards a particular perspective one way or another. Inclusion in this newsletter is not an endorsement of any views or content; but report the various and differing views appearing in media.