Friday, 03/10/23

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More than 80% of local governments have opted out of Colorado’s new paid family, medical leave
Many said they have similar or better programs in place for their workers. The deadline to opt out is March 31.
Tamara Chuang / The Colorado Sun / Mar 7, 2023 / / Read Article

So far, more than 1,250 local governments have opted out of the contentious Colorado program requiring employers to provide paid family and medical leave. That number stands to grow as the new March 31 deadline to opt out approaches.

That’s not too surprising to Tracy Marshall, division director of the new Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program, or FAMLI. It costs money to implement the voter-approved plan giving employees access to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child or serious family health issue. To build up the fund, employers and their employees each began paying 0.45% of a worker’s salary in January.

Workers can begin requesting leave in 2024. Local governments were one of the few employers allowed to opt out.

Years in the making, but not without massive hurdles, FAMLI essentially provides income for workers who use the unpaid federal program, the Family and Medical Leave Act. Colorado’s program will pay a portion of a worker’s regular wage, to a maximum benefit of $1,100 per week. The lowest earners could receive up to 90% of their usual paycheck so they don’t have to choose between their job or taking care of themselves or their families. A worker making $3,000 a week would get 37% of their pay, or the $1,100 max. Employers won’t need to pay workers on leave but must let them return to their jobs.

The federal government is exempt from the law, but Colorado is all in, having already put $57 million in to get the fund started.

FACT SHEET: The President’s Budget: Extending Medicare Solvency by 25 Years or More, Strengthening Medicare, and Lowering Health Care Costs
The White House / 03/07/2023 / / Read Article

The President’s FY 2024 Budget will lay out President Biden’s plan to invest in America, lower costs for families, protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and reduce the deficit.

Millions of Americans have been working their whole lives, paying into Medicare with every working day, and want to know that they can count on Medicare to be there for them when they turn 65. The President’s Budget extends the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by at least 25 years. It achieves these gains with no benefit cuts—indeed, while lowering costs for Medicare beneficiaries.

Extending Medicare Solvency

The proposals in the President’s Budget would extend the solvency of Medicare’s Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund by at least 25 years, the Medicare Office of the Chief Actuary estimates. While the most recent Medicare Trustees Report projected that the HI Trust Fund would be insolvent in 2028, the President’s Budget would extend solvency at least into the 2050s.

The Budget extends the life of Medicare by:

Modestly increasing the Medicare tax rate on income above $400,000.
Lower out-of-pocket costs for drugs subject to negotiation.
Crediting savings from prescription drug reforms to the HI Trust Fund.

Lowering Costs for Beneficiaries

Lower out-of-pocket costs for drugs subject to negotiation.
$2 cost-sharing for generic drugs for chronic conditions.
Lowering behavioral health care costs in Medicare.

Biden says his budget plan would extend Medicare to 2050 without adding to the deficit
March 7, 2023 / DEEPA SHIVARAM / npr / / Read Article

President Biden is proposing a tax increase for people who make more than $400,000 to extend the life of Medicare for another 25 years, highlighting a major element of his budget proposal which the White House will release in full on Thursday.

This year, the president's budget — a policy document that usually is largely ignored by Congress, which holds the power of the purse — comes ahead of a deadline to raise the U.S. debt ceiling.

House Republicans have said they won't raise the debt limit without substantive cuts to federal spending. Democrats, including Biden, have accused Republicans of wanting to see cuts to Medicare and Social Security, two massive sources of federal spending.

Biden published an op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday laying out his proposal to invest in Medicare's trust fund so that the program can remain solvent into the 2050s, a plan that would increase the Medicare tax rate to 5% from 3.8% on people who make more than $400,000 a year.

Helping Women Prioritize Life Insurance
LIMRA / 3/9/2023 / / Read Article

According to LIMRA’s Insurance Barometer Study, in 2022, less than half of American women (46%) had life insurance coverage, seven points below the ownership rate of men (53%). This marks the sixth consecutive year of declines in the rate of women’s life insurance ownership.

At the same time, LIMRA’s most recent Consumer Sentiment study finds women are more concerned than men about the impact of inflation on their quality of life (72% versus 60%). In addition, almost 4 in 10 American women (37%) feel a high level of stress about household finances, as opposed to just 26% of men. These financial concerns may prevent women from taking steps that would support their long-term financial security, including saving for retirement and purchasing the life insurance coverage they need.

LIMRA research reveals women who own life insurance are more likely than those who don’t have coverage to feel financially secure. Importantly, 4 in 10 women say their families would face financial hardship within six months should the primary wage earner die; nearly a quarter (24%) expect their family to struggle financially within one month.

women-financially-secure.JPG“Women face significant headwinds when it comes to financial security. They generally live longer, make less money and may spend a portion of their career outside of the workplace caring for loved ones,” says Alison Salka, senior vice president and director of research for LIMRA and LOMA. “Owning life insurance is one way women can feel more confident about their financial future.”

So why don’t women own life insurance? The major reasons women give for not having enough or any life insurance is that it’s too expensive (39%), they have other financial priorities (37%) and that they’re not sure what or how much insurance to buy (22%). The reality is that life insurance may not be as expensive as women think. LIMRA research shows 8 in 10 women overestimate the cost of life insurance.

Women and men cite similar reasons for having life insurance with the exception of owning it to cover burial and final expenses, which 65% of women cite as their major reason.

Since March marks Women's History Month, an observance and celebration of the vital roles women have played in American history; it’s the perfect time for the industry to make sure women are financially prepared now and in the future. Owning life insurance can help women feel financially secure today and help their loved ones in the future should the unexpected happen.

Too Many Employees Cash Out Their 401(k)s When Leaving a Job
John G. Lynch, Yanwen Wang, and Muxin Zhai/ Harvard Business Review / March 07, 2023 / / Read Article

According to Vanguard data from 2021, the median 401(k) account for a 55- to 64-year-old was $89,716. That won’t take a middle-class person very far, even with partner retirement savings, Social Security, and other sources of retirement income. These low balances arise despite an increased emphasis from employers, the financial services industry, and personal finance gurus on helping employees accumulate retirement savings through employer-sponsored retirement plans. Many firms now have generous match rates aimed to attract and retain the best employees and to assure financial security in retirement.

However, the focus on savings accumulation during employment misses a key fact: In the U.S., employees can cash out at any time they are working or when they leave a job. Among developed economies, only the U.S. allows firms to present this option to a departing employee. Employees also pay income tax, and for withdrawals before age 59.5, they’ll pay 10% in penalties.

Too often, departing employees cash out their 401(k)s when they change jobs, dissipating all that they saved while working. Few employers see this as a problem. But almost no decision an employee makes can so undercut retirement preparedness.

Texas Republicans and Democrats coalesce around proposals to expand paid parental leave
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán / The Texas Newsroom, KUT95 / March 7, 2023 / / Read Article

But a Senate bill making its way through the Texas Legislature would significantly change things for parents working for the state.

Senate Bill 222 would grant state employees who are parents of newborns and adoptive parents six weeks of paid leave.

Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, said he authored the bill because parents are often left in difficult positions financially when they have to use unpaid leave to take care of their children.

He said it would also help combat the worker’s shortage currently affecting state government.

“Paid parental leave would help the state attract, I believe, and retain talent,” Nichols told the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. “As one of the largest employers in the state, Texas should be a leader and supporting mothers and their babies, including allowing parents time off in the critical window following birth.”

Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Ban the Use of Health Information for Advertising
HIPAA Journal / Mar 7, 2023 / / Read Article

Three Democratic Senators have introduced a bill that seeks to improve personal health data privacy by preventing companies from disclosing personally identifiable health information for advertising purposes. The legislation was introduced after two recent enforcement actions by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against GoodRx and BetterHelp over disclosures of personal and health information to social media and big tech firms after informing consumers that their health information would be kept private and confidential, and an enforcement action against a data broker – Kochava – for selling geolocation data, which could potentially be used to identify women who visited reproductive healthcare facilities.

Insurtech startup Assured Allies raises $42.5 million Series B for aging and retirement platform
Assured Allies’ platform combines machine learning and predictive analytics to offer aging programs proven to reduce the risk of disability, and retirement products that aim to make long-term care insurance accessible and financially sustainable
Meir Orbach / CTECH / 03/07/23 / / Read Article

Insurtech company Assured Allies announced on Tuesday that it has closed a $42.5 million Series B funding round, bringing the total capital raised to $65 million. The round was co-led by FinTLV Ventures and existing investor Harel Insurance, and was joined by new and existing investors including Lumir Ventures, Hamilton Lane, New Era Capital Partners, MS&AD ventures, Core Innovation Capital, Poalim Equity, EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, Akilia Partners, and Samsung Next.

Assured Allies’ platform combines machine learning and predictive analytics to offer aging programs proven to reduce the risk of disability, and retirement products that aim to make long-term care insurance accessible and financially sustainable.

InsurTech startup i3systems teams up with Microsoft Azure for AI programme
March 7, 2023 / FINTECH GLOBAL / / Read Article

InsurTech startup i3systems has teamed up with Microsoft Azure as part of an AI programme to redefine health and life insurance claims.

i3systems joined forces with Microsoft Azure as part of the “AI Innovate” programe in collaboration with G7 CR Technologies’ STAB program for ISVs, to provide industry-leading accuracy in document and data intelligence for critical BFSI processes.

With its domain-specific AI models powered by Microsoft Azure Cognitive Vision, i3systems has set out to transform health and life insurance companies.

According to i3systems, the current issue in the insurance industry is underwriting losses of 2-20% compared to premiums collected, largely due to leakages in claim payments, inaccurate medical underwriting, and fraudulent claims.

With payment decisions based on manual judgment through scanning more than 20-100-page documents, there is a high risk of errors, inconsistency in judgment, and fraudulent claims getting approved.

Tuesday, 03/07/23 - - Can’t Give Employees Raises? Add Benefits

Wednesday, 03/08/23 - Benefits of employee retention credit for employers

Thursday, 03/09/23 - - POLICY BRIEFS / Flexible Benefits for a Flexible Workforce: Unleashing Portable Benefits Solutions for Independent Workers and the Gig Economy

Friday, 03/03/23 - - Businessolver Benefits Insights Data Reveals Impact of Personalization on Benefits Engagement
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