New Trends in Law Firm Billing

Alex Gertsburg of the Gertsburg Law Firm explains innovative new billing strategies law firms and their clients are using.


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    Next up: NSBA study: Health Care Costs Continue to Hit Small Businesses
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  • NSBA study: Health Care Costs Continue to Hit Small Businesses

    As we near year-end, there is a lot being written about health insurance, the experience of small business owners and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on rates and access to health insurance.  “As I talk to my colleagues that work with small businesses across the country, increasing costs and increasing regulatory burdens are a theme among small business owners,” said Steve Millard, President and Executive Director of COSE.

    As we near year-end, there is a lot being written about health insurance, the experience of small business owners and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on rates and access to health insurance.  “As I talk to my colleagues that work with small businesses across the country, increasing costs and increasing regulatory burdens are a theme among small business owners,” said Steve Millard, President and Executive Director of COSE.

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    COSE works closely with the National Small Business Association (NSBA) on federal advocacy for small business.  NSBA recently released the results from their 2015 national health care survey of small businesses that indicates that owners are continuing to struggle with health care costs.

    “The national picture isn’t pretty, but the good news is that we are doing a little better here in Northeast Ohio than in other parts of the country. Prior to ACA, Ohio already had a pretty active and competitive marketplace for insurance benefits already in place,” said Millard. “And, with COSE and Medical Mutual allowing grandfathered and grandmothered plans, we’ve seen a high percentage of members staying in the plans they had just prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. That’s been a benefit to them overall.”

    Nationally, the survey indicated 90% of the more than 800 small businesses surveyed saw health care costs go up this year and one in five of them saw that cost increase by more than 20%.  Additionally, cost was reported to be the biggest driver of whether a small business can even offer health insurance at all.

    “Beyond the health insurance premiums, 55% of employers report additional health care related spending on average of $628 per month, per employee,” according to the report.

    The report added the majority of firms offer a PPO insurance plan as well as dental benefits. Most small firms said they pay for more than half the cost of these benefits offerings. Further, just 9% of these firms said they plan to buy health insurance through the Small Employer Health Options Program (SHOP exchange) or an individual exchange, down from 14% from last year.

    ACA impact

    Dealing with fallout from the Affordable Care Act has also proved to be a challenge for small businesses. Sixty-eight percent of those owners responding indicate that they are the person with primary responsibility inside their business for taking care of the health benefit offerings.  Unfortunately, that means they are spending a lot of time on the complexities of this issue. The report found the average time it takes per month for small businesses to keep up with ACA changes is 13 hours per month, which works out to about four weeks per year. More than half (51%) of respondents said they have limited or no understanding of how ACA is impacting their business.

    Also, one in four small companies said they are purposefully not expanding because of potential ACA ramifications. The businesses responding to the survey said it costs them on average $1,116.05 per month to comply with ACA.

    Other takeaways

    Other takeaways from the report include:

    • While 69% of respondents to the survey continue to believe that offering health insurance benefits is important in recruiting and retaining quality employees for their business, just 41% of businesses with five or fewer employees surveyed offer health benefits, down from 46% a year ago.
    • The total number of small businesses of all sizes surveyed that are offering health insurance dropped to 65% from 70% a year ago.
    • One in 10 small businesses reported having to lay off an employee because of rising health care costs.
    • Only 4% of small businesses said ACA is a factor in making health insurance easier or cheaper to provide to employees.
    • Of those that do not offer insurance, almost 40% plan to do so in the next year citing the need to attract quality employees with quality benefits and compensation as a key factor in wanting to provide benefits to their employees.

    This study was a national look based on a survey done by NSBA, a membership organization of small business owners. The environment in every state varies a bit as it relates to what kinds of coverages were available prior to ACA and what exists now. Nonetheless, the trend is that while the ACA has increased access to insurance, it has also increased costs and compliance concerns for small businesses. And, many small business owners have re-evaluated what they are providing employees.

    COSE continues to look for new ways to help small business owners gain better access and compete with employee benefits. Millard recently provided an overview on what small businesses should be thinking about as it relates to 2016 health care costs. You can watch that video here.

    The full NSBA 2015 Health Care Survey results can be found here.

    Questions about your 2016 health care outlook? Contact your broker or the COSE benefits team at 440-878-5930.

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    Next up: Ask the Expert: Offering Workplace Banking as an Employee Benefit
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  • Ask the Expert: Offering Workplace Banking as an Employee Benefit

    Economic recovery can be a mixed blessing for small business owners. Certainly, business owners welcome and benefit from increased demand for services. At the same time, economic recovery can also create additional stress for businesses. More business can mean increased demand for qualified employees, particularly those with experience in high-demand segments. Therefore, employee recruitment and retention remains a top of mind issue for most business owners. 

    Matthew Wyner, Senior Vice President, Retail Banking, East Ohio Region, KeyBank, shared his advice about offering workplace banking as an employee benefit:

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    Economic recovery can be a mixed blessing for small business owners. Certainly, business owners welcome and benefit from increased demand for services. At the same time, economic recovery can also create additional stress for businesses. More business can mean increased demand for qualified employees, particularly those with experience in high-demand segments. Therefore, employee recruitment and retention remains a top of mind issue for most business owners. 

    Owners have numerous options to incent and reward their employees. They can boost wages, provide or improve health insurance benefits, or establish retirement benefits, such as matching a percentage of employees’ 401Ks. These tactics are all valuable, but are also expensive. 

    However, there are other ways for small business owners to offer valued employees additional benefits. Workplace banking programs are one example of a benefit employees appreciate that owners can offer without any cost to them. 

    A recent MetLife survey showed 45 percent of employers surveyed said it is important to them to provide financial education to employees so employees can become financially secure. The study shows that employees who are more financially stressed than their peers believe they are less productive at work.

    Workplace banking programs benefit employees in several ways. Banks offer financial education to business clients’ employees, assisting them with everything from managing cash flow and improving credit scores to retirement planning. In addition, many workplace banking programs offer reduced pricing on banking services. This may include checking accounts and reduced rates on loans, including mortgages. 

    Many workplace banking programs are able to complete account applications at the work site so employees don’t have to remember to enroll online from home or make a special trip to a bank branch. Typically, a small business owner can expect a workplace banking program to offer access to a licensed investment manager as well as financial education information.

    Investing in employees by offering them workplace banking can pay off big for many business owners. A more financially secure and confident employee is often a more loyal and productive employee. 

    This article originally appeared in the June 8, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation may make up to $1 billion in rebates available
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  • The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation may make up to $1 billion in rebates available

    Here’s what you need to do to get your slice of the up to $1 billion in rebates proposed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

    The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is proposing to once again rebate Ohio employers as much as $1 billion dollars this summer. If approved, Ohio businesses that paid workers’ compensation premiums during the 2015 policy year (July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016) would receive as much 66% of their paid premiums back this July. The Ohio BWC cites an improved safety climate and better than expected investment performance as the reasons for this proposed rebate.

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    RELATED: View BWC’s announcement

    To be eligible for the rebate, employers should ensure their policies are active and in good standing with BWC. Lapses in coverage or outstanding balances might affect rebate eligibility. Employers in COSE’s Group Rating and Group Retrospective Rating Plans would still be eligible for rebates.

    This would be the third time since 2013 the Ohio BWC has offered significant rebates to its policyholders. The proposal is expected to be approved and details finalized at the April 28th BWC Board of Directors meeting. Stayed tuned to COSE’S Workers’ Compensation site for more updates on this proposal or feel free to speak with a COSE workers’ compensation professional at (216) 592-2256 with any questions.

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    Next up: Reporting for Reform - How to Comply with Upcoming IRS Reporting Requirements
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  • Reporting for Reform - How to Comply with Upcoming IRS Reporting Requirements

    As part of healthcare reform, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) added sections 6055 and 6056 to the Internal Revenue Code. Starting in 2016, the IRS requires insurance companies to collect any missing Social Security numbers for members and dependents covered by fully insured health plans. “Typically, insurance carriers have only needed employees’ Social Security numbers, not those of spouses or dependent children,” says Patricia Decensi, General Counsel at Medical Mutual. “However, the IRS will soon require that information to verify that everyone in the United States is covered.” The information will be used to enforce the part of healthcare reform that says everyone in the United States has to have health insurance—or qualify for an exemption. In addition, it will allow the IRS to verify whether certain employers offer “minimum essential coverage” for their employees. The requirements are based on two key factors. 

    As part of healthcare reform, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) added sections 6055 and 6056 to the Internal Revenue Code. Starting in 2016, the IRS requires insurance companies to collect any missing Social Security numbers for members and dependents covered by fully insured health plans.

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    “Typically, insurance carriers have only needed employees’ Social Security numbers, not those of spouses or dependent children,” says Patricia Decensi, General Counsel at Medical Mutual. “However, the IRS will soon require that information to verify that everyone in the United States is covered.”

    The information will be used to enforce the part of healthcare reform that says everyone in the United States has to have health insurance—or qualify for an exemption. In addition, it will allow the IRS to verify whether certain employers offer “minimum essential coverage” for their employees.

    The requirements are based on two key factors.

    First is the funding structure of the health plan. Some employers are self-funded and pay their own claims, while others are fully insured through their carrier. The funding structure determines whether employers have to do their own reporting under Section 6055, the individual mandate.

    Second is the number of full-time employees. Section 6056, the employer pay or play rule, only applies to employers with 50 or more full-time employees. That includes full-time equivalents. Those employers will have to report to the IRS in early 2016 to prove they offer health coverage that complies with healthcare reform. And that applies even if they were exempt this year.

    “Fully insured employers can rely on their insurance carrier to report for them for 6055, and they will only need to report for 6056 if they are subject to pay or play,” Decensi says. “Self-funded employers, on the other hand, are responsible for all reporting to the IRS, regardless of pay or play.”

    All fully insured employers should work with their carrier to understand their responsibilities, according to Decensi. Insurance companies are obligated by law to reach out directly to employees if the required information is still missing. Plus, those employees or dependents could end up seeing money come out of their next year’s tax return if their coverage isn’t verified.

    Medical Mutual is planning to reach out to its fully insured customers, including those enrolled in COSE plans, to let them know who is missing Social Security numbers. Self-funded customers are encouraged to consult with their tax advisor or legal counsel.

    “Our goal is to comply with the new rules while keeping the impact on our members to a minimum,” says Decensi.

    COSE members with questions about the new requirements should contact their broker or call the COSE Benefits Group at (440) 878-5930. They should also watch for webinars from Medical Mutual later this fall about the actual forms and steps to take for reporting. 

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    Next up: Safety Council Recap: 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business
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  • Safety Council Recap: 5 Questions to Ask About Your Business

    Security prevention and response is more important than ever. Here are five security-related questions attendees of the July 12 COSE Safety Council were asked to consider.

    Corporations today have a greater need to be more cognizant and proactive about physical security prevention and response for their businesses. This is more important today than ever in the history of America. The COSE Safety Council provided a unique presentation to address these issues at their July 12 Safety Council meeting.

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    Here’s an overview of what was discussed.

     

    Tim Dimoff and SACS Consulting delivered the first segment by explaining the current security threats that now play into the many different businesses in America. After Dimoff’s presentation, five security-related companies explained cutting-edge counter solutions to the growing security exposures.

     

    These experts discussed the following five points: 

    1. Has your company recently conducted a complete security assessment? 

    2.Have you determined what are the most likely security risks that you face? 

    3. Do you have a strong keying or card access system? What are the advantages to each? 

    4. What non-lethal defense mechanisms can you access?

    5. What are the top three cyber security threats and how can you prevent them?

    In conclusion, it makes sense for all businesses to proactively update their preventive defensives to today's security threats. 

     

    Learn more about COSE’s Workers’ Compensation program by clicking here

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