Long term care and planning – thinking ahead to protect your future

With the average cost for a private room in a Massachusetts nursing facility at around $134,000 per year, long-term care expenses may catch many people by surprise, especially as the costs accumulate over time. Within five years, an individual will have paid over half a million dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for full-time nursing care. Even for those who opt to live at home and hire a health aide to administer their care, the median annual rate for Home Health Aide Services runs just under $60,000. Add to that the cost for homemaker services (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.) and/or adult day care and the costs are well over $100,000.

While many people rely on retirement savings to help cover their long-term care, proper planning and budgeting for the future becomes even more critical for spouses who need care together, or if one person ends up caring for the other. Spouses living together in a private room at a nursing facility can expect to pay about $300,000 each year – that’s just under $1.5 million over five years. Now is probably Read more…

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Green power usage climbs among major U.S. corporations

green_lightbulbWith over 600 U.S. companies now using green power resources to meet their electricity needs, companies today are becoming more aware about limiting their carbon footprint. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Green Power Partnership (GPP) released its latest report last month, listing a wide variety of U.S. organizations from across the country who meet 100 percent of their electricity needs from green power. The list includes both large public and private-sector organizations – from The World Bank Group (wind) and Intel Corporation (biogas, solar and wind) to the National Hockey League (wind), Pearson (geothermal) and the Empire State Building (wind). All together, these companies used a total of nearly 12 billion kilowatt-hours of green power last year– that’s enough energy to eliminate CO2 emissions from the electricity use of over 1 million average American homes each year. Qualification standards for companies participating in the GPP are set based on the percentage of electricity the organization uses from green power sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biogas. Each company’s qualifying percentage is set based on its total annual energy use. Since 2001, over 1,300 organizations have joined the GPP. Read more…

Wellness plan compliance: Test your knowledge

August 20, 2014 Leave a comment

wellness_quizWhether it’s a free gym membership or free healthy lunches, corporate wellness programs continue to expand as employers focus on reducing employees’ health risks by improving their lifestyle and behavior. An increasing amount of employers are opting for incentive-driven plans offering financial rewards or better health plan options to employees who participate in program activities, such as weight-loss challenges and healthy eating seminars. Rather than creating programs that are strictly educational, incentive-based wellness programs tend to help increase employee motivation to participate in activities and make changes to their behavior. According to Optum Inc.’s 2014 Wellness in the Workplace Survey, over 40% of various sized employers said they now offer financial incentives that are tied to measurable improvements in employees’ health outcomes, (i.e. weight loss, reduced cholesterol, quitting smoking). In addition, nearly 50% have incorporated non-participation penalties Read more…

Market Basket case: Potential coverage exclusions to consider

August 14, 2014 Leave a comment

The Demoulas/Market Basket saga has dominated the news here in New England over the past month. From a risk management perspective, the developments of the case should signal risk managers to review their Management Liability policies and insurance program, especially in the following areas:

Crisis Management coverage – Some insurers offer a sublimit of coverage to assist companies that must announce adverse news relating to business operations. Typically, insurers offer a select group of public relations firms to assist the insured with press releases and interviews. The expense sublimit can vary between $25,000 to $75,000 by Insurer. Read more…

Voluntary benefits provide safety net for employees with high deductibles health plans

August 11, 2014 Leave a comment

As more employers introduce high deductible plans to employees, many are also adding voluntary benefit products to help supplement  coverage gaps in the plans. From critical illness to accident and long-term care, voluntary benefits products can help mitigate the risk of high deductibles and co-insurance. These additional benefits cover a fixed amount in the event an employee is diagnosed with a serious illness or has an emergency accident or hospitalization. Despite their appeal, voluntary benefits have fallen by the wayside, since many employers are primarily focused on core benefits like medical, dental, vision and 401(k) plans. At the same time, they may be wary about overwhelming employees with additional information and plan choices.  Read more…

Personal Security: Making your life and your family more secure

August 5, 2014 Leave a comment

home-securityDespite taking obvious pre-cautions to avoid crimes like break-ins or theft, many people fail to recognize the level of exposure they face when it comes to these risks. The issue is especially concerning for high net-worth individuals and families of extreme wealth, who often have more accounts, larger credit lines and several people handling their personal information and assets.

Still, it’s easy for someone living an affluent lifestyle to feel overly confident about their safety and forget that they may be a prime target. Therefore, the best means of defense requires reducing those opportunities and lessening your attractiveness as a target.

Below is a list of relatively simple steps to take to improve your overall safety in two areas that are often overlooked: home security and cyber security: Read more…

Retirement plan sponsors: Pension Protection Act plan restatement process

Man's Hands Signing DocumentBeginning in April 2014, all ERISA-compliant Defined Contribution Plans (i.e. 401(k) and 403(b)) are required to be restated to include all legally mandated changes and amendments that have been enacted over the last 5-6 years. This restatement process must be completed by April 30, 2016. For the majority of Retirement Plan Service Providers, and Third party Administrators (TPAs), the process will be fairly simple; they will combine the Plan Provisions in the existing document with any changes that have occurred since 2009 to create a new document.

However, a Retirement Plan put in place several years ago may no longer be the best fit for the Plan Sponsor (Employer) or the Employees/Plan Participants. Is this the right time to consider some Plan design changes (e.g. add the Roth (after-tax) contribution feature; automatic enrollment / automatic escalation; Safe Harbor employer matching contributions; loans; changes in eligibility; changes in the vesting schedule, etc.)? Rather than accepting the original plan provisions, Plan Sponsors should use this Restatement process as an opportunity to complete a holistic review of their existing Plan.  Read more…

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