New Executive Order for Health Insurance Special Enrollment Period

On January 28, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open healthcare.gov for a three month special enrollment period (SEP).

Usually, the Open Enrollment Period for new health insurance or changes to a current plan is from November 15-December 15 of every year for the following year’s coverage. In the past, if you needed new coverage or changes made outside of that time frame, you would have to qualify by having a life event such as marriage, divorce, birth, adoption, loss of employer-provided coverage, etc.

This Period for 2021 is from February 15-May 15 to provide an additional opportunity for uninsured and underinsured Americans to enroll in coverage in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Coverage would be available as soon as the 1st of the following month. This applies to both subsidized plans (with premium assistance based on income qualifications) in the Marketplace and non-subsidized plans that are considered Off-Marketplace.

According to Florida Blue, here are a few tips if you are in the market for new health insurance or to make changes to what you currently have:

  • Starting February 15, consumers seeking to take advantage of this SEP can find out if they are eligible by visiting healthcare.gov or speak with an agent. The application process and plan selection can either be done online or through an agent as well.
  • Consumers who are eligible and enroll under this SEP will be able to select a plan with coverage that starts prospectively the first of the month after plan selection. Consumers will have 30 days after they submit their application to choose a plan.
  • Current enrollees will be able to change to any available plan in their area without restriction to the same level of coverage as their current plan. In order to use this SEP, current enrollees will need to go through their application and make any changes if needed to their current information and submit their application in order to receive an updated eligibility result that provides the SEP before continuing on to enrollment.
  • Consumers won’t need to provide any documentation of a qualifying event (e.g., loss of a job or birth of a child), which is typically required for SEP eligibility.

HHS has published a fact sheet here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2021/01/28/hhs-announces-marketplace-special-enrollment-period-for-covid-19-public-health-emergency.html providing additional details on implementing the healthcare.gov SEP as well as an CMS fact sheet here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/2021-special-enrollment-period-response-covid-19-emergency with more technical details.

When should a wind mitigation inspection be done on a home?

A wind mitigation inspection is completed by a licensed contractor. On a standard homeowners insurance policy, a home may qualify for a hurricane/wind premium discount. A wind mitigation inspection would be required for homes built prior to 2002, since that is when building codes changed.

Homes built in 2002 or after were required to meet roofing regulations by building code, and therefore automatically receive wind mitigation credits. This inspection typically costs between $85 and $150 and the premium discount applied by the insurance company will remain for the life of the home policy.

Wind resistive construction features that are considered when a property is being inspected for wind mitigation credits include:
• Secure roof shingles and roof coverings that meet the Florida Building Code requirements
• Roof decking secured with larger nails or screws closer together
• Hurricane clips/straps that secure the roof to the supporting walls
• Window protection (i.e. shutters, impact resistant glazing, etc.)
• Additional water resistant barriers to prevent leakage in the event that the top layer of roofing is damaged
• Roof geometry or shape of roof

This information may be helpful when questioning whether or not a wind mitigation inspections should be done:

2002 or newer: No wind mitigation needed, credits automatically apply
1990-2001: Very likely to receive credits, especially if roof has been replaced since 2002
1980-1989: Likely to receive credits, especially if roof has been replaced since 2002
1970-1979: Not likely to receive credits, but possible if roof has been replaced since 2002
Older than 1970: Unlikely to receive credits
Flat roof (any age): Unlikely to receive credits

Have you thought about what HR really looks like after COVID?

Although the COVID pandemic may not be quite over yet, there are several considerations all business owners and anyone in HR should be thinking about. In addition to new processes, this is also a great opportunity to revisit current procedures to ensure things are operating as they should. Here are a few steps you can take to cover your HR bases today and in the future of our new “normal”.

Be sure you have a plan in place for things such as:

o Remote work and technology
o Policies on employee termination, furlough vs layoff, pay cuts, time off
o Return to work (after injury or exposure) protocol
o Safety measures and screenings
o Office closure in the event it is mandated
o Handling an exposure within the workplace
o Mental health support
o Communication methods with both staff and clients

You should also have a structured plan for how you will stay current with resources like:

o Families First Coronavirus Response Act
o Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act
o Centers for Disease Control, local and state government guidelines

This is extremely important in an effort to remain compliant at all times. Something like COVID is a very fluid and ambiguous situation with requirements as little as a poster you’re instructed to have up at your business’s front entrance so you want to be sure you’re adhering to all instructions given.

2020 may have felt like a bit of an HR roller coaster… or even a nightmare. However, let’s look ahead to 2021 and beyond. There is no better chance to prove your care and consideration for your staff than the way you react to a crisis. Your employees are watching. Your efforts and actions when they need you most will leave a lasting impression and be an invaluable reason they remain loyal to you.

How to show appreciation to your staff when you can’t have a party

As 2020 comes to an end, we can probably all agree that it’s time to put a bow on this year and move forward. Finishing out strong with the holidays sounds great but given the pandemic situation and social restraints, those fun and festive holidays will look much different this go round.

While year-end holiday parties are fun and social gatherings, many business owners also see this as an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past year and show appreciation to the team that made it all possible. Often times, holiday parties turn into the time that employees are given a bonus, a raise, a gift, something in return for their hard work and commitment to their employer.

So if this year doesn’t allow for (or frowns upon) said type of party, what other ways can employees be shown how much they are valued, appreciated and celebrated? Here are a few ideas:

• Virtual get-togethers – we’ve all heard of “Zoom fatigue” and yes, it might be a real thing. However, a virtual holiday party doesn’t just have to be a bunch of small faces on the screen with awkward silence, a stuffy agenda, or difficulties trying to talk over each other. That doesn’t sound fun at all, right? But you can get creative with virtual get-togethers such as a cooking class, a wine tasting, trivia, games, ugly sweater contest, ornament crafting or a white elephant exchange by drawing of numbers.

• Gifts – everyone likes gifts. Even if they say they don’t. They do. Of course you can resort to a gift card that will please everyone but that also feels impersonal… so 2020, right? Although functional and practical, it’s kind of the easy way out. Think along the lines of ear buds given all the Zoom meetings lately, new running shoes for the guy that’s taken up more exercise during the quarantine, a weekend getaway for the person that’s put in the most hours to recharge, or a massage for the working but also stay-at-home-virtual-school-teacher mom.

• Culinary treats – A cake, a ham, a nice bottle of wine… these are all things that most anyone would enjoy but also be able to share and may even lighten the load of their grocery list for the holidays.

Regardless of what you decide, the gesture will be appreciated and it’s understood that this is best we can do at this point in time. Yes, we will miss the social aspect of the party and it won’t feel quite as festive but there’s still a lot to celebrate for the deck we were handed in 2020. For companies that are still surviving, and especially those fortunate enough to be thriving, there’s a lot to be thankful for. And we can look forward to one heck of a holiday party in 2021!

A little homework assignment before filling your next prescription

Health care is a hot topic of conversation lately in politics since the Affordable Care Act and now numerous methods of reform are being discussed. But also with regard to the economy since the cost of care seems astronomical lately. Many argue that one of the drivers behind a lot of that cost increase is prescription drugs.

According to data analyzed by 3 Axis Advisors (a health care research firm), retail prices for 460 prescription drugs are increasing by an average of 5.2% in 2020 – more than double the projected rate of inflation for the year. Many manufacturers are raising the prices on existing drugs as well, so it isn’t just new therapies being introduced.

While patients typically don’t have a say in the diagnosis or treatment plans they receive from medical professionals, they do have a choice (and a right) to look into where they get prescription medications from. You, as the patient, owe it to yourself to do a little bit of research and get your drugs at the lowest cost possible to you.

Here are a few ideas to explore so you can be sure you’re doing all that you can as an advocate for yourself:

• Sourcing for lower cost – A common misconception is that one drug will cost the same regardless of where you have the prescription filled… Publix, CVS, Walgreens, Winn Dixie, etc. There are tools such as GoodRx that allow you to search specific drug names and find the cost at different retailers in your area.

• Coupons – There are websites online, the manufacturer itself, and retailer coupons that can provide significant savings. Some pharmacists will check for coupons on your behalf but not always.

• Websites such as Drug Store Unlimited that get drugs from other countries can also save money.

• Patient assistance programs – Ask your doctor about programs available in your area that may offer advice and guidance, more so with Medicare but also for individual health plans.

Just a few minutes of your time before you fill your next prescription could be very beneficial to you.