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Insurance Associates Blog

5 HR Compliance Resolutions for 2017

As you may have heard, the Senate and the House have passed budget resolutions that instruct Congressional committees to begin working on legislation to repeal parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Additionally, President Trump has signed an executive order calling upon federal administrative agencies to minimize the economic burden of the ACA, pending repeal of the law.  While we do not have a crystal ball so we can’t predict what changes are coming, it is a new year and a good time to review your company’s compliance with current federal, state and local labor law requirements.   The following includes a few highlighted items that HR professionals should be reviewing and updating annually, but can get put aside...

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Let’s Bring In 2017 By Decreasing Workplace Falls/Injuries And Reinforce Some Ladder Safety Tips!

I know it may sound almost too fundamental, but think about it.  Many of your employees have been using and climbing ladders daily for years.  It’s simple, it’s routine.  I get it.  But workplace falls, including those from ladders, account for a huge portion of all on-the-job injuries.  If it really is so fundamental and so basic, then let’s make sure that you are not one of many contractors in 2017 that will have one of your employees fall off a ladder and incur a preventable work comp claim.

Incredibly the estimated annual cost of ladder injuries both on-the-job and off is $11 billion in the US alone.  About 300 people die each year from ladder injuries.  If you consider...

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Things to Consider When Purchasing Builders Risk Insurance

Builder’s Risk Insurance tends to be one of the most confusing policies to implement for most Contractors and Owners.  As is the case with insurance on construction projects, the first consideration should be to carefully review the terms of the Construction Contract/ Agreement to be certain that the policy/coverage/terms purchased are in compliance.

The Named Insured(s) should include the Contractor and the Project Owner and/or anyone else having a financial interest in the structure.  It is also important to decide which party will be listed as the First Named Insured since the First Named Insured has the rights and responsibilities associated with the policy.

Builders Risk can be written on two different types of policies.  The One-Shot / Single Structure...

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Proud to be a Top Workplace

Our agency is excited to announce that in June this past year we were named a Top Workplace in The Washington Post.  This is our second year in a row that we are pleased to have won this honor.  We were ranked 17th out of 70 small businesses in Washington DC metro region.  This title was bestowed upon our agency by a survey that was conducted by a third party company, Workplace Dynamics, which surveyed the level of workplace satisfaction among our employees.

We are proud that our employees hold our agency in such a high regard.  As an employee of the agency for almost five years, it is my personal opinion that this is due to the many benefits...

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CONTRACTORS: ARE YOU CONSIDERING BUYING A DRONE?

Drones are becoming more popular, especially with larger contractors.  They can be a great tool to give an overview of jobsites and showcase the progress of work.  They are also being misused in some cases so one must be cautious in their use.  Therefore, one must be aware of guidelines and restrictions and utilize common sense.

First, if you purchase a drone for your company, be aware that they are excluded for General Liability, under the Aircraft Exclusion.  You need to contact your agent to obtain liability coverage and possibly property coverage for the drone(s).  Second and most important, you must follow FAA Guidelines.  There are new regulations issued (14 C.F.R. Part 107) which take effect on August 29, 2016.  In summarizing guidelines, there...

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What Do You Mean My Theft Claim Is Not Covered??

Several months ago it was discovered that the president of a medium-large sized payroll company embezzled millions of dollars of clients’ payroll taxes that the owner stole instead of remitting them to the IRS or state & local tax authorities.

The worst part was that this loss was not covered by the clients’ crime/fidelity policies, since the payroll company nor its owner were employees of the clients.  Neither was there coverage under the payroll company’s crime policy, since standard policy wording excludes theft by the owner of the company; it will not reimburse the policyholder for committing a crime.

The IRS does not care that the client acted in good faith in turning their payroll taxes to the payroll company. ...

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Job-Site Security: Video Surveillance

If you own or operate a construction site, you know that theft is a major and costly concern. In fact, it’s estimated that more than $2 billion in construction equipment and copper electrical components like tubing or wiring is stolen each year. According to the National Equipment Register (NER), heavy equipment theft has been on the rise the past couple of years with 11,625 thefts being reported to law enforcement in 2014.

The cost of being the victim of construction theft runs deeper than just the value of the items stolen. You also have to factor in the delays in work, the cost to replace materials and supplies, renting or replacing equipment and tools along with the increased insurance premiums...

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Builders/Developers: Surety Bonds are your Best Option to Guarantee Improvements

Many political jurisdictions have statutes that require an owner or developer of real property to post financial security to guarantee the completion of designated improvements as a precondition to granting a construction permit or to allow the recordation of a final parcel map.

There are various ways to satisfy the financial security obligation, including:

  • Cash Deposits
  • Irrevocable Letters of Credit
  • Surety Bonds (Subdivision/Improvement Bonds)

The tool that should be seriously considered by all builders and developers is the use of surety bonds issued by licensed sureties, obtained through an experienced bond agent that specializes in subdivision/improvement bonds. Generally, all jurisdictions accept surety bonds (there may be some minor exceptions in a few isolated jurisdictions.)

The problem with cash is,...

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Landscape of Small Group Plans is Changing – What are Your Options?

As we progress further into 2016, we have observed significant changes to medical products offered by the carriers who insure small groups.  Complicating matters is the fact that, not only are products changing, but the previous products are no longer available.  This has put small businesses in a bind and has left them to juggle conflicting goals of keeping costs in line with their budget while still providing employees with what will be perceived as a strong benefits package.

With the advancement of the Affordable Care Act, carriers have been held to strict guidelines within which their products must adhere to.  Most recognizable are the metal levels (i.e., Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze) and actuarial values that each plan must...

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Cyber Liability For Contractors – Credit card information isn’t the only data at risk

Many contractors believe that they have little exposure to cyber-crime if they don’t take credit cards or store credit card data. Unfortunately, hackers have many ways to profit from your information once they’ve gained access to your computer system.

Why contractors need to be concerned

It’s not just large financial institutions or retailers that get hacked. In fact, Verizon’s “Data Breach Investigation Report” states that 85% of targets are small businesses. There are a number of reasons hackers may want to gain access to your systems, including:

  • Access to Personal Information. While contractors may not have as much personally identifiable information (PII) as a retailer or financial institution, construction firms still have employee information that could include social security...
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IA Wellness Initiative

wellness

The idea that physical activity is important to health is not new. Ancient physicians and scholars believed it and Hippocrates wrote about it.  Regular physical activity comes with a wide range of benefits: weight loss, stronger muscles, healthy bones, and increased mood.  There is also a reduced risk of many diseases such as coronary heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and colon and breast cancer [1].  But did you know that physical activity can also improve your productivity?  Regular physical activity has been shown to make you happier, smarter, and more energetic which are all important characteristics to have in the workplace...

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Insurance Associates is excited to partner with United Benefit Advisors

uba

We are proud to be joining United Benefit Advisors (UBA) and the nearly 140 benefit consulting firms throughout the United States. Insurance Associates, Inc. is uniquely prepared to share our wisdom with employers who want the assurance that they are making informed choices that improve the lives of their employees and families. Our UBA affiliation also supplies us with a number of proprietary solutions that include the nation’s largest health plan benchmarking survey, compliance and HR-focused solutions to employers. This gives our firm knowledge of the best solutions, as well as real insight into the latest HR and benefit trends. Finding the right tool can go a long way in improving...

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What Your Company Needs From its Human Resources Leader

Depending on the size of your organization and the expertise on your team, you may have a variety of responsibilities that fall on your plate each day. Several years ago, the primary role of the HR leader was to act as a “personnel” manager by making sure employees were familiar with company policies and making sure those policies were being followed.

Of course we all know that the role of the HR leader has broadened over the years to include responsibilities such as payroll processing, benefit administration, and recruiting. However, more recently, the role of an HR leader has grown to be included in more C-Suite conversations. CEO’s are leaning more and more on their HR leaders to provide them...

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Max OSHA Penalties to Increase 78% in 2016!

By Bill Evans, AIC

Director of Claims at Insurance Associates

In case you have run out of Tool Box Talks or ways to stress the financial impact of safety to your employees, Uncle Sam has given you a big new incentive starting in 2016.

The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 required federal agencies to raise their civil fines to keep pace with inflation.  However, for the past 25 years, OSHA was one of a very few agencies who were exempt from this requirement… until now.

Section 701 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which President Obama signed into law last month, eliminated that exemption.  http://docs.house.gov/meetings/RU/RU00/CPRT-114-RU00-D001.pdf

Now, OSHA will be allowed to suddenly “catch up” on...

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Understanding Your Mod

As a business owner or financial manager, it is important to identify and understand every cost associated with doing business. Worker’s Compensation insurance cost can be several thousand dollars per employee.  Through a better understanding of the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) experience modification formula and the data that goes into the mod, you can better control your mod, reduce cost, and gain insight into your company’s operations.

The first step to achieving a lower mod is to understand how it is calculated and what is necessary to lower the mod. Loss frequency or severity over time may indicate problems in your operation that have not been identified.  Also, your experience mod worksheet may be the easiest way to...

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Contractual Risk Transfer

 

Contractual Risk Transfer — Friend or Foe?  The legal answer:  It depends.  It is usually the friend of the stronger party in a contract, who is frequently in a position to dictate terms that are often heavy handed—as far as the law will allow, and sometimes more than that.

But sometimes the onerous terms in a contract can be struck or mitigated.  My personal success rate in getting undesirable terms removed or softened is about 50%. But you have to ask, and it sometimes depends on one’s approach.

Most of the time we get to review a client contract before it gets signed.  Reviewing after it’s signed is somewhat “academic,” since it’s not likely that any burdensome language will...

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Insurance Producers: Choose the Right Employer

Producers who are committed to a career in insurance sales should be very careful about where they build their book of business.  Non-compete/ non-solicitation agreements make it very difficult for you to leave and join a new company.  If you leave, you have to start over because you cannot take the customers you worked so hard to win for, typically, two years.  In addition,  after two years, most Producers find it very hard to move the accounts because the old relationships may have dwindled and the former customer may be “fine” with their current broker relationship.

My advice:  Chose a firm that has integrity, a strong reputation, resources, support, and a compensation plan that will work for you 10 years from now and beyond.

...
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Are you vulnerable to Social Engineering Fraud?

I don’t know, right?  What is it?

Social Engineering Fraud occurs when an employee is intentionally misled into sending money or diverting a payment when deceptively induced to do so.  It is a fraud scheme by someone posing as a trusted vendor, employee, new client or supplier.

According to the Symantec 2014 Security Threat Report, targeted attacks on business have risen 91% over the last year!  The Front Line Report by Hillard Heintze reports that there are over 100,000 social engineering attacks launched each day.

Loss prevention is a vital part of risk avoidance and employee training, partner background screening and financial checks and balances and other similar measures can serve to be effective.  As we know, even the best...

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Do I Need Insurance for a Child Going Away to College?

Our Personal Insurance expert, Kristy, has been getting calls all month on insurance coverage questions from concerned parents who are sending their kids off to college in the next week or so. Their questions pertain mainly to the amount of coverage available under their policy for their children that are going to be living in a dorm. The answer is this: Most personal possessions are covered under the parents’ homeowners or renters’ insurance policies; however, some home insurance policies may limit the amount of insurance for off-premises belongings to 10 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal possessions. This means that if the parents have $70,000 worth of insurance for their belongings, only $7,000 would be applicable to...

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Are you prepared for a DOL audit?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has broad authority to investigate or audit an employee benefit plan’s compliance with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  Audits are performed by the DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA).  To perform these audits, EBSA employs over 400 investigators.

Unlike the IRS, the DOL doesn’t conduct random audits, so when an employer receives a notice from EBSA that its plan has been selected for audit, the DOL is looking for something specific. It may be acting on complaints from plan participants, a government referral, a referral from a service provider, or items “red flagged” by its computer programs.  According to a DOL audit report for the 2014 fiscal year, approximately 5 out...

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Value Proposition

I am currently enrolled in a six month program called “Reach Your Peak”, structured to help develop your overall ability to promote yourself and your product. The first step in the program is to develop a value proposition.  A value proposition summarizes the reasons why a potential customer should buy your product.  In developing a value proposition, I have found that the proposition needs to address the benefits to the client of how we create value and how we differentiate ourselves from others which is difficult in an industry with a product perceived as a commodity.  A value proposition should be clear, concise and compelling.  What are the services that are intrinsic to IA’s value proposition?

The Appeal of Voluntary Employee Benefits

By:  Carolyn Robbins, HIA

According to a recent study by the world’s leading insurance and financial services trade association, LIMRA, “7 in 10 employers offer voluntary benefits to improve morale for their existing employees and to attract and retain new talent”.  The study included 1,321 employee benefit decision makers for firms with 10 or more employees.

Employers are being faced with escalating premiums on their traditional health insurance plans.   In many cases, employers have had to reduce those benefits. Now they must look for other ways to enhance their overall benefit package to retain their employees and to help them attract new employees.   Voluntary benefits allow them to do so without increasing employer costs.

In addition to enabling employers to...

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“Off-the-shelf” insurance is not appropriate for Complex Situations

A new client was introduced to us by a friendly competitor who needed help with a Builders Risk placement. He knew we were experts in construction and trusted us to do the right thing. When presented with the facts, we knew the placement would be out of the ordinary and a challenge.

The client was a well-recognized non-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education on issues of government, politics, economics and social welfare. The project was the renovation of a historic building located near DuPont Circle built in 1917. The project included adding a second basement level below the first and adding a Penthouse level. A large first floor auditorium was added and the entire structure was to be completely...

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Is a Group Captive Insurance Program right for your business?

Ed Kushlis, CPA, CPCU
Senior Vice President
Insurance Associates, Inc.
April, 2015

A Group captive insurance program can be an attractive alternative to traditional casualty insurance (Auto, Workers’ Compensation, General Liability).   Securing your insurance through a group captive provides an enhanced level of control and financial independence.

A group captive is an insurance company structured to provide insurance for its member owners and it is controlled by the members.  You and several other members own the company that provides your commercial property & casualty insurance.  Therefore, you have a much greater degree of influence and control and you, not an insurance company, benefit when the captive is profitable.

Your administrative burden is minimal because the program is...

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Daylight Savings Time, Bad News For Your Experience Mod?

By William (BJ) Westner Jr., CPCU, CLU, RHU, FLMI
Claims Consultant, Insurance Associates

In just one month, Daylight Savings Time will be upon us again.  While this usually brings a certain level of happiness to most because there are more hours of sunlight after work, it also brings an increase in workplace injuries.  All contractors could benefit by preparing ahead of time for this change and making necessary changes that can reduce the increased risk of injuries in the period of time immediately following Daylight Savings Time.

One of the most detailed studies ever done on Daylight Savings Time and its consequences on workplace safety was published in a 2009 article in The Journal of Applied Psychology.  That study...

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