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Don’t Leave Your Office Unprotected from the Flu – Your Monthly Newsletter

Don’t Leave Your Office Unprotected from the Flu

Each year, seasonal influenza has a marked impact on employers. The seasonal flu can cause increased absenteeism, decreased productivity, and higher health care costs. As an employer, you are well-positioned to help keep your employees healthy and minimize the flu’s impact on your business.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following strategies for employers to help fight the flu:

  • Host a flu vaccination clinic. Doing so can help educate employees about the importance of vaccination, and make it easier for them to get vaccinated.
  • Educate employees. Emphasize the importance of getting the flu vaccine and educate employees on common flu prevention strategies.

IRS Issues ACA Letters to Noncompliant Employers

The IRS has been sending Letter 5699 to employers that have not complied with their ACA reporting requirements for 2015.

Letter 5699 requests missing information from applicable large employers (ALEs) that were required to report under Section 6056, but failed to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS. The IRS identifies potentially noncompliant ALEs based on their Form W-2 total employee count reported for 2015.

Employers who receive a Letter 5699 should respond within the appropriate time frame and provide all appropriate information requested by the IRS, including any forms that are due.

Penalties may apply for any failures to file with the IRS by required deadlines. The IRS will use information provided in response to Letter 5699 to identify noncompliant ALEs and assess any penalties that may be owed.

Health Care Costs Still Rising, According to Annual Survey

Each year, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust conduct a survey to examine employer-sponsored health benefit trends such as annual deductibles, plan enrollment, and health and wellness programs. The 2018 edition of this survey has been released, and it discusses a lot, including how health care costs continue to rise.

One of the key findings of the survey was that the average cost of employer health coverage offered to workers rose 5 percent for a family plan in 2018, reaching nearly $20,000. For individual coverage, the average cost rose 3 percent from 2017 at just under $7,000.

While it was predicted years ago that health care costs would continue to rise, the sticker shock can be hard to get past. Industry experts believe that an increase in the costs of health care services is the reason why insurance premiums are consistently increasingly expensive.

How Are Employers Combatting Rising Costs?

Many employers have sought out ways to offset the cost of rising health insurance premiums. One of the most common ways this is accomplished is through increasing annual deductibles. For 2018, the average annual deductible for single coverage was $1,573 and the average annual deductible for family coverage was $4,676.

Another common way to reduce costs is to give employees the resources they need to become wiser health care consumers. Helping employees learn how to use the right health care services and shop around whenever possible can help employers and employees spend less money on health care services.

Five Steps to Successful Employee Communication

Effective managers must be strong communicators to inspire and lead their teams. The video below offers five strategies and suggestions to keep your managers’ communication efforts on point.

Five Steps to Successful Employee Communication

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Filing The New Massachusetts Employer HIRD Form In November 2018

Employers are receiving automated emails from the MA Department of Revenue’s MassTaxConnect notifying them of a new health insurance reporting requirement and indicating that action is required.  Welcome to the new annual Employer Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (HIRD) filing requirement.  Here is a quick start overview of the requirement.


STATE LAW NOW REQUIRES EVERY EMPLOYER IN MASSACHUSETTS WITH SIX OR MORE EMPLOYEES to annually submit a HIRD form each November, commencing with November 2018.

  • The due date of the form is November 30, 2018 (and by each November 30 thereafter).
  • The HIRD reporting is administered by MassHealth and the Department of Revenue (DOR) through the MassTaxConnect (MTC) web portal
  • Although only one HIRD form per employer is required, employer groups must report a separate HIRD form for each FEIN because MTC login credentials are tied to FEIN, so the employer must log into each FEIN MTC account they have and complete a HIRD form for each account


EMPLOYERS THAT CURRENTLY HAVE (OR HAD) SIX OR MORE EMPLOYEES in any month during the 12 months preceding the due date of the HIRD is form (November 30th of the reporting year) are required to complete the HIRD form.
AN INDIVIDUAL IS CONSIDERED AN EMPLOYEE of the employer (employed in any employment category) if the employer included the individual in any quarterly wage report to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) during the 12 month reporting period.


THE PURPOSE OF THE HIRD FORM is to collect employer-level information about its employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) offerings.


  • Employers are not required to report information about HRAs, health FSAs or HSAs on the HIRD form
  • Employers who do not offer health insurance are required to log into MTC and submit the HIRD form
  • There are no fines or penalties resulting from the information submitted on the HIRD form


THE GOAL OF THE HIRD FORM is to inform MassHealth about employers’ ESI offerings and assist MassHealth in identifying its members with access to qualifying ESI who may be eligible to enroll in the MassHealth Premium Assistance Program.


THE ULTIMATE GOAL of the new HIRD form is to allow more MassHealth members to enroll in the MassHealth Premium Assistance Program.


THE HIRD FORM MAY BE FILED ON MTC BY EITHER THE EMPLOYER OR ITS PAYROLL COMPANY; however, it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the HIRD form is timely filed. If using a payroll company to file on MTC, the employer should coordinate HIRD reporting between the payroll company and the employer’s record keeper for health insurance information. Chances are the payroll company will not have the type of information necessary to complete the HIRD form.




  • Employees enrolled in MassHealth’s Premium Assistance Program, are not included in the calculation of their employer’s obligation under the Employer Medical Assistance (EMAC) Supplement
  • Employees enrolled in ESI and receiving MassHealth coverage as a secondary payer are not included in their employer’s obligation under the EMAC Supplement



  • In connection with any determinations regarding employers’ EMAC Supplement obligations
  • To impose any new fines or penalties related to employers’ ESI offerings (or lack thereof)
  • To collect any personal information about employees

THE MASSHEALTH PREMIUM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM helps eligible working individuals and families pay for qualifying ESI coverage. Eligible MassHealth members with access to qualifying ESI are required to enroll in available ESI. Members who are determined eligible for Premium Assistance may enroll in ESI without regard to any enrollment periods or other restrictions that apply to late enrollees for any group plan, as the MassHealth eligibility determination is considered a qualifying event.  Information  on the MassHealth Premium Assistance Program can be found on the MassHealth Premium Assistance web page: (

* * * * *

Richard A. Szczebak, Esq.  781-731-9933 | [email protected] Experience | Knowledge | Perspective

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of MassAHU members. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel. This material may be considered advertising under certain rules of professional conduct.

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Invitation to the 2018 Family Business Association Healthcare Seminar

Business Benefits’ CEO Matt Hollister, has been invited to present at an informative seminar hosted by the Family Business Association and sponsored by BCBS of MA.  The seminar is free to attend and will address a wide range of topics around health benefit plans.  Matt will be talking about how to engage employees to empower them and to help them become their own advocates.  Doing this, when combined with better information and incentives, will lead to more cost effective care and superior outcomes for the employees.

Topics include:
• A Health Care Legislative and Election Update;
• Putting the Benefit Back in Benefits and Giving Employers a Break;
• How to maximize your EBIDA by treating your health plan as a capital allocation strategy;
• Claims Administration, Enrollment Management and Compliance;
• HR moving from administrative tasks to strategic value through technologyWhen
November 2, 2018
8:30 AM –11:30 AM
Presentation and an interactive panel discussion
Includes breakfast and networking

Needham Sheraton
100 Cabot St,
Needham, MA 02494

To register, please go to the following link:

We hope to see you there!

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2018 ACA Reporting Draft Forms Now Available – Your Monthly Newsletter

2018 ACA Reporting Draft Forms Now Available

The IRS released draft 2018 forms for Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting under Internal Revenue Code (Code) Sections 6055 and 6056. Draft instructions for 2018 have not yet been released.

The 2018 draft forms are substantially similar to the final 2017 versions. However, the revised version of the Form 1095-C clarifies that the “Plan Start Month” box in Part II will remain optional for 2018. The IRS previously indicated that this box may have been mandatory for the 2018 Form 1095-C.

Keep in mind that the 2018 draft instructions for these forms may include additional changes or clarifications, once released. Also, the IRS may make additional changes to these forms before releasing final 2018 versions.

What You Need to Do

Employers should become familiar with these forms for reporting for the 2018 calendar year. However, these forms are draft versions only, and should not be filed with the IRS or relied upon for filing.

  • 2018 draft Forms 1094-C and 1095-C were released July 11, 2018, and will be used by applicable large employers (ALEs) to report under Section 6056, as well as for combined Section 6055 and 6056 reporting by ALEs who sponsor self-insured plans.
  • 2018 draft Forms 1094-B and 1095-B were also released in July 2018, and will be used by entities reporting under Section 6055, including self-insured plan sponsors that are not ALEs.

Critical HIPAA Compliance Gaps Exposed by HHS

Over the last couple of years, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) conducted “desk audits” of 166 covered entities and 41 business associates. These audits focused on select HIPAA privacy, security and breach notification requirements. HHS has not released its official findings from the audits yet, but it has identified serious compliance gaps in the following areas:

  • Security risk analysis
  • Security risk management
  • Right of access to protected health information (PHI)

Employers that sponsor group health plans should periodically review their compliance with HIPAA rules, including whether their security analysis and risk management for electronic PHI is up to date. Employers should also watch for more guidance from HHS on these compliance requirements.

LinkedIn Voice Messaging: What You Need to Know

The social recruiting and marketing platform LinkedIn recently announced a new voice messaging feature. It allows users to record and send brief audio clips instead of typing out messages. This feature can help reduce the time it takes to reach out to potential recruits and adds a personal touch from your business. That personal experience could make the difference for talented applicants who are used to getting a canned response.

Maximizing This Feature

Using this feature can combat the perception that your company doesn’t care about applicants on a personal level. With this in mind, consider using voice replies to show applicants you care. If a person thinks you don’t care about their application, why should they want to work for you?

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Mission Possible: taking control of healthcare spending – September 18th, 2018 from 9:30am to 1pm

Please join us for an informative seminar on September 18th from 9:30am to 1pm to discuss the tools and techniques available for you to take control of your health care spending.  
In an era of significant mergers (CVS/AETNA, CIGNA/Express Scripts, United Healthcare (OPTUM)/Physician Practies), partnerships (Amazon, Berkshire, JPMorgan) and acquisitions (pharma, hospital systems, PBMs), how will small employers fare when huge corporations are vying for your health care dollars?  Does any serious business person actually think that these behemoths care about lowering your health care costs — and at the same time lowering their income? Health care cost control regulations have failed to control costs and no pending legislation will have any meaningful impact.
What is next?  Is it possible for smaller employers to have any control?  Yes.  The solution to health care cost inflation is here today.  It not only CAN be done, it IS BEING DONE.
Please join us as we talk about the financial incentives of insurers, providers, regulators and brokers.  Hollister Insurance Brokerage, in Partnership with Business Benefits Insurance Brokerage, representing over 500 employers, will address the practical approach to controlling the supply chain side of health care costs, which are the real drivers of health care inflation.
9:30am to 10:00am – Registration
10:00am to 12:00pm – Program
12:00pm to 1:00pm – Lunch
Seminar: Mission Possible: taking control of healthcare spending
When: Tuesday, September 18th at 9:30 AM EDT
Presented By: Matt Hollister and Jim Edholm

Please register by email to [email protected] by September 10th.

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Join Us for The MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Law webinar – Aug 30, 2018 at 2:00 PM EDT

Massachusetts recently enacted a new, mandatory paid Family and Medical Leave program (MAFML) to be administered by the Commonwealth and funded by employer and employee contributions through a .63% (.0063) payroll tax on wages. Although the first MAFML benefits are not available until January 1, 2021, a program of this magnitude will take time to implement and pre-fund.

While the new MAFML is a government program administered by the Commonwealth, it creates both compliance and cost considerations for employers as well. Please join us on Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 2 PM for a timely, one hour live webcast examining the new MAFML requirements and benefits. MAFML will impact current employer leave policies and procedures and will increase employer costs of doing business via contributions, additional administrative burdens and extended medical benefit coverage for those employees on leave.

Our featured Speaker will be Rick Szczebak, Esq. of RAS Law, P.C

To register for this webinar, simply click on the link below!

Webinar: MA Paid Family and Medical Leave Law
When: Thursday, August 30th at 2:00 PM EDT
Presented By: Rick Szczebak, Esq. of RAS Law, P.C
Regster Here

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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DOL Releases Updated Model Employer CHIP Notice

Model Notice Informs Employees of Eligibility for Premium Assistance Under Medicaid or CHIP

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has updated its model notice for employers to provide information on eligibility for premium assistance under Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This notice is generally updated twice a year. Click here to download the updated notice in PDF format.

Annual Notice Requirement
Employers that provide health insurance coverage in states with premium assistance through Medicaid or CHIP must provide employees with the employer CHIP notice annually before the start of each plan year. An employer can choose to provide the notice on its own or concurrent with the furnishing of:

  • Materials notifying the employee of health plan eligibility;
  • Materials provided to the employee in connection with an open season or election process conducted under the plan; or
  • The summary plan description (SPD).

The updated model notice includes information on how employees can contact their state for additional information and how to apply for premium assistance, with information current as of July 31, 2018.

Our Benefits Notices by Company Size section features information on additional health plan notice requirements.

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Massachusetts “Grand Bargain” Law (just capitalize Law)

At the end of June, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the “grand bargain” bill.  This bill has a significant effect on the state’s minimum wage, which will ultimately rise to $15 an hour over 5 years.  The bill also includes a paid family and medical leave program, which will be implemented by 2021 and will ultimately change the way employers approach insured short term disability programs here in Massachusetts.

Minimum Wage

The law incrementally raises the current $11-an-hour minimum wage to $15 an hour from 2019 to 2023. Beginning in 2019, the state minimum wage will go up to $12 an hour and will continue in 75-cent increments each year from then on: $12.75 in 2020, $13.50 in 2021, $14.25 in 2022, and $15 in 2023. The minimum base wage rate for tipped workers will also increase over five years, starting in January 2019 to a maximum of $6.75.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Beginning in 2021, Massachusett’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program will be implemented. This gives contributing employees up to 12 weeks a year to care for a family member or bond with a new child, 20 weeks a year to handle a personal medical problem, and up to 26 weeks to handle an emergency relating to a military family member’s deployment. Weekly benefits will be based on a percentage of employees’ average weekly wages, with $850 a week being the maximum payout.  The law allows self-employed workers to opt into the program. However, for the program to cover municipal workers, cities and towns must vote to participate.

As new information and ultimately the regulations for this new law are developed, we will continue to keep you informed.

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Additions to our staff: Chloe and John

We are very pleased to announce two new additions to our staff in Concord: Chloe DiPetrillo, who is working as a intern for the summer, and John Baumer, who comes on board as a Senior Account Executive.

Chloe is studying finance and marketing at Washington University in St. Louis, with a minor in global health.  Chloe’s enthusiasm and fresh perspective is a tremendous benefit to our staff!

John’s career has spanned over two decades with Harvard Pilgrim Health Care where he has been in sales, sales management and training for Harvard’s sales and support teams. John is an effective communicator with a passion for customer service. John’s extensive experience in health insurance is a valuable asset and we feel he will be a great addition to our team.

Chloe can be reached at extension 114 and by email at [email protected].  John can be reached at extension 115 and by email at [email protected].

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Form 5500 Filing Deadline for Many Health Plans is July 31 – Monthly Newsletter

Form 5500 Filing Deadline for Many Health Plans is July 31

Group health plan administrators are reminded that Form 5500 must be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) by the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends. For calendar-year plans, that due date falls on July 31.

Who Must File Form 5500?
In general, all group health plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act(ERISA) are required to file Form 5500. However, group health plans (whether fully insured, unfunded [meaning its benefits are paid as needed directly from the general assets of the plan sponsor], or a combination of the two) that covered fewer than 100 participants as of the beginning of the plan year are exempt from the Form 5500 filing requirement. For more on this requirement, click here.

How to File Form 5500
Forms 5500 must be filed electronically with the DOL using either the IFILE web-based filing system or an approved vendor’s software.

Visit our ERISA section for more ERISA compliance information.

Form I-9 Audits Up Dramatically Since October

From October 1, 2017-May 4, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted 2,282 Form I-9 audits, up from 1,360 audits from October 1, 2016-September 30, 2017. Given this dramatic increase, employers should take a moment to ensure that their Form I-9 compliance practices meet federal requirements. Businesses that fail to comply with these requirements are subject to penalties of up to $2,236 per violation.

4 Quick Form I-9 Compliance Tips

  1. All U.S. employers generally must fill out and keep a Form I-9 for every person they hire for employment in the United States, as long as the person works for pay or other benefits.
  2. Newly hired employees must complete and sign Section 1 of Form I-9 no later than the first day of employment.
  3. An employee must present to the employer an original document or documents that show his or her identity and employment authorization within 3 business days of the date employment begins.
  4. Employers must retain an employee’s completed Form I-9 for as long as the individual works for the employer. However, Form I-9 does not need to be filed with any federal agency.

For additional Form I-9 compliance information, check out our Form I-9section.

Don’t Forget to Pay PCORI Fees

Employers that sponsor certain self-insured health plans–including some health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) and health flexible spending arrangements (health FSAs)–are reminded that they are responsible for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fees. Fees for self-insured plans with plan years that ended in 2017 are due July 31, and are required to be paid via IRS Form 720.

Employer-sponsored self-insured plans with plan years that ended between January 1, 2017 and September 30, 2017 must pay a fee of $2.26 multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan. Employer-sponsored self-insured plans with plan years that ended between October 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017 must pay a fee of $2.39 multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan. Details on how to determine the average number of lives covered under a plan are included in these regulations.

For additional information, visit our section on PCORI Fees for Self-Insured Plans.

Summer’s Here and So is Spear Phishing

Cyberattacks and resulting data breaches often begin with a spear-phishing email. Spear phishing differs from regular email phishing in its use of extensive research to target a specific audience, which allows the spear phisher to pose as a familiar and trusted entity in its email to a mark. Spear phishers seek a company’s valuable information–such as credentials providing access to customer lists, trade secrets, and confidential employee information–and some of their methods include:

  • Directing email recipients to fake (but authentic-looking) websites that ask for information like account numbers, passwords, or other credentials.
  • Inducing recipients to click on links or attachments that download malware onto the recipient’s computer. The malware often allows the phisher to steal passwords and sensitive data by, for example, tracking keystrokes.

The IRS offers the following tips to protect against spear phishing:

  1. Educate all employees about phishing in general and spear phishing in particular.
  2. Use strong, unique passwords with a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters. Also remember to use different passwords for each account.
  3. Never take an email from a familiar source at face value, especially if it asks you to open a link or attachment, or includes a threat about a dire consequence that will result if you fail to take action.
  4. If an email contains a link, hover your cursor over the link to see the web address (URL) destination. If it’s not a URL you recognize, or if it’s an abbreviated URL, don’t open it.
  5. Poor grammar and odd wording are warning signs of a spear-phishing email.
  6. Consider calling the sender to confirm the authenticity of an email you’re unsure of, but don’t use the phone number in the email.
  7. Use security software that updates automatically to help defend against malware, viruses, and known phishing sites.

Click here for additional information about protecting yourself from spear-phishing attacks.

Check out our Employee Records and Files section for more on how to protect confidential employee information.

HR Action Steps for Employee Name Changes

With the summer wedding season underway, many employees may soon be changing their names. As a result, in the coming months, it is critical for employers to ensure that each employee’s name is accurately reflected on required forms and internal records. Watch the video below to learn how to stay compliant.

Employee Name Changes - subscription

For additional HR guidance, visit our Human Resources section.