Welcome to our first newsletter of the year! Like many of you, we are very excited that 2021 is finally here! Like most, our homes became our offices at least for a good portion of 2020 and the majority of our daily business interactions have now gone virtual. We have all personally overcome various COVID-related struggles and have had numerous forced, precautionary quarantines. At the same time, we’ve all been very fortunate to remain unscathed overall with no long-term health concerns. We hope the same holds true for you, your loved ones, and your employees.
There were a couple big changes for H|BC that took place in 2020. First, we have partnered with a local marketing firm to help us send out regular newsletters with benefit- and HR-related news and updates. If there’s anything you’d ever like us to touch on in any of our communications, please let us know. Second, we found an online enrollment vendor that could support our client base and our current business model. With this vendor, our business partners have the option of handling the entire underwriting and renewal process online through FormFire or Ease.
On a more personal note, another big positive for us here in the office (and my family at home), we’ve added a new member to the family. We brought Evie (formerly Charmin, which we originally named her, with the TP shortage and all) into the Holloway family late last March. She is now our official office dog, mascot, meeting interrupter and Amazon delivery driver harasser.
For those interested, we adopted Evie from the Cane Rosso Rescue Group. They rescue, foster, and adopt out pups and adult dogs, most of which are working dogs. You can check them out here – https://www.canerossorescue.org/ or on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/canerossorescue/ They are a great outfit and we have been supporting them for years. Enough pup talk for now…………..
We are certainly glad 2020 is over and look forward to what 2021 has in store for all of us. We are very excited to continue to offer our clients customized benefit solutions with our service-forward approach that now includes a 100% virtual experience. After approximately seven months into the contract with Ease, we have some really good traction. Many of our employee, employer, broker, and benefits provider clients have used the platform and have enjoyed greater efficiencies to their processes.
Speaking of benefits…
As you can imagine the pandemic has had some interesting impacts on employee benefits. There have been record numbers of telemedicine visits across the board for doctors, standalone telemedicine providers, and insurers. Many telemedicine providers are reporting 350-400% increases in utilization and some of the larger telemedicine providers now have record wait times due to demand. As many of you know, we have been big proponents of telemedicine for years and think it is going to continue to play a huge role in the delivery of healthcare going forward, in ways many of us can’t even imagine today. Fortunately, we work with a good number of forward-thinking business partners who also recognize the value of being able to provide no cost doctor access to employees and their families. This has put us all in a position to be one step ahead of most employers who are scrambling to put a telemedicine or virtual solution in place.
Most insurers had record profits in 2020 due to already high health insurance premiums yet 2020 saw enormous decreases in day-to-day doctor- and elective surgery-related claims filings. On the other side of the house, we are seeing most non-health related insurance providers (think dental, vision, life, etc.) renew benefits in late 2020 and into the first quarter of2021 with no price increase. Many insurance companies on the health and non-health side have also been providing premium credits on billing statements over the last six months to help offset this lower plan utilization.
On the HR side of the house…(thanks Farah!!)
The COVID pandemic has extended multiple deadlines concerning COBRA which, no big surprise here, has caused some confusion. Many insurance companies and TPA’s are not yet setup to support some of these changes. The most notable changes can be found here.
Additionally, employers are no longer required to allow employees to take paid sick leave, though those who continue to do so can still get a tax credit. Click here to read more on the DOL website.
In the always blended benefits / HR world, the CARES Act has also provided some great changes to FSA’s that are very employee friendly. The Act also includes some tax-friendly student loan repayment programs that employers can incorporate to help their employees pay down those oftentimes very high student loan balances.
In closing, as we all continue to try figure out what 2021 is going to look like, we strive to put COVID-19 in our rear-view mirror sooner rather than later. I do think this year will prove to be very challenging year for everyone. There is certainly some light at the end of the tunnel with the increased rolling out of vaccines and everyone’s continued diligence and adherence to protective measures. I think it is still going to be a little while before we get back into what will be our new normal. As we make our way down this uncertain 2021 path together, please know that H|BC is here to help you and your employees in any way possible. I can’t promise we will all always be in the office, but regardless of whether we’re working from home, working from our office or even a stand-alone remote office somewhere, our team is connected and stronger than ever and we are here to support you. Thank you so much for your trust and partnership. Any questions on anything discussed in the above, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Semper Fi!