Employers may sponsor wellness programs as a means to promote better health and higher morale among employees, with the hope that helping employees to embrace a culture of health will lead to higher productivity with lower health-related costs.
Wellness plans may be included in health insurance programs, or they may stand alone. These plans may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Tobacco cessation, exercise, weight management, or other behavior modification programs.
- Health risk assessments.
- High blood pressure or cholesterol screenings.
- Health education.
- Subsidized health club memberships.
While participation in wellness programs is voluntary, employers may offer incentives for participation or even disincentives for nonparticipation.
While employers are searching for definitive methods to establish return on investment (ROI) for dollars spent on wellness programs, development of financial measurement tools for wellness ROI is not yet mature. Still, it is logical for employers in the United States to seek financial advantages from promoting a culture of health in an environment where the onset of chronic disease is shifting to people of younger age who, prior to becoming eligible for Medicare, are most frequently covered under health plans paid for by employers. Advantages for both employers and employees arise when employers seize the opportunity to use their access to employees as an opportunity to provide education and facilitate changes leading to an increase in emotional well-being and reduced risk of illness.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. Among the most common, manageable or preventable chronic diseases are diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and cancer. Obesity is also an urgent health concern, affecting as many as one in three adults and one in five children. Rising rates of obesity are leading to more diabetes and heart disease. Reducing the prevalence or severity of these diseases and conditions can reduce the emotional stress experienced by individuals, empowering them to focus more on productive work-related activities. Additionally, preventing or delaying the onset of diseases will likely correlate to less demand for employers to pay for expensive hospitalization and fewer treatments with costly specialty pharmaceutical medications.
To appreciate the potential financial savings possible through the prevention or delay in onset of disease, it is important for employers to understand how small percentages of high-utilization participants in health plans may drive much of the cost. In general, 20 percent of a health plan’s population drives 80 percent of cost for all medical and prescription claims paid in a plan year. Often, just 5 percent of a health plan’s population in a given year will be high-cost claimants accounting for approximately half of all paid claims. Such individual high-cost claimants increasingly include inpatient hospital treatment and pharmaceutical claims costing in excess of $500,000 for a single claimant’s course of care. For example, a claimant could cost more than $600,000 annually for treatment of diabetes that has advanced to end stage renal disease requiring kidney dialysis. Similar costs are associated with other diseases moving from chronic to acute stages. On the other hand, $600,000 could be more than it would cost in a year for an employer-sponsored plan with 1,000 enrolled employees to pay for all employees plus dependents to have annual preventative physical examinations performed by their primary care physicians. When average coverage for an employee plus family enrolled in a plan costs over $16,800 per year, it can be frustrating for the employer to realize that there will not be significant, immediate discounts in return for providing wellness benefits. However, it takes premium payments from a pool of many members to offset the claims paid for just one high-cost claimant.
The financial rewards associated with the successful movement of a pool of insured members into a culture of health are likely to be more prevalent over the long term. Efforts directly promoting healthy behaviors can change the trajectory of employees’ long term health. Employers with low turnover and high average tenure of employees may be in the best position to reap the financial benefits of effective wellness programs targeting reduction in illness risks. However, all employers have the potential to benefit from the coordination of wellness initiatives with existing workplace safety initiatives and performance improvement plans. Workers’ compensation, disability benefits, and paid sick leave expenses all have the potential to be reduced as employee performance increases in an improving culture of health.
If you would like more information please contact Cleary Insurance, Inc. at 617-723-0700.
Self-employment can be rewarding personally and financially, but it comes with some tough challenges including long hours, an uncertain income, and a lack of structured benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans.
But this is not the only reason it may be worthwhile to divert a sizable chunk of your earnings into tax-deferred retirement accounts. Doing so generally reduces your taxable income.
Anyone can set up an IRA, but contribution limits are relatively low — $5,500 in 2018, or $6,500 if you are 50 or older.
Here are two additional options that may allow larger contributions.
Solo 401(k). A solo 401(k) is a one-participant plan for business owners who have no other employees. Tax-deductible (or pre-tax) contributions to an individual 401(k) can be made in two ways.
As the employee, you can contribute as much as 100% of your annual compensation, up to the $18,500 annual maximum in 2018 ($24,500 if you are age 50 or older).
As the employer, you can also contribute an additional 20% of your earnings (25% if the business is incorporated) and deduct it as a business expense. Total contributions are capped at $55,000 in 2018 ($61,000 for those age 50 and older). A solo 401(k) plan may also allow plan loans and/or hardship withdrawals.
The deadline to establish an individual 401(k) and formally elect salary deferrals is December 31 of the year in which you want to receive the tax deduction (or before fiscal year-end for corporations). For businesses taxed as sole proprietors and partnerships, salary deferrals and profit-sharing contributions for 2018 must be deposited into the account by the April 2019 personal tax filing deadline.
SEP-IRA. You can make tax-deductible employer contributions of as much as 25% of net earnings, up to $55,000 in 2018. If you have eligible employees, you must contribute the same percentage to SEP-IRAs in their names; of course, the dollar amounts would be different for different salary levels. You are not required to contribute to a SEP-IRA every year.
In addition to any employer SEP-IRA contributions, you and your eligible workers can generally make pre-tax employee contributions up to the normal IRA contribution limits. You have until the April 2019 tax filing deadline to set up a SEP-IRA and make 2018 contributions.
Distributions from 401(k) plans and SEP-IRAs are taxed as ordinary income. Early withdrawals (prior to age 59) may be subject to a 10% federal income tax penalty.
We launched the Cleary Insurance Boston Business Risk Awards to honor the entrepreneurs and small business leaders in our community who take bold business risks and reap the rewards. We received many inspiring stories of risk-taking and success, but our six finalists stood out from the pack.
Get inspired by our finalists’ stories and stay tuned for the announcement of the 2019 Risk Award winner.
Julia Cruz, Principal/Executive Producer of Good Life Productions
When media company Good Life Productions saw an increased demand for their video production services, Julia Cruz and husband Neal Robert took the risk of hiring additional employees and transforming their rental apartment into a new business office and studio. The risk paid off, as the company increased revenues by 20%.
Rory Francis, Founder of Danio Lab
While working as a repair technician and fish feeder, Rory Francis discovered that the challenge of accurately and efficiently feeding thousands of laboratory fish tanks daily was the perfect business opportunity. Rory developed a device to feed zebrafish in the lab setting and founded Danio Lab, a growing and profitable business that sells feeders to biomedical and cancer researchers worldwide.
Kevin Grant, Owner of The Castle
In 2015, Kevin Grant realized that the North Shore lacked a community space for people of all ages to hang out, so he took it upon himself to fill that void by opening The Castle, a board game café. Kevin and his wife, Ryn, quit their jobs to run The Castle fulltime, and they have been successfully growing the business ever since. They’ve won 7 awards so far and plan to expand with a new larger, location in the upcoming year.
Magbè Savané, President of Makomas
Magbè Savané put medical school on hold to follow her dream of bringing her mother’s traditional African recipes to America. She founded Makomas, an organic tea and juice company that makes products from African superfoods like baobab, moringa, and hibiscus. The success of Magbè’s startup has been recognized by MassChallenge as a 2018 Finalist and won her the PepsiCo Food and Beverages Prize.
Tish Scolnik, CEO of GRIT
While studying mechanical engineering at MIT, Tish Scolnik knew there had to be a better way to design wheelchairs. With her classmates, she designed an all-terrain wheelchair that effectively harnesses the power of the upper body and enables people with disabilities to move freely outdoors. After graduation, Tish founded GRIT, a startup that brought the Freedom Chair design to market.
Kristin Van Busum, Founder & CEO of Project Alianza
As a Fulbright Scholar in Nicaragua, Kristin Van Busum saw firsthand that children in coffee-growing communities lacked access to schooling, often receiving no more than a 3rd grade education. Kristin quit her corporate job and founded Project Alianza, a non-profit dedicated to providing education for children in the rural coffee communities of Latin America. To date, Project Alianza has educated over 2,000 children.
Presented by: June Duncan
More than five million Americans are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other memory-related disorders. These individuals may require 24-hour care, depending on their disease’s progression, and those costs can skyrocket, because specialized dementia services are expensive.
Finding affordable, quality care
When it’s clear that a loved one will require additional caregiving, take steps to protect their assets and secure affordable, quality care. Memory care for Alzheimer’s or dementia patients differs from facilities that provide a more comprehensive assisted living support.
Identify family resources, update your loved one’s legal and financial affairs, and monitor accounts to protect finances from fraud or bad decisions. Evaluate a variety of senior care communities; if one appeals, join the waiting list. Use this checklist to help evaluate a facility that includes programs exclusively dedicated to helping those with memory issues.
Negotiate costs. Many assisted living facilities have the flexibility to negotiate the monthly rate. Ask about move-in incentives, too. The cost of assisted living also varies by location; suburbs and outlying communities may charge less, so try searching outside your zip code.
Compare inclusive pricing with a la carte costs. Some facilities allow you to pick and choose the services you or your loved one will receive—and that may translate into cost savings if you’re able to fill in those gaps yourself or with other low-cost/no-cost services.
Options to covering the cost of care
Expect to pay for at least a portion of this care out of pocket, especially since Medicare covers nursing home benefits only up to 100 days. If someone with Alzheimer’s requires care in a psychiatric hospital, Medicare will extend its coverage an additional 90 days. It does not pay for personal or custodial care in assisted living facilities or for those living at home, although it does cover medical care in either location.
Medicaid, on the other hand, differs from state to state. You can apply for a Medicaid Waiver to help cover the cost of receiving care outside of a nursing home. The program has financial eligibility requirements and considers applicants’ abilities to care for themselves—patients diagnosed with mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s do typically qualify for Medicaid benefits.
A variety of state-managed and funded programs are available for lower-income residents, including those with Alzheimer’s. This list of state non-Medicaid assistance programs is a good place to start.
Alternative funding sources for long-term nursing home care
Cash in personal assets. Those assets may include investments like stocks, bonds, savings accounts, real estate, and personal property, like jewelry or artwork. Selling a home that’s grown in equity may help liquidate much-needed cash, or you can convert a home’s equity into cash with a reverse mortgage. While reverse mortgages won’t impact Social Security or Medicare benefits, they can disqualify someone from other government programs, like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid.
Take out a personal loan. A cost-effective short-term solution to covering costs of care may be to secure a personal loan rather than charging the expense on a credit card. Ultimately, choosing the right loan comes down to finding the lowest possible rate—APRs typically range between 4.99% and 35.99%, so research carefully.
Explore government programs. In addition to Medicare, the government offers other programs to those who qualify, like SSI, which guarantees a minimum monthly income to people age 65 and older.
Secure long-term care insurance. This insurance won’t be granted to individuals already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. However, if the person carries this insurance prior to a diagnosis—and the best time to get long-term care insurance is in your mid-50s—review the policy to see if Alzheimer’s care is covered. If it isn’t, check with the policyholder about adding a rider to cover that expense.
The National Institute on Aging provides an exceptional resource for caregivers seeking support and information about getting help for people with Alzheimer’s. The site offers a variety of contacts to help you find low-cost or free community support services as well as other sources to help you cover the costs not covered by the programs listed above.
Photo Credit: pixabay.com
As the weather warms up, many recreational boaters head to lake, river, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. With nearly 12 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*, it’s no wonder the waterways are a popular place to go. Before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.1. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
Victims drowned in approximately 80% of fatal boating accidents. Of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.
2. Use the right kind of life jackets for the situation.
Boats 16 feet and longer must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD) plus one Type IV throwable device. Boats that are 16 feet or less must have one Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person aboard. All boats must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device for each person aboard. Boats 16 feet and longer must also be equipped with a Type IV throwable device. All PFDs should be in good condition and have a Coast Guard Approval Number.
- Type I PFDs are often called off-shore life jackets. They provide the most buoyancy and are effective in all waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
- Type II PFDs are near-shore buoyancy vests. They are intended for calm, inland water or waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue.
- Type III PFDs are also called floatation aids. They are good for calm, inland water, similar to Type II.
- Type IV PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued.
- Type V PFDs are special use devices. They may be carried instead of other PFDs if used in accordance with the approved conditions designated on the label. They may be inflatable vests, deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests or hybrid PFDs.
3. Never drink alcohol and go boating.
Alcohol use is a leading contributor to fatal boating accidents, causing approximately 15% of the deaths each year. Stay sharp when you’re on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.
4. Recreational boaters should take a boating safety course.
Only 13% of the boating deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter or visit uscgboating.org for details.
5. Put down the cell phone.
One of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents is inattention. Just like distracted driving on our highways, talking, texting, and other use of cell phones while boating is a growing problem on the water. Don’t contribute to this problem. Keep your eyes on the water ahead and around you.
6. Drive at a safe speed and follow all boating safety and navigational rules.
Excessive speed and improper lookout are two of the top contributing factors to boating accidents. Make sure you understand the local rules and laws of the waterway and follow them closely. Take note of visibility, traffic density, and proximity to navigational hazards such as shoals, rocks, or floating objects.
7. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for it to change.
A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. There were 41 deaths in 2016 attributed to weather conditions. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating.
8. Take action before a storm hits.
Storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings are issued by the National Hurricane Center. Boaters can get information from VHF marine radios, commercial radios and television stations and newspapers. As a boater, you need to be aware of the types of advisories and take action before a storm hits. Warnings range from small craft advisories, with winds of 18 knots or less, up to hurricane warnings with winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or greater.
9. Register for a free Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and have a VHF radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) installed and connected to your GPS.
When in coastal and inshore waters, these preparations can help take the search out of search and rescue. DSC allows the VHF radio to transfer information digitally, and to instantly send a digital distress alert, which includes your exact position, to the Coast Guard upon activation of the emergency button. Part of the alert is the MMSI number, which will identify your vessel automatically.
10. Use a carbon monoxide detector.
All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can make you sick in seconds and kill in minutes. Remember, you cannot see, smell, or taste CO, so know the symptoms (similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication).
11. File a float plan.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. That way, the proper officials can be notified if you don’t return when expected.
12. Get a free Vessel Safety Check.
Boats are complex machines and need regular maintenance to stay running smoothly and safely. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer Vessel Safety Checks at no cost, so let their certified vessel examiners check your boat’s equipment and provide you with safety information before you go out on the water. Check with your marina or yacht club to find one in your area.
If you would like additional boating safety tips please click here.
Presented by: June Duncan
Planning for long-term care — it’s one of those situations that no one wants to experience but everyone needs to be prepared for. As we age, it’s important that we get a plan in place, not just for our own security but for our loved ones, as well. Being a caregiver is a burden not many want to face unexpectedly. More importantly, you want to make sure you have access to the best possible care in your golden years.
That’s why planning for long-term care, which will assist you with everyday tasks like dressing and eating, is critical, even if the potential is a long way off. Doing so will also give you and your loved ones peace of mind about your future. Here are some ways to get started.
Tips on Planning for Long-Term Care
When you are ready to make decisions about your future care, you may feel anxious about the unknown or melancholy about aging. If you are in good health, you might convince yourself that planning for future care is unnecessary — putting the cart in front of the horse, so to speak. However, there are some good reasons to reconsider:
- If you have a family history of dementia.
- If you have dependents.
- If your goal is to remain independent in your home for as long as possible.
- If you want to ensure you have enough money to meet all your needs.
If you want to make sure you are able to maintain a certain lifestyle, then planning ahead gives you confidence in your future. When you plan for your future care, you are taking care of:
- Your health, by exercising and eating a proper diet. Focusing on physical fitness will help you avoid health issues that may require a caregiver.
- Your family, by planning ahead so everyone knows what to expect and understands your wishes. No one is burdened or surprised by taking on an unexpected caregiver role.
- Your independence, by making sure your home is outfitted to accommodate accessibility needs. There are grants you can apply for when the time comes to make home modifications more affordable.
- Your finances, by understanding what you can afford and how paying for care will affect your retirement. With a plan in place now you won’t be startled by sudden costs.
The lifestyle choices you are making now will most certainly play a role in your future care. This doesn’t just mean eat healthier and save more, but it could also mean downsizing your home, prioritizing mental health, and moving to be closer to family. Having a plan in place is the first step. A major component of planning for long-term care is understanding how you will pay for it.
Insurance and Paying for Long-Term Care
If you think setting aside funds for long-term care is a potential waste of money, think again. Paying for long-term care doesn’t have to dip into your savings or your retirement fund. You can make sure you are financially stable regardless of health concerns by knowing your options for paying for future care. Some ways to cover costs include tapping into investment dividends, purchasing long-term health insurance (the younger you are when you purchase it, the more money you save in the long run), and opening a health savings account. Also, if you have life insurance, you can sell that policy to help free up money for medical care and living expenses.
You might be asking, “Well, what about Medicare? Won’t that cover my needs?” The truth is, there are many circumstances where Medicare won’t cover the cost of long-term care. You may be able to purchase supplemental health insurance to cover these additional costs.
Planning for long-term care is almost as complex as understanding how to pay for it, which is why it’s important to start looking at these potential situations now. Start by having a conversation with your spouse or partner so you can plan your future together. If you plan now, you can enjoy your retirement with less stress about health and fewer worries about the future.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.
Travel Medical Insurance protects you in the event of an illness or injury when traveling outside your country of residence. It provides key medical benefits in case of an emergency. The level of international medical coverage provided by your domestic insurance provider can vary greatly depending on your plan, so you may have limited coverage or no coverage at all.
When you’re planning an overseas trip, you should call your insurance company beforehand to ask if your plan includes overseas health insurance. Some do, some don’t, and some will cover you only in certain situations. The U.S. Department of State suggests some questions to ask your insurer, including:
- Does my plan cover emergency expenses abroad such as returning me to the United States for treatment if I become seriously ill?
- Do you require pre-authorizations or second opinions before emergency treatment can begin?
- Do you guarantee medical payments abroad?
Your definition of “emergency” may differ from your insurer’s definition, and you may find yourself on the hook for medical expenses you thought were covered. That’s why buying travel medical insurance is so important, U.S. News reports, because it “can help fill any gaps in domestic health insurance coverage.”
Blue Cross Blue Shield offers group and individual travel medical plans that cover 190 countries and territories. Their services include 24/7 concierge-level assistance, including appointment scheduling and a mobile app that helps their members find doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. Knowing your health plan will be there for you while you’re away from home is an important part of enjoying your next trip.
Regan Cleary Insurance, a division of Cleary insurance Inc., is pleased to announce that Michael Regan has been elected a Director at Large for the National Association of Surety Bond Producers (NASBP). The NASBP is the national trade organization for insurance agencies that specialize in surety bonding.
What is NASBP?
NASBP producers specialize in providing surety bonds for construction companies and other industries requiring surety. Examples of the types of bonds provided include performance & payment bonds, fidelity bonds, forgery bonds, judicial bonds license & permit bonds, tax and customs bonds. NASBP members engage in surety production throughout the United States, its territories and internationally.
Prior to this national role, Michael served two terms as the New England Regional Director. He also continues as the Government Affairs Representative for Massachusetts. Michael’s new role also makes him a member of the Board of Directors of the NASBP. He will serve a three-year term, participating in recruitment and retention activities for the association acting as a liaison with a subcommittee and participating in strategic and policy decisions for the NASBP. For further information about the NASBP please visit www.nasbp.org.
Presented by: Alyssa Tkach
Every homeowner can attest to the importance of protecting their home. Although many are aware of the potential destruction of disasters such as fires and storms, there is less knowledge overall about the significance of home water leaks. In fact, according to Bloomberg’s article, “The Hidden Property Danger Lurking in Your Home,” almost half of all property damage losses in 2015 were due to water leaks. 1 in 50 homes have water leaks or frozen pipes each year.
Water leaks, if left unattended, can be very costly, so it is absolutely crucial for homeowners to stop them before they occurs. CHUBB lists several ways to reduce the risk of water damage in the home:
- If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, ask someone to stay in or check on the home periodically.
- Routinely check the home’s appliances for potential leaks.
- Inspect water supply lines.
- Turn off the main water supply when you leave for an extended period of time.
- Clear out your home’s gutters regularly.
- Inspect your home’s roof regularly.
- When you are planning to leave, set your flow-based water shut off device to “away.”
- Regularly replace the batteries in your water leak sensor device.
- Always inspect your sump pump, and keep a battery-powered backup.
- Schedule annual maintenance for your backup generator, and routinely ensure that it’s in working order.
Many people install anti-water damage devices within their home to help prevent a water disaster. Bloomberg’s article, “The Property Damage You’re Most Likely to Suffer,” lists three main types of devices that homeowners can choose from:
- Device sensors: installed near water-using appliances, these devices are triggered by water near them, and they will sound an alarm.
- Centralized system: attached to the home’s main water line, these devices monitor the amount of water flowing into the home, triggering the main water shut-off valve if necessary.
- Combination system: this system can sense when water is near it as well as control the home’s water shut-off valve.
Additionally, sump pumps can be a beneficial addition to any home. They are designed to drain excess water to another point far away from the home, preventing foundation damage.
Homeowners who take the steps to install a device, or simply just inspect their water supply regularly, have a much higher chance of stopping a leak in its tracks. Don’t let water damage your home—be proactive and stay aware!