Association of Legal Administrators
2015 Conference & Expo-Nashville, TN
Speaker: Uri Gutfreund, RPLU
Change or Be Eliminated:
Why Every Administrator Should Become a CFO
Uri shared his findings from hundreds of discussions with managing partners, and showed how you can learn to evolve your skills and secure your place in the firm of the future.
Singer Nelson Charlmers’ CEO, David Singer was recently interviewed in the Zweig Letter, about the risks firms face in Green Design. His comments follow:
David Singer, an insurance professional who helps A/E/P and environmental firms with their insurance needs, says professional liability policies only cover a professional for failing to meet their professional standards.
“When you start talking about Silver or Gold LEED certification, and if you are guaranteeing LEED certification, you’re changing the standard of care, because you’re guaranteeing more than that. There’s a delta, or gap, between the standard of care and what you’ve guaranteed, as you’re promising more than a prudent professional would- you’re promising something more than the professional standards require,” Singer says.
In this environment, “There are so many things that are risks; the key is managing the expectations of clients, and making sure they’re not unrealistic,” he says. The full article is available to subscribers of the Zweig Letter. Please call Singer Nelson Charlmers for advice about Green Design concerns.
This complimentary webinar presentation by Singer Nelson Charlmers, Tuesday, May 18, 2010 from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., will bring you clarity and answer your questions about Health Care Reform like no other! Register Now!
It is critical to know how the newly enacted health care reform legislation will affect your bottom line and your ability to attract and retain valuable employees. Firms simply can’t purchase health insurance and other employee benefits using the old fashioned way, if they are to survive the health care reform years ahead of us.
The simple world of premium rates will now be the complex world of assessments, fines, benefit taxes, premium rebates, and more. The right vendor choice, the right funding choice, the right contribution model, and the right protection level will all depend on customization. At our upcoming webinar, we will explain the likely impact these health care reform measures will have on health insurance reform, and on what your firm should do now to plan for inevitable cost increases.
We’ll Also Cover
- Timelines for insurers, employers & individuals – Will you be prepared?
- Mandates for insurers, employers & individuals – Do you know what to expect? Funding for all of this – How will you and your employees pay for this? How will insurers and medical providers pay for this?
- New programs including state exchange plans, multi-state option plans, high-risk pool plans, co-op plans – Will these help you or hurt you?
- The effect on health insurance costs (hint: likely not gravitational) – How will you prepare for this and when can you start?
Who Should Attend
Owners, CFOs, and HR Executives will benefit greatly from learning how to navigate the next few years of health care reform with unique strategic tools to face the many challenges presented.
Managing a law firm’s health insurance can’t be business as usual. Health insurance remains a key retention and attraction tool for law firms, but if not handled well, the premiums can put a serious hamper on the firm’s profitability. As law firm benefit specialists, we help managing partners cut their costs by an average of 18% and improve employee morale and coverage at the same time. Utilizing The HealthPlan Optimizer®, our proprietary technology, you will receive the tools you need to custom design your insurance programs for these results. Don’t let your health insurance be a donation to insurance company profits and don’t let your insurance program demoralize your employees.
Challenge Your Health Insurance Broker
By asking your current broker these three questions, you will know if it’s time for a Singer Nelson Charlmers broker upgrade:
How do you cut and control costs that contribute to my bottom line without upsetting my employees?
CONSIDER: Are they going to offer more spreadsheet solutions? Same old approach!
What technology do you provide so that we can make better buying decisions in this complex marketplace?
CONSIDER: Didn’t Albert Einstein once say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”
How do you strategically partner with my firm over the course of the year to constantly deliver value to me and my employees?
CONSIDER: What proactive solutions that save you time and money are you receiving?
Get Started Now
Call us today, do not wait until your renewal is upon you! In your personal meeting, you will learn about the technologies and services you have been missing. Experience time with us and you’ll quickly learn why you should upgrade to the Singer Nelson Charlmers and The HealthPlan Optimizer®!
Read more about what we can do for Law Firms.
- Optimize Your Law Firm’s Professional Liabilty Insurance!
Managing a law firm’s business insurance can’t be business as usual. The new legal environment demands that your broker be as cutting edge as you are in your practice area. As law firm specialists, we help managing partners spend less time on their business insurance and cut their costs by 15 – 30%. Utilizing The Total Protection Program® for Law Firms, managing partners sleep better at night knowing they have the right coverage at the right price. Don’t let your insurance programs be a donation to insurance company profits and don’t let your insurance program have gaps that can ruin your firm.
Challenge Your Professional Liability Broker
By asking your current broker these four questions, you know if it’s time for a Singer Nelson Charlmers broker upgrade:
Who do you represent?
CONSIDER: What strategies and skills does your current broker bring to representing your firm’s interests and not the insurance companies’ interests?
How many insurance companies do you annually negotiate with on my behalf?
CONSIDER: If the answer isn’t unequivocally every one of them, you need to interview us
How many law firms do you represent?
CONSIDER: Would anyone hire you to advise in an area you don’t’ specialize in?
Why in this current economic environment, hasn’t my price gone down and my coverage gone up?
CONSIDER: Why are you not talking with Singer Nelson Charlmers today?
Get Started Today
Call us today! In your personal meeting, you will learn the 10.5 most common mistakes law firms make in their insurance programs. Experience time with us and you’ll quickly learn why you should upgrade to the Singer Nelson Charlmers Total Protection Program®!
Read more about what we can do for Law Firms.
- Optimize Your Law Firm’s Health Insurance!
This document was first published in ACEC-NY September 1, 2009 Online News Edition.
Unfortunately just saying it does not make it so. In today’s litigious society design professionals are often sued for things that they have no control over. The economy being what it is doesn’t help either. Claim frequency trends north when the economy goes south. When people need money where do they go? Why, to the deepest pockets of course! (much to the chagrin of the insurance companies). While there is little or nothing that you can do to prevent frivolous lawsuits, there is something you can do to prevent real lawsuits. Educate yourselves. Here are some of the most common problem areas that you and your firm can avoid.
Those of you that only work with government agencies can sit this one out. For the rest of you, do you know who it is that you are dealing with? Doing quasi-background checks is key to eliminating some of the risks involved in your projects. It is amazing what you can find on the internet. All you have to do is enter your prospective client’s name in a search engine and hit the enter button and see what comes up. Have they recently gone to court to sue another design professional? Did they just lay-off 50% of their work force? Has there been a restructuring of the organization recently? These are things that you can probably find within 10 minutes on the internet. Ask some of your peers if they have ever worked with your prospective client. You may find out that they are prone to filing lawsuits, or to not paying on time (or at all). Run a Dun & Bradstreet report. Make sure they are as financially sound as they say they are.
New Projects/Questionable Projects
Now is not the time to start taking on work in fields that you have no experience in. Again, because of the economy, any little thing that goes wrong can potentially snowball into a lawsuit looking for that deep pocket. There are a large number of claims that involve schools, universities, churches, medical facilities, and condos/co-ops/apartment buildings. If you do not specialize in those areas now, do not take on jobs in these areas. If you already have a specialty in these areas be aware of what it is you are getting into. What is the reward relative to the risk you will be taking on? Proper contracts can go a long way to helping you stay out of trouble. Your employees also go a long way to helping you stay out of trouble. Unfortunately some of you have had to let some employees go. While it is never easy to let go of employees, it is even less easy knowing that there is a shortage of talent in the design professional industry. Know the capabilities of your current team (pared down or not). It is ok to pass on work that you know you cannot complete without breaking the figurative and physical bank. It is much more expensive, both in the short and long term, to get involved in a big claim than it would have been to just take a pass.
Any advice given here does not pertain to public sector contracts. Public sector contracts are take them or leave them, and most firms take them. And while that is not ideal, it is the nature of that particular beast. There are many pitfalls involving poorly worded contracts. Is the scope of services clearly stated? Are there unrealistic expectations regarding schedules and fees? Are the indemnification clauses mutual? Do warranties and guarantees exist which would not be covered under a professional liability policy? Is the standard of care attainable? Is there a mediation provision? Is there a limitation of liability provision? A contract should be in place prior to initial work. Client-authored forms, especially, should be reviewed by your counsel and insurance agent in order to detect any onerous language like assumption of liability as well as any insurability issues. Contracts with subcontractors should also be maintained and reviewed in the same fashion.
The title just about speaks for itself. Clear, concise and frequent communication between all parties involved is imperative to the success of any project. Client expectations have to be managed and that simply cannot be done without proper communication. Poorly defined staff responsibilities and scope of services are some of the biggest causes for the elevation of issues. Avoid the types of claims alleging misrepresentation, negligence, or misconduct by simply communicating more clearly and more frequently. Most importantly, document any and all forms of communication so as to avoid mysterious “lapses in memory”. There is an old joke about lawsuits: the person with the most paper usually wins. Live by those words. Also, don’t write anything in internal memos or e-mails about anyone else that you wouldn’t say to their face. You would be very surprised what comes up during discovery. There is a whole industry that is devoted to the field of electronic discovery. It is their job to find all electronic files that pertain to a specific case during the period of discovery. Think about that the next time you want to send an e-mail to a coworker telling him/her what a pain in the neck your client is. Just because you delete an e-mail doesn’t mean that it disappears into an electronic blackhole.
Trust Your Instincts
The first time you even suspect a problem might become a claim get the insurance company involved. Insurance company studies have shown that the earlier the insurance company gets involved the less likely the problem is to become a claim. Don’t worry about loss preventions (pre-claims assistance) increasing the price of your liability insurance. In general, pre-claims assistance does not affect the price you pay for your liability insurance and the assistance is generally free. Most, if not all, insurance companies want to get involved from the beginning. Just remember, however much you pay for your professional liability insurance, the insurance company has more skin in the game than you do. They will fight hard to keep their money in their pocket.
While there is no magic bullet that will make all claims disappear, following the simple steps that have been outlined here will get you well on your way to a more claims free life. After all, the cost of insurance is much more than what you pay for your actual policy. Frequent and/or severe claims will cost you in ways that you may never have thought about. Such as: money in the form of lost opportunity costs and deductibles as well as future increases in both the price of your liability policy and future deductibles as well as an overall loss of morale, and of course time away from doing what you love most. If you arm yourself with proper education and safeguards you will ultimately reduce the total cost of your insurance. And who couldn’t use a little extra money these days?
About the Author
Joshua Lluch is a Business Development Manager for Singer Nelson Charlmers and specializes in Insurance for Engineers.
The following Question and Answer (Q&A) material is a follow up to the Webinar presented by Kauff McGuire & Margolis LLP and Singer Nelson Charlmers. Watch the full webinar video here. This information is based on the information that was recently released by the Department of Labor and the IRS and will be reviewed if additional guidance is issued. Want to learn more? Contact Singer Nelson Charlmers now.
Eligibility for the Premium Reduction
An “assistance eligible individual” is the employee or member of his/her family who elects COBRA coverage timely following a qualifying event related to an involuntary termination of employment that occurs at any point from:
- September 1, 2008 through May 31, 2010; or
- March 2, 2010 through May 31, 2010 if:
(1) the involuntary termination follows a qualifying event that was a reduction of hours; and
(2) the reduction of hours occurred at any time from September 1, 2008 through May 31, 2010. (A reduction of hours is a qualifying event when the employee and his/her family lose coverage because the employee, though still employed, is no longer working enough hours to satisfy the group health plan’s eligibility requirements.)
Q1: Is there any specific report that the employer should provide to The Department of Labor or the Internal Revenue Service on ARRA in order to get credit for it toward payroll taxes?
A1: The COBRA subsidy amount is reimbursed by being claimed as a credit on IRS Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. IRS Form 941 has been revised to allow for this credit.
Q2: If we already sent out our own notifications earlier, do we need to resend these official notices?
A2: That will depend on what was included in the notices that you sent prior to the release of the Department of Labor’s Model Notices. You will need to review your notices to determine if all of the same required information was included on them; otherwise, we suggest that you send the applicable Model Notice to each COBRA beneficiary as required by ARRA.
Q3: Does dental and vision have to be bundled with medical insurance in order to receive 65% for dental and vision?
A3: As long as the COBRA beneficiary was enrolled in both medical, dental and vision on the day before the qualifying event date (termination date), all three plans are eligible for the premium subsidy.
Q4: We have a Third Party Administrator (TPA) handling our COBRA administration. Who pays the 65%?
A4: Since the TPA is administering the COBRA process for you, you should contact them directly to ensure that they are following the guidelines as established by ARRA.
NOTE: The payroll tax credit may be claimed by whichever entity is paying the 65% of the premium, which can be:
(1) a multi-employer group health plan,
(2) an employer maintaining a group health plan that is subject to Federal COBRA continuation coverage requirements or that is self-insured, or
(3) an insurer providing coverage under a plan not included in (1) or (2).
Only this person is eligible to offset its payroll taxes by the amount of the subsidy.
Q5: How is the credit for the premium reduction entered on to the IRS Form 941 if you have a payroll provider who does our payroll taxes, such as ADP?
A5: You will need to contact your payroll provider and ask what procedure they have established to fill out the IRS Form 941 to obtain the subsidy.
Q6: You’ve mentioned “repayment of premium assistance” by Assistant Eligible Individuals how would this work?
A6: If an individual’s modified adjusted gross income for the tax year in which the premium assistance is received exceeds the income levels set forth in ARRA, the individual will be required to repay the premium assistance through their income tax.
Q7: Do notifications go to qualified beneficiaries terminated between September 1, 2008 and May 31 , 2010 whether the termination was involuntary or voluntary? Or is it just involuntarily terminated employees who should get the notice?
A7: The Department of Labor requires that notices be sent to ALL employees whose employment was terminated after 9/1/08, regardless of reason for termination.
Q8: If someone was terminated for cause and not a layoff would that person be covered under ARRA?
A8: Yes, because a termination for cause is still an involuntary termination. The Department of Labor requires that notices be sent to ALL employees whose employment was terminated between 9/1/08 and May 31, 2010, regardless of the reason for termination… A determination will then be made as to whether or not these individuals are Assistance Eligible Individuals who are entitled to the premium subsidy.
Q9: What if an employee was responsible for 100% of dental and vision premiums because the company did not pay for the coverage when they were employed?
A9: Dental and vision coverage are eligible for the premium subsidy, even if they were completely paid for by the employee.
Q10: I was told that in order for a terminated employee to receive the 65% subsidy for dental or vision coverage it must be bundled with the medical coverage to receive the 65% subsidy, is this incorrect?
A10: Each coverage, medical, dental and vision is eligible for the premium subsidy separately.
Q11:I’m a little confused on the General ARRA notice and the Subsidy Extension notice. Will some people need to receive BOTH notices?
A11: No. The General notice (full version) goes to those individuals whose employment has been terminated but who have not yet received a COBRA notice. The Subsidy Extension notice goes to those individuals whose employment was terminated between 9/1/2008 and 5/31/2010 who already received their original COBRA notice and either did elect COBRA continuation or elected and then later discontinued coverage.
Q12:If an employee is put on a reduction of hours, therefore ineligible for health insurance coverage since they are now working part time, are they eligible to continue coverage on COBRA with the subsidy?
A12: Although the individual is eligible for COBRA continuation due to a reduction in hours (making them ineligible for benefits), they are not eligible for the premium subsidy since their employment has not been terminated.
Q13: If you use a TPA (Third Party Administrator) for administration and notification of COBRA, will the TPA be responsible to send the required notification to the eligible individual or does the employer send the notices directly to the eligible individual?
A13: As the employer, you are ultimately responsible to ensure that all Qualified Beneficiaries are sent the required notices. You should contact your TPA to ensure this is being done.
Q14: Could you clarify, if someone had medical insurance and waived dental coverage at the time they were employed would they be eligible to take dental now through COBRA?
A14: No. You can only elect coverage that was in place upon termination of employment.
Q15: If someone is on FMLA and is due to return in May and decides not to return for the balance of the school year and the school has opted not to renew the employee for September do they qualify?
A15: Yes. The option not to renew the employee would be considered an involuntary termination.
Q16: Must each member of the family get a separate notice?
A16: Yes – each Qualified Beneficiary must receive a separate notice.
Q17:To confirm, a terminated employee may choose to continue dental and vision and not medical insurance?
A17: Yes, that is correct.
Q18: If someone is currently in an extended coverage period (i.e., divorced spouse, disabled, etc.) through COBRA, can or will this further extend that period?
A18: No. ARRA does not extend the period for COBRA continuation.
Q19: Are employees who are terminated for gross misconduct covered by ARRA?
A19: If a terminated employee is eligible for COBRA continuation, the employee would be eligible for premium subsidy under ARRA. An employee terminated for gross misconduct is generally not eligible for COBRA continuation.
Q20: What happens if someone elects COBRA coverage, we then advise the carrier of their election and begin to pay premiums, but the premium is never paid by the employee? Does the carrier refund the premiums that were paid to them and cancel the coverage retroactively?
A20: You will be required by the insurer to reinstate and pay the full monthly billed premium once the person makes their election for continuation. As with the current COBRA process, failure to remit the premium would result in termination of coverage back to the reinstatement date and you would request a refund from the insurer.
Q21: Is a qualified beneficiary only the family members covered by family coverage while the person was an active employee?
A21: Yes, unless there is a subsequent qualifying event. (e.g., the birth of a new child)
Q22: In the event of the death of the primary insured, who was Medicare eligible but worked full time and utilized the company’s medical as primary coverage, after the death of the primary Medicare eligible, can the dependent spouse, who is also Medicare eligible, continue on COBRA with the subsidy?
A22: The spouse of a deceased employee who is eligible for Medicare would not be considered an Assistance Eligible Individual and would be ineligible for the premium subsidy.
Q23: If an employer pays health insurance premiums for a few months following an involuntary termination as part of a severance package, how does that affect the 15 month period of reduced premiums?
A23: According to new guidelines recently released by the IRS (2009-27), the effect on the 15 month reduced severance period will depend on how the employer treats its provision of health coverage during the severance period. If the employer treats its provision of health coverage during the severance period as deferring the employee’s loss of insurance coverage (as long as the employer’s plan allows coverage for terminated employees and the coverage provided during the severance period is the same as that for active employees), the fifteen month period will not begin until the employer stops providing coverage under the severance package. If, however, the employer considers its provision of health coverage under the severance package to be part of its COBRA obligation (e.g., the severance package says the employer will pay for three months of “COBRA coverage”), then the loss of coverage will begin as soon as the employer begins providing for health coverage following the termination, and the fifteen months will run from that date.
An individual is involuntarily terminated from employment on May 15, 2009. Health coverage in connection with the May 15 termination would normally end on May 30, 2009. However, the employee’s severance package includes three months of health coverage, at the same level as active employees, for which the employer pays the entire insurance premium and the employee does not pay any portion of the premium, running from June 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009, under a health insurance plan which allows coverage for terminated employees. If the employer considers no loss of coverage to have occurred until the three months of severance benefits have been exhausted, the fifteen months of premium subsidy will not begin to run until September 1, 2009, when the employee has to start paying insurance premiums to maintain COBRA continuation coverage, and the subsidy will end on November 30, 2010.
If, however, the employer treats the three months of premium payments under the severance package (June, July and August) as part of the employer’s obligation to provide COBRA continuation of coverage (and/or the plan does not provide coverage for non-active employees), the loss of coverage, and the fifteen months, will begin on June 1, 2009. In this scenario, because the employee is not paying any premium for the first three months of coverage, the employee will only have twelve months of premium subsidy available when the employee begins paying the premium on September 1, 2009, and the fifteen month period will be over on August 31, 2010.
Q24: For terminated employees, who did not elect COBRA, is the 18-month continuation period effective from their date of termination or is it 18 months from the effective date of the ARRA Act, March 1, 2009?
A24: The COBRA continuation period is 18 months from the original qualifying event (e.g., termination of employment). The Extended Election Period provided by ARRA does not extend the COBRA continuation period, it only allows those who did not elect COBRA when they were first offered the opportunity to elect, or those who elected coverage but have since discontinued COBRA coverage, a second opportunity to elect COBRA and receive the premium subsidy for up to 15 months.
Q25: How long is the ARRA Act in effect? When will it expire? Will this apply to any future terminations?
A25: It will apply to involuntary terminations that occur between 9/1/08 through 5/31/10. The subsidy is available to an Assistance Eligible Individual for up to 15 months following the employee’s date of termination. Therefore, an employee whose employment is involuntarily terminated in December 2009 would be eligible for premium assistance for fifteen months, through September 2010. An employee whose employment is terminated after 5/31/10 will not be eligible for the premium subsidy