Archive for August 2016

Knock knock – who’s there? – American business

I am having breakfast at the Adobe Restaurant watching rain come down like high water poured out of  short top cowboy boots and I’m wondering – how does American busines keep doing it? The election is a mess, nobody knows what is going to happen and yet there were 250,000 new jobs reported last month.

American business people really just never give up.

Focus Benefits Group is an employer based consulting firm so I see mainly regulations and costs related to employee benefits and payroll. For example, the real cost of providing benefits is not the medical cost plus administration. You have to add the regulatory burden imposed by a massive new bureaucracy created by ACA. Administration costs for insurance providers have been capped at 18% to 22% but the governmental sector has no limits and they just keep grinding out the regulations.

Consider this:

The SBA reported in 2010 that  the federal regulatory burden in 2008 was $15,586 per household and the cost for healthcare  $10,586.  That was 2008! ( 83 page report) Imagine what the cost must be now

The point is regulation may comes from real need initially but beaurocrats by their nature can’t let a solved problem rest. They just have to keep making it worse, or better in their eyes. They also seem to be unable to punish only the guilty. They like to punish everybody in the hopes  they will get a guilty one at some point.

Alright enough of a soap box speech. I was really trying to point out how resilient our economy is and how innovative our entrepreneurs are. Life changes and as the old methods and products go away new opportunities arise and thrive. The trick is to be able too ride the small waves and be ready when the big swell rolls through.

As an aside to this topic you might want to get your hands on the  latest Metlife benefits study. As the world moves to more websites and fancy Internet  interfaces, Metlife found employees want more personnel contact and better face to face advice. (Well Duuuh!) Contrary to popular belief millenials are loyal workers and they are not as promiscuous as their parents were. Aren’t employers looking for honest reliable workers with ethical values?

Back to American business. We are still the most innovative and entrepreneurial society ever in history and we need to consider education and mental capability. And that means that we need manufacturing and other reliable jobs that puts all levels of education  and ability back to work.

Not every person has the ability to program or deal with computers, or work in esoteric finance. But they can build things and show up for work and be respected and valuable. We need these people and they need work they can be proud of.

I know this wasn’t about insurance but I really love my country and I am proud of the people who make up this nation.  I have been reported dead at least twice and flat broke (living under the bridge) in my life. Each time somebody helped me get started again. Nobody gave me anything , they made me earn it but they made the opportunity available to me.

Be proud of your country and give somebody opportunity.




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Getting what you ask for – like it or not!

I read about an offer this morning from Welcoa, a wellness company, about the importance of positive Psychology in an effective wellness program. I agree but it took me to a place I frequently comment on.

You will get in life what you truly ask for.

I say that and right away people say “Yea, well I have been asking for more hair and more money for years and I don’t have either!” While that is humorous it is not the point I am making. The human mind is a very powerfull organism and our subconscious mind works in the background like a powerful computers  operating system.

Consider this. You have the ability to see, hear, taste, speak, and hopefully reason. You do all of those without effort from your conscious mind in most cases. Your subconscious mind lives in a dark soundless cave and can only get information you provide to it filtered through your daily experiences. OK OK where am  I going with this?

If all you give your subconscious mind is negative input it will decide that you really like that kind of life and it will give you back every opportunity to get more of it. Remember it only knows  what you tell yourself and then it reinforces what you seem to want.

If you are angry all day you may notice that you get many more opportunities to be angry everyday. “Why does everybody tick me off everyday?”

If you tell everybody you never get any good opportunities you may notice life is getting worse every day. “Why does everybody else get promoted but never me?”

If you focus on being sick all the time and talk about it to everybody every day you will most certainly get even sicker. You probably can’t cure cancer with a great attitude but those day to day maladies may be  under your control.

The point is that we get what we reinforce in ourselves and in others. So if you complain all the time you may well meet more people happy to  complain with you, and you will get many more opportunities to have things to complain about.

Motivators frequently say “Fake it till you make it.” and they are right in that if you tell yourself you are better you will become better. If you tell yourself you are healthy you will become more healthy. This is not magic and it  does not work just because you say the words, you have to take positive action. What happens is that as you think differently you see better opportunities and you encourage people to join you and be part of your positive journey.

As you may have heard “A mind is a a terrible thing to waste!”, so stop wasting the most valuable thing you own and control by feeding it trash.


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OK who volunteered to do 10 years in prison?

Those who know me, or work with Focus Benefits Group, are used to me going on and on about ACA compliance. Recently  another insurance broker commented that I had gotten up to speed on this subject pretty fast.

“That’s true, it has only been 42 years!” I commented.

ERISA has been a factor in benefits since 1974 and Summary Plan Documents (SPD) have been required for just about as long. The problem has been a lack of knowledge and professionalism on the part of Insurance brokers who were supposed to tell clients. For those who remember, many years ago insurance companies did include the ERISA language in their benefits booklets. They generally don’t do it now and you need to know that.

Business owners will face audits for many aspects of their business in the coming year. Legislators, and more onerously regulatory staff, are constantly increasing the reporting load. As a business owner you may not be able to comply with every rule but you do need to make sure you comply with at least the really important ones and the SPD is one of those.

I recently consulted for a large employer and found they had no ACA documentation, NONE! When I asked why they continue to use the advisor who left them in that position I was told “Because he gives us tickets to major sports events every year!” I am always surprised when successful business people tell me they trust their advisor on that basis. Here is the real problem.

Criminal penalties may be assessed individually or by company, for willfully violating any ERISA disclosure requirement (e.g., plan document, SPD, SMM or SAR), the penalty can be per conviction (as in per employee affected) and could be $100,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 10 years ($500,000 if assessed against a company). A plan administrator may be liable for $110 per day penalties for failure to provide a response to a request for a copy of a required document. If you don’t have the documents, how expensive might that become while you get them completed and then distributed.

When that employer is responding to the ACA audit, and looking at $500,000 in fines, I hope the sports tickets were worth it.

An SPD can be done for $200. What are you waiting for.

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