The Alcott Group   Good for Your Business ~ Good for Your People
    •  Employee Health Insurance
    •  What's New at Alcott?
    •  Did You Know?
    •  Alcott in the News
    •  On the Regulatory Front
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Welcome to the Early Winter 2008 edition of The Alcott Advisor. As always we strive to provide meaningful content related to Human Resources in small and mid-sized businesses.

This month's newsletter highlights the rise in healthcare costs and what it means for both the employer and employee. There are also several new developments at Alcott and these are covered in the "What's New at Alcott" article.

If you would like to author an article for The Alcott Advisor or you have a subject you would like us to research and write about in a future issue, please contact me at 631-420-0100 extension 313 or via e-mail at

Happy Holidays!

Enjoy the newsletter.    Al Anastasi

Employee Health Insurance

Employee Health Insurance: More Choices,
More Accountability
No one would deny that healthcare in America is in crisis. The costs have been rising steadily for the past three and a half decades at a rate of 10% -15% per year. The healthcare industry now represents an estimated 17% of the gross domestic product (GDP) and a $2 trillion industry. If left unchecked, that number could rise to 19.5% of the GDP by 2017. These hard cold facts are not lost on American employers who, according to the National Conference of State Legislature’s (NCSL) latest report (Health Insurance and the States, August 2007), carry the brunt of this healthcare costs with 59.7% of Americans -- 177,152,000 people -- covered by employer-based insurance.

What does this all mean to employers and employees? The good news is that with the spotlight on rising costs have come a few positive outcomes. Employers are becoming more proactive in meeting their goal of containing healthcare costs. Employees are contributing larger percentages towards their medical coverage and becoming more responsible in their healthcare decisions and overall well-being. Everyone is becoming accountable. One trend which is helping drive lower costs is that of Consumer-Driven Health Plans (CDHPs). They include Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs) and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). A recent survey of employers found that 83% expected to be offering CDHPs within the next several years.

Click here to read more

New Healthcare Offerings at Alcott
At The Alcott Group, we have always been proactive on behalf of our client companies and their employees. We offer a wide range of health insurance benefits and options; dental, vision, life and long term disability coverage; as well as flexible spending accounts and 401(k) plans. In addition, we encourage employers to adopt wellness programs and consider creative ways to motivate their employees' participation in healthy behaviors.

Recently, we have added a new Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO) provided through Oxford for our Tri-State clients. This in-network program offers a lower-cost option for employees.

Click here to read more

Did You Know?

  • Despite high health care costs, employers who offer health benefits for their workers remain committed to the current employer-based health insurance system according to a report by Commonwealth Fund. Employers also expect that increases in health benefit costs will start to slow down according to a Watson Wyatt National Business Group on Health Survey.

  • The forerunners to Blue Cross were founded during the Great Depression. They were controlled by hospitals and were created to provide "first-dollar coverage for hospital expenses, but with a limited duration." By the late 1930s, physicians established their version of medical coverage, Blue Shield plans and through the 1940s, the so-called "Blues" dominated in medical expense coverage. ("Development of Medical Expense Coverage,"
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On the Regulatory Front

  • On December 20th, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the "Tax Relief and Health Care Act (H.R.6111) also called the "Health Opportunity Patient Empowerment Act of 2006". The law expands HSAs' annual limits and funding sources, and provided greater flexibility for employers electing to fund the accounts. Under the legislation, deposits up to the annual contribution limits, regardless of the qualified health plan deductible, were now permitted. Previously, contributions were limited to the health plan deductible if it was below the annual contribution limit. In 2007, the limits were set at $2,850 for individual coverage and $5,650 for family coverage. In 2008, the maximum HSA contribution increased to $2,900 for individuals and $5,800 for families, and in 2009 it will be $3,000 for individuals and $5950 for families.

  • In January 2009 changes become effective for two long-time employment laws. Specifically, new regulations were issued on the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act ("ADAAA") was passed which amends the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new FMLA regulations become effective on January 16, 2009, and, among other things, update the current FMLA regulations to implement new military family leave entitlements enacted under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008, add certain notice obligations and form requirements and clarify certain provisions which were subject to different interpretation. The ADAAA becomes effective January 1, 2009 and redefines and broadens the definition of disabilities under the ADA.
Click here to read more

What's New at Alcott?

The Alcott Group Announces Two New Associates
There is a new addition to Alcott's Western New York Division: Stacey Payne, PHR, has been named a HR Specialist. She will be responsible for collaborating with clients in an advisory manner on all human resource matters including employee relations and benefits. Among her day-to-day functions will be advising and supporting client owners and managers on human resource matters, conducting training programs and responding to inquiries from clients and employees.

Additionally, Kimberly Hamm, who has been an Alcott Associate since 2003, has been promoted to HR Representative. Kim, who is familiar to our clients and their employees, will be responsible for assisting employees with their benefit inquiries, enrolling employees in medical insurance plans, setting up payroll deductions and coordinating benefits-related employee communications. In addition, she will be handling various insurance and Family Medical Leave Act reconciliations, as well as the administration of COBRA and ancillary benefits.

Click here to read more

Alcott in the News

  • Long Island Business News turned to Alcott's Al Anastasi for his insight into seminars in its article titled, "On-the-job training." Al shared Alcott's experience hosting seminars for accountants and attorneys. "We give an overview of the intricacies of our (PEO) model, so they can advise clients," said Al Anastasi, director of sales. "A company that is considering outsourcing its HR might ask its CPA for advice. A CPA who doesn't know much about it might be wary and steer the client away from the idea. These seminars help accountants understand how the relationship works, and how the IRS looks upon our model, so that can talk about PEOs intelligently." (Note: Alcott's seminars for accountants and attorneys are accredited by the New York State Education Department for CPE and CLE credits, respectively.)

  • Alcott was recently named a recipient of the prestigious 2008 Alfred P. Sloan Award for Business Excellence in Workplace Flexibility. The award recognizes employers in select communities nationwide that are successfully using flexibility in the workplace to meet both business and employee goals in comparison with national data.
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