ChamberChoice to Offer Pair of Webinars on Benefits-Related Issues in November and December

ChamberChoice will offer a pair of webinars about two separate topics related to workplace benefits administration in November and December. Both webinars are available free-of-charge to all Chamber members as a benefit of membership through the Chamber’s affinity programs through ChamberChoice

The schedule and topics of the webinars are listed below. Please visit the JRG Advisors website for more information or to register for one or both.

Thursday, Nov. 9, 10 a.m. – Add Value with Life and Disability Insurance

Thursday, Dec. 14, 10 a.m. – Avoid the Pitfalls of Plan Administration

State Budget Impasse Ends as State Legislature Passes, Governor Signs Funding Bills

The four-month impasse between when spending bills for the 2018 fiscal year state budget were passed and funding mechanisms were agreed to ended earlier this week as the Pennsylvania state legislature passed a series of bills that were then signed by Governor Tom Wolf that will fund the necessary spending. The revenue package has three main components:

– Authorizes additional gambling, including Internet-based games and more casinos. 
– Authorizes borrowing up to $1.5 billion from the state’s tobacco settlement, to be paid back annually over the next 20 years.
– A series of one-time fund transfers totaling about $500 million into the state’s general fund. 

For more details, read this summary from the Harrisburg Patriot-News or this summary from the PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Chamber Provides Input on Family Sustaining Jobs to Governor’s Task Force

A task force comprised of representatives of business, labor, education, and Governor Wolf’s cabinet are holding a series of panel discussions around the state to gather input on how to support and grow Pennsylvania’s middle class through family sustaining jobs. Following the conclusion of the meetings, the Middle Class Task Force will present recommendations to the governor later this year. Chamber President Fred Gaffney participated in one of the meetings held Monday, Oct. 30 in Pittston.

Issues discussed at the meeting echoed those voiced by local members. Transportation and basic skills training are challenges for individuals trying to get from low to middle income. Encouraging skilled trades is needed to meet the needs of manufacturing. Promoting opportunities in education and nursing statewide to students can help bridge the gap between supply and demand.  WBRE/WYOU was on hand to report on the discussion.

“As there are clear commonalities across the state, I am hopeful that recommendations to the Governor will result in the realignment of resources to address at least some of these issues,” said Gaffney. “There are plenty of good jobs available in our area. We look forward to greater collaborations with regional and statewide partners to help connect people with these opportunities.”

The co-chairs for the task force are: Pennsylvania Chamber of Business & Industry President Gene Barr, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Assistant Vice Chancellor Dr. Sue Mukherjee and Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association Chairperson Susie Snelick. Other members include: PA Dept. of Community and Economic Development Secretary Dennis Davin, PA Dept. of Labor and Industry Acting Secretary Jerry Oleksiak, and PA Dept. of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.

Federal Tax Reform Moves One Step Ahead in Close U.S. House Budget Vote

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

Last week in a tight 216-212 vote, the U.S. House passed the Senate’s budget – a move that gets them one step closer to achieving sweeping and long overdue federal tax reforms. With this action, U.S. House Republicans unlocked procedural powers that allow the Senate to pass a tax bill with just 51 votes and sidestep Democratic attempts to stymie the bill’s progress.

While opponents of the legislation have raised concerns about potential changes to 401(k)’s in the tax plan (President Trump has promised there will be none) and state and local tax deductions contained within the legislation, the text of the bill has yet to be unveiled, with plans to introduce it on Nov. 1.

Though passage of tax reform legislation remains several actions away, the House’s approval of the Senate budget was a critical step in the process. Last month, the PA Chamber signed on to a U.S. Chamber-led, national coalition letter urging Congress to take the necessary steps so that the nation’s tax laws can be amended for the first time in 31 years and attract new investment into the country. PA Chamber President Gene Barr has also authored recent opinion editorials making the case for tax reform to be enacted by the end of this year. Further details on the U.S. Chamber’s nationwide push for federal tax reform can be found at TaxReformforAmerica.com.

Formula For Success: How Benefits Brokers Put People First

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

What gets you up every morning? OK, besides the dreaded buzz of the alarm clock or smell of fresh brewed coffee. Is it simply to “wake up and repeat,” like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day? Or, perhaps you want to check one more thing off your to-do list?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of complacency and routine when it comes to our daily tasks, says Jessica Galardini, president and COO at JRG Advisors. We go through the motions day-to-day and forget about the real purpose behind what we do.

“For benefits brokers, that purpose, drive and passion should be simple — helping people,” Galardini says. “By putting the focus on people and relationships instead of the sale, a benefits broker can make meaningful connections that result in loyal clients, and of course, referrals. Insurance professionals in today’s world of health care benefits need to develop a unique perspective to be successful.”

Smart Business spoke with Galardini about the traits that employers should look for in the most successful benefits brokers.

How has employee benefits changed?
Almost any benefits broker would agree that operating in the health care benefits industry over the past 10 years has been difficult. Building a successful business and client base while responding to the numerous, ever-changing outcomes of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created many challenges for reducing uncertainties and the painful impact to employers and employees.

While it’s human nature to resist change, a benefits broker should think outside of the box and look for unique, innovative ways to do his or her job, which is to solve problems. It’s an opportunity to minimize the angst people feel with the ACA — to explain the changes, minimize the concern and worry, and sort through polarizing politics.

People want good health care, provider access and convenience at a better price. This is a challenging, but not impossible, task and should be what motivates any benefits broker. Health care, now more than ever, is an important area for brokers to help their clients and showcase their expertise.

How do successful benefits brokers approach this uncertain environment?
The uncertainty around the law seems to build every day, with the ACA’s future wavering on Senate votes. Even with the uncertainty, benefits brokers can’t forget the people caught in the crossfire of the ACA and politics. With rising costs, many employers are feeling stuck with what they have, or that the only cost containment strategy is to push more cost toward their workforce. A good approach starts with C-level dialogue to identify, consider and understand requirements within coverage, network, workforce and budget.

There are products and services to achieve objectives, once they’re clearly identified and considered on a scale of importance to overall strategy. Some solutions include specific data analytics to identify emerging health risk factors so a care strategy can be developed, confidentially and individually within the workforce. Technology options also can provide a deeper-dive population comparison, even for employers without historical claims data. Online transparency tools give employees real-time information by zip code, service type and facility so they can make smart choices for services like blood work and MRIs, which can range from affordable to astronomical in cost with no difference in quality outcomes.

These solutions empower employers through dialogue, information and motivating employees with the ‘carrot’ rather than the ‘stick’ — moving the needle toward knowledge-based decision-making,
defined affordability and people satisfaction.

What else would you like to share?
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to health insurance. Benefits brokers should look for unique ways to continuously educate their clients and connect with them on a more interactive level, such as through educational webinars and seminars. This can be a proactive approach to solving the clients’ problems before they arise and addressing real issues.

Strong benefits brokers consider the people they’re helping in order to bring fresh and creative problem-solving ideas to the table. By keeping people in mind and maintaining a unique perspective, they’re inspired and employers are happy — a winning formula for success.