On July 12, the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) were presented with a much-awaited set of recommendations by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), a consultant group that the PASSHE board hired earlier this year to conduct a strategic review of the state-owned university system. PASSHE, which Chamber member Bloomsburg University is a member of along with 13 other institutions, has a combined enrollment of just over 100,000 students, including over 9,500 at Bloomsburg during the recently completed 2016-17 academic year. According to a 2015 study commissioned by PASSHE, the 14 institutions have a combined $6.7 billion total economic impact, including nearly $393 million at Bloomsburg, utilizing data from the 2013-14 academic year. The strategic review was necessary due to falling enrollment and budget challenges at a majority of the PASSHE schools.
Hamilton Dental Care Hosts Open House Tomorrow at New Location
Hamilton Dental Care, which cut the ribbon on its new office building last week, will celebrate the recent opening of its new location at 2 Audubon Court, Bloomsburg, with an Open House tomorrow, July 13, from 4:30-8 p.m. The public is invited to bring the family for a fun night of food and prizes. Attendees can tour the new office and meet the friendly staff. Kids will enjoy face painting and balloons by The Balloon Man, Lanny Lee. Adults can register to win a variety of prizes and baskets. All new patients that schedule during this event will receive a 50% savings off their new patient exam. A door prize of free whitening will also be given away to one lucky winner.
First Step Seminar in Bloomsburg This Friday
Have you ever thought about starting your own business, but weren’t quite sure if it would be right for you? Or maybe you want to know what paperwork you need in order to open your doors? These and several other common questions for small businesses will covered at the next First Step Seminar given by the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) on Friday, July 14, at noon at the Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. Business Incubator, 151 E. Main St., Bloomsburg. Laura Haden of the SBDC will speak about the different legal structures a business can be, how to write a business plan and create financial projections, and much more. Cost is $15 for the First Step book. Walk-ins are welcome but pre-registration is preferred. Register by calling 570-408-4334, email or online.
Bucknell SBDC to Hold Annual Celebration of Small Business Breakfast
The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center will host its annual Celebration of Small Business Breakfast on Friday, July 21, from 8-10 a.m. in the Terrace Room on the second floor of the Elaine Langone Center on the Bucknell campus in Lewisburg. Friends and fans of small business are all invited to attend this free event that will bring together the business community, statewide economic development stakeholders and legislators to recognize the accomplishments of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial leaders in the region. The year’s program will feature the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year for Pennsylvania, Elvin Stoltzfus, the founder and president of Pik Rite, Inc. It will also recognize the local finalists of the 2017 InnovateHER Business Challenge and recognize the winners of that competition, and will feature the presentation of the Charles H. Coder Entrepreneurial Leadership Award recognizing innovation in new product development and outstanding collaboration with Bucknell’s College of Engineering.
Register for this free event online, or by calling Shelley Gadoury at 570-577-1249.
United Way of Columbia County Merges With Danville Area United Way
On July 1, the United Way of Columbia County and the Danville Area United Way consolidated to become the United Way of Columbia and Montour County. This combining of resources allows the merged organizations to collaborate on operations and fundraising campaigns. The organization’s new website is cmcuw.org. United Way of Columbia and Montour County shares an office building with the Chamber at 238 Market St. in Bloomsburg.
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union to Host Ribbon Cutting and Grand Opening of New Branch
Philadelphia Federal Credit Union (PFCU) will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 10, at 11 a.m. at their new branch office located in the Route 11 Marketplace, 1615 Columbia Blvd. (Rt. 11), Bloomsburg. The ribbon cutting will be followed by a public grand opening featuring free food and giveaways, which will run until 2 p.m.
Geisinger Health recently expanded its medication take-back program to Geisinger Bloomsburg Hospital. A medication take-back box, located in the main lobby, is now available for use by patients, visitors and employees, to safely return unused or expired prescriptions.
The goal of Geisinger’s medication take-back program is twofold: to decrease the abuse and unintentional overdose of prescription drugs by children and teenagers, and to decrease the potential negative impacts of medications on our environment. Geisinger currently has more than 20 take-back boxes installed throughout its footprint for the safe and eco-friendly disposal of unused and expired medications.
The take-back boxes are easy to use and accept prescription and over-the-counter medications, including narcotics, in solid, liquid, patch, cream, ointment and spray form. Inhalers, needles, syringes and aerosols are not accepted. The box is securely locked and under 24/7 security surveillance.
For more information about Geisinger’s take-back boxes, including locations, hours and frequently asked questions, visit Geisinger.org/takeback.
Update as of Tuesday, July 11: Gov. Wolf allowed the state budget bill to become law by letting the deadline pass without signing the bill. Lawmakers continue to negotiate a revenue plan this week in order to balance the budget.
Tonight at midnight is the deadline for Gov. Tom Wolf to take action on H.B. 218, the nearly $32 billion General Appropriations that lawmakers sent him on June 30. The state Capitol was largely quiet last week as legislative leaders continued to negotiate the details of a revenue package to pay for the spending plan. House lawmakers returned to session on Friday and the Senate returned on Saturday, with both chambers convening through the weekend, though little progress was made. In fact, on Sunday the governor rejected a revenue plan that legislative leaders floated his way. “It wasn’t enough,” Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, explained to Capitolwire about the $2.2 billion revenue package that included about $1.4 billion in borrowing and $800 million in recurring and non-recurring revenues.
With the governor supposedly holding out for a “couple hundred million dollars more” in additional spending, session is scheduled every day this week until all four caucuses and the administration can agree on a revenue plan. In terms of gaming expansion, it now appears unlikely that the final agreement will include video gaming terminals. Corman told reporters that the gaming provisions are now mostly agreed to, with satellite casinos (smaller gaming venues for which existing casinos would have a first option to bid on licenses), internet gambling run by casinos and fantasy sports betting are being negotiated. Also, while the Senate has seemed uninterested in agreeing to additional liquor reforms, they are now entertaining legislation that would allow beer distributors to become one-stop shops of wine, liquor and beer products in the state’s more rural areas, which liquor privatization supporters say are underserved by the state’s system of liquor stores (a reform that would net about $50 million).
On Thursday, it was announced that the governor’s proposal to merge four state agencies into a Department of Health and Human Services will NOT include the Pennsylvania Departments of Aging or Drug and Alcohol Programs. Gov. Wolf had initially suggested that these agencies, in addition to the Departments of Health and Human Services be combined as part of a larger consolidation plan to help the Commonwealth save $2 billion. Lawmakers cited concerns about the short timeframe associated with the move in the midst of an opioid epidemic as the reason why they moved away from the plan as presented. According to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, although H.B. 218 includes savings from combining the Departments of Health and Human Services, that merger must still be approved by legislation. A timeline for when that would happen is unclear.
It’s worth noting that the governor’s midnight deadline on H.B. 218 is only a deadline if he wants the revenue plan to be fully agreed-to before taking action on the bill. Or, history could repeat itself and he could do what he did last year and allow the bill to become law without his signature because the necessary revenues weren’t yet approved. In 2016, lawmakers debated revenue sources for two additional days after the spending bill officially became law.
Late June begins the start of summer and thoughts turn to those lazy-hazy days of just relaxing. When it comes to the matter of compliance though, 2017 is not the time to “just kick back” and see what happens. In July, many employers will start to review their past compliance efforts and begin to look forward to the new employee benefit plan year. The following discusses some of the issues that employers should continue to monitor for the rest of the year.
Affordable Care Act
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) is required to offer minimum essential coverage that is affordable and provides minimum value. Known as the employer mandate, an employer could be penalized if the employer fails to offer any coverage – whether “affordable” or not – to at least 95% of its full-time employees, (and their dependents) and at least one full-time employee enrolls in subsidized coverage on the Exchange. The penalty for 2017 is $2,260 (annualized) or $183.33 monthly multiplied for every full-time employee in the employer’s company, reduced by the first thirty full-time employees.
On the other hand, if an ALE does offer coverage to at least 95% of its full-time employees (and dependents), but the coverage is not affordable, then the employer will be subject to a penalty of $3,390 (annualized) or $282.50 monthly multiplied by just the number of those specific full-time employees to whom affordable coverage was not offered and who are receiving subsidized coverage on the Exchange during that month.
The affordability percentage is indexed and, as such, has gradually increased reaching 9.69% in 2017. However, 2018’s limit will decrease to 9.56%.
To assist with the enforcement of the employer mandate, ALEs are required to report offers of health coverage and enrollment in health coverage for their employees. Forms 1094-C and 1095-C are used by ALEs to report this information to the IRS. The “C” forms assist the IRS in determining an ALE’s compliance with the employer mandate and the eligibility of employees for the premium tax credit.
Upon the inauguration of President Trump and his signing of two Executive Orders, many employers erroneously believe that the ACA is no longer applicable. The IRS has given no indication that it is planning to not enforce the employer mandate, so an employer should proceed as if penalties for noncompliance will be issued.
The ACA is still in effect and actions need to be taken accordingly. Unless and until any legislation is finalized, stay the current course, and continue to comply with ACA employer mandate and reporting requirements as if nothing has changed.
To that end, employers should review their compliance with the Affordable Care Act:
• Determine whether the employer is or is not an Applicable Large Employer by reviewing to see if they had 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees in 2016.
• If an ALE, ensure that in 2017 affordable, minimum value coverage is being offered to full-time employees and dependents (a full-time employee is one who works on average 30 hours a week).
• Continue to gather data as to what full-time employees have been offered coverage, accepted or waived it and whether coverage was affordable for the purpose of 1095-C and 1094- C reporting.
As a final note, in late June the Senate proposed its efforts to repeal and replace significant provisions of the Affordable Care Act, released a draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA). Although the BCRA does not repeal the individual and employer mandate, they would be effectively eliminated by making the penalties $0 for tax years starting after December 31, 2015. But as already noted, until there is a new Act in place the ACA remains effective.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The EEOC collects workforce data from all employers with 100 or more employees through an annual EEO-1 Report. The report, in its current form, collects data about gender, race, and ethnicity of employees by 10 different job groupings. In 2016 the EEOC revised the form in order to begin requiring employers to provide employee pay data.
This new information must be provided in the 2017 form, and to give employers time to collect that data, the deadline for 2017 will be extended by six months to March 31, 2018.
The EEOC’s goal in gathering this additional data is to identify businesses that may have pay gaps, and then target those employers who are discriminating on the account of gender—and possibly race or ethnicity—through enforcement actions. The EEOC plans to publish reports using aggregated data and to train its investigators to identify potential indicators of discrimination warranting additional investigation.
Thus, it would be in the best interest of those applicable employers to take the following action steps:
• Review pay practices to address and correct any areas of pay disparity based on gender or race/ethnicity before reporting to the EEOC;
• Review and if necessary revise job descriptions in order to determine which of the EEO-1 job categories each position should be reported under;
• Consider any time requirements and costs for data collection in order to generate the necessary reports; and
• Ensure proper understanding of how employees earn overtimes, bonuses, commissions and other W-2 box 1 wages.
Generally a “wellness program” refers to a program or activity to encourage employees to improve their health, thereby reducing overall healthcare costs. Programs run the spectrum of encouraging healthier lifestyles, such as exercising daily or stop smoking to obtaining medical information through the completion of health risk assessments or screenings for health risk factors. Financial incentives generally are offered to employees who participate or achieve certain health outcomes.
In 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final rules applicable to employer-sponsored wellness programs as they relate to the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). These final rules are applicable to employer plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.
Besides the ADA and GINA, employer-sponsored wellness programs can be subject to other federal laws, including the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It should be noted that compliance with one law does not guarantee compliance with other laws.
Any wellness program that includes a disability-related inquiry and/or medical exam is subject to this rule. The ADA rule provides the extent to which an employer may use incentives to encourage participation in wellness programs that require a response to a disability related inquiry or to undergo a medical examination. These inquiries or medical examinations include medical questionnaires, health risk assessments (HRAs), and biometric screenings. The incentive limits imposed by the ADA final rule are applicable to all wellness programs regardless of whether offered only to employees enrolled in the employer sponsored health plan, all employees regardless of enrollment in the group health plan, or offered as a stand-alone benefit without any group health plan coverage.
An employer’s wellness program is required to be voluntary. Voluntary means an employer cannot:
• Require an employee to participate in the program;
• Deny coverage under the employer’s group health plan or limit coverage under the plan for employees not participating in the wellness program; and
• Take any adverse action, retaliate against, or coerce employees who choose not to participant.
The regulations provide a notice requirement to employees and guidelines on incentive limitations under both the ADA and GINA, and were effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017.
Employers should take the time to review their benefit programs and identify any wellness program it may be offering in 2017. It could be an employer is inadvertently offering a wellness program that is included as part of a benefits option offered by its insurer. Thus, employers should take the following into consideration:
• Is the wellness program reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease?
• Are employees required to answer any disability related questions or have medical examinations to which the ADA would apply?
• Is it ensured that participation in any wellness program is voluntary?
• Has the confidentiality of any medical condition or history information been maintained?
• Do provided incentives meet the limitations imposed by the ADA, GINA and HIPAA?
• Are reasonable accommodations being offered to disabled employees as to participation in any wellness program?
• Does any smoking cessation program require testing, such that it comes within the EEOC limitations for incentives?
JRG Advisors, which manages the ChamberChoice program, is available on a consultative basis to help assist Chamber members with compliance related issues. For more information, call 1-800-377-3539.
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