New Rules for Disability Benefit Claims May Be Delayed

New Rules for Disability Benefit Claims May Be Delayed

By GBS Team

On Dec. 16, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a final rule to strengthen the claims and appeals
requirements for plans that provide disability benefits and are subject to the Employee Retirement Income
Security Act (ERISA). The final rule is currently scheduled to apply to claims that are filed on or after Jan. 1, 2018. However, on Oct. 10, 2017, the DOL proposed to delay the final rule for 90 days—until April 1, 2018.

The DOL will review the final rule to determine whether it is unnecessary, ineffective or imposes costs that exceed its benefits, consistent with President Donald Trump’s executive order on reducing regulatory burdens.

Latest ACA Repeal Bill Withdrawn


By GBS Team

The Graham-Cassidy bill, the most recent Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was withdrawn from a vote on Sept. 26 due to lack of support in the Senate,
effectively dooming the legislation. Earlier that week, key Republican senators voiced opposition to the bill, which forced Senate leadership to shelf the vote until further notice. Given the
vocal opposition from influential health organizations and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the proposed bill would need a variety of amendments before plausibly moving forward.

This means the ACA will almost certainly remain unopposed until 2018. Republicans are using the remainder of the year to focus on a tax overhaul and do not have the bandwidth to continue the repeal and replace effort that has consumed most of this year.

With this latest repeal failure, more and more lawmakers are pushing for bipartisan negotiations to fix the flaws in the current health system. Democrats hope this most recent repeal failure will
increase their bargaining position, since they were largely ignored during all the health bill drafting sessions this year. If Republicans cannot secure enough of their members’ votes, they will be forced to negotiate with their counterparts.

What This Means for Employers

The IRS confirmed recently that employers should continue to comply with any ACA mandates, including the individual mandate and the employer shared responsibility rules. The IRS clarified this after the uncertainty created by President Donald Trump’s initial executive order directing federal agencies to provide relief from the burdens of the ACA.

GBS and Homes For Our Troops

Homes For Our Troops

By Kate Sharry

Kate Sharry is the owner and president of Group Benefits Strategies.

She is on the Executive Board of Directors for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Business Development Corporation Board of Directors, Worcester Homeless Youth Task Force, Planting the Seed Foundation, and serves on various committees in the Central Mass area.

GBS is proud to support Homes for Our Troops/Worcester Fitness Running Team Marine Corps Marathon.

The mission of the Marine Corps Marathon is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps. Annually ranked as one of the largest marathons in the US and the world, the MCM has been recognized as “Best Marathon in the Mid-Atlantic,” “Best for Families” and “Best for Beginners.” Runners from all 50 states and more than 50 countries participate in the MCM and an annual calendar of events including the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA in May and the MCM Event Series conducted aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Organized by the men and women of the United States Marine Corps, the MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, instead celebrating the honor, courage and commitment of all finishers.*

Worcester Fitness’ own official running team, led by Director of Fitness and Wellness Andy Sharry, has been training and fundraising for the Marine Corp Marathon for nearly a year and has generated over $31,000 for Homes For Our Troops. The entire team will travel to Arlington, Virginia and compete on Sunday October 22, 2017.

GBS is a proud sponsor of the Worcester Fitness Running Teams Homes For Our Troops/Marine Corp Marathon Team. We encourage you to support this dedicated and hard working team and help Homes For Our Troops beat their 2016 fundraising total of $500,000!

*Courtesy of Homes For Our Troops

143 Million People Potentially Affected in Equifax Data Breach

Equifax Data Breach

By Group Benefits Strategies

GBS has been providing expert health insurance consulting to municipalities and businesses for over 25 years.

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Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies in the United States, was recently the victim of a massive cyber attack—an attack that may have compromised the personal information of 143 million people.

The breach itself occurred between mid-May and July 2017 when cyber criminals gained access to sensitive data by exploiting a weak point in website software. As a result of the attack, sensitive information like Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and driver’s license numbers were compromised. In addition, Equifax said 209,000 credit card numbers were stolen, including information from international customers in Canada and the United Kingdom.

The recent attack on Equifax is the third major cyber security threat the organization has experienced since 2015 and one of the largest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years. The attack is so severe, in fact, it’s likely that anyone with a credit report was affected.

If you are concerned that you may have been impacted by the breach, Equifax has set up a website to help individuals determine if any of their personal information may have been stolen. Once you have navigated to the website, complete the following steps:

• Click the “Check Potential Impact” button.
• Provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

From there, a dialogue box will pop up and indicate whether or not your information was lost in the hack. All U.S. customers will also be given the opportunity to sign up for TrustedID Premier, which is an Equifax service that includes identity theft insurance, credit reports, and a service that crawls the internet and alerts you if your Social Security number is posted somewhere online. This service will be free for one year for those who sign up by Nov. 21.

If you have been impacted by the breach, experts recommend engaging in a credit freeze. This effectively locks down your Social Security number on your credit report and prevents criminals from opening up new lines of credit under your name. For more information on credit freezes, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

It should be noted that it may not be obvious that you are a customer of Equifax, as the company gets its data from credit card companies, banks and lenders that report on credit activity. As such, it’s important to follow the appropriate steps and check to see if your information was compromised.

Additionally, you should review your online bank and credit card statements on a weekly basis. This will help you monitor any suspicious activity. Contact law enforcement officials if you believe criminals have used your stolen information in some way.

Group Benefits Strategies will continue to monitor the Equifax cyber incident, providing any monitor the Equifax cyber incident, providing any major updates as necessary.


Employment Law Seminars

Employment Law Seminars

Managing a Changing Workplace

GBS is committed to keeping our clients current on all of the latest issues that face their municipalities. With that in mind, we are pleased to let you know of an upcoming employment law seminar being conducted by Joe Bartulis.

Joe is the Chairperson of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group at the Fletcher Tilton law firm. Having had Joe present seminars for GBS in the past, we find his seminars to be very informative and well worth it.

More details about the seminar are contained in the below evite. It will take place on two different dates. The first will be on the morning of Thursday October 5, 2017 in Natick. The second will be in the Worcester area on the morning of Tuesday October 17th.

To register, click on the active date links immediately above the evite and you will be directed to the registration page.


Client Spotlight – Town of Burlington, MA

The Human Resources Office and the Treasurer’s Office work closely to encourage employees and their family members to make choices that promote a healthy lifestyle. In a time where healthcare costs are rising, we see a responsibility to provide initiatives that correspond to smarter use of healthcare dollars. Some of our activities include on-site workshops lead by experts on various wellness topics such as healthy eating, balancing work and family, parenting, stress reduction, mindfulness and healthy living. We also provide annual flu shot clinics for all employees. These programs were available to all Burlington employees and are offered in a variety of municipal and school locations to encourage attendance from all groups.

We have offered incentives for our employees to attend Lahey Clinic’s Freedom From Smoking program which to date has provided employees with a 100% quit rate and we continually receive excellent employee reviews. In the springtime we get our employees outside for a walking challenge and sponsor a team to participate in the Harvard Pilgrim 5K. Our employees enjoy our annual Wellness Fair which showcases over 35 wellness providers and includes health screenings, activities, and information on numerous health-related topics. We also piloted a self-directed Healthy Holiday program that was quite popular and provided information, encouragement, and incentives to make informed eating choices during the holiday season.

Our wellness initiatives will continue to focus on education and encouragement to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We will also continue to assist our employees in utilizing the benefits programs offered to them in the most efficient way possible, which include use of local urgent care clinics for a $20 Office Visit copay and avoiding the $200 Emergency Room copay, waived copays for imaging that occurs at a free-standing facility such as Shields MRI, encouraging use of mail order prescriptions and offering free brand-name prescriptions through BurlingtonScripts, and free diabetes medication and supplies through the Good Health Gateway.

It is our hope that by encouraging our employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle, while best taking advantage of the programs available to them, we will all see positive impacts both in our health insurance claims and in the well-being of our employees and their families.

Joanne M. Faust, SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Human Resources Director , Town of Burlington/Burlington Public Schools