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VISICOR Updates Clients on Changes to Flexible Spending Accounts

HOUSTON, TEXAS (November 20, 2012) – VISICOR, an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm serving the Houston area, is updating all its clients about changes to Flexible Spending Accounts that will take effect  January 1, 2013.

Beginning January 1, 2013, Flexible Spending Accounts will have annual limits of $2,500 per year. Employers are still allowed to add supplementary funds to FSA accounts beyond the $2500. The average FSA participant contributes only $1400 per year.

In 2011, over-the-counter medicines, with the exception of insulin, were eliminated as eligible expenses for FSA, HRA and HSA accounts without a prescription, and that rule is still in effect.  The penalty for using HSA funds for ineligible expenses is twenty percent of the HSA distribution.

A Flexible Spending Accounts, also known as a flexible arrangement, is a tax-advantaged account that allows an employee to set aside a portion of earnings to pay for qualified medical expenses. Unlike Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA), FSAs are more commonly offered with traditional medical plans. Another feature of FSAs, which varies from HSAs, is that unused funds at the end of the plan year are lost and cannot be carried over to the following year. Funds in an FSA can be accessed through paper forms or a debit card. Flexible Spending Accounts also allow employees to contribute money to the fund for costs not covered by insurance, deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance. FSA funds can be used to pay for any healthcare costs that health insurance does not cover.

Fast facts about Flexible Spending Accounts:

  • Only 12 percent of employees contribute $2,500 or more to their company’s FSA
  • 39 percent say they contribute less than $2,500
  • 46 percent don’t participate in an FSA at all
  • For more information, contact:

 

Jared Stidham
VISICOR
161 W. Shadowbend, Suite 102
Friendswood, Texas 77546
Phone:  (281) 824-3124

 

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Benefits Administration in Houston

In today’s changing landscape, employee benefits administration is demanding more time and resources than ever before, and across all industries.

VISICOR simplifies the benefits process with proprietary solutions, customized to meet the unique needs of your Houston business or organization.

The VISICOR team, through our own benefits administration systems, can eliminate the headaches caused by changes in healthcare regulations, billing issues, carrier change notifications, new enrollments, compliance issues, claims, questions, and general administrative challenges.

Compliance with new PPACA regulations alone will be stretching some Human Resources departments to their limits.

When you team up with VISICOR, we become your human resources partner – an extension of your executive team, without the costs associated with hiring, training and managing additional staff. At VISICOR, we’re experts in all aspects of employee benefits and can deliver the expertise and specialization essential for navigating today’s increasingly complex and challenging benefits marketplace.

We have a passion to exceed expectations and live up to our high standards with each and every client. To accomplish that, we operate knowing no two organizations are the same, so we use progressive new ideas to find the optimal solutions for each individual client.

If you’re ready for a new approach and a new vision for your employee benefits, call us today. We serve all businesses and industries in and around the Houston area.

(281) 824-3124 Houston metropolitan area

(855) 521-3848 Toll-free

You can also use our contact form to let us know how we can help you.

A new vision for employee benefits. 

Essential Health Benefits Required by PPACA

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a set of proposed regulations outlining the essential health benefits that must be included in all insurance plans in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The PPACA defines 10 categories of benefits that all health insurance plans offered through an exchange are required to offer, beginning January 1, 2014. This new rule applies to all non-grandfathered plans in the individual and small group markets (100 or fewer employees), whether the plans are offered inside or outside state insurance exchanges.

Self-insured group health plans, health insurance coverage in the large group market, and grandfathered plans are not required to offer the essential health benefits.

The 10 categories of essential health benefits are:

  • Ambulatory Patient Services
  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse/Behavior Health Treatment
  • Maternity and Newborn Care
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Rehabilitative and Habilitative Services/Devices
  • Lab Services
  • Preventative and Wellness Services & Chronic Disease Control
  • Pediatric Services, including Oral and Vision Care

The PPACA directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to more specifically define the items and services that compromise essential health benefits. In an informational bulletin issued December 16, 2011, rather than detailing the items and services, the HHS has deferred to individual states by offering them flexibility in selecting their own benchmarks for defining essential health benefits.

Under the benchmark approach outlined the HHS informational bulletin, each state would select a benchmark insurance plan that reflects the scope of services offered by a typical employer plan in that state. States would select a benchmark plan from one of the following:

  • One of the three largest small group plans in the state, according to enrollment
  • One of the three largest state employee health plans, according to enrollment
  • The largest HMO plan offered in the state’s commercial market, according to enrollment

If a state fails to select a benchmark plan, the small group plan with the largest enrollment in the state will be the default benchmark.

Once a state has selected a benchmark plan – whether by choice or default – the items and services included in the benchmark plan will be the essential health benefits package for plans within that state exchange.

If the 10 categories of care specified by the PPACA (listed above) are not covered in the benchmark plan, the state has the option to examine other benchmark insurance plans, including the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan to create a list of items and services that meet the PPACA requirement.

According to HHS, health plans will have the flexibility to adjust benefits, including specific services covered and quantitative limits, as long as coverage is offered for all 10 categories defined by the essential health benefits and the coverage has the same value.

VISICOR is a full-service employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm located in Houston, Texas, serving mid-size to large public and private organizations. VISICOR can be reached by phone at (281) 824-3124 or at www.visicor.net

Hartford Releases Study Shows Americans Still Struggling Financially

HOUSTON, TEXAS (November 20, 2012) – VISICOR, an employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm serving the Houston area, is sharing with clients results of a new study by The Hartford which indicates American workers are still stressed by the state of the economy.

 

With the U.S. economy still looking pretty fragile, nearly three-quarters of Americans are worried about their jobs and are trying to make ends meet, according to this recent national survey. The discouraging survey results show Americans are working more, spending less, but still find themselves struggling financially.

“Thirty-seven percent of consumers said they feel they have experienced ‘severe’ financial impact due to the recession. Many have made cutbacks in their spending, dipped into savings and retirement accounts, or taken on new jobs,” says Ron Gendreau, executive vice president, The Hartford Group Benefits.

In addition to the financial strain, workers also are feeling the pressure of doing more with less at work, The Hartford finds.

* 24% say they have additional work or an increased workload.

* 17% say they feel as though they need to put in more hours at work.

* 72% feel moderately stressed, and one-third feel very or extremely stressed.

Now, some might be thinking, “I feel bad for employees hurting financially and that they’re all so stressed. But what’s that got to do with me?”

Quite a bit, it seems.

When asked how stress is impacting their work environment, employees’ top answers were having less patience with co-workers (38%) and taking longer to complete work (19%).

So, employees are getting less done and are snippy with their co-workers while they’re doing it. Not exactly a healthy culture, right?

However, The Hartford finds that employees who are very satisfied with their benefits are the least likely to report high stress, which would indicate that benefits can play a key role in providing American workers a greater level of security, and hence, less stress.

Based on the findings of The Hartford study, VISICOR is working closely with its clients to provide quality benefits services that are a good value for businesses, and helping companies provide greater security to their employees. Employee benefits play a significant role in employee productivity and attitude, and may help shield businesses and employees from some of the effects of the current recession.

VISICOR is a full-service employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm located in Houston, Texas, serving mid-size to large public and private organizations. VISICOR can be reached by phone at (281) 824-3124 or at www.visicor.net.

Wellness Programs Benefit Both Employees and Employers

Many US companies have offered employee wellness programs for more than a decade, but healthcare reform now provides companies a greater incentive to enact wellness initiatives. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) will, by 2014, expand employers’ ability to reward employees who participate in wellness programs and meet health status goals. Likewise, the new law also expands employers’ ability to require employees who don’t meet health goals to pay more for their employer-sponsored health coverage.

There may be some debate on the policy, but there’s little debate about the benefits of workplace wellness programs. A 2002 US Department of Health and Human Services report revealed positive new statistics on worksites with physical activity programs:

  • Company healthcare costs were reduced by 20 to 55 percent
  • Short-term sick leave among employees was reduced by six to 32 percent
  • Productivity increased by two to 52 percent

Other studies have found similar benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced recruitment and retention of healthy employees
  • Lower rates of injuries and illness among workers
  • Reduced employee absenteeism
  • Improved employee relations and morale

Most adults spend the majority of their waking hours in the workplace, so that culture and environment can be a powerful influence on behavior and attitude. Therefore, a company culture that promotes healthy lifestyles can have a powerful positive influence on its employees, and ultimately benefit the entire organization.

The C. Everett Koop National Health Award, presented by The Health Project, is awarded annually to organizations that demonstrate health improvements, coupled with cost savings. This past September, past and present award winners gathered at the Health Enhancement Research Organization’s 2012 Forum for Employee Management Health Solutions to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the C. Everett Koop National Health Award.

During the forum, features of several award winning wellness programs were highlighted.

The State of Nebraska offers a wellness program for 19,000 state employees and their spouses, which includes web-based resources, health risk assessments, and on-site biometric screenings.

Retailer L. L. Bean offers its employees wellness programming, free on-site fitness centers, and subsidies for off-site gym memberships. Their program has experienced growing success — the participation rates has averaged 85% over five years, and smoking rates have decreased, from 24% in 1985 to 6% in 2011.

As part of their company wellness initiative, Prudential Financial – Health Solutions offers discounts on healthy foods in cafeterias, on-site health clinics, exercise opportunities at the on-site fitness center, and nutritious snacks in vending machines.

Lincoln Industries offers a creative program, which includes quarterly physicals for employees, a year-long physical activity challenge, health risk assessments, smoking cessation programs, health education seminars, and wellness reimbursements. As an incentive, Lincoln offers a platinum award workers who achieve specific health goals — an all-expense paid trip to climb a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado.

The cornerstone of the Johnson & Johnson health and wellness initiative is health risk assessments and intervention. The company has seen a dramatic increase in participation in their health risk assessments by eligible domestic employees, from 26 percent in 1995 to a current rate of 90% percent.

Employees are the most valuable asset of any company, and good wellness programs go a long way in protecting that asset. Healthy employees tend to be happier, more productive, and stay around longer, so wellness programs are a proven employee benefit that benefits not only the employees, but the entire organization.

VISICOR is a full-service employee benefits brokerage and consulting firm located in Houston, Texas, serving mid-size to large public and private organizations. VISICOR can be reached by phone at (281) 824-3124 or at www.visicor.net

Healthcare Reform in Houston

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) will drastically alter the healthcare landscape, and presents new, complex challenges for businesses that provide healthcare benefits to their employees. Understanding the impact of new regulations will be daunting for many companies as they strive for compliance while balancing care for their employees with meeting their own business objectives.

Is your business ready for the 2013 healthcare reform changes?

VISICOR is a full-service benefits brokerage and consulting firm providing benefits solutions to Houston area businesses in four critical areas:

 

Compliance

Consulting

Communication

Administration

 

VISICOR is positioned to guide your business through the Healthcare Reform labyrinth, helping you understand the strategic, financial, and operational impacts of new regulations on your organization, while continuing to serve your employees well.

The VISICOR team will handle all compliance issues and help your company implement new changes in 2013.

§  Institution of new $2,500 annual limit on FSAs

§  Coverage of additional preventive services for women

§  Form W-2 reporting of the aggregate cost of employee health plan coverage

§  Fees to support the newly created Patient-Centered Outcomes Research  Institute (PCORI) begin

§  Changes to minimum annual dollar limits go into effect 

§  State insurance exchanges become available

§  Excise tax on medical device manufacturers imposed

§  Medicare payroll tax increases

§  Change in Medicare retiree drug subsidy tax treatment takes effect

§  Initial open enrollment for insurance exchanges begins

Contact VISICOR to learn more about how we can help your Houston business manage healthcare reform.

We’re ready to go to work for you, so call us today at (281) 824-3124, or toll-free at (855) 521-3848. You can also use our contact form to let us know how we can help you.

Benefits Consultants in Houston

Managing employee benefits is one of the critical operations within a healthy business, but can be costly and time-consuming.

Many Houston businesses look to expert partners to assist in managing the complex and time-consuming tasks associated with benefits administration. A qualified benefits consultant can not only streamline the benefits process, but can assist business owners in securing the greatest value for their benefits dollars, and provide quality service to their employees.

If you’re a Houston business owner looking for the best benefits partner, consider VISICOR.

Why consider adding VISICOR to your team?

We put your needs first. We begin by understanding your company’s goals and objectives, factoring in critical considerations, such as budget, past experience, employee population and the overall culture of your organization.

We offer a customized approach. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to benefits. Every company has its own culture, therefore its own needs. We’ll conduct a thorough review and analysis of your existing plans and check everything against your goals and objectives. We’ll keep what works, and change what doesn’t.

We create customized solutions. Based on your company’s goals and needs, VISICOR will submit a custom proposal, which includes a comparison of your existing plans and services with any recommended plans, complete with a detailed cost analysis. This custom proposal tool was developed exclusively for VISICOR by our own technology team.

At VISICOR, we take your trust seriously. That’s why, prior to any discussions or negotiations, we offer full disclosure, letting you know up front what you’ll pay for our services, allowing you to make an informed decision about your investment.  In fact, our normal fee structure matches what you are currently paying to your existing broker/consultant.

The VISICOR team is committed to exceeding your expectations as a trusted partner, and providing you the best value for your investment dollars.

We’re ready to go to work for you, so call us today at (281) 824-3124, or toll-free at (855) 521-3848. You can also use our contact form to let us know how we can help you.

Online Services

For existing clients needing assistance, just click on the link below for our online service options:

Online Service

Click on the link below for access to
VISICOR Connect.

Online Service

Testimonials

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The VISICOR team is a phenomenal resource for our organization. Their expertise and responsiveness to both individual inquiries and our school’s needs is simply first rate.” ─ B.M.; Head of School

We strongly recommend Visicor. Nowhere else will you find the professionalism and menu of unique and customized services provided by the Visicor team. With Visicor, you’re getting the best.” ─ S. B.; City Secretary

I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with Ed Oravetz and the VISICOR team for over five years now. In addition to helping us offer excellent benefits at a reasonable cost, the VISICOR staff has educated our employees so they fully understand their benefits and know how to use them effectively. They are always willing to assist employees with a difficult claim or any other problem. We have had tremendous positive feedback from our employees regarding VISICORs prompt, friendly and […]

The employee benefits consulting and analysis services provided by the VISICOR team provided the clarity and results needed by our benefits committee to make our 2011 benefits decisions. After months of confusion with a previous consultant, the VISICOR team delivered the results we were looking for and did so under very difficult timeline restrictions. I appreciate the professional and honest approach delivered by the VISICOR staff.” ─ H. W.; Human Resources / Risk Manager

Visicor offers services that we have not seen from previous brokers. The services they offer cuts the time we spend assisting our employees by more than half and provides added value directly to our employees.” ─ T. S.; Human Resources

I have worked with the VISICOR team through two open enrollment periods and a change in providers. Thanks to VISICOR and the information they provided to us and our employees we were able to make a smooth transition. Additionally, Ed and his team have always been available to answer questions regarding employee health insurance and to resolve any issues with our health insurance bills and claims quickly and efficiently.” ─ C. L.; Benefits Administrator

Visicor has been a tremendous help to us as we continually work to improve employee benefits. Our employees find the custom benefits booklets provided by Visicor as well as the open enrollment meetings very informative! Visicor has also been very helpful as the liaison between the insurance companies and employees throughout the plan year when issues arise.” ─ C. P.; HR Specialist

As Chief Financial Officer of Awty International School, my primary responsibility has been to balance the School’s operating budget in a time of deep economic distress in the United States and our parent constituency in Houston. That challenge has meant balancing reasonable tuition increases with certain operating cost categories where more than inflationary increases have occurred. Our health premiums are roughly 10% of our total operating costs, excluding depreciation and interest. Ed and Visicor have kept the increases to the […]

Employee benefits were so confusing for our employees before we teamed up with VISICOR and implemented their customized benefits booklets. Employees never understood their benefits, much less knowing what questions to ask. The Benefits booklets have streamlined our orientation process as well as our open enrollment process. They have empowered our current employees to learn about their benefits and how to use the benefits to their advantage.” ─ N. W.; Benefits Specialist

Early in September 2009, we found ourselves in a bind with our previous insurance broker/consultant. Our employee benefits renewal was October 1st so needless to say, we were in a panic. We advertised and held an open meeting giving several brokers the opportunity to speak and present their views to our committee members on what they could offer us. One consultant stood out the most. A vote was taken at the conclusion of the meeting and it was unanimous that […]

We have been a Visicor client for many years. The Visicor team is always so knowledgeable and willing to help my staff better understand and maximize their benefits. From benefits consulting to administration, they allow me to offer high-quality products to my employees that are affordable for everyone. We are Visicor customers for life!” ─ B. B.; Human Resources

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