Worksite benefits, often referred to as employee benefits or perks, play a crucial role in the modern workplace. Beyond just being a tool for attracting and retaining talent, worksite benefits have far-reaching advantages that benefit not only employees but also employers and society as a whole. In this blog, we’ll delve into the multifaceted benefits of worksite benefits and why they are essential for everyone involved.

Improved Employee Well-Being

Worksite benefits play a vital role in boosting the overall well-being of employees by granting them access to critical services like healthcare, dental care, and mental health support. These benefits ensure that employees can address their healthcare needs without financial strain or worry. 

Comprehensive benefits packages go a step further by offering insurance coverage for medical emergencies, disability, and life insurance. By providing this safety net, employers offer their employees peace of mind and a sense of security, reducing stress and promoting overall well-being.

Enhanced Job Satisfaction and Retention

By offering compelling worksite benefits, employers showcase their dedication to the well-being of their employees, resulting in heightened job satisfaction and improved morale among staff members. When employees feel valued and supported through comprehensive benefits packages, they are more likely to remain committed to their employers over the long term, leading to lower turnover rates and reduced recruitment costs. 


This commitment to employee welfare fosters a positive work environment and strengthens the employer-employee relationship, ultimately benefiting both parties involved.

Increased Productivity and Engagement

Worksite benefits play a crucial role in fostering a healthier and more content workforce, which in turn leads to heightened levels of productivity and engagement among employees. By offering access to wellness programs, flexible work arrangements, and opportunities for professional development, benefits packages motivate employees to excel in their roles and make meaningful contributions to the organization. 


When employees feel supported and empowered through these initiatives, they are more likely to be fully engaged in their work, resulting in increased efficiency, innovation, and overall success for the company.

Competitive Advantage for Employers

Employers who prioritize comprehensive worksite benefits gain a distinct competitive edge in the talent market, positioning themselves as desirable employers in the eyes of job seekers. A robust benefits package sets them apart from competitors and serves as a compelling recruitment and retention tool, especially in industries where skilled professionals are in high demand.

 By offering benefits that address the diverse needs of employees, such as healthcare, retirement plans, and wellness initiatives, employers demonstrate their commitment to supporting their workforce’s well-being and success.

Positive Impact on Society

The influence of worksite benefits extends beyond individual companies, contributing to broader societal welfare and economic stability. By providing essential benefits like healthcare coverage and retirement savings plans, employers play a significant role in promoting public health and financial security. Access to employer-sponsored benefits reduces reliance on government assistance programs and fosters a more resilient and self-sustaining society.


 In this way, worksite benefits not only benefit employees and employers but also contribute to the overall welfare of communities and society as a whole.

Employees can choose from a number of insurance products to complement their coverage and to help achieve a greater degree of stability. Worksite Benefits (voluntary coverage) plans may be 100% paid for by employees or cost-shared with the employer. Here’s why worksite benefits benefit everyone.

Creating a more comprehensive and competitive benefits package is good for the employer as they attract better talent, good for the employee as they get improved coverage, and good for the broker who is providing cost-effective solutions. In 2017 nearly half of large employers offered at least one of the three major voluntary benefits: accident, critical illness, and hospital indemnity.

Enrollment in voluntary benefits can be streamlined by offering these benefits at the time of enrollment in a MEC or other benefits plan, by ensuring ease of use in a portal or enrollment documents, and by informing employees of the benefits of Worksite Benefits.

Voluntary benefits generate commissions that can be used to fund overall benefits administration costs and project work done by TPAs that would otherwise be paid by the employer.


On the employer side, there has been a national push for physical and financial wellness initiatives. Employers are recognizing the increased stress their employees deal with on a day-to-day basis and are offering solutions. Stress costs American businesses more than $300 billion a year.


Employees want to have more control when it comes to deciding which options are useful for them.

When employers offer a wide range of benefits that address physical and mental health and wellness issues, employees can adapt the package to fit their lifestyle needs.


The wide array of technology providers offering more streamlined technology also makes voluntary benefits easier to implement for employers and brokers. Online enrollment, automated processing of administrative tasks and the ability for employees to “self-serve” all make the voluntary benefits enrollment process more attractive to employees and employers.

Voluntary benefits are only going to increase in popularity for employers and brokers of all sizes as they become more essential in the lives of employees. Isn’t it time to take a look at your benefits offerings and make sure they are competitive? Call SBMA today.


With the 2024 employee benefits open enrollment season rapidly approaching, employers find themselves at a crucial crossroads in determining the affordability of their health plans for employees. 

Recent IRS guidance has ushered in significant changes, making it imperative for Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) to stay informed and navigate the evolving landscape. This comprehensive guide is designed to provide clear insights into the key considerations ALEs must bear in mind for 2024.

Understanding the 2024 Affordability Threshold

New Affordability Standard

In 2024, the affordability threshold takes a noteworthy plunge from 9.12% to a more restrictive 8.39% of an employee’s household income. This shift is far from just a statistical adjustment; it has far-reaching implications. Employers should be acutely aware of this change and its consequences.

Impact on Eligibility and Penalties

This reduction in the affordability threshold has several cascading effects. First, it affects individuals’ eligibility for federally subsidized coverage on the Exchange. When the threshold is lower, more employees may qualify for subsidies. This has the potential to drive up the number of employees seeking coverage on the Exchange, which can impact your workforce’s overall health and well-being.

More significantly, it carries the looming threat of potential fines upon employers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Employer Shared Responsibility provisions. If your health plans are deemed unaffordable for employees, you may face penalties. These penalties can be substantial and are calculated based on the number of full-time employees and the duration of the non-compliance.

Necessary Adjustments for Employee Contributions

Safe Harbor Adjustment

For ALEs relying on the safe harbor dollar amount to determine employee contributions, making the necessary adjustments for the lowest-cost, self-only plan in 2024 is imperative. The safe harbor is a protective mechanism provided by the IRS to help employers determine whether they are offering affordable coverage.

To calculate the maximum allowable employee contribution, employers must consider the new affordability threshold of 8.39% when setting employee contributions for the lowest-cost, self-only plan. Failure to adjust these contributions accordingly can result in penalties, which can quickly add up if a large number of employees are affected.

Additionally, for those operating on non-calendar-year plans, it’s advisable to wait for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish the 2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines before setting employee contribution amounts. This step ensures that your contribution calculations are in alignment with the most current federal guidelines, reducing the risk of non-compliance.

Advantages for Pacific Northwest Employers

Higher Minimum Wages

One interesting facet of healthcare affordability standards is the regional variation in minimum wages. In the Pacific Northwest, minimum wages significantly exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. This difference can provide employers with a unique opportunity to make larger contributions while remaining within the bounds of affordability.

Employers in states like Oregon and Washington, where minimum wage rates are substantially higher than the federal minimum, can potentially offer more generous contributions to employee health plans. This is particularly true for employers adopting the Rate of Pay safe harbor method among the three available options.

Understanding ACA Affordability Standards

ACA Requirements

It’s crucial to remember the foundational requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act. Under the ACA, Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) are mandated to provide affordable, minimum-value coverage to nearly all full-time employees (those averaging 30 hours per week) and their dependents. ALEs are defined as employers who averaged 50 or more full-time and full-time equivalent employees in the previous calendar year.

The definition of affordability is at the heart of ACA compliance. Coverage is considered affordable if the cost to the employee does not exceed a certain percentage of their income, which is now set at 8.39% for 2024. Understanding this principle is fundamental to ensuring compliance and avoiding penalties.

Deciphering Three Safe Harbors for Affordability

Your Options Unveiled:

The IRS offers three distinct safe harbors for employers to assess the affordability of their benefit offerings. These safe harbors provide a level of flexibility and certainty in determining whether your plans meet the ACA’s affordability standards. Let’s break down each one:


W-2 Wages: This safe harbor allows employers to gauge affordability based on an employee’s Form W-2 wages. In simple terms, it looks at the cost of coverage relative to what the employee earned.


Rate of Pay: The Rate of Pay safe harbor method calculates affordability based on an hourly employee’s contribution. It stipulates that the employee’s share of the premium should not exceed 8.39% of their hourly rate multiplied by 130 hours. For instance, let’s consider a minimum wage hourly worker in Portland, where the minimum wage is $15.45 per hour. According to this method, the maximum affordable contribution for this employee would be $168.51 per month. For salaried workers, the calculation is based on their monthly salary.

Federal Poverty Line (FPL): The FPL safe harbor method is another option for employers. It sets affordability at 8.39% of the federal poverty line, which is currently $14,580 for the mainland United States. This translates to a maximum allowable employee contribution of $101.94 per month.

Each of these safe harbors offers its advantages and considerations. Employers should carefully evaluate which one aligns best with their workforce composition and compensation structures.

Employer Shared Responsibility Payments Demystified

Penalties Unveiled:

The Employer Shared Responsibility provisions of the ACA can be complex to navigate. Understanding the potential penalties is crucial for ALEs. Let’s simplify the key aspects of these provisions:

“Part A Penalty”: This penalty comes into play when an ALE fails to offer minimum essential coverage to nearly all full-time employees, and at least one full-time employee purchases individual coverage from the Exchange and receives a premium subsidy. In such cases, the employer faces a penalty of $247.50 per month for each full-time employee (excluding the first 30 employees) for each month they failed to provide minimum coverage. To put this in perspective, consider an employer with 50 full-time employees who fail to offer at least 95% of them (48 employees) minimum essential coverage. If just one employee purchases insurance on the Exchange and receives a premium subsidy, the potential penalty could amount to $59,400 per year.

“Part B Penalty”: The Part B Penalty comes into play when an ALE fails to offer affordable minimum essential coverage. If at least one full-time employee purchases individual coverage from the Exchange and receives a premium subsidy, the employer will be penalized $371.66 per month for each individual receiving the premium subsidy. This is known as the “B penalty” under §4980H(b). It’s essential to note that this penalty can stack up for multiple employees, potentially leading to substantial financial consequences.

Key Actions for Employers in 2024

Navigating Open Enrollment

With the 2024 Open Enrollment season on the horizon, employers must take several key actions to ensure compliance and mitigate risks:


Review Safe Harbor Options: Begin by thoroughly reviewing the safe harbor options available to your organization. Each has its merits and considerations, and selecting the one that aligns best with your employee population is crucial.


Determine Employee Charges: Calculate the appropriate employee contributions for the most affordable plan offerings. Take into account the new affordability threshold of 8.39% when setting these contributions. Ensure that your calculations are precise and compliant.


Consider Non-Calendar-Year Plans: If your organization operates on a non-calendar-year plan, exercise prudence and wait for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to publish the 2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines before finalizing employee contribution amounts.

Leveraging the Rate of Pay Safe Harbor in the Pacific Northwest

Maximizing Benefits

Employers in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in states like Oregon and Washington, have a unique opportunity to leverage the Rate of Pay safe harbor method to their advantage. Due to the significantly higher minimum wage rates in this region, employers can potentially offer more generous contributions without exceeding the affordability threshold.


Consider this scenario: A minimum wage hourly worker in Portland earns $15.45 per hour. According to the Rate of Pay safe harbor, the maximum affordable contribution for this employee would be $168.51 per month. This amount is notably higher than the $101.94 permitted by the FPL safe harbor method. For salaried workers in the Pacific Northwest, a similar advantage exists, enabling employers to provide competitive health benefits while remaining compliant.

Stay Informed and Compliant

Future-Proofing Your Approach

As the regulatory landscape governing healthcare affordability continues to evolve, staying informed and maintaining compliance with ACA regulations is paramount for ALEs. Ensuring that your employee health plans are both affordable and meet minimum value standards is an ongoing process.


Regularly monitor changes in regulations, affordability thresholds, and minimum wage rates in your region. Staying ahead of the curve is the key to providing affordable healthcare benefits for your employees while avoiding potential compliance pitfalls.

Still Have Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.


Learn more about us and our services, here.

In the face of evolving workplace dynamics, it’s essential for employers to stay informed about ACA compliance requirements, especially during times of workforce restructuring. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) sets forth guidelines and regulations that employers must adhere to regarding employee health benefits. As organizations undergo changes such as layoffs, furloughs, or shifts in employment status, understanding and complying with ACA mandates becomes increasingly crucial.


Amidst these changes, employers must ensure they maintain compliance with ACA regulations to avoid penalties and uphold the well-being of their workforce. This includes understanding the implications of workforce changes on health benefits and taking proactive measures to meet ACA obligations.

Compliance Essentials: Termination, Furloughs, and Benefits

Terminating employees, implementing furloughs, or enacting unpaid leave arrangements are common strategies for organizations facing economic challenges. However, such actions can have significant implications for ACA compliance, particularly concerning health benefits.


When terminating employees, employers must be aware of state laws regarding coverage obligations. In California, for example, employers terminating employees are not required to offer coverage to those individuals. However, for employees placed on furlough or unpaid leave, offering continued health coverage may be mandatory to maintain compliance.

Coverage Obligations and Penalties

Under ACA regulations, employers must ensure that full-time employees receive health coverage during furloughs or unpaid leave. Failure to extend coverage to at least 95% of full-time employees may result in penalties. The ACA’s look-back method typically determines full-time employee status, meaning the number of full-time employees for a given year is based on the previous year’s figures.


Employers must navigate these coverage obligations carefully to avoid penalties and maintain compliance with ACA regulations. This involves understanding the threshold for offering health coverage, verifying eligibility, and documenting coverage offerings appropriately.


Evaluating COBRA and Alternative Benefits

COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) provides employees with the option to continue their health coverage after experiencing a qualifying event, such as termination or reduction of hours. Employers must evaluate the implications of offering COBRA coverage and consider alternative benefit options for employees.


While COBRA coverage ensures continuity of benefits, employers must weigh the costs and administrative burdens associated with this option. Additionally, alternative benefit offerings, such as subsidized policies through the Marketplace, provide employees with flexibility but require careful consideration to avoid penalties associated with employee opt-outs.

Documentation Best Practices

Meticulous documentation is essential for demonstrating compliance with ACA requirements and safeguarding against potential penalties. Employers must maintain accurate records of coverage offerings, eligibility determinations, and communications with employees regarding health benefits.


Documentation best practices include keeping thorough records of employee status changes, enrollment information, and communication regarding benefit options. By maintaining comprehensive documentation, employers can mitigate risks associated with ACA compliance and ensure transparency in their benefits administration processes.

Expert Guidance and Resources

Navigating ACA compliance amidst changing workplace landscapes can be complex, requiring expertise and access to comprehensive resources. Employers may benefit from seeking guidance from industry experts, such as benefits consultants or legal professionals specializing in healthcare compliance.


Additionally, accessing resources such as ACA compliance guides, webinars, and training materials can provide valuable insights and support in navigating regulatory requirements effectively. 


By leveraging expert guidance and resources, employers can enhance their understanding of ACA compliance and implement strategies to ensure compliance amidst workplace changes.

Prioritizing Compliance for Long-Term Success

Maintaining ACA compliance amidst workplace changes is paramount for employers seeking to mitigate risks and ensure long-term success. By understanding regulatory requirements, evaluating benefit options, documenting diligently, and seeking expert guidance, organizations can navigate transitions confidently while upholding compliance standards. 


Prioritizing ACA compliance not only protects employers from penalties but also fosters a culture of transparency and accountability in benefits administration, ultimately benefiting both employers and employees alike.

ACA Compliance and Workplace Changes FAQ

How do you determine if you are an ALE (Applicable Large Employer) for ACA?

To determine if you are an ALE for ACA purposes, you must calculate the average number of full-time employees and full-time equivalent (FTE) employees you had during the previous calendar year. If the total is 50 or more, you are considered an ALE.


What is the ACA definition of an ALE?

An ALE is an employer who had an average of at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalents, during the previous calendar year.


What is the ACA penalty for an ALE?

The ACA penalty for an ALE is imposed if the employer fails to offer minimum essential coverage to at least 95% of its full-time employees and their dependents, and at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit for purchasing coverage through the Marketplace. The penalty amount can vary each year.


What does it mean to be ACA compliant?

Being ACA compliant means that an employer meets all the requirements set forth by the Affordable Care Act, including offering affordable health insurance that provides minimum value to full-time employees and maintaining accurate reporting and documentation.


What is the ACA 85% rule?

The ACA 85% rule refers to the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) provision, which requires insurance companies to spend at least 85% of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement, leaving no more than 15% for administrative costs and profits.


What triggers an ACA penalty?

ACA penalties can be triggered if an ALE fails to offer minimum essential coverage to at least 95% of its full-time employees and their dependents, or if the coverage offered is not affordable or does not provide minimum value, and at least one employee receives a premium tax credit.


How can I avoid ACA penalties?

To avoid ACA penalties, ensure you:


  • Offer minimum essential coverage to at least 95% of your full-time employees and their dependents.
  • Ensure that the coverage is affordable and provides minimum value.
  • Maintain accurate records and timely reporting to the IRS.

Still Have Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.


Learn more about us, here.

In today’s competitive job market, employers are constantly seeking new ways to attract and retain top talent. One area that has seen significant advancements and innovation is employee benefits. As the workforce evolves, so do the expectations and needs of employees. In this blog post, we will explore the future of employee benefits, focusing on the emerging trends and innovations with a particular emphasis on Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC).

Personalization and Customization

In the future, employee benefits will increasingly focus on personalization and customization. Recognizing that employees have diverse needs and preferences, employers are moving away from one-size-fits-all benefits packages and are offering more flexibility. MEC provides a foundation of basic coverage while allowing employees to choose additional benefits that align with their specific requirements. This level of personalization ensures that employees feel valued and supported, leading to increased job satisfaction and engagement.

The concept of personalization extends beyond traditional health benefits. Employees may have different priorities when it comes to benefits, such as parental leave, flexible work arrangements, or professional development opportunities. Employers can leverage MEC to offer a menu of benefits from which employees can select, tailoring their packages to meet individual needs. This approach not only enhances employee satisfaction but also demonstrates an organization’s commitment to supporting a diverse workforce.

Wellness and Mental Health Support

As organizations prioritize employee well-being, the focus on wellness and mental health support is becoming more prominent. MEC is adapting to this trend by including comprehensive wellness programs as part of the benefits package. These programs may offer access to mental health resources, fitness classes, meditation apps, or even virtual therapy sessions. By proactively addressing employees’ holistic health needs, employers can create a more productive and supportive work environment.

The integration of wellness initiatives into MEC reflects a growing recognition of the importance of mental health in overall well-being. Employers understand that a healthy workforce is a more engaged and productive one. By providing resources and support for mental health, organizations can help employees navigate stress, reduce burnout, and improve overall job satisfaction. Additionally, wellness programs can foster a positive company culture that values employee well-being.

Financial Wellness

Financial wellness is another area gaining traction in the realm of employee benefits. Employers recognize that financial stress can negatively impact employees’ overall well-being and productivity. MEC can incorporate financial education programs, retirement planning resources, and access to financial advisors. By promoting financial literacy and offering tools for long-term financial planning, employers can empower employees to make informed decisions and improve their financial well-being.

MEC can offer benefits such as employer-matched retirement savings plans, automatic contributions to health savings accounts, or access to financial planning tools and workshops. By addressing financial wellness as part of the benefits package, employers can help alleviate employee anxiety around financial matters, enabling them to focus on their work and personal lives. This approach also positions employers as partners in their employees’ long-term financial success.

Flexible Work Arrangements

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of remote work and flexible work arrangements. In the future, the hybrid work model is likely to become the norm for many organizations. MEC can adapt to this change by providing benefits that cater to the specific needs of remote and flexible workers. This could include virtual healthcare options, telemedicine services, and flexible scheduling for appointments or personal time off. By ensuring that benefits are accessible and relevant regardless of the employee’s location, employers can foster a positive work-life balance.

MEC can support flexible work arrangements by offering benefits that accommodate different work styles. For example, it may include subscriptions to coworking spaces, reimbursement for home office equipment, or technology tools that facilitate remote collaboration. By embracing the changing nature of work and tailoring benefits to remote and flexible workers, employers can attract and retain talent who value work-life integration and flexibility.

Technology and Digital Solutions

Advancements in technology have a significant impact on the future of employee benefits. MEC is embracing this trend by incorporating digital solutions that streamline benefit administration, enrollment processes, and communication channels. Mobile apps, online portals, and AI-powered chatbots enable employees to access information, make benefit choices, and seek assistance conveniently. Technology-driven benefits solutions not only enhance employee experience but also reduce administrative burdens for HR teams.


Digital solutions offer employees easy access to benefits information, allowing them to make informed decisions and manage their benefits effectively. With self-service portals and mobile apps, employees can review their coverage, access educational resources, and make changes to their benefits as needed. Additionally, digital communication channels enable efficient and personalized communication between employees and HR teams, fostering transparency and improving employee engagement.

Integration and Data Analytics

Another emerging trend in employee benefits is the integration of different benefits platforms and data analytics. MEC can serve as a central hub that integrates various benefits offerings, including health insurance, retirement plans, wellness programs, and more. This integration allows for a seamless employee experience, simplifying benefit management and ensuring that employees have a holistic view of their benefits.


Furthermore, data analytics play a crucial role in optimizing benefits offerings. By leveraging data on employee utilization, preferences, and feedback, employers can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of their benefits programs. Data analytics can help identify trends, anticipate employee needs, and make data-driven decisions to enhance the overall benefits package.

Regulatory Compliance and Changing Landscape

The future of employee benefits is also influenced by evolving regulatory requirements and societal changes. Employers must stay informed about changing regulations and adapt their benefits offerings accordingly. MEC provides a framework that ensures compliance with minimum requirements while offering flexibility for additional benefits. It allows employers to navigate the complex landscape of healthcare regulations and provide employees with essential coverage.


Societal shifts, such as the growing focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), also impact employee benefits. Employers are recognizing the need to create benefits packages that address the unique needs of a diverse workforce, ensuring equitable access to opportunities and resources. MEC can be customized to include benefits that support DEI initiatives, such as diverse supplier programs, mentorship programs, or educational resources on unconscious bias.

Final Notes

As the workplace landscape continues to evolve, employee benefits are evolving with it. The future of employee benefits lies in personalization, wellness support, financial well-being, flexibility, and technology-driven solutions. MEC serves as a flexible foundation that can adapt to these emerging trends and innovations, allowing employers to create attractive benefits packages that meet the diverse needs of their workforce.


 By investing in forward-thinking employee benefits, organizations can attract top talent, enhance employee engagement, and foster a culture of well-being and productivity. With MEC at the core of their benefits strategy, employers can navigate the changing landscape of employee benefits while providing essential coverage and tailored benefits that empower their employees to thrive.

Any Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.


Learn more about us and our services, here.

Living a longer, healthier life requires physical activity, eating healthy, and routine visits to the doctor. When these three factors work together, it allows you to stay your healthiest. In turn- your odds of living longer increase.

The Importance of Physical Activity

Physical activity doesn’t always mean an intense hour-long workout at the gym every day. While this form of exercise has great benefits, it’s not for everyone. 

A more sedentary lifestyle is becoming more common in today’s popular work-from-home world. Fewer people are spending time standing, walking, or moving around. 

The American Heart Association found that, “sedentary jobs have increased 83% since 1950.” 

Sedentary Lifestyles and Their Negative Effects

The lack of movement (rather than sitting itself) is the culprit for the negative effects of sedentary jobs. The Mayo Clinic analyzed 13 studies and found that all found, “sitting time and activity levels found in those who sat for more than 8 hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.” 

How Sitting for Extended Periods Can Be Harmful

Most office or stay-at-home workers sit for about 15 hours a day, not including commuting time if there is any.  Spending over half of the day seated means workers are spending less time active. 

The Benefits of Walking for Your Health

The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that walking for at least 11 minutes a day combats the negative effects of sitting for extended periods of time. That’s about the length of listening to four songs. More sedentary participants risked dying younger at a much higher rate than active study participants. 

This study gathered data from volunteers in Europe and the United States who wore accelerometers. The levels of physical exercise fell into three categories: 

  • Little physical activity – typically walking two or three minutes a day
  • Moderate physical activity- typically 11 minutes of walking a day
  • Moderately higher physical activity – 35 minutes of brisk walking or moderate activity 

The study gathered data from volunteers in Europe and the United States who wore accelerometers to measure their levels of physical activity. The participants were divided into three categories based on their levels of physical exercise. Those with little physical activity walked two or three minutes a day, while those with moderate physical activity walked about 11 minutes a day. Finally, those with moderately higher physical activity walked about 35 minutes a day at a brisk pace or engaged in moderate physical activity.

The results of the study were clear: participants with little physical activity had a shorter lifespan and were more likely to die prematurely than those who were more active. However, those who moved for 11 minutes per day were found to be much less likely to die prematurely than their sedentary counterparts. The best results for longer lifespans were observed in people who walked about 35 minutes per day at a brisk pace or engaged in moderate physical activity.

Walking offers a range of benefits beyond combating the negative effects of sitting. It can help improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles, and even improve mood and cognitive function. Regular walking can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease, and improve overall quality of life.

Incorporating walking into your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult. Even taking a short walk during your lunch break, parking your car a little further away from your destination, or walking to nearby stores instead of driving can make a difference. Additionally, walking with a friend or family member can make it a more enjoyable and social activity.

How Much Walking is Enough for a Longer Life?

Participants with little physical activity had a shorter lifespan. Researchers found that 260 percent of these participants were more likely to die prematurely than more active participants. However, participants who moved for 11 minutes per day were found to be much less likely to die prematurely. The best results for longer life spans were with people who walked about 35 minutes per day. 

The study conductor, Ulf Ekelund, professor of epidemiology and physical activity at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, Norway explains, “ brisk walking is excellent moderate exercise.” Adding a healthy habit that takes 30 minutes or less may be one of the best and simple ways to lengthen your life. 

Take Action Today for a Healthier, Longer Life

Adding healthy habits to your daily routine is much easier than taking away unhealthy habits. In the end, even 11 minutes of a brisk walk creates positive lifelong impacts to increase your lifespan. Start today towards 11 minutes to a longer life. 

For more healthy habit tips, read our article: How to eat Healthy on a Budget. We give our suggestions on healthy eating that don’t focus on the organic aisle section. 


The Employee Retention Tax Credit was rolled out as part of the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act. It was enacted to encourage employers to retain employees throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. As our country begins to understand the full scope of COVID-19, this credit could allow employers to keep employees on their payroll and keep their doors open.


What is the Employee Retention Tax Credit?


The tax credit is a refundable tax credit that is meant to incentivize employers to keep employees on their payroll. For all businesses working to keep their staff on the payroll, 50% of qualified wages must be paid to the employees from March 12, 2020, to January 1, 2021. This includes credit for qualified health plan expenses. 


An employer can claim up to $10,000 in wages paid if the employer’s business is completely or partially suspended because of Coronavirus and if their gross receipts also decrease by more than 50%.


What makes someone eligible for the Employee Retention Tax Credit?


The ERTC is available all employers including tax-exempt organizations. The only organizations that are not eligible for the ERTC are state and local governments and their instrumentalities and any small business that has taken a Small Business Loan. Those who are self-employed are also not eligible for the ERTC.


In order to qualify for the tax credit, an employer must be a business that has been fully or partially suspended by the coronavirus government orders. If they do not meet that requirement, they may also qualify is the employer has gross receipts below 50% of the same quarter in 2019. If the employer’s gross receipts go beyond 80% they are no longer eligible for the tax credit after the quarter ends.


Employers with fewer than 100 employees may receive a tax credit for all employees. Those with more than 100 employees can receive credit for the employees who are being paid but are not working due to coronavirus cutbacks.


Eligibility Criteria:

To qualify for the ERC, businesses and tax-exempt organizations must meet specific eligibility criteria. Generally, eligible employers are those that:


Were shut down by a government order due to the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 or the first three calendar quarters of 2021.

Experienced a significant decline in gross receipts during the eligibility periods in 2020 or the first three calendar quarters of 2021.

Qualified as a recovery startup business for the third or fourth quarters of 2021.

Additionally, eligible employers must have paid qualified wages to claim the credit.


How can I claim the Employee Retention Tax Credit?


The ERTC cannot be combined with any other tax credit. If you are counting wages toward the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act tax credit, you cannot count those same wages toward the ERTC.


To begin your ERTC claim, employers should report their total qualified wages and other credits on a quarterly basis. Form 941 allows businesses to report their income, along with their Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from employee’s paychecks. 


If an employer reduces the amount of payroll taxes they withhold from employee’s wages, they can be immediately reimbursed. 


As businesses continue to adjust their business plans in the face of coronavirus, there are many ways they can find relief through various programs. The ERTC is a good option for employers who are trying to keep their employees on their payroll. Visit our COVID-19 resource page for more information on programs that can benefit your business.


Penalty Relief:

Employers who may have made errors in claiming the ERC can find relief through penalty relief provisions. Understanding the specific circumstances under which penalty relief applies can help businesses rectify any inadvertent mistakes without facing unnecessary penalties.


Reporting Tax-Related Illegal Activities:

The IRS encourages individuals to report tax-related illegal activities, including erroneous ERC claims, promotion of incorrect information, and abusive tax schemes. Reporting such activities ensures the integrity of the ERC program and helps safeguard taxpayers from potential fraud and abuse.


Beware of ERC Scams:

Despite the benefits of the ERC, businesses should remain vigilant against potential scams and fraudulent schemes. Aggressive marketing tactics, unsolicited offers, and promises of quick refunds should raise red flags. It’s essential to verify the legitimacy of any claims or offers related to the ERC and seek guidance from reputable sources.


Final Notes

The Employee Retention Credit has provided much-needed relief to businesses and tax-exempt organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. By understanding the eligibility criteria, claiming procedures, and compliance requirements, eligible entities can leverage the ERC to mitigate financial challenges and support their workforce. However, caution is advised to avoid falling victim to scams or erroneous claims. For accurate information and assistance with ERC-related matters, consulting with a qualified tax professional is recommended.

For further information and resources regarding the ERC, including eligibility checklists, FAQs, and reporting mechanisms for tax-related illegal activities, visit the official IRS website.

In today’s competitive job market, employee retention is a pressing concern for employers in the Hospitality and Food Services industry. To tackle this challenge effectively, one powerful tool at the disposal of hospitality operators is the design of comprehensive employee benefits packages, with a particular focus on health insurance and retirement benefits.

When crafting your employee hiring and retention strategy, it’s crucial to keep the following key considerations in mind:

1. Personalized Benefits Tailored to Your Workforce

Understanding your employees and their unique needs and desires regarding benefits is the first step. Customized analyses specifically geared toward the hospitality industry can provide invaluable insights. These insights allow you to tailor benefit packages that not only attract top talent but also motivate current employees to stay.

2. The Value of Limited Medical Plans

Offering limited medical plans can be an attractive proposition, but they must provide genuine value to employees. These voluntary plans should grant access to essential medical services, including preventative care such as mental health support, and address any gaps in coverage. Demonstrating the value of these plans is crucial to encourage participation.

3. Effective Employee Communication

While third-party vendors can manage administrative tasks, including plan management and payroll integration, effective employee communication is often left to the employer. Ensuring that your vendor has strong communication and education capabilities is essential. Clear communication helps employees understand the benefits of limited medical plans and encourages them to enroll.

4. The Importance of Retirement Benefits

Retirement benefits, such as the 401(k), play a significant role in recruitment and employee retention. They uniquely incentivize long-term employment, especially when paired with an employer match. When employees see that their company is invested in securing their financial future, they are more likely to stay with the organization and contribute their best efforts. A 401(k) retirement plan not only enhances an employer’s benefits package but also reflects a commitment to employees’ long-term financial well-being.

5. Tax-Deferred Growth and Efficiency

401(k) plans provide tax-deferred growth for savings, making them an efficient investment for both employers and employees. These plans offer a way for employees to invest in their retirement with significant benefits.


The Comprehensive Suite of Voluntary/Worksite Benefits at SBMA

Our comprehensive range of voluntary/worksite benefits encompasses various facets of well-being, each strategically designed to provide comprehensive coverage and support:


Accident Insurance: Accidents are often unpredictable and can lead to unforeseen medical and out-of-pocket expenses. Accident insurance steps in to provide a safety net, helping employees navigate the financial aftermath of accidental injuries. By alleviating the burden of unexpected costs, accident insurance promotes peace of mind and underscores the company’s commitment to employees’ holistic welfare.


Term Life Insurance: In an era of uncertainty, financial protection for loved ones is paramount. Term life insurance offers an affordable avenue to provide this protection during an employee’s active working years. This coverage reassures employees that their families will be safeguarded in the event of an unforeseen tragedy, reflecting the company’s dedication to supporting not just employees, but their entire familial network.


Critical Illness Insurance: Health challenges can strike at any time, often bringing with them significant financial burdens. Critical illness insurance serves as a safety net, providing employees with essential coverage that fills potential gaps in existing insurance. This support alleviates concerns about medical expenses, allowing employees to focus on their recovery without the added stress of financial uncertainty.


Hospital Indemnity Insurance: The rising costs of healthcare, coupled with high deductibles, can create financial strain during hospital stays. Hospital indemnity insurance is designed to offset these costs, ensuring that a hospitalization event does not translate into a financial crisis for employees. By offering a financial safety net, this coverage demonstrates the company’s commitment to alleviating employee stress and promoting their overall well-being.


At SBMA, our commitment to enhancing the lives of your employees is the driving force behind our comprehensive voluntary/worksite benefits portfolio. We recognize that a thriving and engaged workforce is the cornerstone of a successful enterprise. Our mission is to empower your employees with benefits that not only cater to their unique needs but also enrich their overall well-being. We invite you to connect with us today to explore how our range of benefits solutions can play a transformative role in elevating your employees’ access to essential healthcare and support.

In the healthcare sector, home health agencies often face a higher likelihood of IRS audits due to potential ACA non-compliance. This increased scrutiny primarily results from the prevalence of hourly employees in the industry and data collection complexities. To prevent such audits, agencies must thoroughly review their compliance records and grasp the federal government’s requirements, as advised by compliance experts.


This heightened scrutiny can be attributed, in part, to the prevalence of hourly employees within the industry, coupled with the challenges associated with data collection. To steer clear of unwelcome audits, it’s crucial for home health agencies to proactively and meticulously review their compliance records. Moreover, gaining a comprehensive understanding of the federal government’s expectations is paramount, as emphasized by experts in healthcare compliance.

Overview of ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, is a landmark piece of legislation signed into law in 2010. Its primary objective is to overhaul the U.S. healthcare system by making it more accessible and affordable for all Americans. For the home health care industry, this means that agencies are subject to specific rules and regulations aimed at providing their employees with a safety net of healthcare coverage. Understanding the ACA is vital because it not only helps ensure compliance but also demonstrates a commitment to the well-being of your home healthcare staff.

The Importance of ACA Compliance for Home Healthcare Staff

Ensuring ACA compliance for home healthcare staff and agencies is not merely a regulatory requirement; it is a fundamental step in safeguarding the well-being of both employees and the organization as a whole. Non-compliance can have far-reaching consequences, including severe financial penalties, legal disputes, and damage to an agency’s reputation.


For home healthcare staff, ACA compliance guarantees access to essential healthcare services, ensuring that they can maintain their health and address medical needs without financial hardship. Additionally, it fosters a sense of security and well-being among employees, leading to higher job satisfaction and employee retention.


On the agency side, compliance is vital to prevent potential fines and legal issues. Fines for non-compliance can be substantial and pose a significant threat to an agency’s financial stability. Legal disputes can be time-consuming and costly, diverting resources from patient care. Moreover, a tarnished reputation can affect an agency’s ability to attract clients and retain qualified staff.

Employer Responsibilities

Home health care agencies play a crucial role in implementing the ACA. They are responsible for offering affordable healthcare coverage to their eligible employees. This involves providing a healthcare plan that covers the essential health benefits outlined in the ACA, including preventive services, prescription drugs, and mental health services. Furthermore, it’s essential to ensure that this coverage is affordable to your employees based on their income, as per ACA guidelines. Compliance with these responsibilities not only protects your agency from potential penalties but also ensures that your employees have access to quality healthcare without an undue financial burden.

Employee Benefits

The ACA significantly benefits home health care staff by guaranteeing access to comprehensive health insurance and essential healthcare services. With ACA-compliant coverage, your employees can rest assured that they have access to preventive care, such as vaccinations and screenings, at no additional cost. Pre-existing conditions are covered, ensuring that employees with health issues receive the care they need. Additionally, ACA plans often offer mental health and substance abuse services, providing comprehensive care for both physical and mental well-being. By offering ACA-compliant benefits, you not only attract and retain top talent but also prioritize the health and security of your staff.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligibility for ACA coverage is determined by several factors, including the number of hours worked and whether an employee is classified as part-time or full-time. To comply with ACA requirements, you must accurately track your employees’ hours and classify them correctly. This can be complex, but it’s essential to ensure that eligible employees are enrolled in ACA-compliant coverage. Failing to do so can lead to non-compliance penalties and, more importantly, leaves your employees without the healthcare benefits they are entitled to. Properly understanding and applying the eligibility criteria is crucial for both the agency and its employees.

Common ACA Compliance Challenges in Home Healthcare

Home healthcare agencies face a unique set of challenges when striving to maintain ACA compliance. 

Managing Viable Work Hours

In this sector, employees often have fluctuating schedules, making it challenging to determine their eligibility for ACA coverage accurately. Ensuring that part-time and full-time staff members are classified correctly and receive the benefits they are entitled to requires meticulous record-keeping and continuous monitoring.

Tracking Employee Classifications

With various roles and positions within home healthcare agencies, determining which employees are eligible for ACA coverage can be intricate. The ACA defines full-time as working at least 30 hours per week on average, and part-time employees may or may not be eligible, depending on their total hours worked. Home healthcare agencies must have effective systems in place to ensure that their employees are classified accurately.


Furthermore, affordability of coverage poses a significant challenge. Home healthcare agencies must offer affordable healthcare plans that meet the ACA’s guidelines. Balancing affordability with the provision of essential health benefits can be complex, particularly for agencies with limited budgets.


Navigating these challenges requires a deep understanding of ACA regulations and a commitment to proactive compliance management. Agencies that successfully address these issues not only protect their financial stability but also ensure that their staff has access to quality healthcare, further enhancing their commitment to patient care.

Still Have Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.


Learn more about us and our plans, here.

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, businesses must navigate a myriad of choices when it comes to providing health insurance for their employees. One option that has gained attention, particularly among smaller businesses and those seeking to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), is Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) plans. 

These plans offer a set of benefits designed to meet ACA requirements, but they also come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we’ll delve into the pros and cons of MEC plans to help you determine if they are the right fit for your business.

Pros of Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) Plans:


Affordability: MEC plans are often more budget-friendly for both employers and employees. They typically have lower premium costs compared to comprehensive health insurance plans, making them an attractive option for small businesses and cost-conscious individuals.

ACA Compliance: One of the primary advantages of MEC plans is their compliance with the ACA’s individual mandate. By offering MEC to your employees, you can avoid penalties associated with not providing health coverage, thus ensuring legal compliance.

Preventive Services: MEC plans cover essential preventive services at no cost to the employee. This includes vaccinations, screenings, and wellness check-ups, which can help identify health issues early and promote overall well-being.

Employee Retention: Offering any form of health coverage, including MEC plans, can enhance employee retention. It signals to your workforce that you care about their health and well-being, which can lead to increased job satisfaction and loyalty.

No Pre-existing Condition Exclusions: MEC plans cannot deny coverage or impose pre-existing condition exclusions. This means that employees with pre-existing medical conditions can access necessary care without fear of rejection.

Minimal Administrative Burden: MEC plans are relatively straightforward to administer compared to more comprehensive health insurance options. This can save businesses time and resources.


Cons of Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) Plans:

Limited Coverage: While MEC plans meet ACA requirements, they offer limited coverage compared to more comprehensive health insurance options. They often cover only preventive services and may not provide coverage for major medical expenses, such as surgeries or hospital stays.

No Minimum Value: MEC plans do not meet the minimum value standard set by the ACA. This means they may not cover a substantial portion of medical costs, leaving employees with significant out-of-pocket expenses for major healthcare needs.

Employee Dissatisfaction: Employees may be dissatisfied with MEC plans due to their limited coverage. This can lead to frustration when they discover that their essential medical needs are not adequately covered, potentially affecting morale and job satisfaction.

Limited Network: MEC plans may have a restricted network of healthcare providers. Employees could find that their preferred doctors or hospitals are not included in the plan’s network, limiting their choices for care.

Not Ideal for All Businesses: MEC plans are best suited for businesses with a young, healthy workforce and those primarily seeking ACA compliance at a minimal cost. For businesses with diverse employee demographics and varying healthcare needs, more comprehensive plans may be a better fit.

Making an Informed Decision

Choosing the right health insurance option for your business involves careful consideration of your budget, employee needs, and legal obligations. While MEC plans offer affordability and ACA compliance, their limited coverage may not suit all employees or businesses. Before making a decision, assess your workforce’s healthcare requirements, and consider alternative options, such as group health plans or health savings accounts (HSAs). It’s essential to strike a balance between cost-effectiveness and meeting the healthcare needs of your employees.

Final Notes

MEC plans can be a viable choice for some businesses, especially those with budget constraints and a focus on complying with ACA regulations. However, they may not provide sufficient coverage for all employees, and careful evaluation of your workforce’s needs is crucial. Ultimately, the decision should align with your company’s goals, financial capacity, and commitment to employee well-being. To make an informed choice, consider consulting with an insurance expert or benefits consultant who can provide guidance tailored to your specific circumstances.

Any Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.


Learn more about us and our services, here.

In the world of employer compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), 2024 brings significant changes as the IRS increases penalties for noncompliance.

Let’s dive into these updates and their practical implications for employers.

What is Changing in 2024?

In 2024, we can expect to see some noteworthy changes in the realm of noncompliance penalties. These penalties are set to undergo an increase, affecting various aspects of compliance.

Penalty A, for instance, will see its figures rise from $2,880 (equivalent to $240 per month) as of 2023, to a slightly higher $2,970 (approximately $247.50 per month).

Similarly, Penalty B will experience an uptick from its 2023 levels of $4,320 (or $360 per month) to the new rate of $4,460 (roughly $371.67 per month).

It’s important to note that these adjusted penalty amounts will come into play for taxable years and plan years commencing after the curtain falls on December 31, 2023. This shift toward higher penalties should act as a potent motivator for employers to reevaluate their group health plan offerings, with a focus on providing comprehensive coverage to their full-time employees. The emphasis is on ensuring affordability and the delivery of minimum value benefits, all in an effort to steer clear of the growing cost of noncompliance.

Penalty A: Insufficient Coverage Offerings

One of the critical components of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) revolves around Penalty A. This penalty comes into play when employers fail to provide minimum essential coverage to 95% of their full-time, benefits-eligible employees.

Penalty B: The Affordability Conundrum

Penalty B takes center stage when employers fall short in offering affordable, minimum value coverage to their benefits-eligible employees.

The Affordability Threshold: 2024 and Beyond

The affordability threshold, a key determinant of whether employer-sponsored health coverage meets ACA standards, remains a topic of anticipation for 2024. In 2023, it stood at 9.12%, down from the previous year’s 9.61%. This percentage plays a pivotal role in calculating how much eligible individuals can contribute from their household income to keep coverage within the bounds of affordability.

Navigating the IRS Penalties

For those employers who find themselves in noncompliance with either Penalty A or Penalty B, there’s a new challenge on the horizon: increased IRS penalties. According to IRS definitions under the ACA, employers with at least 50 full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) during the preceding year are categorized as Applicable Large Employers (ALEs) for the current calendar year. 

To trigger either penalty, an employer must be in violation, and at least one full-time employee must have utilized the premium tax credit to obtain coverage through the Marketplace. Understanding these intricacies is essential to successfully navigate the complex landscape of ACA penalties.

Common Compliance Pitfalls: Navigating ACA Challenges

When it comes to ACA compliance, even the most well-intentioned employers can find themselves entangled in a web of potential pitfalls. Understanding these common mistakes is key to avoiding penalties and ensuring a smooth journey through the intricacies of the Affordable Care Act. Let’s shed light on some of the areas where employers often stumble:

Incomplete Records: Failing to maintain accurate and complete records of employee hours and healthcare offerings can be a grave error. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can lead to miscalculations in coverage requirements and, ultimately, penalties.

Misclassifying Employees: Incorrectly classifying employees as full-time or part-time can trigger compliance issues. Employers need to understand the ACA’s criteria for full-time status and ensure that classifications align with these standards.

Lack of Communication: Neglecting to communicate effectively with employees regarding healthcare options and requirements can result in confusion and noncompliance. Clear and timely communication is essential for keeping everyone on the same page.

Inadequate Affordability Calculations: The ACA’s affordability threshold is a critical factor. Employers must correctly calculate it to ensure their plans meet the affordability requirement. Failing to do so can lead to unexpected penalties.

Ignoring Seasonal Workers: Seasonal and variable-hour employees can be a compliance challenge. Employers often overlook the fact that they may need to offer coverage to these employees under certain circumstances.

Incomplete Reporting: ACA reporting, done using forms such as 1094-C and 1095-C, requires accuracy and timeliness. Errors or omissions in reporting can result in penalties, as the IRS uses this information to determine compliance.

Failure to Offer Coverage to Dependents: Employers must provide affordable coverage not only to employees but also to their dependents. Neglecting this aspect can lead to penalties and employee dissatisfaction.

Inadequate Recordkeeping: Proper recordkeeping is essential for ACA compliance. Employers must retain records related to health plan offerings, coverage, and employee information. Failure to maintain these records can hinder audits and lead to penalties.

By highlighting these common compliance pitfalls, employers can proactively address potential issues and navigate the ACA landscape more effectively. Understanding where mistakes often occur is the first step toward avoiding penalties and ensuring compliance with this ever-evolving legislation.

Still Have Questions?

We serve employers who want to offer their employees affordable benefits. We simplify the complexity of providing those benefits and ensure compliance with the Affordable Care Act. We provide affordable benefits for the everyday person. We are different because of our personal service, speed of implementation, and innovative approach to providing benefits coverage.

Learn more about us and our services, here.