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Walt Bernard Podgurski,  Editor,  440-773-1108, 

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Editorial Mission Statement: The goal of this publication is to provide readers a broad selection of what is being written about the insurance industry and related issues. Some articles may have a “tilt” towards a particular perspective one way or another. Inclusion in this newsletter is not an endorsement of any views or content; but report the various and differing views appearing in media.
  Friday, 01/19/18

Berkeley school district seeking $42.5 million in suit over insurance fraud
By Brenda Rindge / (Charleston) The Post & Courier
The Berkeley County School District filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday seeking $42.5 million from a Charlotte insurance brokerage, claiming its father and son executives sold the district excessive policies and charged exorbitant fees.
The district spent almost $14.2 million in the last 16 years “to insure itself against non-existent, or nominal, risk,” the suit says.
The case also sheds light on methods used by fired district Chief Financial Officer Brantley D. Thomas III, 61, who has admitted to embezzling almost $1 million from the district and accepting kickbacks from insurance executives.
Federal indictments against Thomas charge that between 2013 and 2016, he received $32,000 from an insurance agency in increments of $2,000. According to the lawsuit, the conspiracy began as early as 2001.
The suit's defendants include: Thomas; Stanley Pokorney and his son, Scott Pokorney; Knauff Insurance Agency; Chicago-based Hub International Limited, the insurance brokerage firm that acquired Knauff in 2012; and two of Hub’s subsidiaries, including one based in Charlotte.

Life / Health / Employee Benefits

What the new U.S. tax law means for employee benefits
By Jay Starkman – Contributing Writer / NEW YORK BUSINESS JOURNAL
Repeal of the individual mandate provision in the Affordable Care Act, new tax credits related to the Family and Medical Leave Act, and elimination of some “fringe benefits” including employer-provided commuting and parking benefits: These are just some of the changes from the sweeping tax overhaul legislation signed into law late last month.
Although tax and HR benefits experts are still interpreting the full impact of the new provisions, it is imperative for employers to know which of their programs may be cut or eliminated.
Here’s a look at some of the key changes employers need to know.
Employers earn a tax credit related to the Family and Medical Leave Act
Individual health insurance mandate is repealed
Business deductions eliminated for employee commuting and parking benefits
Employee achievement awards
Relocation expense deductions
A repeal of some meal deductions
Proposed changes that did not make the final law

Why the Obamacare Cadillac Tax Might Be Out of Gas
By Yuval Rosenberg / The Fiscal Times
The House Republican bill to avert a government shutdown and fund federal spending for four more weeks also calls for delaying implementation of three Obamacare taxes:
A 2.3 percent tax on medical devices would be delayed for two years.
The "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health care plans would also be delayed for two years.
The health insurance tax, a fee on insurance companies to help pay for health care subsidies, would remain in effect this year but be suspended in 2019.
But as Axios’ Caitlin Owens explains, the decision to delay the “Cadillac tax” — a 40 percent excise tax on some high-priced employer-provided health insurance plans — means Obamacare’s “main cost-containment measure,” never implemented, is once again being kicked down the road.
The tax is widely disliked. Business groups and labor unions both oppose it, and politicians in both parties have fought against it — but many leading economists favor it as a key way to curb health care spending. The tax is meant to spur employers to offer less generous coverage to their workers, shifting to cheaper plans with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. But while conservatives have backed such “cost-shifting” in general, “almost half of all health insurance in the U.S. comes from employers, and no politician really wants to be on the hook for letting their constituents with employer coverage pay more for it,” Owens writes.

Imagining a Post-Employer-Mandate (and Coverage) World
By George Kalogeropoulos, HealthSherpa and Shandon Fowler, Four8 Insights
After a year of false starts on “repeal-and-replace,” rarely a day passes now that some action isn’t taken on healthcare reform. After the Individual Mandate zero-out surprisingly made it into tax reform at year-end, we’re already on to considering association health plans and work requirements for Medicaid. Yet, the largest single segment of health insurance coverage in the U.S. — employer-based coverage — keeps trucking along, contending with decades of unbroken premium and service cost increases. Will that pattern change soon?
On the surface, the impacts of Obamacare have been relatively minor in the employer market. Some requirements of group-based coverage arguably caused an early spike in costs, but premium costs on employer coverage have actually slowed in the Obamacare years.
Yet premium costs aren’t the whole story. The largest new cost of Obamacare to employers has been administrative — the Employer Mandate.

AutoNation adds cancer benefit, boosts 401(k) match
By Kathryn Mayer / Employee Benefit News
AutoNation said this week it is using savings from the new tax law toward retirement and cancer benefits for its employees.
The automotive retailer doubled its matching contributions to employees’ 401(k) and increased its deferred compensation match to 100% of the first $5,500. Those benefits went into effect Jan. 1.
The company also is introducing a cancer benefit for its workers and their families. AutoNation says it will pay fully for MetLife cancer insurance for employees, spouses and children up to age 26. The benefit, which also includes a cash payment up to $5,000 for cancer diagnosis, with no limitations on how the money is spent, will apply to AutoNation employees starting on their first day of employment. That benefit begins Feb. 1.

Supreme Court again denies review of ERISA forum selection clauses
By Heather Mehta / GREENSFELDER
U.S. Supreme Court building. The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to address the issue of whether forum selection clauses are valid and enforceable in plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). Three U.S. Courts of Appeals have allowed enforcement of plans’ forum selection clauses.
The majority of district courts also have found that forum selection clauses are consistent with ERISA’s venue statute, promote uniformity, and reduce litigation costs. But a few outlier district courts held that the forum selection clauses violate the policy behind ERISA’s venue provision, and the Sixth and Seventh Circuit opinions each had a dissent. Without a split among the circuit courts, however, it seems unlikely that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue.

How Millennials Are Changing the Employee Benefits Game
By Joseph Ellis / CBIZ
Millennials are making demands, and they’re being heard. However, some are more outside-the-box than traditional employers may tend to think. So, it begs the question, what benefits are millennials looking for? And how can employers keep up with the invincibles?
Student Loan Repayment Programs
Financial Wellness Offerings
Identify Theft Protection
Mortgage Services

Nearly 25% of Full-Time Employees Get Zero Benefits From Their Employer
PR Newswire
Nearly 25% of full-time employees in the U.S. do not receive benefits, such as health insurance, retirement savings plan, or paid vacation, from their employers, according to a new survey by Clutch, a B2B research firm. These findings suggest that by not offering a benefits package, businesses risk losing out on top talent during the hiring process.
Health insurance is overwhelmingly the most valued benefit, according to the survey. Over half (55%) of full-time employees who receive benefits say health insurance provided by their employer has the most impact on their job satisfaction.
Paid vacation time, overtime pay, and retirement plans are also identified in the survey as important to workers' satisfaction.
Clutch's 2018 HR and Benefits Survey included 507 individuals across the US who are employed full-time.
To read the full report and source the survey data, visit: https://clutch.co/hr/resources/employers-should-offer-health-insurance-employee-benefits.

Other Insurance News

2018 Distribution Conference for Financial Services
New Rules of Engagement — The Future of Buying and Selling
February 28, 2018 – March 2, 2018
Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, Ponte Vedra, FL USA
Who Attends
Distribution professionals, financial management specialists and others that have a vested interest in channel growth, productivity and reshaping distribution to succeed in today's business environment. Heads of distribution, sales, marketing support, product development and training.
The financial services industry is due for an update when it comes to the way business is done. This paradigm shift represents disruptive change — and opportunity at the same time. Some companies have made a sophisticated effort to make positive changes while others — well, others still have a long way to go. Where do you stand on the spectrum?
This year’s conference will address the future of sales in our industry. Our focus should be on helping the consumer throughout the buying process, rather than trying to sell and push products. This concept is a consumer-centric advisor model. The “new” client-advisor experience is one that emphasizes precise, goals-based advice — meaning advice targeted to the individual at the right time — and delivered with mobility and transparency.

Contact Us
Walt Bernard Podgurski - - Editor