Business Owners Resource Network

April 1, 2009

CheckPoint HR today released its top five tips to help employees save on healthcare costs.

Filed under: Employee Benefits,Financial Services — michellehodges @ 3:01 pm

GREAT TIPS for anyone to use to help alleviate some healthcare costs…read on….

Edison, NJ (PRWEB) March 31, 2009 — CheckPoint HR Benefits Group (http://www.checkpointhrbenefits.com/), a licensed insurance agency dedicated to delivering a broad range of employee health benefits solutions and custom plan designs, today released its top five tips to help employees save on healthcare costs (http://www.checkpointhrbenefits.com/manage_health_care_costs.html).

 “Many businesses are experiencing substantial premium increases in providing healthcare coverage for their employees,” said Patrick Carragher, vice president, CheckPoint HR Benefits Group. “As we move towards consumer driven health coverage, there are a number of ways employees can take charge of their health and costs associated with out of pocket expenses.”

1. Work with your Doctor Most doctors understand the business and processes of insurance. Tap into their knowledge base for the best possible hospitals for specific procedures, Many doctors can provide patients with guidance in negotiating fees and/or working with the insurance companies on lowering out of pocket costs. In some instances, doctors will reach out to the hospital’s finance department (on behalf of the patient) and request that consideration be made when dealing with the finances of certain procedures. Bottom line, communicate and work with your doctor!

2. Know ALL of the Benefits available to you Insurance programs are aligned with a lot of ancillary benefits that consumers should be made aware of. Benefits such as gym reimbursements, employee assistance programs, massage therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture, vision reimbursements, weight loss programs, free or low cost flu shots or immunizations, disease management programs, health coaching or nurse advice lines, are no cost preventive benefits. Make sure you read the fine print and take advantage of everything that is being paid for via premiums.

3. Be a Smart Consumer Individuals today have better access to information then ever before. With more control over their own health care (http://www.checkpointhrbenefits.com/consumer_driven_health_care.html), consumers are able to make educated and more informed decisions about options, procedures, costs, and treatment. Some Insurance companies now have released the costs for certain procedures covered under their plans on their Websites. This information allows individuals to better understand the true costs of care before they utilize their plan and allows them to make better financial decisions based upon quality as well.

4. Go Generic High deductible plans are taking traction in the workplace and with that so does the need for employees to manage their costs with more scrutiny. One consideration for maximizing your benefits without sacrificing quality is to ask your doctor about a generic drug. When working with your doctor, ask them if the prescribed medication has a generic equivalent that will work for you. If there is a viable equivalent, make sure the medication is listed on the formulary list that your insurance carrier make available on their Website.

5. Focus on Wellness One of the best ways to reduce health care costs is for people to get healthy! Companies today are rewarding employees who are proactive in their decision making and who lead healthier lives through physical fitness and increased presenteeism. Corporate Wellness programs (http://www.checkpointhrbenefits.com/wellness.html) offered today focus on tobacco cessation, know-your-numbers (BMI, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol), walking clubs and programs that increase physical activity and reduce negative behaviors towards health.

 

For more information, contact me at mhodges@benefitsdesigngroup.cc

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March 17, 2009

Health Care Reform in 2009

Filed under: Employee Benefits,Financial Services — michellehodges @ 7:30 pm

Nice article on health care from insurance.com….

“Let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” President Obama made this bold promise to hopeful Americans in his recent address to Congress.

Few listeners debate the importance of health care, but providing quality affordable health care for every American will clearly challenge Democrats and Republicans to work together to meet this goal. As unemployment rises, even fewer Americans will have health insurance through an employer. And, rising medical costs are forcing small and large businesses to reduce coverage, increase co-pays and deductibles and raise the amount that employees must pay each month. Some small business owners have even converted traditional health insurance plans to high deductible plans. Insurance.com offers these tips for evaluating your health care options and saving money on your medical bills. My employer offers an HMO and a PPO. How do I decide? Both provide excellent care, but you may want to choose an HMO if its network of doctors and hospitals matches your needs. Health insurance with a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) is generally less expensive. You’re required to select an HMO physician to be your primary health care provider. This doctor will coordinate all of your medical care, including referrals to specialists within your HMO network. If you seek treatment from a non-network physician, you will generally pay most of the cost yourself. A Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) is more flexible than an HMO plan, but it still operates with a list of physicians and hospitals that are “within the PPO network.” You may visit an out-of-network provider, but you will pay the difference between the PPO network and out-of-network prices. Both plans usually offer a prescription drug benefit, as well. Some companies are offering options that allow you to combine features of both HMO and PPO plans. I can’t afford full health insurance, but I want coverage for major emergencies. A high deductible health insurance plan or catastrophic health insurance offer coverage for major illnesses or accidents. For example, a plan with a $5,000 deductible requires you to pay all of your medical expenses up to $5,000 before your insurer begins to pay. If you choose a high deductible plan, try to save a small amount of money each month in a Health Savings Account (HSA) so that you’re not overwhelmed by routine medical expenses. I have health insurance, but it seems like I’m always paying for something. Sad but true. You may owe a co-payment for doctor’s visits or a trip to the ER. Usually, this is a flat fee, but it can get expensive if you don’t stay within your plan network. Secondly, payment for expenses is subject to your annual deductible, which is the amount you pay toward your medical expenses before the insurance company begins to pay claims. Some HMO plans do not have deductibles but do have co-payments. Lastly, there’s co-insurance, which is the percentage of your medical costs that you pay after you reach your annual deductible. 80/20 co-insurance is a common option, and that means that your insurer pays 80% of your bills and you pay 20%—after your deductible. So, anything you can do to reduce your medical bills will help you reduce your out-of-pocket expenses, too. I don’t have health insurance. What can I do? Almost every hospital has a financial aid office that will evaluate your personal situation and determine your ability to pay for required care. Generally, a hospital will provide sliding scale fees if your income is 400% or less of federal poverty limits and may eliminate bills entirely if your income is 200% or less of federal poverty limits. But hospitals have to make money, too, so they may not publicize these programs or provide much assistance in applying. Be prepared with recent copies of your tax returns and W-2’s to prove your need.

Michelle Scaro Hodges

mhodges@benefitsdesigngroup.cc

 913-262-0600

March 16, 2009

Social Media? Argggggggggghhhhh!!!

Filed under: Marketing,SEO,Small Business Growth,Web Site Development — smallbizexperts @ 4:57 am

social_networking_sitesSmall business owners who are the only employee of a business. My advice is that you ignore social networking trends. YOU DON”T HAVE TIME FOR IT.  Pick one, learn it well and use just that one.

Twitter, Face Book, MySpace, Blogs, Linked-In, Plaxo, Flickr, – – “Jaiku” (get ready for this one folks, it’s owned by Google and in Beta)–,  Bebo, Geni, Plurk, and on and on and on and on. Go to this wikipedia site for a list of about 150 different social networking sites out there. Some hot, some not. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites

Twitter is really hot today, MySpace is so yesterday, what’s Plaxo? Isn’t Linked-In overcrowded??? Heaven help us when Jaiku hits the scene in full force. Could be bye-bye Linked-In. Who knows!

As a small business owner do you need to know and be using all of these social networking sites? The answer is resoundng NO! If you have a staff and can assign someone to each tool, then go for it. If you try to cover them all yourself you’ll be in over your head in less than a week and frustrated by them all.  If you do have staff make sure what’s being put out their runs a very tight common company message. If you’re a Christian company and you assign one of the temps to manage your MySpace page, hmmmm, better watch it close.

Social networking for business benefit only works if you have time to…..

devot to them
form relationships online
participate in discussions
lend expertise to a topic
stay on top of what’s hot and what’s not every day or week.

Most business owners don’t have time to do this. So don’t even try. At a high level, learn what the common ones are, then pick one that best gets your company message out there and get good at it! Only that one!!!

Which one do you belong to, if any, and how has it helped your business?

Chris Nastav, KC Web Specialists, LLC. www.kcwebspecialists.com
Experts in how business gets done on the Internet (913) 908.5642

March 11, 2009

How Does A Buyer Decide What Business To Buy? What Business Owners Need to Know….Part One

Filed under: Business Brokers,Business Valuations — alieser @ 9:29 pm

As a part of my daily business brokering activities, I routinely talk to business owners who are considering selling their businesses.  I’ve detected a common misperception among these folks regarding the purchasing habits of business buyers.  “Just let me know when you have a buyer who is looking for a business in my industry,” they frequently comment.  Or, “I have a beautiful location.  Once a buyer sees it, it will sell itself.”  What they do not realize is that, unless the buyer already owns a business in a particular industry and is looking to expand through acquisition, buyers typically come to me not really knowing what kind of business they want to buy.  And, while the appearance of the premises does help to sell a business, I have yet to have a buyer make a buying decision only because the place looks good.  So what makes a buyer choose one business over another?  First and foremost, it’s all about the numbers.

 

As a buyer begins to investigate whether a business would be a good acquisition candidate for him, the critical question on his mind is, “If I buy this business, how much money can I make?”  Because no buyer has a crystal ball to know the future profits of a business, the financial history of the business is the key indicator of what a buyer can anticipate for future earnings.  And though the actual cash flow numbers are important, it is nearly equally as important to a buyer that the documentation supporting these numbers is reliable and easy to decipher.  Also, because savvy buyers understand the power of leveraging their money, a very large percentage of the transactions that we broker involve some sort of financing.  Therefore, three years of accurate historical financial data is also absolutely critical for a buyer to obtain bank financing. 

 

So, as a business owner, how should this knowledge affect your day to day operations?  Many business owners proudly explain to me that they have received the benefit of tax free revenues for several years by merely underreporting their revenues (or over-reporting expenses by including excessive personal expenses) on their tax returns.  As a business broker whose goal is to maximize the transaction value for my seller clients, I fail to understand their pride.  Business value and the amount that a bank will finance are based upon some multiple of the seller’s discretionary earnings as substantiated by tax returns.  Not reporting some earnings to Uncle Sam may save a business owner the tax burden of around 30% on those revenues.  The end result, however, may be a reduction in the value of the business of 100% to 300% or more of those revenues.  In addition, when a seller explains to a potential buyer that there are unreported revenues, buyers and bankers suddenly look at the business and its owner with a suspicious eye, wondering what other unexposed skeletons remain in the closet.  All financial information suddenly becomes suspect.  Frankly, my experience is that the buyer pool for a business with unreported revenues is reduced to a small fraction of what it could have been if the tax returns told “the whole story”, and lenders will only lend based on the cash flow shown on the tax return, no exceptions. 

 

So, if you are considering selling your business within the next three years and want to maximize the value of your business, the numbers of buyers who will consider purchasing it, and the opportunities for the buyer to find financing, the first step is to ensure that your tax returns give an accurate portrayal of the financial performance of your business.

 

Stay tuned for additional tidbits on increasing the future value of your business.  Or plan to attend the Business Owners’ Resource Network presentation, Not Just Surviving, But Thriving, on May 25 when one of my fellow business brokers, Joe Warner, will present information on this subject.  I welcome questions and comments.

 

Anita Lieser, Senior Business Broker

913-433-2306

Sunbelt Business Advisors

7101 College Blvd. Suite 1650   Overland Park, KS  66210

March 8, 2009

Simple Money Saving Ideas On Your Web Site

Filed under: SEO,Web Site Development — smallbizexperts @ 4:47 am

formSimple, simple advice for anyone giving forms, sales literature or other printed materials to their existing clients. Save money by directing them to your Web site to get the materials. Put all your stuff out their as forms for them to download and print off. This gives the impression of convenience and great customer service. Which it does! But it also saves you those recurring printing costs. Every dollar counts. Why hand out literature that just ends up in the trash or recycle bin. Put the content on your Web site for them to read and enjoy as many times as needed.

Please share with comments your Web site cost saving methods.

Chris Nastav, KC Web Specialists, LLC. www.kcwebspecialists.com
Experts in how business gets done on the Internet (913) 908.5642

Simple, simple advice for anyone giving forms, sales literature or other printed materials to their existing clients. Save money by directing them to your Web site to get the materials. Put all your stuff out their as forms for them to download and print off. This gives the impression of convenience and great customer service. Which it does! But it also saves you those recurring printing costs. Every dollar counts. Why hand out literature that just ends up in the trash or recycle bin. Put the content on your Web site for them to read and enjoy as many times as needed.

Please share with comments your Web site cost saving methods.

Chris Nastav, KC Web Specialists, LLC. www.kcwebspecialists.com
Experts in how business gets done on the Internet (913) 908.5642

March 4, 2009

Bad Insurance Costs Money.

Filed under: Business Insurance,Small Business Growth — natewatson @ 9:47 pm

 

 Bad insurance costs you money. More money in the long run than10111 good insurance first would have charged you.

I have a subcontractor in Shawnee, KS. He remodels houses. He doesn’t technically employ anyone; all of the people he uses are subcontractors. His plumbers, electricians, and painters, were all paid by his company to do work for him. He never checked to see if they had insurance.  What did he care?  They were subcontractors. His insurance wasn’t over them, right?  Except it was. Anyone you hire is under your workers comp insurance unless they have workers comp insurance of their own. It was a very costly mistake. At the end of the year, when he was audited, he had to pay on 250,000 in payroll he wasn’t counting because he thought that he didn’t have too. Now he knows, and now he is being back-charged. His new payroll is 250k higher. His new monthly payments are double as he pays for this year and last year at the same time.

This mistake almost bankrupted him. He got bad insurance advice from someone who didn’t know what they were doing. Oh, sure, they looked cheap, but in year two, they aren’t looking like such a good deal.

I see a lot of mistakes like this in the Workers comp area of insurance. Many companies start their business as one-person operations that don’t need workers comp. They get a cheap startup policy from an agent and go to work. When they succeed and add employees, they call up someone to do their workers comp. The problem is the agent didn’t know what they were doing, let the business owner misrepresent what he really was paying, and then, at the end of the year, when the company was audited, the company owed much more than expected.

Where did they go wrong? Most mistakes are from 2 misunderstandings:

 1. You cannot exclude someone just because they are family. If you are not the owner, you are counted in workers comp salaries.

2. You cannot get out of paying workers comp by having all of your employees as subcontractors. If they don’t have insurance, and lets face it, they probably don’t, you, as the employer, by law, have to provide their workers comp. You don’t count them, the insurance company finds out about them, and you get back charged.

I think the moral of the story is pretty obvious. Bad Insurance Costs Money. This is what happened to my client before I got him. Choose the bad insurance and found out it costs money too. So much so it almost bankrupted him. You may not see it at first, but having someone who knows what they are doing is worth more than a few extra dollars. In fact, it could save your business.

Do you have a stupid insurance guy story? I would love to hear it.

 

Nathan Watson, Nationwide Insurance. 913-322-3388, ext 14. 

I help you get the insurance you think you already have.

March 3, 2009

Obama and Health Care Reform

Filed under: Uncategorized — michellehodges @ 2:46 pm

Interesting read that I just ran across this morning.  With the health care industry being an increasingly hot topic, here’s one take on Obama’s reform promise…

Obama: Health care reform ‘will not wait another year’

U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed his priority to provide universal health coverage and reduce health insurance costs last week, declaring before the joint session of Congress that “health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”

For the most part, the health insurance community’s reaction appears to be supportive, yet cautious. A statement from America’s Health Insurance Plans concurs that insurers “strongly agree that comprehensive health care reform cannot wait. We will continue to offer workable solutions to ensure that all Americans have quality, affordable health care.”

Other health care experts say the president needs to offer more concrete details on his plans. “This was a solid commitment to changing health care, but the part on how you solve the health-care cost puzzle while covering everyone is still missing,” Paul Keckley, director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions in Washington, D.C., told Bloomberg. “He’s got to start giving specifics.”

Labour leaders appear more solidly aligned with Obama. Doug Sizemore, the executive secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO Labor Council in Cincinnati, said, “We see [the effects of health insurance costs] every time we go to the bargaining table with an employer — businesses dealing with the rising costs of providing health care to workers and putting those costs on the backs of the workers. There has got to be a better way. The president gets that.”

Naturally, however, Republican lawmakers are among Obama’s critics. In a staunch rebuttal to the president, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (R) drew his party’s line in the sand. “We stand for universal access to affordable health care coverage, [but] we oppose universal government-run health care. Health care decisions should be made by doctors and patients — not by government bureaucrats.”

 By Kathleen Koster

We will be in for many changes in the next few years in our health care industry.   It’s going to take the publics ability to get involved and take responsibility for the next wave of health care.  There are far too many Americansthat are without health insurance due to lack of employment and issues with being insurable.  Change, change, change…there’s no other word for what needs to occur. 

Michelle Hodges

mhodges@benefitsdesigngroup.cc

  91… 

 

March 2, 2009

HSA’s and Personal Responsibility

Filed under: Employee Benefits — michellehodges @ 11:23 pm

By promoting competition, the free market does a better job at delivering goods and services than any government or monopoly program.  This is a simple truth, yet too few people understand it.

HSAs provide an incentive to promote this type of competitive market environment in health care.  HSA owners are more likely to shop with their health care dollars, and demand lower prices and better service.  They are more likely to ask for generics, to shop for better pricing for similar services, etc.  The mindset is that of any consumer shopping and wanting the best bang for their buck.   

We are already seeing the results, with doctor charges rising less in 2006 than any of the past 25 years.  There are also numerous companies springing up to serve the needs resulting from this new, consumer-driven health care.  With non traditional approachs to healthcare on the rise…i.e. holistic and natural remedies, HSA’s are increasingly popular because you can use your pre tax dollars to pay for such services. 

So what, exactly, do HSAs promote?  Personal responsibility, of course. 

Everyone knows that their medical expenses are likely to go up as they age.  Those who take personal responsibility put money aside to cover these future expenses.  And they have no worries about paying for medical expenses during retirement.

 Everyone also knows that the risk of sickness and disease increases with age.  Those who take personal responsibility eat right, exercise, and take care of themselves.  And they tend to be much more healthy and vibrant in their retirement years.

 If you have an HSA, and take care of your finances and health, you will pay lower taxes, lower insurance premiums, and fewer medical bills, and you’ll have a whole lot of money in a tax-free account one day.

HSAs seem to particularly appeal to those who resonate with this idea of personal responsibility.

Consumer Driven Health care…wave of the future…I think so!!!  What’s your thought on personal responsibility and health care? 

Michelle Hodges

mhodges@benefitsdesigngroup.cc

 91…

eCommerce Sites are Not Your Typical Web Sites

Filed under: SEO,Small Business Growth,Web Site Development — smallbizexperts @ 2:19 am

online_shoppingSo you want to sell products online. There’s a huge difference between a shopping cart Web site and a static brochure style Web site. I could go on and on about the technical differences between the two types of sites, but I wanted to make this a relatively short post. :-)   If you plan to have a shopping cart Web site the most important suggestion I could provide is that you brush up on your project management skills. Selling one or two products online is not so bad. Selling a 100+ SKU’s is a challenging task. Challenging in that it tests your organizational ability. You have to describe, price, photograph, weigh, ship, tax, return policy and provide customer service on each and every product that you sell. Are you prepared to do that? Have you ever done that? If not, start small with just a few products and get all the bugs, processes and kinks worked out before going big time.

What type of skills do you feel it takes to run a successful shopping cart Web site? Do you have any great war stories or advice to provide our readers?

Chris Nastav, KC Web Specialists, LLC, www.kcwebspecialists.com
Experts in how business gets done on the Internet

February 26, 2009

A Basic Overview of Health Savings Accounts

Filed under: Employee Benefits — michellehodges @ 8:01 pm

I have found another wonderful article on HSA’s.   Consumer Driven Health Plans is a phrase you may have already heard and if not, will be hearing about in the near future.   HSA’s are for individuals as well as employee group plans.  Hope you find this information helpful and interesting!  Please contact me at mhodges@benefitsdesigngroup.cc or  913-262-0600 .  Thank you, Michelle Hodges

 

A Basic Overview of Health Savings Accounts Health Savings Accounts are becoming more of a need these days than a luxury. You must be enrolled in a high deductible health insurance plan in order to qualify for a Health Savings Account (HSA). Since Health Savings Accounts have been around, millions of people have qualified and gotten one. The trend should only continue to raise as more and more employers and companies offer this benefit as a bonus to their medical plans. Some companies aren’t quite there yet but many have jumped on the bandwagon. There are some basic rules that can help an individual or corporation decide to enter the HSA market:

To establish an HSA, there are some rules and regulations. It is like establishing an individual retirement account (IRA) in most cases. In fact the documents are very similar and the procedure as well. An HSA trustee (or HSA Administrator) can add terms to their agreement regarding the effecting policy and procedure of their HSA. These terms can include any of the following but that may not be all that is required. Included in your agreement could be definitions, fees and expenses, amendments, disqualifying provisions, investment options, distributions, transfers and rollovers, reports and records, termination and/or resignation, and liability protection. There might be more of less of these conditions depending on the insurer.

HSA eligibility requires you to have an Internal Revenue Code to even desire to be eligible. You must be enrolled in a high-deductible medical care plan. So, people who don’t pay a deductible or it is very low, do not qualify for this benefit. Some exemptions do apply of course but you would need to contact the right person to find out. You must not be able to be claimed as a dependent for anyone else or on Medicare. To qualify your deductible needs to be for an individual a minimum or $1150, and your out of pocket expenses can’t exceed $5,800 for that year. For a family, the deductible needs to be a minimum of $2300 and the out of pocket portion can’t exceed $11,600 per year. There is a cost of living deduction as well and your agent to better save you money will adjust things. Many organizations require that you prove you are eligible prior to a contract. It is the individual asking for the HSA that must figure out that they qualify or might qualify.

The yearly contribution can’t exceed the deductible amount or combination with out of pocket expenses. As long as the individual has the high-deductible health plan they are qualifying. If you lose this plan, you will not be eligible for that month or period of time. If you are married and have separate high-deductible health plan, it is the lowest deductible amount that the family as a whole can meet. There are no combining deductibles to get a higher benefit. If you qualify, you can establish a regular contribution, a rollover contribution, or a transfer contribution plan. For the money to be deductible for a specific tax year, one must file by the deadline to receive the benefits. If an eligible individual’s employer contributes to his or her HSA, the employer, not the HSA owner, is entitled to a deduction.

An HSA administrator or trustee reports the contributions on IRS Form 5498-SA, HSA, Archer MSA, or Medicare Choice MSA Information. Copies of the report are due to each participant and the IRS by May 31 of each year. The owner is responsible for reporting the contribution amount on the proper forms to be submitted and file them with the income taxes that year. The distributions are to be made by the owner, if different than the participant. These will tax-free if used to pay for, or reimburse qualifying medical expenses that occurred after putting the plan into effect. These expenses include and could exceed the diagnosis, cure, treatment, or prevention of disease, prescription and certain nonprescription drugs, and transportation and certain lodging costs primarily for and essential to qualified medical care and certain qualified long-term care services. It is an HSA owner’s responsibility to determine the taxability of an HSA distribution and whether it is legitimate. The guidance of a tax or legal professional may be necessary to determine whether an expense is a qualified medical expense to avoid penalties.

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