Affordable Care Act Update

What we know now


The Always Confusing Act (ACA) may have adjusted this content. Feb. 14 brought a delay to the pay or play. For employers with 2-99 employees, they got a delay until 2016. Employers with 100 or more employees need to pay or play in 2015. No matter how the law morphs over time, we anticipate health insurance rates will go through the roof; however, we know for a fact having health insurance is a valued benefit.

Individuals - The deadline of March 31 to enroll in exchanges passed. To date, there are 7 million enrollees, 24,000 are in Nevada.

Companies - Independent experts told the CMS actuaries that they thought the community rating rules would increase rates for about 60 – 67 percent of the fully insured small groups. Carriers are telling us that renewal rates will increase between 20-70 percent for small group. Most small businesses early renewed for a “best rate” with their broker, who helped kick the can down the road.

Budgeting – Budget increases now. Get educated and stop staying, “I am just going to wait until ACA goes away.”  Many pieces of the law are already in place.  Some of the benefits in the ACA, like the non-exclusion and 26-year limitation, have been incorporated by carriers since 2010. We have been in ACA land since then and the insurance carriers had to comply, so the chance of unwinding the law seems remote.

There are Options

1) Employers with less than 50 – not offer coverage. Send people to the exchange. There will be no penalty but you may lose market share as well as employees, seniority, productivity, efficiency, and knowledge.

2) Keep your existing policy – A conventional small group policy should expect 20-70 percent increase by Jan. 1, 2015. Decrease employer contributions, increase employee share, pay more money yourself, or keep it the same. Caps in the qualified plans limit “traditional” co pay and deductibles manipulation. Analyze cost of turnover versus cost of benefits. Look at HSAs and qualified HRAs (associated with a qualified plan).

3) Law of large numbers – Find a better way to aggregate the risk. Association and membership groups disappeared, but you can join a large group like a Professional Employer Organization.

What is the final word?

Do not play ostrich. Perform your due diligence and decide now, despite 2016 participation delays. Budget accordingly so that you will be prepared for when – not if – you experience a 20-70 percent rate increase. The market is spending money on head hunting to hire top talent away from competitors, so competition is tough. A rich benefit plan will help attract and retain that top talent.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

May 2014 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

Handbook Revisions

Mary has been hired as the HR Director for a large manufacturing company. One of the first things the Company President, her boss, asks her to do is update the employee handbook. Seems like a reasonable request. A quick review reveals that many of the policies are outdated, or worse, dead-wrong! Mary informs her boss that the handbook will most likely need a complete overhaul. Her boss laughs and says that HR people are too worrisome and he's certain that the handbook just needs a few "touch-ups".

Not wanting to argue with her new boss, Mary heads back to her office and sits down to carefully review the handbook.

Dress Code

All employees are expected to dress appropriately for the workplace. All employees are required to report to work in the proper safety gear prior to entering the manufacturing plant. No exceptions will be made for any reason or for any amount of time. Failure to report to work in your safety gear and remain in your gear for your entire shift will result in discipline, up to and including, termination.

What recommendation should Mary make to her boss regarding this policy?

A.  The policy is solid, no changes needed.

B.  The policy is problematic because employers can't tell employees what to wear.

C.  An employer can dictate how employees dress at work; however, the policy should be revised to allow for limited exceptions.

Answer:  C   As written, the “Dress Code” policy is too restrictive. In choosing a dress code policy, companies need to be mindful of the fact that a company may need to make an accommodation for a religious belief or a disability. Deleting the statement “no exceptions will be made for any reason or for any amount of time” may be enough to correct the policy.

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Volunteering – It’s a Culture

It starts at the top

Volunteering has always been a part of my life, so naturally I have created a culture at The Applied Companies that supports that activity. It is the right thing to do. The business benefits are numerous too, although it is not with dollars in my eyes that we move forward. If money is your motivation for participating on volunteerism, your efforts will fall flat. We have experienced positive outcomes including increased employee productivity; lower absenteeism; higher retention; more successful recruitment rates; greater skilled workforce; improved attitudes and teamwork; overall happier employees that are proud of their company; presence in the community; advertising and outreach through sponsorships; perception that we are a socially responsible partner; and  professional networking. One of the most unexpected results is that volunteering opens up a dialogue with like-minded individuals which open doors to business opportunities with people who match your values. That’s huge.

How to choose what is important with so many options

As a best practice, define both a budget and focus. Create a corporate social responsibility statement based on your company values and perhaps even name the types of activities in which you participate, even going so far as to naming the exact organizations you will support. Incorporating these activities into your company’s vision will strengthen your commitment as a leader as well as increase the employee participation rate. Keep it flexible and evaluate other options as they present themselves. For example, we just joined It’s My Community Store in order to save money on office supplies and in doing so the organization donates a percentage of the sale to a charity of our choice, which we can change monthly!

How to encourage your employees to give back

Promote people who volunteer over an employee who does not. Promote volunteering as career and skills development. Create opportunities for large-scale volunteer events or projects through team building. Invite non-profits that you support – and those you don’t – to come and give a presentation to your employees about their mission and opportunities to donate time and money. At The Applied Companies, we provide 40 hours of PAID volunteer service to a charity of one’s choice. Interestingly enough, only 20 percent of our employees participate – and that’s ok! We know that people are volunteering more than they are claiming. Simply having this policy stimulates employee engagement and contributes to winning competitions like the Best Places to Work.

We literally “talk” to our employees more about volunteering than our health benefits. Do you?

Written by Jim Annis President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Suzanne Chennault, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

Introduction to Networking – Preparation is the Key

Last week The Applied Companies presented The Jim Annis Guide to Excellent Networking. This week we assist those new to networking or in unfamiliar situations - such as acquiring a new position in a different field or relocating. How do you capitalize on the time and effort required to network effectively?

We teamed with Chuck Sweeney, business coach and motivational speaker, of Chuck Sweeney Associates to design 10 Questions to Prepare for Networking:

#1 – What is your reason for networking?  For business or fun? Are you attending an event for pleasure? Are you going to work the crowd – seek out people you need to meet? Be honest with yourself. It will make a difference in your results. 

#2 – What do you want to get out of networking? Are you casting a net to meet contacts for job seeking? Build professional relationships? Market your business?  

#3 – What do you hope to accomplish? What needs to happen for networking to be worth your time? Do you want to get your contact information to five key prospects to have a real conversation regarding - employment - your product or service - setting up a time to meet for coffee or lunch?  Perhaps you want the opportunity to give your “30-second infomercial” three times to likely prospects or contacts.

#4 – Are you attending an appropriate event? There are times when you gather enough information about an event to know it simply isn’t targeted toward your networking goals. Sometimes it feels intuitive; however, you may have to attend to know:

If it will lead you where you want to go - is it worth attending monthly lunches/meetings on a regular basis?

If it is a good fit - does the focus of the group or attendees make you comfortable?

If you are interested - is it educational, informative, fun? Do you like the people?

If it has the potential for you to make beneficial contacts - build business - find employment – educate.

#5 – Who do you want to meet? Is there a key contact attending an event that is critical to your goals? If you do not know they will attend - do research. Look at chamber directories to verify members. Are business associations or group memberships listed online? Contact the membership director and say “I need your help. I’m new to town (or I’m a student, or I have a new job) and would like to meet . . .“ Key contact not a member? Ask who in their membership holds a similar position or is considered an expert in this field or endeavor.

#6 – Who do you know that might introduce you to the key contact? Is there someone you (or any of your contacts) know who is in the key person’s industry, their Association, or works with their company? Would they be willing to introduce you at an event, or even better, set up an appointment?

#7 – If you were me . . . ? Ask others in your field or the field you want to be in, “if you were me, who would you talk to; what events would you attend; what organizations/associations would be a good fit?” Everybody has an opinion and most people want to help when asked.

#8 – Relocating? Have you utilized your current organizations/contacts? Try these tips:

Moving because of a partner? Ask his/her contacts to help you. Some companies give consideration to partners when filling positions within the company, if not, they may direct you to their staffing service.

Find out if anyone in your current organizations/associations knows people in your new location. Contact them to establish a relationship. Are any of your contacts a recruiter (headhunter)? Do they have associates in your new location?

If you are a member of an organization, association, faith-based group, community non-profit, etc. find out if they have establishments in your new location. Contact them as soon as possible.

#9 – Have you made use of your Social Network? Put the word out to your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts that you are attending an event – relocating – job seeking – have a product or service. Can your contacts introduce you to a key contact? Join groups related to why you are networking and make contacts within the groups – ask for their help.

#10 – How can you get involved? Once you decide to join or become a part of a group (locally or via social media), get ACTIVE. Network with the goal to eventually meet every member. Volunteer to be on a committee – perhaps the one that gets you the best exposure – or the one you will most enjoy. Participate, however, don’t over-commit or overpromise!

Written by Susan Fix, The Applied Companies Community Liaison Partner. Fix has worked 17 years in staffing services performing outside sales, recruiting, permanent and temporary placement coordination, career counseling, customer service and social media/business.

Jim Annis’ Guide to Excellent Networking

Jim Annis is President and CEO of The Applied Companies a northern Nevada corporation dedicated to managing the business of employing people. His experiences, as an entrepreneur and sixteen years in the staffing industry, have taught him the value of making contacts and connections. He is a master of networking.

Annis knows quality communication is crucial to success. A powerful networker doesn’t simply collect a fist full of business cards and attend events for the food and drink. You must cast your net and do the work. The following is Jim Annis’ Guide to Excellent Networking:

Visibility – Get involved - be more than a warm body. Being visible should not be confused with “joining.” When you become a member of an organization or association, be fully present and active. What can you bring to the table? You could fill a position on the Board. Pitch in at events. Offer to take responsibility for projects.

Credibility – Be involved with more than $$ signs in your eyes. Membership has to mean something. Understand and commit to the cause. Be professional and ethical in everything you do. Always follow through. Accomplish something for the group – raise money, recruit new members, create or inspire changes when transformation is needed.

Profitability – What does the result of your networking mean? Does it mean increased business like a job order or a candidate referral? Perhaps you are trying to find fulfilling work or an excellent employee? After you find what you were looking for continue to be relentless in your efforts, keep expanding your contact base.

Construction – Build your credibility with social media networking. Create your LinkedIn profile to reflect the outstanding professional you are in your field. Be specific. Background, skills, and talent details show your capability to handle tasks and directions in the corporate arena.


  • Leg Lifts – Get out of the car and walk into the building
  • Arm Extensions -  Shake hands
  • Jaw Flex - Smile
  • The Splits – Split away from the cliques and comfortable groups – meet someone new
  • Drop & Carry – Exchange business cards
  • Arm Curls – Make follow up phone calls and write handwritten notes
  • Cool Down – Analyze what you did and what you need to do at the next event

Written by Susan Fix, The Applied Companies Community Liaison Partner. Fix has worked 17 years in staffing services performing outside sales, recruiting, permanent and temporary placement coordination, career counseling, customer service and social media/business.