A Win-Win: Add Value to Your Employee Benefits With Life and Disability

From ChamberChoice and Smart Business Pittsburgh

Accident and tragedy are two things no employer wants to see for employees.

“Disability products and life insurance give employees peace of mind, knowing they have financial support in the event of unforeseen circumstances,” says Chuck Whitford, consultant at JRG Advisors. “They also give employers peace of mind in knowing that they help protect their employees. Ancillary benefits can even help businesses recruit and retain the best employees.”

Smart Business spoke with Whitford about how life insurance and disability coverage benefits employers and their employees.

Why should employers consider getting a disability plan?
According to the Council for Disability Awareness, every 7 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers an illness, injury or accident that will keep them out of work for more than one month. For individuals out of work for three months or more, the average time off of work due to a disability averages 2.6 years. That’s 136 weeks without a paycheck.

The cost of implementing a long-term disability plan is relatively small. For most business owners, the problem escalates as the owner tries to satisfy the current work demand and take care of the disabled employee. Providing long-term disability coverage is also valuable to employees — buying coverage on their own can cost as much as an entire group account because of stringent underwriting. Plus, the program can be structured so that the premiums are deducted as a business expense, but benefits can be received on an income tax-free basis.

What’s the difference between short-term and long-term disability?
Short-term disability fills the gap between day one of disability and when the long-term benefits kick in. Typically, a short-term disability contract covers the first 13 or 26 weeks of disability. Unfortunately, many people live paycheck to paycheck. Short-term disability can benefit those lacking sufficient savings.

Long-term disability is usually fully insured, with the exception of extremely large employers that self-fund the benefit. For most employers, the cost is determined by employee demographics and industry classification. Claims experience isn’t a significant factor. Long-term disability pays a portion of the disabled employee’s income after he or she runs out of both sick leave and short-term disability benefits, typically after 90 to 180 days. Depending on the plan design and how the policy defines disability, it may pay a monthly benefit for a specific number of years, such as two years or until normal retirement age under Social Security.

However, an employer shouldn’t administer its short-term disability program. Most employers aren’t equipped to assess when an employee is unable to perform his or her own job or when he or she is able to return, and employers are estimated to pay out 30 percent more in benefits than if the plan was managed by a claims professional. It is possible to outsource the claim adjudication process to a qualified third party, often referred to as ‘advise to pay.’

How has life insurance changed and why is this coverage important?
A recent study found nearly 70 percent of U.S. workers, across all generations, believe having a life insurance benefit available at work is important. This importance has grown over the past five years, an increase of 22 percent. For many, it is the only life insurance they own. Group life insurance can fill gaps in coverage and the purchasing power of a large group helps keep the coverage affordable for the employer.

Sixty-five percent of employees with group life coverage believe they need more life insurance beyond what their employer provides. Depending on the plan design and type and amount of coverage elected, employees may be able to buy additional life insurance without answering health questions. Some plans allow employees to purchase coverage on a spouse and/or dependent children. Buying life insurance at work is convenient because premiums can be paid through payroll deduction. When they leave the employer, people typically can choose to maintain coverage, paying premiums to the insurance company.

Employers that don’t have group life or group disability should meet with their insurance consultant. They most likely will be surprised by the relative low cost involved in establishing a program that can provide additional value to their employees.

Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant Continues Focus on Safety and Efficiency

Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy

The Susquehanna Nuclear Power Plant located in Salem Township is on track to generate more power in 2017 than in any other year in its 35-year history, according to Tim Rausch, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of Talen Energy. While nuclear plants across the country have been shutting down in recent years due to low energy pricing, the Susquehanna station has been improving operational efficiencies to remain competitive. Rausch’s comments were made to local elected officials and representatives of the business community at a recent meeting.

In late September, Energy Secretary Rick Perry directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to “issue a final rule requiring its organized markets to develop and implement market rules that accurately price generation resources necessary to maintain the reliability and resiliency of our nation’s power system.” The construction of natural gas power plants combined with federal subsidies for the development of wind and solar power generation has resulted in lower energy prices that threaten the viability of traditional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Shuttering these plants could put the nation’s base power supply at risk. Mr. Rausch noted that Talen Energy is interested in a level playing field to ensure fair competition. He does not expect to see any changes in the immediate future.

When Talen Energy became a privately-held corporation in December of 2016, Rausch noted that Team Susquehanna remained committed to the safety and health of the community. In addition to dozens of emergency preparedness drills conducted in 2017, the annual refueling was completed last on time and on budget with no injuries .

House State Government Committee Advances Paycheck Protection Legislation

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

In late November, the House State Government Committee held a voting meeting where two bills were advanced to the House floor that would bar public employers from using taxpayer-funded public systems to automatically deduct from employees’ paychecks campaign contributions or any portion of union dues intended for political activity.

House Bill 1174 and Senate Bill 166 (which passed the Senate earlier this year) both cleared the committee on a party-line vote, with Democrats voting in the negative. Commonly referred to as “paycheck protection” legislation, such measures have been introduced and hotly debated in previous sessions. The organized labor community has strongly opposed any change to the status quo while other groups have advocated ensuring that government resources aren’t being used for political purposes.

The PA Chamber supports paycheck protection bills as good government measures; and previously observed that arrests and convictions of several lawmakers and staffers in recent years have shown that a clear line must be maintained to avoid any use of taxpayer resources for political activity.

Both bills now await further consideration by the full House.

Welcome Community Strategies Group

More than 400 businesses and organizations belong to the Chamber to receive benefits and support efforts to strengthen their businesses and our region. Increased membership allows us to offer additional programs and benefits, have a stronger voice in advocacy and be involved in more activities and initiatives in our communities. The Chamber welcomes its newest member, Community Strategies Group, to help us fulfill our mission.

An offshoot of the Columbia County Housing & Redevelopment Authority, the Community Strategies Group is a comprehensive community, economic and housing development organization serving Columbia County and surrounding areas. It is currently involved in the Downtown Berwick revitalization project and also handles projects involving neighborhood revitalization, property management, business development, strategic planning and blight removal. CSG’s offices are located at 700 Sawmill Rd., Suite 101 in Bloomsburg, and can be reached at 570-784-9373, ex. 101, or visit its website for more information. 

Member News – December 6, 2017

Member News

  • SEKISUI SPI recently received a Gold Level Award for its environmental initiatives at the recent International Association of Plastics Distribution (IAPD) conference. 

    SEKISUI SPI’s Aaron Douglas, Julie Hart, and Tom Kapelewski with the IAPD Gold Level Award.

    These awards were established by the IAPD environmental committee in 2008 as a way to celebrate the environmentally responsible practices of IAPD member companies, including recycling, community outreach, employee engagement and more. There are four levels of the award – best overall program, gold, silver and bronze. 

 

  • Dr. David Hamilton of Hamilton Dental Care and president of the The Jubilate Choir and Orchestra, is pleased to announce The Jubilate Choir and Orchestra’s Annual Christmas Concert, A Holy Night of Angels, will be on Saturday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. The choir and orchestra, under the direction of Dr. Alan J. Hack, is made up of community singers and instrumentalists along with Mrs. Kathy George accompanying on the piano. It invites all to join them at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 123 Market St., Bloomsburg for this exciting concert, a high point of the Christmas season celebration in our area!

 

  • Co., a social and professional networking group that is run by the United Way of Columbia and Montour County, will hold its annual holiday party on Tuesday, Dec. 12, from 5:30-7 p.m. at Filet 18, 18 W. Main St., Bloomsburg. Come and join this group of area professionals for a fun night of socializing and networking. Co. was founded to give area residents the opportunity to take advantage of all the great things this area has to offer. This group is for everyone, which means any age, ability, or area of residence. It holds multiple events each month. For more information about Co., including future events, visit its Facebook page

 

  • It is the season of giving and the Ken Pollock Auto Group, is continuing its yearly tradition of collecting new or slightly used coats, in all sizes to benefit local families. From now through Dec. 15, Ken Pollock Auto Group will be collecting coats that can be donated at any of its auto dealerships, including locally at Ken Pollock Ford Lincoln in Berwick. All coats collected in our area will be donated to the Columbia Child Development Program – Head Start for distribution to families in need. For more information, contact the Ken Pollock Auto Group at 570-655-4575. 

 

  • Wild For Salmon will host a holiday tasting on Saturday, Dec. 16 at its store at 521 Montour Blvd. (Rt. 11), Bloomsburg, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Chefs Matt and Josh have created and prepared a delicious holiday-inspired menu and they invite the public to stop by and try some of their wild caught salmon treats and meet one of their fisherman. This event will feature salmon sushi rolls, cajun shrimp-stuffed keta fillets, whole roasted king salmon, halibut soup, holiday spread with dried cranberries and pistachips, cajun dip and smoked salmon (garlic pepper, traditional sockeye and traditional king). 

 

  • The Bloomsburg Area YMCA will be celebrating the holiday season with a senior Christmas party on Tuesday, Dec. 19, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. There will be a potluck-style meal, as well as fried chicken provided by the Y. Guests can come in their favorite ugly sweater and will be able to enjoy Wii bowling and a visit from Santa. Those interested in attending should register at the Y front desk by Friday, Dec. 15. There is no cost to attend this event.