UBP blog

08/31/2009

If you get an email from the “IRS” on the Making Work Pay tax credit, do not reply!

Filed under: Uncategorized — ubpblogger @ 11:56 am
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Your identity might be compromised or even stolen. There are scam artists lurking out there in cyberspace posing as the IRS and sending emails explaining how you can get tax credit refunds directly deposited into your bank account. The fraudsters ask individuals to reply with their bank account numbers, which they then steal.

How do we know these emails are fraudulent? Well, the reason why is a simple fact. That is, the IRS never initiates conversations with taxpayers via email. Employers should keep this in mind and make absolute certain to tell employees this as well.

What the fraudsters are doing is called phishing.

Phishing emails tend to come from a well known entity (i.e. the IRS or a large bank that everyone has heard of). In almost all cases, the phishing emails will tell you to click on a link to a website. When you get to the website, it will ask for your personal information (i.e. credit card number, bank account number or SSN).

What should we do if we get one of these phishing emails?

 The IRS has asked us to forward any suspicious emails to the address phishing@irs.gov.

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08/26/2009

4 new mental health changes mean great news for Massachusetts HMO plan members

Health insurance plans cover your physical health as well as your mental health.  When an employee goes to see a doctor for a mental health condition, the condition is grouped into one of two categories.

It’s either biologically-based or non-biologically-based. Some people might ask “why do these categories matter to me?” The reason why they matter is fairly straightforward and simple.

If you have a mental health condition that’s biologically-based, you get an unlimited number of doctor visits covered by your health plan. If your condition is non-biologically-based, you get a limited number of covered visits.

The good news for Massachusetts Residents:

Starting July 1, 2009, all new Massachusetts HMO health plans moving forward will have changed the category of 4 different mental health conditions from non-biologically-based to biologically-based.

These 4 conditions are:

  1. Autism
  2. Eating disorders
  3. Substance abuse
  4. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

 What this means for employees:

Here is an example of what this will mean for your employees enrolled in a Massachusetts HMO. Let’s say you have an employee enrolled in your health plan with an autistic dependent child. Before July 1 of this year, his or her plan would only cover up to a pre-set maximum number of doctor visits (i.e. 24) for the child’s autism treatment. Now that autism is categorized as a biologically-based condition, there is no longer a maximum number.

The same is true for eating disorders, substance abuse and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

08/25/2009

Three ways to prevent a large scale identity breach at your company

On Monday August 17, three men (one American and two Russians) were charged with stealing personal data from more than 130 million credit and/or debit cards.  Data was stolen from customers of Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven, the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain and two other unnamed corporate entities.

 The men are charged with conspiring to hack into computer networks and stealing data as far back as October 2006. This hacking and identity theft case is believed to be the largest one the US Department of Justice has ever prosecuted.

 

 How the breach was executed:

 To tap into the retailers’ networks, the three hackers used a very sophisticated technique known as a SQL Injection Attack. This technique enabled them to maneuver around the Firewalls on computer networks containing credit and debit card data.

 The hackers then installed “sniffers” on the victims’ computer systems to intercept credit and debit card data as transactions are processed.

 How to prevent this from happening at your company:

Although hackers are always looking for new and innovative ways to access and compromise personal information, there are still things companies can do to help prevent a  data breach.

1. Encrypt your networks

This is especially important if your company has a wireless network. According to a recent PC World article, both the TJX and Lowes data breaches were made possible because of non-existent wireless network security. That’s why you should secure your wireless network with encryption. Also, a form of authentication should be required for anyone to access the wireless network.

 2. Stay on top of things

Make sure to consistently monitor all computer systems containing personal information. This frequent exposure will help sensitize you to the earliest signs of compromise or suspicious activity. That way, you’ll be alert and ready to take action before any major damage is done (or any major funds are lost).

 3.  Go above and beyond

This means that you should do more than the bare minimum at your company to pass a security audit. As much as we like to think lawmakers enact security laws because they have nothing better to do with their time, they really do have our best interest at heart. 

Data security laws are there to protect your sensitive data on your computer networks. If you’re only doing the bare minimum that the lawmakers want, you might not be reaping the full benefit of these laws in the end.

Massachusetts’ Identity Theft Law:

In response to the huge, costly problem of identity theft, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed identity protection law 201 CMR 17.00. Effective March 1, 2010, this law is the toughest one any US state has passed to date.

To prepare businesses for compliance with this law, Universal Benefit Plans conducts free 30-minute educational webinars twice per-month. To sign up for a webinar, please visit www.universalbenefitplans.com and check out our events calendar.

08/05/2009

Three reasons your employee benefits information should be online

Filed under: employee benefit communication — ubpblogger @ 12:00 pm
Tags: ,

We are almost a decade into the 21st century and just about everything has migrated onto the Internet. You can shop online, book travel online, bank online and in Boston, MBTA customers can now update Charlie Cards online. Shouldn’t employee benefits information be online too?

Here are three good reasons to put all of your company’s benefits information into one user-friendly online portal.

  1. Books and binders are for the dark ages.

 Yet, many employers still use them to communicate benefits. Paper is becoming more and more obsolete each day as employees spend greater amounts of time surfing the web. So, when you hand your employees a huge binder with all of their benefits summaries stuffed into it, you might as well just be handing them a scroll written with one of those feather pens. 

In fact, why don’t you just write their benefits information in old English while you’re at it? How does “thou shalt have access to thine health insurance 90 days following the date thou art hired” sound? Pretty old fashioned, right?

If you want to move your employee benefit communication away from the outdated and old-fashioned, there’s no better time than now to make the move to the Web.

 2.    HR needs a permanent vacation from redundant questions.

Anyone in HR knows that it’s more than a full-time job. You’re responsible for recruiting and retaining top talent, compliance with federal and state laws and so much more. Then, there’s benefits. Not only do you have to administer and communicate them, you have to answer the same questions about them every day.

Putting all employee benefits information into a user-friendly, secure online portal will take this burden off your shoulders. The next time employees come to you with redundant requests (i.e. “can I have a claim form?’) you’ll just need to point them in the direction of your website and they’ll be good to go.

 3.    There’s no such thing as “take your spouse to open-enrollment day”

This is significant because 50% of employees (who make up the audience at open enrollment meetings) don’t make the benefits decisions for their families, their spouses do. If the spouses are making benefits-decisions, shouldn’t they have self-service access to benefits information too?

An employee benefits portal with self-service access from anywhere there’s Internet helps out a lot with this. It allows employees and their spouses to view information on all benefits offered, make intelligent decisions together and even enroll from the comfort of their own homes.

Universal Benefit Plans has fully recognized that the future for benefit administration and communication is on the Internet. We have all the resources you’ll need to make your move to the Web a seamless one so call us at (617) 859-1777 and we’ll gladly share them with you.

08/03/2009

Naturapathic Medicine: The AMA says it might not be safe or effective, should insurance cover it?

More and more Americans are going to naturopathic (i.e. natural and holistic) doctors like acupuncturists and mind-body healers. Yet, so many in the medical community (including the doctors of the AMA) continue to dismiss these doctors saying their treatments don’t work.

Despite what AMA doctors say, an influential group of U.S. Senators (led by Senator Tom Harkin and Barbara Mikulski) are giving naturopathic medicine a chance.

Harkin and Mikulski back an amendment that would bar health insurance carriers from “discriminating” against healthcare providers with licenses issued by their states. This amendment’s goal is to get alternative medicine covered by health plans.

All in favor see cost-savings:

Those who are in favor of this amendment say it could bring huge long-term health care cost-savings—tens of billions to be exact.

Savings could come from the following two things, among others:

  1. More people leaving behind costly prescription drugs in favor of alternative medicine
  2. More people seeing naturopathic doctors who help them make lifestyle changes (i.e. stress reduction, improved diet, vitamins and minerals) and in turn becoming healthier 

Naturopathic doctors do say that you should absolutely use prescription drugs and have surgery when it is medically necessary. However, for things such as neck and back pain, insomnia, head colds, anxiety and stress, there are new (and less costly) alternatives to popping a pill.

With all of this in mind (and what the medical experts say), do you think health insurance should cover both licensed alternative and regular medical treatments?

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