28 Mar

Truss Surety Partners of the Year 2016

Truss Surety Partners of the Year 2016

The 2016 Truss Surety Partner of the Year Award goes to… Liberty Mutual Insurance and Zurich. Congratulations! Both sureties provided the highest level of service, and went out of their way to help Truss ensure a successful 2016. We thank you for your service!

We value all of our surety relationships, and we are pleased to represent so many great companies. This award recognizes those sureties that went beyond the normal.

Recipients are recognized for the highest level of service to our agency. One half of the matrix consisting of premium dollars as well as premium growth. The other half, determined from the overall opinions of the entire Truss bond department staff. Staff provides their opinions on the various sureties reviewing their level of service, surety staff continuity, surety accessibility, ease of doing business, etc. The award does not recognize the surety who has simply said yes every time.

Surety Partners of the Year
2016 Surety Partners of the Year
Surety Partners of the Year
2016 Surety Partners of the Year

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Surety Partner of the Year award has been in existence since 2007. Past surety winners include the following:

2007 – Zurich
2008 – United Fire & Casualty and C N A Surety
2009 – Merchants Bonding
2010 – Old Republic Surety
2011 – Old Republic Surety
2012 – Berkley Surety
2013 – Old Republic Surety
2014 – C N A Surety
2015 – Merchants Bonding

Thank you Liberty Mutual Insurance and Zurich, and all of our surety partners for supporting our surety operation!

17 Mar

TrussConnect March 2017

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The March issue of our TrussConnect newsletter is available. Please click here for the complete issue. This month’s articles:

Are You Managing Risk Properly? The Importance of Fiduciary Risk and Liability Review
And the Surety Partners of the Year Are…
Current Trend in Employee Wellness Programs
How a Botched Surgery Led to the Iran Hostage Crisis!

If you’d like to be added to our monthly email list, please email Matt Snively with your name, company, and email address.

10 Mar

How a Botched Surgery Led to the Iran Hostage Crisis!

Physician “5-Star” Quality Rankings Not all the Same

By Adam Kroeger, Truss
Client Executive, Benefits
In 1953, the CIA* staged a coup d’état against elected the Iranian Prime Minister and replaced him with a former ruler who had been in exile for years, The Shah. The Shah went on to rule Iran with an iron fist for 25 years.

Wait, What? You didn’t come here for a history lesson? You want to learn something new about health care and benefits? Read on, there is a point to all of this!

In the mid-1970’s, The Shah was diagnosed with leukemia and it was feared his reign was coming to an end. In a last-ditch attempt to save his life, his allies called in the award-winning, “super-surgeon” Dr. Michael DeBakey to save the day. At the time, DeBakey was a celebrity appearing on many of the most popular talk shows in the United States. DeBakey flew to Cairo, performed a splenectomy on The Shah, and went on his way.

Soon after the surgery, The Shah developed an infection, hemorrhaged, went into shock, and died.

The problem? Dr. Michael DeBakey was an award-winning heart specialist. That’s right, the patient was full of cancer and they called in a heart specialist. It’s unknown if he’d ever even performed a splenectomy before. It’s theorized that he punctured the pancreas, and didn’t take the elementary step for this kind of surgery of inserting a medical drain.

Regardless, The Shah died. Cue the takeover of Iran and The Iran Revolution. All leading to the Iran hostage crisis, and the rest is history.

The moral of the story?  You can’t be good at everything.

Specialized Care

Many specialists have fantastic, “5 star” quality scores on websites like healthgrades.com or CMS.gov. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will receive excellent care for your particular treatment plan.

Your Benefit Advisor should not be recommending any managed care or transparent pricing/quality program that doesn’t include information on the quality, and results for the specialized care that you need. If you’re getting a splenectomy, you should know exactly how many splenectomies your physician performs per year, and their outcomes.

Ensure that the data you’re using to make decisions regarding your benefits plan is specific and actionable. Otherwise, you could be sending an employee to the operating table with a physician not suited for the job.

Aside from the moral hazard this creates, improper steerage of patients will cause large claims, a loss of productivity at work, waste, financial wellness issues; etc.

There is a solution

At Truss, our solutions are geared towards creating the most value possible for our clients. This includes:

  • Creating programs to steer employees towards low-cost, high-quality providers that take into consideration the true quality of the physician.
  • Using proven strategies that increase the likelihood of a patient receiving a scientific, analytically-based second opinion that will steer members towards the best care possible.
  • Developing primary care physician programs that decrease the likelihood of a patient needing a specialist in the first place.

At Truss, our proven money saving strategies can be seamlessly inserted into a healthcare plan with little to no employee disruption. For more information, please contact Adam Kroeger at 913-312-5955 or akroeger@trussadvantage.com.

*https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/19/cia-admits-role-1953-iranian-coup

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2090506815000822

01 Mar

Truss Presents: Millennials in Your Workforce Webinar

millenials in the workplaceJoin us Tuesday, March 7, at NOON CST

By 2020, millennials will make up the majority of the labor force. In this session, we’ll separate fact from fiction when it comes to millennial workers and provide tips on what motivates your millennial employees. You’ll come away with tips and tricks for attracting and retaining awesome millennial talent within your organization.

Register today!
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/3701943881105637379

 

15 Feb

Are You Managing Risk Properly? The Importance of Fiduciary Risk and Liability Review

Marko Ungashick LIby Marko Ungashick, co-founder and CEO of Two West Companies

As many of you have heard by now, the Department of Labor has recently passed down new rulings surrounding fiduciary standards that will affect most employers and their retirement plan providers. For the most part, this ruling ensures those in charge of a retirement plan have to act solely in the interest of plan participants and their beneficiaries.

While this is no big change for us (because we’ve held ourselves to a fiduciary standard from the beginning), the new rulings may increase the risk and liability you as employers hold over the decisions you make surrounding your retirement plan. These new rulings are largely increasing the standards our industry is held to (a good thing), but it can mean some extra paperwork (and extra headaches) for those who oversee company retirement plans.

Risky Business

For many of you who oversee your company’s retirement plan, liability and risk are not new ideas to you. As a retirement plan fiduciary yourself, you’re tasked with ensuring your company delivers a high-quality plan at a reasonable cost. You also have a responsibility to conduct and oversee regular reviews of your plan’s features, design, services and expenses. With these new regulations, the standards for fiduciaries have increased, and along with it comes additional risk and liability.

We’ve always believed continuing education and learning are important ideals for our business, so here are some things to keep in mind in the wake of the new rulings:

  • The Department of Labor strongly encourages a review at least every three years, so if you haven’t reviewed your plan recently, it’s especially important to do so now.
  • Educate your committee and/or board about its fiduciary roles, responsibilities and industry best practices.
  • Identify and mitigate any plan risks and liability.
  • Begin to think about how your company can provide transparency into plan expenses, ensuring all services and plan features are market-competitive. Begin implementing processes and documentation to make these expenses more transparent.
  • Ensure all company dollars going into your plan are being maximized through effective plan design.
  • Make sure your plan’s pricing is aligned with the current market.
  • Do some research into lower-cost investment options that perform as well or better than current options, which can help discover potential cost savings to your firm and/or employees.
  • Document due diligence findings that are audit-friendly and suitable for the plan files.

All this adds up to a decent amount of work for most already-busy business leaders, which is why we offer our own independent Fiduciary Risk Review.

Covering All the Bases

In addition to the above steps, our Fiduciary Risk Review allows us to conduct a live industry benchmarking of your plan. We break apart plan fees to analyze each component and conduct current market pricing in a blind manner, so your plan remains anonymous. More often than not, we’re able to uncover a large chunk of savings for plans and their participants.

Further, these reviews deliver an audit-friendly packet of your benchmarking, findings and analysis. Regardless of the risk review results, this document is an important part of your due diligence files. Finally, we’re able to leverage other resources to identify, isolate and ultimately minimize the fiduciary risk and liability exposure associated with their retirement plan.

In other words, our Fiduciary Risk Review makes sure you and your employees are all well-covered and well-prepared when it comes to the road to retirement.

Fiduciary Means Doing the Right Thing

Overall, we’re happy to see fiduciary rules continue to become the norm in the retirement sector. Financial professionals who haven’t acted in their clients’ best interests have cost people a serious chunk of change, so it’s good to see our industry moving in an overall more transparent direction. Though there may be some increased work on the part of plan providers and financial advisors, we’re here to make sure everyone is up-to-date on all the latest changes and updates in our field. Never hesitate to reach out if you need help!

Marko Ungashick is co-founder and CEO of Two West Companies and is a big believer in working hard, relaxing hard, and simplifying the complex for his clients. 

14 Feb

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day from your friends at Truss!

valentines day

10 Feb

How to Avoid Wasteful Care and Beat the System

Adam KroegerBy Adam Kroeger, Truss
Client Executive, Benefits

“Hospitals look at primary care as loss leaders to act as feeders. They are more interested in sick patients filling hospitals than well ones being well managed by primary care.” –Jordan L. Shlain, M.D.
San Francisco

I recently visited Valvoline with my “$15 Oil Change” coupon in hand, feeling pretty great about myself.  My wife always gives me a hard time about not using coupons when I go shopping, and this was finally my chance to show her how financially responsible I’ve become. Common sense probably should have told me that four quarts of oil and a filter would cost around $25, but I was anxious to pay my $15, and go home. Sipping on lukewarm coffee and watching “The Price is Right” in the waiting room, I stood up as the mechanic called my name. Imagine my surprise when he pulled out a clipboard and said:

“Mr. Kroeger, did you know your windshield wipers need to be replaced?” My heart sank.
“… and you need a new serpentine belt,”
“… and your coolant needs to be flushed.”
And you get the picture. Before I knew it I was $225 in the hole!

Wasteful Care

Does this story sound familiar? You buy cheap products all the time that lead you into opportunities to buy more expensive products. We call these cheap services, loss leaders.

Unfortunately, we have loss leaders in healthcare as well: Primary Care Doctors. Primary Care Doctors are the “$15 Oil Change” of the medical industry. Especially those that work for major hospital systems.  As profit margins have shrunk over the years, doctors have been forced to rely on their ability to recommend more expensive services to bring in income.

This type of incentive system causes an incredible amount of wasteful, unnecessary care. It’s estimated that as few as 44 percent* of all knee replacements are considered “appropriate”.  Patients who receive physical therapy have better outcomes and higher satisfaction than those who go under the scalpel.

There is a solution

There are several simple ways around this expensive and wasteful issue.  Here are just a few:

  • Always require a second opinion from an independent outside physician. Independent physicians have no incentive to recommend unnecessary, expensive services. This is because they are an unbiased third party and they do not work for a hospital system. Independent physicians will use clinically proven recommendations to get the greatest results for the patient.
  • Add an on-site or near-site health clinic. Having an independent clinic that employees have access to is a fantastic way to influence employees to receive inexpensive primary care without the incentive of a large hospital system.
  • Use a Direct Primary Care provider. Direct Primary Care providers are an alternative to the typical “fee for service” models where doctors are forced to rush from patient to patient. Patients typically pay a monthly, or annual fee, and all primary care services are on retainer.

At Truss, our proven money-saving strategies can be seamlessly inserted into a healthcare plan with little to no employee disruption. For more information, please contact Adam Kroeger at 913-312-5955 or akroeger@trussadvantage.com.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4186920/

30 Dec

Surety Frequently Asked Questions

Surety bond vs Insurance: What’s the difference?
For many businesses, both surety bonds and insurance are needed for obtaining license, or to be in compliance with local laws. So what’s the difference? Simply put, insurance protects a business against loss, while a surety bond protects a third-party from a breach of contract from said business.

Here are some of our most commonly asked questions – with answers for you!

How does it work? A surety bond is a third-party guarantee that a business will meet their legal and contractual obligations. It is guaranteed by a bonding company on behalf of the issuer, but does not protect the purchaser of the bond; it is similar to co-signing on a loan. The bonding company guarantees that the business will fulfill their obligations. Insurance is a two-party agreement, where the risk is transferred from the insured to the insurance company.

How do I know if I need a bond? If you are completing a large scale construction project, especially any kind of public works project, it is likely that you will be required to obtain a bond guaranteeing completion of the project. While surety bonds are most common in the construction industry, customers can acquire bonds for a variety of reasons including licensing, utility deposit, tax guarantees, court bonds (probate and appeal), and Contractor’s Performance and Payment Bonds. The contractor bonds specifically are required on all public construction projects. A Performance Bond guarantees the completion of a project according to the terms outlined in the contract.

What should I look for when selecting a surety agent? There are two aspects you need to evaluate before you hire any surety agent. First, they must possess the knowledge to be your business partner by providing you with advice, suggestions and feedback on many aspects of your business. This would include accounting, operations, internal controls, business perpetuation and more. Their knowledge ensures you will be properly represented as the agent seeks surety support on your behalf in the market.

Second, because every surety is different, your surety agent must have detailed knowledge of the various surety markets. A knowledgeable surety agent with strong connections across multiple markets will be able to match you to the best surety partner for your required bond needs.

There are four things you should do when interviewing a potential agent:

  1. Ask them about their relationships within their surety markets.
  2. Test their accounting and business law skills.
  3. Obtain a list of client contractor referrals.
  4. Ask your other valued business partners (such as your attorney, banker, or CPA) about the agents you are considering.

How is bond eligibility determined? A company’s bond eligibility is based on its solvency and project history. A bonding company will go over the applicant’s financials and credit report, banking financials, and history of project completion to determine eligibility.

How does surety pricing work? It depends on the situation and many factors affect pricing. If you upgrade your financial statement presentation as part of the bonding process, it may affect your rates favorably. A new company may have more challenges acquiring rates than a more established one. The quality of your agent is also an important factor. An agent who has good working relationships with markets will be more likely to place you in a better market.

What happens if a claim is filed against a surety bond? Depending on the type of bond in question, the bonding company will either pay the bill, arrange for the completion of the project or provide payment of suppliers. Unlike insurance, the bonding company will then seek compensation from the corporate and personal assets of the bonded company.

For more stories, please visit our news section: In The News.

More questions on assessing your surety team can be found here: http://trussadvantage.com/our-services/surety-bonds/

28 Dec

Have you received a final “Marketplace notice”?

Employers are receiving notices from the various Marketplace exchanges informing the employer that its employee (or former employee) has been granted a Marketplace subsidy.  The reason the employer receives a notice is because the employee (or former employee) informs the Marketplace that his or her employer has either:

  • Failed to offer the employee health coverage; OR
  • Offered health coverage, but the coverage was not affordable and/or did not provide minimum value.

And if either of these conditions apply, the employee or former employee may be entitled to a subsidy through the Marketplace.

If your employer/client receives a Notice, should it be appealed?

Yes, appeal if one of the following applies:

  1. Any individual for whom the client made an offer of affordable and minimum value coverage for the period of time the individual is shown as having received a subsidy (because the employee/former employee is not eligible for a subsidy if affordable/minimum value coverage was offered and declined).
  2. Any individual who lists your client as its employer but who was not an employee for the period of time listed.

Don’t appeal these categories (because individuals in these categories may be eligible for the Marketplace subsidy):

  1. Any individual who was not eligible to participate in the client’s health plan during the period he/she received the subsidy; or
  2. Any individual who was offered coverage in the client’s health plan, but the coverage was not affordable; or
  3. Health coverage was offered, but the coverage did not provide minimum value.

Here is the longer explanation from our friends at Hayes Benefits for why these categories should or should not be appealed.

  1. Some commentators suggest that an appeal may not be worth the time and effort.  They give two reasons:
  • First, an appeal to the Marketplace, if successful, does not prevent the pay/play penalties from being assessed.  That’s because the assessment is determined by the IRS, which is true; and
  • The IRS will have information about the individual receiving a subsidy regardless of the appeal because the Marketplace will have already furnished that information to the IRS on a Form 1095-A prior to the Marketplace receiving the client’s appeal and stopping the subsidy.
    – That’s also true, and even if the client successfully appeals the Marketplace determination, the client may still need to address a subsequent IRS challenge.
  1. But here is why we believe the appeal is important for those employees who were made an offer of affordable and minimum value coverage:
  • First, the employee receiving the Marketplace subsidy may return to the same exchange in 2017 and again apply for the subsidized coverage.

– Absent information from your client that the employee does not qualify for the subsidy (because he/she was offered affordable coverage), the employee’s subsidy will continue.

– As a result, your client could again deal with the IRS for this employee in 2017 when the matter could have been resolved in 2016.

  • Second, not appealing sets bad precedent if the employee was offered affordable/minimum value coverage (and is therefore ineligible for the subsidy).

– Even though it is the IRS who assesses the pay/play penalties (and not the Marketplace), a favorable decision by the Marketplace might assist in any appeal of an IRS assessment.

– As such, and whether an appeal ultimately helps the client’s position with the IRS is an uncertainty, but it causes us concern if the client does not appeal in these situations.

  1. Here’s the rationale for appealing the situation involving a former employee who terminated employment (for example, an employee who terminated in 2015, but the Marketplace subsidy is for 2016):
  • Even though the client should have no IRS exposure to this employee, we believe that the more prudent action is to appeal.

– First, the record should be set straight that your client was not the employer for the time period in question.

– Second, the reason the client has no exposure is because the individual (who terminated in 2015) will not be on the census of employees reported to the IRS on Form 1095-C for 2016 (and the 1095-A filed by the Marketplace does not identify the employer, only the employee).  As such, there should be no information available to the IRS that would link the individual to the client for 2016.

  • Nevertheless, and even though this should have no IRS bearing, we believe the better approach is to appeal so that the record of employment is documented with the Marketplace (in case the Marketplace does somehow share this information with the IRS).
  1. Here is the rationale for the recommendation as to the categories that should not be appealed:
  • An employee who was ineligible to participate in the client’s health plan.

–  This one is fairly obvious because individuals in this category should be eligible for Marketplace coverage, and depending on their income, may qualify for a subsidy.  As such, there is no basis to appeal.

  • An employee who is offered coverage, but for whom the coverage was not affordable.  [Note that “affordability” is based solely on the rate for employee-only coverage (not family coverage)].

– An example is a part-time employee who has an option to elect client health coverage (but must pay the entire premium).

  1. One final suggestion — for those employees for whom the client receives a Marketplace Notice, we recommend that that your client review the Form 1095-C to determine how the employee was reported to the IRS.
  • The client will want to insure that any appeal is consistent with the information reported on the Form 1095-C.

– For example, the client should confirm that the 1095-C Form reports that affordable coverage was available to the employee (or that the employee was part-time, not employed, etc.).

  • If the 1095-C reporting is not consistent with the actual situation, an amended 1095-C may need to be filed (especially if this could result in a penalty for the affected employee).

 

 

27 Dec

Truss, Lever1 form Strategic Partnership to Help Clients

This article originally appeared on September 19, 2016 in the Kansas City Business Journal.
by James Dornbrook

kcbizjournallogoTwo Kansas City companies formed a strategic partnership to offer each others clients a wider variety of streamlined and efficient business solutions.

Overland Park-based Truss LLC, formerly known as Cretcher Heartland/Power Group, is the second-largest independent insurance brokerage based in Kansas City, with 170 employees and more than $450 million in premium volume. The company is teaming up with Kansas City-based Lever1, a professional employer organization (PEO) that offers outsourcing services for human resources, payroll, employee benefits and workers’ compensation.

An example of combined services Truss and Lever1 are now offering is a benefit package designed to help business owners find the best solutions for the upcoming health care renewal season.

“We’ve been talking for about nine months about how the success and growth of Truss could benefit from adding a PEO into its fold of service offerings,” said Lever1 President Erica Brune, a 2016 Women Who Mean Business honoree. “Historically, PEOs and insurance brokers have thought of each other as competitors, but we’re going to do more than just share leads. By partnering, we’re going to have a unique relationship where we’ll both be servicing our same set of clients, just doing it together.”

Original press release: Truss Lever1 Press Release