Saturday, August 22, 2020

California Statewide Wildfire Resources

August 2020

Prepare for Wildfire
Be prepared for when wildfire strikes with Ready, Set, Go!
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Post-Wildfire Recovery
After a wildfire many dangers remain. Those returning home should be aware of their surroundings and go through the returning home checklist. Other concerns after a wildfire are the increased rate of erosion and flooding in California.
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California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE)
Track wildfires and see updates about spread and containment.
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California Department of Social Services
Contains information on disaster recovery assistance that you may be eligible for if affected by wildfires.
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Additional Web Resources
American Red Cross of Central California

Friday, August 7, 2020

Benefit & Compliance News: Employer COVID Liability Waivers, Medicare Insolvent by 2022? & Much More

Templates and Tools
Compliance Updates

Administering COBRA Notices in a COVID-19 World of Extended Deadlines - “A key component of the guidance is the application of a “tolling” concept. Here’s how it works: All group health plans must disregard the “outbreak period” for purposes of determining certain deadlines. The defined “outbreak period” runs from March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency ends (or such other date as the federal agencies announce).”

Side by Side Comparison: Electronic Disclosure Rules for Pension & Welfare Plans - “Below is a side-by-side general comparison to help plan administrators keep track of when each method may be used, and what requirements must be met.”

With COVID-19 Resurgent, Employers Confront Privacy and Information Security Issues When Testing Employees for COVID-19 - "The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance stating that mandatory testing of employees for COVID-19 falls within an exception to the Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) general prohibition against mandatory medical examinations of employees. While lawful under the ADA, testing presents serious privacy and information security risks for employers. We describe in this article the common concerns raised at each stage of the testing process, from deciding whom to test to handling the test results. For each stage, we describe practical steps employers can take to help address these concerns."

Do We Have More Time to Furnish ERISA Group Health Plan Notices and Disclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency? - “Federal agencies have offered relief from the regular timeframes for furnishing a variety of required group health plan notices and disclosures during the COVID-19 emergency. Here are highlights...”

Vaccinate or Terminate – Mandatory Vaccination As Workplace Policy - "some individuals may be medically unable to be vaccinated or they may have sincere religious objections – both of which grounds may provide a legal basis upon which to refuse vaccination. As a result, private employers considering making COVID-19 vaccination a gatekeeping employment condition should proceed with caution."

Employers Require COVID Liability Waivers as Conflict Mounts Over Workplace Safety - As employers in California and across the country ask employees to return to the workplace, many have considered and some are requiring employees to sign similar waivers, employment lawyers say. And many employees, mostly lower-wage and minority workers in essential jobs, are calling lawyers to complain about the waivers. 'These are illegal agreements that are totally unfair to workers,' said Christian Schreiber, a San Francisco lawyer who represents Aguilar and other employees. The California State Legislature last year passed a law, AB-51, prohibiting employers from requiring employees or job applicants to sign away their right to pursue legal claims or benefits under state law. The law, which also prohibits firing any employee for refusing to sign, is being challenged in court by business groups."

Benefit News

Don’t Count on Lower Premiums Despite Pandemic-Driven Boon for Insurers - "The consensus among industry experts is that COVID-19 has generated little pressure for rate rises, and health plans should err on the side of moderation. But some fear that many insurers will hold onto the reserves they’ve built up, citing the possibility of widespread vaccinations and concerns that the care forgone in 2020 could rebound with a vengeance next year."

Tech companies are offering parents additional benefits as COVID-19 threatens schools’ return - Instead of ping-pong tables or free-flowing alcohol, tech companies are now offering help with parenting, which could be particularly useful as many children begin the school year from home as coronavirus cases continue to rise. Some of the biggest tech companies are offering additional paid time off, are paying for backup child care, or both.

Another Problem on the Health Horizon: Medicare Is Running Out of Money - "Given even a conservative estimate of how many workers and businesses would not be contributing payroll taxes that finance Part A spending, he said, the trust fund could become insolvent as early as 2022 or 2023."

Half Of U.S. Hospitals In The Red By Year’s End Without More Federal Support - "51% of America’s hospitals will have negative margins by the end of the year without additional federal support. Under an optimistic scenario, hospitals’ median margin would be -1%. Under a less optimistic one, that margin could sink to -11%."

Health and Wellness

COVID Stress Syndrome: What It Is and Why It Matters - "Pandemics are unlike other disasters. COVID-19 is shaping up to be unlike prior coronavirus infections impacting multiple organ systems. In particular, the virus crosses the blood-brain barrier, resulting in myriad neuropsychiatric problems ranging from depression and anxiety to psychotic reactions to delirium and cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) to chronic executive dysfunction."