Looking Forward in the Construction Industry – Q3 2010 Construction Trends Considered

We’ve heard all the doom and gloom in the construction industry, as everything just completely crashed as the real estate disaster occurred and triggered the global economic meltdown and crisis. After the crash, there was literally a front page article every day in all the newspapers for 18-months straight, needless to say, no one was interested in building, buying, or even pulling permits on new projects. Well, it looks like we have finally turned a corner.Meaning that many of the articles we are reading concerning the Construction Industry, about contractors, construction management, or construction trends is somewhat positive. Manufacturing of construction equipment is up, and there are many recent large scale developments, other than the known stimulus (so-called shovel ready projects) moving forward.The government statistics show us moving forward at the end of Q2 in 2010, as construction spending was up sharply in April of 2010 over the previous month of March, and get this it was up 2.7% over all. Home Construction projects put forth spending exceeding 4.5% over the same time period. Obviously, the national US trends are different than the most battered states, but all regions showed improvement, meaning the trend stands, and momentum is building, literally, we are building again.The construction was really across the board this time, new factories, facilities, roads, infrastructure, homes, shopping malls, commercial properties, retail, etc. This recent uptick is by far the biggest gains in a single month I’ve seen in over 10-years, it’s truly amazing, almost to the point of questioning the numbers, but we see things are very good in quite a few industries. We’ve been down month to month one to 4 percent nearly all of 2008, 2009 and the first quarter of 2010 for the most part.It is interesting that with all this excess capacity of space; retail and commercial office space that we have such an uptick in construction right now. This means jobs, and growth, it’s a good thing. Most are not expecting any type of full recovery until 2011, and yet, we sure see some positive signs in construction right now. The Construction Industry is also having mixed views on confidence levels whereas before it was all doom and gloom.The trick now is managed growth, which seems to be expected due to the difficulty in getting construction loans now. And by 2011 we will see the interest rates move up again, perhaps keeping things in check. Today, we can smile, and consider these positive signs and by Q4 we will know if this is a trend or just a blip on the radar. Please consider all this.

Small Business Medical Insurance and the Impact of Health Care Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), otherwise known as the “Health Care Reform Act” was signed into law on March 23, 2010 by President Obama. Most of the initial provisions did not go into affect for 6 months, or September 23, 2010. The bill is a whopping 2000+ pages long, with a 14-page Table of Contents! It’s no wonder that most employers have little comprehension of what is contained in the bill, and less understanding of how the bill will affect their business. To understand the impact of the bill on your business, you should contact a specialist who is an expert on small business medical insurance plans and is familiar with the Act.In the meantime, we will take a cursory view of health care reform, and a year-by-year snapshot of changes to come. Hopefully, it will provide a starting part for discussion.The Act contains five key provisions:1. The requirement for all US citizens and legal residents to have health insurance;2. Penalties for employers who do not offer health insurance for their employees;3. State Based Health Exchanges created to offer cost effective insurance options4. Premium credits for low income individuals;5. Eliminates pre-existing condition and annual/lifetime benefit limitsA Year by Year Look at Health Care ReformSome changes went into effect in 2010, such as coverage for adult dependents (dependents until age 26), and several more will happen in 2011. The most significant changes, however, will not go into effect until 2014. Below is a snapshot of key changes that will be going into effect in the coming years:2011· No pre-tax reimbursements from “health accounts” for non-prescribed, over the counter medications,· 20% tax on nonqualified HSA withdrawals,· Reporting the value of employer sponsored coverage on w-2’s (delayed)· Automatic enrollment in long term care program, employer may opt out (delayed),· Drug company fees: $2.5 billion in 2011, $4.2 billion in 20182012· Uniform explanation of coverage,· Pre-enrollment document sent explaining benefits and exclusions,· 60 day notice for material modifications, if not provided in uniform explanation of coverage,2013· FSA contributions limited to $2,500,· New federal employer tax, $2.00 per covered individual per plan year· Medicare payroll tax increase from 1.45% to 2.35%,· Employer notice to employees of exchanges, premium subsidies, and free choice vouchers,2014· Individual mandate – every citizen must have coverage,· Individual penalties for not purchasing coverage,· Guaranteed issue,· State health exchanges effective· Standard benefit plans, (bronze, silver, gold, platinum),· Waiting period not more than 90 days,· Employer penalties for not offering coverage or at least one FTE receives a tax credit,· Health insurance company fees: $8 billion 2014, $14.3 billion 2018, 2019 prior year amount increased by premium growth rate.2018· Cadillac Tax. 40% tax on plans value in excess of $10,200 single, $27,500 family.Penalties for Non-CoverageAs stated, most of the act’s important provisions will become effective in 2014. The most relevant law for employers is the penalty they will face for non-coverage of employees. The exact penalties are complicated to calculate, base on numerous factors. Some of the basic guidelines are outlined below:Employers with more than 50 employees: · If coverage is not offered by the employer and even one full-time employee (FTE) receives a premium tax credit, the employer will pay a fee of $2,000 per FTE, excluding the first 30 ee’s.· If “affordable” coverage is not offered and one FTE receives a premium tax credit, the employer will pay the lesser of $3,000 for each employee receiving a tax credit, or $2,000 for each FTE. Affordable coverage is defined as an employee cost of health insurance, less than 9.5% of household income and the actuarial value of plan is at least 60%.· A Voucher will be required if the employee contribution exceeds 8% of household income.All Employers: · Employers that offer coverage are required to provide a free choice voucher to employees with incomes less than 400% of the Family Poverty Level (FPL), whose share of premium exceeds 8% but less than 9.8% of their income and who chose to enroll in a plan in the Exchange.· A Voucher equals to what the employer would have paid to provide coverage under the employer’s plan. Employers providing free choice vouchers are not subject to penalties.Employers with 200 or more employees· Required to automatically enroll employees into health plans offered by employer. Employees may opt out.If the provisions of the health care reform act sound complex, they are! We highly recommend you consult with a specialist who is an expert on small business medical insurance plans and is familiar with the Act. Feel free to contact CPEhr’s benefits specialist with any health care reform questions.

Saving Money on Health Care Costs

Anyone who has been to the doctor or made a trip to the emergency room knows that health care costs have gotten out of control. Factor in the outrageous cost of medication and you can see why many people were adamant about the need for health reform. If you want to keep the cost of your medical care within a manageable range, then you are going to have to be proactive about reducing the amount you pay for medical services. Whether you have insurance or not, here are a few savvy things you can do to save money on health care costs.Price Shopping – Health care facilities are just like any other business. Each hospital, doctor’s office, and medical clinic will have their own schedule of fees for medical services and the price difference between them all can be significant. The hospital down the street from you may charge $1700 for stitches while the one that is 30 miles away only charges $1200. That is enough of a savings that it would be worth it to go out of your way. There are several places where you can compare the health care costs of different facilities. Some states have a website you can log into. Another option is to contact your health insurance provider for information about fee schedules.Take Advantage of Hidden Benefits – It pays to take a close look at your health plan and other memberships that you may have. Sometimes you will find hidden benefits that can save you hundreds of dollars on your health care costs. For example, some medical plans provide access to a nurse hotline that you can call any time of the day every day. With their medical experience, a nurse can be a source of advice for various health related issues and can save you a trip to the doctor. Other membership programs may provide discount on medical services such as vision and dental care.Change Up Your Health Insurance – Your health insurance premiums count towards your health care costs. You may be overpaying for your medical plan and not even know it. Insurance providers are for-profit entities and price their health plans to compete effectively in the marketplace. It is a good idea to do some price comparison shopping. An online insurance quote website can make the process a lot easier by providing you with real time rate quotes from multiple providers. That way you can see how your plan stacks and even make a more frugal switch if need be.If you need assistance with these matters, we can help. Please visit our website at http://www.health-insurance-buyer.com and leave your contact information so we can respond to your request.