September is Life Insurance Awareness Month

September is Life Insurance Awareness Month. Life insurance is one way to prepare for the hyperbole floods in our life. “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.” In our present circumstances, we’re reminded of how fragile life can be. If you have someone in your life who depends on you and your income you need to consider your life insurance needs. Do you have employer-paid life insurance? Is it enough? How much coverage do you need? These are all questions that should be considered. http://worklife.coloniallife.com/calculator/

If you have questions about your coverage our Employee Benefits Specialist, Pam Huntington, is available to review your options and make sure you and your loved ones are protected. If you currently have life insurance it’s a good practice to review your beneficiary forms annually. Have you had any changes in your life (i.e. marriage, the birth of a child. etc.)? Reach out to your HR contact and request a form for updates.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” C.S. Lewis

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Fees Due July 31, 2020

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Fees, most commonly known as PCORI fees, were created in accordance with the ACA. PCORI Fees were scheduled to expire for plan years ending on or after October 1, 2019. With the enactment of a Federal spending bill at the end of 2019 PCORI fees have been extended for an additional 10 years through 2029. As a result, Notice 2020-44 increased the fee amount for plan years ending on or after October 1, 2019 and before October 1, 2020 to $2.54 per average number of lives covered under a plan. PCORI fees are required to be paid annually on IRS Form 720 by July 31 of each year. For plans ending in 2019, the next PCORI fee payment will be due July 31, 2020.

 

FSAs and HRAs


Generally, health care flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are not required to file a Form 720 unless the employer (and not just the employee) makes contributions that exceed the lesser of $500 annually or a dollar-for-dollar match of the employee’s contribution. Employers that have a fully-insured health plan coupled with an integrated HRA must pay the PCORI fee for the HRA, but they may treat each HRA participant as a single covered life. The fee generally does not apply to spouses or dependents covered under the HRA. When applicable FSA and HRA providers generally contact clients with guidance and direction on the filing of their PCORI fees.

Post-Pandemic Tax and Safety Reminders

Author: Elizabeth Ingram
Vice President of People Strategy
Insurance Trust 

The past few months have been a wild ride, and it isn’t over yet.  In the midst of all the stress of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter, remember that thinking ahead can still save you a little stress later on.  I won’t reiterate all the advice about saving if you can and helping others; it’s good advice if you can but not what it’s on my mind these days.

I know next April seems a lifetime away given how quickly the world changes, but it is coming and with it will be tax day.  Remember, you can change your W4s with every paycheck (although it’s much easier on your payroll staff if you don’t).  If you’ve had any change income (layoff, furlough, overtime) or deductible expenses (childcare, mortgage or student loan interest), it makes sense to check the IRS calculator (https://www.irs.gov/individuals/tax-withholding-estimator) and make sure your withholdings are still on target.  This could mean a little less in your paycheck now to keep you from having a hefty check to write in April; you could also switch up your direct deposit and put that money in special savings account so you know you have it.  But it could also result in a little needed cash in your pocket now.  So gather up your paystubs (& your spouse’s) and last year’s tax return and spend 15 minutes to make sure there isn’t a preventable financial surprise coming your way.

My second tip isn’t financial.  Eventually, most of us will be returning to the workplace and those of us with children will send them back to school.  But it’s not going to be the same.  Although we don’t know what life will look like come September, I’m going to assume that masks will still be part of the occasion.  And my soon-to-be kindergartener is NOT a fan.  I’m not interested in a daily mask battle, so now is the time to find a comfortable and practical style to have on hand for you and the family.  If your kiddo, like mine, isn’t tying shoes yet, a mask that ties isn’t practical.  Ear savers may or may not be worth the extra effort, so I have some on hand in case day 3 of school results in chaffed ears.  Fabric, shape, and pattern are also key; who knew that a pizza pattern was ‘more comfortable’ than the same style with a different pattern!  Lastly, we all lose things, but kids seem to lose more items that they’re wearing.  So, prepare for lost or sticky masks and have more spares than you think you need for you and your family.  You’ve got this!

Tough Conversations: Advice for Preparing for the Death of a Parent

Author: Sarah Nash
Property & Casualty Account Manager
Insurance Trust | Equinox 

I know that this is a very tough subject to discuss, but I wanted to share the important things I learned from my personal experience of losing a parent.  The following are many important questions to ask along with some informative discoveries I made regarding all of the medical, insurance, financial and personal matters that arise. One piece of advice I offer to you is to do your best to prepare for the death of a parent. It’s going to happen. We can’t avoid it. We all tend to think that we have plenty of time. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes a sudden illness can cause death to happen quickly, and I’d be willing to bet that at least half of us are unprepared for this event.  Talk to them now while you’re both able. Not one part of the conversation is fun or easy. No one likes to think about their own death and departure. I think the older you get the harder it is for some to discuss their ultimate wants and wishes at the end of life. (more…)

 

Updated HSA Contribution Limits for 2020

Ship steer in control room Japanese ferry

Each year the IRS releases updated health savings account (HSA) and high-deductible health plan (HDHP) limits for the coming year.  2020’s limits are listed below and further information can be found on the IRS website HERE or by contacting Heather Baird at hbaird@insurancetrust.us.

2020 HSA Contribution Limits

  • Individual: $3,550 ($50 increase from 2019)
  • Family: $7,100 ($100 increase from 2019)
  • Over 55 catch-up $1000 (remains the same)

2020 HDHP minimum annual deductibles

  • Individual: $1,400 ($50 increase from 2019)
  • Family: $2,800 ($100 increase from 2019)

2020 HDHP maximum out-of-pocket amounts

  • Individual: $6,900 ($150 increase from 2019)
  • Family: $13,800 ($300 increase from 2019)

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Should GAP Be Sold on RVs and Travel Trailers?

Article by our partners at Frost Financial Services | www.frostinsure.com

Do you ever finance RVs or travel trailers? If so, make sure to stress the importance of GAP protection on these loans. While you may not see many accidents involving RVs or travel trailers, many of them experience total losses each year. Accidents are certainly not as frequent, but plenty are so severely damaged due to flood, vandalism, fallen trees, and fire that they are unrepairable and deemed total losses by primary insurers.

Adding to the GAP risk on RVs and travel trailers is the challenge of accurately valuing the collateral at the time of financing. You can utilize a guide book or even refer to a dealer invoice, but validating model and options can oftentimes lead to many more challenges and errors in valuing RVs and travel trailers than we see in the much more standardized world of autos. These errors can create significant overvaluation of collateral and unexpected exposure to loss. And, if you think automobiles and trucks are depreciating rapidly these days, these are luxury items and can see even more wild swings in values from year to year as market conditions change.

Lastly, the loans for these collateral types tend to be longer terms. This means that the loan balances will amortize down more slowly and only add to the potential of a large GAP loss even when the loan was financed well under 100% of the value at loan origination.

A recent claim highlights how a number of the above factors can come together and result in a significant GAP claim.

In May 2015 the lender financed $92,485 on a 42′ Jayco RV that had an assumed value of $83,710. Three years later a fire caused a total loss of the RV and the settlement provided by the primary insurer was $53,445. This left an outstanding loan balance of $30,595. Fortunately, this loan had GAP protection and the $30,595 loan balance was paid in full.

 

Introducing our New Employee Benefits Specialist

Insurance Trust is pleased to introduce Pam Huntington as our new Employee Benefits Specialist.

Pam comes to our team with more than fifteen years of experience in the health insurance and voluntary benefits field.  She has previously worked as an Account Manager at both the health insurance carrier and broker levels.  Pam also worked in multiple roles at a local Maine credit union for five years.  Pam was born and raised in Portland where she attended Deering High School.  She then attended Southern Maine Community College where she earned an Associate Degree in Automated Office Management.  Pam enjoys spending time with her husband, children and black lab, Bo, as well as motorcycle rides and time at the lake.

“I am excited to be part of the credit union movement and look forward to the opportunity to assist our credit union and small business partners with all of their employee benefits needs.  I like that I can use the skills I have learned from my previous experiences to help educate employees on how to best understand what they have for benefits at a level that is comfortable for them.  I am excited for this journey.”  

As Employee Benefits Specialist, Pam’s focus will be to communicate with our insurance carriers, credit unions and small business clients to provide education and service for all group employee benefits programs.  Pam will conduct renewal meetings for our clients and continually work to present new and alternative options for our current and potential clients.

Pam can be reached at 207-773-0925 ext. 314 or phuntington@insurancetrust.us

17th Annual Golf Tournament for Special Olympics Maine

Dear valued clients and partners of Insurance Trust,

We invite you to join Insurance Trust for the 17th Annual Golf Tournament to support Special Olympics Maine on Thursday, July 18, 2019, at Falmouth Country Club in Falmouth, ME.

Registration is now open! Be sure to mark your calendars, register your golf teams early (as space is limited) and sign up to become a Platinum, Gold, Silver or Bronze tournament sponsor.

Please come out, enjoy a fun day of golf and help support Special Olympics Maine Athletes and their families!

Location:
Falmouth Country Club
Golf Course 1 Congressional Drive
Falmouth, ME 04105

Time:
Registration from 7:45 AM to 8:45 AM
Continental Breakfast included
Sponsored by: Equinox Insurance

 Shot Gun Start at 9:00 AM
(Scramble format)

Fees:
$140.00 per Golfer
(This fee includes: greens fees, golf cart, continental breakfast, bag lunch, post-golf reception and four mulligans per team, maximum of 144 golfers.)

To register, contact Barbara Christy at bchristy@insurancetrust.us 

 

The Maine Bureau of Insurance Approves Health Insurance Association for Maine’s Credit Unions

INSURANCE TRUST
2 Ledgeview Drive
Westbrook, ME 04092

MEDIA RELEASE
For Immediate Release
April 19, 2019

 

The Maine Bureau of Insurance Approves Health Insurance Association for Maine’s Credit Unions

(Westbrook) – On March 29, 2019 the Maine Bureau of Insurance approved a new Multple Employer Welfare Arrangement (MEWA), an association formed to provide a collective non-profit health insurance program, for Maine’s 54 Credit Unions.  The MEWA has been named “Maine Credit Union League Insurance Trust” and will be governed by a board of 7 trustees to represent its more than 500 employees.  The non-profit health insurance plan will be administered by Insurance Trust in Westbrook, ME, an insurance agency founded in 1963 by Maine Credit Unions. The association is sponsored by the Maine Credit Union League, Maine’s credit union trade organization.

 

“This employee benefits association for Maine’s Credit Unions is something that’s been needed for a long time. For many years, I’ve known this was a possibility, and Insurance Trust is truly honored to have led the charge in the creation of the Maine Credit Union League Insurance Trust.  This would not have been possible without the amazing cooperative spirit of the Maine credit union movement; we are truly better together when it comes to health insurance.  I believe it’s vitally important that we take care of our credit union employees and their families, so that the credit unions’ employees can best take care of their members and their communities.  We are proud knowing this program will continue to help credit unions and their employees for years to come.” – Kim Daigle President & CEO, Insurance Trust

 

About Insurance Trust

Insurance Trust was founded in 1963 by Maine Credit Unions to provide insurance solutions for their members. For over 50 years, Insurance Trust has been the premier provider of insurance and loan protection products throughout the Northern New England credit union community. Visit www.insurancetrust.us for more information.

 

About Maine Credit Union League

The Maine Credit Union League is a nonprofit, professional trade association that exists to serve Maine’s credit unions. Founded in 1938, the League is committed to helping credit unions succeed, and improve the financial lives of their members.

 

For more information please contact:

Seth McClellan
Marketing Director
2 Ledgeview Drive, Westbrook, ME 04092
Office: 207-887-8255
smcclellan@insurancetrust.us

Insurance and Financial Checklist for Soon-to-be and New Parents

By Elizabeth Ingram (who just added child #2)
Vice President of People Strategy

Finding out you are having a kid, even if planned, is overwhelming.  What do you need to have on hand or want?  When do you start to prep & who do you turn to for advice?  Your family & friends will probably be able to give you tons of advice on where to register & their favorite diaper brands or tricks (& there’s something to learn every time as I’ve recently discovered thanks to my coworker & mom of 3, Heather Baird, who is also our benefits Account Manager).  However, there are also a bunch of long-term items that you need to be on top of to take care of your growing family.

 

Before Baby Arrives

  1. Start looking for childcare ASAP if one parent isn’t planning to stay home.  A lot of childcare centers have long waiting lists for babies or don’t accept them until 6-12 months.  Also, this is going to have a major impact on your budget & the sooner you know how much you’ll be shelling out each week, the sooner you can plan.  Ask friends, family, & coworkers with young kids for advice or check out https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/ocfs/ec/occhs/child-care.html in Maine.
  2. Find a pediatrician around the middle of your pregnancy.  Your primary care doctor may also care for kids, but if they don’t, ask for a recommendation.  If you don’t have a primary care doctor, or don’t feel comfortable with their advice, crowdsource & then meet the pediatrician to make sure you feel comfortable with them (think of it as an interview).  You’ll also want to make sure the doctor is in-network for the medical coverage that will be covering the baby as it will save you some major money on those first-year vaccines.
  3. Check-in with HR (human resources) if you are working (both parents need to do this) to find out what your Family Medical Leave (HR) eligibility is.  On the federal level, FML applies to groups with 50+ employees (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla), and in Maine, a more limited FML applies to groups with 15+ employees (https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/fmla).  Your eligibility depends on how long you have been with the company and how many hours you work.  You will also want to ask whether leave needs to be taken as a block or can be taken intermittently.  Also, ask HR if you are eligible for any paid leave and confirm what you have for sick and vacation time.

Pregnant moms will also want to confirm with HR if they have short term disability (STD) coverage.  STD can be an employer-paid benefit or a voluntary benefit that you pay premiums for; you might have neither or both.  If you have coverage, check what the waiting period after birth (or being taken off work by your doctor) is as well as how long it lasts (generally 6 weeks) and how much of your income it replaces.  You won’t be receiving your full paycheck while STD is being paid, so you’ll want to budget for this ahead of time.

 

Before baby comes is also when you should start looking into life insurance if you don’t already have it & deciding who you want to have guardianship of your children in the case of your death.  More on this below.

 

After Baby Arrives

You’ve just brought baby home and just making sure that little bundle stays alive and sleeping are all you have on your mind, but before you go back to work and things get even busier for a time, there are a few things worth taking care of to secure your little one’s future.

 

  1. Add baby to your health insurance within 30 days of his/her birth. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait until your health plan renewal.  You’ll need to get a form from HR and while you’re at it, ask how your premium (and paycheck) will be impacted if you haven’t already.
  2. Create or update your will. I know this is easy to put off, but it’s the ultimate in saying ‘I love you’ to your kids.  You can see a lawyer, buy a willmaker program, or use your LegalShield coverage.  You and your spouse should have wills that mirror each other when it comes to who gets your assets and, more importantly, who takes care of your kids.  You’ll need to pick a guardian for your kids and you’ll want to choose someone who is responsible for handling finances as well.  Make sure to sign the finished wills and have at least a couple copies.  Each kid requires an updated will that includes their information.
  3. Life insurance. If you already have this, now is the time to revisit whether you need more or just need to update the beneficiaries.  Remember that minors shouldn’t be direct beneficiaries so you can use the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act or another option that better fits your needs instead.
    1. If you don’t already have life insurance and you aren’t crazy rich, please consider this. I know money is getting tighter, but the premium cost is worth it.  You should at least have enough to pay off any debts (student loans, mortgage, care loans, credit card debt, etc.) and for a funeral (which can run to $10,000).  However, if you can afford it, you should try for enough coverage to cover your children’s expenses to age 18 or through college.  You may be able to get a voluntary, transferable policy through work (such as through Colonial), or you can meet with a financial advisor to see what you can afford.
  4. Speaking of a financial advisor, you’ll want to update the beneficiaries on any retirement accounts you might have both in & out of the workplace. You’ll need to do this each time you have a kid.  Don’t forget to update your HSA beneficiaries as well if you have one.
  5. If your kid was born in Maine, they are eligible for a $500 contribution to their 529 college fund in the first year of life through the Alfond Fund (https://www.500forbaby.org/). You do need to set up the 529 which you can do on your own or with your financial advisor.  It doesn’t cost you anything to set up (other than your time), and it ensures that your kid has something saved for college.  Even better, the Alfond fund matches contributions at 50% to $300 (i.e. you put in $600 & they put in $300) in the first few years of life, so when your playroom is overflowing with toys and relatives want to give your kids presents, you can direct them towards the college fund.  That’s right; anyone can contribute to the 529 once it is in place.
  6. Once you get a copy of your kiddo’s birth certificate, it’s time to freeze their credit. Our December blog post (https://insurancetrust.us/how-to-freeze-your-childs-credit-for-fraud-prevention/) details how.
  7. Another kid, another tax deduction. Take a few minutes and make sure that your tax deductions are set up correctly (https://www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-withholding-calculator), so you have money to pay bills now and no nasty surprises come next tax season.  You will need total household income and pre-tax deductions to do this, but it’s worth the time.  Keep in mind that this is a changing target, so check back at the beginning of each year.  You’ll need to provide your updated W4 forms to HR or payroll to make changes.
  8. I’m sure you’re feeling as though you’ve done more than enough at this point (I know I did), but there’s one more thing to do. If you can afford it, now is the time to get a whole life insurance policy on your newest addition.  Whether it’s through your voluntary coverage at work (such as Colonial) or the Gerber policy that you’ll probably receive a mail offer for soon if you haven’t already, now is the time.  For the cost of a cup of coffee or two, you can get whole life insurance on your baby that will protect them and you for a lifetime.  For now, it will pay in the event that every parent’s worst nightmare comes true and you have to bury your baby.  Otherwise, it’s a security that if your child becomes uninsurable, they have some coverage as an adult.
  9. Effective 1/1/2020: The NextStep Matching Grant changes from 50% of contributions over $50 for the year to 30% of contributions over $50 for the year; the grant cap remains at $300/year.  More information can be found at https://www.nextgenforme.com/matching-grants-for-maine-residents-changing-january-1-2020-for-calendar-year-2020/.  If you aren’t a Maine resident (or need another account to be in your name for employer gifting/matching), you can easily set up a 529 at https://collegebacker.com/.  It took me about 15 minutes and lets you put in as little as $5.00 at a time.

And remember, that you aren’t alone in this.  If you aren’t sure what needs to be done or how to do something, reach out to HR, your benefits broker, or a financial advisor.  Your family deserves the best.