iPhones in the Corporation

In the geek world of any corporate environment you have this constant struggle between trying to give what your staff desire versus the business needs of your organization. This struggle has become increasingly complex in the mobile device realm as Apple has developed some extremely attractive gizmos that nearly every consumer wants to have. Using the iPhone as an example, it is a compelling product for quickly and easily accessing business information while also being a fantastic vehicle for music, videos and games – er, I mean “apps”.

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Go Team!!

The Parker, Smith & Feek, Feekers n Sneekers Team (including the newest member Jacen, 8 months old) gearing up for the Fred Hutch Cancer Reseach Centers 2010 Shore Run. One of the goals for our company wellness program is to get out in the community, be active and support our local charities.

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Our current Focus

The two "hot" topics in the insurance and risk management industry that we are focused on. The first of course is Health Care reform. Our current activity in our Employee Benefits department is centered on ensuring that our clients understand what the reform regulation means for their employees and their businesses.

Not only is it important to understand the immediate impacts and what program structure alterations that need to be made, but to lay out a plan and strategy for the future with regards to the additional reform changes that will be phased in over time.

We are sending out updates via email to all our contacts.

On the Property / Casualty front, the recent BP Oil spill is a reminder to our clients that being well prepared for worse case scenarios can mean the difference between simply managing through a catastrophic event but actually surviving one.

Many businesses over look the importance of a detailed business disaster recovery plan and focus too much attention on the insurance purchase transaction. Good risk management and preparation is critical for businesses of any size. BP purchased a lot of insurance, but their survival is hinging on their ability to execute a response to the spill and damage to their reputation long term – not how high of limits were purchased from an insurance carrier.

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The economy takes a pause

Stock markets are considered to be good leading indicators of future economic activity. Company values, or share prices, are based on expectations of future earnings, and future earnings are based on expected company revenue growth and profitability.
Recently, markets (Nasdaq Composite, S&P 500 stock index, Dow Jones Industrial Average) have taken a turn after an 80% increase in the broad averages from March 2009 to April 2010. The months of May and early June 2010 have witnessed sharp declines. What’s going on? Perhaps just a normal adjustment after a strong run-up in prices or is there more to it?
In the business pages the news of the day is more telling: Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve warns that “the federal budget “appears” to be on an “unsustainable path” and the recent report of economic activity from the June ‘beige book’ released Wednesday notes that economic activity improved across the country: manufacturing picked up, retail sales grew, and housing was helped by the now expired tax credit, and a ‘modest’ recovery was unfolding. The Economic Optimism Index released this week, however, reported that consumer confidence fell sharply over the last month on continued job worries and fears about the future as uncertainties multiply: when will interest rates rise, what will new tax rates look like (after the Bush tax cuts expire), what will ObamaCare really cost, what will cap & trade and new energy policies cost, will ‘card check’ pass, and how much stronger will unions be, how will the financial sector be altered by new regulations. There is hardly a shortage of concerns out there at the moment.

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Video Conferencing

While the world might be focused on the magical tablet scene, the revolution of instant-on computing and finger smudges on a screen, there is one sleeper technology that is about to hit mainstream: Video conferencing.

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Healthcare Reform: COBRA Premium Subsidy Update

On Friday, the House passed the American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act (H.R. 4213) that would require 401(k) fee disclosures, provide relief for pension funds and extend unemployment benefits.

However, the planned extension of the COBRA premium subsidy was omitted prior to voting to gain additional support for passage.

At this point, employees terminated on or after June 1st are not eligible for the subsidy. The Senate will address the legislation when they return from recess on June 7th. We expect the COBRA subsidy issue to be revisited in the future.

We will continue to gather information about these and other changes as it becomes available. Please contact your PS&F Benefits Team if you want to discuss how these provisions can or will impact your plan.

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Healthcare Reform: Extended Dependent Coverage

Last Monday the Obama Administration issued interim rules allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26. The coverage requirement, effective starting with renewals of October 1, 2010 or later, is one of the most anticipated early benefits of President Obama's new health care law.

Many insurers will be offering extended coverage as of June 1 for those who have children that will otherwise lose their coverage on or after that date due to reaching the maximum age or losing their student status. Please note that this early adoption of the extended dependent age does not allow dependents who have already been dropped from your plan to come back on at this time. Most carriers are only allowing those dependents to come back onto the plan at your open enrollment on or after 10/1/10 when the mandate officially goes into effect.

Carriers that have announced they are offering this early extension include Aetna, Anthem, Blue Shield of California, CIGNA, Group Health, Kaiser, Premera Blue Cross, Regence Blue Shield and United Healthcare. We are awaiting confirmation from other carriers. Each carrier is handling this differently; some are implementing this automatically for all groups while others are requiring plans to opt-in; some are charging additional premium for it and others are not.

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