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Whistle While You Work

Exercise – the forgotten ally

With all the rustle and bustle we go through on a day to day basis; you wake up, go to work, come home, go to bed, just to wake up the next morning and do it all over again.

“Where’s my “ME” time?” you might be asking yourself.  “I’m so tired these days,” we start to tell ourselves.

What is simple to forget and sometimes understand is that exercising can do more than just be an obligation that takes up a block of time in your schedule.  Its stress relieving, fever reducing, multi-faceted span of minutes that can be fun, variable and most definitely beneficial.

A Few Ideas:
Depending on your distance to work, how hard would it be to take your bike to work? That doesn’t mean every day, but maybe you start off with one day a week, then two, then three.
Work at home? Not a problem!  If you are working from home, you can take breaks when you need to and use these breaks to your advantage.  Even if it’s at night when you’re watching your favorite episodes of ‘Friends’ or ‘Homeland’, think about moving the coffee table to the side and doing some core building, abdominal workouts and even pushups.  What you might find is that if you’re that engaged in the show, you’ll be breaking a sweat no problem.

How long is your lunch break?  Grab a coworker or two and take a walk around the block.  Even walking at a pace of 1 mile an hour has its benefits such as improving blood sugar levels and increasing your metabolic state.  You don’t even have to sweat!

Are you in front of the computer screen all day at your desk?  Stay true to those breaks and use them!  Think about setting an alarm that goes off every hour reminding you to stand up and walk around.  Walk around the office, take a breath of fresh air outside and stretch.  A 15-minute walk can change your day.

These are just a few of the thousands of ideas you can do to get yourself moving, increase circulation and help you thinking clearly.  Any bit of exercising helps your fatigue levels too!  Those who exercise have much more energy in the day than those who don’t.

Things Happen

You know the saying, “When there’s a rhyme, there’s a rhythm”?  As humans, we do certain things by nature.  Have you realized that you didn’t think about it when you were tying your shoes this morning?  You probably wondered how you got to work today since the route is so familiar.

There are other things we do naturally like, finding the right car insurance when you purchase a new vehicle, reviewing your homeowners’ policy when you move or purchase a new home.  We take care of our goods, but what many professionals forget about is the protection of their lives.  Are you a mother, father, or a key person in a business?  Do you have outstanding debts and things you want to ensure are paid off?  What would happen to all of your “things” if something happened to you on your way home from work today?  Would your kids or family members have to pay off the rest of your mortgage?  Would your kids be able to afford college?  Who will take over that car payment?

Life can happen faster than you can blink.  Some good, some bad.  Yet, as much as we can plan, we never know what tomorrow can really bring us… so how do we, well, plan for the unknown.  Unless you’re Evil Knievel, we take steps on the daily to improve our odds of success.   You wear a life vest on a sea-doo, you lock your door when you go to sleep at night, and we wear seatbelts to protect us all when life happens.  That’s why there’s life insurance, to help protect our families and financial futures without being a detriment.

September 2013 is Life Insurance Awareness Month.  Take this month to review your family and financial situation, sit down with a professional and learn about all of your options.  There are many different types of life insurance.  What you will find is protecting your family can be a lot simpler and affordable than you think!  It just might be worth your time.

Call us today 1 (888) 839-2147 or visit our website at to learn more about how  Montage Insurance Solutions can help you find the right plan at the right price to protect you, your family and your most prized assets.

Don’t Forget to Take Your Vitamin…Sea??


It may be no secret to you that I love the beach! You know better than anyone that when we are there we both just feel better, don’t you agree? So, you might be wondering what it is exactly that makes us both so happy by the beach. Maybe it’s the fun we have when we are there, or the company that is with us, or the sun, or maybe all of the above.  But the truth is the ocean is not just good for lifting our mood, but it also contains many healing properties as well. I am begging you.. before the summer is totally over, take me down to the sea at least once. If you don’t have access to the beach, try the tips below at home to give my body the healing sea boost I crave!

Adventure awaits!

I Love you,

Your Body


People usually feel much happier, relaxed, and healthy when they are by the sea, but why? We may have all heard over time the “healing benefits” of the sea. But what exactly does it heal? And what parts of the ocean are really good for us? Research shows that the ocean helps heal us and benefits us in a multitude of ways. Here are just a few facts of what the ocean can do for us health wise:

-Research shows that the sound of the waves alter wave patterns in the brain resulting in a calmer state and reducing stress

-The minerals in the ocean’s water help with many skin issues such as acne, rosacea, ezema, and other skin conditions. Studies also suggest that these minerals even help to balance depression.

-Iodine, a mineral found in ocean water, boosts thyroid function and improves the immune system.

-Waves crashing on the shore release negative ions which helps to counter act the free radicals in the air. This allows us to have better mental concentration and boosst our immune systems too.

-Swimming in ocean water helps improve blood circulation to our vital organs.

– Studies show that the minerals in the sea air not only decrease stress but the salt also helps to maintain serotonin, tryptamine, and melatonin levels in your brain which of course are our ‘feel good’ brain chemicals that help ward of depression and sadness.

If you can’t make it down to the water’s edge to get some of these amazing benefits you can also take some wonderful supplements from the sea to improve health or bring the ocean into your home.

– Take Spirulina :  This nutrient rich blue-green algae is a one of the most nutritious superfoods on the planet. It is packed with phytonutrients  such as carotenoids, antioxidants,  and minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It is a great source of vegetarian and vegan protein. It helps to boost the immune system, increase brain and cardiovascular function, and is easily digestible. I take Spirulina every day in my healthy greens.

– Kelp: Increasing sea kelp in your diet can help to stimulate thyroid function as well as provide a healthy mineral rich alternative to sodium in cooking. It is packed with immune boosting iodine and  there are many other health benefits to taking kelp which you can read about them here.

So make sure not to forget to take your Vitamin Sea so you can also be sea cured.

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Generation GMO – Our Future of Genetically Modified Humans

In the olden days, an up and coming generation would look proudly to the generation before them for support, wisdom, and reassurance that they could make their mark on the world. Children could look up to our political leaders and dream about making a difference one day by following their examples. As a mother of two young daughters I want only the best for my kids, of course, and I dream of them having a fulfilling and amazing future. However, being a parent is one of the hardest, scariest things on earth, because at some point you know that you will lose control of your kids. All you can do is just pray that you have done all that you could to help them grow into extraordinary human beings.

Today however, not only do parents have to worry about all the things you normally worry about as a parent, but we must also be constantly on guard to make sure our children are not being poisoned by Genetically Modified Foods (GMO’s). Not to mention, the plethora of other deadly chemicals and toxins that are bombarding all of us daily. Today, parents must face a very different battle then ever before. We face our greatest challenge yet, fighting against a food system that is literally killing us silently.

The truth is, most foods today are not safe for human consumption. These foods, or ‘food type products’, are extremely detrimental to the growing minds and bodies of our youngsters. As it stands now, the United States is one of the only developed nations in the world that does not require labeling on GMO foods.  This is because the companies that produce and distribute these products are American made companies. These giant Agrotech companies, not only run our food system, but they have a major grip on our political system as well. The way our food system is designed right now, our children and future generations, will have a bleak chance at a healthy, disease, and illness free life. That is, if, we let these corporations have their way. While every generation gets a nickname from the Baby Boomers to Generation X, I would now like to introduce you to, what I call, Generation GMO.

So what does it mean to be apart of Generation GMO? It means that you are one of the millions of children that are being pumped full of artificial and toxic ingredients daily, without any scientific documentation showing that it will not affect your brain development, social skills, metabolic processes, or who you may have the ability to become in the future. From baby formulas, to snacks, to our fruits, vegetables, and meats, our bodies are constantly exposed to genetically modified ingredients that are silently wreaking havoc on our health. From the cradle to the grave, the food industry is laughing all the way to the bank.

I believe this is the number one health issue in the United States right now. I also believe that it should be the first priority of politicians to solve this issue and change the way our foods are being made to protect our children. Food has become poison, and that my friends is a tragedy. Think about this, if we don’t have our children’s health and mental acuity to run our country when we are all gone, then what do we as a nation have to give the world? Will the United States literally eat themselves to death? These questions may sound harsh to you, but the truth of the matter is, we don’t really know the long term affects of eating these foods. I don’t think any of us are prepared to grasp how badly it might be in the future. Unless, we fight for change in the food industry now.

In our current reality parents are secretly lied to about the ingredients in the foods and beverages their children consume daily. Worse yet, most American parents are not even fully aware of the dire situation of our food industry. Nor are they aware of the incredible risk their kids are in everyday when they sit down at the dinner table to eat. If our kids are being poisoned how could this not be the most important topic around? Why is this not on the front page of every major newspaper and magazine? Why aren’t our TV’s flooded with adds about how to protect our families? The answer to all of these questions plain and simple is, greed. Money is the reason, and money rules the world. This issue is, in my opinion, is the most serious and important public health issue ever in our history. Sadly, this problem is rarely ever addressed in the mainstream media, so the mass population continue to be blinded to the reality of what we are doing to our children’s futures every time we sit down to eat.

As a parent, it is my top purpose and priority to protect my kids, and to educated other parents about how something as innocent as the foods we eat, could be silently killing us and turning us into Genetically Modified Humans. You may be thinking this sounds pretty out there, but the closer you look into the food industry the more you will understand what I am talking about.  Genetically Modified foods are foods that are created from seeds that have been altered in a lab. These companies will take the DNA of some other species, plant, or bacteria, and actually put it into the DNA of say a tomato plant or even a fish, like salmon. This is done to ‘supposedly’ help more food grow with less waste, less water, and produce a more sustainable plant. However, what these companies don’t want you to know is that none of that is really true. Also, these Genetically Modified foods and seeds have not been tested to see if they are even safe for human consumption. So not only are these companies messing with our natural food supply, but they are also not even concerned with the safety or efficacy of their products. When independent parties have done testing with GMO foods such as corn on laboratory rats the results were frightening. The test animals would develop cancerous tumors, brain delays, allergies, and digestive issues.

“Most studies with GM foods indicate that they may cause hepatic, pancreatic, renal, and reproductive effects and may alter haematological [blood], biochemical, and immunologic parameters, the significance of which remains to be solved with chronic toxicity studies.”
– Dona A, Arvanitoyannis IS. Health risks of genetically modified foods. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2009; 49: 164–175

Scary isn’t it? When you take a look at what has happened to the health of individuals all across this nation since these foods have been introduced into the market, you can’t help but see the direct line pointing straight to our foods. We have seen a rise in all of the health issues mentioned above and then some! The rise in childhood developmental issues as well as cancers has skyrocketed in the last two decades. More and more we are seeing children developing serious health and mental issues, and this is becoming the norm. The scariest and saddest part to me is that most people aren’t questioning our food sources as a possible issue, solely because the education about these issues is not mainstream.

Large food corporations pay millions of dollars to promote deceptive advertising that lures children and parents to buy their products. These products contain deadly, brain altering, and even DNA damaging chemicals and ingredients that are promoted as ‘child friendly’, and even sometimes as ‘health’ foods. Many parents are starting to wake up to this reality, but sadly, many are still in the dark.   Even when parents start to question ingredients in certain foods, these companies will often come out with a backlash campaign that is designed to fool the public back into thinking their product really is safe. For example, a few years ago the devastating effects of High Fructose Corn Syrup were starting to circulate among parents of young children and people were getting upset.  So, the company that makes this product started to put out TV and print ads of a young child asking if this product was safe, and their parent gently telling them that it was totally natural and actually good for them to consume! These adds then reassured many parents that the previous information about this toxic product must have been false, and that it was ok to keep feeding it to their kids. When I saw these ads I was so upset.  I made it my mission over the next few months to talk to as many parents as I could about why, this ad was a straight up lie, and why they should never let their kids eat this artificial sweetener.

There is lots of conflicting information out there about the state of GM foods and if it is really safe. So, let’s get the facts straight right now about GMO’s.  GMO’s have not been tested for human safety. We know that in lab rats GMO consumption is linked to allergies, cancerous tumors, heart issues, and even death.  We know that GMO’s do not solve world hunger, as their makers have advertised. We know that most developed nations in the world do not approve of GMOs and have banned their sale and import.  We know that GM foods lack nutritional value. We know that parents don’t even know when they are feeding their children GMO’s since the U.S. does not require these ingredients to be labeled. We know that kids of all ages are experiencing more and more health issues everyday.  And we know that eating fresh healthy foods is our God Given Right. My question to you today is why are we letting this happen to us?

Americans are amazingly brilliant and our future generations deserve so much more than what this system is serving them. I know that together we can change Generation GMO, to Generation Non-GMO: the generation that fought for their health, and got it back. I encourage you to join this crusade of education and empowerment, so together we can save our children and our future. I see the future of our nation with bright, healthy, creative children flourishing.  What do you see?

Disability Insurance Awareness Month

Did you know that May was Disability Insurance Awareness Month?

Think about your most important asset.  Many people might say their car or their home.  These are material things.  But think about how you acquire those materials.  You achieve this by earning an income.  Your most important asset is actually your ability to earn an income, because without an income, you cannot fund the acquisition of those materials.

Did you know that 3 out of 5 people will become sick or injured at some point in their lives and will not be able to work for a period of time?  Just like your other insurance, why not transfer the risk to someone else?

Offering a disability plan through your employee benefits package is just as significant, if not more than, as offering life insurance.  We have home and auto insurance, why not “paycheck” insurance?  Some people say they can rely on Social Security. Yet, Social Security only covers a TOTAL disability, thus no benefits are payable for a partial disability.  Additionally, if you have a disability and are able to adjust to another career, you will not qualify for Social Security benefits.   Another common excuse is the saying, “I can use my emergency fund.”  The use of an emergency fund can keep you afloat for a few months (3-6); however, prolonged disabilities can deplete your savings very quickly.

Many employers have assessed adding an employer paid disability plan to their benefits portfolio and realized the importance of this benefit to their employees.  Disability plans are exceptionally customizable to fit within any company budget.

What if there is no room in the budget for an employer to add a disability plan?  There is still an alternative!  Similar to voluntary life insurance, voluntary disability plans are available and since it is voluntary, there is no financial impact to you as the employer!  Employees can have disability premiums automatically deducted from their paychecks.

Establishing a comprehensive benefits program is not easy and worksite benefits seem to always get overlooked in the mix.  After your annual benefits review,  crunching numbers for your medical, dental, vision plans… there simply isn’t any more time nor energy for you to think about disability plans and any other voluntary offerings.!

In lieu of introducing everything at the same time, there is an advantage and strategy in splitting the presentation of your benefit programs.  For example, think about reviewing and offering your voluntary benefits during the middle of your benefits plan year.  That way, your employees’ attention will be on these great benefits instead of the increases they are receiving on their core benefits.

From an Employee Education and Enrollment Education Survey, done by Unum in January 2012, employees who receive quality benefits education report greater satisfaction as well.  In this survey, employees have found that their employer values their work, the employer cares about the employees’ wellbeing and employees start to say that it would take a lot for them to look for another employer.

Call or e-mail us to learn more about how a comprehensive worksite benefit strategy can complement your employee benefits offerings!
1 (888) 839-2147
[email protected]

How employers should treat new hires under the PPACA’s employer shared responsibility rule

Under the Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act (PPACA), large employers may know that to avoid penalties, they need to offer coverage that is affordable and qualified to full-time staff. But how do you treat a new hire to fold him or her into full-time staff so the employer shared responsibility rule can be applied?

Smart Business spoke with Tobias Kennedy, vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions, about how to handle new hires, in the final of a three-part series on the employer shared responsibility provision.

When must health coverage be offered to new hires?

Per the PPACA, new hires must be offered coverage within 90 days if you reasonably expect the person to be full time. However, if, at the time of hire, you cannot reasonably predict whether the person will be full or part time, you can submit the employee to a similar set of measurement/stability periods as the full-time ongoing staff. (For more information on ongoing staff measurement/stability periods, see the second article in this series.) The term ‘standard measurement’ was created to distinguish ongoing staff from what you can use for new hires, which is called an initial measurement period.

How does the initial measurement period work?

Like the standard measurement, the initial measurement period must be continuous months of between three and 12 months. Also, you have an administration period and an associated stability period where, as long as the person remains employed, you treat him or her according to the results of the hourly average from the measurement period.

What administration period rules need to be satisfied for new hires?

First, the period is no longer than 90 days — same as for ongoing staff. However, there is a caveat that the 90 days actually starts counting upon date of hire, keeps counting until you start your initial measurement period, where it pauses, and begins counting again for the period from the close of the measurement period through to the start of coverage. This is pertinent if you don’t measure from date of hire, such as beginning to measure the first of the month following date of hire, so some days between hire date and measurement beginning are deducted from the total 90-day allotment.

Also, the administration period when added to the initial measurement period cannot exceed the first of the month following 30 days of an employee’s anniversary. The longest an employee can possibly go from date of hire to coverage effective is 13 months and some change.

How does the stability period operate for new hires?

Like the ongoing staff, if a 12-month measurement period is chosen, then a 12-month stability period must be chosen. So, if an employee were hired on May 15, 2014, the employer would use a 12-month initial measurement period beginning the first of the month following date of hire, June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015. Because the employee’s anniversary is May 15, 2015, the first of the month following 30 days of that is July 1, and the employer’s only option for administration is the month of June. If the new hire was deemed full time, he or she is offered coverage for a 12-month stability period beginning July 1, 2015, through June 30, 2016.

So, in this example, what happens with the employee on June 30, 2016?

The employee’s timeline runs from May 15, 2014, to June 30, 2016, so there is enough time for him or her to have eclipsed whatever time frame the employer uses as the standard measurement period for ongoing staff. If this new hire worked for an employer who measures ongoing employees from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 every year, what happens to benefits on June 30 would be contingent upon the average hours worked from Nov. 1, 2014, to Oct. 31, 2015.

If the employee were full time during this time frame, the benefits would continue to the end of the year, per a 2016 stability period associated with that standard measurement period. If the employee was not full time in the standard measurement period but was during his or her initial measurement, benefits will continue through to June 30, 2016. And if the employee was not full time in either measurement period, benefits don’t have to be offered through the end of 2016.

It’s important to note that if an employee was not full time during the initial measurement but was full time during the standard measurement, you will need to add him or her to the benefits. So, in the running example, if an employee didn’t qualify based on June 1, 2014, to May 31, 2015, hours worked, but you re-measure according to your ongoing rules and find the person was full time during the Nov. 1, 2014, to Oct. 31, 2015 period, then the 12-month new hire stability period of not having benefits is clipped short. It’s replaced by the guarantee of benefits for the full 2016 plan year with an effective date of coverage of Jan. 1, 2016.

This can be complicated, but you should be fine as long as you work with a good consultant and utilize the tools your payroll vendor provides.

Tobias Kennedy is vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at 1 (888) 839-2147 or [email protected].

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions

How to understand health care reform’s Employer Shared Responsibility

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is full of employer mandates, but the most prominent and pressing for employers is the Shared Responsibility provision where large employers need to offer affordable coverage.

“The Employer Shared Responsibility part of PPACA is one of the most onerous and complex parts of the legislation, with employers needing as much guidance as possible,” says Tobias Kennedy, vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions.
Smart Business spoke with Kennedy for an overview of the provision, as there are several intricacies that can confuse one from gaining a broad, basic knowledge on the topic.

How do you know if you’re a large employer?
Generally speaking, a large employer has 50 full-time equivalent employees. It’s important to note the word equivalent, because when the legislation defines 50 employees it is actually counting full-time workers plus full-time equivalent employees. As an example, if you have 45 full timers, and you also have a few people doing part-time work, the reform bill would have you add up all of those hours worked by the part-time people and figure out how many full-time equivalents that equates to.
The penalty for not offering coverage at all is basically $2,000 per year, per person, minus the first 30, applying only to full timers.

What does affordable coverage mean?
Talking high-level affordable coverage would ask an employer to evaluate two things. For any person where you are in violation of either of these two things, the employer is fined $3,000 annually.
• Does the plan have an actuarial value of at least 60 percent? To figure this you have several options, but the easiest is to use the calculator provided by the Department of Health and Human Services. (URL where it can be downloaded can be a link on the page:
• Are the employee’s premiums affordable? This is asking for the employee-only portion of your cheapest — above 60 percent, of course — plan not to exceed 9.5 percent of an employee’s income. Income can be calculated a few ways, but the easiest is probably using the wages inserted in the most recent W-2.

Who are employers supposed to cover?
Any employee who works an average of 30 hours or more per week is considered full time, and therefore needs to be offered affordable coverage to avoid fines. If you do not know whether certain employees average more than 30 hours because of varying hours, busy seasons, etc., employers can use a measurement safe harbor.
It can be complicated, but generally speaking, if an employer choses to, the legislation allows for a measurement period. During the measurement period, you look at the employee’s hours and average it out over time. How long the measurement period lasts is up to the employer, but needs to be between three to 12 months.

Once the measurement period ends, an employer must enter a stability period. During the stability period, an employer treats all ongoing employees according to the results of the measurement period. In other words, regardless of hours worked during the stability period, if an employee was full time during the measurement period, you have to offer coverage for the stability period. And, regardless of hours worked during the stability period if an employee averaged below 30 hours per week during the measurement period, the employer does not have to offer insurance.

The measurement/stability period is quite complicated with very particular time frames; the option to implement an administration period; different treatment for new hires versus ongoing employees; rules to transition employees from new hires to ongoing; and a host of other technicalities that truly require the assistance of a trained PPACA professional.
As with all parts of the health care reform bill, consult your professionals for help in the details of this and other provisions.

Tobias Kennedy is vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at 1 (888) 839-2147 or [email protected].

Simple Cost-Effective Steps to Start a Wellness Culture in Your Company

Did you know that 2 out of 3 employees are interested in an employer-sponsored wellness campaign?

Many organizations WANT to start a wellness campaign, but as we are all human, we have concerns.  How much is this going to cost?  Where do I start?  What methods are effective? Are the employees even going to appreciate the incentives and take advantage of the program?  These are all valid concerns.  Follow these steps to start on the right foot:

Step 1 – Build a Team: Depending on the size of your company or organization, you can build a wellness team.  Find a few employees of varying lifestyles (athletes, management, and active employees) in order to create an eclectic team.  Schedule time to meet together to discuss some of the company goals with your new wellness initiatives and brainstorm ideas.  By putting together a team, you may find out key health concerns of employees within your company, which may help pinpoint your goals.  Don’t be afraid to put together an employee survey.

Step 2 – Identify Incentives: By putting the carrot in front of the horse, you can attract movement.  Employees can become increasingly more engaged in any employer-sponsored wellness initiative if there are incentives involved.  Remember, the bigger the investment, the bigger the return.  So, try having multiple different incentives.  Find ways to ensure cash incentives are being used for the appropriate ways.  For example, giving away merchandise can spark higher expected participation.  Complementing them with smaller $25 gift cards to healthy places such as Subway, Trader Joes, or Whole Foods will ensure that more than just one person can feel like a winner.  Don’t forget to promote employees reaching out to their medical providers to get their preventive checkups.  This can be a great start to your wellness campaign.  Start a raffle for those employees who can prove they have scheduled and gone on their wellness visits within a competition month.  Also, when the competition ends, let the winner(s) be known!  Research shows that employers have a higher rate of retention when employee praise is exhibited.  Use it to your advantage!

Step 3 – Communicate with Your Employees: HR is the heartbeat of any organization.  Any of these ideas will need to be infused through the HR department.  Start sending monthly (or if you’re ambitious – weekly) wellness tips, reminders or even recipes!  Remember, since this is new, it may take a little time to find some traction, but you will find that if done right and if done in a positive manner, your employees will appreciate the fact their employer is concerned about their employees’ health.

Step 4 – Use Your Resources: Your medical carrier is a database of wellness knowledge.  Use it!  Call us here at Montage or talk to your medical carrier representative to find out which websites are useful.  On these websites, you’ll be able to find multiple marketing materials and statistics.  Take little tidbits from these sources and turn it into your monthly wellness newsletter.  Some medical carriers even have smartphone apps.  For those computer and tech savvy employees, this is an incredible tool to help infuse wellness on the go!

Step 5 – Practice What You Preach: Employees will learn more and find ways to engage themselves if they see that the promoter of the wellness campaign is also engaged and changing their daily habits to healthy behaviors.  If you’re sending reminders to employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator, use the stairs yourself!

Step 6 – Make Changes in the Workplace: What’s inside the vending machine or inside the refrigerator in the break room?  Start by providing an assortment of healthy options for snacks such as yogurt & fruit instead of bagels & cream cheese.  Who orders the food for company lunches?  Look to healthier alternative locations or food to deliver.  Order salads and sandwiches rather than pizzas and pastas.  These foods will also keep the energy level up.  Pin up wellness posters.  Remember, you can obtain many wellness posters and healthy material directly downloaded from your medical carriers’ website.  Not sure how to find it?  Ask your broker or carrier representative.  Did you know that the size of bagels has doubled in the past 20 years?  Believe it or not, it’s more than just double the calories, too!

Step 7 – Promote Emotional Health: Take advantage of your Employee Assistance Program.  Being healthy isn’t all about eating and exercising.  We need to keep our minds and emotions healthy as well.  For example, pin up posters giving employees information about your company Employee Assistance Program.  EAP’s have credit card sized information pieces with contact info that employees can keep in their wallets.  Reinforce these resources as a place for your employees to turn if they have stress issues arising.
Don’t have an EAP?  Believe it or not, it can be free to your company.  Call us at Montage Insurance Solutions to learn about adding an EAP for your next open enrollment.
These are simple cost-effective, yet comprehensive methods to START a wellness culture within your organization.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact an Account Executive at Montage Insurance Solutions 1 (888) 839-2147 to learn how we can help start your wellness initiative and Catch 21 Days of Wellness coming out this month.

Take care.  Be well.

How to use the PPACA’s safe harbor to determine which employees qualify for coverage

The Patient Protection and Accountable Care Act (PPACA) has a number of employer provisions generally called the “employer shared responsibility.” So, with this responsibility, who, exactly, do you have to offer coverage to as full-time employees?

“It’s not always as easy as 100 percent of your staff sitting in a chair from 8 a.m. to noon, then again from 1 to 5 p.m.,” says Tobias Kennedy, vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions. “The reality is employers will have project-based staff, variable-hour employees and other factors that make figuring out ‘full time’ slightly tricky.”

Smart Business spoke with Kennedy about the PPACA’s look back/stability safe harbor, in this second of a three-part series on the employer shared responsibility provision. The first article discussed how the penalties are triggered under employer shared responsibility.

How does the look back/stability safe harbor work?

This provision allows an employer to look at ongoing staff and make a technical calculation on whether or not a person is supposed to be offered benefits under the PPACA. The legislation applies month-to-month, but because the government realizes that a monthly application would be administratively crippling, an optional safe harbor exists where you can extend the length of time used to measure employee hours, and then that data determines which employees qualify.

For ongoing staff, you get three new time frames to calculate with: a measurement period, an administration period and a stability period.

What is a measurement period?

The measurement period is a time frame you get to select — it has to be continuous months and can last anywhere from three to 12 months. Obviously, the shorter the period, the more likely to have irregular spikes; the longer the period, the more it’s a true measure of an employee’s average.

Essentially, you simply define the period of time, and those are the months that an employer uses to calculate employee hours worked. For example, the employer might select a 12-month measurement period and choose to run it from Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 every year. In this case, the employer would look at the hours worked over this period of time to determine each employee’s average hours worked to see if it is more or less than the PPACA-mandated 30 hours — thus qualifying, or not qualifying, for benefits.

What’s involved during the administration period?

The administration period is where you, the employer, have time to evaluate the results of your measurement period, and take care of logistics. This period cannot be longer than 90 days. For practical purposes, this would be used to see who is benefit eligible, plan your open enrollment meetings, distribute benefit information and then collect/process all of the applications for the upcoming plan year.

Using the previous example’s time frame, an employer might have this period run from the end of the measurement period to the end of the year, e.g., Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Once an employer moves on to the stability period, what happens?

In the stability period, as long as an employee remains employed, employers must treat him or her according to whatever average the measurement period deemed them — either full time or part time — regardless of the hours worked. So, if an employee measured as full time during the measurement period, you have to continue to offer him or her benefits through the entire stability period even if hours dip lower, as long as the person is still employed.

The stability period has to be at least six months and also no shorter than the time chosen as the measurement period. So, in the example from before, because the measurement was 12 months, the stability period also needs to be 12 months. If employees were measured from Nov. 1, 2014, through to Oct. 31, 2015, the employer would enroll employees throughout the end of 2015 for their 2016 plan year.

Then, the measurement, administration and stability periods continue to go on, overlapping such that every plan year occurs back to back without a break, and each plan year’s eligibility is associated with the hourly performance of employees during the preceding associated measurement period.

In the final of this three-part series, we’ll discuss how to treat a new hire to eventually fold him or her into your employee hourly average calculations.

Tobias Kennedy is vice president of Sales and Service at Montage Insurance Solutions. Reach him at 1 (888) 839-2147 or [email protected].

Insights Business Insurance is brought to you by Montage Insurance Solutions

Cut the Clutter in 5 Areas of Your Life

While giant piles of mail, clothes and stuff is an eyesore, the more dangerous effects of clutter can be on your physical and mental wellbeing.  Stress levels soar, dust and dander makes it hard to breathe and the emotional anguish can leave you tired.  Cut the clutter in these five areas of your life to promote a happy and healthy Organize & Create Discipline lifestyle.

– Keep it digital.  Easily change, delete and organize your schedule from your phone, tablet or computer.  No more scribble marks that are hard to read, no more missing appointments.
– Color coordinate your calendar.  Work meetings in blue, personal time in red, exercise in yellow and so forth.  Look back in a month.  Did you dedicate enough time to exercise?  Is your work schedule overloaded with appointments?  Your calendar is your tool to a well-rounded work/life balance.
– Set appropriately timed reminders.  Five minutes before you need to arrive might not give you ample time to finish up your current task and get to a meeting on time.

– Get rid of the piles of paper and superfluous tchotchkes on your desk.  Maintaining a clear area allows you or the cleaning crew to easily clean once a week, reducing the presence of allergy-causing dust.
– Personalize your space.  A glimpse of your favorite mug from Paris or a picture of you and your loved ones in Hawaii can immediately make you smile.  Just don’t overload your space so your personal life becomes a distraction from your work.
– Toss the Post Its.  While the mosaic of colorful squares may seem like a good idea, they more often lead to sticky situations.  Meetings can float away, lists get buried under more pressing notes and the chaos of pink, blue and yellow around your monitor becomes stressful.
– Keep one notebook on your desk to take notes on the fly.  Loose leaves of paper lead to disorder and can easily get lost.

– Organize your home pantry with healthy meal and snack choices at eyelevel.  You will naturally gravitate to those options first.
– Reach out to the office manager.  Suggest the communal fridge gets emptied every Friday. A clean fridge at work encourages people to bring healthy lunch options from home.
– Get new Tupperware once a year to carry your lunch and snacks.  Scraggly, plastic containers are just plain unappetizing.

– Sort through the mail the minute you grab it out of the mailbox.  Shred or toss what you don’t need and file only the important stuff.  It’s an easy “To Do” to cross off the list.
– Start paperless billing.  Less mail equals less stress.
– Electronic mail also contributes to clutter.  Take 5-10 minutes a day to unsubscribe to e-mail newsletters, flash sale announcements and membership updates you don’t want.

Personal Time
– Declutter your friendships.  Weed out friends that are emotional taxing and dedicate time to those that lift you up.
– Schedule time for exercise.  Whether it’s a 20 min run, a power walk around your neighborhood or a good old fashioned pillow fight, exercise is vital to relieving stress and staying healthy.
– Treat yourself! Whether it’s a trip to the spa, a manicure, playing video games or watching football set a personal appointment every week.
– Don’t cancel on yourself.  If you don’t think these personal appointments are important, no one else will.

About Justin Klosky, Founder/Creative Director of O.C.D. Experience

As a child, Justin Klosky loved to count, analyze, and categorize everything in sight. Eventually diagnosed with OCD, he found ways to tap the benefits of his condition rather than see it as debilitating. Today’s he’s founded a successful firm, the O.C.D. Experience, building on his principles of Organize, Create, Discipline to help high-end clients get control of their lives through time management skills, getting rid of clutter, simplifying their habits, and rethinking storage solutions and systems.  The O.C.D. Experience also teaches them the discipline to maintain their serene new sense of order.

O.C.D. has now made its mark in New York City, Los Angeles and Florida and other top US Cities.  Justin Klosky  is the Organizational Expert on The Talk, has appeared on the Today Show, Anderson Cooper and has been featured in US Weekly, Real Simple, People, New York Times, and more
Justin’s high-profile clientele include Sharon and Jack Osbourne, Julie Chen, Paul Feig, Bryce Dallas Howard, Topher Grace, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Justin graduated from New York University and just finished his book titled Organize & Create Discipline: An A-Z Guide to an Organized Existence being published by Penguin in 2013.
For more information on the O.C.D. Experience please visit

Check out Justin on The Talk!!