DOL Proposes Changes to AHP Rules

President Donald Trump issued an executive order last year to expand access to association health plans (AHP). The Employee Benefits Security Administration, part of the U.S. Labor Department, recently issued proposed rule changes that would help expand AHPs under the Affordable Care Act. It’s an effort to help provide more options for small employers looking for other insurance plans besides the small group health insurance market, which has been plagued with higher prices and fewer coverage options. “Association health plans are typically offered as packaged insurance programs to employers within a certain geographic region, such as from local chambers of commerce, or industry, such as statewide trade associations as a benefit of membership of the association,” says Chris Wolpert, managing member and employee benefits adviser at Group Benefit Solutions, an employee benefits management firm. Expanding the rules could mean changes for the insurance industry. Here’s what you need to know. …

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How Big Broker-Dealers Are Buying Small Broker-Dealers, and What That Means for the Advisor

The past few years have been a whirl for advisors at smaller broker-dealers. Consolidation in the industry is rampant — last year’s 138 mergers and acquisitions were a record, according to Echelon Partners, and were a 10 percent increase compared with 2015, which had also been a record year. “For owners of smaller broker-dealers, it provides a great opportunity to sell a business and earn an exit payout,” says Evan Tarver, investments editor at FitSmallBusiness.com, a New York City-based business service that provides advice to small businesses. “For the advisers employed by these broker-dealers, it might be negative as they may be losing their jobs.” Here’s the latest on M&As among broker-dealers. What’s Inspiring These Acquisitions? In many cases, the U.S. Labor Department’s proposed fiduciary rule and the corresponding increased cost of doing business has been inspiring smaller and independent broker-dealers to look for other options, experts say. While parts …

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U.S. Life and Health Direct Premiums Expected to Decline for First Time in 4 Years

According to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s U.S. Insurance Market Report: Life and Health, a variety of forces are expected to lead to a 1.2 percent decline in combined U.S. life, annuity, and accident and health direct premiums this year. Experts say uncertainty in the market is the main driver: As companies scramble to outmaneuver each other in the face of changing regulations, direct premiums are dropping. “Competition for market share between life insurance carriers is highly competitive at the moment,” says Anthony Martin, owner of Choice Mutual, a burial insurance agency based in Citrus Heights, California. “That’s caused a number of carriers to continue to reduce premiums, primarily on their term life insurance portfolios.” Here’s what you need to know. Life Insurance: Competition Drives Down Costs Life insurance rates are decreasing for three main reasons, Martin says: First, people are living longer, largely due to advances in health technology. Secondly, …

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What Workers Need to Know About the New DOL Overtime Rule

You may have heard about a new rule that might mean changes to whether you get compensation for working overtime. The Department of Labor provided more information about which white-collar employees are now covered by minimum wage and overtime rules. The new overtime regulation will have a tremendous impact on employees, says Micah Longo, an employment lawyer with The Longo Firm. Under the new regulation, employees who make less than $47,476 will be entitled to overtime pay, no matter their job duties, Longo says. Here’s what you need to know. Your Salary Might Go Up Your employer has several options to ensure compliance under the new rule. Your employer may boost your pay to more than $47,476 a year to remove you from overtime protections, Longo says, or it may limit you to 40-hour work weeks, which may include tracking your hours. Your employer also may ask you to track …

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DOL Responds on Contested Overtime Rule

A series of court decisions prevented an overtime rule issued during the Obama administration last year from going into effect. This rule would have raised the salary threshold level for white-collar exemptions from $23,660 to $47,476 per year and increased this threshold automatically every three years, but some states blocked that rule by filing suit, and an injunction was granted late last year. The Justice Department appealed the court’s decision on behalf of the Labor Department in December, and the Labor Department recently issued a reply brief, but that doesn’t mean the gridlock is over. “Employers should continue to ensure their job descriptions accurately meet the exemptions’ job duties test, and, depending on the 5th Circuit’s ruling, the Labor Department eventually may raise the salary level test,” says Kellen Scott of the law firm Chamberlain Hrdlicka. Here’s what you need to know. What Is the DOL’s Response? The brief from the …

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