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Yesterday kicked off the first day of summer, and with summer comes an influx of family activities and travel plans. While planning for trips means dedicating time to searching for the perfect destination, hotels, and hoping that the vacation doesn’t turn into a Griswold-esque nightmare, there is also a lot of planning to be done when it comes to safety and insurance. Check out these eight considerations when planning your next getaway:

  1. Beware of distracted driving on your trip. If you are traveling a long distance, make sure you have enough sleep before driving.
  2. For a road trip, you may want to purchase additional auto insurance coverage, like a roadside assistance program, in case you run into any problems. Also, make sure your car is serviced (oil changed, brake pads are good to go, etc.).
  3. If you are traveling to another country, make sure your license, passport, and insurance is valid.
  4. When staying in a hotel, utilize the hotel safe. Keep your personal items, such as passport, jewelry, license, credit cards, and money secure.
  5. Let your credit card company know you are traveling so they do not freeze your account.
  6. Know your out-of-state and overseas medical insurance coverage. If you travel outside your health insurance network, you could be paying higher out-of-network rates. If you travel outside of the country, your medical insurance could be invalid. Ask your medical insurance company what your policy covers. Always carry your insurance policy identity card as proof of insurance and a claim form. 
  7. Consider travel insurance. This can provide coverage if:
  • You get sick or injured 
  • You are involved in a car accident
  • Severe weather causes cancellations
  • Baggage is delayed or lost
  • You incur missed flight connections or cancellation charges imposed by airlines

Tips and Guidance for Hiring Teens

Posted by on June 17, 2016


We all remember our first job. I remember mine vividly. I worked at an after-school day camp and spent the majority of every paycheck I earned at Applebee’s on the “Happy Hour” half-off chicken wings. Thinking about it now, I probably should have just worked at Applebee’s, enjoyed the employee discount, and called it a day. But hey, you can't live your life thinking of all the should have, would have, could haves. 

Today, approximately 4.7 million teenagers have jobs, an increase from this time last year. Cue your inbox filling with inquiries about vacant positions at your company. Let’s be honest. Teenagers can be ideal employees—energetic and ready to “get their hands dirty” at their first jobs. Hiring a teenager can also pose a risk to you as an employer because they have a high frequency of injury. This is due in part because they can be impulsive and they lack the experience necessary to recognize job-related hazards.

If you are hiring teens for employment, please take the following loss into consideration:

  • Provide adequate training for all employees, but especially young people. Make your expectations clear during the first few weeks of their employment and do not overlook any small errors that they make. Instead, use these opportunities to educate them on “near-miss” accidents and how to prevent accidents in the future.
  • Support your staff with constant safety reminders and offer refresher training courses.
  • Provide increased supervision for teens, especially when they are new to the job.
  • Offer clear instructions on how to perform tasks and provide positive feedback as they are learning.
  • Encourage employees to ask questions when they do not understand directions and/or when they need clarification.

Do not think of teen workers as simply temporary assistance at your organization—they need to be trained like any other employee. Time and effort spent on training will pay off in the long run when it helps you avoid expensive work injury costs and higher workers’ compensation premiums.

Before hiring teens, consider the requirements of the position and determine if a teenager is suited to complete those tasks. Then establish how you can best teach them to be safe on the job.

Other things to consider: Teen workers must be included in your workers’ compensation insurance coverage. In addition, there are different federal requirements for teens who are 14 and 15 years old versus 16 and 17 years old. Learn these rules as they apply to your workplace to avoid potential fines.

For more assistance with all your insurance needs, including workers’ compensation, contact a Cobbs Allen Risk Consultant today at 205-414-8100.

Can I Lower My Medical Spend?

Posted by Angela Wolfe on June 16, 2016


If you are like most mid-market employers you expect your health plan costs will continue to rise. It seems an almost impossible task to find a way to offer a plan that financially benefits both the employee and employer. Knowing where to tighten the belt is specific to each employer. One size does not fit all.

As part of your cost savings strategy, are you currently using benchmarks to set goals and measure performance of your health care plans?

As in most situations, data is king. Identifying the patterns of trends and utilization can help employers make better plan design changes that can have an impact on lowering the total cost of their medical spend.

The 2016 Mid-market Employer Health Benefits Benchmarking Survey can provide you with this data.

This survey is conducted by the largest actuarial firm in the world, it is free and confidential. Upon completion of the survey, you will receive an individualized custom report. This data can help provide valuable insight into your plan and where your cost centers are. 

Your individualized custom survey results will include:

  • How your employee benefits compare to other employers
  • Strategies other employers use in this health care reform era
  • What types of Wellness/disease management initiatives peers are leveraging
  • The prevalence of consumer driven health plans in your area
  • The types of cost control strategies other employers utilize
  • Compares your plan to others in your industry and company size

If you would like to see where your company's health plans compare to your peers, and want to know your medical spend cost drivers,  CLICK HERE to take the survey. Or forward this information to your HR Director of Benefits Manager and encourage them to complete the survey. The survey deadline has been extended until July 29, 2016.


Cobbs Allen is one of 34 exclusive, private broker-partners of the largest actuarial firm in the world. Through this relationship, we are able to deliver insight into employee health and welfare plan costs, risk management, medical, dental, and ancillary plan forecasting. 


The Affordable Care Act imposes a PCORI Fee (Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute) on group health plans to subsidize research for effective treatments, procedures and strategies for medical conditions.  The total fee is based on the health plan’s plan year dates and the number of covered lives (enrollment) for the prior plan year.  Generally, the fee is due July 31st of the calendar year following the end of the plan year.  For 2016, the deadline is August 1st  (since July 31st falls on a Sunday), and the fee per covered life (for the plan years ending in 2015) is stated below:

  • $2.17 for plans with plan years beginning January 1, November 1 and December 1
  • $2.08 for plans with plan years beginning February 1, March 1, April 1, May 1, June 1, July 1, August 1, September 1, and October 1

Employers with self-funded health plans are responsible for paying the fee and submitting the required information on IRS Form 720 Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return (regardless of whether the employer would complete the form otherwise). However, employers who sponsor fully-insured health plans can rely on their insurer to submit the required information and pay the fee, which is typically passed along to the employer. 
View IRS Form 720
View Summary on PCORI Fee
View Summary on PCORI Fee FAQs
View Summary on Health Plans Subject to the PCORI Fee to determine what headcount information to use
View Summary on Reporting and Payment
View Summary of Rules for HRA’s (Health Reimbursement Account)
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO EMPLOYERS:  Employers who have sponsored self-insured health plans for the last couple years or longer should be familiar with this process.  If your health plan offerings have changed, be sure to review the Summary on Health Plans Subject to the PCORI Fee to determine which plans you need enrollment figures.  For employers who more recently implemented a self-insured health plan (with plan year ending in 2015), you can gather enrollment information for your plan year ending in 2015 from your TPA to report on Form 720 and submit to the IRS, along with payment, no later than August 1, 2016.

Compliance Corner: IRS-SSA-CMS Data Match Request

Posted by Tracy Leeth on June 15, 2016


Employers may receive a letter from CMS to submit a GHP (Group Health Plan) report pursuant to the IRS-SSA-CMS Data Match program.  This program was established for purposes of determining whether Medicare should pay primary or secondary for claims of Medicare-entitled employees and spouses.  To make this determination, CMS requests employers who sponsor (fully-insured or self-insured) medical plans to provide information about plan enrollment and employment dates of certain individuals.  The letter from CMS explains the program, provides a link for instructions, and directs employers to an interactive website for completion of the Data Match Questionnaire.
Tips for completion:

  • Access website to register, log in and submit information
  • Determine which response method you will use
    • Many employers will opt for the Direct Entry method, which can be used by employers who must report on no more than 1,000 workers.
    • Employers reporting on several hundred or more workers may need to use theElectronic Media Questionnaire.
  • Designate your Account Manager who is responsible for submitting the information, and any (optional) Designees needing access to the website to assist the Account Manager with the process
  • Respond to questions about identified individuals.  Be prepared to research information about prior employees and the health coverage you provided them, looking back even three years.
  • Provide information about your plan (GHP)
    • Your insurer or TPA should be able to provide certain plan data requested in Part II of the Questionnaire, including Group Health Plan Address, RxBIN, PCN, Rx Group, etc.
    • These fields are defined on page 16 of the Instructions (see link below).

Note: You do not have to complete the submission at one time.

View Summary for more information 

View CMS Website for details on the program and process (including link to Instructions), as well as, how to request an extension

View Sample Letter from CMS
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO EMPLOYERS:  If you receive this letter, you should take action to complete the submission within 30 days.  If you are unable to meet the deadline, contact CMS immediately to request a 30-day extension.  Failure to comply can result in $1,000 penalty per individual for whom information was requested.  Additionally, repeated or willful violations can trigger significant penalties, business records subpoenas and extensive investigations.


Robert Smith is joining Cobbs Allen as a Personal Lines Risk Consultant after spending four years serving as Campus Minister and Missions Coordinator at Red Village Church in Madison, Wisconsin. Robert was able to fund-raise his entire salary and some business expenses for his church work, both of which give him valuable background experience to be a personal lines producer. He was also awarded a customer service recognition during his time with Starbucks Coffee Company.

Robert’s biggest success in his previous employment was growing the international ministry at the church from zero international missionaries to eleven international missionaries serving in six different countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, South America, and Central America. He did this through developing and teaching a training curriculum, organizing remote care, and leading week-long trips to visit several of the missionaries. Through all of this, Robert was able to multiply his church’s outreach efforts around the world.

Robert was born and raised in Birmingham. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at Sewanee: The University of the South and a Master of Arts in Missions at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. 

We are very excited about this addition and look forward to seeing the experience and drive that Robert can bring to the Cobbs Allen team!


Meet Our Interns: Lucy and William

Posted by on June 7, 2016


Interns. Can’t live with ‘em. Can’t live without ‘em. We all have this idea of the intern—the college kid turned professional barista that slightly resembles an Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn character from The Internship. Our two interns, Lucy and William (both Birmingham natives), have been here a few weeks now and have already proved to be huge assets to our company. While I wouldn’t put money on William being able to start the coffee machine, they each offer enthusiasm, intelligence, and talent. But what else do we really know about them?

Let's begin by introducing Lucy Marks, our intern from the University of Alabama. Lucy will graduate with the class of 2018 with a degree in finance and economics (she is a smart one). She is a member of Phi Mu and the Judicial Board of the Student Government Association.  Some of her hobbies include Pinteresting (the act of surfing Pinterest) and Netflixing. Lucy was also the first to use our new business card reader, so I guess we can add “Pioneer” to her resume. While exploring the new territory that is the business card reader was exciting, her favorite part of the internship thus far has been traveling to North Carolina to shadow a prospect meeting. She has a Goldendoodle (that’s a dog) named Weezy (short for Eloise, not the rapper), and a few of her favorite foods include pizza, Chinese, fried chicken, and mac ‘n cheese. She is practically a health nut. Her favorite movie is Pearl Harbor and her favorite television shows are Fixer Upper and Chopped.

William “Bill” Lathem comes to us from the plains of Auburn University and has the cowboy boots to prove it. Bill will graduate from Auburn University next May with a degree in finance. He works remodeling houses during the school year and is involved with Campus Life. As a second year intern at Cobbs Allen, he started off the summer strong traveling to Orlando to shadow a few prospect meetings with our risk consultants. A few of Bill’s favorite things include talking smack about basketball to anyone and everyone, gossiping about The Bachelorette (his pick is Jordan—Aaron Rodger’s little brother), and coming through with chicken mini’s from Chick-Fil-A at the most opportune times. A few of his favorite foods are fried catfish and chili cheese fries (probably during the same meal). He may actually be an Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn character from The Internship.

So far, Lucy and Bill have impressed us all, whether it has been with their professionalism at meetings, their willingness to learn, or their ability to take initiative and deliver. Each week, our interns shadow a different division of our company, such as benefits, P&C, accounting, and loss control/claims. Our associates are doing a great job of providing a quality hands-on learning experience for interns. We look forward to the rest of the summer with these two!

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