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Team building is important to most businesses, but sometimes owners and managers don’t recognize the potential benefits. At other times, employees’ enthusiasm may be lacking for what they view as “another goofy waste of time,” forgetting (or not realizing) the real goal is to create camaraderie and increase team communication.

 

There are many tangible benefits to team building activities, including:

Team building can increase workplace morale, reinforce your company’s values, and create an opportunity for people who may not work together regularly to collaborate and achieve a shared goal.

 

Activities to Consider

There are many team building activities and games available – some that take less than 10 minutes and others that may last an hour or more. The folks behind the time-tracking software Toggl have compiled a list of 39 games you might consider in your team building efforts; below are a half-dozen of their recommendations. (You can link here for the complete list.)

 

Possibilities

The game of Possibilities is a great way to test your team’s creativity and quick thinking. All you need is a group of random items. You can use a basketball, scarf, hula hoop, stapler (or other office supplies), or just about anything. You hand out the items and your team members have to find an alternative use for the item they receive. Without talking, others must guess what function is being acted out.

 

Bridge Build

This is another way to tap your team’s creativity and communication skills. Start by dividing your group into different teams. Each has to create half of a bridge with the materials you supply. The objective is for the two teams to develop similar concepts (and for the two bridge parts to fit together when finished) – however, the teams have to do it without being able to see what the other is doing. The teams may communicate verbally or via Slack, if that’s available. Building materials can be whatever you want: noodles and marshmallows, straws, Legos®, K’nex, Lincoln Logs®, Popsicle® sticks, tape, paper clips, pins, etc.

 

Blind Drawing

This game is like Charades – but with a twist. It’s typically done with teams of two. All you need are a pen and paper (or marker), a whiteboard, and an eraser. Sitting back to back, one of the two participants is given drawing materials. The other is handed a photo, and must make sure it’s not seen by the other. (If you have multiple teams, one person from each team should have the same photo.)

The one with the photo is given 60 seconds to describe what is in the picture – using shapes, indirect descriptions, etc. They can’t say, “Draw a bee on a rose.” But, they can use adjectives like “Buzz, yellow, and black” to describe what’s in the photo.

At the end of the allotted time, you compare the drawings – which could be amazing or really bad, but can often generate a lot of laughs. Your team may find out how difficult it can be to give instructions – and how important it is to be clear in your communications.

 

Group Order

Ask your team members to line themselves up in order based on a specified criteria. There are many ways you can do this, including:

You can make this harder by telling your team they can’t speak with one another while lining up. It’s a great get-to-know-one-another activity. As your employees move around to put themselves in order, you can see how they communicate to get the task done – and who takes on the leader role.

 

Reverse Charades

This is a reversal of traditional charades. In a normal game, one person from the group stands up and acts out a word or phrase while the rest try to guess what he or she is portraying. In Reverse Charades, one person has to guess while the rest of the team works together and acts out. There’s both a box game version and a downloadable mobile app. (The “trick” in Reverse Charades is that everyone acting out must work to communicate and plan together. Since there’s just one person acting and the group guessing, everyone is involved; no one can sit back, while a few take on the challenge.)

 

Scavenger Hunt

One of the oldest ways to get people to interact and collaborate is through a scavenger hunt. It’s one of the most effective and fun team building exercises. Now, with increased use of Smartphones and apps, it’s possible to do a scavenger hunt virtually anywhere. You can even add in photo taking or video recording as a component of the game, so you can share and build an album of the event.

Whether you do it all onsite or take it on the road (like to a nearby mall), you’ll need to create a list of items that groups must collect or tasks to complete. The wackier, the better, so long as it’s possible for the task to be completed or the item to be secured in the allotted time. Examples you might consider are “Take a selfie with someone wearing a cat shirt” or “Grab a take-out menu and a fortune cookie from a Chinese restaurant.” Be sure to establish a checkpoint for people to meet after they finish or at a specified time.

 

Rewards for Employees

Team building at the office, warehouse, or other worksite can lead to greater collaboration on the job. If you want to reward your employees (for their “win” during your team building or you’re looking for another sort of team building experience like Dinner Detective, miniature golf, go karts, or something else), you might consider taking advantage of the Cal Perks discounts program. It’s available to all employers offering employee benefits through CaliforniaChoice. Cal Perks is one of many no-cost value-added features of the CaliforniaChoice Business Solutions Suite. Ask your broker for details. Or, if you don’t already have a broker, we can help you find one.

 

It’s been a busy year for health care – and there are still a few weeks left in 2017. Below is a summary of some of the events that have impacted individuals and small businesses this year (or could affect them next year) when it comes to health care and health insurance.

 

March 7, 2017

AHCA Introduced in House of Representatives

Republicans introduced the American Health Care Act (AHCA), H.R. 1628, in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

March 12, 2017

CBO Releases Analysis

The Congressional Budget Office projects 52 million Americans would be left uninsured under the AHCA. The agency also forecasts higher insurance premiums through 2020, with rates expected to fall thereafter.

Committee Votes Bill to the Floor

The House Budget Committee votes 19 to 17 to send the AHCA to the Floor of the House of Representatives.  

 

March 24, 2017

House Fails to Hold Vote

After considerable debate and multiple postponements, the AHCA is pulled from the House floor. Moderate Republicans refused to support the bill after introduction of a Manager’s Amendment.

 

April 20, 2017

New Bill Leaked

The Huffington Post publishes an article about a new, unreleased version of the AHCA designed to appeal to the House Freedom Caucus. Politico later publishes a leaked version of the bill. The latter version includes state waivers for some ACA key provisions.

 

April 24, 2017

MacArthur Amendment

Representative Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) offers an amendment aimed at House Freedom Caucus, which was holding out for more extensive repeal of the ACA. The amendment allows states to charge consumers more based on age or pre-existing conditions, or to eliminate essential health benefits requirements.

House Passes AHCA

In a narrow 217 to 213 vote, the House passes the AHCA with all new amendments incorporated.

 

May 4, 2017

Senate Writes Its Own Bill

Within hours after the House passes the AHCA, Republican Senators stated they would draft their own version of an ACA repeal and replace bill.

 

June 2017

Senate Bill Sent to CBO

The Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) is sent to the Congressional Budget Office. Reportedly some of the 13-members of the working group had not seen the draft, and both Republicans and Democrats expressed displeasure at being left out of the process.

BCRA Released

After working on a Senate bill for weeks, Republicans released the BRCA on June 22nd; within hours, several prominent Republican Senators speak out against the bill.

 

CBO Analysis Released

The Congressional Budget Office releases its scoring of the Senate bill. It estimates 15 million more people will be left uninsured by 2018 (as compared to the ACA). By 2026, the uninsured number is projected to increase to 22 million.

Senate Delays BCRA Vote

The Senate postpones a vote on the BRCA until after the July 4th recess.

 

July 13, 2017

BRCA Amendment

The Senate revises its proposed legislation to incorporate the Cruz Amendment, which would allow insurers to offer minimal coverage that does not comply with the ACA, so long as the insurer also makes available at least one ACA Gold plan, one Silver plan, and one Bronze plan.

 

July 17, 2017

Vote Postponed on BCRA

With four Republican Senators [Susan Collins (R-Maine), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky)] voicing their opposition to the BCRA, Republicans postpone the BCRA vote.

 

July 18, 2017

“Repeal Only” Collapses

Senate introduces a “repeal only” bill, which Senators Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) oppose, effectively killing the plan.

 

July 20, 2017

Updated BCRA Sent to CBO

An updated BCRA is sent to the Congressional Budget Office. It incorporates the July 13th Amendment without the Cruz provisions and minor changes in the Medicaid section.

CBO projects BRCA will reduce cumulative federal deficit, but the number of uninsured Americans will increase by 15 million by 2018 and 19 million by 2020. The CBO forecasts 21 million more people would be left uninsured by 2026, as compared to ACA.

 

July 26-27, 2017

Series of Senate Votes Begins

Senators introduce and vote down a number of amendments and bills, including the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act (ORRA), which would repeal most provisions of the ACA without replacement.

Republican leadership announces the Health Care Freedom Act (HCFA), a so-called “skinny bill” that would repeal the individual mandate retroactive to 2016. It would also repeal the employer mandate through 2025.

The HCFA fails to pass in the Senate. Senators Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski are the only Republicans voting against the bill alongside all Democrat Senators.

 

August 2, 2017

Bipartisan Efforts Regain Steam

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) releases a statement saying the Senate Health Committee will hold bipartisan hearings related to stabilizing the individual market.

 

September 22, 2017

Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) introduce a new measure to overhaul the ACA. Soon after the association representing state Medicaid directors nationwide issues a statement opposing the measure. On Sept. 25, Susan Collins announces her opposition, joining three other Republican senators (McCain, Paul, and Cruz). The Senate delays action on a vote.

 

October 2017

Trump Executive Orders

President Trump takes action to undermine the ACA through Executive Order. The first order signed on October 6 expands employer and insurer rights to avoid the ACA requirement to cover birth control as part of the ACA’s preventive care benefits.

The October 12 executive order asks government agencies to implement rules to permit new association health plans and expand the coverage period for short-term health plans – both with reduced benefit requirements than current ACA plans.

CSR Funding

Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) announce a mid-October deal to fund cost-sharing reduction payments for two years, following President Trump’s announcement the payments to insurers will be cut.

Public Support Increases

A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll taken October 14-23 finds 62 percent of Americans want the Affordable Care Act to be maintained – up from 54 percent in a January poll.

Medicare AEP

Medicare’s Annual Election Period (AEP) began October 15 and continues through December 7 for individuals who want to enroll in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or standalone Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) plan.

 

November 1, 2017

ACA Open Enrollment

Open enrollment for 2018 begins (and continues through mid-December nationally; in California, it continues through 1/31/2018). With reduced funding for outreach, it’s expected 2018 enrollment will be lower – perhaps as much as 25% lower than 2017.

 

November 14, 2017

GOP introduces amendment to tax reform legislation to repeal the ACA individual mandate. Congress takes Thanksgiving recess without a full vote on the tax bill.

 

Watch our site for more news about efforts to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act in the waning days of 2017 and throughout 2018.

 

 

Highlights/Key Takeaways

  • Individual mandate still applies in 2018; it goes away in 2019.
  • End of individual mandate won’t affect majority of Americans since more people get health coverage through their employer, Medicare, and Medicaid than individual health plans.
  • Greater enforcement of the employer mandate began by the IRS in the fourth quarter of 2017.
  • Congress could still act to end employer mandate – but a timeline is uncertain.

 

Actions by Congress and the White House during the final weeks of 2017 to repeal the individual mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the GOP’s tax bill drew a lot of press coverage in December. However, something being overlooked is that the repeal does not take effect until 2019.

Also, it’s important to recognize, most working Americans get their health insurance through their employer (or through a public health program like Medicare, Medicaid, or the military), so getting rid of the individual mandate won’t affect employers or the majority of U.S. residents.

In contrast to comments from President Trump that the individual mandate elimination amounts to a repeal of ObamaCare, the reality is that the health care law, the individual mandate, and the employer mandate remain in force for 2018. Americans who don’t have minimal health care coverage (and who don’t qualify for a hardship exemption) and employers who don’t offer employees health coverage (where required) are still subject to a fine.

The 2018 individual mandate fines (which are payable with an individual’s 2019 tax filing) are hefty – the greater of $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of household income, up to a maximum equal to the total annual premium for the national average price of a Bronze tier plan sold through the HealthCare.gov Marketplace. The penalty for not having health insurance is $347.50 per child (under age 18), up to a maximum of $2,085 per family (including all adults).

In calculating and paying the penalty, only the part of a person’s household income that is above the yearly tax-filing requirement is counted. In addition, the penalty applies only to those in the household without health insurance coverage, so if one member of a family has coverage (on his or her own or through an employer), he or she is excluded from the penalty calculation.

If a person has coverage for a part of the year, the penalty is one-twelfth the annual amount for each month in which he or she doesn’t have health insurance. If a family lacks health coverage for only one or two months during the year, there’s no penalty at all.

Before passage of the tax bill, the New York Times reported in November that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had quietly begun to enforce the employer mandate of the ACA. The newspaper said many businesses were expected to begin receiving letters from the IRS that they owe the government money for failing to offer qualifying health coverage to eligible employees.

The first round of letters was sent in October to companies with at least 100 full-time employees who defied the employer mandate in the first year it took effect, 2015. Larger firms, defined in the ACA as those with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees, are required to offer “affordable” coverage or face penalties of around $2,000 for each employee working 30 or more hours per week (excluding the first 30 workers). These penalties are forecast to bring in more than $200 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In his first executive order after taking office in 2017, President Trump asked government agencies to waive, defer, or delay carrying out as much of the ACA as possible. However, the U.S. Treasury Department said in November it was compelled to implement the employer mandate. For most of the past four years, the IRS has received little funding to execute the ACA, and a recent audit by the inspector general for tax administration found the agency has “delayed, not initiated, or cancelled” many of the crucial systems necessary to fully enforce the employer mandate.

While the employer mandate could be eliminated by Congress in the future, many businesses may still want to offer employee benefits (and options for dependents) as a recruiting tool in a tightening job market. In its report, 2016 Strategic Benefits—Leveraging Benefits to Retain and Recruit Employees, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said organizations need to present themselves as an “employer of choice” to appeal to a wide range of employee demographics. And 95 percent of employees rank health care benefits as among the most important.

If you want to learn more about how a multi-carrier, health insurance program like CaliforniaChoice can help you attract and retain employees, deliver more choice, and still help you control your benefits costs, contact your broker. If you don’t already have a broker, we can help you find a CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about employee benefits options for your company.

One of the many benefits offered by CaliforniaChoice through the Business Solutions Suite is access to the Dentegra® Smile Club. The suite offers those enrolled in medical coverage through CaliforniaChoice the opportunity for discounted Dental services through any Dentegra Smile Club dentist from a network of more than 20,000 providers nationwide.

You only pay when you go to the dentist, unlike with Dental Insurance or a pre-paid Dental plan. You pay the Dentegra Smile Club dentist directly for care and receive an immediate discount for services. There are no waiting periods and no complicated claim forms to fill out and return.

Hundreds of procedures are available at low, member-only pricing. Discounts average 58% according to the average cost analysis by Dentegra. (Services were compared for a general dentist in the San Francisco, California, and Austin, Texas, regions. Visit Dentegra’s website for more information.)

 

The Dentegra Smile Club includes the following types of services:

You can even look up the cost of any procedure you need ahead of time, so you know what to expect to pay at the dentist’s office. Once you join the Dentegra Smile Club, you’ll have access to the discounted price for every covered procedure for each of the dentists participating in the Dentegra network.

Of course, the Dentegra Smile Club is only one of many benefits – for employees and employers – available through the CaliforniaChoice Business Solutions Suite.

 

Outstanding Benefits and “Extras”

CaliforniaChoice is the only place where you and your employees can choose from seven leading health plans in one program – plus get access to an array of low-cost and no-cost benefits depending on your company size. Check it out in the table below.

Business Solutions Suite
1-14

EMPLOYEES
15-19

EMPLOYEES
20+

EMPLOYEES
Discount Dental Discount Dental Discount Dental
Discount Vision Discount Vision Discount Vision
Discount Hearing Program Discount Hearing Program Discount Hearing Program
Premium Only Plan* Premium Only Plan* Premium Only Plan*
Online HRAnswerLink Online HRAnswerLink Online HRAnswerLink
Cal Perks Employee Discount Program Cal Perks Employee Discount Program Cal Perks Employee Discount Program
Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts Member Value Program Health & Wellness Discounts
Prescription Discount Card Prescription Discount Card Prescription Discount Card
HSA Resource Center HSA Resource Center HSA Resource Center
Cal-COBRA Billing Cal-COBRA Billing Flexible Spending Account
  Flexible Spending Account Federal COBRA Billing

*Covers initial set-up fee; charge applies after first year.
 
 

Like the Dentegra Smile Club, the discount Vision and Hearing Program services in the Business Solutions Suite can really help employees save. But there are added discounts on health and fitness, entertainment, and prescription drugs, too.

HR and Employee Services, Too

In addition to all of the services mentioned above, your business also benefits with the Business Solutions Suite. You get free access to an online HR support center from HRAnswerLink, a free Flexible Spending Account for your employees (that allows them to set aside funds on a pre-tax basis for eligible medical expenses), free Cal-COBRA or federal COBRA billing services (depending on your group size), no set-up fee on a Premium Only Plan (which allows employees to pay insurance premiums pre-tax), and access to a no-cost Health Savings Account (HSA) Resource Center.

 

Nowhere But CaliforniaChoice

The Business Solutions Suite was developed specifically for small businesses with up to 100 employees. It is offered exclusively to those enrolled in the CaliforniaChoice multi-carrier, employee-choice health insurance program – the only place offering access to seven different health insurers and dozens of health plans, including HMOs, PPOs, and Health Savings Account qualified options.

To learn more about CaliforniaChoice, contact your broker. If you don’t already have an employee benefits broker, we can help you find a CaliforniaChoice broker to speak with about getting coverage – and the Business Solutions Suite – for your employees.