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The Mycalchoice.com link roundup brings you the latest updates in Employee Benefits and Group Health Insurance news. Here are the top stories of the week for June 19th.

How COVID-19 has shaped the health care today

COVID-19 Changes in 2020-2024

Health Care Benefits Strategy for the Upcoming Year

How to navigate 2021

Clashes over Mask Requirement in Orange County

Orange County Mask Requirement

COVID-19 Spikes on Employees

Employee Health Insurance

Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses no matter the size. However, if you’re a small business owner working within a more modest budget, it’s an effective way to reach prospects and clients at a low cost.

We have some tips to help you maximize your email marketing campaigns, further engage your target audience, and grow your business.

The Right Tool for Your Business

With so many email platforms on the market, choosing the right one for your business can feel overwhelming. Your needs and budget should drive your decision. Among the many free options are HubSpot, MailChimp, MailerLite, OmniSend, and Sender. If you need greater control and more detailed analytics, there are more robust programs available. Full feature programs include Constant Contact, Campaigner, Campaign Monitor, HSalesforce Pardot, Zoho Campaigns, and others.

Check out a comparison of free options in The 14 Best Free Email Marketing Services – How far can $0 get you?, as published by EmailToolTester.com.
PC Magazine compares the more robust options here.

When making your selection, you’ll want the ability to track open rates, clicks, forwards, and unsubscribes. You can even go as far as creating drip campaigns that are launched automatically on the schedule you determine.

Keep Devices in Mind

In late 2019, the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) reported on the increase in smartphone use when it comes to reading email. In the U.S., 75% of smartphone users access their email on their devices at least some of the time. For those ages 18 to 34, the percentage using a smartphone for email is even higher: 81%.

Knowing this, it’s important to pay attention to your subject lines. Long subject lines won’t fit in smartphone screens. In a study of more than two million emails, Marketo found the best-performing subject line had only four words. Be sure your messages tell readers what to expect in the most direct way possible. The bottom line, keep it simple.

Getting People to Open and Read

When you’re setting up your “Sender” name, you have flexibility. You can choose something as simple as your company name (a solid choice for known brands), a variation of your company name (ShopperInsight@xyzcompany.com), an inanimate name that discourages replies (like DoNotReply@xyzcompany.com), or a person’s name (like your CEO, regional leader, etc.). The key is to choose something that will get recipients to open your message.

When it comes to layout and design, keep in mind that headlines, body copy, and button selection matter. CMI suggests a minimum 30 pixels for headlines, 16 pixels for body copy, and buttons measuring at least 44 x 44 pixels.

Personalization is extremely effective, too. Depending on the program you use, you may be able to personalize by adding the recipient’s first name or location. For example, the first line in your email can read: “Hi Amy, you might have noticed this new product popping up all over Huntington Beach.” Personalization is a powerful tool, with 90% of U.S. consumers finding personalization very or somewhat appealing. Keep that in mind when choosing between a free or paid email program.

Build Your List

A sure-fire way to build your email list is to include an incentive for signing up, whether it’s a discount voucher or coupon, e-book, or something else to first-time registrants. It’s also important to mention how often they can expect to hear from you. Few things contribute to unsubscribes more than bombarding recipients with too many messages. (See info below on adhering to CAN-SPAM rules.)

While it’s preferable to send emails to an in-house/subscriber list, you can rent or buy a list to expand your outreach. Just make sure you select a reputable vendor that will allow you to choose your preferred demographics: target area, income, age, etc.

Quality Beats Quantity

Developing content that keeps prospects and customers engaged can be challenging, but quality beats quantity in most every circumstance. When you are creating content, focus on information your subscribers want to read. Then, determine the cadence for delivery from there.

Be sure you comply with the Federal Trade Commission rules on commercial email, as outlined in the CAN-SPAM Act. Failing to do so can result in hefty fines. Remember, though, that getting an unsubscribe is not always a bad thing. It can help you with your sender reputation quality, since unsubscribes are not reported as spam.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most private industry, voluntarily established retirement and group health plans, including self-insured and fully insured plans.

ERISA also governs disability, group life, and dental plans as well as other fringe benefits. Congress first enacted the law in 1974, with several amendments since that time to address the changing needs of American workers and families.

ERISA is administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

If you’re considering health insurance for your employees, there’s a high probability it will be subject to ERISA, although it does not apply to group health plans established or maintained by governmental entities, churches for their employees, or plans maintained solely to comply with workers’ compensation, unemployment, or disability laws. It also doesn’t apply to plans maintained outside the U.S. for the benefit of nonresident aliens.

Shopping for Coverage

When comparing health insurance options for your employees, there are many things to consider, such as coverage, plan type, cost, provider network(s), etc.

Whether you are interested in offering your employees coverage from a single insurance company or from multiple health plans through a public or private health insurance exchange, you will likely be able to choose from Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO), and other plans, including some with a Health Savings Account (HSA).

One of the advantages of selecting a private exchange is broader access to plans and provider networks, so your employees can find coverage that best fits their individual or family health care needs and budget. In addition, with the CaliforniaChoice private exchange, you can determine your own Defined Contribution toward employee premiums. For more information, read 5 Advantages That Make CaliforniaChoice Different.

All plans complying with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) offer coverage for 10 Essential Health Benefits. Read our related post, How to Get Group Health and What’s Covered, for details. ADD LINK TO OTHER POST FOR JUNE 2020

Employer Reporting

Under ERISA, employers are required to provide participants with information about how their plans operate; this is done through distribution of a Summary Plan Description (SPD) or Summary of Material Modification (SMM) and a Summary Annual Report (SAR). DOL reporting is required using Form 5500-SF (Annual Return/Report for Small Employer Benefits Plan for groups with fewer than 100 participants) or Form 5500 (Annual Return/Report of Employer Benefits Plan for group of 100 or more).

SPD Requirements

While many employers wrongly assume documents provided by an insurer for employees’ fully insured products fulfill the SPD requirements, in reality, employers must deliver a Summary Plan Description that complies with ERISA and DOL requirements. The SPD must describe provisions of the plan in easy-to-understand language, including:

SPDs must be provided within 90 days of an employee becoming a plan participant, and within 60 days of a material change in coverage (including changes in premium, deductibles, co-insurance amounts, and co-payments – which can, alternatively, be communicated in an SMM, as described above). An SPD can be distributed electronically if the plan administrator ensures such distribution results in delivery to participants. If a participant, beneficiary, or other individual requests a paper version of the SPD, it must be provided in a timely manner.

Additional Resources

More information on ERISA compliance requirements in connection with group health plans can be found on the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website, or on the association’s HR Q&As page.
You can also get information from an employee benefits broker, including a customized quote for your employees. If you do not already have a broker, we’ll help you find one here.

Last week, the U.S. Congress passed and President Trump signed a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) reform bill.

The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act gives business owners more time to use emergency funding received under the PPP set up to assist businesses affected by COVID-19. It extends the period in which employers must use the money to qualify for loan forgiveness from eight weeks to 24 weeks.

It also gives small businesses increased flexibility by changing the rule requiring employers to use 75% of the money for payroll, while limiting other costs to no more than 25% to qualify for loan forgiveness. The amended ratio is at least 60% of funds going toward payroll and no more than 40% going toward other costs.

Equally important, the new legislation pushes back a June 30 deadline to rehire workers in order for salaries to count toward loan forgiveness. Businesses now have until December 31, 2020, to rehire workers.

The SBA is expected to provide formal notice of the changes to funded businesses in the near future. More information will soon be posted on the SBA website.

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