After the Hurricane

After Hurricane Matthew swept up the east coast leaving damage in its wake, many of those affected are in need of assistance. Unfortunately, past natural disasters have shown us that scammers may pose as utility workers, insurance adjusters, or even FEMA officials.


Over the weekend, some consumers reported getting phony emails that claimed to come from the power company. The fraudulent emails include a link that promises updated information on power outages but really installs malware on your device. For legitimate update on power outages, call your power company directly.

Attorney General Roy Cooper urges North Carolinians affected by Hurricane Matthew to stay vigilant against impostor scams. Remember:

  • Be wary of emails, phone calls, mailers, text messages, or in-person visits from anyone you don’t recognize asking you about storm damage. Instead, contact the insurance company, utility service, or government agency directly if you need help or have questions.
  • Verify the identity of anyone who comes to your home to talk about storm damage. If you get a knock on the door from someone claiming to be with a utility company, insurance group, or government entity to talk about how Hurricane Matthew affected your home, ask to see their official company or agency ID badge.
  • Avoid anyone who tries to collect a fee to help you apply for disaster assistance. State or federal agencies like FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration will never charge you money to apply for relief.
  • Protect your personal information. Never give your credit card or bank account number to someone you don’t know who contacts you, and don’t share personal financial information by email or text message.

If you’re approached by a possible scammer, report it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM within North Carolina (919-716-6000 if calling from an out of state number) or filing a complaint online at

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Enrollment Counts for Transitional Reinsurance Fee Due November 15, 2016

Employers with self-insured major medical plans are reminded to report their membership count to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) via the website by November 16, 2016, as part of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) transitional reinsurance fee (the “Fee”).

The Fee is assessed on both insured and self-insured group health plans, and applies on a calendar year basis from 2014-2016. Carriers offering group health insurance and sponsors of self-insured medical plans are required to pay the Fee to support payments to carriers in the individual market that cover high-cost claimants. Carriers pay the fee on behalf of fully insured plans; employers are responsible for paying the fee for a self-insured plan.

Read the full compliance alert…

Watch for Price Gouging

Hurricane Matthew may be headed to North Carolina and consumers need to be alert for possible price gouging.


While most businesses pull together when disaster threatens, some may try to use this storm to charge outrageous prices. Price gouging—or charging too much in times of crisis—is against North Carolina law when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical goods and services is declared.

North Carolina’s price gouging law is currently in effect for all goods and services in 66 counties in central and eastern North Carolina due to potential impacts from Hurricane Matthew for all goods and services.

North Carolina’s price gouging law remains in effect statewide for gasoline until October 16. We are currently investigating nine gas stations and one gas wholesaler for alleged gas price gouging reported by consumers.

If you believe you’ve spotted price gouging, call our office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free in NC or file a complaint online at

To avoid scams that may follow severe weather, see our tips on disaster repair and tree removal at

For tips on how to prepare for the threat of a hurricane, visit

This message brought to you on behalf of North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper.


Enrollment Counts for Transitional Reinsurance Fee Due Nov. 15, 2016

Employers with self-insured major medical plans are reminded to report their membership count to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) via the website by November 15, 2016, as part of the Affordable Care Act’s (“ACA”) transitional reinsurance fee (the “Fee”).

The Fee is assessed on both insured and self-insured group health plans, and applies on a calendar year basis from 2014-2016.  Carriers offering group health insurance and sponsors of self-insured medical plans are required to pay the Fee to support payments to carriers in the individual market that cover high-cost claimants.  Carriers pay the fee on behalf of fully insured plans; employers are responsible for paying the fee for a self-insured plan.

Click here to read more…

Executive Perspective: Private Exchanges

On July 22, 2016, a group of industry specialists participated in a panel discussion titled “Early Results on Health Care Exchanges: Good, Bad, or Ugly” sponsored by PlanSource in Park City, Utah. Guy Morrison, Regional Benefits Practice Leader with Marsh & McLennan Agency (MMA) was invited to participate on a panel to provide some insight on the slower-than-forecasted adoption rate. Mr. Morrison provides his perspective on the topic.

In 2012, Accenture and Oliver Wyman predicted that approximately 40 million people would be covered on a private exchange. These early estimates have fallen well short with only 6 to 8 million individuals expected to be covered through 2016. So, why has adoption lagged expectations?

It is generally accepted that private exchange platforms can support employer goals relative to plan choice, communication and education, ACA reporting and delivering incremental enrollment migration into consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). There is also a mindset that continued movement toward CDHPs enhances member awareness of cost of care and encourages appropriate utilization subsequently easing medical and pharmacy cost trends.

Still, the primary concern for employers relative to offering a competitive health care plan continues to be affordability. As a result, the main question that must be answered regarding private exchanges or any other strategy is, how will the adoption of a private exchange model support employer cost mitigation efforts? More importantly, how will we measure our success or failure in producing the forecasted results?  Health and benefit consultants need to continue to have very candid conversations with employers regarding what exactly can be achieved by implementing a private exchange platform. Additionally, simply moving an employer-based plan onto a private exchange will not necessarily drive gross cost savings.

For example, you are a middle market, self-funded employer who is currently using the most cost effective medical network (with a narrow network strategy), your offering includes a CDHP optimization strategy, you are leveraging consortium pharmacy and specialty drug procurement, you have implemented a value-based benefit design and you are very active with worksite health promotion programs. The question is, what would be the incremental economic value of placing your program onto a private exchange?

Separate from the cost discussion, private exchanges certainly offer many advantages as well as the opportunity to leverage a defined contribution model and create a true shopping experience. The private exchange industry is still in its infancy, and the health care industry is very fluid. I am confident that employers and their health and benefit consultants will continue to partner in the ongoing effort to develop solutions that will result in optimal health plan performance, and I fully expect the cost impact discussion to mature.

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Pokémon Go Fantasy Game Creates Real-Life Vulnerabilities

As if texting and e-mail weren’t enough to capture people’s attention as they are walking or driving, now Pokémon Go is creating yet another reason to take your eyes off the road or not watch where you’re walking in the airport, at the mall or on the street.

It’s only been available for a week in the United States, but Pokémon Go has become the latest technology craze to mesmerize gamers of all ages.

The game allows players to cross over from the fantasy world of Pokémon to explore the real world as they look for creatures with names such as Diglett, Ponyta and Doduo, which can appear anywhere ― on someone’s shoulder, along a walkway, in a trashcan or behind a light pole.

The app was created by San Francisco-based software developer Niantic Labs, and can either be downloaded from the Pokémon website or through Google Play, which required users to login via their Google credentials, giving the app access to all of a users’ Google-related information such as Gmail, Google Docs and Google Photos, or through iTunes for the iOS platform.

Niantic Labs issued a statement once they discovered that Pokémon Go accounts on iOS were requesting full permission to access a user’s Google account. They are working on an update that will limit the information requested to only the basic Google profile data the app needs to operate. Users will not have to take any action to fix the flaw.


Information-sharing risk

But this action begs the question, what are the risks of sharing information through third-party apps? Adults rarely bother to read the download permissions and children will click “ok” just to access the app.

Christie Alderman, vice president of Chubb’s personal risk services, says parents and end users should be concerned about the amount of information apps are collecting and sharing with third parties because frequently it isn’t clear who these entities are or how the data collected will be used.

“People should really be thinking about this,” she said. “They don’t have a sense of how the little bits of data they give away are being collected by data aggregators to create a more comprehensive picture of you.”

She explains that “if you add in someone’s age from a survey, social media information from their profiles and geolocation services that track where you are, all of a sudden they have comprehensive information about you that apps are selling to third parties. Overall, that’s a concern with these apps. And is the convenience worth sharing all of that information?”

Because the game is so popular, versions with malware embedded in them have flooded the market. This can create vulnerabilities in a phone and allow hackers access to any information the owner accesses with his or her phone. “Don’t download anything unless it’s through a reputable store,” advises Alderman. “There are a lot of malware distributing apps that use a similar name in order to get you to download them.”

Practice safe gaming

It’s not just applications that present a danger to children either.

“In any social media platform where people are interacting with strangers, you have to have a conversation with your children about how to act online such as don’t tell them your name or how old you are,” adds Alderman. She recommends turning off the geolocation services on your phone when not using them because they can become embedded in your photos that might be posted on social media platforms.

She also recommends skipping any in-app purchases ― game accessories such as balls, food, weapons and the like. “When an app holds your credit card information, that makes the game harder and encourages you to spend more money, and that puts more vulnerability in the interaction.”

Alderman says to isolate your activity and provide just the bare minimum of information. “Give just what you have to in order to use the device or app,” she advises. “They don’t need to know your birth date, marital status or relationship status.” If the app links to an account, she says to set up a shadow account that doesn’t pull all of your personal information and contacts into the app.

Dangerous and inappropriate places

Sadly, some will use apps for more nefarious purposes. Pokémon Go encourages people to visit different landmarks, parks and other areas to capture more creatures. In Parkville, Maryland, three people were robbed at gunpoint when they were lured to an area after midnight by the game. The thieves took their phones and money before fleeing the scene.

Since gamers are so intent on their game, they may not pay attention to their surroundings and may be willing to go into unfamiliar areas. The Texas Department of Transportation posted a warning on its Facebook page to remind players to be alert to who and what is around them, to not drive and play, and to watch where they walk.

Alderman suggests that players use common sense. “Travel with friends, don’t go into unfamiliar areas, and think about your physical safety.”

In their pursuit of creatures, some gamers are even venturing into places where it is inappropriate to play, such as cemeteries, museums and churches. A number of institutions such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and Arlington National Cemetery have asked players not to search for Pokémon creatures in those locales.

The game is designed to have Pokémon creatures appear when the gamer is moving at less than 20 mph. That means players shouldn’t be able to see them when they are driving unless they appear on the dashboard or rearview mirror, but drivers still shouldn’t be playing and driving.

Numerous pedestrians have been injured by walking into manholes, trees or tripping over curbs and other obstructions. However, getting injured at work while chasing a Pokémon probably won’t qualify as a workers’ compensation claim.


Insuring Your College Student

Sending a child off to college is a significant milestone that represents the culmination of years of planning and hard work. As you prepare for the start of the semester, you should consider how your insurance needs may change with your son or daughter away at school.


Protecting Your Student’s Belongings

Many homeowners policies consider a dorm room as an extension of your home, so items your child keeps there may be covered to some extent. However, if your child has expensive electronic equipment or furniture, you may want to consider purchasing additional coverage.

If your child lives off campus, his or her possessions may not be covered by your homeowners policy. In that case, you may want to consider renter’s insurance.  Renter’s insurance will cover possessions in your child’s off-campus apartment or house as well as provide liability coverage if anyone is injured in the residence.

Changing Auto Coverage

If your child moves more than 100 miles away from your home to attend school and doesn’t keep a vehicle there, your auto insurance premiums could decrease by as much as 30 percent. Contact your local Marsh & McLennan Agency representative, and see if you can save money while still maintaining coverage for your child when he or she is at home.

Insurance Questions to Ask

Here are some important questions to ask when your child goes to college:

  • Will my child’s belongings be covered if he or she lives in off-campus housing?
  • Do I have to change my auto policy if my child brings the car to school?
  • If my child is an athlete, will he or she be covered under my family health plan if he or she is injured during a practice or game?

Prepare Your Home and Property for Hurricane Season

The best time to prepare for a storm is well before one is on the horizon. The following information and resources are intended to help you reduce risk to your home and family well in advance of a hurricane or wind storm.


  • Schedule an annual tree inspection. Have the trees surrounding your home examined by a certified arborist to make sure they are healthy and stable.
  • Schedule a roofing specialist to assess your roof. The older your roof, the weaker it likely is and the more exposed it may be to wind and water damage. A roofing specialist can conduct a thorough review of your roof and soffits, identify any loose or missing tiles or issues with flashing, and repair them before hurricane season arrives.
  • If you have storm shutters for your windows, make sure they are operating well. If your shutters need to be put up manually, ensure that your contract to have them fitted is up-to-date and that your contractor will be able to put them in place at short notice if a storm is in the forecast.
  • Invest in a permanently installed generator. Consider investing in a generator to avoid power outages caused by a storm.
  • Reduce the potential for flying debris. In advance of a storm, clear the areas around your home of fallen branches, yard ornaments, lawn furniture and other items that may become wind-borne debris. In coastal areas, if you are re-landscaping your driveway or garden, consider alternatives to gravel or stones.
  • Develop a hurricane plan. Your family may not be together when a storm or other disaster strikes. How will you find each other? How will you know if everyone is safe? What will you do if water, gas, electricity or phone services are shut off? Having a hurricane plan in place can help you answer all of these questions. For help creating your own hurricane plan, visit gov/make-a-plan.
  • Make use of today’s technology. In an emergency situation, like a hurricane, your smartphone can be a very valuable tool. In addition to providing you access to useful news and weather apps (like CNN and The Weather Channel), it can double as a flashlight, backup storage for vital documents and photos, and can help you to locate family members.
  • Make sure you have proper coverage in place for flood damage. Did you know that Homeowners policies do not cover flood damage? Talk to your MMA representative agent about your options for flood coverage.


Smarter Travel With Your Phone

Gone are the days when travelers needed bulky folios for papers and documents. Now your smartphone, with its endless apps can act as guidebook, map, translator, and even medication reminder (change time zones enough and this function can be crucial).


But apps use a tremendous amount of data, which can cost about $20 per megabyte if you and your phone are roaming without an international plan. Thanks to a 2011 agreement between major U.S. wireless service providers and the Federal Communication Commission, subscribers can receive free alerts when they exceed limits on their voice, data or text usage. This allows travelers to avoid the shock of returning home to an outrageous bill. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to use your smartphone to its international potential without racking up overages in the first place.

Sign up for an international phone plan

Several of the major U.S. carriers charge users who don’t have roaming packages charge significantly more for international calls and data usage, so enroll in a plan. AT&T, for instance, has temporary plans that cover you for the time you plan to be away and are available in different prices and data sizes; just make sure that their service works in the country where you’ll be traveling. If you don’t know how much data you need or use, reset your phone’s meter, which you can find in the Settings menu. Monitor your use through the meter or with apps like NetCounter or AT&T’s myWireless.

Be smart about WiFi

In other words, why use your telephone data when WiFi is available? You can get unlimited access to more than 1 million hotspots worldwide for $9.95 per month on Boingo. And of course you can seek out always-free hotspots at places such as Starbucks, the Apple store and McDonald’s internationally. Shut off your data roaming before you leave (if you need access to your network outside a hotspot, you can temporarily activate it). And turn off all push notifications via the Settings menu. Automated text updates from your apps will drain data quickly. Also, keep your phone in airplane mode unless you need to make or receive a call; otherwise you’ll be charged anytime someone calls you or even leaves a voice mail. And, of course, apps like Skype can help you save more than a dollar a minute on phone calls.

Dump your smartphone

Not really. But you can suspend your own service back home and use a local carrier for the length of time you’ll be traveling. Research local carriers, and when you arrive at your destination, you can buy a SIM card tied to a local carrier at the airport or a convenience store. Know which size SIM card your phone takes, and make sure it supports data for your smartphone. Just pop the SIM card into the phone (and secure your normal SIM card to replace it on the trip home). Communicating should be easier and less expensive via the local carrier.

Smartphone security measures

Make sure to take a few precautions when traveling (which, frankly, are wise to use when you’re home, as well). The first rule is to set up a PIN, which locks your phone against unauthorized users. Setting this up automatically sets up data encryption on Apple mobile devices. Under Settings, disable Bluetooth, since hackers often use this linking technology to gain access to devices. In a confidential meeting? Turn off your phone and remove the battery. And never underestimate the technical prowess of even your hotel service; when leaving your hotel room, store devices in the safe.


DOL Proposes Changes to Annual Reporting for ERISA Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently proposed revisions to Form 5500 (Annual Return/Report for Employee Benefit Plan), the related schedules, and the rules that govern the forms. In general, these changes would first apply for the 2019 plan year, although certain changes may be implemented earlier. These proposed revisions were published on July 21, 2016, and comments are being accepted for 75 days, through October 4.

The proposed revisions are intended to “modernize the financial statements and investment information filed about employee benefit plans; update the reporting requirements for service provider fee and expense information; enhance accessibility and usability of data filed on the forms; require reporting by all group health plans covered by Title I of ERISA; and improve compliance under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code through new questions regarding plan operations, service provider relationships, and financial management of the plan.”

Read the full compliance alert…