News & Events

| Health Care Reform Fall Round-Up

As the year comes to a close and we move toward further widespread implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2016, we want to keep our friends and clients up-to-date on the latest ACA developments by summarizing recent legal news and regulatory guidance relevant to employee benefit plans. This Compliance Update covers the following topics:

| SIG Named #1 "Best Place to Work" By Business Insurance Magazine


SIG, one of the premier employee benefit consulting firms in the country, earned two distinct honors in the 2015 Best Places to Work in Insurance publication by Business Insurance: Number one small employer overall (under 250 employees) and top ranked employer among agents and brokers.

“We are dedicated to developing health and well-being programs for our clients that lead to a happier, healthier and higher performing workforce,” said Richard Silberstein, President of SIG. “We are passionate about employee well-being and we lead by example. Often the programs that we pitch to our clients are introduced and incorporated into our own culture. We are committed to inspiring our team’s engagement every day, and that directly impacts the exceptional service our clients have come to expect from us.”

SIG’s internal programs encourage creativity, flexibility, and health to ignite engagement. Among the employee’s favorite programs are the Results Only Working Environment, which offers flexible scheduling and telecommuting; onsite fitness classes, wellness challenges, cooking demonstrations and various social and community service events.

SIG Wellness Director, Rachel Druckenmiller, the top health promotion professional in the U.S. according to the Wellness Council of America often pilots these innovative wellness initiatives with SIG employees, encouraging health and well-being company wide.

The rankings and profiles of the 2015 winning companies were published in the November 9 edition of Business Insurance.

| SmartCEO Honors Richard Silberstein with 2015 Circle of Excellence Award

SIG is pleased to announce that President, Richard Silberstein, has been named as a finalist for the Baltimore SmartCEO 2015 Circle of Excellence Award. The award recognizes the region’s most accomplished CEOs for business excellence in distinct categories. The winners are chosen based on their industry impact and market leadership.

This year’s finalists are profiled in the November/December issue of Baltimore SmartCEO magazine and were celebrated at an awards ceremony on Nov. 17, 2015 at the Baltimore Harbor Hotel.

“The Circle of Excellence finalists are shaping the future of Baltimore’s business community and ensuring the sustainability, safety and efficiency of our community for years to come,” says Jaime Nespor-Zawmon, President of SmartCEO Events. “We proudly recognize their successes and contributions, and we believe that their impact will make a difference for customers and clients across the nation.”

For a complete list of winners and to read the Circle of Excellence feature in SmartCEO’s digital edition, visit

| Hi-Lex v. Blue Cross - An Important Reminder to Plan Fiduciaries

For at least the last generation plan sponsors, and particularly plan fiduciaries, have devoted (or should have been devoting) significant time and energy monitoring the fees charged to participants in their 401(k) plans and ensuring appropriate disclosures. The Hi-Lex Controls, et. al. v. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan case should serve as an important reminder to group health plan fiduciaries that under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) monitoring plan fees is equally important in both their retirement and group health plans.


Baltimore, Maryland (October 7, 2015) –SIG, one of the largest independent employee benefit firms in the Mid-Atlantic region, is pleased to announce the addition of John Tunney as Vice President, Client CFO Advisory Services.

John has over 25 years of CFO experience building emerging growth and middle market companies in both the public market and the private sector as well as for profit and not for profit. In his role, John will head SIG’s newly formed CFO Advisory Services Division that is helping many companies evaluate the right technology solutions for ACA reporting, along with payroll and benefits administration. Using his past experience in the area of HR administration and information technology, he will support the review and recommendations of preferred vendors and solutions for HR compliance, payroll and benefits admin from a CFO perspective. John will also be responsible for oversight of related HR Consulting services that help clients meet their business objectives and employee focused strategies.

John’s experience extends to oversight of year-end audits of defined contribution plans, pension plans, financial statements and tax returns (including sales and federal) within manufacturing, distribution, online marketing and software development companies. He holds a B.A. from Washington & Lee University, an MBA from Loyola University of Maryland and earned a CPA with high distinction.

Prior to joining the SIG team, John worked with his own clients through Tunney Consulting for those who needed CFO advisory services.

About SIG

SIG is one of the largest independent employee benefit firms in the Mid-Atlantic region. SIG advises clients on how to create and administer benefit plans that maximize their investment while controlling costs in a manner that is consistent with their core values. The SIG team consists of over 40 licensed employees who serve more than 400 corporate clients in more than 40 states throughout the U.S.

| Breaking News: Obama Signs PACE Act


October 7, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees (PACE) Act.

Federal – HR 1624 is a bill to amend title I of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act to revise the definition of small employer.

The PACE Act repeals the mandated small-group expansion from groups of up to 50 employees to groups of up to 100 employees that was to go in to effect on January 1, 2016. This law gives states the flexibility to determine the size of their small-group market instead of being forced into the national standard.

The PACE Act defines small groups as those with up to 50 full-time equivalents; however, states now have the ability to set their own definition of small group as long as the definition is no less than 50 and no more than 100. Some states took action early and have already passed legislation that mirrored the ACA and expanded the definition of small group to groups of up to 100 effective January 1, 2016. Those states will expand to 100 unless action is taken to pass legislation to define small group as up to 50. For the majority of states that took no action regarding the definition of small group within their borders, we await confirmation from the departments of insurance and legislatures as to whether the states will accept the new federal standard or if they will take action of their own to expand the definition of small group of up to 100.

Maryland will not expand to 100 employees on January 1, 2016 and will follow federal guidelines so small group will still be defined as 50 full time employees or less.

| SmartCEO honors SIG as a finalist in the 2015 Healthiest Company Awards

SIG recognized as one of Greater Baltimore’s leaders in workplace wellness

Lutherville, MD, September 29, 2015

SIG has been named a finalist in the 2015 Healthiest Company Awards. The Healthiest Company Awards program honors companies that have demonstrated a commitment to their employee populations through health and wellness programs. Through these programs, today’s health-conscious companies are not only investing in the strength of their businesses’ futures but also the futures of employees and their families.

An independent committee of local business leaders selects finalists based on engagement, effectiveness and ROI. SmartCEO shares the finalists’ inspiring stories in the September/October issue of SmartCEO magazine and celebrates their success at an awards reception in September.

“This year’s healthiest companies are serious about creating robust programs that provide employees with the resources they need to enrich their well-being. By investing in employee wellness, these companies are investing in their own success. Simply put, healthy employees feel energized and thrive,” says Jaime Nespor-Zawmon, president of SmartCEO Events. “SmartCEO is excited and honored to shine a spotlight on the companies that are leading a movement towards healthier and happier workplaces with our inaugural Healthiest Company Awards.”

SIG has won numerous awards for our wellness efforts over the past few years. Our Wellness Director was recently recognized as the Top Health Promotion Professional in the U.S. by the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA). SIG has been recognized four times as an American Heart Association Gold-Level Fit Friendly Company, twice as one of the Baltimore Business Journal’s (BBJ) Healthiest Employers, and as a Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) Well Workplace Small Business, an honor shared by no other benefits consulting firm in Maryland. We’re proud of where we’ve been and excited about where we’re headed.

Click here to read our article that was featured in the September/October issue of SmartCEO magazine.


| Veterans Removed From ALE Determination

September 22, 2015

Consider Hiring a Vet (or His or Her Spouse or Dependent)

The Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) pay-or-play penalties apply only to so-called applicable large employers (ALEs). An ALE is an employer that employs, on average, at least 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) in the prior calendar year. (For 2015 only, certain employers with between 50 and 99 FTEs on average in 2014 are exempt from pay-or-play penalties.)

Employers who are not interested in potentially incurring pay-or-play penalties under ACA but who are looking to expand their workforce beyond 50 FTEs should consider hiring a U.S. military veteran or his or her spouse.

| IRS Reverses Course on HRA Reporting

September 17, 2015

The IRS released updated instructions for the 2015 ACA reporting forms today and reversed its earlier guidance regarding reporting for HRAs.

Per the instructions, an employer with an insured major medical plan and HRA coverage for which an individual is eligible because the individual enrolls in the insured major medical plan is not required to report the coverage under the HRA for an individual covered by both arrangements. If an individual is covered by an HRA sponsored by one employer and a non-HRA group health plan sponsored by another employer (such as spousal coverage), each employer must report the coverage the employer provides.

This is welcome relief for employers that provide HRA coverage to employees enrolled in their fully insured group health plan, as separate reporting is not required for the HRA.

| Medicare Part D Creditable Coverage Notices Due Prior to Oct. 15th

You will find a link to the notice in the message below, please note that the notice has not changed from last year. Please feel free to update and use last year’s forms.


In preparation for the Medicare fall open enrollment period, employers sponsoring group health plans that include prescription drug coverage are required to notify all Medicare-eligible individuals whether such coverage is creditable. As a practical matter, group health plan sponsors often provide the creditable coverage notice to all plan participants to avoid overlooking any eligible individuals. Creditable coverage means that the coverage is expected to pay, on average, as much as the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage.

To comply with the law, this written disclosure notice must be provided annually and mailed to the homes of all Medicare Part D eligible enrolled employees, retirees, and COBRA participants prior to October 15th, and at various other times as required under the law, to the following individuals:

  • Medicare-eligible active working individuals and their dependents (including a Medicare-eligible individual when he or she joins the plan);
  • Medicare-eligible COBRA individuals and their dependents;
  • Medicare-eligible disabled individuals covered under an employer’s prescription drug plan; and
  • Any retirees and their dependents.

Model notices are available from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Additionally, employers are required to complete an online disclosure to CMS to report the creditable coverage status of their prescription drug plans. This disclosure is also required annually, no later than 60 days from the beginning of a plan year, and at certain other times.