Written Employment Contracts – Not Using Them Could Destroy Your Small Company

I know… as the owner of a small company you have to wear many hats. You’re just too busy. And anyway, written employment agreements are for big companies. Small companies like yours don’t need them.Well, many small companies do need them. In fact small companies are more vulnerable because they don’t have (and probably can’t afford) expensive lawyers to protect themselves.Here are 4 important reasons why…1. Written employment contracts assure the confidentiality of your sensitive information and trade secrets Confidential or sensitive information and trade secrets about your business give you a distinct advantage in your marketplace. This information must be carefully guarded to prevent it from falling into the hands of your competitors. But often you need to disclose this same critical information to your employees so they can do their work. By including a confidentiality clause in your written employment contract (or having the employee sign a separate confidentiality agreement) you can prevent your employees from disclosing that information or using it for personal gain.2. Written employment contracts protect your ownership interest in work that employees do for your company Believe it or not, your employee could create software programs, musical arrangements, sound recordings, etc. as part of his or her job and then claim to own them. And your employee might be right.Under federal law, works (such as software programs, newspaper articles, musical arrangements, sound recordings, etc.) that a person creates as an employee immediately become the property of the employer. That same law provides that certain works created by a non-employee (independent contractor) belong to the person who created them unless the parties expressly agree in a written document signed by them that the work will be considered a work made for hire.The problem is that this law is still unsettled and, although you might think you have a solid employment relationship with your employee, at some later time he or she might challenge it on a technicality in order to obtain ownership of a work that he or she created.There is a simple way to protect against this. Just include a “Work for Hire” clause in your employment contract. This “Work For Hire” clause satisfies the requirement that the parties expressly agree in a written document signed by them that the work will be considered a work made for hire.3. Written employment contracts prevent former employees from stealing your employees You can prevent your employee from (a) trying to influence any of your present or future employees to leave his or her employment with you or (b) trying to influence any person or company to stop doing business with you.4. Written employment contracts prevent employees from competing against you You can prevent your employee from competing (or working for any company that competes) with you during his or her employment with you and for a stated period of time after such employment ends. This means that when the employee’s employment ends, he or she cannot take a job at a company that is in direct competition with you.(Note: In order for this restriction to be effective, such limitation, whether the geographic area covered or the length of time that it lasts, must be no broader than necessary to protect your business. Furthermore, while a covenant not to compete may ordinarily be imposed on a new employee as a condition of employment, if it is imposed on an existing employee it must be supported by some independent consideration beyond a simple promise of continued employment, such as a raise, a bonus payment, or improved commission terms.)

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Health Insurance in the Real World – What to Do After Graduation

Graduation from college is a vibrant and exciting time, full of adventure and yes, fearfulness. So many new choices and changes can be stimulating and thrilling but leaving some pieces of the past can be very scary. One of the things you leave behind when graduating is health insurance. Those great plans that the university offered or extended coverage from Mom and Dad’s policy helped you put off the insurance crisis for 4 years. But now you are in the “real world” and you have to find insurance. There are no Cliff Notes or Dummies books that are going to solve this problem for you. But there are people, like the professors who guided you through years of academia, who can navigate the world of health insurance and find the right health insurance for you.With 7% to 8.2% of recent college graduates unemployed one year after graduation it may be time to consult a health insurance specialist. If you are still unemployed or under employed six months after graduation you may not be able to count on the possibility of an employer sponsored health plan soon. But that doesn’t mean you are out of luck. There is a big world of insurance out there and most of it doesn’t depend on employer offered health insurance.A dedicated and committed health insurance specialist can help you find coverage that will meet your needs and stay within your budget. These professionals have experience with a wide variety of insurance products and companies. They know where to go to get the best rates and can advise you on the right coverage for you. Don’t worry about them passing judgment on you-they have worked with the entire spectrum of clients and there is nothing to be sensitive about if you haven’t found the right job yet. You are demonstrating good judgment and adult common sense by pursuing health insurance options.A good health insurance specialist will guide you through the various options and weigh higher premiums for lower deductibles and higher deductibles for lower premiums. Perhaps a catastrophic health care plan that will cover major illnesses is the best route to take. Your medical history and current health will be a major consideration and your health insurance specialist will guide you to the carrier that has the right plan for you. After all, the health insurance specialist’s career and success depend on building a satisfied customer base, not a one time sales commission. Health insurance specialists have made a career out of guidance and finding just the right coverage for you. They have researched, studied, and written about the world of health insurance and are not simply sales people. The difference is commitment, dedication, and passion to a seamless experience in obtaining health insurance. When you had trouble in Calculus you didn’t go to your Accounting professor for help. When you locked yourself out of your dorm room you didn’t go to Campus Health Services for help getting back in. Going to the right person for the right help is one thing a college graduate knows best, so use this knowledge to go to the right person for health insurance help. Don’t go to your best friend, or the newspapers, or the yellow pages. Do your research and find the best health insurance specialist you can and let them help you navigate Health Insurance 101. With the right information, direction, and guidance you will pass with flying colors and make the passage into the insured adulthood in a way that will make Mom and Dad proud!

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Student Health Centers Boost Revenue By Billing Commercial Insurance Plans

With college health centers facing significant increases in the costs to provide health care services, as well as decreases in their funding sources, many health center administrators are having to think outside of the box for ways to extend budgets and maintain a high quality of care for their student patients. As a result, more college health center directors and their staffs are turning to commercial insurance plans.”Health centers at many public institutions used to get 100 percent of their funding from the state, but times are changing,” said Jennifer Lepus, director of university health services for the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.The UM-BC student health center is one of hundreds nationally that have struggled with state budget cutbacks. Health centers at impacted schools may still receive some funding by offering student health insurance plans, but reimbursements from those plans – which are provided by a handful of companies that contract with colleges to offer exclusive group rated coverage to students – are typically not enough to support a health center budget.”Our difficulty in offering only a group rated insurance program was that voluntary enrollment was not enough to sustain it,” said Western Kentucky University’s Health Services Director Libby Greaney. “So, WKU’s solution has been to accept commercial insurance plans, and file those claims.WKU began billing insurance companies in 2001, after student health fees were cut the previous year.”If your doctors are board-certified and credentialed, they can establish themselves as primary care physicians. This enables you to see community patients who are in-network with the plans that your health center accepts. If balanced properly, you can increase your service net and your revenue streams.”According to Greaney, more and more schools are realizing the benefits of opening their health centers up to commercial plans, and taking a similar approach to WKU’s.”People are beginning to see the need. They are talking about it and addressing it,” she said. “Those in college health who are resistant to the idea may be viewed as ‘old school’ if they do not embrace the concept.”"More and more senior vice presidents at colleges are hearing about this approach, and are giving the directive to their health centers. I would encourage health center staff to be more in the driver’s seat.”But Greaney also recognizes a natural conundrum. While accepting commercial carriers can open up additional revenue streams for college health centers, it may also impact access to care. The reality is that not every student enrolls in school with insurance coverage. Students without coverage either go without care, or must pay out of pocket for medical costs that are growing more expensive each year.With the American College Health Association and some states calling for colleges and universities to provide health care coverage to all students, some schools are offering a menu of options.For example, Lepus and her staff at UM-BC have opted to accept both a student health plan and plans from commercial carriers.”If the goal is for every student to have coverage, we can achieve that by offering both options,” Lepus said. “The school plans are less expensive for people, but we have found that many young people today are covered by their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 23 years old. That means that a large number of students have coverage through private carriers, and it seems logical that when they come in to be seen, we can bill those insurance companies.”The University of Utah at Salt Lake City is another example of a health center that has found that billing to commercial insurance carriers as well as offering a traditional student insurance plan through the university is a win-win for both students and the health center.”By offering both options, we have a medium-sized pool of students who are required to come to us with their insurance, but we are also affordable and convenient for students with out of state insurance who will be paying out-of-network percentages or deductibles,” said Tiffany Smith, office manager/patient advocate for the University of Utah at Salt Lake City’s health center, which attracts about 7,000 students each year. “When we bill commercial insurance carriers, we make the process easier for our student patients, and this keeps them coming back to us in the future.”And when they come back, it means additional revenue for the health center.Although accepting commercial insurance carriers might seem overwhelming, Greaney offers a bit of advice to other health center directors who are considering it:”Start small, and utilize the resources that are available to you,” she said. “Namely, people who have gone through this either in college health or out in the community.”

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