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Alera Group Acquires The Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency

Posted on May 8th, 2019

DEERFIELD, IL (January 7, 2019) — Alera Group, a leading national insurance firm, today announced that it has acquired The Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency, LLC, from Shore Bancshares, Inc., effective December 31, 2018.

The Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency, headquartered in Easton, Maryland, is a full-service insurance agency that began providing insurance solutions to residents and businesses in Talbot County in 1850. Today, their team continues to provide clients in the Mid-Atlantic region with property & casualty and employee benefits solutions, with specialties in yacht and boating insurance and professional trucking coverage.

“We are thrilled to welcome the entire Avon-Dixon team, led by Rich Trippe.  Avon-Dixon is a powerful addition to our presence on the East Coast.  Rich and the team bring additional capabilities and provide additional geographic expansion to Alera Group’s strong presence on the East Coast,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “Avon Dixon has a history of working with a partner which dovetails with our continuing desire to build on our culture of collaboration as we partner with firms to create an exceptional experience for our clients.”

"We are excited about our new relationship with Alera Group, which gives us the resources of a large national insurance firm while maintaining the personal local service our clients have come to expect," said Rich Trippe, President and CEO of Avon-Dixon.

Avon-Dixon’s employees will continue operating out of their existing locations under the name Avon-Dixon, an Alera Group Agency, LLC.

Alera Group was formed in early 2017 and is one of the nation’s foremost independent insurance agencies. For more information on partnering with Alera Group, visit Partner With Us at www.aleragroup.com.

 

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About Alera Group
Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 1,500 employees serve thousands of clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group is the 15th largest privately held firm in the country. For more information, visit www.aleragroup.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS.

M&A Contact
Rob Lieblein, Chief Development Officer
Email: rob.lieblein@aleragroup.com
Phone: 717-329-2451

Media Contact
Jessica Tiller, Weiss PR
Email: jtiller@weisspr.com
Phone: 443-621-7690

A Simple Way for Small Employers to Assist Employees with Buying Health Insurance

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Are you having difficulty finding a good, affordable health care benefit plan for your small business? If so, have you considered using a QSEHRA as an alternative?

Congress created the QSEHRA, or Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement, in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. A QSEHRA allows small employers, including nonprofits, to set aside a fixed amount of money each month for employees to purchase their own individual health insurance. Employees choose plans that work best for them and also have the option to use the funds on documented medical expenses.

A QSEHRA is basically a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) employees can use for individual premiums. This type of arrangement was prohibited by the Affordable Care Act, but Congress reversed that regulation with the Cures Act.

Best of all, with QSEHRA, employers can make reimbursements to employees without incurring payroll taxes, and employees don’t have to recognize income tax. In addition, reimbursements made by the employer count as a tax deduction.

Another advantage of a QSEHRA is it allows employers to choose how much money they want to deposit in employees’ accounts, which eliminates the burden of skyrocketing annual premium rate increases.

Kiplinger, a business forecast publisher, predicts that employer health coverage costs will rise five percent in 2019. That would be the sixth consecutive year employers have seen a five percent increase. With a QSEHRA, the employer determines what they are able to afford for health benefits each year up to the maximum amount set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Interested? Here are a few things to consider before making a commitment.

 

Employer Requirements

  • An employer must have fewer than 50 full time equivalent employees. A full-time employee is considered anyone who works 130 hours per month or 30 or more hours per week for 120 consecutive days.
  • An employer already offering a group health plan to employees must cancel the plan before starting a QSEHRA.
  • Owners can only participate in a QSEHRA if they are considered an employee of the business. The employee status of the owner often is determined by the corporate structure of the business.
  • There is no minimum contribution amount, but there is a maximum. 2019 rates have not been set, but usually are increased for inflation. Take Command Health predicts it will be $5,150 annually for employees or $10,500 annually for employees with families.
  • Employers may or may not choose to offer reimbursements to part-time, seasonal employees younger than 26 years old and employees on a spouse’s group plan, although group premiums reimbursed become taxable income to the employee. [While the IRS does not allow for employer group plan premiums to be reimbursed through QSEHRA, they have made an exception (See Q48) that allows for employers to reimburse group plan premiums on a taxable basis. This reimbursement would be added to the employees taxable wages and reported as income on the employees W-2.]

 

Employee Requirements

  • To access money from a QSEHRA, employees must purchase a health insurance plan that meets minimum essential coverage. Short-term plans, indemnity and faith-based sharing plans do not qualify. If an employee purchases coverage from a state or federal Marketplace and receives tax credits, any tax credits they receive on their premiums will be reduced dollar for dollar by the QSEHRA.
  • Employees cannot contribute to a QSEHRA.
  • All employees who qualify for the QSEHRA will receive the same reimbursement amount, although the rates may vary by family size.

 

Getting Started

  • You may start your plan anytime, unless you already have a health plan. If you have a plan, cancel it first before starting your QSEHRA. To avoid a gap in coverage, set your cancellation date one day before your QSEHRA begins.
  • You must offer reimbursement to all full-time W-2 employees, but you must decide if you also want to offer it to part-time workers. If you decide to do that, you’ll need to reimburse them at the same rate as full-time employees.
  • Decide how much you’ll give employees to reimburse their medical expenses and premium costs.
  • Work with an administrator to complete the proper documents to comply with IRS and Department of Labor rules. The IRS requires small businesses to keep records up to seven years.
  • Inform your employees about the allowance and give them information about how and where to go for individual health insurance. They also will need a copy of the QSEHRA Summary Plan Description.

 

District Court Judge in Texas Strikes Down the ACA – But Law Remains In Effect for Now

Posted on May 8th, 2019

On Friday, December 14, a federal judge in Texas issued a partial ruling that strikes down the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) as unconstitutional.  The White House has stated that the law will remain in place, however, pending the appeal process.  The case, Texas v. U.S., will be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, and then likely to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The plaintiffs in Texas (a coalition of twenty states) argue that since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act zeroed out the individual mandate penalty, it can no longer be considered a tax. Accordingly, because the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012 by saying the individual mandate was a legitimate use of Congress’s taxing power, eliminating the tax penalty imposed by the mandate renders the individual mandate unconstitutional. Further, the individual mandate is not severable from the ACA in its entirety. Thus, the ACA should be found unconstitutional and struck down.

The court in Texas agreed, finding that the individual mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress’s Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause—meaning it is unconstitutional. Also, the court found the individual mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA, which would include not only the patient protections (no annual limits, coverage of pre-existing conditions) but the premium tax credits, Medicaid expansion, and of course the employer mandate and ACA reporting.

Several states such as Massachusetts, New York and California have since intervened to defend the law. They argue that, if Congress wanted to repeal the law it would have done so. The Congressional record makes it clear Congress was voting only to eliminate the individual mandate penalty in 2019; the record indicates that they did not intend to strike down the entire ACA. 

It is worth noting that the Trump administration filed a brief early in 2018 encouraging the court to uphold the ACA but strike down the provisions relating to guaranteed issue and community rating. 

The ACA has largely survived more than 70 repeal attempts and two visits to the U.S. Supreme Court.  We anticipate it will survive this one too, in time.  While the Supreme Court lineup has changed, all five justices who upheld the ACA in 2012 are still on the bench.  Moreover, the Supreme Court may be reluctant to strike down a federal law as expansive as the ACA, particularly when it has been in place for nearly nine years and affects millions of people.  Notably, the Supreme Court was not required to rule on the “severability” issue in 2012.  Given a strong tradition of the Supreme Court to avoid, if possible, broad rulings of unconstitutionality in established laws, it is not unlikely that the current Court, if this case makes it that far, will find a way to hold that even if the Court’s 2012 logic with respect to the individual mandate is no longer applicable, the rest of the law is severable and saved, thus avoiding once again a broad ruling on the ACA’s constitutional soundness.    The bottom line:  employers should continue to comply with the ACA, as its provisions (including the employer mandate and associated reporting) remain the law for the foreseeable future.

 

About the Authors.  This alert was prepared for Alera Group by Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP, a national law firm with recognized experts on the Affordable Care Act.  Contact Peter Marathas or Stacy Barrow at pmarathas@marbarlaw.com or sbarrow@marbarlaw.com.

The information provided in this alert is not, is not intended to be, and shall not be construed to be, either the provision of legal advice or an offer to provide legal services, nor does it necessarily reflect the opinions of the agency, our lawyers or our clients.  This is not legal advice.  No client-lawyer relationship between you and our lawyers is or may be created by your use of this information.  Rather, the content is intended as a general overview of the subject matter covered.  This agency and Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP are not obligated to provide updates on the information presented herein.  Those reading this alert are encouraged to seek direct counsel on legal questions.

© 2018 Marathas Barrow Weatherhead Lent LLP.  All Rights Reserved.

Alera Group Expands Southeastern Presence

Posted on May 8th, 2019

New Acquisition Brings More Than 100 Years of Experience to Alera Group

DEERFIELD, IL — Alera Group, a leading national employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management firm, has acquired Barnes Insurance & Financial Services (BIAFS).

BIAFS is a performance-based, proactive, best practice benefit with two locations in northwest Florida. Founded in 2005, this independent firm is one of the largest insurance agencies in the panhandle. BIAFS brings Alera Group more than 100 years of experience and team members with diverse insurance backgrounds. 

The company’s mission is to embody the phrase “dedicated to you,” exhibited through their highly personalized client approach. Their principal lines of business include health, dental, life disability, supplemental policies and financial services.

“We are excited to welcome Barnes Insurance & Financial Services to Alera Group,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “Dennis Barnes and his team are a terrific addition to Alera Group both culturally as they share our focus on collaboration, and geographically helping us expand our presence in the southeast.”

Alera Group was formed in early 2017 and is one of the nation’s foremost independent insurance agencies and privately-held employee benefits firms. For more information on partnering with Alera Group, visit Partnership Opportunities at www.aleragroup.com.

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About Alera Group
Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 1,000 employees serve thousands of clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group is the 15th largest independent insurance agency and the 7th largest independent employee benefits firm in the country. For more information, visit www.aleragroup.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS

M&A Contact
Rob Lieblein, Chief Development Officer
Email: rob.lieblein@aleragroup.com
Phone: 717-329-2451

Media Contact
Jessica Tiller, Weiss PR
Email: jtiller@weisspr.com
Phone: 443-621-7690

 

Alera Group Expands P&C Platform with Alliance Acquisition

Posted on May 8th, 2019

DEERFIELD, IL (July 10, 2018) — Alera Group announced it has acquired a controlling interest in The Insurance Alliance of Central Pennsylvania (“The Alliance”), effective July 1. The Alliance provides support to 10 firms in Pennsylvania, including three firms that were previously acquired by Alera Group.

In acquiring The Alliance, Alera Group immediately expands its capabilities with respect to the integration of the P&C firms it has acquired to date and plans to acquire in the future. The Alliance will serve as an important component of Alera Group’s P&C platform, enabling access to multiple markets, improved technology and intellectual property.

“We join Alera Group with great expectations for what we will craft together in our growing synergistic relationship,” said Jane Koppenheffer, CEO and President of The Alliance. “Through Alera Group, The Alliance will continue to grow and include new firms, representing a wide variety of sizes, diversity and areas of expertise.”

“We are thrilled to be working even more closely with The Alliance. Jane and her team bring tremendous expertise and experience which will enable Alera Group to more quickly grow and integrate as we leverage our new capabilities. We have been and will continue to be proud members of The Alliance alongside firms that share similar values,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “We believe that this transaction is a big step forward for Alera Group, our firms in The Alliance and the entire Alliance.”

Alera Group did not acquire any interest in the firms that are members of The Alliance beyond the previously existing Alera Group firms. 

Formed in early 2017, Alera Group is one of the nation’s foremost independent insurance agencies and privately-held employee benefits firms. For more information on partnering with Alera Group, visit Partnership Opportunities at www.aleragroup.com.

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About Alera Group
Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 1,000 employees serve thousands of clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group is the 15th largest independent insurance agency and the 7th largest independent employee benefits firm in the country. For more information, visit www.aleragroup.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS

 

M&A Contact

Rob Lieblein, Chief Development Officer

Email: rob.lieblein@aleragroup.com
Phone: 717-329-2451

 

Media Contact
Jessica Tiller, Weiss PR

Email: jtiller@weisspr.com

Phone: 443-621-7690

Get Your Boat Covered This Summer

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Enjoying the end of a holiday week with a day on the water?

Renters beware!

The weather is beautiful, the family is excited, and you’re off for a day on the water.

At the local marina, you sign up for a day’s rental, fill out the rental agreement, waiver forms, and they copy your valid driver’s license and credit card. You take the necessary safety training course and, about an hour after you arrive at the marina, you are on the open water. Your family is excited, the wind is in your hair and everyone having a great time.

But all that is about to change. You weren’t the only one out there with the idea of spending the day on the water. Dozens of boats—some faster, some pulling people on water toys, some operated by real rookies and some weekend warriors—all make for a crowded and sometimes very confusing waterway. One small driving error or right of way error, or even the slightest hesitation or wrongful anticipation and WHAM-O!

You’ve gotten yourself into a property damage claim, or worse, an at-fault bodily injury claim.

Now, the waiver you signed makes you responsible for the first $2500 of property damage to the boat you are driving, because after that, the marina’s policy will kick in. But how about the other boat? And God forbid any bodily injuries!

You’re lucky, the 25’ recreational boat you rented with a 40Hp outboard engine are within the guidelines of your homeowner’s policy. You should be covered for property damage you caused, as well as any injuries to family or to others, and any lawsuits that may follow. However, here’s who isn’t so lucky …

•    Anyone who rents an apartment and does not carry renter’s insurance
•    Anyone who owns a condo/townhouse or home and does not carry liability insurance
•    Anyone who does have insurance for the above, BUT rents a boat greater than 26’ in length
•    Anyone who does have insurance for the above, BUT rents a boat with an engine greater than 50Hp
•    And forget about wave runners, jet skis, or airboats

That’s right, your personal liability policy does not extend to you renting watercraft over 26’ in length nor boats with engines over 50Hp – regardless of the type of boat or size of the propeller the marina puts on to govern your speed on the water.

Four of the top five marina insurance carriers will not step in to protect you, the boat operator, if something happens with your rental boat. The marina and their insurance carrier will be looking to you for coverage for damaged property as well as defense costs and legal expenses lawsuits.  

Happy boating!
 

Alera Group Acquires Three More Firms

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Alera Group Increases to a Total of 15 Acquisitions Year to Date

Alera Group, a leading national employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management firm, completed three new acquisitions, all effective December 1, 2017. With this latest round of acquisitions, Alera Group acquired a total of 15 new firms in six states in 2017.

The three new firms are:

Armstrong/Robitaille/Riegle Business and Insurance Solutions, located in Irvine, CA, specializes in developing unique ways for its property and casualty clients to implement the risk management process.  Armstrong/Robitaille/Riegle Business and Insurance Solutions uses a proactive approach to identify risks and develop cost-effective strategies, ultimately delivering superior results and providing clients with a competitive industry advantage.  Outstanding solutions are achieved with a foundation of trusted, expert advisors who understand the needs of their clients.

Hallberg Commercial Insurers, Inc., located in Oakbrook, IL, provides employee benefits, risk management and insurance services to clients in the Chicagoland area. Through loyalty, integrity and compassion, Hallberg Commercial provides effective coverage for businesses, organizations and clients throughout the Midwest. Hallberg Commercial will join Alera Group through local firm GCG Financial.

The employee benefits division of Walker Higgins Associates, in Spartanburg, SC, provides strategic employee benefits solutions. Their solution-oriented approach allows clients to provide excellent benefits to each of their employees while minimizing costs. Walker Higgins Associates will join Alera Group through local firm Forum Benefits.

“Each of these firms expands a regional presence for Alera Group.  Specifically, Armstrong/Robitaille/Riegle Business and Insurance Solutions gives us a very strong presence in southern California in combination with The Centennial Group.  Hallberg Commercial Insurers, Inc. is a great fit with GCG Financial in the Chicago area.  Finally, the employee benefits division of Walker Higgins Associates expands our presence in South Carolina with Forum Benefits.  We’re excited to welcome these three firms to Alera Group,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group.

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of three acquisitions in November 2017. The firm continues to grow organically and through acquisitions since its formation in December 2016. For more information on partnering with Alera Group, visit Partnership Opportunities at www.aleragroup.com.

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About Alera Group
Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 800 employees serve more than 20,000 clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group was created by merging 24 high-performing, entrepreneurial firms across the U.S. It is the 14th largest independent insurance agency and the 7th largest independent employee benefits firm in the country. For more information, visit www.aleragroup.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS.

Alera Group Highlighted in Leader’s Edge Magazine

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Alera Group has been featured in a number of publications across the country since its debut, including Employee Benefit AdviserInsurance Journal, the Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Business Journal. This month, Leader’s Edge Magazine featured a six-page spread about Alera Group, focusing on the company’s vision and legacy.

Leader’s Edge Magazine is a publication devoted to the objective observation of the commercial insurance brokerage industry.

The article is available online here: http://leadersedgemagazine.com/articles/2017/04/the-alera-group/.
Follow Alera Group on FacebookLinkedIn and Twitter to stay updated on exciting news as the company continues to grow.

Alera Group Brings Together 24 Firms

Posted on May 8th, 2019

Newly Formed Alera Group Brings Together 24 Employee Benefits, Property/Casualty, Risk Management and Wealth Management Firms

Historic M&A Deal Creates the Nation’s 14th Largest Private Insurance Firm, Seventh Largest Private Employee Benefits Firm

DEERFIELD, IL (January 4, 2017)— Today, 24 independent employee benefits, property/casualty, risk management and wealth management firms announced that they have joined to form Alera Group, an independent national insurance brokerage and wealth management firm with over 20,000 clients. The new organization has $158 million in annual revenues and more than 750 employees in 40 offices across 15 states. This merger marks the first time that 24 independent firms in this industry have combined forces.

Addressing the Need for an Exceptional Client Experience

“Our clients’ needs are changing and, frankly, our industry has been slow to respond,” said Alan Levitz, CEO of Alera Group. “We brought together this hand-picked group to do more – and to be more – for our clients and employees. Clients will see two benefits rarely delivered by a single organization. First, they will get the combined resources, technical experience and best practices of a larger firm. Second, they will continue to receive the personal service and independent decision-making power of a local business. Our goal is to set a new, higher standard for their experience.”

A Powerful, Sizable Combination

Alera Group is the 14th largest privately held insurance firm and 7th largest privately held employee benefits firm in the U.S. It was formed with investment from Genstar Capital, LLC, a leading middle market private equity firm, and brokerage assistance from consulting and investment banking firm Marsh, Berry & Company, Inc. Industry veterans Alan Levitz (Chief Executive Officer), Billy Corrigan (Chief Financial Officer), Rob Lieblein (Chief Development Officer) and Peter Marathas (Chief Legal Counsel) will be serving in key leadership roles within the executive team of Alera Group. The group brings a combined 100 years in the insurance and financial services industry to the new organization.

“We are partnering with an exceptional leadership team founded on the reputation of excellence, which is fostered within these 24 foundational firms,” said J. Ryan Clark, president and managing director at Genstar. “Our prior investments and experience in the insurance distribution space will help accelerate the growth of Alera Group as we provide capital to support the strategic and financial objectives of this new company.”

Rob Lieblein, chief development officer of Alera Group, adds, “Our committed focus on clients will lead to growth both organically and through strategic acquisitions. Alera Group’s business model provides a unique opportunity for other entrepreneurial financial services firms to grow their business. This is a chance to be part of a larger, innovative organization while retaining equity in Alera Group.”

These are the founding insurance and financial services firms within Alera Group:

A&B Insurance and Financial, Inc., Tampa, FL

American Insurance Administrators, Inc., Mechanicsburg, PA

Ardent Solutions, Sugar Land, TX

Beacon Retiree Benefits Group LLC, Plantsville, CT

Benefit Advisors Network, Solon, OH

Benico, Ltd., Huntley, IL

CBP, Stamford, CT

C.M. Smith Agency, Inc., Hartford / Central CT

Centennial, Costa Mesa, CA

Coury Health Services, Inc., Pittsburgh, PA

CPI-HR, Solon, OH

Forum, Greenville, SC

GCG Financial, Inc., Deerfield, IL/ Greenwood Village, CO

Group Services, Inc., Bettendorf, IA

HMK Insurance, Bethlehem, PA

INGROUP Associates, Inc., Lancaster, PA

JA Counter, New Richmond, WI

Pentra, Inc., Villanova, PA

PWA Insurance Services, Gold River, CA

Relph Benefit Advisors, Fairport, NY

Shirazi Benefits, Greeley, CO

SIG, Baltimore, MD

TRUEbenefits, LLC, Seattle, WA

Virtus Benefits, LLC, Nashville, TN

“We are honored to be the investment banking firm brokering this transaction and assisting the management group in closing this momentous transaction,” said John Wepler, chairman and CEO of Marsh, Berry & Company. “We support the Alera Group and its undoubtedly bright future.”

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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About Alera Group

Based in Deerfield, IL, Alera Group’s over 750 employees serve more than 20,000 clients nationally in employee benefits, property and casualty, risk management and wealth management. Alera Group was created by merging 24 high-performing, entrepreneurial firms across the U.S. It is the 14thlargest independent insurance agency and the 7th largest independent employee benefits firm in the country. For more information, visit www.aleragroup.com or follow Alera Group on Twitter: @AleraGroupUS

About Genstar Capital

Genstar Capital is a leading private equity firm that has been actively investing in high quality companies for more than 20 years. Based in San Francisco, Genstar works in partnership with its management teams and its network of operating executives and strategic advisors to transform its portfolio companies into industry leading businesses. Genstar manages funds with total capital commitments of over $5 billion and targets investments focused on selected sectors within the financial services, industrial technology, software and healthcare industries. For more information, visit www.gencap.com.

About Marsh, Berry & Company, Inc.

Founded in 1981, Marsh, Berry & Company’s primary objective has been to help insurance agents, brokers and carriers as they work to maximize their value through industry specific services, including merger & acquisition advisory, management consulting, organic growth consulting, intellectual capital and peer exchange networks. Ranked as the top M&A Advisor by SNL Financial for the past 17 years, Marsh, Berry & Company has advised on more than 5,000 transactions since 1999 and completed more than 250 diagnostic and confirmatory due diligence projects over the last 12 years. For more information, visit www.MarshBerry.com.

Media Contacts:
For Alera: Jessica Tiller, Weiss PR, Inc.
Email: jtiller@weisspr.com
Phone: 443-451-7144
For Genstar: Chris Tofalli, Chris Tofalli Public Relations, LLC
Email: chris@tofallipr.com
Phone: 914-834-4334

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