On April 16, 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released proposed regulations covering wellness programs that involve disability-related inquiries or medical examinations. The release of the proposed regulations follows months of EEOC enforcement actions against employers alleging that wellness programs sponsored by the employers violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) despite compliance with 2013 regulations jointly issued by the Department of Labor (DOL), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that permitted such programs under ERISA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With a few notable exceptions (described below), the proposed regulations are somewhat consistent with the existing DOL guidance on employer-sponsored wellness programs. However, the EEOC has requested comments on multiple topics that could significantly alter the regulatory requirements.
On February 27, 2015, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its final HHS Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2016. The lengthy regulation covers a wide range of topics affecting group health plans, including minimum value, determination of the transitional reinsurance fee, and qualified health plan rates and other market reforms applicable to the group and individual insurance markets.
It was announced today that the U.S. Supreme Court will consider two important questions relating to same-sex marriage–whether states are required to allow same-sex marriages within their jurisdictions, and whether states are required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. The decisions are expected to be issued in June of this year.
Prior to the enactment of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 (“TIPA”) in December 2014, effective for 2014, mass transit commuters were only able to contribute a maximum of $130 per month on a pre-tax basis toward their transit expenses (a reduction from $245 per month permitted in 2013). TIPA retroactively increased the maximum pre-tax contribution limit for employees’ mass transit commuting expenses to the level permitted for parking expenses, i.e., $250 per month, as provided under Code Section 132(f). However, this increased monthly cap expired again on December 31, 2014, so it is currently capped at $130 for 2015, unless Congress extends it further. If this sounds familiar, it is. Congress took similar action to retroactively increase benefits in 2012, and the IRS issued similar guidance on retroactive adjustments in early 2013.
On November 7, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it was going to review King v. Burwell. At issue in the case is whether Fourth Circuit correctly determined that the IRS did not exceed its authority when it released a rule in 2012 providing that federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act are available in both state and federally operated exchanges, but rather was simply clarifying the statute by also providing subsidies in federal exchanges.
On November 4, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) announced that it intends to close a perceived “loophole” in health care reform. This so-called loophole allows employers to offer low cost health plans that don’t cover inpatient hospitalization services or physician services (or both). If that coverage were treated as “minimum value” coverage, then employers could avoid all pay-or-play penalties with low cost coverage and covered individuals would not be able to benefit from premium assistance or subsidies in the health insurance Marketplace.
On Thursday, September 18, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) released Notice 2014-55, which expands the cafeteria plan “change in status” rules to allow plans to offer employees an option to revoke their elections for employer-sponsored health coverage to purchase a qualified health plan through a Health Insurance Marketplace (“Marketplace”). The notice is effective immediately and will appear in IRB 2014-41, to be published Oct. 6, 2014.
The notice addresses two specific situations in which a plan could allow an employee to revoke a cafeteria plan election (other than a health FSA election): due to enrollment in the Marketplace; and due to a reduction in hours of service. This should be a welcome relief to employers that may have been struggling with how to allow employees to change coverage from under the employer’s plan to a Marketplace or other group health plan.
On August 15, 2014, California passed Senate Bill 1034, which repealed an insurance law (Assembly Bill 1083) that prohibited insurance companies from including waiting periods in excess of 60 days in their group health insurance contracts. The new law, effective January 1, 2015, prohibits California insurance companies from applying any “waiting or affiliation period” under a group or individual health benefit plan.
So where does that leave California employers, who are permitted under federal law (the ACA) to have a one-month orientation period and up to a 90-day waiting period?
On July 24, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released three Revenue Procedures (2014-46, 2014-37, and 2014-41), which provide guidance to individuals on their obligation to maintain minimum essential coverage (MEC) under the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) so-called “individual mandate.”
Most notably for employers is that, in Revenue Procedure 2014-37, the IRS increased the threshold…
For the second time in two years the United States Supreme Court (the “Court”) has ruled against the Obama Administration with respect to elements of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”). In a 5-4 decision announced today in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (“Hobby Lobby”) (f/k/a Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.), the Court ruled that the federal government, acting through Health and Human Services (“HHS”), overstepped its bounds by requiring faith-based private, for-profit employers to pay for certain forms of birth control that those employers argued contradicted their religious beliefs, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”).
In Hobby Lobby, the Court found that for-profit employers are “persons” for purposes of the RFRA. The Court, assuming that the government could show a compelling interest in its desire to provide women with access to birth control, ultimately held that the government could have met this interest in a less burdensome way.