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Additional Federal Guidance Regarding COVID-19 and Telehealth Coverage: Some Employer Take-Aways

The U.S. Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (the “Departments”) recently issued FAQs regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and COVID-19. A number of these FAQs address a group health plan’s required coverage of COVID-19 tests, including which tests must be covered, related facility fees, reimbursement rates, and balance billing to patients. Employers should ensure that the third party administrators of their group health plans have incorporated this guidance for plan administration purposes. In addition, some of the other FAQs may be of interest to employers. For example, the FAQs provide that, if a group health plan reverses the increased coverage of COVID-19 or telehealth after the COVID-19 public health emergency period is over, the Departments will consider the plan to have satisfied the requirement to provide advance notice of changes to the Summary of Benefits… Continue Reading

PCORI Fee is Back and There’s No Relief From Its Deadline: July 31, 2020

The plan year ending before October 1, 2019 was supposed to be the last year that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (“PCORI”) fee was required to be paid. However, legislation passed in December 2019 extended the PCORI fee for another ten years. Recognizing that plan sponsors believed the PCORI fee was ending and may not have anticipated the need to identify the number of covered lives to determine the PCORI fee, the IRS issued transition relief for the plan year ending before October 1, 2020. Under this transition relief, in addition to using one of the three methods specified in the regulations, plan sponsors may use any reasonable method for calculating the average number of covered lives. For the plan year ending on or after October 1, 2019 and before October 1, 2020, the PCORI fee is $2.54 times the average number of covered lives. Payment of the PCORI fee… Continue Reading

Payments for Certain Healthcare Arrangements are Tax Deductible

The IRS recently issued proposed regulations that address the treatment of amounts paid by an individual for a “direct primary care arrangement” or a “health care sharing ministry” (collectively, the “Arrangements”) as being tax-deductible “medical care expenses” under Section 213 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”). Under the proposed regulations, a direct primary care arrangement (“DPC Arrangement”) is defined as a contract between the individual and one or more primary care physicians pursuant to which the physician(s) agree to provide medical care for a fixed annual or periodic fee without billing a third party. A health care sharing ministry (“Sharing Ministry”) is defined as a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Code that meets specified requirements, including that its members share a common set of ethical or religious beliefs and share medical expenses in accordance with those beliefs. HSAs and the Arrangements. The preamble to the proposed regulations confirms… Continue Reading

Health and Welfare Issues and COVID-19: Reminder: Decrease in Pay/Hours Does Not Permit Dropping Health Plan Coverage If There is No Loss of Eligibility

As many employers reduce employees’ work hours, employers should consider that employees will remain responsible for their health plan contributions even though their pay is decreasing. As long as eligibility for coverage does not change, an employee is not permitted to change his or her health plan elections due solely to the decrease in pay or hours. One exception to this general rule is a change in status event created in connection with the Affordable Care Act, which provides that, in certain circumstances, an employee with reduced work hours may drop health plan coverage if the employee enrolls in other health plan coverage. Because the reduced pay may not cover all payroll deductions, employers should consider adopting a priority order for payroll deductions (e.g., health plan deductions are made before 401(k) plan deductions). In addition, an employer may want to consider a waiver of premiums, which is permitted if done… Continue Reading

EMPLOYEE BENEFIT/EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION CHANGES MADE BY THE CARES ACT

On March 27, 2020, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”). This historic $2 trillion relief package received bipartisan support and is part of the third wave of federal government support as the nation copes with the acute economic fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  Some of the key provisions of the CARES Act that apply to health and welfare plans, educational assistance programs, retirement plans, executive compensation programs, and employment and payroll taxes are outlined below. Health and Welfare Plans Q1.      What COVID-19 testing and treatment is our company’s employer-sponsored group health plan required to cover? The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) requires an employer-sponsored group health plan (including a grandfathered plan under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”)) (a “Plan”) to provide coverage for COVID-19 diagnostic testing and services related to the diagnostic testing without any cost sharing (including deductibles, copayments, and… Continue Reading

COVID-19 EMPLOYEE BENEFIT AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

In light of the recent economic developments stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers are evaluating their employee benefit plans and how employee and employer costs will be impacted. The following summary provides a list of questions we have been receiving from clients over the past week, along with action items to help employers address these issues. Health and Welfare Plans and Fringe Benefits Should benefits coverage continue while an employee is on an unpaid furlough? If so, how would the employee pay the employee’s portion of the premium? Could the employee elect to drop coverage due to the reduction in hours of active service? Could the employer pay for coverage for some or all of its furloughed employees? Continued eligibility for benefits will depend on whether the employer treats the furlough as a termination of employment or as an unpaid leave of absence. The terms of the plan, including… Continue Reading

Agencies Update Group Health Plan Required Disclosure Documents

Federal agencies recently issued updated versions of certain documents that are required to be disclosed to individuals under applicable employer-sponsored group health plans. A set of FAQs regarding the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) was issued by the federal Departments of Labor (“DOL”), Health and Human Services (“HHS”), and Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”), which describe recent changes made by the Departments to the “summary of benefits and coverage” template under the ACA (“SBC”). Among other minor changes to the SBC, certain verbiage on the SBC and the associated uniform glossary were revised to reflect the prior elimination, as of January 1, 2019, of the tax penalty related to an individual’s failure to comply with the so-called “individual mandate” under the ACA. The FAQs also provide additional guidance regarding the updated SBC coverage examples calculator that was released by HHS late last year. The revised SBC and SBC coverage examples calculator each… Continue Reading

IRS Decreases ACA Employer Affordability Percentage for 2020

Generally, the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) requires group health plan coverage sponsored by large employers to be “affordable” in order to avoid certain penalties. “Affordability” is based on whether the premium for employee-only coverage is less than a certain percentage of an employee’s household income or an applicable safe harbor amount. In Notice 2019-29, the IRS announced that the affordability percentage for 2020 would decrease to 9.78% from 9.86% in 2019. Employers should note this change as they set premiums for 2020. Notice 2019-29 is available here.

New HRA Option for Employers in 2020 May Avoid ACA Employer Penalties

New proposed rules have been issued by the federal Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services that permit employers to offer health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) to employees who are enrolled in individual health insurance coverage. An employee could use such an HRA to pay the employee’s premiums for individual health insurance and other medical expenses. The same HRA must be offered to an entire “class” of employees, and a traditional group health plan could not be offered to that class. Classes of employees include full-time, part-time, seasonal, union, employees in a waiting period, employees under age 25, non-resident aliens with no U.S. income, employees in the same insurance rating area, or a combination of those classes. The HRA contribution could increase with age, reflecting the fact that health coverage for older employees is generally more expensive, and the IRS will provide an approach for varying contributions by… Continue Reading

Recent Executive and Regulatory Action Related to the Affordable Care Act

As September 2017 drew to a close, it appeared significant legislative efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) were on hold until at least 2018 and would likely be joined by a bipartisan approach to amend and “save” the ACA. Against that backdrop, October 2017 was a busy month for both executive and regulatory action intended to loosen certain ACA requirements to allow greater flexibility to offer lower cost health insurance coverage options to consumers than is feasible under the existing ACA. Some of these actions are likely to put pressure on the long-term viability of the public insurance marketplace (e.g. Healthcare.gov and state-run insurance exchanges), potentially unraveling a key component of the ACA if not the ACA itself, which may cause Congress to act, perhaps improving the chances of repealing and replacing the law. The October actions included: Interim final regulations expanding the types of entities… Continue Reading

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