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IRS Highlights Circumstances Permitting Recoupment of Erroneous HSA Contributions

Section 223 of the Internal Revenue Code provides that an individual’s interest in the balance of her health savings account (“HSA”) is not subject to forfeiture. Consequently, contributions made by an employer to an employee’s HSA may be recouped only in very limited circumstances. In IRS Notice 2008-59 (the “Notice”), the IRS described several specific circumstances in which an employer may recoup contributed amounts from the HSA trustee. However, in its recently released Information Letter 2018-0033 (the “Letter”), the IRS confirmed that the circumstances discussed in the Notice were not intended to be exclusive and clarified that if there is clear documentary evidence demonstrating an administrative or process error on the part of the employer or the HSA trustee (an “HSA Process Error”), an employer may request that the HSA trustee return the amounts to the employer, with any correction needed to put the parties in the same position they… Continue Reading

Are Your Voluntary Benefits Programs Subject to ERISA?

An employer should be cautious to not “endorse” a voluntary benefits program that the employer wants to be exempt from ERISA. The DOL’s safe harbor exempting certain plans from ERISA (often called “voluntary plans”) requires the sole function of the employer to be, without endorsing the program, to permit the insurer to publicize the program to employees and to collect premiums and remit them to the insurer. Federal courts have found impermissible endorsements where employers either encouraged their employees to participate in their voluntary benefits program or selected the insurer and limited eligibility criteria. For example, in October 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit decided a case involving whether the employer’s endorsement of a volunteer disability benefits program caused it to be subject to ERISA. The Court found that (i) a reasonable employee would not view the program as being merely a third-party offering and (ii)… Continue Reading

Practice Tip – Service Provider Contracts in M&A Due Diligence

In conducting due diligence in connection with a corporate transaction, it is common for buyers to request copies of the target’s current contracts with its benefit plan service providers like the recordkeeper and third party administrator. Buyers should also consider obtaining information regarding how long the target has been using their current service provider. If there has been a change in service providers in the prior several years, buyers should also consider requesting copies of contracts with the target’s previous service providers. This is true especially if there is a concern that there might be operational errors that would require correction, since information will likely have to be obtained from the plan’s prior service providers.

Legal Requirements Triggered by HIPAA Breach

An impermissible acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of HIPAA “protected health information” (“PHI”) under an employer’s group health plan (which is a “Covered Entity” under HIPAA) is not uncommon. If such a breach occurs with respect to the PHI of a Covered Entity, the employer needs to know that the Covered Entity may be required by HIPAA’s breach notification rules (the “Breach Rules”) to issue certain notices and perform other tasks. Analysis of the Impermissible Acquisition, Access, Use, or Disclosure of PHI An impermissible acquisition, access, use, or disclosure of PHI is presumed to be a “breach” unless the Covered Entity demonstrates that there is a low probability that the PHI has been compromised. The Breach Rules outline the four-factor risk assessment that a Covered Entity must perform (and document) in order to make such a demonstration. If, after completing the step above, the Covered Entity determines that a “breach”… Continue Reading

Does Your TPA Use Cross-Plan Off-Setting? Eighth Circuit Questions Its Compliance with ERISA

The third-party administrator (“TPA”) in this case, UnitedHealth Group and its related entities (“UnitedHealth”), engaged in “cross-plan offsetting”, which involves not paying a claim under Employer A’s group health plan in order to recover an overpayment made by Employer B’s group health plan to the same healthcare service provider. For example, assume UnitedHealth overpaid a provider by $200 on behalf of Employer B’s group health plan, and a participant in Employer A’s group health plan incurred a $250 claim with that same provider. UnitedHealth would only pay the provider $50 on behalf of the participant in Employer A’s group health plan. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit agreed with the federal district court that UnitedHealth’s interpretation of the plans was unreasonable and cross-plan offsetting was not permitted under the plans because (i) interpretations that authorize practices that push the boundaries of what ERISA permits should be viewed… Continue Reading

Plan Agent’s Misstatements, Plus a Deficient SPD, May Equal an ERISA Fiduciary Breach

A recent opinion issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit highlights the adverse consequences that may arise when an employer sponsor of a group health plan that is subject to ERISA fails to maintain a summary plan description of the plan (“SPD”) that is clearly written and that adequately and accurately describes the benefits available under the plan and the terms and conditions of coverage. Case Summary “In re: Emily DeRogatis” is a decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Under the facts of this case, Mrs. DeRogatis, the widow of a deceased participant in a multiemployer group health plan, filed a breach of fiduciary duty claim under ERISA against the plan administrator, asserting that prior to her husband’s death, they were provided misinformation by two non-fiduciary, “ministerial” plan representatives (the “Representatives”) regarding the effect of Mr. DeRogatis’s retirement on their… Continue Reading

Extension of Due Date to Furnish Form 1095 to Individuals and Good Faith Transition Relief

In Notice 2018-94, the IRS extended the due date, from January 31, 2019 to March 4, 2019, for furnishing to individuals their 2018 Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C. The Notice does not extend the due date to file Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C with the IRS, which are due by February 28, 2019 (paper filing) or April 1, 2019 (filing electronically), although extensions may be available. The Notice also extends the IRS’s good-faith transition relief from penalties that could apply for incorrect or incomplete information reported on such forms furnished to individuals or filed with the IRS. This relief does not apply if the applicable forms were not filed or furnished by their respective due dates. View Notice 2018-94.

Final ACA Rules Regarding Religious and Moral Exemptions and Accommodations for Objections to Coverage of Contraceptives

The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury recently released final rules regarding religious or moral objections to the coverage of contraceptives under the preventive services requirements of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) as well as accommodations for those objections. Generally, the ACA requires non-grandfathered group health plans and health insurance issuers to cover all FDA-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and related education and counseling. The final rules expand the religious exemption to this requirement to include all types of non-governmental employers, including for-profit corporations (regardless of their size or whether they are publicly or privately held). Moreover, the moral exemption applies to certain non-governmental employers, including privately held for-profit employers, insurers, and individuals. In addition, the new rules maintain the availability of the accommodation pursuant to which the entity’s insurer or third party administrator is responsible for providing contraceptive services to the entity’s plan… Continue Reading

IRS Notice Increases Dollar Amount Basis of PCORI Fee

The IRS recently issued Notice 2018-85, which increases the dollar amount that is the basis of the fee established under the Affordable Care Act to help fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (“PCORI Fee”). The PCORI Fee is imposed on plan sponsors of applicable self-funded health plans and issuers of specified health insurance policies. Plan sponsors remit the PCORI Fee to the IRS annually by filing an IRS Form 720. The PCORI Fee is based on a flat dollar amount multiplied by the average number of lives covered under the plan for the applicable plan year. The dollar amount for plan and policy years that ended on or after October 1, 2017 and before October 1, 2018, is $2.39. Notice 2018-85 increases the dollar amount for plan and policy years that end on or after October 1, 2018 and before October 1, 2019, to $2.45. View Notice 2018-85.

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

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