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DOL Issues Temporary Enforcement Policy and Clarifications regarding Required Group Health Plan Disclosures under the CAA

In a recent Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2021-03 (the “FAB”), the DOL announced its temporary enforcement policy (the “Enforcement Policy”), as well as certain clarifications, regarding the new required group health plan service provider disclosures under Section 408(b)(2)(B) of ERISA (the “Disclosure Requirement”). The Disclosure Requirement, which was implemented by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the “CAA”), requires certain persons or entities that provide brokerage or consulting services to group health plans (each, a “Service Provider”) to disclose specified information to a responsible plan fiduciary about the direct and indirect compensation the Service Provider expects to receive in connection with its services to the plan. Links to our prior blog posts about the Disclosure Requirement are available here and here.  With respect to the Enforcement Policy, the FAB provides that, pending further guidance, the DOL will not treat a Service Provider as having failed to make required disclosures to… Continue Reading

Illinois State Law Imposes Group Health Coverage Disclosure Requirements

The Illinois Consumer Coverage Disclosure Act (the “CCDA”), which went into effect on August 27, 2021, requires an employer to notify employees in Illinois who are eligible for its group health plan whether such plan does or does not cover each of the essential health benefits identified by the Illinois Department of Labor (the “Illinois DOL”). The list of essential health benefits is available here. Because this is a disclosure requirement and not a benefits mandate, the Illinois DOL maintains that this requirement also applies to self-funded group health plans regulated by ERISA.  Employers must provide this disclosure to eligible employees (i) upon hire, (ii) annually thereafter, and (iii) upon request. The disclosure can be provided by emailing employees or by posting the information on a website that employees can regularly access. The Illinois DOL has the power to conduct inspections in connection with the CCDA’s disclosure requirements, and upon… Continue Reading

Washington State Partnership Access Line Assessments Due for Self-Insured Employer Plans

The first quarterly assessment is due to the Health Care Authority (the “HCA”) under the Washington Partnership Access Lines (“PAL”) program for certain sponsors of welfare programs, including employers that sponsor self-insured employee welfare benefit plans that cover residents of Washington state. The first regular covered lives report covers the period from July 1 to September 30, 2021, and must be submitted within 45 calendar days after the end of the quarter. The HCA recently approved the monthly assessment at a rate of $0.13 per covered life with the first payment due on November 15, 2021. For purposes of the required report and the assessment, the term “covered life” means any individual residing in Washington with respect to whom the entity administers, provides, pays for, insures, or covers health care services, unless excepted by Washington statute. Plan sponsors of self-insured plans should consult with their third party administrators to confirm they will… Continue Reading

Departments Solicit Comments regarding Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 Prescription Drug Reporting Requirements

Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (the ?Ç£CAA?Ç¥), employer-sponsored group health plans will be required to submit to the DOL and/or Treasury Department a new annual report containing information pertaining to plan participation and prescription drug coverage provided under the plan during the previous plan year (the ?Ç£Rx Report?Ç¥). Among other items, the Rx Report must include information regarding (i) claims paid under the plan for the 50 most frequently dispensed brand prescription drugs (?Ç£Claims Paid Items?Ç¥), (ii) annual spending for the 50 most costly prescription drugs (?Ç£Spending Items?Ç¥), and (iii) rebates, fees, and other remuneration paid by drug manufacturers to the plan, its administrators, or service providers (?Ç£Rebate Items?Ç¥).  The first Rx Report is due by December 27, 2021, and each subsequent Rx Report is due by each June 1. Recently, the DOL, Treasury Department, and HHS (the ?Ç£Agencies?Ç¥) jointly issued a ?Ç£request for information?Ç¥ (the ?Ç£RFI?Ç¥) seeking public… Continue Reading

Court Finds Exclusion for Autism Treatments Violates the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act

In Doe v. United Behavioral Health, No. 4:19-CV-07316-YGR (N.D. Cal. Mar. 5, 2021) a federal district court in California recently considered a plaintiff?ÇÖs claim that an exclusion from coverage for ?Ç£applied behavior analysis?Ç¥ and ?Ç£intensive behavioral therapies?Ç¥ (the ?Ç£ABA/IBT Exclusion?Ç¥) used to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (?Ç£Autism?Ç¥) violated the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (the ?Ç£Parity Act?Ç¥). The plaintiff, as the representative of her minor son who was diagnosed with Autism, was covered under an employer-sponsored, self-funded group health plan subject to ERISA.?á The court held that the ABA/IBT Exclusion violated the Parity Act for two reasons. First, the court found that the ABA/IBT Exclusion, on its face, created a separate treatment limitation applicable only to services for a mental health condition (in this case, Autism). Second, the court concluded that the ABA/IBT Exclusion constituted a more restrictive limitation for a mental health condition than… Continue Reading

Ordinary Employee Benefits Issues That Can Cause Extraordinary Problems in M&A Deals

Employee benefits rarely drive corporate transactions, but if the benefits of a target company are not reviewed carefully, they can sometimes derail the transaction.  Even some of the most routine facets of benefit plan administration can result in significant potential financial exposure (e.g., additional employer contributions, taxes, penalties, and fees as well as fees associated with the preparation and filing of IRS and DOL correction program applications) that could negatively affect the overall value of the target company. By identifying issues early in the transaction, the seller can prevent costly purchase price reductions and identify issues that need correction, while the buyer can avoid overpaying for a target and ensure that representation and warranty insurance will be available to cover potential claims. Some of those routine compliance issues include, but are not limited to, the following: Failing to timely file an annual Form 5500.  The DOL can assess a penalty… Continue Reading

Inaccurate Leave of Absence Provisions May Lead to Stop Loss Carrier Denial of Claims

For employees on a leave of absence (?Ç£LOA?Ç¥) or a furlough, employers often extend group health plan coverage during the LOA or furlough for a prescribed time period. With regard to group health plans that are considered to be ?Ç£self-insured,?Ç¥ generally, the employer?ÇÖs reinsurer, or stop loss carrier, is only required to cover claims (above the policy?ÇÖs self-insured retention level) incurred for a covered person based on the written terms of the plan. In other words, the policy underwrites the coverage that is provided under the plan document. If extended coverage during a LOA or furlough is not expressly set out in the plan document, a stop loss carrier could seek to deny claims incurred during that period. It is thus recommended that employers with self-insured plans review their health plan documents to ensure consistency with administrative practices regarding coverage during LOAs and furloughs and coordinate as necessary with the… Continue Reading

Regulations Provide for More Cost Transparency in Health Coverage

The federal Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury (collectively, the ?Ç£Departments?Ç¥) have jointly issued final regulations that are intended to provide for more transparency in health coverage (the ?Ç£Regulations?Ç¥). The Regulations have important implications for employer sponsors of certain group health plans (?Ç£Plans?Ç¥) and health insurers. The Regulations do not apply to health plans that are grandfathered under the Affordable Care Act, health reimbursement arrangements, certain other account-based group health plans, or short-term limited duration insurance. The Regulations require two key forms of disclosures (collectively, the ?Ç£Disclosures?Ç¥) in order to provide for this improved transparency: Self-Service Disclosure. First, the Regulations require Plans and insurers in the individual and group markets to disclose certain cost-sharing information upon request to a participant, beneficiary, or enrollee (or his or her authorized representative), including (a) an estimate of the individual?ÇÖs cost-sharing liability for covered items or services furnished by a… Continue Reading

Extending Health Plan Coverage for Furloughed Employees

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have placed a portion of their workforces into a furloughed status. Some employers want to keep furloughed employees covered under the employer?ÇÖs group health plan. For a self-funded plan, many stop-loss insurers have approved keeping furloughed employees covered under the plan in covered employment status (as opposed to offering COBRA coverage) for up to six months. In addition, many insurance companies have offered similar coverage extensions under fully-insured, group health plans. As the pandemic continues, some employers want to continue covering furloughed employees beyond the original six-month period. Before providing extended coverage for furloughed employees, it is critical that the employer first obtain written approval from the stop loss carrier for any self-funded benefits, as well as from the insurer for any fully-insured benefits, before granting such an extension, in addition to timely amending the affected plans and communicating such amendments to participants.

Cross-Plan Offsetting Practice is Challenged in Class Action Lawsuit

This class action lawsuit, styled Scott, et al. v. UnitedHealth Group, Inc., et al., was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota on July 14, 2020. This lawsuit follows the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Peterson v. UnitedHealth Group Inc. that was issued last year. In Scott, the plaintiffs, who were participants in the plans at issue in Peterson, filed, on behalf of a class of plaintiffs (the ?Ç£Class?Ç¥), a class action against UnitedHealth Group, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiaries (collectively, ?Ç£UHC?Ç¥), in their capacities as an insurer and/or third-party claims administrator of employer-sponsored group health plans. The lawsuit alleges the breach of UHC?ÇÖs fiduciary duties under ERISA as related to UHC?ÇÖs practice of ?Ç£cross-plan offsetting.?Ç¥ The Class consists of participants and beneficiaries in all group health plans that are administered by UHC and contain ?Ç£cross-plan offsetting?Ç¥ (collectively, the… Continue Reading

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