Five frequently overlooked mistakes in HIPAA compliance

Healthcare entities are often confused by HIPAA regulations. Continue reading to learn about the 5 most frequently overlooked mistakes in HIPAA compliance.


HIPAA was enacted in 1996. In the years since, most healthcare entities have adapted to the major requirements imposed by HIPAA, HITECH and the Privacy and Security Rules. Nevertheless, the thicket of regulations still leaves some traps for the unwary. Here are the most frequent tripwires.

First, the goal of HIPAA is integrity and availability of records along with confidentiality. For workflow or other reasons, hospitals or other covered entities are often reluctant to share patient records.

With the exception of certain specific carve outs, such as psychotherapy notes, this violates HIPAA. Patients are entitled to their records. Compliance programs must accommodate this legal reality

Second, HIPAA requires that disclosure of healthcare records be minimized to the extent necessary to accomplish the objective. In other words, a contractor or other entity with access to personal health information is only entitled to those data points necessary to perform their function e.g. names and addresses.

For practical purposes, a technical solution is not always available — a covered entity may have a single computer system, and cannot realistically reconfigure it for every purpose.

Also see: 

In such instances however, compliance may not be left by the wayside. It must be accomplished by alternative means such as administrative safeguards. For example, a covered entity and business associate may contractually agree to limit access, and combine this restriction with random audits to ensure compliance.

Third, the requirement of minimal disclosure also extends to individual employees and contractors. They are entitled only to those records they need to perform their job functions.
Of course, in the real world those functions continually evolve. Employees often switch roles, go on leave, rotate to different units or complete the tasks that entitled them to access in the first place.

Yet access is rarely calibrated to fluctuating business needs. Excessive access is a regulatory risk. Any compliance program needs to regularly reassess employee access. It must adjust PHI access rights to conform to current responsibilities.

Fourth, HITECH and the Security Rule require a security assessment and the institution of safeguards to protect against reasonably anticipated disclosure. They also require that all business associates be bound to adhere to the safeguards program.

The Business Associate Agreement needs to specifically incorporate this requirement. Technically, the failure to do so, even in the absence of a breach, is a violation. Yet many covered entities overlook this requirement.

If the business associate is unwilling to accommodate the requirement, the covered entity needs to evaluate the contractual arrangement, ensure that it meets the identified security criteria, and document the basis for this determination.

Finally, the healthcare sector is consolidating. The acquisition and consolidation of practices results in transition periods where the successor entity has multiple sets of PHI records under multiple compliance regimes.

The result is a program that is either incomplete, incompatible, or is otherwise deficient. This is a serious regulatory risk. While a seamless transition may not be possible, incorporating compliance into the succession plan at the earliest possible stage is the prudent approach.

None of these five steps require mastery of particularly arcane aspects of the HIPAA regulatory scheme. Yet covered entities and business associates regularly stumble on them. Each of these pitfalls is easily remedied. In compliance, as in medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

SOURCE: Gul, S (2 August 2018) "Five frequently overlooked mistakes in HIPAA compliance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/five-frequently-overlooked-mistakes-in-hipaa-compliance


COBRA liability in mergers and acquisitions

COBRA requires certain group plans to make health plan coverage available to certain individuals after a business reorganization. Continue reading to learn more.


The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) requires certain group health plans to make continuation coverage available to certain individuals who would otherwise lose group health plan coverage due to a qualifying event. Employers who go through business reorganizations, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), will need to know whether COBRA continuation coverage must be offered and whether the group health plan of the seller or buyer must provide COBRA continuation coverage.

General Rules

Under IRS regulations, if the seller and buyer negotiated their COBRA liability by contract as part of the sale, then the contract will determine who has an obligation to offer COBRA coverage.

See also: Get the Facts on COBRA Coverage – Who, When and How Long?

If the employer who is contractually responsible for providing COBRA coverage fails to perform or if the contract is silent on COBRA coverage obligations, then the seller's group health plan has the duty to offer COBRA coverage as long as the seller maintains a group health plan post-sale.

If the seller doesn't maintain a group health plan post-sale, then the answer depends on whether it's a stock sale or an asset sale.

In a stock sale, if the seller doesn't maintain a group health plan post-sale, then the buyer is responsible for offering COBRA coverage.

See also: What Is COBRA, and Does It Apply to My Business?

In an asset sale, if the seller doesn't maintain a group health plan post-sale and the group health plan's termination is connected with the asset sale, then the buyer is responsible for offering COBRA coverage if the buyer continues business operations associated with the assets purchased without interruption or substantial change.

For more information request our Compliance Advisor “COBRA Liability in Mergers and Acquisitions.”

SOURCE: Hsu, K (9 August 2018) "Cobra liability in mergers and acquisitions" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/cobra-liability-in-mergers-and-acquisitions


Compliance Recap July 2018

July was a quiet month in the employee benefits world. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released draft Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C. The IRS also released an information letter on the employer shared responsibility provisions.

UBA Updates

UBA released two new advisors:

UBA updated existing guidance:

IRS Releases Draft Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released draft Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, 1094-C, and 1095-C. Employers will use the final version of these forms to report on offers of health coverage to full-time employees and their family members, and enrollment in health coverage by employees and their family members (for employers that sponsor self-insured health plans).

There are no substantive changes to draft Forms 1094-B, 1095-B, or 1094-C for 2018. There is a minor formatting change to draft Form 1095-C for 2018. There are dividers for the entry of an individual’s first name, middle name, and last name.

Employers will have more information about any additional changes to these forms when the IRS releases its draft instructions for these forms.

IRS Releases Information Letter on Employer Shared Responsibility

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Information Letter 2018-0013 to reiterate how the employer shared responsibility provisions would apply to an applicable large employer. Specifically, the IRS explained how the Service Contract Act (SCA) interacts with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As background, the SCA requires workers who are employed on certain federal contracts to be paid prevailing wages and fringe benefits. An employer generally can satisfy its fringe benefit obligation by providing the cash equivalent of benefits or a combination of cash and benefits. Alternatively, an employer may permit employees to choose among various benefits, or various benefits and cash. An employer may choose to provide fringe benefits under the SCA by offering an employee the option to enroll in health coverage provided by the employer (including an option to decline that coverage). If the employee declines the coverage, that employer would then generally be required by the SCA to provide the employee with cash or other benefits of an equivalent value.

This Information Letter refers to IRS Notice 2015-87 which describes how the ACA and the SCA may be coordinated for plan years beginning before January 1, 2017, and until further guidance is issued and applicable. Notice 2015-87 clarifies that, for employees under the SCA, the choice of a cash-out payment will generally not require an employer to pay a greater share of the cost of the health coverage for the coverage to be considered affordable.

Question of the Month

  1. What if a plan sponsor fails to file or pay the PCORI fee?
  2. Although the PCORI statute and its regulations do not include a specific penalty for failure to report or pay the PCORI fee, the plan sponsor may be subject to penaltiesfor failure to file a tax return because the PCORI fee is an excise tax.

The plan sponsor should consult with its attorney on how to proceed with a late filing or late payment of the PCORI fee. The PCORI regulations note that the penalties related to late filing of Form 720 or late payment of the fee may be waived or abated if the plan sponsor has reasonable cause and the failure was not due to willful neglect.

If a plan sponsor already filed Form 720 (for example, for a different excise tax), then the plan sponsor can make a correction to a previously filed Form 720 by using Form 720X.


Compliance Recap June 2018

June was a relatively quiet month in the employee benefits world.

The U.S. Department of Labor issued final regulations regarding association health plans. The U.S. Department of Justice filed a response in ongoing litigation regarding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a form that certain plan sponsors will use for reporting limited wraparound coverage.

UBA Updates

UBA released two new advisors:

UBA updated existing guidance:

DOL Issues Final Regulations Regarding Association Health Plans

On June 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published Frequently Asked Questions About Association Health Plans (AHPs) and issued a final rule that broadens the definition of “employer” and the provisions under which an employer group or association may be treated as an “employer” sponsor of a single multiple-employer employee welfare benefit plan and group health plan under Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

The final rule is intended to facilitate adoption and administration of AHPs and expand health coverage access to employees of small employers and certain self-employed individuals.

The final rule will be effective on August 20, 2018. The final rule will apply to fully-insured AHPs on September 1, 2018, to existing self-insured AHPs on January 1, 2019, and to new self-insured AHPs formed under this final rule on April 1, 2019.

Read more about the final rule.

Status of Court Case Challenging ACA Constitutionality

In June 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a response in ongoing litigation regarding the individual mandate and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

As background, earlier this year, twenty states filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas to strike down the ACA entirely. The lawsuit came after the U.S. Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in December 2017 that reduced the individual mandate penalty to $0, starting in 2019.

The DOJ argues that the individual mandate is unconstitutional without the penalty. The DOJ also argues that because the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions are inseverable from the individual mandate, the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions are also unconstitutional.

Further, the DOJ argues that because the individual mandate penalty of $0 starts in 2019, the district court should not immediately strike the individual mandate, guaranteed issue, and community rating portions of the ACA. Instead, the DOJ asks the district court to declare that the individual mandate, guaranteed issue, and community rating provisions will be unconstitutional as of January 1, 2019.

It’s too early to determine whether the plaintiffs, the DOJ, or the other defendants will prevail in their arguments. Even if the district court makes a decision in the next few weeks, its decision will likely be appealed.

Read more about this case.

CMS Releases Form for Reporting Wraparound Excepted Benefits

Under a 2015 final rule by the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of Labor, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, certain employers may offer limited wraparound coverage under one of two narrow pilot programs.

These wraparound benefits are considered an excepted benefit and are generally exempt from certain requirements of federal laws, including ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, and parts of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Under the final rule, plan sponsors who offer limited wraparound coverage have reporting requirements. In December 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a notice for comments on a proposed reporting form.

On June 25, 2018, the CMS published its Reporting Form for Plan Sponsors Offering Limited Wraparound Coverage. A plan sponsor of limited wraparound coverage must file the form once, within 60 days of the form’s publication (by August 24, 2018), or 60 days after the first day of the first plan year that limited wraparound coverage is first offered.

Read more about limited wraparound coverage.

Question of the Month

  1. Who must pay the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee and when is the fee due?
  2. The fee must be determined and paid by:
  • The insurer for fully insured plans (although the fee likely will be passed on to the plan)
  • The plan sponsor of self-funded plans, including HRAs
    • The plan’s TPA may assist with the calculation, but the plan sponsor must file IRS Form 720 and pay the applicable fee
    • If multiple employers participate in the plan, each must file separately unless the plan document designates one as the plan sponsor

The fee is due by July 31 of the year following the calendar year in which the plan/policy year ends. For example:

Plan/Policy Year Year Fee Is Due ($2.26, indexed/ person) Plan/Policy Year  Year Fee Is Due ($2.39, indexed/
person)
Nov. 1, 2015 - Oct. 31, 2016 July 31, 2017 Nov. 1, 2016 - Oct. 31, 2017 July 31, 2018
Dec. 1, 2015 - Nov. 30, 2016 July 31, 2017 Dec. 1, 2016 - Nov. 30, 2017 July 31, 2018
Jan. 1, 2016 - Dec. 31, 2016 July 31, 2017 Jan. 1, 2017 - Dec. 31, 2017 July 31, 2018
Feb. 1, 2016 - Jan. 31, 2017 July 31, 2018 Feb. 1, 2017 - Jan. 31, 2018 July 31, 2019
March 1, 2016 - Feb. 28, 2017 July 31, 2018 March 1, 2017 - Feb. 28, 2018 July 31, 2019
April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017 July 31, 2018 April 1, 2017 - March 31, 2018 July 31, 2019
May 1, 2016 - April 30, 2017 July 31, 2018 May 1, 2017 - April 30, 2018 July 31, 2019
June 1, 2016 - May 31, 2017 July 31, 2018 June 1, 2017 - May 31, 2018 July 31, 2019
July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017 July 31, 2018 July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018 July 31, 2019
Aug. 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017 July 31, 2018 Aug. 1, 2017 - July 31, 2018 July 31, 2019
Sept. 1, 2016 - Aug. 31, 2017 July 31, 2018 Sept. 1, 2017 - Aug. 31, 2018 July 31, 2019
Oct. 1, 2016 - Sept. 30, 2017 July 31, 2018 Oct. 1, 2017 - Sept. 30, 2018 July 31, 2019

7/3/2018

Download the PDF here.


Consequences and/or Remedies for Late or Missing Form 5500s

Do you know what to do if you forget to file your Form 5500? Continue reading to learn what your options are if you fail to file or if you file late.


The Form 5500 is due on the last day following seven months after the end of the plan year. In order to be granted an extension, the employer would have to send the IRS a Form 5558 for each plan subject to Form 5500 obligations. The Form 5558 needs to be postmarked by the original due date or it will be rejected.

Failure to file or failure to file required Form 5500s on time can prove to be costly for an employer as daily penalties are assessed for late or missing filings.

What should an employer do if they find out they never filed a Form 5500 or they failed to file the Form 5500 by the deadline?

The employer should consider their risk tolerance, the number of plans they have not filed and the potential penalties to determine what the best course of action is for them.

They have three options:

  1. Do not file and hope that no one questions them if they are audited. There is a potential consequence of $300/day for each plan (per plan/ per plan year) that did not get filed or get filed on time. Penalties capped at $30,000 per year.
  2. File late and hope that no one notices. There is a potential consequence of $50/day for each plan (per plan/per plan year) that filed late or not on time. No cap on the penalty in this case.
  3. File late under the Delinquent Filers Voluntary Compliance Program (DFVCP). There is late fee of $10/day for each plan (per plan per plan year) that is filing late. Penalties capped at $2,000 per large plan/$750 per small plan if filing multiple plan years for a plan. Penalties for large plans that file more than 1 delinquent plan year per plan number filing at the same time, the maximum penalty is $4,000 per plan and $1,500 for small plans.

The Bottom Line:

Employee Benefits Corporation can assist employers with the preparation of their delinquent Form 5500s as part of our Compliance Services offerings. Employers will pay the DFVCP penalties directly to the DOL online as part of the process. We can help educate the employer on the risk factors associated with each approach and to assist, if contracted to do so, in the preparation of the Form 5500s.

SOURCE:
Employee Benefits Corporation (29 June 2018) "Consequences and/or Remedies for Late or Missing Form 5500s" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.ebcflex.com/Education/ComplianceBuzz/tabid/1140/ArticleID/613/Consequences-and-or-Remedies-for-Late-or-Missing-Form-5500s.aspx?utm_source=7.19.18+Need+to+Know+%7C+Missing+Form+5500s&utm_campaign=7-19-18_Need+to+Know+email-Form+5500+season&utm_medium=email


Compliance Recap May 2018

May was a relatively busy month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released the indexed threshold that employers will use in 2019 to determine coverage affordability. The IRS also issued inflation adjusted amounts that will apply to health savings accounts for 2019.

The IRS released guidance on its play-or-pay penalty response acknowledgement letters. The IRS published a proposed rule that would expand mandatory electronic filing of information returns. The IRS also released a tax reform tip, frequently asked questions about the family and medical leave credit, and a fact sheet on determining whether an employer is a large employer.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a status report in a wellness program court case. The U.S. Department of the Treasury released its updated priority guidance plan. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a blueprint for lowering drug prices and reducing out-of-pocket costs. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission issued a bulletin on health savings accounts.

UBA Updates

UBA released four new advisors:

  • Proposed FAQs About Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity
  • IRS Changes HSA Limit for 2018
  • Understanding Your IRS Play-or-Pay Assessment Letter
  • IRS Issues Proposed Rule to Expand Mandatory Electronic Filing

UBA updated existing guidance:

  • 2018 Annual Benefit Plan Amounts card
  • Federal Tax Credit for Employer-Provided Paid Family and Medical Leave
  • Understanding Wellness Programs and their Legal Requirements
  • Court Modifies Order Regarding EEOC Wellness Rules
  • The Play-or-Pay Penalty and Counting Employees under the ACA
  • Nondiscrimination Rules for Cafeteria Plans
  • HRAs, HSAs, and Health FSAs – What’s the Difference?

IRS Releases ACA Indexed Affordability Threshold for 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Revenue Procedure 2018-34 that makes an indexing adjustment to the required contribution percentage that is used to determine whether employer- sponsored health coverage is affordable. For 2019, the percentage will be 9.86 percent.

This means that if an employer is using the federal poverty level (FPL) affordability safe harbor, then the maximum monthly self-only contribution will be $99.75. [9.86% of $12,140 (the 2018 contiguous U.S. FPL for one person), divided by 12, equals $99.75.]

IRS Releases 2019 Limits on Health Savings Accounts

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Revenue Procedure 2018-30 that provides the 2019 inflation adjusted amounts for health savings accounts (HSAs).

For 2019, the annual limitation on deductions for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,500. For 2019, the annual limitation on deductions for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $7,000.

For 2019, a “high deductible health plan” is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is notless than $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,750 for self-only coverage or $13,500 for family coverage.

IRS Releases Guidance on its Play-or-Pay Penalty Response Acknowledgment Letters

In late 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started mailing Letter 226J to inform large employers of their potential liability for an employer shared responsibility payment (ESRP) for the 2015 calendar year.The IRS’ determination of an employer’s liability and potential payment is based on information reportedto the IRS on Forms 1094-C and 1095-C and information about the employer’s full-time employees that were allowed the premium tax credit.

The letter contains Form 14764 (ESRP Response) which is the form that the employer must use to file its response by the deadline listed in the letter. The employer uses Form 14764 to indicate that it agrees ordisagrees with the IRS’ letter. If an employer disagrees with the proposed liability, then it must provide a full explanation of its disagreement using Form 14765.

The IRS will acknowledge the employer’s response with a Letter 227 that describes the further actions that an employer can take. The IRS’ recently released Understanding Your Letter 227 describes the versions of Letter 227 that an employer may receive:

  • Letter 227-J acknowledges receipt of the signed agreement Form 14764, ESRP Response, and that the penalty will be assessed. After the IRS issues this letter, the case will be closed. No response is required.
  • Letter 227-K acknowledges receipt of the information provided and shows the penalty has been reduced to zero. After the IRS issues this letter, the case will be closed. No response is required.
  • Letter 227-L acknowledges receipt of the information provided and shows the penalty has been revised. The letter includes an updated Form 14765 and revised calculation table. The employer can agree or request a meeting with the manager and/or appeals.
  • Letter 227-M acknowledges receipt of information provided and shows that the penalty did not change. The letter provides an updated Form 14765 and revised calculation table. The employer can agree or request a meeting with the manager and/or appeals.
  • Letter 227-N acknowledges the decision reached in appeals and shows the penalty based on the appeals review. After the IRS issues this letter, the case will be closed. No response is required.

If, after receiving Letter 227, the employer agrees with the proposed penalty, then the employer would follow the instructions to sign the response form and return it with full payment in the envelope provided.

If, after receiving Letter 227, the employer disagrees with the proposed or revised shared employer responsibility payment, the employer must provide an explanation of why it disagrees or indicate changes needed, or both, on Form 14765. Then the employer must return all documents as instructed in the letter by the response date. The employer may also request a pre-assessment conference with the IRS Office of Appeals within the response date listed within Letter 227, which will be generally 30 days from the date of the letter.

If the employer does not respond to either Letter 226J or Letter 227, the IRS will assess the amount of the proposed employer shared responsibility payment and issue a notice and demand for payment.

IRS Issues Proposed Rule to Expand Mandatory Electronic Filing

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published a proposed rule that would affect most employers who are required to file information returns, such as Forms W-2, Forms 1095-B, Forms 1095-C, and forms in the 1099 series.

Currently, employers are not required to electronically file their returns with the IRS unless they are required to file at least 250 returns during the calendar year. The IRS uses a non-aggregation rule in applying this 250-return threshold. Essentially, it uses a separate total for each type of information return filed and each type of corrected information return filed. This means that if an employer files 150 Forms W-2 and 100 Forms 1095-C this year, then the employer is not required to file electronically.

Under the proposed rule, the IRS would determine whether an employer meets the 250-return threshold by aggregating its information returns. Using the example above, under the proposed rule, the employer would meet the 250-return threshold and would be required to electronically file its information returns.

Corrected returns would not be included in the calculation of whether an employer meets the 250-return threshold. However, the proposed rule would require an employer to electronically file its corrected returns if the original returns were electronically filed.

If finalized, these regulations will apply to employers’ information returns filed after December 31, 2018.

IRS Releases Tax Reform Tax Tip and FAQs Regarding Family and Medical Leave Credit

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Tax Reform Tax Tip 2018-69: How the Employer Credit for Family and Medical Leave Benefits Employers and its updated Section 45S Employer Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave FAQs that primarily reiterates the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s provisions thatprovide a new federal credit for employers that provide paid family and medical leave to their employees.

In its Tax Tip, the IRS explains that an employer must reduce its deduction for wages or salaries paid or incurred by the amount determined as a credit. Also, any wages taken into account in determining any other general business credit may not be used in determining this credit.

In its FAQs, the IRS indicates that, in the future, it will address when the written policy must be in place, how paid family and medical leave relates to an employer’s other paid leave, how to determine whetheran employee has been employed for one year or more, the impact of state and local leave requirements, and whether members of a controlled group of corporations and businesses under common control are treated as a single taxpayer in determining the credit.

IRS Releases Fact Sheet on Determining Whether an Employer is a Large Employer

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 5208 – Affordable Care Act: Determining if you are an applicable large employer that provides a three-step process for employers to determine whether they are an applicable large employer for purposes of the employer shared responsibility provisions.

Although this one-page fact sheet doesn’t provide new information about counting employees, it may be ahelpful guide for those employers who have fewer than 50 full-time or full-time equivalent employees and who are growing their staff numbers.

Wellness Program Court Case Update

In August 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia held that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its decision to adopt 30 percent incentive levels for employer-sponsored wellness programs under both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rules and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) rules.

In December 2017, the court vacated the EEOC rules under the ADA and GINA effective January 1, 2019, and ordered the EEOC to promulgate any new proposed rules by August 31, 2018.

In January 2018, the EEOC asked the court to reconsider the portion of the court’s order that required the EEOC to promulgate new proposed rules by August 31, 2018. The court vacated that portion of its order. The EEOC recently reported that it had not decided whether to promulgate new regulations. The court’s order to vacate the portions of the EEOC’s wellness rules under the ADA and GINA as of January 1,2019, remains.

For 2019 and until the EEOC issues final rules regarding incentive limits, risk-averse employers should consider discontinuing wellness programs that require a medical exam, biometric screening, or health risk assessment for participants to receive an incentive. When the ADA and GINA incentive limits are vacated, the less restrictive ACA-amended HIPAA regulations will continue to apply. However, using these less restrictive incentive limits may be risky because these regulations predated the EEOC’s wellness regulations.

Treasury Releases its Updated Priority Guidance Plan and Opens Public Comment for Next Priority Guidance Plan

The U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) released its third quarter update to its 2017-2018 Priority Guidance Plan (Plan). The Plan identifies projects that the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intend to complete during the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2018.

The Plan’s “Executive Compensation, Health Care and Other Benefits, and Employment Taxes” sectionlists the following items among its projects:

  • Guidance on issues under §4980H (the employer shared responsibility provisions)
  • Regulations under §4980I regarding the excise tax on high cost employer-provided coverage (“Cadillac tax”)
  • Guidance on qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangements (QSEHRAs)

The Treasury and IRS also issued Notice 2018-43 that invites public comment on recommendations for items that should be included on the agencies’ 2018-2019 Priority Guidance Plan. Although public comments may be submitted throughout the year, comments submitted by June 15, 2018, will be considered for inclusion on the original 2018-2019 Priority Guidance Plan.

HHS’ Blueprint to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Costs

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published its policy statement and released its American Patients First blueprint to lower drug prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs (collectively, the Blueprint).

Although most of the Blueprint focuses on reducing government health programs’ costs, some of theBlueprint’s goals may affect employers’ group health plans in the future. The Blueprint strives to:

  • Create incentives for pharmaceutical companies to lower list prices and reduce consumer out-of- pocket spending at the pharmacy and other case settings
  • Increase price transparency
  • Apply a substantial portion of rebates at the point of sale
  • Have a site-neutral payment policy for drug administration procedures
  • Have pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) act solely in the interest of the employer (or consumer)for whom they are managing pharmaceutical benefits
  • Restrict the use of rebates
  • Prohibit contracted pharmacy gag clauses

SEC Issues Bulletin on Health Savings Accounts

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued Investor Bulletin: Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) that provides investors with information about HSAs. Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) primarily regulates HSAs, the SEC’s bulletin addresses the savings, investment, and distribution options that may be available to an HSA accountholder.

Question of the Month
Q. For a high deductible health plan (HDHP) to qualify for health savings account (HSA) eligibility, what is the minimum amount that an embedded individual deductible can be?

A. For 2018, the embedded individual deductible must be at least $2,700. For an HDHP to qualify for HSA eligibility, an individual with family coverage would need to satisfy the required minimum
annual deductible for family HDHP coverage (which is at least $2,700 for 2018) before any amounts are paid from the HDHP.

5/31/2018

Download the full recap here.


Paid Family Leave claims processing tips

New York is setting a trend with new Paid Family Leave policy. New law could trigger states to follow their lead in the near future.


While most of us realize that change is a part of life, few of us can afford to sacrifice our paycheck when it happens.

To help ensure that New Yorkers do not find themselves in this situation, the state signed into law the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave (PFL) policy. Effective Jan. 1, 2018, the law provides residents with job-protected, paid leave to bond with a newborn, care for a loved one with a serious illness, or tend to family matters when a loved one is called to active military service.

The new law encompasses numerous leave types, eligibilities and durations, so processing a PFL claim can be confusing. To unmuddy the waters, let’s dive into the who, when, how and what regarding PFL.

Who is eligible?

Added to a company’s Disability Benefits Law (DBL) policy as a rider, Paid Family Leave was created for private-sector organizations with at least one employee who works in New York State at least 30 days of the year. Public companies may opt to provide coverage as well, but it is not required.

To be eligible for PFL, applicants must be employed by a covered employer at the time they apply.

  • Employees with a regular work schedule of 20 or more hours per week are eligible after 26 consecutive weeks of employment. This includes sick or vacation time, but may not count other covered leaves.
  • Employees with a regular work schedule of fewer than 20 hours per week are eligible after 175 days worked, which do not need to be consecutive.

How it works

In 2018, both full- and part-time employees are eligible to take up to eight weeks of PFL and receive 50% of their average weekly wage (AWW). The weekly earnings under PFL are currently capped at $652.96, which is 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW) of $1,305.92. (For details, visit www.ny.gov.)

New Yorkers stand to benefit even more in the years to come, as the state plans to increase PFL incrementally, reaching 12 weeks by 2021.

PFL benefits are funded through a small weekly payroll deduction. The deduction is a percentage of an employee’s weekly wage — up to the aforementioned cap.

To provide some perspective, the current payroll contribution is 0.126% of a New Yorker’s gross weekly earnings, capped at a total annual contribution of $85.56. For example, an employee earning $1,200 a week in 2018 would pay $1.51 per week. To calculate an employee’s weekly deduction, simply enter the required information at www.ny.gov/paid-family-leave-calculator.

A healthy dose of security

Not only will eligible applicants receive a portion of their wages while on leave, qualifying employees can rely on continued health insurance coverage while taking PFL. Employers are required by law to continue the existing health insurance benefits. If employees contribute to the cost of their health insurance, they are also required to continue paying their portion while on leave.

It is important to note that Paid Family Leave does notreplace disability benefits coverage. Disability benefits are meant to cover off-the-job personal illness or injury. PFL is designed to provide paid time off to care for family that need assistance.

In fact, some employees may be eligible for both PFL bonding and disability benefits for maternity at the same time, although they may not be taken simultaneously, according to the New York State Workers Compensation Board.

Leave categories

PFL is flexible and may occur in a variety of ways. The applicant has options when deciding how much time to take at any given time. While the law states that a 30 day leave notice is required, there are considerations for times when life surprises us.

There are four main PFL categories:

  • Continuous leave: The employee takes the entire 8 weeks of PFL without interruption.
  • Intermittent leave:The employee takes leave in increments as short as one day at a time.
  • Foreseeable event:The leave begins following a planned event such as a birth, adoption, surgery or military ceremony.
  • Non-foreseeable event:The leave is in response to an accident or an unexpected surgery.

PFL-worthy events

As mentioned earlier, an employee can request PFL for one of three reasons. The State of New York classifies these leaves as Bonding, Family Care and Military Exigency. Each type has its own eligibility terms and required documentation. If your company or agency does not have the required forms on hand, they are available at www.ny.gov. Employees requesting PFL are required to do so at least 30 days in advance, when possible, starting with Form PFL-1.

Bonding Leave A parent may take PFL during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. To start the application process, an employee will need to obtain the “Bond with a Newborn, Newly Adopted or Fostered Child” forms package.

From there, the employee would complete a “Request for Family Leave” (Form PFL-1) and submit it to his or her employer, who will complete the employer section and then return it to the employee. A PFL-1 is required for all three types of leave. Also required is the “Bonding Certification” (Form PFL-2). The employee must complete and submit both forms, along with any supporting documentation (e.g., birth certificate, adoption certificate, etc.), to the employer’s insurance carrier.

Family Care Leave New Yorkers have the right to take time off to care for a loved one with a serious health condition. This individual could be a spouse or domestic partner, child or stepchild, as well as a parent, stepparent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild.

After obtaining a “Care for a Family Member with Serious Health Condition” forms package, the employee must submit a completed PFL-1 to their employer, who will complete it and return it to the employee. Additionally, the employee’s family member (the care recipient), or their authorized representative, is required to complete a “Release of Personal Health Information Under the Paid Family Leave Law” (Form PFL-3). Upon completing the release, the individual will submit it to his or her health care provider.

The second form the employee is required to complete is the “Health Care Provider Certification” (Form PFL-4). Upon completion, this form will go to the employee’s health care provider for review, then to the care recipient and ultimately back to the employee. The employee must submit the PFL-4, along with his or her completed PFL-1, and PFL-3, to his or her employer’s insurance carrier.

Military Exigency Leave — If an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed abroad or has been notified of an impending deployment, the employee can take PFL to assist or support the military member and his or her family. Examples include making financial and/or legal arrangements on the military member’s behalf, attending military-related ceremonies for the deployed individual and tending to urgent childcare needs created by the family member’s deployment.

To begin the process, the employee must obtain the “Assist Families in Connection with a Military Deployment” forms package. Next, the employee will need to complete a PFL-1 and submit the form to his or her employer. The employee must then complete the “Military Qualifying Event” (Form PFL-5), attaching any supporting documentation (e.g., covered active duty orders, letter from the military unit confirming deployment, etc.). The employee will then submit his or her employer-approved PFL-1 and completed PFL-5 to the employer’s insurance carrier.

Employer obligations

For employers, when it comes to PFL claims, compliance is key. Here are a few important obligations:

  • New York employers are required to complete and return a submitted PFL-1 within three business days of receiving it.
  • If an employer provides health care, the employer must maintain coverage while the employee is out on leave.
  • As mentioned earlier, employers must provide the same or a similar job upon the employee’s return from leave.

While honoring these obligations are the law, doing so can be challenging for business owners, especially in the case of an intermittent leave. This new coverage will ramp up over the next four years, rates and benefit details are subject to changes by the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS).

It is critical to stay in-the-know about this new and developing coverage. Employers can look to their local insurance professionals for help navigating the ins and outs of this groundbreaking law, starting with filling out an employee census to determine their related premiums.

SOURCE:
Maas J (31 May 2018). "Paid Family Leave claims processing tips" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2018/05/25/paid-family-leave-claims-processing-tips/


Compliance Recap April 2018

April was a busy month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) modified the 2018 health savings account (HSA) family contribution limit back to $6,900. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury released proposed frequently asked questions regarding mental health parity. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2019 parameters for the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, a 2019 Benefit and Payment Parameters final rule, a transitional policy extension for non-grandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets, and an assignment schedule for new Medicare beneficiary identifiers. The IRS released frequently asked questions on the employer credit for paid family medical leave. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published a summary of federal requirements that apply to the private health insurance market.

 

UBA Updates
UBA released one new advisor: 2019 Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule
UBA updated existing guidance: Sample Open Enrollment Notices Packet

 

IRS Changes 2018 HSA Family Contribution Limit
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released Revenue Procedure 2018-27 to modify the 2018 health savings account (HSA) family contribution limit back to $6,900. This is the second, and likely final, change in limit during 2018. As background, in May 2017, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2017-37 that set the 2018 HSA family contribution limit at $6,900.

However, in March 2018, the IRS released Revenue Procedure 2018-10 that adjusted the annual inflation factor for some tax-related formulas from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a new factor called a “chained CPI.” As a result, the 2018 HSA family contribution limit was lowered to $6,850 from $6,900, retroactively effective to January 1, 2018. Stakeholders informed the IRS that the lower HSA contribution limit would impose many unanticipated administrative and financial burdens. In response and in the best interest of sound and efficient tax administration, the IRS will allow taxpayers to treat the originally published $6,900 limit as the 2018 HSA family contribution limit.

Excess Contribution Tax Treatment if Employee Received Distribution Based on Earlier Limit

DOL, HHS, and Treasury Release Proposed FAQs on Mental Health Parity
The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively,
the “Departments”) released proposed FAQs About Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity

Implementation and the 21st Century Cures Act Part XX.
The Departments respond to FAQs as part of implementing the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici
Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA).

Generally, the MHPAEA requires that the financial requirements (for example, coinsurance and copays)
and treatment limitations (for example, visit limits) imposed on mental health or substance abuse disorder
(MH/SUD) benefits cannot be more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements and treatment
limitations that apply to substantially all medical/surgical benefits in a class.

Similarly, a group health plan or issuer cannot impose a nonquantitative treatment limitation (NQTL) on
MH/SUD benefits that is more stringent than a comparable limitation that is applied to medical/surgical
benefits.

The MHPAEA regulations include express disclosure requirements. For example, if a participant requests
the criteria for medical necessity determinations regarding MH/SUD benefits, then the plan administrator
must make the information available to the participant.

To assist plan sponsors with disclosure requests, DOL released a revised draft Mental Health and
Substance Use Disorder Parity Disclosure Request that plan sponsors may provide to individuals who
request information from an employer-sponsored health plan regarding treatment limitations.

To assist plan sponsors in determining whether a group health plan complies with MHPAEA, the DOL
released its Self-Compliance Tool for the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

 

CMS Releases 2019 Parameters for Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Benefit
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the following parameters for the defined
standard Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit for 2019:


Generally, group health plan sponsors must disclose to Part D eligibility individuals whether the
prescription drug coverage offered by the employer is creditable. Coverage is creditable if it, on average,
pays out at least as much as coverage available through the defined standard Medicare Part D
prescription drug plan.

 

CMS Issues 2019 Benefit and Payment Parameters Final Rule
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its 2019 Benefit and Payment
Parameters final rule. The rule primarily affects the individual health insurance market inside and outside
of the Exchange, the small group health insurance market, issuers, and the states.

Within the rule, three items most directly affect employers and their group health plans:
• Maximum annual out-of-pocket limit on cost sharing for 2019
• New methods for changing state EHB-benchmark plans
• New requirements for employers and issuers participating in the Small Business Health Options
Program (SHOP) Marketplace

 

CMS Issues Transitional Policy Extension
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a bulletin extending its transitional policy.

As background, in November 2013, CMS announced a transitional policy for non-grandfathered coverage
in the small group and individual health insurance markets. Under its policy, health insurance issuers may
choose to continue certain coverage that would otherwise be cancelled because of noncompliance with
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Public Health Service Act (PHS Act). Further,
affected small businesses and individuals may choose to re-enroll in such coverage.

Under its policy, non-grandfathered health insurance coverage in the small group and individual health
insurance markets will not be considered to be out of compliance with the following ACA and PHS Act
market reforms if certain criteria are met:
• Fair health insurance premiums
• Guaranteed availability of coverage
• Guaranteed renewability of coverage
• Prohibition of pre-existing condition exclusions or other discrimination based on health status,
with respect to adults, except with respect to group coverage
• Prohibition of discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health
status), except with respect to group coverage
• Non-discrimination in health care
• Coverage for individuals participating in approved clinical trials
• Single risk pool requirement

Under CMS’ transitional policy, states may permit issuers that have renewed policies under the
transitional policy continually since 2014 to renew such coverage for a policy year starting on or before
October 1, 2019. However, any policies renewed under this transitional policy must not extend past
December 31, 2019.

 

CMS Starts Assigning New Medicare Beneficiary Identifiers
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) started issuing new Medicare cards with a
Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI) or Medicare number. The MBI will replace the Social Security
number-based Health Insurance Claim Number (HICN) for Medicare transactions such as billing, eligibility
status, and claim status.

New enrollees will be among the first to get these new cards. Current Medicare beneficiaries will get their
new cards on a rolling basis over the next few months.

Employers who are currently capturing the HICN for their active employee or retirees should update their
systems to accept the new MBIs.

 

IRS Releases FAQ on Employer Credit for Paid Family Medical Leave
The IRS released an FAQ that primarily reiterates the Tax Cuts an Jobs Act’s provisions that provide a
new federal credit for employers that provide paid family and medical leave to their employees.

The IRS explains that an employer must reduce its deduction for wages or salaries paid or incurred by the
amount determined as a credit. Also, any wages taken into account in determining any other general
business credit may not be used in determining this credit.

The IRS adds this definition of “paid family and medical leave” that, for purposes of the credit, includes
time off for:
• Birth of an employee’s child and to care for the child.
• Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care
• To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
• A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or
her position
• Any qualifying exigency due to an employee’s spouse, child, or parent being on covered active
duty (or having been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed
Forces.
• To care for a service member who is the employee’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin

The FAQ also explains that, in the future, the IRS intends to address:
• When the written policy must be in place
• How paid “family and medical leave” relates to an employer’s other paid leave
• How to determine whether an employee has been employed for “one year or more”
• The impact of state and local leave requirements
• Whether members of a controlled group of corporations and businesses under common control
are treated as a single taxpayer in determining the credit

 

CRS Publishes Federal Requirements on Private Health Insurance Plans
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) published Federal Requirements on Private Health
Insurance Plans, which summarizes federal requirements that apply to the private health insurance
market, including a table that indicates whether a particular federal requirement applies to a fully-insured
large group plan, fully-insured small group plan, self-funded plan, or individual coverage.

Question of the Month
Q. What are the penalties for failing to comply with Section 125 requirements, such as failing to follow a
cafeteria plan document’s terms?

A. An operational failure occurs when a plan fails to follow its cafeteria plan document’s terms. There are
several potential penalties for operational failures, including:
• Cafeteria plan disqualification
• Requiring the cafeteria plan to comply with Section 125 and its regulations, including reversing
transactions that caused noncompliance
• Imposing employment tax withholding liability and penalties on the employer regarding pre-tax
salary reductions and elective employer contributions
• Imposing employment and income tax liability and penalties on employees regarding pre-tax
salary reductions and elective employer contributions

5/15/2018

Download the full recap here.


Two opportunities created by association health plans

The new regulations around association health plans (AHPs) — which loosen restrictions for small businesses, franchises and associations — create two distinct opportunities in the benefits industry.

The first is for brokers, who will be crucial advisors to employers eligible for the new coverage options now available.

The second opportunity is for benefits and HR tech vendors, who will be instrumental in managing the transactional and administrative challenges that would otherwise hinder AHP success.

What challenges do association health plans represent? Let’s consider an example — the Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant franchise.

Let’s say Nashville Hot Chicken has 1,000 franchisees, each with five full-time employees. Before AHP options became available to this organization, these five-employee groups would either have had to pursue small group coverage, or employees would have had to find individual plans.

Both options likely would have been prohibitively expensive for the organization or the employees. With the new AHP regulations, however, these 1,000 franchisees may be able to pull all 5,000 workers together and create a large group benefits plan.

In doing so, they would reap the advantages of collective purchasing, just like large groups do. However, this AHP would not work like a regular group plan.

If a regular group has 5,000 employees, they would all be part of a centrally-operated payroll system and the insurance companies would receive just one check for all of the employees enrolled at the group. But under an AHP of franchisees, all the payroll systems would operate independently, and there is no clear, centralized entity to pay carriers.

This creates a massive administrative headache for Nashville Hot Chicken corporate, as well as all the individual franchise owners. In other words, who is going to manage the AHP?

Here’s where the brokers come in. Employers need brokers to walk them through all the complexities of AHPs, including sourcing carriers, third-party vendors, and compliance needs.

It would also be incredibly impractical to manage 5,000 employees through 1,000 separate businesses without a benefits and HR platform.

But brokers can provide a solution to this challenge by adopting a platform. With a benefits and HR system, the various administrative differences from franchisee to franchisee can be accounted for, while still allowing the 5,000-life group to enroll in the group offering.

By removing the administrative headache, benefits tech makes AHPs a real option for Nashville Hot Chicken. But it also gives the tech-savvy broker a clear leg up on the competition. A broker without a tech solution will be at a severe disadvantage for Nashville Hot Chicken’s business compared to a broker who has a platform.

So as small employers, franchisees and industry associations band together for group coverage, benefits tech can give brokers a competitive differentiator for this new business segment.

Read the article.

Source:
Tolbert A. (1 March 2018). "Two opportunities created by association health plans" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/01/two-opportunities-created-by-association-health-pl/