Wellness Rules Under the ADA – Will There Ever Be Certainty?

We previously blogged about the EEOC’s final rules, published in the Federal Register on May 17, 2016, that explain how the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) applies to employer sponsored wellness programs. These rules clarified when an employee health program, which includes a disability-related inquiry or medical examination, is considered “voluntary” under the ADA.  The EEOC’s rules stated, amongst other things, that an employer may offer incentives for employees who participate in a wellness program as long as the incentive does not exceed 30% of the total cost of self-only coverage.

We also previously blogged that this incentive provision was under scrutiny by the U.S. Read More ›

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Air Ambulance Services – What Does Your Plan Cover?

Due to the increased litigation of air ambulance claims, employers may want to review their plan language to see whether their group health plan covers air ambulance services, and if so, to better understand the terms of the coverage.

Below are three issues employers may want to consider:

  1. Expensive and Often Out-of-Network.  Air ambulance claims can be very expensive. While a 2014 report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (“NAIC”) indicates that the average air ambulance trip is 52 miles and costs between $12,000 to $25,000 per flight, recent litigation shows that these claims can go into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. 
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New Disability Claims Regulations Take Effect for All Plans April 1, 2018

As noted in our previous blog post, The New Disability Claims Regulations: They Don’t Only Apply to Disability Plans, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations that revise the ERISA claims procedure regulations for all employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits (the “New Regulations”).  These rules can impact not only short-term and long-term disability plans but also qualified retirement plans (e.g., a 401(k) plan), nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.  The New Regulations were published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016, and are based on the Affordable Care Act’s enhanced claims and appeals regulations for group health plans.  Read More ›

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The New Disability Claims Regulations: They Don’t Only Apply to Disability Plans

Introduction

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued regulations that revise the ERISA claims procedure regulations for employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits (the “New Disability Claims Regulations” or “New Regulations”).  They are based on the Affordable Care Act’s (the “ACA”) enhanced claims and appeals regulations for group health plans (the “ACA Enhanced Regulations”).  The scope of the New Regulations are broader than you may  realize and apply to any plan, regardless of how it is characterized, that provides benefits or rights that are contingent on whether the plan determines an individual to be disabled.  This can include ERISA governed short-term disability plans, long-term disability plans, qualified retirement plans (e.g., a 401(k) plan), nonqualified retirement plans, and health and welfare plans.  Read More ›

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Recent Mental Health Parity Guidance — A Good Reminder to Review Your Health Plan for Compliance

The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (“MHPAEA”) generally requires that the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to mental health and substance use disorder (“MH/SUD”) benefits cannot be more restrictive than the financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to medical and surgical (“M/S”) benefits.  Financial requirements include, for example, deductibles and coinsurance.  Treatment limitations can be quantitative (e.g., limits on the number of days or visits covered under the plan) or non-quantitative (“NQTL”) (e.g., requiring participants to obtain prior authorization before treatment).

The MHPAEA and its implementing regulations also require plan administrators to provide various disclosures upon request regarding MH/SUD benefits.  Read More ›

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2017 HIPAA Enforcement – Appears Not To Be Slowing Down

To state the obvious, there has been some uncertainty regarding how the Trump Administration will affect federal agency enforcement efforts.  However, at least, in regard to HIPAA Privacy and Security, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”), appears to be unchanging in its previous course.

In the first four months of 2017, OCR has already announced seven settlements with covered entities and business associates with fines totaling over $14 million.  For some context, OCR assessed over $23.5 million in 2016, which was a record-breaking year.  These settlements are in addition to Phase 2 of OCR’s Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Audit Program, which started in 2016 and is likely still underway. Read More ›

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HIPAA Checkup – How Good Are Your Policies and Procedures?

Although it is not a new requirement, it is important and therefore worth a reminder:  HIPAA requires covered entities to establish and implement written policies and procedures that are consistent with its Privacy and Security Rules.

As discussed in an earlier blog, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) has begun its Phase 2 HIPAA Audit Program.  The Program will focus on the policies and procedures adopted and employed by covered entities and their business associates to meet the requirements of the Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules.  Furthermore, if a group health plan is selected for an audit, it would have a very short time to produce its policies and procedures (i.e., 10 business days).  Read More ›

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Will the ACA Stay or Will it Go?

After surviving two Supreme Court cases and numerous repeal efforts, the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is in jeopardy again. Despite the law’s uncertainty, employers may want to continue their compliance efforts because: (1) the ACA is currently the law and there are significant penalties for noncompliance; and (2) for the reasons stated below complete repeal is anything but certain.

First, we do not know whether the law will be repealed outright.  Although Republicans control Congress, they do not have a supermajority in the Senate.  This means that, unless current filibuster law changes, Democratic Senators could block a bill to repeal the ACA entirely. Read More ›

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You Received a Health Insurance Marketplace Notice from HHS – Now What?

Take a deep breath.  The HHS Health Insurance Marketplace Notice (the “Notice”) may seem to be a nuisance, but it does not necessarily mean that you will be subject to employer shared responsibility penalties.

First, the IRS, not HHS, assesses employer shared responsibility penalties, and the IRS does so only after it provides employers with:  (1) a “certification” that one or more employees received a premium tax credit; and (2) an opportunity to respond to the certification.

Second, an individual may have incorrectly reported on his application that he was eligible for a premium tax credit (or cost-sharing reductions) because:  (1) he did not receive an offer of health coverage from you; (2) he did receive an offer of health coverage from you, but it was unaffordable or it failed to provide minimum value, or (3) he was in a waiting period and was unable to enroll in health care coverage.  Read More ›

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EEOC Final Rules on Wellness Programs and the ADA – Worth the Wait?

On May 16, 2016, the EEOC issued final rules that explain how the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) applies to employer sponsored wellness programs.   Although some may welcome the guidance, others may be frustrated because the rules are somewhat inconsistent with the rules under HIPAA, inconsistent with the court decisions under Seff v. Broward County, 691 F.3d 1221 (11th Cir. 2012) and EEOC v. Flambeau, Inc., 131 F. Supp. 3d 849 (W.D. Wis. 2015), and do not ensure compliance with other federal nondiscrimination laws (e.g., Title II of GINA or other Sections of Title I of the ADA). Read More ›

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