New Plan Year, New Wellness Program – Some Things to Keep in Mind

As a follow-up to our recent blog Count Down to Open Enrollment – Some Quick Thoughts, below is a little more detail on how seemingly simple wellness program design changes can have significant legal consequences.

  • HIPAA – Employers feeling extra generous this plan year may want to increase their wellness program’s financial incentive.  It is important that such employers remain mindful of the limitations under HIPAA, i.e., 30% of the total cost of health plan coverage, or 50% for programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use.  As noted in our previous blog “Wellness Rules Under the ADA – Will There Ever Be Certainty?
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Count Down to Open Enrollment – Some Quick Thoughts

As open enrollment approaches for the 2019 calendar year, below are some items employers may want to consider:

  • Wellness program changes – Many employers change their wellness programs during open enrollment.  This is a reminder that even small changes to a wellness program may have significant consequences.  For example, if an employer increases wellness rewards, it may impact not only whether a program complies with the 30% test under HIPAA but it may also impact affordability under Code Section 4980H.  Making changes to a wellness program structure may also create problems.  For example, employers with tobacco surcharges might allow people to avoid surcharges by attesting that they do not use tobacco. 
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The 95 Percent Test: Gearing up for Another Round of Employer Shared Responsibility Penalties

Late last year, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) began enforcing penalties with respect to failures to comply with the employer shared responsibility provisions of Section 4980H of the Internal Revenue Code.  In the coming months, the Service is expected to begin assessing penalties with respect to such failures occurring in calendar year 2016.  These penalties are of two varieties:

  1. Section 4980H(a) penalties are assessed for any month in which an applicable large employer (“ALE”) does not offer minimum essential coverage to substantially all (95% for 2016 and future years) of its full-time employees and their dependents and at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit. 
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The Family Medical Leave Act and Benefit Plans: What comes first – the Law or the Employer’s Established Policy?

An employer that employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year is subject to the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Therefore, often when I am reviewing an employee benefits plan or policy I flag language that states something like: “You may be eligible to continue your coverage pursuant to the FMLA. Contact the company for more information.”  What does this mean?

Group Health Plan

For purposes of the FMLA, a group health plan is generally a plan that provides health care to employees, former employees, or families of such employees or former employees. Read More ›

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Association Health Plans – A New Frontier?

On June 21, 2018, the Department of Labor published the final association health plan (“AHP”) rule, which can be accessed at: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2018-06-21/pdf/2018-12992.pdf.  83 FR 28912 (June 21, 2018).  The final rule is short, just shy of three pages in length (see page 28961 to 29964), and provides that a bona fide group or association shall be deemed to be able to act in the interest of an employer within the meaning of section 3(5) of ERISA by satisfying the criteria set forth in the final rule.  The requirements are relatively straightforward and are summarized below:

  • Bona fide group or association of employers – There are eight requirements that must be met to satisfy this standard. 
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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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Much Ado about $50… IRS Announces Relief for Reduction of Maximum HSA Contributions

On April 3, we blogged about a reduction in the HSA contribution limit for family coverage in 2018 from $6,900 to $6,850.  This was a technical change resulting from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that adjusted the method for calculating inflation.  On April 26, in Revenue Procedure 2018-27, the IRS came through with a fix for this $50 technical issue.  For 2018, taxpayers with family coverage under a high deductible health plan (HDHP) may treat $6,900 as the maximum deductible HSA contribution. 

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Health Plans – A Pain to Administer But Appreciated by Employees

Administering health plans is not the easiest task.  Such plans are subject to an alphabet soup of laws, including but not limited to ERISA, the Internal Revenue Code, COBRA, HIPAA, GINA, Mental Health Parity, the ADA, the ADEA, and Title VII.  However, a November 2017 American Benefits Council survey may make employers feel better about the time, energy, and resources they spend administering their health plans.

The November 2017 survey shows that employees prefer high quality benefit programs over additional pay by a nearly 2‑to‑1 margin.  This is surprising because many people assume “cash-is-king.”  The survey demonstrates otherwise and highlights how important employer-provided health benefits are to employees.  Read More ›

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IRS Announces Reduction in Family HSA Contribution Limit for 2018

In Revenue Procedure 2018-18, the Internal Revenue Service announced a reduction in the HSA contribution limit for family coverage in 2018 to $6,850 from $6,900.  The self-only HSA contribution limit for 2018 remains unchanged at $3,450.

This change is a technical result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which adjusted the method for calculating inflation. Although the reduction may appear somewhat small, it may cause certain employees to inadvertently contribute over the limit.  For instance, an employee who front-loads his or her annual contribution may have already exceeded the new limit.

The IRS has not issued any transition relief for excess contributions made in 2018 by employees relying on the original contribution limit announced in Revenue Procedure 2017-37Read 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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