A Time to Remember that Employer-Provider Data Breach Benefits are not Taxable

Hardly a week goes by without another announcement of a high-profile data security breach.  The list of data breaches impacting high-profile employers and their employees just in 2017 is long.  Protecting our sensitive data is becoming a top priority for us all.  Recognizing this need, employer-provided identity theft protection is one of the fastest growing employer-provided benefits.  Willis Towers Watson found that, while around 35% of employers offered this benefit in 2015, as many as 80% of employers will offer the benefit by 2018.  The fact that employer-provided identity theft protection can be offered by employers as a nontaxable benefit adds to its attraction for employees.  Read More ›

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Section 4980H Large Employer Penalties – IRS Signals the Health Coverage Penalties Remain in Force

Many employers were hopeful that the Code Section 4980H penalties would be repealed now that Republicans control Congress and Trump is in the White House.  To date, that has not happened, nor has the IRS announced it will not enforce these penalties.  In fact, in two Information Letters released by IRS on July 16, 2017, the IRS indicated that the ACA Executive Order signed by President Trump when he first took office “does not change the law; the legislative provisions of the ACA are still in force until changed by the Congress, and taxpayers remain required to follow the law and pay what they may owe.”

Senate Republicans are making one last ditch effort to repeal Code Section 4980H.  Read More ›

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IRS Issues Hurricane Harvey Relief

In Announcement 2017-11, the IRS relaxed standards for hardship distributions and loans from qualified retirement plans for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. This relief applies to employees or former employees and their family members who live or work in the disaster areas designated for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”).

The Announcement provides for the following relief:

  • Relaxes the administrative rules that apply to hardship distributions by permitting plan administrators to rely on a participant’s representations regarding the need for, and the amount of, the hardship distribution unless the plan administrator has actual knowledge to the contrary.
  • Permits hardship distributions for Hurricane Harvey-related needs for family members, including parents, children and spouses.
Read More ›
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Wellness Incentives Under Scrutiny After District Court Decision

In the most recent updates to the AARP v. EEOC wellness case (AARP v. EEOC, D.D.C., No. 1:16-cv-02113), the District Court for the District of Columbia has ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) to review the wellness regulations related to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) with respect to the amount of incentives that an employer may provide under a wellness program.

The ADA and GINA both permit the collection of certain health information by an employer so long as the disclosure is “voluntary.” However, neither the ADA nor GINA provides a definition of what is considered “voluntary.”  In May of 2016, the ADA and GINA wellness regulations were finalized and provide, in relevant part, that a wellness program can offer incentives or penalties of up to 30% of the cost of self-only coverage. Read More ›

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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 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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Say on Pay Failure Results 2017

Of the 7% of Russell 3000 companies that received “against” vote recommendations from ISS on their say on pay proposals this 2017 proxy season, some of the cited reasons for the negative vote recommendations from ISS consisted of the following:

  • Pay for failure (i.e., pay for performance disconnect).
  • Lack of rigorous performance goals.
  • A substantial portion of granted equity awards were not performance-based.
  • Presence of an ISS “problematic pay practice” including:
    • Abnormally large bonus payments without proper link to performance.
    • Change in control payments exceed 3 times base salary/target bonus.
    • Single trigger change in control or severance payments.

A full list of the ISS “problematic pay practices” can be found here. Read More ›

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Transgender Benefits Revisited?

In a series of tweets published on July 26, 2017, President Trump announced a ban on transgender service in the armed forces.  In the wake of this reversal of government policy, employers may question the current state of transgender benefits and whether additional changes are forthcoming.

On May 18, 2016, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) issued final regulations implementing the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“Section 1557”), which prohibit, in part, the categorical refusal of coverage to transgender participants and require that individuals be treated consistent with their self-selected gender identity.  As a result of these changes, many employer group health plans started covering an array of transgender benefits ranging from mental health counseling to gender reassignment surgery. Read More ›

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Open Enrollment Looms and ACA Changes are Uncertain – What are Employers to Do?

On the morning of July 28, 2017, another effort to repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) failed in a 49-51 Senate vote when three Republican senators voted against the bill. Attempts to pass even a trimmed down “skinny” version of the bill were unsuccessful.  Following this dramatic vote, the path forward for health care reform is as uncertain as ever.

With fall open enrollment fast approaching, employers may be wondering what actions to take with respect to their health plans. Given the uncertainty of whether changes will be made to the ACA before open enrollment, employers may wish to proceed as though the ACA will remain in effect for 2018. Read More ›

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Missing Participants – Out of Sight Out of Mind?

Imagine it’s March 31 and you are a retirement plan administrator.  You have a participant who terminated employment 15 years ago.  He turned 70½ last year and now you owe him his first required minimum distribution from the Plan on April 1.  You have not thought about this participant or attempted to locate him in the past 15 years.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize if the participant does not receive his required minimum distribution, he will owe a 50% excise tax on the required minimum distribution.

This scenario is common to plan administrators.  In trying to keep up with the day to day requirements of administering retirement plans, it is easy to lose touch with former employees or beneficiaries.  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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