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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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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Curing What Ails You – Relief for Small Employer HRAs

The impact of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) on health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) has not been favorable.  Many employers got rid of their HRAs or integrated them with a major medical plan in order to avoid significant penalties under ACA.  These rules imposed a significant burden on small employers, because many small employers used HRAs to reimburse employees for the cost of individual health insurance policies they purchased rather than sponsor a group health plan.

In IRS Notice 2015-17, Q&A1, the IRS granted limited relief for small employer HRAs through June 30, 2015.  However, at the end of last year, small employers received greater relief in the form of the 21st Century Cures Act (the “Cures Act”). Read More ›

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What is Telemedicine? A Cool Benefit or a Hot Mess?

We’ve had numerous inquiries lately about telemedicine benefits.  My clients most typically ask either “is this a group health plan?” or “is it just access to another provider?”  Clearly, there is much confusion surrounding telemedicine benefits.  Part of the problem is that the regulators have yet to issue guidance on how telemedicine should be treated.  All we can do is take what is a very innovative benefit and figure out how it fits into a complicated, and sometimes outdated, regulatory framework.

Let’s start by agreeing that telemedicine benefits are pretty cool.  With telemedicine, employees can usually see a doctor sooner than if they had to go to a doctor’s office.  Read More ›

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Proposed Regulations for Summary of Benefits and Coverage Seek to Simplify Compliance

As part of Health Care Reform, employers and insurers are required to provide group health plan participants with a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (“SBC”) describing the important features of the group health plan option(s) offered by the employer/insurer.  The SBC is also intended to provide participants a way to easily compare different group health plan options.  The current rules for complying with the SBC requirement were viewed by some as not being “user-friendly.”  On December 22, 2014, the DOL, HHS and Treasury released proposed guidance that is designed “to improve consumer access to important plan information so that [the consumers] can make more informed choices.”

The proposed regulations suggest the following changes/additions:

•  A new coverage example regarding a foot fracture and emergency room visit would be added to the existing coverage examples of “having a baby” and “managing type 2 diabetes.”  These coverage examples have been shown to be helpful in a participant’s understanding of how their coverage works. Read More ›

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