In a November 20, 2017 post, we reported on Massachusetts’ passage of H. 3822, “An Act Further Regulating Employer Contributions to Health Care,” (the “Act”), the purpose of which is to shore up the finances of the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program and its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The law has two components or tiers.

  • Tier 1 increases the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (“EMAC”) from an annual maximum fee of $51 per employee to $77 per employee; and
  • Tier 2 imposes a tax penalty— or “EMAC supplement”— on employers with more than 5 employees. The penalty is 5% of a covered employee’s unemployment insurance taxable wages up to the $15,000 per year (i.e., a cap of $750 per covered employee) for each nondisabled employee who receives health insurance coverage through the Massachusetts Division of Medical Assistance (i.e., MassHealth) or subsidized insurance through the Massachusetts Health Insurance Connector Authority (i.e., ConnectorCare). Employers are not, however, liable for the Tier 2 EMAC supplement in the case of employees who enroll in MassHealth’s Premium Assistance Program.

The Act directs the Commonwealth’s Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) to promulgate regulations implementing the new Tier 2 penalty. Employers pay EMAC supplemental contributions quarterly. The DUA recently issued draft rules regulations along with useful set of FAQs on the subject. As we explained previously:

[T]he draft regulations implementing the tier 2 EMAC supplement follow the statute while providing additional details. . . .The rules governing which employers are affected generally follow existing rules governing unemployment insurance in the Commonwealth. Identifying which employers are affected, and how assessments—or “contributions”—are assessed and collected closely track existing law.

Two features of the draft regulations are worth noting.

  • What data is use to determine, and who determines the Tier 2 EMAC supplement payments?

First, the principal responsibly for determining which employees trigger assessments by reason of qualifying for and receiving health insurance coverage from MassHealth or subsidized insurance from ConnectorCare rests with the DUA. Thus the EMAC rules operate in a manner that is fundamentally different from the now repealed “fair share employer contribution” requirement under the 2006 Massachusetts health care reform law. (The Commonwealth’s fair share employer contribution requirement was the precursor, and roughly analogous to the employer shared responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act.) Under the fair share employer contribution requirements, employers were obligated to obtain signed forms—referred to as Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure (or “HIRD”) forms. The Tier 2 EMAC rules don’t operate this way. Rather, the DUA determines and assesses the penalty. Any required EMAC supplement payments that an employer owes are simply added to the statement showing the employer’s Unemployment Insurance.

Subject to the execution of a confidentiality agreement, the DUA will provide the employer employee information for purposes of reviewing and/or appealing the EMAC. An employer may request a hearing to appeal a determination. The request for a hearing must be filed within 10 days of the employer’s receipt of notice of the determination, and the Director issue a written decision affirming, modifying, or revoking its initial determination.

Based on our direct experience with clients and the reports of other benefits practitioners, we understand that some employers are asking employees to voluntarily tell their employees whether they qualify for and are receiving health insurance coverage from MassHealth or subsidized insurance from ConnectorCare. We think this is a bad idea.

We note at the outset that, despite the claim made by some, such a request does not raise HIPAA privacy concerns. While the fact that a person’s enrollment in a particular health plan is PHI in the hands of the health plan or other covered entity, that same employee is free to tell anyone that he or she is enrolled in MassHealth or subsidized insurance from ConnectorCare, or any other group health plan. Rather, the problem is that if an employee is dismissed after disclosing that he or she might be the cause of an EMAC assessment, the employee may claim they have been unlawfully terminated in violation of public policy.

  • Impact on Employers—Redux

We concluded our post of November 20 with the following claim:

If an employee chooses to voluntarily forgo an employer’s offer of coverage and instead applies and qualifies for MassHealth (excluding the premium assistance program) or subsidized ConnectorCare, the employer is penalized irrespective of the quality or affordability of the coverage that it offers. There is no exemption similar to that provided under the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility rules under which an applicable large employer can escape excise tax exposure by offering coverage that is affordable and provides minimum value.

Where an employer offers coverage that is both affordable and provides minimum value, that employee would not be eligible for subsidized ConnectorCare coverage. So the above statement is misleading in part. Where an employer offers coverage that is both affordable and provides minimum value, it will not be liable for the EMAC supplement with respect to employees who don’t qualify for MassHealth. (Special thanks to Kathryn Wilber, Senior Counsel, Health Policy, at the American Benefits Council for calling this item to our attention.)

As we enter the holiday season, we gather around the bubbler to sing about a few of our favorite (and not so favorite) things in the world of employment and labor law.  Unfortunately, they’re not as sanguine as raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens…

Some retail employers will be on Santa’s naughty list after the Sixth Circuit found that sales employees paid on a 100% commission or draw basis cannot be required to repay outstanding draws after termination of employment.  The Senate decked the halls of the NLRB by confirming a new General Counsel, who will serve a critical policy role and is expected to move away from enforcement of the NLRB’s broadened joint-employer standard.   This could be the last Christmas employees have to visit EEOC offices in person to file discrimination charges after the EEOC launched a new online portal, putting employers on alert of the possibility of increased charge filings in 2018.  It’s a wonderful Christmas time for minimum wage workers in Montgomery County, Maryland, in DC’s metro area, who joined the small but growing ranks of jurisdictions increasing its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour beginning in 2021. Retail employees in New York might get a silent night away from work thanks to new employee scheduling regulations proposed by the New York State Labor Department that will limit “just in time” or “on call” scheduling and require additional pay for employees scheduled on short notice.  While California employers may have longer than 8 nights, they don’t have quite a month to prepare for new regulations that will take effect January 1, 2018, which expressly prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history prior to a conditional offer of employment.

Welcome (almost) to the New Year: a time of renewal, a fresh start, a clean slate, and a time to make and hopefully keep resolutions. A “New Year’s Resolution” is, of course, a commitment in the coming year to change an undesired trait or behavior, to accomplish a goal or otherwise make a material improvement.

Toward this end, we thought it appropriate to launch a mini-series of some compliance-related resolutions employers might consider for 2018. In fact, we can’t think of a better way to close out 2017 than with a series devoted to a collective resolution to make 2018 a year devoted to cleaning out the cobwebs and achieving (better) employment law compliance.

We recognize, given the complexity of our legal landscape and the challenges of managing human relationships in the workplace, complete employment compliance is a worthy but perhaps unattainable goal. But that doesn’t mean 2018 can’t begin on the right foot.

We thought it appropriate to start our resolutions mini-series with this headline: Don’t let your workplace BE the next headline.

Continue Reading An Employer’s Resolutions for the New Year – A Mini-Series from the Employment Matters Blog. Resolution #1: Don’t let your Workplace be the Next Headline: Review and Refresh your Non-Harassment Policies and Training.

Employers beware.  A recent case serves as a reminder as we wind down the calendar year that employers should closely review their policies and procedures applying to employees paid on a 100% commission or draw basis.  In Stein v. HHGreg Stores, the United States Appeals Court for the Sixth Circuit ruled that, while a retail employer’s draw on future commissions to meet minimum wage requirements was lawful, the company policy requiring repayment for outstanding draws after an employee had been terminated was not.

Continue Reading Sixth Circuit Draws the Line: Draws on Future Commissions and Post-Termination Payback Policies

As reported by our sister blog, Privacy and Security Matters, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a game changer, and it is likely to impact US based companies who do business in the EU, even if they don’t have a office or employees located there. We will present an in-person seminar in Boston (November 28), New York (November 29) and Washington, DC (November 30) to address GDPR compliance. You can register here.

In an earlier post, we reported on the passage of H. 3822, “An Act Further Regulating Employer Contributions to Health Care,” (the “Act”), the purpose of which is to shore up the finances of the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program and its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The law, which is a temporary measure, has two components or tiers.

Continue Reading Proposed Regulations Issued Implementing Massachusetts Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) Supplemental Contribution

Tis the season . . . for ERISA disclosure requirements, of course!  Between open enrollment and the calendar year end, the list of documents, notices and updates required under ERISA looms large and annoying.

In these trying months of increased administrative hassle, many employer turn to electronic distribution in order to be environmentally forward, administratively efficient, and cost effective, and respond to wishes of employees who, let’s face it, don’t want (and won’t read) a big pile of paper.  But while electronic distribution is sound business practice, employers should keep in mind that there are rules to follow, at least with respect to ERISA notices.

This article contains a helpful guide to these rules, as well as some helpful steps employers can take to comply.  Note that the article was written shortly before the last presidential election, and while the rules have not changed, some of the author’s predictions about the proliferation of Affordable Care Act audits were based on incorrect assumptions about the election outcome and haven’t exactly come to pass.  Ahem.

Just six months after California modified its regulations concerning past criminal convictions for applicants, California has taken the additional step of modifying the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) to expressly prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history prior to a conditional offer of employment, and strictly limiting an employer’s use of an applicant’s criminal history following a conditional offer.

Continue Reading California “Ban-the-Box” Law Significantly Limits Employers’ Ability to Obtain and Use Information About Criminal Convictions in Recruiting and Hiring

On November 1, 2017 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) launched its new public portal to allow individuals to quickly and directly submit inquiries and requests for intake interviews to the EEOC.  Will online access to the EEOC’s intake and inquiry process lead to an increase in discrimination charges?  While that remains to be seen, the new portal undoubtedly provides employees with faster direct access to the EEOC.

Continue Reading Will the EEOC’s New Online Complaint Filing Portal Lead to a Spike in Discrimination Complaints?