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Patricia Moran is Of Counsel in the firm’s Boston office. She counsels clients on employee benefits and compensation matters and has extensive experience with health and welfare plan matters, including the Affordable Care Act’s employer and insurance mandates, the Massachusetts “Fair Share” employer mandate, COBRA, HIPAA, wellness, and mental health parity. Patricia counsels clients on retirement plan matters, including 401(k) and 403(b) plan compliance. She has represented clients in government audits and examinations related to their health and welfare plans. Patricia frequently writes and speaks on a variety of employee benefits related matters.

For employers who want to attract and retain the best talent, a robust benefits package is a must. But with political shifts and changing compliance burdens, keeping up with benefits requirements is a daunting task.

First and foremost, employers are concerned about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Two recent proposals by two Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives (collectively referred to as the “American Health Care Act” or AHCA) have materially advanced the effort. The particulars of the AHCA are explained in a recent Mintz Employment Matters blog post.  Public and political reaction to the AHCA is mixed, and there is no guarantee that it will make its way to law. Medicaid and the subject of tax subsidies to help low-income individuals are two particularly troubling (but not the only) sticking points—on both sides of the political aisle.

Continue Reading Mintz Levin Third Annual Employment Law Summit–Panel on Employee Benefits and the future of the ACA . . .

Uber, Lyft, and their competitors, offering handy apps, responsive drivers and competitive prices, are fast becoming a favored commuter option.  Many employers either subsidize employee commuter expenses or allow employees to pay for commuter expenses through payroll deductions.  Under current law (Internal Revenue Code Section 132(f)) and regulation, these expenses can be tax-free (up to certain dollar limits) if they are incurred through qualifying commuter highway vehicles, van pools, transit passes, parking, and bicycles.  Many employers and employees are asking: can Uber and Lyft commutes be provided tax-free?

Continue Reading Can Employees Commute Tax-Free on Uber or Lyft?

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rules take effect December 1, 2016, and employers across the country are carefully reviewing and modifying their compensation and payroll practices in anticipation.  As part of this preparation, employers must consider whether and how any changes to their compensation structures will affect their employee benefit plans. This post examines some of the employee benefits issues that employers should be considering as the December 1 deadline approaches.

Continue Reading Employee Benefits and the New Overtime Rules

As the ACA audit era approaches, many employers are wondering: what will happen?  What sorts of documentation will the IRS request?  What industries will be targeted?  And what can employers do to prepare?  In this post, I discuss what employers might expect based on my experience with audits under the Massachusetts Fair Share law, and provide some tips for audit preparation and troubleshooting.

Continue Reading As Affordable Care Act Enforcement Looms, Some Lessons Learned From Massachusetts

Even though the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate is in effect and fully phased-in, it has been our experience that few employers have bothered to review their employee handbooks to reflect the ACA.  Below we discuss how employers may bolster their ACA compliance (and avoid ACA penalties) through an ACA-focused employee handbook review.

Continue Reading Have You Reviewed your Employee Handbook for Affordable Care Act Compliance?

On February 5, 2016, the Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (the Departments) issued guidance addressing the application of market reforms and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to student health coverage, and providing temporary transition relief from enforcement by the Departments for non-compliant employers.

Continue Reading Subsidizing Student Health Insurance With Stipends – New Agency Guidance and Relief

Health and welfare have been around for a long time, and they are ubiquitous.  Employees have come to expect medical, dental, life, and other insurance as part of their benefits packages.  Employers offer coverage in order to reward employees, attract the best talent, and now, under the Affordable Care Act, avoid penalties.  Historically, these plans posed few regulatory concerns for employers, despite that the applicable laws and regulations have become increasingly complicated with each passing decade.  With the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, however, the applicable legal and regulatory concerns have reached a tipping point.  The burdens of compliance and the penalties for non-compliance are now more ominous than ever.  This post examines the compliance environment of health and welfare plans generally and group health plans in particular.

Continue Reading Health and Welfare Plans: Big Compliance Burdens, Big Penalty Exposures

When it comes to telling their employees about certain benefits, many employers have for decades (since 1974 to be exact) flouted a particular provision of the law with impunity.  The law to which we refer is the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and the provision relates to the requirement that the employer tell employees about the salient plan terms by providing them with a Summary Plan Description or “SPD.”  The Affordable Care Act alters the regulatory landscape on this score.  And while the ACA did not change the requirements that apply to SPDs, it radically changes the surrounding compliance environment.  Complying with the SPD requirements all of a sudden looks not only like a good idea, but it also rises—dare we say—to a best or at least highly recommended practice.

In response to this changing environment, we recommend using a “wrap document,” which as we explain below, allows employers to satisfy the ERISA SPD and other disclosure requirements.

Continue Reading The Health and Welfare “Wrap” Document: What It Is and Why You Want One

While Americans everywhere were busy eating turkey and drinking eggnog last November and December, our government was hard at work attending to budget matters.  Tucked among the appropriations were several fairly significant items of interest to employers, employees, providers, administrations, and all manner of benefits aficionados.  We discuss them below.

Continue Reading Cadillac Tax Effective Date Postponed (and Three Other 2015 Year End Health and Welfare Benefits Legislation Highlights)