On April 2, 2018, significant changes to ERISA’s disability claims procedures will take effect. These new rules will require all ERISA-covered plans which provide disability benefits to make significant modifications to the way disability benefit claims are reviewed and decided. This post describes what is changing and why, and the steps employers must take now to ensure compliance.
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.
Happy New Year! It’s that time when we all vow to better ourselves in the months ahead. Resolutions abound, and they need not be limited to individual self-improvement. Employers too have many opportunities for betterment in the New Year. In the area of employee benefits, we offer these four goals for 2018.
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.
Hurricanes. Fires. Floods. Shootings. The evening news seems consistently laden with catastrophe.
In times like these, a federal agency called the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) often springs into action. The NDMS, created in 2002 under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, is a corps of volunteer reservists who perform a variety of disaster-relief services. While NDMS members are often medical clinicians providing health services (including doctors, nurses, paramedics, physician assistants, and pharmacists), teams may also include other non-medical professionals such as logistical specialists, information technologists, fatality management, veterinary professionals, and communication and administrative specialists.
Relevant to employers, NDMS reservists are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
The blood remaining in the umbilical cord after childbirth contains stems cells which may be used in a variety of medical treatments. Many parents of newborns are seeking to save this “cord blood”, either with the hopes of curing known ailments, as insurance against future illnesses, or for use in yet-to-be-discovered therapies.
My internet surfing (assign whatever level of reliability you see fit) reveals that cord blood storage costs about $1000-2000 for the initial collection and $150-$250 per year for the storage. Perhaps not insurmountable in a vacuum, but more prohibitive when added to all the other costs of having children (Diapers! Clothes! Lessons! Child care! Downloads! Theme parks in Florida!). So it’s no surprise that many employees are wondering – can I pay for cord blood storage with the money in my health reimbursement account (HRA), health care flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA)?
The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), enacted on December 13, 2016, provides a new opportunity for small employers to help employees pay for health insurance: the “qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement” (QSEHRA). Under QSEHRA, certain small employers can give their employees pre-tax dollars to pay for premiums and other medical expenses, so long as the QSEHRA meets certain standards.
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). The ACA has recently been in the news as a result of the failure of the Republican controlled Congress to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Based loosely on a whitepaper issued by House Speaker Paul Ryan entitled A Better Way, the AHCA was passed by two Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives that collectively were intended to “repeal and replace” the ACA. (We explained the Ryan proposal here, and we cover the implications of the collapse of the AHCA here.)
On October 21, 2016, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) issued a FAQ providing indefinite relief for employers who subsidize student health insurance coverage.
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?
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.