Cadillac Tax Delayed Until 2020

The 2016 omnibus spending bill unveiled by Congressional leaders on December 15 and signed by the President on December 18 includes a two year delay in the Cadillac Tax.  In addition to delaying the Cadillac Tax until 2020, the bill makes the tax deductible for employers.

We will keep an eye on further developments in this field and will continue to update our readers as necessary. In the meantime, we recommend employers continue to monitor their glide-path toward implementation of the tax, so they can take appropriate steps to avoid incurring the tax, or minimize its impact. This includes obtaining an assessment of the likelihood of incurring the tax based on current plan design and participant behavior.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016

Prior Post: IRS Proposes Various Approaches to Cadillac Tax Implementation

ACA Automatic Enrollment Repealed

There is good news for employers with more than 200 employees in the recently announced budget deal: The deal repeals the automatic enrollment requirement that was originally enacted as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Section 1511 of the ACA required employers with health coverage that have more than 200 employees to automatically enroll new employees in their plan. The act also required employers to give new employees notice and the opportunity to opt out of the automatic enrollment.  The DOL had previously delayed implementation of the provisions. With this repeal, employers will no longer need to worry about implementing this particular ACA requirement.

HR 1314

Exchange Notices to Employers When Employees Receive Premium Tax Credits

CMS just announced that, beginning in 2016, all Healthcare.gov exchanges will start to notify certain employers if one or more of their employees has received an advance payment of premium tax credits.  As discussed previously here, an unintended consequence of this is that, if not properly handled, the employer’s receipt of these notices could increase the risk of a retaliation claim against employers under the ACA.  Talk to your counsel about how you can segregate the information you receive in these notices from HR decision-makers, and whether you ought to respond if you learn an employee is getting a premium tax credit that you don’t think they should be eligible for (based on the coverage you are offering them).

Health Care Coverage Information Returns – Update

Final Versions of 2015 Health Care Information Reporting Forms Now Available

The Internal Revenue Service has released the final versions of two key 2015 forms and the related instructions that employers and insurers will send to the IRS and individuals this winter to report health care coverage they offered or provided.  The IRS published these forms in 2014 and released draft forms and instructions for 2015 earlier this summer. The final forms and instructions for 2015 are largely unchanged from the previously released drafts.

The 2015 version of Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage, and instructions used by employers with 50 or more full-time employees are now available on IRS.gov.

Form 1095-B, Health Coverage, and instructions primarily used by insurers and health coverage providers, including employers that sponsor self-insured plans, have been released as well.

The related document transmittal Forms 1094-B and 1094-C are also available on IRS.gov.

The health care law requires certain employers and providers to submit the 2015 forms to the IRS and individuals in early 2016. Though the forms were available for voluntary use in tax-year 2014, the upcoming tax season will be the first time that reporting is mandatory.

Now is the Time to Determine ALE Status

Employers that are applicable large employers should be taking steps now to prepare for the coming filing season.  You must determine your ALE status each calendar year based on the average size of your workforce during the prior year. If you had at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during 2014, you are most likely an ALE for 2015.

In 2016, applicable large employers must file an annual information return – and provide a statement to each full-time employee..

If you will file 250 or more information returns for 2015, you must file the returns electronically through the ACA Information Reports system.  You should review draft Publication 5165, Guide for Electronically Filing Affordable Care Act (ACA) Information Returns, now for information on the communication procedures, transmission formats, business rules and validation procedures for returns that you must transmit in 2016.

 

Final Rules Regarding Religious Accommodation of Contraceptive Coverage Mandate

On July 14, 2015 the IRS, DOL and HHS will jointly issue final rules regarding no additional cost preventive services, including contraceptive services, under the Affordable Care Act.

The final rules maintain the existing accommodation for eligible religious nonprofits, but also finalizes an alternative pathway for eligible organizations that have a religious objection to covering contraceptive services to seek an accommodation from contracting, providing, paying, or referring for such services.  The rules allow these eligible organizations to notify HHS in writing of their religious objection to providing contraception coverage, as an alternative to filling out the form provided by the Department of Labor (EBSA Form 700) to provide to their issuer or third-party administrator. HHS and the DOL will then notify insurers and third party administrators of the organization’s objection so that enrollees in plans of such organizations receive separate payments for contraceptive services, with no additional cost to the enrollee or organization, and no involvement by the organization.

The alternative notice must include:

  • the name of the eligible organization and the basis on which it qualifies for an accommodation;
  • its objection based on sincerely held religious beliefs to covering some or all contraceptive services, as applicable (including an identification of the subset of contraceptive services to which coverage the eligible organization objects, if applicable);
  • the plan name and type; and
  • the name and contact information for any of the plan’s third party administrators and health insurance issuers.

The departments issued a model notice to HHS that eligible organizations may, but are not required to, use.

Nothing in this alternative notice process (or in the EBSA Form 700 notice process) provides for a government assessment of the sincerity of the religious belief underlying the eligible organization’s objection.

In addition, the final rules provide certain closely held for-profit entities the same accommodations. Relying on a definition used in federal tax law, the final rules define a “closely held for-profit entity” as an entity that is not publicly traded and that has an ownership structure under which more than 50 percent of the organization’s ownership interest is owned by five or fewer individuals, or an entity with a substantially similar ownership structure.  For purposes of this definition, all of the ownership interests held by members of a family are treated as being owned by a single individual.  The rules finalize standards concerning documentation and disclosure of a closely held for-profit entity’s decision not to provide coverage for contraceptive services.

The final rules also finalize interim final rules on the coverage of preventive services generally, with limited changes.

iconFinal Rules

icon Model Notice

COBRA, FMLA and the ACA Employer Mandate

Let’s assume you have diligently designated initial and standard measurement and stability periods to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the final employer mandate regulations to minimize the risk of incurring employer mandate penalties under the ACA (if you have not, let’s do it now – better late than never). But you may not yet have figured out how these designations may impact your FMLA and COBRA administration. To help you do that, let me tell you a story….

Joe Blow worked as a full-time employee for Acme, Inc. for several years. As such, he and his family were covered by Acme’s medical plan. In 2014, Acme designated a November 1 – October 31 standard measurement period, and a January 1 – December 31 standard stability period for ongoing employees such as Joe. In November 2014, Joe was diagnosed with cancer and went out on FMLA leave. In accordance with its long-standing practice, Acme continued Joe’s coverage under the medical plan while Joe was on FMLA leave, until the later of February 28, 2015 (the end of the month in which the 12 week FMLA leave period ended), or the date Joe indicated he would not return to work.

In January 2015, Joe let Acme know that he would return to work on March 1, 2015, but that due to his medical condition he could only work 20 hours per week. Joe was a valuable employee, and Acme wanted Joe to return to work in whatever capacity they could have him. So Acme welcomed Joe’s return.

Now, before the ACA, Acme would have:

  • terminated Joe’s medical coverage upon his return to work,
  • retroactively collected from Joe the employee portion of the premium for his coverage for the FMLA leave period, and
  • offered Joe and his qualified beneficiaries COBRA coverage. The COBRA period would have started running as of March 1, 2015 (the end of the FMLA leave period).

What about after the ACA? When Joe returns to work in March 2015, Acme can no longer terminate his employee coverage, because Joe worked full time during the measurement period that ran from November 1, 2013 to October 31, 2014 (and therefore he satisfies the requirement to be considered a full-time employee for the stability period that runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015). This would remain true, even if Acme had extended Joe’s leave beyond the FMLA period, into March and April 2015. For example, if Acme had agreed to extend Joe’s leave through April 1, 2015 as an accommodation under the ADA, or if Acme had voluntarily permitted Joe to extend his leave (without terminating employment) through April 1, 2015, Acme would still not be able to terminate Joe’s coverage at the end of the FMLA leave, because of its ACA measurement and stability period designations. Acme needs to continue offering Joe coverage under the Plan through the end of 2015.

What about COBRA after the ACA? Joe works 20 hours per week for the remainder of 2015. Therefore, he does not work sufficient hours during the November 1, 2014 – October 31, 2015 measurement period to be considered a full time employee for the stability period that runs from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016, and Acme terminates Joe’s employee coverage as of January 1, 2016.

Under COBRA, the coverage period runs from the date of the qualifying event that leads to a loss of coverage (not from the date of the loss of coverage). Therefore, Joe’s standard 18 month COBRA period would end on August 31, 2016 (18 months after March 1, 2015). So under COBRA, Acme cannot terminate Joe’s COBRA coverage before August 31, 2016.

Alternatively, Acme could design its medical plan to start the COBRA period as of the date coverage is lost (as opposed to the date of the qualifying event). Here, that would give Joe 18 months of COBRA after January 1, 2016. Before it does so, however, Acme needs to make sure that its stop loss insurer is on board (Acme’s plan is self-funded, with a stop loss policy).

As this little tale teaches, regardless of whether Acme’s plan is self-insured or fully insured, and regardless of whether it decides to run the COBRA period from the original qualifying event, or from the loss of coverage at the end of the stability period, Acme should make sure that its insurance policies, plan documents, summary plan descriptions, medical plan eligibility administration, COBRA administration, and leave policies all account for the implications of its designated measurement and stability periods.

Class Action Lawsuit Accusing Employer of Reducing Employees’ Hours to Avoid Providing ACA Health Coverage

A May 8, 2015 class action lawsuit filed in New York alleges restaurant chain Dave & Buster’s, Inc. violated ERISA Section 510, which prohibits interfering with an employee’s attainment of an employee benefit under an ERISA benefit plan, when it converted up to 10,000 employees from full-time to part-time status in 2013 in an effort to right-sized its work force in response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).   This is one of the first lawsuits we are aware of making this allegation.

The Complaint alleges Dave & Buster’s made numerous public statements that the reason they reduced employees’ hours of employment was to avoid the increased costs of providing health benefits to their full-time employees after the ACA.  If those allegations are proven true, the restaurant chain will have a difficult time defending their actions.

And worse is yet to come.  As we began warning employers back in September 2013 and October 2013, the risk of lawsuits challenging workforce restructuring and reductions in force is greater since the employer mandate and the individual mandate went into effect, due to anti-retaliation provisions included in the ACA, which prohibit any adverse employment action in retaliation for receiving subsidized coverage through the Marketplace.  As we explained back in 2013:

Imagine that Employee A … receives a federal subsidy for his marketplace coverage,…. [a few months later], your company determines it needs to conduct a reduction in force due to a business slowdown. Your HR manager works with senior management to carefully select RIF participants based on their skills, length of service with your company and the expected needs of your business.

The HR manager makes sure the RIF does not disproportionately impact people based on all of the protected classifications (race, nationality, sex, age, disability, etc.). …. Employee A is laid off …. 

Employee A files a claim against your company with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleging that your company chose Employee A for the RIF because he received subsidized coverage through the marketplace.

Employee A can establish a case of retaliation under the Affordable Care Act merely by providing evidence that his receipt of a subsidy was a “contributing factor” in the RIF decision. And under the OSHA rules that have been proposed to enforce the retaliation prohibition, Employee A will be able to meet his burden merely by showing that the HR manager knew he was receiving a subsidy at or near the time he was laid off.

The burden then shifts to your company to establish by clear and convincing evidence (which is a high bar to clear) that it would have laid Employee A off even if he had not received the subsidy.

Inside Tucson Business, October 25, 2013.

The lessons to draw from all of this include:

  • If you are planning a RIF (or any other adverse employment action), consider whether anyone making the employment decisions knows that any of the affected employees is or has received subsidized coverage through the marketplace.
    • If so, address it like you would for other protected classifications like age, race, sex, national origin and disability status (by documenting your reasons for the decision before you take the action).
    • If not, include that fact in the documentation you create before taking the adverse employment action.
  • And above all, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by proclaiming to the world that you are reducing employees’ hours because you are trying to reduce your risk of incurring the employer mandate.

EEOC Proposes Amendments to ADA Regulations regarding Employer Wellness Programs

On April 20, 2015 the EEOC released proposed amendments to regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to employer wellness programs. The proposed rule provides guidance on the extent to which employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that are part of their group health plans, and that include disability-related inquiries and/or medical examinations.  The proposed rules explain how a wellness program that includes incentives for participation can satisfy the “voluntary medical examination” exception to the ADA’s prohibition on “making disability-related inquiries or requiring medical examinations”.  The exception allows “voluntary medical examinations, including voluntary medical histories, which are part of an employee health program available to employees at that work site.”

This is the latest action in an ongoing turf battle between the EEOC (which administers the ADA) and the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and HHS (which administer the HIPAA nondiscrimination rules).  HHS has taken a liberal approach, allowing wellness programs to impose a 30% penalty for failure to participate in wellness programs (and up to 50% in the case of tobacco prevention or reduction programs), in accordance with the Affordable Care Act’s policy of encouraging wellness programs.  The EEOC has traditionally taken a more conservative view, holding such a large incentive would violate the ADA because it would render the program not voluntary.

The proposed rules permit incentives as high as 30% to encourage participation in a wellness program that includes disability-related inquiries or medical examinations, as long as participation is voluntary.  Voluntary means that the employer:

(1) does not require employees to participate;

(2) does not deny coverage under any of its group health plans or particular benefits packages within a group health plan for non-participation or limit the extent of such coverage (except pursuant to allowed incentives); and

(3) does not take any adverse employment action or retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, intimidate, or threaten employees who do not participate.

In addition, an employer must provide a notice that clearly explains what medical information will be obtained, who will receive the medical information, how the medical information will be used, the restrictions on its disclosure, and the methods the covered entity will employ to prevent improper disclosure of the medical information. Finally, the proposed rule allows the disclosure of medical information obtained by wellness programs to employers only in aggregate form, except as needed to administer the health plan.

icon   The Proposed Rules

icon   EEOC Q&As on the Proposed Rules

 

Final Rule Expanding Excepted Benefits to Include Limited Wrap Around Coverage

The U.S. Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Treasury published final rules on March 18, 2015 to amend the definition of excepted benefits to include certain limited coverage that wraps around individual health insurance. The significance of this is that plans providing excepted benefits do not need to comply with many provisions of ERISA and the Tax Code (such as HIPAA and the Affordable Care Act Coverage Mandates).

To qualify as excepted benefits under the new rules, “wrap around” coverage would have to be specifically designed to provide meaningful benefits such as coverage for expanded in-network medical clinics or providers, reimbursement for the full cost of primary care, or coverage of the cost of prescription drugs not on the formulary of the primary plan.

In addition, under the final rules group health plan sponsors may, in limited circumstances, offer wraparound coverage to employees who are purchasing individual health insurance in the private market, including in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The final rule sets forth two pilot programs for limited wraparound coverage. One pilot allows wraparound benefits only for multi-state plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The other allows wraparound benefits for part-time workers who enroll in an individual health insurance policy or in Basic Health Plan coverage for low-income individuals established under the Affordable Care Act. These workers could, under existing excepted benefit rules, qualify for a flexible spending arrangement alternative to this wraparound coverage.

icon The Final Rule

Additional Background Information:

There are four categories of statutorily excepted benefits.

The first category includes benefits that are generally not health coverage (such as automobile insurance, liability insurance, workers compensation, and accidental death and dismemberment coverage). The benefits in this category are excepted in all circumstances. In contrast, the benefits in the other categories are types of health coverage but are excepted only if certain conditions are met.

The second category of excepted benefits is limited excepted benefits, which may include limited scope vision or dental benefits, and benefits for long-term care, nursing home care, home health care, or community based care.

The third category of excepted benefits, referred to as “noncoordinated excepted benefits,” includes both coverage for only a specified disease or illness (such as cancer-only policies), and hospital indemnity or other fixed indemnity insurance. In the group market, there benefits are excepted only if all of the following conditions are met: (1) the benefits are provided under a separate policy, certificate, or contract of insurance; (2) there is no coordination between the provision of such benefits and any exclusion of benefits under any group health plan maintained by the same plan sponsor; and (3) the benefits are paid with respect to any event without regard to whether benefits are provided under any group health plan maintained by the same plan sponsor.

The fourth category of excepted benefits is supplemental excepted benefits. Such benefits must be: (1) coverage supplemental to Medicare, coverage supplemental to the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) or to Tricare, or similar coverage that is supplemental to coverage provided under a group health plan; and (2) provided under a separate policy, certificate, or contract of insurance.