IRS Announces 2023 HSA Contribution Limits, HDHP Minimum Deductibles and HDHP Maximum Out-of-Pocket Amounts

The IRS has announced 2023 HSA and HDHP limits as follows:

Annual HSA contribution limitation. For calendar year 2023, the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(A) for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,850 (up from $3,650 in 2022), and the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(B) for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $7,750 (up from $7,300 in 2022).

High deductible health plans. For calendar year 2023, a “high deductible health plan” is defined under § 223(c)(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,500 for self-only coverage or $3,000 for family coverage (up from $1,400 and $2,800 in 2022), and with respect to which the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $7,500 for self-only coverage or $15,000 for family coverage (up from $7,050 and $14,100 in 2022).

Rev. Proc 2022-24

IRS Announces COLA Adjusted Retirement Plan Limitations for 2022

The Internal Revenue Service today released Notice 2021-61 announcing cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2022.

Highlights Affecting Plan Sponsors of Qualified Plans for 2022

  • The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased from $19,500 to $20,500.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,500.
  • The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains is increased from $13,500 to $14,000.
  • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
  • The limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) is increased from $230,000 to $245,000.
  • The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) is increased for 2022 from $58,000 to $61,000.
  • The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) is increased from $290,000 to $305,000.
  • The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of “key employee” in a top-heavy plan is increased from $185,000 to $200,000.
  • The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a five year distribution period is increased from $1,165,000 to $1,230,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the five year distribution period is increased from $230,000 to $245,000.
  • The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) is increased from $130,000 to $135,000.

The IRS previously updated Health Savings Account limits for 2021. See our post here.

The following chart summarizes various significant benefit Plan limits for 2020 through 2022:

Type of Limitation202220212020
415 Defined Benefit Plans$245,000$230,000$230,000
415 Defined Contribution Plans$61,000$58,000$57,000
Defined Contribution Elective Deferrals$20,500$19,500$19,500
Defined Contribution Catch-Up Deferrals$6,500$6,500$6,500
SIMPLE Employee Deferrals$14,000$13,500$13,500
SIMPLE Catch-Up Deferrals$3,000$3,000$3,000
Annual Compensation Limit$305,000$290,000$285,000
SEP Minimum Compensation$650$650$600
SEP Annual Compensation Limit$305,000$290,000$285,000
Highly Compensated$135,000$130,000$130,000
Key Employee (Officer)$200,000$185,000$185,000
Income Subject To Social Security Tax  (FICA)$147,000$142,800$137,700
Social Security (FICA) Tax For ER & EE (each pays)6.20%6.20%6.20%
Social Security (Med. HI) Tax For ERs & EEs (each pays)1.45%1.45%1.45%
SECA (FICA Portion) for Self-Employed12.40%12.40%12.40%
SECA (Med. HI Portion) For Self-Employed2.90%2.90%2.90%
IRA Contribution$6,000$6,000$6,000
IRA Catch-Up Contribution$1,000$1,000$1,000
HSA Max. Contributions Single/Family Coverage$3,650/ $7,300$3,600/ $7,200$3,550/ $7,100
HSA Catchup Contributions$1,000$1,000$1,000
HSA Min. Annual Deductible Single/Family$1,400/ $2,800$1,400/ $2,800$1,400/ $2,800
HSA Max. Out Of Pocket Single/Family$7,050/ $14,100$7,000/ $14,000$6,900/ $13,800

IRS Announces 2022 HSA Contribution Limits, HDHP Minimum Deductibles and HDHP Maximum Out-of-Pocket Amounts

The IRS has announced 2022 HSA and HDHP limits as follows:

Annual HSA contribution limitation. For calendar year 2022, the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(A) for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,650 (up from $3,600 in 2021), and the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(B) for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $7,300 (up from $7,200 in 2021).

High deductible health plans. For calendar year 2022, a “high deductible health plan” is defined under § 223(c)(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,400 for self-only coverage or $2,800 for family coverage (unchanged from 2021), and with respect to which the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $7,050 for self-only coverage or $14,100 for family coverage (up from $7,000 and $14,000 in 2021).

Rev. Proc 2021-25

Employee Benefits Relief in the Year-End COVID-19 Stimulus Legislation

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133) (the “Act”) was passed by both houses of Congress on December 21, 2020, and signed into law by the President on December 27, 2020. The Act is an incredible 5,593 pages long and contains both an omnibus spending bill to fund the government through September 30, 2021 and a COVID-19 stimulus package that provides approximately $900 billion in emergency relief to individuals and businesses.

The Act contains numerous provisions that impact employee benefit plans. The principal takeaways from the Act that plan sponsors must consider are summarized below. In contrast to the length of the Act itself, this alert is intended to provide a high level summary. Please reach out to us if you have specific questions about the Act.

Health and Welfare Plan Related Provisions

This is the largest health care legislative package since the Affordable Care Act and the Act includes almost a dozen new patient protections with quickly approaching effective dates, which will result in significant new regulation being issued in 2021.

FSA Flexibility

The Act provides for significant additional flexibility for both health care flexible spending arrangements (“FSA”) and dependent care FSAs. These provisions are optional, not required, and employers will need to amend their plans to provide the new rights, if they choose to offer them.

Carryover. Any unused funds in FSAs from a plan year ending in 2020 or 2021 may be carried over and used at any time in the next plan year. These carryovers will be allowed under rules similar to the existing carryover rules for health FSAs (but without the dollar limit on carryovers).

Grace Periods. FSAs with grace periods may extend those grace periods to up 12 months for plan years ending in 2020 or 2021. Normally, grace periods have a maximum 2 ½-month period.

Post-Termination Reimbursement. If an employee terminates participation during calendar year 2020 or 2021, FSAs may also reimburse for otherwise eligible expenses incurred through the end of that year (plus any grace period).

Dependent Care Post-Age 13 Coverage. For dependent care FSAs, if a dependent became too old to have their care expenses reimbursed (age 13) due to the pandemic, any unused funds may be used for the remainder of the plan year in which they aged out. Further, if any funds remain unused at that time, those funds can be used until the child turns 14.

Prospective Changes Permitted. For plan years ending in 2021, employees may prospectively change their FSA contributions without incurring a permitted election change event.

“No Surprise” Medical Billing Provisions

Under a section titled the “No Surprises Act,” the Act includes several provisions to regulate surprise medical billing from certain non network providers, air ambulances and for emergency services. These provisions concern bills from out-of-network providers requiring more money from the patient after the health plan has paid its part. This can happen in an emergency setting or where a patient goes into an in-network hospital, but is treated there by an out-of-network provider.

Generally, the Act provides that individuals covered by a group health plan or individual/group health insurance receiving non-emergency services at a network facility cannot be balance billed by a non-network provider, unless the non-network provider provides notice to the individual and the individual consents. An exception exists for “ancillary services”, such as anesthesiology, pathology, and radiology, and the Act also fleshes out associated details, such as payment timelines and dispute resolution processes.

The agencies are required to begin finalizing implementing regulations regarding the methodology for making payments by July 1, 2021, with the rest to come by December 31, 2021. These provisions become effective January 1, 2022.

These rules replace the current Affordable Care Act rules governing the payment of emergency services and apply to both grandfathered and non-grandfathered plans.

Additional Health Plan Provisions

ID Card Information. ID cards for group health plans (physical or electronic) must include, in clear writing, the deductible, out-of-pocket limits, and consumer assistance information.

Continuity of Care. Patients undergoing treatment for a serious and complex condition, who are pregnant, receiving inpatient care, scheduled for non-elective surgery or terminally ill must be notified if their provider leaves the network and given the opportunity to continue care (at an in-network rate) for 90 days.

Cost Comparison Tools. Plans and carriers will be required to offer cost comparison tools (via phone or the internet) starting with plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.

Gag Clauses Prohibited. “Gag” clauses will be prohibited. These clauses prevent health plans from sharing provider-specific reimbursements and information. Prohibiting these clauses facilitates the creation of the cost-comparison tools.

Provider Directories. Group health plans must update provider directories at least every 90 days and establish a system to respond to inquiries about the network status of a provider within one business day.

Mental Health Parity. Plans will be required to analyze the nonquantitative treatment limitations that they apply to mental health and substance use disorder benefits to show that the limitations are comparable to those that are used for medical/surgical benefits.

Retirement Plan Related Provisions

Partial Plan Terminations. The Act provides for temporary relief from the 100% vesting requirement for partial plan terminations caused by employee turnover under Code section 411(d)(3) if the turnover is due to COVID-19. A qualified plan will not incur a partial termination during any plan year which includes the period beginning on March 13, 2020, and ending on March 31, 2021, if the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 31, 2021, is at least 80% of the number of active participants covered by the plan on March 13, 2020.

Coronavirus-Related Distributions. The Act extends the COVID-19 in-service distribution relief under the CARES Act to money purchase pension plans.

Disaster Relief (Not Including COVID). The Act provides special disaster related distribution and loan rules (similar to prior natural disaster relief, including a distribution right, increase in loan limits, loan suspensions, etc.) for FEMA declared disasters (other than COVID-19) from January 1, 2020 through 60 days after enactment of the Act. 

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

Webinar: The Must-Do’s and Common Mistakes of Employee Benefit Planning

Lisa Dursey joins Stephanie Rising of The Rising Effect in a 15-minute webinar discussing the must-do’s and common mistakes of administering employee benefit plans. This webinar provides a concise primer on how to structure and correctly administer your plans.

Stephanie starts the webinar by explaining the importance of your new-hire process, and then dives more deeply into traditional and lifestyle benefits that attract and retain talented employees. Lisa then outlines the common mistakes that are made in administering those benefits, and how to correct them.

Contact ERISA Benefits Law to discuss your benefit plan administration or for help resolving any plan errors. Please note that in addition to general benefits advice, ERISA Benefits Law attorneys are well versed in designing sick leave policies for COVID-19.

IRS Announces COLA Adjusted Retirement Plan Limitations for 2021

The Internal Revenue Service today released Notice 2020-79 announcing cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2021.

Highlights Affecting Plan Sponsors of Qualified Plans for 2021

  • The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $19,500.
  • The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,500.
  • The limitation under Section 408(p)(2)(E) regarding SIMPLE retirement accounts remains unchanged at $13,500.
  • The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains unchanged at $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
  • The limitation on the annual benefit under a defined benefit plan under Section 415(b)(1)(A) remains unchanged at $230,000.
  • The limitation for defined contribution plans under Section 415(c)(1)(A) is increased for 2021 from $57,000 to $58,000.
  • The annual compensation limit under Sections 401(a)(17), 404(l), 408(k)(3)(C), and 408(k)(6)(D)(ii) is increased from $285,000 to $290,000.
  • The dollar limitation under Section 416(i)(1)(A)(i) concerning the definition of “key employee” in a top-heavy plan remains unchanged at $185,000.
  • The dollar amount under Section 409(o)(1)(C)(ii) for determining the maximum account balance in an employee stock ownership plan subject to a five year distribution period is increased from $1,150,000 to $1,165,000, while the dollar amount used to determine the lengthening of the five year distribution period remains unchanged at $230,000.
  • The limitation used in the definition of highly compensated employee under Section 414(q)(1)(B) remains unchanged at $130,000.

The IRS previously updated Health Savings Account limits for 2021. See our post here.

The following chart summarizes various significant benefit Plan limits for 2019 through 2021:

Type of Limitation202120202019
415 Defined Benefit Plans$230,000$230,000$225,000
415 Defined Contribution Plans$58,000$57,000$56,000
Defined Contribution Elective Deferrals$19,500$19,500$19,000
Defined Contribution Catch-Up Deferrals$6,500$6,500$6,000
SIMPLE Employee Deferrals$13,500$13,500$13,000
SIMPLE Catch-Up Deferrals$3,000$3,000$3,000
Annual Compensation Limit$290,000$285,000$280,000
SEP Minimum Compensation$650$600$600
SEP Annual Compensation Limit$290,000$285,000$280,000
Highly Compensated$130,000$130,000$125,000
Key Employee (Officer)$185,000$185,000$180,000
Income Subject To Social Security Tax  (FICA)$142,800$137,700$132,900
Social Security (FICA) Tax For ER & EE (each pays)6.20%6.20%6.20%
Social Security (Med. HI) Tax For ERs & EEs (each pays)1.45%1.45%1.45%
SECA (FICA Portion) for Self-Employed12.40%12.40%12.40%
SECA (Med. HI Portion) For Self-Employed2.90%2.90%2.90%
IRA Contribution$6,000$6,000$6,000
IRA Catch-Up Contribution$1,000$1,000$1,000
HSA Max. Contributions Single/Family Coverage$3,600/
$7,200
$3,550/ $7,100$3,500/ $7,00
HSA Catchup Contributions$1,000$1,000$1,000
HSA Min. Annual Deductible Single/Family$1,400/ $2,800$1,400/ $2,800$1,350/ $2,700
HSA Max. Out Of Pocket Single/Family$7,000/
$14,000
$6,900/ $13,800$6,750/ $13,500

IRS Announces 2021 HSA Contribution Limits, HDHP Minimum Deductibles and HDHP Maximum Out-of-Pocket Amounts

The IRS has announced 2021 HSA and HDHP limits as follows:

Annual HSA contribution limitation. For calendar year 2021, the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(A) for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,600 (up from $3,550 in 2020), and the annual limitation on deductions for HSA contributions under § 223(b)(2)(B) for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $7,200 (up from $7,100 in 2020).

High deductible health plans. For calendar year 2021, a “high deductible health plan” is defined under § 223(c)(2)(A) as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,400 for self-only coverage or $2,800 for family coverage (unchanged from 2020), and with respect to which the annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $7,000 for self-only coverage or $14,000 for family coverage (up from $6,900 and $13,800 in 2020).

Rev. Proc 2020-32

DOL and IRS Extend Certain Timeframes for Employee Benefit Plans, Participants, and Beneficiaries Affected by the COVID-19 Outbreak

On May 4, 2020, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued joint guidance extending certain timeframes otherwise applicable to group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, and their participants and beneficiaries under ERISA and the Code.

This guidance will require Plan Sponsors to temporarily revise their administrative practices and their form notices used in connection with COBRA, HIPAA’s Special Enrollment rights, and ERISA Claim Procedures.

I. Background

HIPAA requires group health plans to provide special enrollment rights for certain people upon the loss of eligibility for other coverage, or upon the addition of a dependents due to birth, adoption, etc. Generally, group health plans must allow such individuals to enroll in the group health plan if they are otherwise eligible and if enrollment is requested within 30 days of the occurrence of the event.

COBRA permits qualified beneficiaries who lose coverage under a group health plan to elect continuation health coverage. COBRA generally provides a qualified beneficiary a period of at least 60 days to elect COBRA continuation coverage under a group health plan. Plans are required to allow payment of premiums in monthly installments, and plans cannot require payment of premiums before 45 days after the day of the initial COBRA election. COBRA continuation coverage may be terminated for failure to pay premiums timely.

Under the COBRA rules, a premium is considered paid timely if it is made not later than 30 days after the first day of the period for which payment is being made. Notice requirements prescribe time periods for employers to notify the plan of certain qualifying events and for individuals to notify the plan of certain qualifying events or a determination of disability. Notice requirements also prescribe a time period for plans to notify qualified beneficiaries of their rights to elect COBRA continuation coverage.

ERISA requires plans to establish and maintain reasonable claims procedures and imposes additional rights and obligations with respect to internal claims and appeals and external review for non-grandfathered group health plans.

II. Temporary Extensions Under the Guidance

All of the foregoing provisions include timing requirements for certain acts in connection with employee benefit plans, some of which have been temporarily modified by the new guidance. These changes, and the implications for Plan Sponsors, are summarized below.

A. Relief for Plan Participants, Beneficiaries, Qualified Beneficiaries, and Claimants

Subject to a one year statutory duration limitation, all group health plans, disability and other employee welfare benefit plans, and employee pension benefit plans subject to ERISA or the Code must disregard the period from March 1, 2020 until sixty (60) days after the announced end of the National Emergency (the “Outbreak Period”) for all plan participants, beneficiaries, qualified beneficiaries, or claimants wherever located in determining the following periods and dates—

(1) The 30-day period (or 60-day period, if applicable) to request special enrollment under ERISA section 701(f) and Code section 9801(f)

Implications for employers:

  • Work with your third-party administrator and insurance carriers to ensure the extended special enrollment period is implemented for the duration of the Outbreak Period, which could require retroactive coverage as far back as March 1.
  • Determine whether and how to communicate the extension to employees.

(2) The 60-day election period for COBRA continuation coverage under ERISA section 605 and Code section 4980B(f)(5)

(3) The date for making COBRA premium payments pursuant to ERISA section 602(2)(C) and (3) and Code section 4980B(f)(2)(B)(iii) and (C)

(4) The date for individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event or determination of disability under ERISA section 606(a)(3) and Code section 4980B(f)(6)(C)

Implications for Employers:

  • This exacerbates the adverse selection issue inherent in COBRA because Plans may have to provide retroactive coverage for many months.
  • The problem is made worse by the fact that, even though qualified beneficiaries theoretically have to pay for the retroactive coverage, if they elect COBRA right after the qualifying event, they do not have to pay until after the Outbreak Period ends. This means a qualified beneficiary could elect COBRA and receive the coverage) and then subsequently decide not to pay for it. Plan Sponsors and insurers will then have the option of retroactively terminating the coverage and trying to adjust the claims already paid.
  • Work with your third-party administrator and insurance carriers to ensure they have implemented the extended COBRA periods.
  • Either temporarily revise your COBRA notices and forms or ensure a temporary cover is added to all COBRA communications as necessary to inform employees and qualified beneficiaries of the extended timeframes.

(5) The date within which individuals may file a benefit claim under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to 29 CFR 2560.503-1

(6) The date within which claimants may file an appeal of an adverse benefit determination under the plan’s claims procedure pursuant to 29 CFR 2560.503-1(h)

Implications for Employers:

  • Work with your third-party administrator and insurance carriers to ensure they have implemented the extended claims periods.
  • Either temporarily revise your claims notices and forms or ensure a temporary cover is added to all claims communications as necessary to inform employees and qualified beneficiaries of the extended timeframes.
  • This will impact health flexible spending accounts (“FSAs”) and health reimbursement arrangements (“HRAs”) that have run-out periods that extended beyond March 1, 2020. Because the Outbreak Period began on March 1, 2020, any health FSAs and HRAs that have March or April deadlines for submitting prior-year expenses for reimbursement, will need to extend the deadline until 60 days after the Outbreak Period ends to submit expenses for reimbursement for the 2019 plan year.

(7) The date within which claimants may file a request for an external review after receipt of an adverse benefit determination or final internal adverse benefit determination pursuant to 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(i) and 26 CFR 54.9815-2719(d)(2)(i), and

(8) The date within which a claimant may file information to perfect a request for external review upon a finding that the request was not complete pursuant to 29 CFR 2590.715-2719(d)(2)(ii) and 26 CFR 54.9815-2719(d)(2)(ii)

Implications for employers:

  • Work with your third-party administrator and insurance carriers to ensure they have implemented the extended claim review periods.
  • Either temporarily revise your claims notices and forms or ensure a temporary cover is added to all claims communications as necessary to inform employees and qualified beneficiaries of the extended timeframes.

B. Relief for Group Health Plans

With respect to group health plans, and their sponsors and administrators, the Outbreak Period shall be disregarded when determining the date for providing a COBRA election notice under ERISA section 606(c) and Code section 4980B(f)(6)(D).

Implication for Employers:

  • Plan administrators are not required to provide the COBRA election notice during the Outbreak Period. As a practical matter, however, plan administrators likely will want to timely provide election notices to encourage qualified beneficiaries to timely elect and pay for COBRA coverage.

Corinavirus Impact on Arizona Paid Sick Time; Vacation Pay; and WARN Act Compliance

This post addresses the paid sick time, vacation pay, and WARN Act issues that employers should keep in mind as the Coronavirus causes escalating business disruptions, including both voluntary and government-ordered business closures.

We stand ready to assist employers with WARN Act notice, Arizona paid sick time, vacation/PTO and severance compliance issues raised by the business disruptions Arizona businesses are experiencing due to the Coronavirus. In addition, we will continue to update our clients as legislation affecting employee benefits is enacted in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. Together we will weather this storm, like we did in 2001 and in 2009.

Arizona Paid Sick Time

Arizona’s paid sick time law permits employees to use paid sick time for the following circumstances that may apply to the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Closure of the employee’s place of business by order of a public official due to a public health emergency 

Therefore, if the local, state or federal government orders the closure of an Arizona business, you will need to permit employees to receive paid sick time under Arizona law for the time of the closure, up to the amount of paid sick time they have available.

  • An employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency

Therefore, most Arizona businesses already need to provide paid sick time leave to parents who need to stay home to care for children whose school or daycare center has been closed by order of the state.

  • Care for oneself or a family member when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the employee’s or family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others because of his or her exposure to a communicable disease, whether or not the employee or family member has actually contracted the communicable disease. 

This provision could arguably be construed to cover employees who are staying home and self-quarantining in the current circumstances. Therefore, if an Arizona business voluntarily closes (without being ordered by the state, local or federal authorities to close), it should evaluate whether to permit employees to use paid sick time under Arizona law for the time of the closure, up to the amount of paid sick time the employee has available.

Arizona Employers can Require Employees to Use their Paid Sick Time in Certain Circumstances

While Arizona law does not explicitly provide that an employer can designate leave time as earned paid sick time when an employee has not requested to use earned paid sick time, the Arizona Industrial Commission FAQs explain that the Industrial Commission will not pursue enforcement when an employer designates an employee’s time off from work as earned paid sick time, provided that the employer has a good faith belief that the absence meets the requirements of earned paid sick time usage.  

Therefore, we recommend that if a local, state or federal authority orders your Arizona business to close, you notify all of your employees that you will treat the closure time as paid sick time under Arizona law to the extent employees have paid sick time available.  
Further, if you voluntarily close, without being ordered to, you should give serious consideration to treating the closure time as paid sick time under Arizona law to the extent employees have paid sick time available, and further letting your employees know that if they do not want to take the time off as paid sick time they should let you know (within a short time period, and definitely before your next payroll deadline) that they do not want to use the time as paid sick time.

Paid Vacation or Paid Time Off

Most employers will also allow their employees to use paid time off or vacation to offset earnings losses the employees would otherwise incur during a business shutdown. However, that may not be required – i.e. it may be possible to not permit employees to take the time off as paid leave under the employer’s policy. This is entirely dependent on the provisions of your policy. If you have any questions about this, give us a call.

The WARN Act

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) protects workers, their families, and communities by requiring employers with 100 or more employees (generally not counting those who have worked less than six months in the last 12 months and those who work an average of less than 20 hours a week) to provide 60 calendar days advance written notice of a plant closing and mass layoff affecting 50 or more employees at a single site of employment. 

WARN requires employers who are planning a plant closing or a mass layoff to give affected employees at least 60 days’ notice of such an employment action. Damages and civil penalties can be assessed against employers who violate the Act.

Fortunately, WARN makes certain exceptions to the requirement of giving employees prior notice when the business closure or layoff occurs due to unforeseeable business circumstances, faltering companies, and natural disasters.  specifically, a government-ordered closure of an employment site that occurs without prior notice may be an unforeseeable business circumstance. Notice to employees and to the Arizona State rapid Response Coordinator is still required.

Pending Legislation Will Add Complexity

Legislation currently pending in Congress may provide emergency paid leave benefits for people dealing with the coronavirus outbreak (paid by the Social Security Administration), amendments to FMLA, and a new federal paid sick leave law. This legislation is in flux. When it becomes law, we will update our clients as to how to deal with it.

HHS Proposes to Revise ACA Section 1557 Nondiscrimination Rules

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposed rule to revise regulations implementing and enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities.

PURPOSE OF THE PROPOSED RULE

The proposed rule would maintain vigorous civil rights enforcement of existing laws and regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex, while revising certain provisions of the current Section 1557 regulation that a federal court has said are likely unlawful. The proposal also would relieve the American people of $3.6 billion in unnecessary regulatory costs over five years, mainly by eliminating the mandate for entities to send patients and customers “notice and tagline” inserts in 15 foreign languages that have not proven effective at accomplishing their intended purpose. Covered entities report that they send billions of these notices by mail each year.

BACKGROUND

Section 1557 is a civil rights provision in the ACA that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. Congress prohibited discrimination under Section 1557 by referencing four longstanding federal civil rights laws:

1. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin).

2. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex).

3. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability).

4. Age Discrimination Act of 1975 (Age Act) (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of age).

HHS proposes to ensure the scope of the regulation matches the text of Section 1557 with respect to:

(1) Any health program or activity, any part of which is receiving federal financial assistance (including credits, subsidies, or contracts of insurance) provided by HHS;

(2) Any program or activity administered by HHS under Title I of the ACA; and

(3) Any program or activity administered by any entity established under that Title.

Thus, for example, the rule would apply to federally facilitated and state-based health insurance Exchanges created under the ACA, and the qualified health plans offered by issuers on those Exchanges.

Section 1557 has been in effect since its enactment in 2010, and Congress directed the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to enforce the provision.

Although Congress prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in 1972 (Title IX), and Section 1557 applied that law to healthcare and the Exchanges established under the ACA, HHS’s 2016 Section 1557 regulation redefined discrimination “on the basis of sex” to include gender identity and termination of pregnancy and defined gender identity as one’s internal sense of being “male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female.” As a result, several states and healthcare entities filed federal lawsuits against HHS. On December 31, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued an opinion in Franciscan Alliance, Inc. et al. v. Burwell, preliminarily enjoining HHS’s attempt to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy as sex discrimination in the Section 1557 regulation. This federal court concluded the provisions are likely contrary to applicable civil rights law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. The preliminary injunction applies on a nationwide basis. A separate federal court in North Dakota agreed with the reasoning of the Franciscan Alliance decision, and stayed the rule’s effect on the plaintiffs before it.

Consequently, HHS has concluded that it does not have legal authority to implement the provisions on gender identity and termination of pregnancy in light of the court’s injunction which remains in full force and effect.

SUMMARY OF THE PROPOSED RULE

WHAT THE PROPOSED RULE KEEPS IN PLACE

  • HHS Would Continue to Vigorously Enforce Civil Rights in Healthcare: Under the proposed rule, HHS would continue to vigorously enforce all applicable existing laws and regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability, age, and sex based on HHS’s longstanding underlying civil rights regulations.
  • Protections for Individuals with Disabilities: The proposed rule would retain protections in the current Section 1557 regulation that ensure physical access for individuals with disabilities to healthcare facilities, and appropriate communication technology to assist persons who are visually or hearing-impaired.
  • Protections for Individuals with Limited English Proficiency: HHS proposes to retain the current Section 1557 regulation’s qualifications for foreign language translators and interpreters for non-English speakers, and its limitations on the use of minors and family members as translators or interpreters. HHS also proposes to include standards from longstanding LEP guidance in the regulation to ensure meaningful access to health programs and activities for LEP individuals and flexibility in meeting such obligation.
  • Assurances of Compliance: Under the proposed rule, regulated entities would still be required to submit to HHS a binding assurance of compliance with Section 1557.

PROPOSED RULE REVISIONS

HHS proposes to revise various provisions that are not statutorily supported, are unnecessary, or are duplicative of existing regulations. HHS also proposes to remove costly and unjustified regulatory burdens, to conform the scope of the regulation to HHS’s own implementation of the statutory limits set by Congress, and to implement the regulation consistent with all applicable federal civil rights laws.

Revise Provisions Preliminarily Enjoined Nationwide in Federal Court

Under the proposed rule, HHS would apply Congress’s words using their plain meaning when they were written, instead of attempting to redefine sex discrimination to include gender identity and termination of pregnancy. These redefinitions were preliminarily enjoined because a federal court found they were unlawful and exceeded Congress’s mandate. The proposed rule would not create a new definition of discrimination “on the basis of sex.” Instead HHS would enforce Section 1557 by returning to the government’s longstanding interpretation of “sex” under the ordinary meaning of the word Congress used. HHS also proposes to amend ten other regulations, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, implementing the prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex, to make them consistent with the approach taken in the proposed Section 1557 rule.

HHS proposes to ensure its Section 1557 and Title IX regulations include language Congress enacted that protects religious entities, and that prevents Title IX from requiring performance of, or payment for, abortions.

Remove Costly and Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens

The proposed rule would eliminate burdens imposed by the 2016 regulation’s requirement that regulated health companies distribute non-discrimination notices and “tagline” translation notices in at least fifteen languages in “significant communications” to patients and customers. These notices have cost the healthcare industry billions of dollars (a cost which is ultimately passed on to consumers and patients), and data does not show that the notices have yielded the intended benefit for individuals with limited English proficiency.

Revise an Enforcement Structure That Created Legal Confusion

Section 1557 applies multiple civil rights statutes to healthcare settings. As Congress explicitly recognized in Section 1557, HHS has regulations in place for each of those statutes. HHS intends to enforce all those pre-existing statutes and regulations. The 2016 regulation, however, imposed a new single enforcement structure for every type of discrimination claim. Multiple federal courts have rejected various legal theories amalgamated into the 2016 regulation, such as the assertion of private rights of action for Title VI disparate impact claims. HHS proposes to return to the enforcement structure for each underlying civil right statute as provided by Congress and also proposes to remove portions of the 2016 regulation that are duplicative of, or inconsistent with, its longstanding regulations implementing Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and the Age Act.

Revise the Scope of HHS’s Enforcement of Section 1557

HHS proposes to revise the 2016 regulation’s interpretation of Section 1557 as applying to all operations of an entity, even if it is not principally engaged in healthcare. The proposed rule would, instead, apply Section 1557 to the healthcare activities of entities not principally engaged in healthcare only to the extent they are funded by HHS. For example, the proposed rule would generally not apply to short-term limited duration insurance, because providers of those plans are not principally engaged in the business of healthcare, and those specific plans do not receive federal financial assistance.

Comply with All Applicable Federal Civil Rights Laws, Including Conscience and Religious Freedom Protections

In addition to ensuring consistent enforcement of longstanding regulations for Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, and the Age Act as passed by Congress and implemented by their HHS regulations, HHS proposes to add a regulatory provision stating that Section 1557 shall be enforced consistent with the ACA’s healthcare conscience protections (Section 1303 concerning abortion and Section 1553 concerning assisted suicide); healthcare conscience laws set forth in the Church, Coats-Snowe, Weldon, Hyde, and Helms Amendments; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act; and the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Proposed Rule