This is the Compliance category of the Broad REach Benefits blog. At Broad Reach Benefits, we focus on employers that have between 30 and 500 benefit eligible employees. We’re employee benefit specialists, not a big box brokerage firm or payroll company with a sales force peddling policies.
It keeps getting harder for even the most seasoned Human Resources team to stay on top of employee leaves. Employers with 50 or more employees in New York need to comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the new New York Paid Family Leave (NYPFL). Here are some key differences to consider: […]
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed rule to expand the opportunity of unrelated employers of all sizes (but particularly small employers) to offer employment-based health insurance through Association Health Plans (AHPs). This rulemaking follows President Trump’s October 12, 2017 Executive Order 13813, “Promoting Healthcare Choice and Competition Across the United States,” which stated the Administration’s intention to prioritize the expansion of access to AHPs.
If adopted, the proposed rule would expand the definition of “employer” within the meaning of ERISA section 3(5) to broaden the criteria for determining when unrelated employers, including sole proprietors and self-employed individuals, may join together in a “bona fide group or association of employers” that is treated as the “employer” sponsor of a single multiple employer “employee welfare benefit plan” and “group health plan.”
By treating the association itself as the “employer” sponsor of a single plan, the regulation would facilitate the adoption and administration of such arrangements. The proposed rule does not appear to limit the size of employers who may participate in an AHP.
Significantly, the proposed rule would apply “large group” coverage rules under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to qualifying AHPs. AHPs that buy insurance would not be subject to the insurance “look-through” doctrine (i.e., the concept that the size of each individual employer participating in the association determines whether that employer’s coverage is subject to the small group market or the large group market rules). Instead, because an AHP would constitute a single plan, whether the plan would be buying insurance as a large or small group plan would be determined by reference to the number of employees in the entire AHP. This would offer a key advantage to […]
On Dec. 20, 2017, the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is now expected to be signed into law by President Trump by the end of the day.
This tax reform bill, drafted based on a tax reform plan that was developed in consultation with the Trump administration, will make significant changes to the federal tax code. Specifically, the tax reform bill will have a substantial impact on businesses.
For example, it:
- Lowers the corporate tax rate—Beginning in 2018, the bill reduces the corporate tax rate to 21 percent (down from 35 percent) and eliminates the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), in an effort to make American corporations more competitive globally.
- Creates a new tax deduction for small businesses—The bill establishes a new 20 percent tax deduction for all businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and S corporations.
- Allows “expensing” of capital investments—The bill allows businesses to immediately write off (or “expense”) the cost of new investments for at least five years.
- Repeals or restrict many existing business deductions and credits—Because the bill substantially reduces the tax rate for all businesses, it also eliminates the existing domestic production (Section 199) deduction, and repeals or restricts numerous other special exclusions and deductions (including those for employer-provided transportation and commuting benefits). However, the bill explicitly preserves business credits related to research and development and low-income housing, as well as deductions or exclusions for employer-provided dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs), education assistance programs and adoption assistance programs.
- Ends “offshoring” incentives—The bill ends the incentive to offshore jobs and keep foreign profits overseas by exempting them when they are repatriated […]
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has updated its list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility provisions – also known as the “pay or play” mandate. In particular, questions 55 through 58 provide guidance for employers who may be subject to shared responsibility payments. The FAQs indicate that the IRS will begin sending penalty letters to applicable large employers (ALEs) that owe penalties for calendar year 2015 “in late 2017.” Around this time last year, the IRS had indicated that penalty letters for 2015 would be coming “in early 2017;” however, those letters never materialized. Based on the latest update to its FAQs, it appears that the IRS has worked out the kinks in its systems and is prepared to begin sending penalty letters.
Starting in 2015, the ACA requires ALEs to either “play” by offering affordable health coverage to their full-time employees, or “pay” a penalty if the employer fails to provide affordable health coverage and at least one full-time employee receives a premium tax credit to help purchase coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. ALEs are generally those with 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees. Transitional relief was available for 2015 (and, for non-calendar year plans, any portion of the 2015 plan year that fell in 2016) for ALEs with fewer than 100 full-time employees that satisfied the conditions of such transitional relief.
In general, there are two potential penalties (both non-deductible for tax purposes) that could be imposed on an ALE for failure to satisfy the mandate. The first penalty, known as the “no coverage” penalty, is based on whether an ALE fails to offer group health plan coverage to […]
President Trump Issues Executive Order on ACA, Separately Attempts to End Cost-Sharing Payments to Insurers
On October 12, President Trump signed an Executive Order directing the federal agencies in charge of implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to propose new regulations or revise existing guidance to expand access to association health plans (AHPs), short-term insurance plans, and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). While the order directs the agencies to consider changes that would have a sweeping effect on the health insurance industry, it has no immediate effect – any changes in rules or regulations will be subject to standard notice and comment periods.
Separately, the President intends to stop the government’s reimbursement of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments made by insurance carriers that participate in the ACA’s Health Insurance Marketplaces. A letter from Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicated that payments will stop immediately, effective with the payment scheduled for October 18, 2017. The move resulted in a lawsuit filed on October 13, 2017, in federal court in the Northern District of California by a coalition of nearly twenty states against the Trump administration seeking declaratory and injunctive relief requiring that the CSR payments continue to be made. If the CSR payments are not continued by Congress (by appropriating funds for the payments) or through judicial action (by finding that the ACA contains a permanent appropriation for the payments), it will have a much more immediate and disruptive effect on the individual market than the Executive Order. It may also impact the small and large group markets, which rely on the individual market to provide coverage in certain cases to part-time employees, an alternative to COBRA, and encourage early retirement by offering a bridge to Medicare, as well as avoiding […]
On Oct. 13, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reversed a recent policy change in how it monitors compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate. For the upcoming 2018 filing season (filing 2017 tax returns):
- The IRS will not accept electronically filed tax returns where the taxpayer does not certify whether the individual had health insurance for the year; and
- Paper returns that do not certify compliance with the individual mandate may be suspended pending receipt of additional information, and any refunds due may be delayed.
To avoid refund and processing delays when filing 2017 tax returns in 2018, taxpayers should indicate whether they (and everyone on their return) had health coverage, qualified for an exemption or are paying an individual mandate penalty. This process reflects the ACA’s requirements and the IRS’s obligation to administer the law.
The Individual Mandate
The ACA’s individual mandate, which took effect in 2014, requires most individuals to obtain acceptable health insurance coverage for themselves and their family members or pay a penalty.
The individual mandate is enforced each year on individual federal tax returns. Starting in 2015, individuals filing a tax return for the previous tax year will indicate, by checking a box on their individual tax returns, which members of their family (including themselves) had health insurance coverage for the year (or qualified for an exemption from the individual mandate). Based on this information, the IRS will then assess a penalty for each nonexempt family member without coverage.
Previous Policy on “Silent Returns”
Effective Feb. 6, 2017, the IRS announced that it would not automatically reject individual tax returns that did not provide this health insurance coverage information for 2016 (known as “silent returns”). Instead, […]
On August 22, 2017, a federal court in the District of Columbia ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to reconsider the limits it placed on wellness program incentives under final regulations the agency issued last year under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). As part of the final regulations, the EEOC set a limit on incentives under wellness programs equal to 30% of the total cost of self-only coverage under the employer’s group health plan. The court found that the EEOC did not properly consider whether the 30% limit on incentives would ensure the program remained “voluntary” as required by the ADA and GINA and sent the regulations back to the EEOC for reconsideration.
In the meantime, to avoid “potentially widespread disruption and confusion” the court decided that the final regulations would remain in place while the EEOC determines how it will proceed (e.g., provide support for its regulations, appeal the decision, or change the regulations). As background, under the ADA, wellness programs that involve a disability-related inquiry or a medical examination must be “voluntary.” Similar requirements exist under GINA when there are requests for an employee’s family medical history (typically as part of a health risk assessment). For years, the EEOC had declined to provide specific guidance on the level of incentive that may be provided under the ADA, and their informal guidance suggested that any incentive could render a program “involuntary.” In 2016, after years of uncertainty on the issue, the agency released rules on wellness incentives that resemble, but do not mirror, the 30% limit established under U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulations applicable to health-contingent employer-sponsored wellness programs. While the regulations appeared to be […]
Coordination of Benefits
Your employee is covered under your companies benefits and also under their spouses. So which plan pays first? That’s the question that arises when a plan participant or beneficiary is entitled to coverage under more than one plan or insurance policy. Coordination of Benefit (COB) rules, as specified in plan documents or insurance policies, will answer these questions and that’s why it is important to make certain those plan documents address coordination of benefits. However, if those rules are unclear and therefore a dispute arises that isn’t resolved then the issue will be decided in court.
Often the way the courts resolve these disputes differs based on the kind of plan or insurance policies involved. To provide more information, some of the COB issues that self-funded Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) plans face are highlighted below. […]
Employers that sponsor self-insured group health plans, including health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) should keep in mind the upcoming July 31, 2017 deadline for paying fees that fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). As background, the PCORI was established as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to conduct research to evaluate the effectiveness of medical treatments, procedures and strategies that treat, manage, diagnose or prevent illness or injury. Under the ACA, most employer sponsors and insurers will be required to pay PCORI fees until 2019.
The amount of PCORI fees due by employer sponsors and insurers is based upon the number of covered lives under each “applicable self-insured health plan” and “specified health insurance policy” (as defined by regulations) and the plan or policy year end date.
- For plan years that ended between January 1, 2016 and September 30, 2016, the fee is $2.17 per covered life and is due by July 31, 2017.
- For plan years that ended between October 1, 2016 and December 31, 2016, the fee is $2.26 per covered life and is due by July 31, 2017.
For example, a plan year that ran from October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2016 will pay a fee of $2.17 per covered life. Calendar year 2016 plans will pay a fee of $2.26 per covered life.
NOTE: The insurance carrier is responsible for paying the PCORI fee on behalf of a fully insured plan. The employer is responsible for paying the fee on behalf of a self-insured plan, including an HRA. In general, health FSAs are not subject to the PCORI fee.
Employers that sponsor self-insured group health plans must report and pay PCORI fees using IRS Form 720, Quarterly Federal Excise Tax Return.
Legal Alert: House Republicans Pass American Health Care Act; Bill Heads to Senate for Further Consideration
On Thursday, May 4, by a vote of 217 to 213 (with 20 Republicans voting against the bill), the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amended version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which repeals and replaces significant portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
This bill comes several weeks after U.S. House of Representatives’ Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the AHCA […]