Employee Benefits Adviser

This is the Employee Benefits Adviser 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.

Legal Alert- IRS Issues Affordability Percentage Adjustment for 2022

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released Rev. Proc. 2021-36, which contains the inflation adjusted amounts for 2022 used to determine whether employer-sponsored coverage is “affordable” for purposes of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer shared responsibility provisions and premium tax credit program. As shown in the table below, for plan years beginning in 2022, the affordability percentage for employer mandate purposes is indexed to 9.61%.  Employer shared responsibility payments are also indexed.

Code Section 4980H(a) 4980H(b) 36B(b)(3)(A)(i)
Description Coverage not offered to 95% (or all but 5) of full-time employees. Coverage offered, but unaffordable or is not minimum value. Premium credits and affordability safe harbors.
2022* $2,750 $4,120 9.61%
2021 $2,700 $4,060 9.83%
2020 $2,570 $3,860 9.78%
2019 $2,500 $3,750 9.86%
2018 $2,320 $3,480 9.56%
2017 $2,260 $3,390 9.69%
2016 $2,160 $3,240 9.66%
2015 $2,080 $3,120 9.56%
2014** $2,000 $3,000 9.50%

*Section 4980H(a) and (b) penalties 2022 are projected.

**No employer shared responsibility penalties were assessed for 2014.

Under the ACA, applicable large employers (ALEs) must offer affordable health insurance coverage to full-time employees. If the ALE does not offer affordable coverage, it may be subject to an employer shared responsibility payment. An ALE is an employer that employed 50 or more full-time equivalent employees on average in the prior calendar year. Coverage is considered affordable if the employee’s required contribution for self-only coverage on the employer’s lowest-cost, minimum value plan does not exceed 9.61% of the employee’s household income in 2022 (prior years shown above). An ALE may rely on one or more safe harbors in determining if coverage is affordable: W-2, Rate of Pay, and Federal Poverty Level.

If the employer’s coverage is not affordable under one of the safe harbors and a […]

By |September 21st, 2021|Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Disability, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Human Resources, IRS, Legislation, Medical, Private Health Care Exchange, U.S. Department of Labor, Wellness|Comments Off on Legal Alert- IRS Issues Affordability Percentage Adjustment for 2022

President Orders OSHA To Develop Mandatory Vaccine Requirement for Large Employers

President Biden announced that he ordered OSHA to develop emergency temporary standards (ETSs) that would require employers with 100 or more employees to mandate that employees either receive one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines or submit to at least weekly COVID-19 testing.  Employers who do not comply with these requirements could be fined approximately $13,650 per employee.  The President also announced the OSHA ETSs will require employers to offer paid time off to employees to receive the vaccine, as well as any time necessary to recover from a reaction to the vaccine.

The President also issued executive orders requiring federal executive branch employees to be fully vaccinated (i.e., no weekly testing option) and federal contractor employees under new or newly extended/newly optioned contracts to comply with vaccine safety protocols.  He also announced (1) health care workers at certain facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding must be fully vaccinated, (2) that the Department of Transportation will double its fines for individuals who refuse to wear masks on public transportation, and (3) increased testing availability for individuals either at home (through certain, chosen retailers who will sell the kits at cost) [1] and at pharmacies.

The pending OSHA ETSs, and approaches large employers (i.e., 100 or more employees) and small employer (i.e., fewer than 100 employees) can take to incentivize vaccines are the focus of this alert.

Background

On August 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, one of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States.  Due to this approval and the rampant spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, employers recently began implementing different approaches to encourage individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  Some […]

By |September 16th, 2021|Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical, U.S. Department of Labor, Wellness|Comments Off on President Orders OSHA To Develop Mandatory Vaccine Requirement for Large Employers

Legal Alert: COVID-19 Plan Design

As the U.S. continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinations of Americans age 12 and older are underway with approximately half of the eligible population vaccinated against the virus. In the States, there are currently three vaccines—one from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson—that are available, with distribution being handled at the state and local level.

To help combat the pandemic, many employers are implementing some level of a vaccine mandate at work, with some employers requiring all employees who return to the office to be vaccinated (ex: Google, Facebook and Anthem), requiring all new hires to show proof of vaccination (Disney) or merely requiring all their U.S.-based employee population to be vaccinated by a certain date (United Airlines). Members of the U.S. military will also be required to be vaccinated as a matter of national security to maintain military readiness.

As businesses are eager to return to the office and bring customers back on-site as applicable, many employers are wondering if they can modify their group health plan design to provide richer benefits for employees who are vaccinated.

Specifically, employers are wondering if:

  • They can limit eligibility for their group health plan to only employees who have received the vaccine (or who have a medical or religious waiver);
  • They can charge vaccinated employees lower premiums, co-pays or deductible limits (or, conversely, charge non-vaccinated employees higher premiums, co-pays or deductibles);
  • Exclude all COVID-19 treatment from group health plan coverage for employees who are not vaccinated (example: the plan would deny all claims for out-patient, in-patient or prescription drug treatment of COVID-19 for individuals who are not vaccinated;
  • Provide larger HSA, HRA, or FSA contributions to individuals who are […]
By |September 7th, 2021|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Human Resources, Medical|Comments Off on Legal Alert: COVID-19 Plan Design

Legal Alert: COVID-19 Plan Design

As the United States continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinations of Americans age 12 and older is underway with approximately half of the eligible population vaccinated against the virus. In the United States, there are currently three vaccines — one from Moderna, one from Pfizer and one from Johnson & Johnson—that are available, with distribution being handled at the state and local level.

To help combat the pandemic, many employers are implementing some level of a vaccine mandate at work, with some employers requiring all employees who return to the office to be vaccinated (e.g., Google, Facebook), requiring all new hires to show proof of vaccination (Delta Airlines) or merely requiring all their U.S.-based employee population to be vaccinated by a certain date (United Airlines). Members of the United States military will also be required to be vaccinated as a matter of national security to maintain military readiness.

As businesses are eager to return to the office and bring customers back on-site as applicable, many employers are wondering if they can modify their group health plan design to provide richer benefits for employees who are vaccinated.

Specifically, employers are wondering if:

  • They can limit eligibility for their group health plan to only employees who have received the vaccine (or who have a medical or religious waiver);
  • They can charge vaccinated employees lower premiums, co-pays, or deductible limits (or, conversely, charge non-vaccinated employees higher premiums, co-pays or deductibles);
  • Exclude all COVID-19 treatment from group health plan coverage for employees who are not vaccinated (example: the plan would deny all claims for out-patient, in-patient or prescription drug treatment of COVID-19 for individuals who are not vaccinated;
  • Provide larger HSA, HRA, or FSA contributions to individuals who are vaccinated.

At the most […]

By |August 16th, 2021|Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical, Wellness|Comments Off on Legal Alert: COVID-19 Plan Design

Agencies Release First Rule on the No Surprises Act

On July 13, 2021, the DOL, HHS, and IRS released a joint Interim Final Rule implementing specified provisions of the No Surprises Act, a new law included within the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.  The No Surprises Act addresses, among other things, a prohibition on surprise billing, which impacts emergency room parity rules previously implemented under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) and ACA provisions related to provider choice.

The Interim Final Rules will be finalized on September 13, 2021 and apply for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2022.

Background 

ACA Provider Choice and Emergency Services Requirements

Under §2719A of the ACA, most group health plans that require designation of a participating primary care provider must permit the participant or beneficiary to designate an available, participating primary care provider of their choice, and must inform participants of their ability to make a designation or, if they don’t, a primary care provider will be designated for them. A participant can designate a pediatric primary care provider for children, and the notice must inform participants and beneficiaries that they do not need prior authorization from the plan to access participating Ob-Gyn providers, though prior authorization may be required for certain services and providers may have to comply with any referral processes.  The ACA did not extend these requirements to “excepted benefits” such as stand-alone dental or vision plans, and grandfathered health plans were exempt from complying.

Additionally, §2719A of the PHSA requires emergency services to be provided:

  • Without prior authorization (whether they are provided by an in-network or out-of-network provider);
  • Without regard to whether the health care provider furnishing the emergency services is a participating network provider with respect to the services; and
  • Without imposing administrative requirements or limitations […]
By |August 10th, 2021|Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, IRS, Medical, U.S. Department of Labor, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on Agencies Release First Rule on the No Surprises Act

DOL Releases Model Notices and Other Resources Related to COBRA Premium Assistance

On April 7, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a link to its webpage dedicated to the COBRA premium assistance authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act, 2021 (ARPA), the third COVID-19 stimulus bill.  The webpage includes model notices, frequently asked questions, and related information.  With the exception of the model notices, the guidance appears targeted towards impacted workers, leaving many employer-related questions unanswered.  This alert summarizes the recent guidance and model notices.

What does ARPA Provide and Who is an Assistance Eligible Individual?

Among other things, the ARPA provides a 100% subsidy for COBRA premiums for group health plans (other than health FSAs) from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021 for assistance eligible individuals (AEIs).  AEIs are employees and their family members who are:

  • eligible for, and enroll in, COBRA (or state mini-COBRA) due to a reduction in hours or involuntary termination of employment;
  • not eligible for other group health plan coverage or Medicare; and
  • still within their maximum COBRA continuation coverage period (generally, 18 months).

AEIs include individuals newly eligible for COBRA between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, individuals who were in their COBRA election period as of April 1, 2021, and individuals who would be AEIs but whose COBRA coverage lapsed due to non-payment prior to April 1, 2021.  AEIs also include any qualified beneficiaries, such as family members, who did not elect COBRA continuation coverage when first eligible.  Generally, this means an employee (and their qualified beneficiaries) with a COBRA start date on or after November 1, 2019, would have one or more months of eligibility for the COBRA subsidy.  Therefore, employers should identify any employees involuntarily terminated or whose hours were reduced on or after […]

By |April 8th, 2021|Broad Reach Benefits, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical, Private Health Care Exchange, U.S. Department of Labor, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on DOL Releases Model Notices and Other Resources Related to COBRA Premium Assistance

IRS Provides Guidance on FSA Relief Authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Grants Other Cafeteria Plan Relief

We are just weeks shy of the one-year anniversary of the President’s declaration of the COVID-19 National Emergency, and the COVID-19 National and Public Health Emergencies are still in effect.  As a result of the long-term impact of the pandemic, many employees faced forfeiting their unused health FSA and dependent care assistance program (DCAP) funds at the end of the 2020 plan year.

As a result, and as we previously reported, a second stimulus relief bill (the Consolidated Appropriated Act, 2021) was signed into law on December 27, 2020, which provided much-needed relief for health FSAs and DCAPs.  On February 18, 2021, the IRS released Notice 2021-15, which provides additional guidance related to the relief in the stimulus bill as well as further relief for cafeteria plans and HRAs.  The guidance and relief are summarized in more detail below.

IRS Guidance Related to the Second Stimulus Bill (CAA, 2021)

Health FSA and DCAP Carryovers – The stimulus bill authorized employers offering a DCAP or health FSA to allow participants to carry over all unused DCAP and health FSA contributions or benefits remaining at the end of the 2020 plan year to the 2021 plan year.  Notice 2021-15 clarifies that:

  • Employers may require employees to make an election in the 2021 or 2022 plan year to access the carryover from the previous plan year.
  • The carryover relief applies to all health FSAs, including limited purpose health FSAs.
  • If an employee uses the mid-year election change relief discussed elsewhere in this alert to prospectively elect to participate in the health FSA mid-year, the employee can access the full amount of their carryover from 2020 retroactive to January 1, 2021.
  • Employers can restrict the amount employees can carryover, i.e., […]
By |March 9th, 2021|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, IRS, Medical|Comments Off on IRS Provides Guidance on FSA Relief Authorized in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, Grants Other Cafeteria Plan Relief

Alera Group Employees Relieve $1.35M of Medical Debt Across NJ

Alera Group, Inc. employees announced their alleviation of $1.35 million of medical debt for families located across the state of New Jersey through two of its New Jersey based divisions, CRISP and Broad Reach Benefits. This gift is part of approximately $19 million in healthcare debt being relieved by Alera Group employees for struggling households across the country, an effort that began during the 2020 holiday season and remains open for contributions today. Alera is one of the youngest and fastest growing privately held, national insurance brokerage firms in the country.

Alera employees worked directly with the debt-forgiveness nonprofit, RIP Medical Debt, to identify individuals and families with outstanding healthcare-related bills in more than 200 cities located in 35 counties across the country. Founded by two former debt collectors, RIP is able to purchase medical debts for those most in need in bundled portfolios for a fraction of their face value.

“The global pandemic has impacted the lives of millions of people across the country, with so many families struggling to pay off soaring medical bills associated with getting sick in this environment,” stated David Russo, a partner at CRISP. “Giving back to the local communities in which we live is at the heart of what Alera Group stands for, and we are proud to be part of such an incredible initiative that is easing the worries of families across New Jersey during these challenging times.” 

Rather than waking up to the knocking of a debt collector, thousands of Americans will receive letters of forgiveness to alert them of the gift from Alera employees. These letters will be delivered by March 2021 and beyond, targeting individual and families living below 200% of the poverty […]

By |February 16th, 2021|Broad Reach Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Medical, Uncategorized|Comments Off on Alera Group Employees Relieve $1.35M of Medical Debt Across NJ

IRS Extends Deadline for Furnishing Form 1095-C to Employees, Extends Good-Faith Transition Relief for the Final Time

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released Notice 2020-76, which extends the deadline for furnishing 2020 Forms 1095-B and 1095-C to individuals from January 31, 2021 to March 2, 2021.  The Notice also provides penalty relief for good-faith reporting errors and suspends the requirement to issue Form 1095-B to individuals, under certain conditions.

The due date for filing the forms with the IRS was not extended and remains March 1, 2021 (March 31, 2021 if filed electronically).

The regulations allow employers to request a 30-day extension to furnish statements to individuals by sending a letter to the IRS with certain information, including the reason for delay; however, because the Notice’s extension of time to furnish the forms is as generous as the 30-day extension contained in the instructions, the IRS will not formally respond to requests for an extension of time to furnish 2020 forms to individuals.  Employers may obtain an automatic 30-day extension for filing with the IRS by filing Form 8809 on or before the due date. An additional 30-day extension is available under certain hardship conditions. The Notice encourages employers who cannot meet the extended due dates to furnish and file as soon as possible and advises that the IRS will take such furnishing and filing into consideration when considering whether to abate penalties for reasonable cause.

Relief from Furnishing Form 1095-B to Individuals

Due to the individual mandate penalty being reduced to zero starting in 2019, an individual does not need the information on Form 1095-B in order to complete his or her federal tax return. Therefore, the IRS is granting penalty relief for employers who fail to furnish a Form 1095-B to individuals, provided that the reporting entity:

  • Posts a notice […]
By |October 7th, 2020|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Human Resources, IRS, Legislation, Medical|Comments Off on IRS Extends Deadline for Furnishing Form 1095-C to Employees, Extends Good-Faith Transition Relief for the Final Time

5 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefits Costs in 2021

Health benefits costs are almost certainly going to rise in 2021. They’ve been trending upward for years—over 50% in the last decade, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation—and the current state of economic uncertainty over COVID-19 won’t slow things down. Realistically, after enduring months of business closures and managing exhausted workforces, many employers will be lucky to maintain uninterrupted operations.

That’s why it’s critical for employers to think about reducing health costs right now—figure out cost-effective benefits first so money can be shuffled as needed later. Having a solid plan going into 2021 will better position organizations facing limited budgets.  Better yet, work with your advisor on a 3-5 year benefits strategy to control costs instead of playing the year-to-year renewal game.

Here are five basic cost-reduction strategies employers should explore:

1. Dig Into Health Costs

Employers don’t let themselves overpay for the materials they use during production, so why is health care any different? Employers should look into every health care figure they can, from overall premium costs to individual employee expenditures. Understanding where money goes can help focus cost-cutting efforts.
For instance, if employees are going to the emergency room for every health visit, employers know they must promote more health literacy among their workforce.
Speak with Broad Reach Benefits for details about digging into your health plan cost data.

2. Embrace Technology

The health care landscape of today is starkly different than the one of even a few years ago. Now, the name of the game is virtual health care or “telemedicine.” There are numerous ways for individuals to take charge of their health care without the hassle—and added cost—of in-person consultations.
For example, there is tech that can monitor glucose levels to help diabetic employees without test strips; there […]

By |September 8th, 2020|Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Medical|Comments Off on 5 Strategies for Reducing Health Benefits Costs in 2021