Voluntary Benefits

This is the Voluntary Benefits 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.

EEOC Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Related to Wellness Programs

Since 2019, employers faced uncertainty regarding the status of wellness program incentives under the ADA and GINA. On January 7, 2021, the EEOC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Wellness Programs Under the ADA and GINA that addresses this issue. The proposed rules deviate somewhat from prior EEOC guidance and positions.

Specifically, the proposed rules apply the ADA’s insurance “safe harbor” to health contingent wellness programs offered as part of, or qualified as, an employer-sponsored group health plan, thereby segregating them from health contingent wellness programs offered to all employees, regardless of their participation in the employer’s health plan.  Instead, the latter are lumped in with non-health contingent wellness programs (i.e., wellness programs that involve a disability-related inquiry or medical exam but are not activity-based or outcome-based) and subject to the ADA wellness rules.

Consistent with the EEOC’s announcement in the summer of 2020, the proposed rules require any incentives provided for participatory wellness programs and/or wellness programs not offered as part of a group health plan to be “de minimis.”  If the rules are finalized as proposed, employers may no longer rely upon the 30% (or 50% for smoking cessation) limit on incentives for these types of programs.

Finally, the proposed rules amend the GINA regulations by, among other things, limiting wellness program incentives for employees who complete health risk assessments that contain information about their spouse or dependents’ family medical history or other genetic information to a similar de minimis amount.

The proposed rules are described in more detail below.

Background

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 […]

By |January 21st, 2021|Employee Benefits, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on EEOC Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Related to Wellness Programs

Carrier Premium Credits and ERISA Fiduciary Obligations

Due to COVID-19 and state and local stay-at-home orders, utilization of group medical and dental insurance benefits is down.  As a result, some carriers recently notified employers that they will be issued premium credits. When asking how these premium credits should be treated by the employer, we often compare then to the ACA’s medical loss ratio (MLR) rebates.  While these premium credits are not MLR rebates, a similar decision must be made to determine whether they, like MLR rebates, are ERISA plan assets.

Background

As background, the Affordable Care Act’s MLR rule requires health insurers to spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on claims or activities that improve health care quality, otherwise they must provide a rebate to employers. At the same time the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the MLR rule, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued Technical Release 2011-04 (TR 2011-04), which clarifies how rebates should be treated under ERISA.  Under ERISA, anyone who has control over plan assets, such as the plan sponsor, has fiduciary obligations and must act accordingly.

Clearly, the premium credits we are seeing are not subject to the MLR rule; however, a similar analysis applies.   TR 2011-04 clarified that insurers must provide any MLR rebates to the policyholder of an ERISA plan.  However, while the DOL’s analysis was focused on MLR rebates, it recognized that distributions from carriers can take a variety of forms, such as “refunds, dividends, excess surplus distributions, and premium rebates.”  Regardless of the form or how the carrier describes them, to the extent that a carrier credit, rebate, dividend, or distribution is provided to a plan governed by ERISA, then the employer must always consider whether it is a “plan […]

By |May 18th, 2020|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Legislation, Medical, Private Health Care Exchange, U.S. Department of Labor, Voluntary Benefits|Comments Off on Carrier Premium Credits and ERISA Fiduciary Obligations

Congress passes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

On March 27, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The CARES Act comes as a continued response to the Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that is significantly impacting the United States. The Act is a $2.2 trillion economic package that is meant to stabilize individuals and employers, while the nation continues to experience shelter-in-place advisories/orders and hospitals report a surge of severely ill COVID-19 patients. The Act’s Paycheck Protection Program is retroactive to February 15, 2020, which is important for businesses that have been experiencing financial hardships starting in February.

Overview of CARES Act

The CARES Act amends several laws, as well as appropriates funds to assist individuals, families, and businesses that are experiencing financial difficulties due to COVID-19. There are loans available to small businesses for paycheck protection and loan forgiveness, and other assistance for individuals and businesses as it relates to unemployment insurance and tax relief. The Act supports the health care system by providing financial assistance for medical supplies and coverage. It also provides economic stabilization and assistance for severely distressed sectors (such as airlines), as well as additional COVID-19 relief funds, expanded telehealth and COVID-19 testing provisions, and emergency appropriations for COVID-19 health response and agency operations.

HSA and Telehealth Expansion

The CARES Act includes a new safe harbor under which high deductible health plans (HDHPs) can cover telehealth and other remote care before participants meet their deductibles (i.e., without cost-sharing). This temporary safe harbor applies for plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2021, unless extended. As a result of this safe harbor, no-cost telehealth may be provided for any reason–not just COVID-19 related issues–without disrupting HSA eligibility.

Prescription Drug Reimbursement under FSA/HRA/HSAs

The CARES Act […]

By |April 2nd, 2020|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Legislation, Medical, Short Term Disability, U.S. Department of Labor, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on Congress passes the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)

CMS Extends Transition Relief for Non-Compliant Plans Through 2021

On January 31, 2020 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a one-year extension to the transition policy (originally announced November 14, 2013 and extended six times since) for individual and small group health plans that allows issuers to continue policies that do not meet ACA standards.  The transition policy has been extended to policy years beginning on or before October 1, 2021, provided that all policies end by January 1, 2022.  This means individuals and small businesses may be able to keep their non-ACA compliant coverage through the end of 2021, depending on the policy year.  Carriers may have the option to implement policy years that are shorter than 12 months or allow early renewals with a January 1, 2021 start date in order to take full advantage of the extension.

Background

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) includes key reforms that create new coverage standards for health insurance policies. For example, the ACA imposes modified community rating standards and requires individual and small group policies to cover a comprehensive set of benefits.

Millions of Americans received notices in late 2013 informing them that their health insurance plans were being canceled because they did not comply with the ACA’s reforms. Responding to pressure from consumers and Congress, on Nov. 14, 2013, President Obama announced a transition relief policy for 2014 for non-grandfathered coverage in the small group and individual health insurance markets. If permitted by their states, the transition policy gives health insurance issuers the option of renewing current policies for current enrollees without adopting all of the ACA’s market reforms.

Transition Relief Policy

Under the original transitional policy, health insurance coverage in the individual or small group market that was renewed for a policy year starting […]

By |February 11th, 2020|Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Health Care Reform, Medical, Voluntary Benefits|Comments Off on CMS Extends Transition Relief for Non-Compliant Plans Through 2021

Legal Alert- Congress Repeals Unrelated Business Income Tax for Tax-Exempt Entities Offering Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits

Congress Repeals Unrelated Business Income Tax for Tax-Exempt Entities Offering Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits

As part of the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020 (the “Act”), Congress repealed Section 512(a)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”). This Code section was added as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the “TCJA”) and resulted in an unrelated business income tax (UBIT) liability when a tax-exempt entity provides qualified transportation benefits to employees.  The repeal is effective retroactively to December 22, 2017, the date the TCJA was enacted. Tax-exempt entities who paid an UBIT on transportation benefits in the last two years should be able to obtain a refund.

About UBIT and Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits 

The UBIT on qualified transportation fringe benefits only affected tax-exempt entities. UBIT generally applies to income that is not related to an entity’s exempt purpose, so it was unclear why Congress targeted expenses related to providing parking or transportation for employees.  Under the TCJA, tax-exempt entities offering qualified transportation fringe benefits to their employees were exposed to a 21% UBIT tax.  The tax applied regardless of whether the employer was providing the benefits or whether employees were paying pre-tax.

Qualified transportation benefits include transit passes, parking, and commuter highway vehicle rides. Notably, the amount of the UBIT was based on the qualified transportation benefit expenditures instead of the entity’s income. As a result, tax-exempt entities were experiencing larger UBIT bills, even though employees may have been paying for the benefits themselves via salary reduction.

What the Repeal Does

 Under the Act, the UBIT for tax-exempt entities who offered qualified transportation fringe benefits is retroactively repealed. This means that tax-exempt entities are no longer subject to UBIT on qualified transportation benefits and […]

By |January 20th, 2020|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Benefits Adviser, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Medical, Voluntary Benefits|Comments Off on Legal Alert- Congress Repeals Unrelated Business Income Tax for Tax-Exempt Entities Offering Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits

IRS Releases Guidance for Employers Offering Individual Coverage HRAs

On September 27, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released proposed regulations on the application of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) employer shared responsibility provisions to a new type of Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) available starting in 2020.  In June 2019, the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Treasury Department (the “Departments”) released a final rule concerning HRAs that can be integrated with individual market coverage or Medicare.  This new type of HRA is referred to as an Individual Coverage HRA, or ICHRA.  The rule, based on an executive order from President Trump in 2017, is intended to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with non-group coverage.

The ICHRA rule is effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2020.  The IRS has also proposed regulations to guide employers in determining whether their contribution to an employee’s ICHRA results in an “affordable” offer of coverage under the ACA.  Specifically, the proposed regulations will assist employers who offer ICHRAs in determining the “required employee contribution” for purposes of line 15 of Form 1095-C.  Employers may continue to use the W-2, Rate of Pay, or Federal Poverty Level safe harbors to determine whether their entry in line 15 results in an “affordable” offer of coverage.  (See Example on page 3.)

The proposed regulations are effective for periods after December 31, 2019.  Employers may continue to rely on them during any ICHRA plan year beginning within six months from the publication of any final regulations.

 Proposed Safe Harbors

 The proposed regulations offer safe harbors for applicable large employers (ALEs), which are those who employed […]

By |October 29th, 2019|Compliance, Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Health Care Reform, Human Resources, Legislation, Voluntary Benefits|Comments Off on IRS Releases Guidance for Employers Offering Individual Coverage HRAs

How Your Company Can Benefit From an Executive Reimbursement Plan

Today’s companies are constantly struggling to attract and retain good talent. And, most companies are offering special perks, or benefits to help do this. But, what about something a little more enticing than a parking spot that’s close to the entry door? What about an executive reimbursement plan? An executive reimbursement plan offers select executives, or group of employees chosen by an employer, additional medical, dental or eye coverage to pay the left over portion […]

By |July 28th, 2016|Employee Benefits, Human Resources, Voluntary Benefits|Comments Off on How Your Company Can Benefit From an Executive Reimbursement Plan

Taking Time to Make Good Open Enrollment Decisions

It’s unfortunate that many people take more time to choose their cell phone calling plan than they do making their annual employee benefit decisions during open enrollment. Making wise decisions about your benefits does require planning. By selecting benefits that provide the best care and coverage, you can optimize their value and minimize the impact to your pocket book.

Many people get tripped up when asked to select benefits for themselves and their families because these decisions can be complicated, and it is often easier to elect the same coverage that you had during the previous plan year. However, last year’s coverage may not suit you again, and there may be new plans that better meet your needs. Here are a few tips to help you make the best benefit decisions for you and your family: […]

By |November 6th, 2012|Employee Benefits, Employee Communications, Medical, Voluntary Benefits, Wellness|Comments Off on Taking Time to Make Good Open Enrollment Decisions