Header graphic for print
Employee Benefits Law Report Reporting on recent trends and developments affecting employee benefits

Tag Archives: Affordable Care Act

The first progeny of the Hobby Lobby decision

Posted in ERISA Fiduciary Compliance, Health Care Reform

As we noted in a previous blog entry, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled in two companion cases, Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores and Conestoga Wood Specialties v. Sebelius (referred to hereafter as Hobby Lobby) , that regulations issued under the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) that compel closely held corporations to provide contraception coverage for their employees violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993.  The Court concluded that closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage if doing so would be contrary to sincerely held religious beliefs of the corporation’s owners.  The dispute …


Continue Reading →

The $36,500 per employee, per year, per mistake PPACA penalty

Posted in Health Care Reform

And the gloves are off! The IRS has threatened employers with PPACA penalties of $36,500 per employee, per year, nondeductible. Makes those $2,000 and $3,000 penalties look like small potatoes, right?

The targets of this particular Q&A are employers who maintain “non-integrated” “employer payment plans.” These are new terms, which include reimbursement plans such as health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs, excluding retiree-only and excepted benefits HRAs). Those should generally have been eliminated by January 1, 2014, or amended to be integrated with group health coverage. The federal agencies dropped this bomb on employers on the cusp of open enrollment season last …


Continue Reading →

Affordable Care Act Update: Agencies Extend Reprieve for Employer Pay-or-Play Mandate

Posted in Health Care Reform, Other Articles

Hot off the press are the final regulations for the employer shared responsibility provisions of the Affordable Care Act (more commonly referred to as the “pay-or-play mandate”). In fact, the regulations are so new that they will not actually be published in the Federal Register until tomorrow, February 12. For those of you who are dying to get a first glimpse, a pre-publication version can be found here.

While the regulations are extensive (227 pages), many of the provisions of the proposed regulations have been retained. However, there are a couple important transition rules buried in the final regulations …


Continue Reading →

October 1, 2013 Health Care Reform Exchange Notice Deadline for All Employers Subject to the FLSA

Posted in Health Care Reform

As a reminder, under health care reform, all employers to which the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) applies, not just “applicable large employers,” are required to distribute health care exchange notices to their employees by October 1, 2013.  Given that health care reform is chock full of big penalties, it puzzled me that I couldn’t find a penalty for failure to provide this notice. Last week, the DOL published Frequently Asked Questions that confirmed, “there is no fine or penalty under the law for failing to provide the notice.” Nonetheless, health care reform involves so many inter-related statutes, pages of …


Continue Reading →

Health Care Reform Surprise: Obama Administration Delays Enforcement of Employer Mandate For One Year

Posted in Health Care Reform

In a surprising but generally welcome move, the Obama administration has moved to delay the enforcement of the employer mandate to provide health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”), which otherwise was scheduled to go into effect in 2014. This delay in enforcement formally was announced in a statement released July 2, 2013 by Mark J. Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy at the Department of the Treasury.

As background for this action, the administration cites a series of meetings it has been having with businesses from throughout the country relating to the new employer and insurer …


Continue Reading →

Health Care Reform Update: Planning Now for Significant 2014 Deadlines

Posted in Health Care Reform

The Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) makes sweeping changes to the current health insurance landscape. Though some of these changes are already in force, the most significant provisions of the ACA become effective on January 1, 2014. This includes the “pay or play mandate,” the individual coverage mandate, and certain significant taxes and fees that are imposed on employers.

While many employers are already in the midst of planning for these significant changes, other employers have yet to examine how these new requirements will impact business operations, health coverage costs, benefit plan design, and coverage of employees. Employers are required …


Continue Reading →

Temporary Relief From ACA Provisions Extended To Insured Expatriate Plans

Posted in Health Care Reform, Other Articles

The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury (collectively, the “Departments”) recently issued guidance in the form of a Frequently Asked Question (“FAQ”) that relates to the applicability of the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act (the “ACA”) to certain expatriate health care plans. The issuance of this new FAQ indicates that the Departments recognize that expatriate health care plans face special challenges in complying with certain provisions of the ACA, such as the need to reconcile multiple regulatory regimes that may apply to such plans. In addition, the Departments recognize that in some situations …


Continue Reading →

Employer Excise Taxes Under Health Care Reform – Contraceptive Coverage Mandate, New Proposed Regulations and HHS Due Process and Privacy Report Deadline Was 1/1/13

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

As you may have heard, the U.S Supreme Court denied Hobby Lobby an injunction against the PPACA contraceptive coverage mandate. Employers who maintain health care plans are required to pay excise taxes for failure to comply with a particular aspect of the law, regardless of whether coverage is affordable. As we previously explained, these nondeductible taxes are computed per affected individual, per day, and they may be substantial. Hobby Lobby will purportedly accrue taxes of $1.3 million per day if it continues to maintain its plan, but fails to provide the mandated coverage.

On December 28, the IRS issued


Continue Reading →

Health Care Reform Survives Supreme Court Scrutiny – But Not Entirely Intact

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

Health care reform just got a clean bill of health from the United States Supreme Court. The Court today ruled on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”), and generally upheld the legislation in a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Roberts was joined in his opinion by the four justices who had been appointed to the Court by Democratic presidents. In an expected development, certain individual justices wrote and/or joined concurring and dissenting opinions as well. The Court upheld the individual mandate to purchase health coverage, concluding that the mandate is permissible …


Continue Reading →

Supreme Court Wraps Up Oral Arguments On Health Care Reform – Day Three

Posted in Health Care Reform

On Wednesday, March 28, the Supreme Court wrapped up three days of oral arguments related to the constitutionality of certain portions of the health care reform legislation. As noted in my immediately previous blog related to the arguments, the Court focused on two issues in this last day of argument including: (a) whether the entire health care reform legislation must be invalidated in the event that the individual mandate is struck down, and (b) whether the provision of the legislation that expands the Medicaid program, and thus increases the financial burdens imposed on the states under that program, is constitutional. …


Continue Reading →

Supreme Court Gets Into The Act On Health Care Reform

Posted in Health Care Reform

The table now is set for the last chapter in our long (and, to many, excruciating) debate over the constitutionality of the health care reform legislation enacted in 2010. At a conference last Thursday, November 10, the members of the United States Supreme Court voted to consider an appeal of one of the lower court decisions dealing with the constitutionality of the landmark legislation. Oral arguments likely will be scheduled for March, 2012 (ironically around the two year anniversary of the passage of the legislation). In turn, a decision is expected around the end of the Court’s session in June, …


Continue Reading →

Health Care Shared Responsibility’s Missing Link – Reconciliation With The Employer

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) shared responsibility provisions require speculation about whether health care coverage will be affordable for an individual. Whether affordable coverage was available, whether an individual was eligible for a premium credit, and whether an employer was subject to penalties, cannot be determined until after the individual files a personal tax return. PPACA shared responsibility provisions address reconciliation of the speculation between the individual and federal agencies. Proposed regulations regarding premium tax credits and Notices 2011-36 and 2011-73 regarding shared responsibility for employers spotlight a missing linking: reconciliation with the employer.

PPACA Penalty for …


Continue Reading →

Is The Judicial Ping Pong Game Over Health Care Reform Coming To A Merciful Close?

Posted in Health Care Reform

The Obama administration was faced with a deadline to ask for an en banc review by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals of a decision that declared the health care reform legislation’s individual mandate unconstitutional. Under applicable court rules, such a request had to be filed by Monday, September 26. A decision to seek such a review would have caused further delay, and very likely would have delayed the timing of a decision on the legislation by the Supreme Court until after the 2012 national elections.

Perhaps eager to get the constitutional questions over the health care reform legislation resolved …


Continue Reading →

Health Care Plan Annual Enrollment Triage: The Summary of Benefits and Coverage Standards Have Not Been Issued Yet and May Just Have to Wait

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

M*A*S*H* taught us how to do triage, and MacGyver taught us to creatively think our way out of an impossible situation. Both are skills that may come in handy for the many employers who maintain calendar year health plans and who were in the process of preparing for annual enrollment when the Summary of Benefit and Coverage (SBC) proposed regulations were recently announced.

The SBC requirements do not apply to this year’s enrollment process, and, as a practical matter, this proposed guidance is probably too late and incomplete for many employers to address right now. Further, for an insured plan, …


Continue Reading →

PPACA Standards For Coverage Of Preventive Care Extended To Contraceptives

Posted in Health Care Reform

On Monday, August 1, 2011, the Obama administration announced new guidelines that require health care plans to cover certain women’s preventive services, including birth control and voluntary sterilization. The action taken by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (the “HHS”) adopts recommendations made by the Institute of Medicine, which recently issued a report dealing with a review of women’s health needs. In that report, the Institute of Medicine concluded that contraceptive coverage was justified because nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended and a significant percentage of these pregnancies lead to abortions. Thus, …


Continue Reading →

Being Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate in Health Claims and Appeals

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

Most everyone wants to be culturally appropriate. But just what does that mean? The answer to that question became a little clearer for non-grandfathered group health plans in the context of notices to be provided for internal health claims and appeals. Plan sponsors will need to pay attention, as compliance with new guidance is required for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2012.


Continue Reading →

After Earlier Grace, Departments Now Relax Certain Health Claims Procedure Requirements

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

Fresh off an extension this past spring of an enforcement grace period with respect to internal health claims and appeals requirements, sponsors of non-grandfathered group health plans received some more welcome news recently with the relaxation of certain group health claims procedure requirements first announced in interim final rules issued in July 2010. Although plan sponsors have been challenged to keep up with the various pieces of claims procedure guidance issued by the regulatory agencies over the past year, they may find these recent changes to be, in many ways, worth the wait and effort.…


Continue Reading →

Department of Labor Extends More Grace on Internal Health Claims and Appeals

Posted in Health and Welfare Plans, Health Care Reform

In Technical Release 2011-01, the Department of Labor has extended the enforcement grace period with respect to certain internal claims and appeals requirements applicable to non-grandfathered health plans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and its implementing regulations. The internal health claims and appeals requirements generally apply to non-grandfathered plans as of the first plan year beginning on or after September 23, 2010. The requirements do not apply to grandfathered plans.…


Continue Reading →