Viewing posts from: February 2020

Coronavirus – Keep Informed and Prepared, but Don’t Panic

Posted February 28, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

The intensive media coverage of the coronavirus outbreak (now officially designated as COVID-19) could be raising many concerns in your local schools and colleges. It can seem overwhelming, and without focusing on facts and keeping updated on the latest official information (and recommendations), can lead to some level of panic. In an effort to help everyone stay abreast of the current status of this threat, as well as help prepare for a possible higher-risk exposure, we recommend the following steps:

1. Stay up to date, relying on trusted news sources

Both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) offer comprehensive and regularly updated information. At the moment, neither agency is making specific recommendations for schools/colleges.

  • As of 2/27/2020, the CDC states “For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.”
  • As of 2/27/2020, the CDPH states “…the health risk to the general public in California remains low.” In addition, The Public Health Department is not recommending the cancellation of public events at this time. There is no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission of the virus in the United States.”

2. Practice Precautionary Prevention Measures

It’s helpful for all community members to keep the fears of this new disease threat in perspective. In contrast to the widespread influenza (flu) activity throughout most of the country, coronavirus infections are extremely isolated at this point. Many of the precautions against the flu are the same actions that will help protect against coronavirus and similar infectious diseases. The California Department of Public Health recommends the following steps to prevent the spread of all respiratory viruses:

  • Washing hands with soap and water
  • Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick to reduce the risk of infection from any type of virus
  • Staying away from work, school or other people if you become sick with respiratory symptoms like fever and cough

3. Be Prepared

Your Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) should have both a “Continuity of Operations” plan as well as a “Pandemic Influenza” annex. While the risk remains low, now is the perfect time to review these plans/annexes, practice them (anything from a simple tabletop exercise to a full-practice “drill”), and make any modifications you may need. Should the CDC and/or CDPH make recommendations regarding the closure of schools, you will be in a much better position to respond and act on these recommendations having recently exercised your EOP. If your Emergency Operations Plan does not have either of these items, FEMA offers a template specific to Pandemic Influenza:

We encourage everyone to review the latest information from the CDC and CDPH to get a better understanding of the issue, utilizing the two links below:

Source: 


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

HHS Releases Federal Poverty Level Guideline Updates for 2020

Posted February 5, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

Author: Nathanael M. Alexander, Esq., Director of Compliance – AP Benefit Advisors

On January 17, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the updated Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines for 2020. The revised FPL guidelines are effective as of January 15, 2020, with the new FPL level set at $12,670 for a person residing in the contiguous U.S. or Washington D.C., $14,680 for Hawaiian residents, and $15,950 for persons residing in Alaska.

What is the Federal Poverty Level?

A measure of household income issued every year by HHS. Federal poverty levels are used to determine eligibility for certain programs, subsidies, and benefits, including savings on Marketplace health insurance, and Medicaid and CHIP coverage. The FPL is a measurement of a family’s annual income, with each local, state, and federal assistance agency applying the guidelines for eligibility purposes in their programs in their own way, i.e., some agencies may define a household’s income as pre-tax while others may consider only a household’s post-tax income in their calculation for eligibility.

How often are the FPL Guidelines updated and to whom do they apply?

HHS updates the FPL guidelines annually every January, modifying them accordingly to account for inflation, and issues specific guidelines for each household size.

The FPL can affect employer-shared responsibility (ESR) assessments under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as it pertains to both premium tax credits and affordability testing.

In order to be considered eligible for the premium tax credit, your household income must be between 100-400% of the federal poverty line amount in accordance with your family size. However, there are two exceptions that are applicable to those with household income below 100% of the corresponding federal poverty line. Those two exceptions are outlined here in the Instructions for Form 8962 (Premium Tax Credit Form), in addition to more specific information on how to go about obtaining the premium tax credit. It must of course be noted that household income alone does not solely qualify an individual to receive the premium tax credit, as other eligibility criteria must also be met. Aside from income, the other four factors that must be considered include the following:

  • cost of available insurance coverage,
  • state of residence,
  • physical address, and
  • family size.

For affordability testing, employers are utilizing this safe harbor test to determine whether or not their lowest-cost, self-only minimum essential coverage (MEC) plan is considered affordable to its employees. This is where the FPL guidelines come into play. If the employer is providing a plan that does not meet the affordability rules an employee would then have access to premium subsidies, so long as they meet the other requisite eligibility requirements. Premium subsidies are not available to individuals with a household income that exceeds the 400% FPL threshold, as discussed above, and to employees residing in the U.S. illegally. Since open enrollment for 2020 plans occurred in 2019, the 2019 FPL guidelines will be used to calculate affordability for any plans with a 2020 effective date. The maximum monthly premium contribution that meets the FPL safe harbor test for affordability would be set at 9.86% of the prior year’s FPL amounts divided by 12. So, for example, using the 2019 FPL amount for the mainland U.S., the formula would be (9.78% x $12,490) ÷ 12, which equals $101.79.

Please contact your Account Manager or Sales Executive for additional information on this topic.

Links:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

Compliance and Tax Round-Up (CA, DC, MA, NJ, RI, VT) – State Mandates and FSA/DCAP Changes for 2020

Posted February 3, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

Individual State Mandates (CA, DC, MA, NJ, RI, VT)

How did we get here?  The US Supreme Court ruled that the ACA individual mandate penalty (tax) was constitutional in 2012, and in December of 2017, Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reduced the individual mandate penalty to zero as of January 1, 2019.  Meanwhile, individual states are permitted to tax their citizens if they acquire and maintain health coverage for themselves, their legally married spouse, and their dependent children. In fact, Massachusetts has been taxing its citizens since 2007.

In 2019, New Jersey and the District of Columbia joined the ranks of states with penalties (taxes) imposed for people without health coverage.  And, effective for 2020, CA, RI and VT have joined the effort.

Here’s a summary of the states that have enacted individual mandate requirements.  When you waive health coverage on your employer’s plan, and you waive health coverage under your spouse’s employer’s plan, and you fail to make a purchase on healthcare.gov or on any state health exchange you may owe significant penalties (taxes) when you file your state income tax returns.  Please consult with your accountant and/or tax adviser about how your situation is impacted by you not having health coverage.  (Also note:  DC, NJ, CA and MA also require employers to communicate about coverage offerings through  mechanisms similar to the 1094/1095 processes.  Please discuss those requirements with your Account Manager.)

California – Two Messages Required about Flex Spending Account Deadlines

On August 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom of California enacted Bill No. 1554.  While existing CA law requires all employers to notify employees of information relating to employment and benefits, this new bill requires employers to notify employees, who participate in flexible spending accounts and work in California, of any deadlines applicable to withdrawing funds before the end of the plan year.

Generally, flexible benefits plans are written to accommodate a “run-out” period, after the formal end of the plan year, for participants to turn in claims incurred during the plan year. Some plans may allow a 2.5 month extended period of coverage (grace period), after the end of the plan year, in which to incur expenses during the current year and use left-over funds from the previous plan year. Additionally, plans may allow participants to carry over up to $500 from a previous plan year to the current year from their healthcare flexible spending accounts. (Subject to whatever limitations the plan administrator imposes to protect their plan, their spend and perhaps how their next year’s Health Savings Accounts operate.  Please check with your account manager for details.)

The deadline to withdraw funds may be different according to the benefits selected. For instance, the dependent care portion of the plan may have a run-out period for turning in claims incurred in the previous plan year, while the healthcare flexible spending account (FSA) may allow for a grace period or carry over, and thus a separate run out period.  These factors should be taken into consideration when creating and distributing employee notices including, whether the FSA account is for dependent care, healthcare or adoption assistance.

The Notice needs to be delivered to participants before the plan’s year end advising them of all deadlines to withdraw funds. The Notice also must be provided in two different forms, one of which may be electronic.

Notices may be provided as outlined below, but are not limited to the following:

  • Electronic mail communication
  • Telephone communication
  • Text message notification
  • Postal mail notification
  • In-person notification

When does this take effect?

For plans that end anytime in 2020, up to and including December 31, 2020, the employer is required to provide the two (2) notices to CA employees prior to their plan’s year-end.

Please contact your Account Manager or Sales Executive for additional details.  Thank you.

 

Links:


For more information, contact info@apbenefitadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

AP Benefit Advisors’ webinar and website resources are designed for U.S.-based organizations. Our privacy and GDPR policy should be reviewed here. Please opt-out if you do not agree to these terms and conditions.

Subscribe to Our Blog

Archives