News

News

  • HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Webinar | 2020 Data Analytics Year in Review November 11, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    As 2020 comes to a close, we will recap popular topics of discussion in 2020 (yes, this includes COVID-19). Our year in review will include items such as:

    • COVID-19 (past, present and future)
    • Benefits Trends (reference-based pricing, specialty Rx, virtual care, etc.)

    We will also review and discuss emerging trends for 2021 (direct contracting, direct primary care, tele-health/tele-med) and discuss how some of these options can be incorporated into your benefit offering to help drive lower costs and improved outcomes for your health plans.

    Join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as Virak Nhek, AssuredPartners’ Senior Healthcare Data Consultant, outlines strategies (some old, some new) that employers are exploring to improve cash flow, enhance benefits, lower claims/premiums and drive more favorable outcomes.

    Webinar Details:

    • Wednesday, November 18, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EST

    Register Now


    *The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®)  criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.
    **AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


    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 Completes Historic Price Transparency Initiative November 5, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    Last week, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) along with the Departments of Labor and the Department of the Treasury issued a final rule on price transparency, helping to ensure every American knows how much their healthcare will cost in advance and allowing them to make fully informed and value-conscious decisions.  The rule requires most private health plans, including group health plans and individual health insurance market plans to disclose pricing and cost-sharing information and fulfills a key element of President Trump’s Executive Order on price and quality transparency.

    Under this final rule, about 200 million Americans will gain access to real-time price information, enabling them to know how much their healthcare will cost them before going in for treatment.  The rule requires group health plans and health insurance issuers in the individual and group markets to not only provide easy-to-understand personalized information on enrollee cost-sharing for healthcare services, but they must also publicly disclose the rates they actually pay healthcare providers for specific services.  This will allow for unprecedented price transparency that will benefit employers, providers, and patients to help drive down healthcare costs.

    Starting on January 1, 2023 (plans beginning on or after that date), the rule will require health plans to offer an online shopping tool that will allow consumers to see the negotiated rate between their provider and their plan, as well as a personalized estimate of their out-of-pocket cost for 500 of the most shoppable items and services. Then starting on January 1, 2024, these shopping tools will be required to show the costs for the remaining procedures, drugs, durable medical equipment and any other item or service they may need.

    In addition, by January 1, 2022, this rule will require plans to make publicly available standardized and regularly updated data files, which would open new opportunities for research and innovation to drive improvements within the healthcare market.  With this data, entrepreneurs, researchers, and developers will be able to create private sector solutions for patients to help them make decisions about their care. Further, people who are uninsured or shopping for health insurance will be able to understand how health care items and services are priced under health insurance coverage.  Technology companies can create additional price comparison tools and portals that will further incentivize competition, as well as allow for unprecedented research studies and data analysis into how healthcare prices are set. With this information available to the public, there can finally be pressure on those that price gouge consumers when they are at their most vulnerable.

    Please reach out to your AssuredPartners’ Sales Executives or Account Manager to discuss how your team at AP will make sure you, your carriers, and vendor-partners will be positioned to reach each of these Transparency milestones, together in 2022, 2023, and 2024.  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.

  • COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Declaration Renewed; Further Extends Group Health Plan Deadlines October 21, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    The federal public health emergency declaration due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended to January 22, 2021. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) originally declared the public health emergency on January 31, 2020, and the declaration was previously renewed twice this year, in April and July. Public health emergency declarations are generally effective for 90 days.

    Sponsors and administrators of group health plans should be aware that certain benefit related deadlines are extended due to the public health emergency. Guidance issued by the US Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service extends numerous deadlines specific to Claims for Benefits and External Reviews, COBRA, and HIPAA Special Enrollment. From the beginning of the outbreak on March 1, 2020 through the date 60 days after the public health emergency ends, deadlines are extended due to the challenges participants and beneficiaries may face filing timely notice.  See Infographic here.

    HHS has encouraged plan sponsors of non-Federal governmental group health plans to provide relief similar to that specified for ERISA plans to participants and beneficiaries, and encourages states and health insurance issuers offering coverage in connection with a group health plan to enforce and operate consistently with these relief provisions.

    HIPAA Special Enrollment Periods: The declaration extends the 30- and 60-day HIPAA special enrollment periods. Thirty-day special enrollment periods may apply when eligible employees or dependents lose eligibility for other health plan coverage in which they were previously enrolled; or when an eligible employee acquires a dependent through birth, marriage, adoption, or placement for adoption. Sixty-day special enrollment periods may apply due to changes in eligibility for state premium assistance under the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

    COBRA: COBRA deadlines for extension of health coverage have been extended until 60 days after the public health emergency ends. This includes the 30- or 60-day deadline for employers or individuals to notify the plan of a qualifying event; the 60-day deadline for individuals to notify the plan of a determination of disability; the 14-day deadline for plan administrators to furnish COBRA election notices; the 60-day deadline for participants to elect COBRA; and the 45-day deadline in which to make a first premium payment and 30-day deadline for subsequent premium payments.

    Claims Procedures: Extended deadlines apply for individuals to file claims for benefits, for initial disposition of claims, and for providing claimants a reasonable opportunity to appeal adverse benefit determinations under ERISA plans and non-grandfathered group health plans.

    External Review Process: Extended deadlines apply to non-grandfathered group health plans for providing a state or federal external review process after the plan’s internal appeals procedures are exhausted. Plans must allow at least four months after the receipt of a notice of adverse benefit determination for a participant to request an external review using the federal review process. The timeframe to remedy an incomplete request for review is also extended. Plans regulated by state agencies may impose different deadlines.

    Group health plans and responsible plan fiduciaries will not be considered in violation if they act in good faith and furnish any notices, disclosures, or documents that would otherwise have to be furnished during the outbreak period “as soon as administratively practicable under the circumstances.” The deadline for furnishing advance notice of modifications to the summary of benefits and coverage has also been extended.

    Provisions relating to group health plans under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act may impose different deadlines. Because circumstances around the COVID-19 pandemic are changing constantly, such provisions may be updated according to conditions. Please refer to our prior guidance on FFCRA and the CARES Act, as well as details on the application of these group health plan deadlines.

    Related Prior Links/Guidance:

  • HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Webinar | COVID-19 Relief: When Will it End? September 17, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    Please join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as ComplianceDashboard’s legal consultant, Olivia Ash, JD, MS, reviews COVID-19 regulatory relief deadlines for ERISA plans, including both 401(k) and welfare plans. Once you have the big picture, Olivia will walk through how to apply these guidelines to real-life situations.

    This won’t be your average regulatory review! Plan for an interactive experience and walk away with handouts ready for use in assisting you and/or clients with end of the year questions.

    Webinar Details:

    • Wednesday, September 30, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Register Now


    *The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

    **AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


    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.

  • AssuredPartners Webinar | Voluntary Benefits: Unknown Contractual Details and COVID-19 Updates August 13, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    Join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as Stephen Ivey and Ralph Cullison, our Voluntary Benefit subject-matter experts, discuss details on sometimes unknown contractual details and COVID-19 updates.

    Voluntary benefits are sometimes thought of as simple or easy since there is no employer cost but are subject to detailed contractual provisions that impact claims. We will explore these details with real-life incidences on how claims were impacted.

    Obviously COVID-19 has impacted us all in many ways, and voluntary plans have been updated to add benefits not previously available. We will discuss these and the variances among different insurance companies on how claims are paid.

    Webinar Details:

    • Wednesday, August 26, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Register Now


    *The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

    **AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


    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.

  • President Trump Signs Executive Orders to Lower Prescription Drug Costs July 29, 2020 by nickb

    By: Keenan & Associates, an AssuredPartners Company

    On July 24, 2020, President Donald Trump signed four executive orders that focused on lowering prescription drug prices. All of these executive orders direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make determinations and promulgate rules that would put the executive orders into effect. Therefore, these executive orders have no current impact on prescription drug pricing, commercial self-funded employer pharmacy programs or fully-insured group health plans.

    Prescription Drug Re-Importation

    This executive order directs HHS to, “as appropriate and consistent with applicable law,” act to expand access to imported prescription drugs from Canada and other countries by taking the following steps:

    • Facilitating individual waivers already available under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA), provided such importation poses no additional risk to public safety. The risk to public safety is a high hurdle, considering that is the very reason drug re-importation is generally not allowed.
    • Authorizing the re-importation of insulin upon a finding by HHS that it is required for emergency medical care.
    • Finalizing the proposed rule to allow importation of certain prescription drugs from Canada. This rule, promulgated by HHS in 2019 but never finalized, would allow states, wholesalers or pharmacists to develop and submit to HHS for review pilot programs to import certain drugs from Canada that are versions of FDA-approved drugs and manufactured consistent with FDA approval. Again, safety is a hurdle for this rule.

    Drug manufacturers have consistently fought against drug re-importation. Moreover, the Canadian Government has also rejected importation proposals, saying importation would deplete the country’s own supply of prescription drugs.

    Pricing of Insulin and Injectable Epinephrine Through the 340B Program

    This executive order requires HHS to take action to ensure that future grants to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) are conditioned on the FQHC’s having established practices to make insulin and injectable epinephrine available at the discounted price paid by the FQHC grantee or sub-grantee under the 340B Prescription Drug Program to individuals with low incomes who have a high cost-sharing requirement for those medicines, have a high unmet deductible, or have no health insurance. This executive order is quite limited in scope. An FQHC is a clinic that provides comprehensive primary and preventive care to patients in under-serviced and rural areas. There are only about 1,368 FQHCs receiving federal grants under Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act. The executive order would not impact hospitals or clinics that are not FQHCs.

    Rebate Pass-Through to Medicare Part D Beneficiaries

    If it goes into effect, this executive order will narrow the safe harbor for drug rebates under the federal anti-kickback statute, while still permitting plan sponsors, pharmacies and PBMs to apply discounts at the Medicare Part D beneficiary’s point-of-sale. Prior to taking this action, the executive order requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to publicly confirm that the action is not projected to increase federal spending, Medicare beneficiary premiums, or patients’ total out-of-pocket costs. A Federal Government analysis of a similar proposal last year concluded that it could increase Medicare Part D premiums by 25-40% and that it would cost the Federal Government $177-$196 billion over ten years. In light of these costs, it is hard to see how HHS could confirm that the action will not increase federal spending or beneficiary premiums.

    Index Pricing for Physician-Administered Drugs Under Medicare Part B

    While the President announced this executive order, he has postponed moving ahead with it until August 24, 2020 to give pharmaceutical companies time to come up with an alternative pricing plan. It has not been published on the White House website, but as reported in the media, this plan had already been promulgated in proposed regulations in 2018, but never finalized. It would establish target prices for an as-yet undisclosed number of drugs under Medicare Part B. The target prices would be tied in part to an international pricing index (IPI), which includes the prices of the same physician-administered drugs in 15 other countries. If the plan moves forward, it is likely to be the subject of legal challenges as there is some question as to whether the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have the statutory authority to enforce such a rule.

    Resources:


    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.

  • HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Webinar | 2020 Compliance Mid-Year Roundup July 14, 2020 by nickb

    Please join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as Patrick Haynes, AssuredPartners’ General Counsel and SVP of Compliance, covers the following compliance topics through 2020 thus far:

    • IRS Notices 2020-29, 2020-33
    • Changes to Cafeteria Plans, HCFSAs, HSAs, DCAPs, and more
    • COVID-19 Relief and Changes
    • Other DOL, IRS, and HHS Guidance, including our blog topics beginning from February 2020

    Webinar Details:

    • Thursday, July 23, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Register Now


    *The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

    *AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


    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.

  • US Supreme Court Rules – Federal Law Protects LGBTQ at Work June 17, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    By: Cindy Wagner, AssuredPartners’ Director of HR Professional Services

    On Monday, June 15, 2020, by a vote of 6-3, and for the third time since 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that existing Federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. And, this time, by applying the workplace protections inscribed in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to gay and transgender employees. The ruling takes effect immediately. This action is a major victory for advocates of gay rights and for the emerging transgender rights movement.

    Previously, the Supreme Court addressed this matter on October 8, 2019, at which time they were closely divided after hearing two (2) hours of courtroom arguments on the important issues of the term – whether existing Federal law forbids job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Court was to decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate because of a person’s sex (among other protections – see below), also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. One case was presented on behalf of Gerald Bostock, who was fired from a county job in the state of Georgia after he joined a gay softball team. An attorney argued the employer discriminated against the man because it treated him worse than women who were doing the same work and the discrimination was because of sex. It was further explained that when an employer fires a male employee for dating men, but does not fire a female employee who dates men, the employer violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

    Per Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees and job applicants on the basis of race, sex, color, religion or national origin. Specifically, all companies with fifteen (15) or more employees are required to adhere to the rules set forth by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. An employer violates Title VII when it intentionally fires (or refuses to hire) an individual based in part on sex. It is irrelevant if other factors, aside from the individual’s sex, contribute to the employer’s decision. This is because it is a Title VII violation if an employer intentionally relies in part on an individual’s sex when taking negative employment action against them.

    In Bostock, the Georgia case, the court held that because discrimination on the basis of homosexuality or transgender status requires an employer to intentionally treat individuals differently because of their sex, an employer who intentionally penalizes an individual for being homosexual or transgender also violates Title VII.

    The Supreme Court said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also covers sexual orientation and transgender status. They upheld rulings from lower courts that said sexual orientation discrimination was a form of sex discrimination.

    The Supreme Court also provided firm clarification and guidance regarding the following:

    • It’s considered irrelevant what an employer might call its discriminatory practice, how others might label it, or what else might motivate it. When an employer fires an employee for being homosexual or transgendered, it intentionally discriminates against that individual in part because of sex.
    • An individual’s sex does not need to be the sole or primary cause of the employer’s adverse action. It’s of no significance if another factor, such as an individual’s attraction to the same sex or presentation as a different sex from the one assigned at birth, might also be at work, or even play a more important role in the employer’s decision.
    • Employers cannot escape liability by demonstrating how it treats males and females comparably as a group. An employer who intentionally fires a homosexual or transgender employee in part because of their sex violates the law even if the employer is willing to subject all male and female homosexual or transgender employees to the same rule.

    Across the United States, we now have twenty-two (22) states that have passed their own laws which prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition, there are seven (7) states that provide protection only to public employees. Those laws will continue to remain in force. However, with Monday’s ruling, Federal law now provides similar protections for LGBTQ employees throughout the rest of the United States.

    Gay rights advocates celebrated the ruling as gay and transgender rights groups considered the case and outcome a major victory. Many describe this ruling as more important than the fight for the right to marry, as nearly all LGBTQ adults have or need employment. The groups also acknowledged that sexual orientation was not on the minds of anyone in Congress when the Civil Rights Law was first passed.

    Also, on June 15, 2020, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) issued the following statement: “SHRM applauds the U.S. Supreme Court today for its ruling making clear employment discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is illegal. The ruling provides much needed clarity and finality on the interpretation of Title VII’s protections from the Court giving HR professionals clear guidance and a greater opportunity to create a world of work that works for all.”

    So, you may be asking – how does this impact my company or my employer?

    Human Resources Compliance is now more important than ever!

    It’s time to:

    • Review and update your employee handbooks
    • Review and update your policies and procedures (e.g., hiring and termination)
    • Update your employment law posters
    • Train your HR professionals, managers and employees in all aspects of HR compliance, sensitivity, civility in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion

    And when in doubt, contact your AssuredPartners Human Resources Consultant and/or legal advisor.

    Resources:


    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.

  • PCORI Fee Increased for Plan Years Ending After October 31, 2019 June 8, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    Today, the IRS Released the new Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)/Comparative Effectiveness Research Fee (CERF) rate for plans ending after October 31, 2019.  That new rate is $2.54 per person.  IRS Notice 2020-44 can be viewed here.

    You may recall that PCORI was previously due to sunset in 2019, but was extended by Congress through 2029 (see prior guidance/updates here).

    And, if you are looking for details on how to calculate PCORI, please read our prior guidance here or contact your Account Manager.

    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.

  • HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved Webinar | In Times of Challenge, Embrace the Change: Drive Lower Costs & Better Outcomes in Your Health Plans June 4, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    Sick of hearing about COVID-19? We all are. Yet, one “silver lining” to these difficult times is that adversity often illuminates new ways of doing things and new methods for greater efficiency. Some of those changes you can embrace are ones that can drive lower costs and better outcomes in your health plan.

    Join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as Scott Mayer, AssuredPartners’ Director of Data Analytics, outlines strategies (some old, some new) that employers are exploring to improve cash flow, enhance benefits, lower claims/premiums and drive more favorable outcomes.

    Webinar Details:

    • Tuesday, June 16, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Register Now


    *The use of this official seal confirms that this Activity has met HR Certification Institute’s® (HRCI®)  criteria for recertification credit pre-approval.

    **AssuredPartners is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC.


    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.