News

News

  • IRS Offers Guidance and Flexibility for Employee Benefit Plans May 12, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    The Internal Revenue Service today released guidance to allow temporary changes to section 125 cafeteria plans. These changes extend the claims period for healthcare flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and dependent care assistance programs and allow taxpayers to make mid-year changes.

    The guidance issued today addresses unanticipated changes in expenses because of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and provides that previously provided temporary relief for high deductible health plans may be applied retroactively to January 1, 2020, and it also increases for inflation the $500 permitted carryover amount for health FSAs to $550.

    Notice 2020-29 (PDF) provides greater flexibility for taxpayers by:

    • extending claims periods for taxpayers to apply unused amounts remaining in a health FSA or dependent care assistance program for expenses incurred for those same qualified benefits through December 31, 2020.
    • expanding the ability of taxpayers to make mid-year elections for health coverage, health FSAs, and dependent care assistance programs, allowing them to respond to changes in needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  (Many employers already embraced this for Dependent Care accounts as many daycares are closed, and one or both parents are home and thus cannot incur daycare and afterschool care expenses).
    • Generally, we have not recommended mid-year enrollment to an employer’s health plans due to the adverse selection they would face, and the stop-loss approval that self-funded plans would need to obtain.  With Notice 2020-29, the IRS is waiving any Section 125-based objections to a mid-year enrollment (or disenrollment) for health coverage. (Sample written employee attestation is available on page 8 of the 15-page PDF).
    • applying earlier relief for high deductible health plans to cover expenses related to COVID-19, and a temporary exemption for telehealth services retroactively to January 1, 2020.

    Notice 2020-33 (PDF) responds to Executive Order 13877, which directs the Secretary of the Treasury to “issue guidance to increase the amount of funds that can carry over without penalty at the end of the year for flexible spending arrangements.”  The notice increases the limit for unused healthcare FSA carryover amounts from $500, to a maximum of $550, as adjusted annually for inflation.

    Note:  The Healthcare FSA per employee maximum for 2020 is $2,750.  And, this guidance would permit a plan to increase their rollover amount up to $550. The deadline to implement this increase, by written plan amendment is the last day of the plan year.

    A plan may adopt these optional changes via a simple Summary of Material Modifications (SMM) which can be mailed (or e-mailed if the population meets the criteria for electronic distribution).

    Please contact your Account Manager and/or Sales Executive for details about modifying your plans to take advantage of these changes.

    Links:

    Prior Guidance:

  • AssuredPartners Webinar | Emergency FMLA: What is it and What Now? HRCI & SHRM Pre-Approved May 12, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    COVID-19 legislation is changing the landscape of regulatory compliance for the remainder of 2020. Please join us for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as ERISA Consultant, Olivia Ash, JD, reviews details of federal emergency FMLA legislation and covers essential benefit plan considerations impacted by COVID-19.

    Webinar Details:

    • Thursday, May 21, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Register Now

    Presenter Bio:
    Olivia Ash, JD, MS, brings fifteen years of management experience to regulatory compliance education. After receiving her BS in Exercise Science and an MS in Physical Education from Indiana University, Olivia spent a decade advising employers on wellness program implementation. She completed her JD at Indiana University’s McKinney School of Law. Presently, Olivia is a Compliance Consultant with ComplianceDashboard, LLC, focusing on ERISA’s application to health plans. She creates and presents live webinars, writes content, conducts national continuing education courses, and speaks at various conferences. Olivia is an experienced educator; she holds an Indiana state teaching license and currently serves as Adjunct Faculty at the Indiana University School of Health and Human Sciences. To maintain wellness, Olivia paints abstract art and enjoys road cycling.


    *The use of the HRCI seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s 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 Town Hall Webinar | State Reopening Orders & Employee Return to Work Measures May 6, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    AssuredPartners is pleased to continue our Town Hall meeting series this week with a focus on State Reopening Orders and Employee Return to Work Measures. Based on significant demand from our customers, we will cover the following topics for discussion with our presenters:

    • Recent DOL and IRS Changes for COBRA, Special Enrollments, and Claims Deadlines
    • State Reopening Orders & Return to Work Employee Screening
    • Health Screenings & Employee Wellness for Return to Work

    Please join us for a one-hour, town-hall style meeting.

    Webinar details:

    • Friday, May 8, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Submit a Question & Register


    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.

    Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash
  • DOL Issues COVID-19 Relief and Guidance for Employee Benefit Plans April 29, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    The Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) issued deadline relief and other guidance under Title I of ERISA (the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) to help employee benefit plans, plan participants and beneficiaries, employers and other plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries, and other service providers impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

    “EBSA will continue to safeguard the employee benefits of American workers while ensuring that employers and plans have the flexibility they need to continue delivering benefits during this challenging time,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for EBSA, Preston Rutledge.

    The DOL notice was issued jointly with the Departments of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service, and it extends certain time frames affecting participants’ rights to healthcare coverage, portability, and continuation of group health plan coverage under COBRA, and extends the time for plan participants to file or perfect benefit claims or appeals of denied claims. These extensions provide participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit plans additional time to make important health coverage and other decisions affecting their benefits during the coronavirus outbreak. The joint notice can be accessed here.

    Commentary:   Basically, this guidance provides the actions that must be taken during the time period of March 1, 2020, until 60 days after the time the federal government declares the COVID-19 emergency to have ended.  The 60th day being considered the end of the “Outbreak Period” as the notices refer to it.  While we are sharing this with you as soon as possible, we expect that more concrete action plans will be shared in the next few days and weeks.  The impact here affects both fully-insured and self-funded health plans, and while the guidance can be relied upon now, fully-insured plans can expect to see significant input, feedback and guidance from their respective carriers shortly.

    COBRA Timing
    Standard timing provides 60 days from a Qualifying Event (loss of coverage) to make a COBRA election, and 45 days from that first election to make your first COBRA premium payment. All other months require COBRA payments on the first of the month, or post-marked by the last day of the month in order to be “timely”. Those timelines still apply, but they “clock” on them doesn’t begin to run until the specified days after the National Emergency ends.  This means the time period from March 1, 2020 until 60 days after the announced end of the national emergency (“Outbreak Period”) must be disregarded.

    COBRA Election – Example 1
    Let’s assume the National Emergency ends on April 30, 2020.  That means the “Outbreak Period” ends on June 29, 2020 (the 60th day after the end of the National Emergency).  Additional guidance is expected to address different “Outbreak Period” end dates for different parts of the country.

      • Individual A works for Employer X and participates in X’s group health plan. Due to the National Emergency, Individual A experiences a Qualifying Event for COBRA purposes as a result of a reduction of hours below the hours necessary to meet the group health plan’s eligibility requirements, has no other coverage, and is therefore eligible to elect COBRA under Employer X’s plan.
      • In Example 1, Individual A is eligible to elect COBRA coverage under Employer X’s plan. The Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual A’s COBRA election period. The last day of Individual A’s COBRA election period is 60 days after June 29, 2020, which is August 28, 2020.

    New Baby Example – Example 2 (Special enrollment period)
    Individual B is eligible for, but previously declined participation in, her employer-sponsored group health plan. On March 31, 2020, Individual B gave birth and would like to enroll herself and the child into her employer’s plan; however, open enrollment does not begin until November 15. When may Individual B exercise her special enrollment rights?

      • Under traditional rules, “B” would have 30 days from March 31, 2020 to add her new baby to her employer’s plan.
      • In Example 2, the Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining Individual B’s special enrollment period. Individual B and her child qualify for special enrollment into her employer’s plan as early as the date of the child’s birth. Individual B may exercise her special enrollment rights for herself and her child into her employer’s plan until 30 days after June 29, 2020, which is July 29, 2020, provided that she pays the premiums for any period of coverage.

    COBRA Premium Payments – Example 3
    On March 1, 2020, Individual C was receiving COBRA continuation coverage under a group health plan.  More than 45 days had passed since Individual C had elected COBRA.  Monthly premium payments are due by the first of the month.  The plan does not permit qualified beneficiaries longer than the statutory 30-day grace period for making premium payments.  Individual C made a timely February payment, but did not make the March payment or any subsequent payments during the Outbreak Period.  As of July 1, Individual C has made no premium payments for March, April, May, or June.  Does  Individual C lose COBRA coverage, and if so for which month(s)?

      • In Example 3, the Outbreak Period is disregarded for purposes of determining whether monthly COBRA premium installment payments are timely.  Premium payments made by 30 days after June 29, 2020, which is July 29, 2020, for March, April, May, and June 2020, are timely, and Individual C is entitled to COBRA continuation coverage for these months if they make timely payments.  Under the terms of the COBRA statute, premium payments are timely if made within 30 days from the date they are first due.
      • In calculating the 30-day period, however, the Outbreak Period is disregarded, and payments for March, April, May, and June are all deemed to be timely if they are made within 30 days after the end of the Outbreak Period. Accordingly, premium payments for four months (i.e., March, April, May, and June) are all due by July 29, 2020.
      • Individual C is eligible to receive coverage under the terms of the plan during this interim period even though some or all of Individual C’s premium payments may not be received until July 29, 2020. Since the due dates for Individual C’s premiums would be postponed and Individual C’s payment for premiums would be retroactive during the initial COBRA election period, Individual C’s insurer or plan may not deny coverage, and may make retroactive payments for benefits and services received by the participant during this time.

    The additional examples are no less noteworthy and each should be read and discussed with your employee benefits and/or pension plan professionals.  They include:

      • Ex 4 – COBRA premium payment
      • Ex 5 – claims for medical treatment under a group health plan
      • Ex 6 – internal appeal – disability plan
      • Ex 7 – internal appeal – employee pension plan

    EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 extends the time for plan officials to furnish benefit statements, annual funding notices, and other notices and disclosures required by ERISA so long as they make a good-faith effort to furnish the documents as soon as administratively practicable. The notice explains that good faith includes the use of electronic alternative means of communicating with plan participants and beneficiaries who the plan fiduciary reasonably believes have effective access to electronic means of communication, including email, text messages, and continuous access to websites. The notice also includes compliance assistance guidance on plan loans, participant contributions and loan payments, blackout notices, Form 5500 and Form M-1 filing relief, and other general compliance guidance on ERISA fiduciary responsibilities. The Disaster Relief Notice is posted on EBSA’s website.

    The department also issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on health benefit and retirement benefit issues to help employee benefit plan participants and beneficiaries, plan sponsors, and employers impacted by the coronavirus outbreak understand their rights and responsibilities under ERISA.

    Please contact your AssuredPartners Account Manager or Sales Executive for additional information or to discuss how these changes impact your plans.

    Links:

    Updated Model COBRA Notices from the USDOL

     


    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 Town Hall Webinar | Financial Relief for Employers April 29, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    AssuredPartners is pleased to continue our Town Hall meeting series this week with a focus on Financial Relief for Employers. Based on significant demand from our customers, we will cover the following topics for discussion with our presenters from Mazars USA:

    • Paycheck Protection Program Round 2
    • Loan Forgiveness Considerations
    • Latest Interim Ruling
    • Payroll Tax Deferral and Employee Retention Credit
    • Depreciation, Interest Expense Deduction, and Retroactive Relief

    Webinar details:

    • Friday, May 1, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Submit a Question & Register


    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 Town Hall Webinar | Preparing for the Recovery with Return to Work Considerations April 22, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    We know you are busy and may be overrun with communications about current events. With that in mind, we want to offer an opportunity to address practical solutions and answers to potential challenges you, your employees, and your business may be faced with.

    AssuredPartners is pleased to continue our Town Hall meeting series this week with a focus on Preparing for the Recovery with Return to Work Considerations. When bringing employees back to work, there are many important decisions to be made.

    Please join us for a one-hour, town-hall style meeting.

    Webinar details:

    • Friday, April 24, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Submit a Question & Register


    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.

  • CARES ACT – COVID-19 FAQs – Cost Sharing for COVID-19 Testing April 16, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    On April 11, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Treasury (together, the departments) issued FAQ guidance regarding implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and other health coverage issues related to COVID-19.

    The bulk of the guidance centers on questions arising from the FFCRA/CARES Act mandate that group health plans and health insurers provide benefits for certain items and services related to diagnostic testing for COVID-19 without cost-sharing. On that subject, the guidance:

    • Confirms that the mandate applies to both fully-insured and self-funded group health plans, ERISA plans, non-federal government plans and church plans, individual coverage provided through or outside of an exchange as well as student health insurance coverage (as defined in 45 CFR 147.145). (Both for-profit and not-for-profit companies are included—again, there were no exclusions).
    • Discusses in greater detail the items and services for which plans and issuers must provide coverage without cost-sharing, including the circumstances under which items and services are considered to be “furnished during a healthcare provider visit.”
    • It clarifies that items and services must be covered without cost-sharing “only to the extent the items and services relate to the furnishing or administration of the test or to the evaluation of such individual for purposes of determining the need of the individual for the product, as determined by the individual’s attending health care provider. The guidance lists examples of other tests (e.g. influenza tests, blood tests, etc.) that are performed to determine the individual’s need for COVID-19 diagnostic testing when the visit results in an order for COVID-19 testing.
    • Confirms the departments’ position that they will not take enforcement action against any plan for not providing a modification of the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) at least 60 days before the change becomes effective for changes that provide greater coverage related to COVID-19 during the period covered by either a public health emergency declaration or a national emergency declaration, so long as plans and issuers provide notice of the changes as soon as reasonably practicable.

    The guidance also provides the following information:

    • An employer may offer benefits for diagnosis and testing for COVID-19 under an EAP without impacting the EAP’s status as an “excepted benefit” under ERISA.
    • An employer may offer benefits for diagnosis and testing for COVID-19 at an on-site medical clinic.

    Link to the full guidance here (12 page PDF). 

    In response to Coronavirus, AssuredPartners has recently launched a COVID-19 resources page on our websiteAP Benefit Advisors’ COVID-19 resources can be found on this website.  

    Prior guidance and updates:

     

  • AssuredPartners COVID-19 Map & Resources April 15, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    COVID-19 Map

    AssuredPartners is committed to providing our clients and our community with reliable and accurate data and analysis during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Our very skilled and dedicated Data Analytics team has created an interactive COVID-19 map of the United States with data pulled from an array of credible data sources in order to provide insight into the breadth of this pandemic.

    This data is updated multiple times daily and can be explored by clicking the picture below:


    Coronavirus Resources

    Like any outbreak of infectious disease, the spread of the coronavirus can cause significant disruptions to our lives, our social interaction, our businesses and our economy. AssuredPartners is pleased to offer our clients and community valuable resources to help you navigate through this time of uncertainty as it relates to the coronavirus.

    Please click the link below to access our resources:

    AssuredPartners Coronavirus 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.

  • AssuredPartners Town Hall Webinar April 13, 2020 by Megan DiMartino

    We know you are busy and may be overrun with communications about current events. With that in mind, we want to offer an opportunity to address practical solutions and answers to potential challenges you, your employees, and your business may be faced with.

    AssuredPartners is continuing our Town Hall webinar series with an Employee Benefits focused event covering Questions & Answers ranging from:

    • Paid leave under FFCRA
    • COBRA questions
    • Unemployment under CARES Act
    • Impact and modeling
    • Self-funded vs. fully-insured strategy response
    • Medical carrier actions and the impact on stop loss
    • The COVID-19 impact on pharmacy costs
    • Individual options after losing coverage in the workplace
    • Telehealth strategy and mental well-being
    • Continuation of FFCRA and CARES Act discussion

    Webinar details:

    • Friday, April 17, 2020
    • 2:00pm – 3:00 pm EDT

    Submit a Question & Register


    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.
    Photo Credit: Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

  • CARES ACT – Impact on HSAs, HCFSAs, and HRAs March 30, 2020 by Patrick Haynes

    This advisory summarizes key provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) applying to employee benefit plans.

    Over-the-Counter (OTC) Drugs and Menstrual Care Products (optional)

    The CARES Act states that consumers can purchase OTC drugs and medicines with funds from their Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) or Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). Consumers may also receive reimbursement for OTC purchases through those accounts. In addition, menstrual products are now considered a qualified medical expense, meaning consumers can pay for or be reimbursed for these products through an HSA, HCFSA or HRA. This provision is effective for purchases made after December 31, 2019, and for reimbursements of expenses incurred after December 31, 2019. It does not have an expiration date.

    Implementation Tips:

    • No changes are necessary to implement these changes to a Health Savings Account. HSA participants are responsible for tracking their own reimbursements and spending habits.  However, please see the final bullet (below) about delays for debit-cards that may affect processing for these items.
    • HCFSA – the employer/plan sponsor will need to amend their plans to permit these changes and implement them with the HCFSA vendor and debit-card-provider.
    • HRAs – likewise, the employer/plan sponsor will need to amend their plans to permit these changes and implement them with the HRA vendor and debit-card-provider. Many HRAs will choose not to implement these changes because the HRA’s purpose was to cover portions of the medical or prescription drug out of pocket costs and not OTC medicines.
    • Inventory Information Approval System (IIAS) is updated with SKUs (Stock-Keeping Units, the bar codes on products) and once programmed debit cards will permit these purchases. The update is expected to happen nationwide (rapidly) for the OTC expansion. Whereas the addition of menstrual care products may take longer for nationwide programming to take effect with all vendors and merchants.

    Telehealth Changes (temporary – only for plan years beginning on/before 12/31/2021) – also optional

    The CARES Act states that “telehealth and other remote care services” below the deductible will be permitted in an HSA-compatible high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This provision is effective immediately and will expire December 31, 2021. The bill does not specify what “telehealth and other remote care services” entails, but you can expect updates from us as we learn more either through regulations or DOL/Treasury FAQs.

    Implementation Tips:

    • The employer/plan sponsor will need to amend their plans to permit this change. They will also need to coordinate the change with the bank (aka “vendor”) and any debit card provider (if that is offered by a third party).

    Remember, this “safe harbor” guidance is only available for a limited time.  Given the importance of telehealth in the COVID-19 crisis this will come as a relief, enabling employers to temporarily remove safeguards put into place to ensure HDHP/HSA compatibility for telehealth, such as charging fair market value until participants meet the statutory minimum deductible. However, unless this relief is extended for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2022, employers will need to revert to their current safeguards.

    Health and Welfare Plans in General- these changes are not optional

    • Plans must cover all testing for COVID-19, without cost-sharing, even for those tests that have not yet received an emergency use authorization from the FDA. In addition, plans must cover all qualifying preventive items, services or vaccines for COVID-19 once developed, without cost sharing.
    • There is no exception to the cost-sharing rules for church groups and government sponsored health plans–all plans (fully insured or self-funded) need to comply.  This includes private companies and both for-profit and not-for-profit companies.
    • A group health plan or a health insurance issuer will pay the provider either the negotiated rate or, if no negotiated rate is in effect because the provider is out-of-network, the lesser of the cash price for the service as posted by the provider on a public website or a different negotiated rate. Any provider that attempts to charge more than these set costs is subject to civil monetary penalties of up to $300 per day.
    • Preventive Services Note – (once a vaccine is available). Private group and individual health insurance plans (all plans governed by ERISA) will be required to cover all qualifying preventive items, services or vaccines for COVID-19 once developed, without cost sharing, within 15 days after the service or vaccine has received a qualifying recommendation from either the United States Preventive Services Task Force or the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

    After an HCFSA or HRA plan is modified, by the ER (in writing), this will apply to claims incurred and paid after December 31, 2019. No modifications are necessary to permit this OTC change to HSAs.

    Please speak with your Account Manager or Sales Executive for assistance with any of these changes.

    Links:

    In response to Coronavirus, AssuredPartners has recently launched a COVID-19 resources page and can be found here. AP Benefit Advisors’ COVID-19 resources page can be found here.


    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.