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IRS Grants Limited Transition Relief to Small-Employer Premium Reimbursement Arrangements

In a series of notices and FAQs, the IRS has clearly enunciated its view that an employer’s reimbursement of an employee’s premiums for individual health insurance violates certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). While reiterating this key point, Notice 2015-17 does grant a limited period of relief for smaller employers. Nonetheless, even those employers should be working toward a June 30 deadline to comply with these ACA constraints.

IRS Now Accepting “Cycle E” Determination-Letter Applications

The IRS is now accepting applications for updated determination letters on behalf of individually designed retirement plans falling within “Cycle E” of the determination-letter program. These include plans sponsored by employers having either a “5” or “0” as the last digit of their employer identification number, as well as governmental plans that elected not to file during Cycle C.

Don’t Forget About HIPAA When Addressing Data Security

Among the many data security and breach laws that exist, covered health care providers and health plans must also contend with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

No Good Deed…: Allowing Part-Time Employees to Make Health FSA Contributions May Trigger ACA Penalties

When it comes to health coverage, many employers draw a distinction between full-time and part-time employees. To be eligible to enroll in the employer’s health plan, an employee must work a minimum number of hours per pay period. But many of those same employers then allow even part-time employees to contribute to a health flexible spending account (“health FSA”). After all, doing so costs the employer nothing (and even saves a modest amount in employment taxes), and why not at least give those employees an opportunity to pay some of their medical expenses on a pre-tax basis? Unfortunately, this paternalistic approach may now subject an employer to substantial daily penalties under the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

Agencies Plug Several Holes in the ACA Dike

In the years since the 2010 enactment of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), the agencies charged with enforcing the ACA have worried that certain responses to the law’s requirements could negatively affect the overall health insurance system. For instance, because the ACA requires insurers to issue individual health insurance coverage without regard to health status, sponsors of self-funded employer plans may be tempted to shift their high-risk employees into the individual market. But by leaving only healthier employees in the self-funded plans, this approach could result in “adverse selection” – leading to an erosion of the individual insurance market.

Same-sex Marriage and its Effect on Health Plans Offering Spousal Coverage

The United States Supreme Court’s decision on October 6, 2014, to deny review of various appellate court rulings (including the Tenth Circuit, the federal appeals court covering Colorado), which had struck down bans on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional, effectively legalized same-sex marriage in the state of Colorado.

Employee Benefits Plans – 2015 Inflation Adjustments

Following recent announcements by both the IRS and the Social Security Administration, we now know most of the dollar amounts that employers will need to administer their benefit plans for 2015.

HIPAA Compliance Update – Business Associate Agreements and Unique Health Plan Identifiers

On January 25 2013, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its final Omnibus Rule, mandating, among other things, that covered entities update their Business Associate Agreements (“BAAs”) with service providers who maintain, utilize, or come into contact with protected health information (“PHI”). Group health plans are considered covered entities and the Omnibus Rule’s expansion of the definition Business Associate meant that several plans entered into BAAs with a variety of service providers by or before last September.

When Does 9.5% Equal 9.56%?

Although 9.5% has been a key threshold in determining the “affordability” of employer health coverage, the IRS has just announced (in Revenue Procedure 2014-37) that this threshold will be adjusted to 9.56% for 2015. This adjustment reflects the fact that health insurance premiums have risen more rapidly than incomes. Similar adjustments have also been announced for related percentage thresholds.

National Health Plan Identifiers Required by November

The HIPAA Electronic Transactions and Code Sets rule requires most group health plans to obtain new health plan identifier numbers (HPIDs) by November 5, 2014.  While insurers will likely obtain the HPID on behalf of fully insured plans, the task of obtaining the HPID for a self-funded plan will fall upon the plan sponsor.  While the process is relatively simple, plan sponsors should begin identifying which group health plan arrangements are subject to the HPID requirement and communicating with plan vendors regarding the requirements.

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