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Category Archives: Benefits

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How Recent Cybersecurity Government Publications Impact HIPAA Security Compliance and the New Audit Initiative

Posted in Benefits, Labor & Employment

Cybersecurity Impacts on HIPAA Security Compliance and the New Audit Initiative New Audit Initiative Items to Watch While The HHS Office for Civil Rights recently announced its intent to perform a second round of HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach audits via an email initiated process with submissions on its secure website, this is only the… Continue Reading

SAFE! Mid-Year Changes to Safe Harbor Plans Permitted

Posted in Benefits

The Internal Revenue Service recently issued long-awaited relief to sponsors of safe harbor 401(k) plans. For years, many employers have relied on various safe harbor plans designs to avoid generally applicable nondiscrimination requirements. As a general matter, the terms of the safe harbor plan must remain in effect for the entire plan year and must… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Decision Entitles Married Same-Sex Couples to Spousal Leave under the FMLA

Posted in Benefits, Labor & Employment

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, giving same-sex couples the right to marry in all 50 states. The Court held that the U.S. Constitution requires states to license a marriage for same-sex couples, and to recognize a marriage between same-sex couples when their marriage was lawfully licensed… Continue Reading

Limited Transition Relief Provided for Employer Payment Plans

Posted in Benefits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued additional guidance (Notice 2015-17) addressing the treatment of arrangements whereby an employer reimburses an employee for some or all of the premium expenses incurred for an individual health insurance policy or directly pays a premium for an individual health insurance policy covering the employee (i.e. an employer payment… Continue Reading

HHS Explains Privacy Rule in Emergency Situations

Posted in Benefits

On November 10, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a bulletin reminding covered entities and business associates of how they may disclose patient information for public health activities or in emergency situations. This bulletin was published in response to the Ebola outbreak and other recent events.

IRS Expands Permissible Mid-Year Cafeteria Plan Elections

Posted in Benefits

On September 18, 2014, the IRS issued Notice 2014-55, which expands permissible mid-year election changes under “cafeteria plans” to address two specific situations that have arisen in connection with the implementation of healthcare reform.   Specifically, the notice states that a participant may revoke an election for employer-provided health coverage in two situations, provided certain conditions… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Strikes Down Contraceptive Mandate for Closely-Held Companies

Posted in Benefits

On June 30, 2014, the United States Supreme Court held, in a 5-4 decision, that the contraceptive mandate included under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“PPACA”) violates federal law. The Court’s holding in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et. al., provides limited relief to closely-held companies whose owners have religious objections to… Continue Reading

One, Two Punch for Moench – Supreme Court Eliminates Presumption for Employer Stock Investments

Posted in Benefits

The United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion on June 25, 2014 in the case of Fifth Third Bancorp v. Dudenhoeffer. While the Supreme Court’s holding substantially affects the fiduciaries of all employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), as well as fiduciaries of other individual account plans (such as 401(k) plans) that invest in employer… Continue Reading

IRS Announces Deadline to Amend Retirement Plans for Same-Sex Benefits

Posted in Benefits

On April 4, 2014, the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) published Notice 2014-19, in which it describes amendments required to be made to retirement plans qualified under Section 401(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (the “Code”) to reflect the application of the decision in United States v. Windsor and the subsequent holdings of… Continue Reading

Texas Ban on Same-Sex Marriage Determined Unconstitutional

Posted in Benefits

The State of Texas is the latest jurisdiction under scrutiny for its ban on same-sex marriage.  On Wednesday, February 26, 2014, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that the state law banning same-sex marriage results in a violation of the equal protection and due process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.  Notwithstanding the holding, however, the… Continue Reading

How Do I Correct Failure to Provide a Safe Harbor 401(k) Plan Notice? It Depends!

Posted in Benefits

In the “IRS Retirement News” published by the Internal Revenue Service (the “Service”) on February 24, 2014, the Service reminds us that the failure of a safe harbor 401(k) plan to provide an annual notice to participants constitutes a failure to operate the plan in accordance with its provisions.  In order to protect the qualified… Continue Reading

Healthcare Reform Mandate Delayed (Again) for Some Employers

Posted in Benefits

On Monday, February 9, 2014, the Agencies issued regulations that provide additional guidance regarding the employer mandate (i.e. the “play or pay” penalty) under Healthcare Reform.  But, the most surprising aspect of the guidance was the delay on the implementation of the mandate for certain employers to provide health coverage to their full-time employees. Under… Continue Reading

Welcomed Guidance on Wellness Programs

Posted in Benefits

On June 3, 2013, the Departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services (Agencies) issued final regulations regarding nondiscriminatory wellness programs in group health coverage under the Affordable Care Act and applicable provisions of ERISA and the Code.  The final regulations specifically addressed the reasonable design of health-contingent wellness programs and the reasonable alternatives… Continue Reading

Agencies Share Guidance on Cost-Sharing

Posted in Benefits

Earlier this month, the Departments of Treasury, Labor and Health and Human Services (Agencies) jointly issued additional guidance on the application of the cost-sharing limitations imposed under the Affordable Care Act.  It is helpful that the guidance was issued early enough in the year to allow plan sponsors an opportunity to review their alternatives in making… Continue Reading

Proposed Rules Expand Exceptions from Healthcare Reform

Posted in Benefits

On December 24, 2013, the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services (collectively, the “Departments”) jointly issued proposed rules that would expand the scope of arrangements that would constitute “excepted benefits” under the portability rules enacted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). This is important not only for HIPAA portability… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Issues First of Several Pro-Employee Decisions: ADA Accommodations Need not Relate to Essential Job Functions

Posted in Benefits

The Fifth Circuit, which covers federal district courts from Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, has been busy recently issuing decisions in the employment law arena.  Surprisingly, many of these decisions from this traditionally pro-business Circuit have been pro-employee.  Several of our next blog posts will address some of the Fifth Circuit’s most surprising recent rulings. In the first… Continue Reading

It’s the State of the Union for Same-Sex Couples

Posted in Benefits

Today, the Internal Revenue Service issued long-awaited guidance on the treatment of same-sex spouses for Federal tax purposes.  On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in U.S. v. Windsor, 133 S.Ct. 2675 (2013), that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited the IRS and other federal agencies from recognizing same-sex marriages,… Continue Reading

Surprise! Surprise! – Delay in Enforcement of Employer Mandate under Affordable Care Act

Posted in Benefits

In a surprise announcement on Tuesday, July 2nd, the Obama administration stated that it will delay for one year the enforcement of the penalty that was set to be imposed against large employers who failed to provide adequate health coverage to their full-time employees starting in 2014.  The delay is due in large part to the inability of the… Continue Reading

Group Health Plan Can Enforce Reimbursement Rights Against Trustee

Posted in Benefits

On the heels of the United States Supreme Court’s recent holding in U.S. Airways v. McCutchen, where the Court held that a group health plan’s reimbursement rights are not automatically subject to equitable defenses, it appears that employers have been delivered yet another victory with respect to the enforcement of plan reimbursement rights. On May… Continue Reading

Checklist for Timely Compliance with HIPAA Omnibus Rule

Posted in Benefits

The deadline for compliance with the new HIPAA Omnibus Rule is looming for group health plans.  As explained in a prior blog, stiff penalties may be imposed on employers whose plans fail to comply.  Accordingly, employers should begin now to ensure timely compliance and avoid costly mistakes. As a general matter, group health plans must comply… Continue Reading

Supreme Court “Dooms” Equitable Defenses to Plan’s Reimbursement Provisions

Posted in Benefits

In a prior blog, I discussed the importance of including unambiguous reimbursement rights in health plan documents in order to manage healthcare costs.  The enforceability of such rights was confirmed by the United States Supreme Court in the recent U.S. Airways v. McCutchen decision.  Although this is not the first time the Court has upheld… Continue Reading