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For more information about the VSP Eyes of Hope program, you can visit their website at www.vspglobal.com/disasteroutreach.
One of your employee’s comes to you and asks to cancel their medical insurance in the middle of the year. Seems like a simple request but is it really? Since most employers are deducting health, dental, vision, and/or supplement coverage premiums from employees on a pre-tax basis, the employee’s request must first meet certain requirements before they are eligible to adjust their election mid plan year.
With a valid Section 125 Cafeteria Premium Only Plan in place, the IRS allows employers to withhold premium deductions from employees for certain cover pre-tax. Part of the IRS requirement for taking deductions pre-tax is that employees must experience a qualifying event in order to change their election in the middle of the group’s plan year. The employee must notify their employer of the qualifying event (aka change in status) within 30 days of the event date to be able to adjust their election. If the employee fails to meet the requirements of a qualifying event or does not notify their employer within the allotted time frame, the employee must either wait until they experience another qualifying event or until the next open enrollment period at the group to adjust their election.
A qualifying event is simply explained as any major life event that affects and employee or dependent(s) eligibility for benefits. The following are qualifying events that may allow an employee to change their election mid plan year:
1. Change in legal martial status (i.e marriage, divorce, death of spouse, legal separation, etc.)
2. Change in number of dependents (i.e. birth, adoption, etc)
3. Change in the employment status of employee, spouse, or dependent which results in change in benefits (i.e. termination or start of employment, change in worksite, etc).
5. Dependent ceasing to satisfy eligibility requirements for coverage due to attainment of age, student status, marital status, etc.
6.Change in place of residence of employee, spouse, or dependent where current coverage is not available
7. Judgements, decrees, or orders
8. Change in the coverage of a spouse or dependent under another employer’s plan
9.Open enrollment under the plan of another employer for employee, spouse, or dependent.
10. COBRA qualifying event
11. Loss of coverage under the group health plan of governmental or education institution (i.e SHOP, Medicaid, etc)
12. Entitlement to Medicare or Medicaid
13. Change in Citizenship Status
14. Loss / Gain of coverage in the Marketplace or Exchange by employee, spouse or dependent
Once you have determined if an employee has experienced a qualifying event, you will need to have them complete a new election form (or change form) indicating the reason for their mid-year change and the date of the qualifying event. An employer is not required to keep copies of additional documents as proof of the qualifying event (i.e birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc) but you are required to inspect any necessary documents to validate an appropriate qualifying event has occurred and the date of occurrence. Be sure to indicate on the employee’s updated election/change form the date of the actual qualifying event as this will be the date that the coverage change takes effect with the carrier(s).
Example- Employee gets married on August 5th and wishes to add their new spouse to their coverage. They notify you within the allotted 30 day time frame. The spouse’s new coverage begins under your group plan as of the date of marriage (August 5th) and you will need to adjust any payroll deductions accordingly.
It is important to make sure you (as the employer) have documentation of any employee elections /change in the event that your group experiences an audit or an employee questions any elections/payroll deductions.
Depending on how your current contracts are set up with your insurance carriers will depend on how qualifying event changes affect your premiums with respect to any mid-month changes. Make certain any qualifying event changes are also processed with payroll and their deductions are adjusted accordingly once changes are processed with the insurance carriers.
Should you have any questions about how to properly administer a qualifying event change or if you want to implement a Section 125 Premium Only Plan, please contact our office for assistance.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced late Tuesday (8/29/17) that it was implementing an immediate stay of the revised EEO-1 Report, putting a halt to long-awaited pay data reporting requirements. The stay creates much needed relief for employers, but is expected to further refocus pay equity discussions on a statewide and local level.
Quick Recap Of Pay Data Reporting
Historically, employers with 100 or more employees, and federal contractors with 50 or more employees, have been required to submit Employer Information Reports (EEO-1 Reports) disclosing the number of employees by job category, race, sex, and ethnicity annually. Last year, the EEOC finalized proposed changes to the EEO-1 Report which would require employers to include pay data and the number of hours worked in their reporting. The proposed reporting expansion was intended to identify pay gaps, which the agency could then use to target specific employers and investigate pay discrimination practices.
The revised form, revealed in October 2016, required employers to submit the newly requested data based on a “workforce snapshot” of any pay period between October 1, 2017 and December 31, 2017 and was due to be submitted by March 31, 2018.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and many other observers identified serious flaws in the proposed rule. Following pushback by numerous business groups, the EEOC announced it would issue a second set of revisions to the form. However, the revisions encompassed only two minor changes and failed to alleviate significant employer concerns. Businesses across the country had thus been preparing to usher in a new day when it came to having their pay practices placed under a federal microscope, and until yesterday, it appeared inevitable that the disclosure would proceed as planned.
Feds Press Pause On Pay Data Reporting
All of that changed yesterday with the announcement from the federal government. In issuing an immediate stay of the revised EEO-1 report, the OMB voiced its own concerns with the revised reporting requirements. The office announced: “…[we are] concerned that some aspects of the revised collection of information lack practical utility, are unnecessarily burdensome, and do not adequately address privacy and confidentiality issues.”
Employers are still required to submit EEO-1 Reports using the previously approved form. The deadline for submission of 2017 data remains March 31, 2018. However, employers can breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to the proposed expanded pay data reporting requirements – for now.
Whether this development foreshadows the ultimate demise of the revised EEO-1 Report is currently unclear. However, national attention on wage inequities remains despite yesterday’s announcement, and the focus on pay equity enforcement is increasingly shifting to state and local levels. States like California, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada, and others have all passed pay equity legislation in the last year. Consequently, with each state acting as its own incubator for how to best address these disparities, pay equity analysis and related litigation is becoming more complicated.
Prior to each year’s Medicare Part D annual enrollment period, plan sponsors that offer prescription drug coverage must provide notices of creditable or noncreditable coverage to Medicare-eligible individuals.
The required notices may be provided in annual enrollment materials, separate mailings or electronically. Whether plan sponsors use the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) model notices or other notices that meet prescribed standards, they must provide the required disclosures no later than Oct. 15, 2017.
Group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D-eligible individuals must also disclose annually to the CMS—generally, by March 1—whether the coverage is creditable or noncreditable. The disclosure obligation applies to all plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage, even those that do not offer prescription drug coverage to retirees.
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 requires group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to disclose annually to individuals eligible for Medicare Part D whether the plan’s coverage is “creditable” or “noncreditable.” Prescription drug coverage is creditable when it is at least actuarially equivalent to Medicare’s standard Part D coverage and noncreditable when it does not provide, on average, as much coverage as Medicare’s standard Part D plan. The CMS has provided a Creditable Coverage Simplified Determination method that plan sponsors can use to determine if a plan provides creditable coverage.
Disclosure of whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable allows individuals to make informed decisions about whether to remain in their current prescription drug plan or enroll in Medicare Part D during the Part D annual enrollment period. Individuals who do not enroll in Medicare Part D during their initial enrollment period (IEP), and who subsequently go at least 63 consecutive days without creditable coverage (e.g., they dropped their creditable coverage or have non-creditable coverage) generally will pay higher premiums if they enroll in a Medicare drug plan at a later date.
Who Gets the Notices?
Notices must be provided to all Part D eligible individuals who are covered under, or eligible for, the employer’s prescription drug plan—regardless of whether the coverage is primary or secondary to Medicare Part D. “Part D eligible individuals” are generally age 65 and older or under age 65 and disabled, and include active employees and their dependents, COBRA participants and their dependents, and retirees and their dependents.
Because the notices advise plan participants whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable or noncreditable, no notice is required when prescription drug coverage is not offered.
Also, employers that provide prescription drug coverage through a Medicare Part D Employer Group Waiver Plan (EGWP) are not required to provide the creditable coverage notice to individuals who are eligible for the EGWP.
The Medicare Part D annual enrollment period runs from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. Each year, before the enrollment period begins (i.e., by Oct. 14), plan sponsors must notify Part D eligible individuals whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable. The Oct. 14 deadline applies to insured and self-funded plans, regardless of plan size, employer size or grandfathered status
Part D eligible individuals must be given notices of the creditable or non-creditable status of their prescription drug coverage:
According to CMS, the requirement to provide the notice prior to an individual’s IEP will also be satisfied as long as the notice is provided to all plan participants each year before the beginning of the Medicare Part D annual enrollment period.
Model notices that can be used to satisfy creditable/non-creditable coverage disclosure requirements are available in both English and Spanish on the CMS website. Plan sponsors that choose not to use the model disclosure notices must provide notices that meet prescribed content standards.
Notices of creditable/non-creditable coverage may be included in annual enrollment materials, sent in separate mailings or delivered electronically. Plan sponsors may provide electronic notice to plan participants who have regular work-related computer access to the sponsor’s electronic information system. However, plan sponsors that use this disclosure method must inform participants that they are responsible for providing notices to any Medicare-eligible dependents covered under the group health plan.
Electronic notice may also be provided to employees who do not have regular work-related computer access to the plan sponsor’s electronic information system and to retirees or COBRA qualified beneficiaries, but only with a valid email address and their prior consent. Before individuals can effectively consent, they must be informed of the right to receive a paper copy, how to withdraw consent, how to update address information, and any hardware/software requirements to access and save the disclosure. In addition to emailing the notice to the individual, the sponsor must also post the notice (if not personalized) on its website.
Plan sponsors that offer prescription drug coverage will have to determine whether their drug plan’s coverage satisfies CMS’s creditable coverage standard and provide appropriate creditable/noncreditable coverage disclosures to Medicare-eligible individuals no later than Oct. 15, 2017.
As many as 50,000 Americans may have died in 2016 as the result of an opioid-related overdose. This number continues to increase with no end in sight, as the use of prescription opioids to relieve pain has reached staggering levels. In 2012, more than 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, with the current number undoubtedly being much higher. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.
Prescription Drug Use Often Leads to Heroin Addiction
Opioids may be found in any medicine cabinet. This group of drugs includes the regularly prescribed painkillers oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl. These drugs interact with opioid reactors on nerve centers in the brain to create a pleasurable experience and relieve pain. Due to the relief they experience, consumers of these drugs often become dependent upon them. Once addicted, individuals may turn to heroin, which, although illegal, is often a cheaper and more accessible opioid. In fact, approximately four in five heroin addicts developed their addiction after taking prescription painkillers.
Studies show that in 2015, 2 million Americans had a substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers, and 591,000 had an addiction to heroin. Nearly 23% of opioid users will eventually become addicted to heroin.
Effects on the Workplace
Employees may be prescribed opioids to relieve pain following a workplace injury, which could begin a path to dependency. But whether the origin of opioid use stems from a workplace injury or not, use of these drugs could have a dramatic impact on an employee’s performance. Opioid dependency often leads to drowsiness, shifting moods, anxiety, and depression. An employee with an opioid addiction may struggle to maintain regular attendance, achieve quality goals, or pose a safety hazard to him or herself and coworkers. Moreover, addiction to these drugs usually also causes financial issues because the addict is in constant search for a fix. This could lead to cases of workplace theft or embezzlement.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the portal for electronic recordkeeping reporting will become available on OSHA’s website beginning August 1, 2017. Currently the website is down due to a possible security breech but we will keep you posted as the December 1st deadline nears.
OSHA previously issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that delayed the initial deadline for electronic reporting from July 1 to December 1, 2017. These events have combined to create some uncertainty for employers about whether and when they may be required to electronically submit recordkeeping data.
At this time, employers should wait until the proposed rulemaking is finalized, and it is likely that electronic recordkeeping will not be required until December 1, 2017, if at all. The proposed rulemaking indicated that “OSHA also intends to issue a separate proposal to reconsider, revise, or remove other provisions of the prior final rule”.
The health reform law imposes a number of fees, taxes and other assessments on health insurance companies and sponsors of self-funded health plans to help subsidize a number of endeavors. One such fee funds the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
The PCORI fee for calendar year plans is $2.26 per covered life for the 2016 plan year, and must be reported on (and remitted with) IRS Form 720 by July 31, 2017. For non-calendar year plans, if the 2015-16 plan year ended on or before Sept. 30, 2016, the fee is $2.17 per covered life. If the 2015-16 plan year ended between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016, the fee is $2.26 per covered life. In either case, the filings are similarly due by July 31, 2017. (Note: The Form 720 must be filed by July 31 of the calendar year that begins after the last day of the plan year.)
For self-funded plans, the employer/plan sponsor will be responsible for submitting the fee and accompanying paperwork to the IRS. Third-party reporting and payment of the fee is not permitted for self-funded plans. The process for remitting payment by sponsors of self-funded plans is described in more detail below.
The IRS will collect the fee from the insurer or, in the case of self-funded plans, the plan sponsor/employer in the same way many other excise taxes are collected. IRS regulations provide three options for determining the average number of covered lives (actual count, snapshot and Form 5500 method).
The U.S. Department of Labor believes the fee cannot be paid from plan assets. In other words, the PCORI fee must be paid by the plan sponsor; it is not a permissible expense of a self-funded plan and cannot be paid in whole or part by participant contributions. The IRS has indicated the fee is, however, a tax-deductible business expense for employers with self-funded plans.
The filing and remittance process to the IRS is straightforward and largely unchanged from last year. On page two of Form 720, under Part II, the employer needs to designate the average number of covered lives under its “applicable self-insured plan.” The number of covered lives is multiplied by the applicable amount ($2.26 or $2.17) to determine the total fee owed to the IRS. The Payment Voucher (720-V) should indicate the tax period for the fee is “2nd Quarter.” Failure to properly designate “2nd Quarter” on the voucher will result in the IRS’s software generating a tardy filing notice, with all the incumbent aggravation on the employer to correct the matter with IRS.
With the Republicans’ failure to pass a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employers should plan to remain compliant with all ACA employee health coverage and annual notification and information reporting obligations.
Even so, advocates for easing the ACA’s financial and administrative burdens on employers are hopeful that at least a few of the reforms they’ve been seeking will resurface in the future, either in narrowly tailored stand-alone legislation or added to a bipartisan measure to stabilize the ACA’s public exchanges. Relief from regulatory agencies could also make life under the ACA less burdensome for employers.
“Looking ahead, lawmakers will likely pursue targeted modifications to the ACA, including some employer provisions,” said Chatrane Birbal, senior advisor for government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “Stand-alone legislative proposals have been introduced in previous Congresses, and sponsors of those proposals are gearing up to reintroduce bills in the coming weeks.”
These legislative measures, Birbal explained, are most likely to address the areas noted below.