Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

October 10, 2017

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Getting Your House in Order: Latest Tends & Strategies for Leave Management, ADA & FMLA
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October 31, 2017 in TX
Worldwide Employee Benefits Network [WEB] - Dallas Chapter

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[Guidance Overview]

Expanded Exemption from ACA's Contraceptive Coverage Mandate
"Under the new Rules, an eligible employer may claim the exemption based on sincerely held religious beliefs or sincerely held moral convictions.... An open question, however, is precisely what it takes to have 'sincerely held moral convictions' or 'sincerely held religious beliefs.' Rather than providing a standard for employers to meet, the Rules say that the question turns on whether an employer has adopted and documented these convictions or beliefs in accordance with state law."
Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

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[Guidance Overview]

Administration Rolls Back ACA Contraceptive Mandate
"Unlike prior guidance, the new rules cover all nongovernmental nonprofit and for-profit employers, including publicly traded companies. Exemptions based on moral objections to contraception will only be available to nonprofit employers and for-profit employers with no publicly traded ownership interest."
Mercer

[Guidance Overview]

2018 Health FSA Limit Projection, New SF HCSO Amounts, and Revised Contraception Rules
"ABD is projecting that for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2018, the health FSA salary reduction contribution limit will increase to $2,650 (up from $2,600 currently).... The increase will not be official until the IRS releases its annual inflation-adjusted limits [typically in late October].... The San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE) also recently released the updated 2018 HCSO required health expenditure rates."
ABD Insurance & Financial Services

District Court Holds That Incapacity Can Extend, But Not Re-Start, COBRA Election Period
"The court recognized that an incapacity could deprive the qualified beneficiary of the opportunity to have at least 60 days during which to make an election.... However, the court ruled that 'the [60-day] clock stops running when extraordinary circumstances first arise, but the clock resumes running once the extraordinary circumstances have ended.' " [Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Stidham Trucking, Inc. No. 16-2835 (E.D. Cal. Sept. 1, 2017)]
The Wagner Law Group

Can a Court Invalidate the Social Security Offset Provision Because Benefits Were 'Wrongfully Denied'?
'[The district court said:] 'Allowing Unum the offset it seeks would still compensate Hart for Unum's wrongful termination of benefits through the age of 65 but not for the reduction of her social security retirement benefits thereafter.' ... The Court awarded prejudgment interest, which is an 'element of compensation, not a penalty.'... There is some authority allowing a court to exercise 'equitable power' to deny offsets, but those cases are distinguishable. " [Hart v. Unum Life Ins. Co. of America, No. 15-5392 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 4, 2017)]
Lane Powell PC

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Fewer Employees Understand Terms of Their Health Plans
"76% of workers make health benefits decisions without a complete knowledge of their health plan. When asked specifically about understanding its policies, such as concerning deductibles, co-pays and providers in their network, only 24% of these workers could respond that they understood everything. This result has been steadily declining since 2015, when nearly half (47%) believed they knew everything; in 2016, 39% believed they did."
PLANSPONSOR

EEOC Wellness Program Rules Are Still in Effect, But Changes Are Expected
"While the court still needs to issue a final order deciding whether the current rules will remain in place, it is likely that existing rules will be kept in place through at least next year. Although the exact timeline is still unknown, the EEOC recently notified the court that the agency will need until August 2018 to revise their rules and until January 2019 to implement rules changes."
The Alliance

California Governor Signs Drug Pricing Transparency Law
"The law ... requires drug manufacturers to give a 60-day notice if prices are raised more than 16 percent over a two-year period. The law also requires health plans and insurers to file annual reports outlining how drug costs affect healthcare premiums in California."
Reuters

Proposals for Medicare Advantage Plans and VA Providers Could Signal a Rise in Telehealth Uptake
"The Chronic Care Act ... would give [Medicare Advantage] patients the option to receive telehealth services for chronic disease treatment without any necessity for a face-to-face appointment.... The Department of Veterans Affairs' proposed rule ... would clarify for VA healthcare providers that they are able to provide telehealth services to their patients regardless of their location[.]"
Digital Health Legal

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Employer Health Insurance Stabilizes
"Total premiums increased 3 percent for family plans (to $18,764 for the average, combined premium for employers and employees) and 4 percent for single employees' coverage in 2017 (to $6,690) ... The rise last year in total employer plan premiums, although somewhat faster than inflation and wages, is an improvement over the 5 percent to 10 percent annual premium growth in the past decade. No obvious explanation exists for this relative stability[.]"
Squared Away Blog, by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College

The Softening and Widening Stop Loss Market
"The good news ... is the market has never been so soft. That has obvious implications [for] pricing, [as well as] contract provisions such as advance funding, no lasers upon renewal, early lock-in and retiree/international protection. Historically, it was difficult getting many of these embedded in policies whereas today they are standard offerings. The bad news is that it becomes harder to track nuanced differences between many of the carriers."
Frenkel Benefits

Nearly One-Third of Employers Offer Vacation Time Donation
"30 percent of employers with paid vacation allow workers to donate paid vacation days; 28 percent of employers offering paid-time-off (PTO) plans allow workers to donate paid time off; and 22 percent of employers who provide paid sick leave allow workers to donate sick leave.... 3 percent of those offering PTO and less than 1 percent of those offering vacation time, allow employees to donate the cash value of unused paid time off to charitable organizations."
Wolters Kluwer Law & Business

Long-Term Disability Insurance Gets Little Attention But Can Pay Off Big Time
"[As] employers continue to shift benefit costs onto employee shoulders, long-term disability is no exception. Increasingly, they're offering the coverage as a 'voluntary' benefit, meaning employees pay the entire premium. The upside is that if employees pay for the coverage themselves with after-tax dollars and they ever become disabled and need to use the coverage, the benefits will be tax-free.... Although voluntary coverage has a tax advantage, ... leaving it up to employees, especially if they're choosing among several other voluntary coverage options like cancer insurance, critical illness coverage and yes, pet insurance, increases the odds they'll skip buying long-term disability coverage."
Kaiser Health News

Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]

Text of DOL Proposed Delay of Effective Date for Claims Procedure Regs for Plans Providing Disability Benefits
"The [DOL] proposes to delay for ninety (90) days -- through April 1, 2018 -- the applicability of the Final Rule amending the claims procedure requirements applicable to ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that provide disability benefits.... The Final Rule currently is scheduled to apply to claims for disability benefits under ERISA-covered employee benefit plans that are filed on or after January 1, 2018.... The [DOL] accordingly seeks public comment on a proposed 90-day delay of the applicability of the Final Rule in order to solicit additional public input and examine regulatory alternatives. If this proposal is finalized, the amendments made on December 19, 2016, would become applicable to claims for disability benefits that are filed after April 1, 2018, rather than January 1, 2018."
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]

What Issues Should Be Addressed in a Benefits Tech Policy? (PDF)
"The organization's parameters and vetting process for usage of technological tools handling sensitive employee data.... Standards for service providers and tech tools.... Standards for employees establishing and maintaining use of the benefits tech tools.... Cybersecurity insurance requirements.... Plan fiduciary responsibility."
Epstein Becker Green, via Confero

Executive Compensation
and Nonqualified Plans

[Guidance Overview]

Amendment to Maryland 'Blue Sky' Law Removes Filing Requirement for Many Private Employers Granting Equity Awards to Employees
"Effective October 1, 2017, Section 11-601(11) has been revised to provide for a self-executing exemption (no filing required) in connection with an investment contract or other security issued in connection with a benefit plan if no commission or other remuneration is paid in connection with the offering and [1] the plan is qualified under the Internal Revenue Code, [2] the plan complies with Rule 701, or [3] the security is effectively registered and sold under the Securities Act of 1933."
Baker McKenzie

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David Rhett Baker, J.D., Editor and Publisher  davebaker@benefitslink.com
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BenefitsLink Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter, ISSN no. 1536-9595. Copyright 2017 BenefitsLink.com, Inc. All materials contained in this newsletter are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of BenefitsLink.com, Inc., or in the case of third party materials, the owner of those materials. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notices from copies of the content.

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