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Investment Analyst, Retirement Plan Consulting
in MI

Senior Pension Administrator
Primark Benefits

Senior Benefits Consultant
ERP Actuaries & Consultants
in NY

Daily Valuation Retirement Plan Administrator
Ingham Retirement Group
in FL, Telecommute

Senior DC / DB Combo Plan Consultant
ERP Actuaries & Consultants
in NY

Segal Group
in MA

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[Guidance Overview]

2018 HSA Family Contribution Limit Reduced to $6,850
"Employers with benefit administration systems will need to work with the system administrator to revise the maximum family limit in the system, and recalculate deductions for any employee who had elected to contribute up to the original $6,900 limit.... Employers that already contributed $6,900 to an employee's HSA will want to take corrective action by requesting the HSA custodian return the excess contribution to the employer before the end of 2018 to avoid adverse tax consequences for the affected employees."
ABD Insurance & Financial Services


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[Guidance Overview]

IRS Provides Transition Rule for HSA-Incompatible State-Mandated Benefits, Lowers 2018 HSA Contribution Maximum
"Maryland recently mandated coverage of male sterilization, which rendered certain health insurance plans regulated by the state incompatible with HSAs. In response, the IRS has temporarily restored eligibility to make HSA contributions for persons enrolled in plans with state-mandated benefits for male sterilization or contraceptives.... The recent federal tax reform law changed the index used for calculations to determine certain limits and penalty amounts for 2018, forcing the IRS to adjust several such limits and amounts even though the 2018 calendar year has already begun."

[Guidance Overview]

IRS Modifies Certain 2018 Benefit Limits (PDF)
"The 2018 amount that can be excluded from an employee's gross income for the adoption of a child with special needs has been lowered to $13,810 (originally $13,840) ... . The amount excludable from an employee's gross income begins to phase out under Section 137(b)(2)(A) for taxpayers with 2018 modified adjusted gross income in excess of $207,140 (originally $207,580)."
Cherry Bekaert Benefits Consulting, LLC

[Guidance Overview]

2018 Family HSA Limit Reduced
"The tax reform legislation enacted late last year changed the method of adjusting for inflation beginning in 2018 to a 'chained CPI' approach which tends to produce lower cost of living increases.... Most of the limits were not adjusted as a result of this change. However, the IRS made one key adjustment regarding the 2018 family HSA contribution limit, decreasing it from $6,900 to $6,850.... Employers with high deductible health plans will want to communicate this decrease in the limit to employees as soon as possible in order to avoid excess contributions by employees enrolled in family coverage."
Miller Johnson

IRS Addresses State-Mandated Male Contraceptive Benefits and HSA Eligibility
"Notice 2018-12 ... provides that health plans that offer benefits for male sterilization or male contraceptives without a deductible (or with a deductible below the minimum annual deductible for high deductible health plans (HDHPs) under the rules for health savings accounts (HSAs)) do not qualify as HDHPs. The notice includes transition relief until 2020 for individuals enrolled in plans that do not qualify as HDHPs under this guidance."
Thomson Reuters Practical Law


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Open Enrollment Data Insight: Key Themes for Benefit Professionals
"Not every employee is going to need an accident, critical illness or hospital indemnity plan, but for the ones that do, these benefits can be a game-changer -- and at little or no cost to the employer.... [W]ith the ability to capture employee demographic information and use it to segment audiences for benefits communication, employers can deliver messages that will resonate with workers on a personal level.... [L]eading employers and their advisors are turning to enterprise-grade benefits management technology -- to continue to evolve their benefit programs with a single partner[.]"

CMS Expands Reimbursement for Telehealth Services
"Beginning in CY 2018, CMS has both: [1] expanded the list of telehealth services that are reimbursed as 'Medicare services'; and [2] decreased the burdens for physicians in billing the government for telehealth services.... CMS's decision to add seven new categories of services is encouraging for those hoping to see increased reimbursement for telehealth services before entering the market."

House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Proposed CVS/Aetna Merger
"[Unlike the Congressional] hearings on the proposed Aetna/Humana and Anthem/Cigna mergers in 2016, at which representatives for the AMA and other groups strongly opposed the transactions, the other witnesses testifying concerning the proposed CVS/Aetna deal struck a more measured tone."

HHS Secretary Outlines 4-Point Plan to Accelerate Shift Toward a Value-Based System
"[1] Moving ownership and control of electronic health records from providers to patients.... [2] Providing payers and providers with incentives to be more transparent about healthcare costs.... [3] Using Medicare and Medicaid to drive industry change.... [4] Reducing regulatory burdens."

Blue Cross of Idaho Makes Its Case to HHS
"Blue Cross of Idaho's outside counsel lays out four arguments that he believes bolster the DOI in approving the state-based plans and obviate the need for HHS to step in and enforce the ACA.... [T]he attorney essentially argues that Idaho is doing enough to otherwise 'substantially' enforce the ACA (even if not requiring compliance by the state-based plans) and that Idaho's approach is to help, not hurt, the marketplace so it should be allowed."
Katie Keith, in Health Affairs

New Employer Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave Is Available for 2018 and 2019
"The credit doesn't apply to leave that's mandated by state or local law. It also doesn't apply to paid vacation leave, personal leave, or other family or medical leave ... For leave payments of exactly 50% of normal wage payments, the credit amount is 12.5% of the wages paid to the employee during his or her leave."
Moss Adams LLP


American Benefits Council Comment Letter to DOL on Proposed Regs for Association Health Plans
"Any final rule should permit employers of all sizes to participate in AHPs ... Clarify 'working owner' eligibility ... Final regulations should provide sufficient safeguards to protect the stability of the individual health insurance market."
American Benefits Council

Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]

Text of IRS Disaster Relief AS-2018-01, for Victims of Tropical Storm Gita in American Samoa
"Victims of Tropical Storm Gita that took place beginning on Feb. 7, 2018 in parts of the Territory of American Samoa may qualify for tax relief from the [IRS].... This relief ... includes the filing of Form 5500 series returns that were required to be filed on or after Feb. 7, 2018 and before June 29, 2018[.]"
Internal Revenue Service [IRS]

Fifth Circuit Changes Course on Firestone Interpretation
"The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has held that the default (and less deferential) de novo standard of review under the Supreme Court's Firestone decision applies to benefit denials based on factual determinations under [ERISA], rather than the more deferential abuse of discretion standard. The decision overrules long-standing Fifth Circuit precedent, which had become the subject of a circuit split." [Ariana M. v. Humana Health Plan of Texas, Inc., No. 16-20174 (5th Cir. Mar. 1, 2018)]
Thomson Reuters Practical Law

Summary Plan Descriptions Required for All ERISA Retirement, Health and Welfare Plans
"Misconceptions of the ERISA rules can lead plan administrators to believe that they either have provided an ERISA-compliant SPD when they have not, or that an SPD is not required at all.... The penalty for failing to provide an ERISA-compliant SPD to participants in a timely manner, or within 30 days of a written request, can be up to $147 per day, per request. (This increased from $110 per day in August 2016.)
Holland & Knight

Executive Compensation
and Nonqualified Plans

Private and Public Company Executive Compensation Practices: Where They Merge and Diverge
"Private companies are significantly less likely to provide a regular long-term incentive program (LTIP).... LTIP programs of private companies are very different from public company practices: [1] LTIP grant values are about 30% lower (varies by position and level); [2] 80% of LTIPs are performance cash plans; [3] Much less likely to use real stock or options; [4] Much less likely to use value-based performance measures. Major similarities, however, also exist: [1] LTIP grants made annually; [2] New performance cycles start annually; [3] Vesting over three to four years."
Willis Towers Watson

Stock Option Values: A New Rule of Thumb for Large Caps
"Lower valuations require substantially more options in order to deliver the same grant-date value. This may cause affordability concerns relative to dilution and the impact on share pool burn rate. More options also provide the executive with greater leverage if the stock price goes up. Companies should consider these factors carefully when deciding how best to utilize stock options as an executive compensation vehicle."
Meridian Compensation Partners, LLC

Press Releases

DOL Investigation Results in Trustee Being Sentenced for Theft of Employee Benefit Plan Funds in California
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor

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