Health & Welfare Plans Newsletter

February 27, 2019

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[Guidance Overview]

The IRS Says 'Let Them Eat Snacks'

"Technical Advice Memorandum No. 201903017 ... continues the IRS' narrow position on an employer's ability to offer its employees free meals under Code section 119 without triggering imputed income equal to the value of the meals. The IRS' position is especially significant now that, due to tax reform changes, an employer is allowed a 50% deduction for meals that qualify under Code section 119 through the end of year 2025 (while some other employee meals no longer are deductible at all)."
Groom Law Group

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Wellness Programs: EEOC Enforcement Actions and Complying with Federal and State Laws

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[Guidance Overview]

New Jersey Expands Paid Family Leave

"The expanded definition of family member is now consistent with the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act's definition of a covered family member.... The bill increased the weekly benefit for individuals taking qualifying leave and the maximum duration of benefits. It also increased the availability of a reduced leave schedule and/or intermittent leave."
Buck

Agencies Request Information on Grandfathered Health Plans

"According to research cited in the request for information (RFI) ... in 2018, 20 percent of employers offered at least one grandfathered health plan.... If that figure is accurate, quick action on the part of the departments might stabilize the number of employer plans that retain grandfathered status.... Employers that would like to retain grandfathered status have an opportunity to provide feedback to the departments."
Lockton

Potential Fiduciary Concern: Cross-Plan Offsets

"In basic terms, cross-plan offsetting is when a payment from one plan is reduced to 'offset' an overpayment made to the same provider from a different plan.... Employers with self-funded plans should consider taking the following steps: [1] Talk with your third-party administrator (TPAs). Ask if they engage in cross-plan offsetting. [2] If they do, ask if you can opt out. Some TPAs allow plans to opt out of this practice. [3] If they do, and you can't opt out, consider switching TPAs. [4] If you're switching TPAs (or thinking about it), ask the vendors you're considering if they engage in cross-plan offsetting and if you can opt out." [Peterson v. UnitedHealth Group Inc., No. 17-1744 (8th Cir. Jan. 15, 2019)]
HUB International

States Eyeing Health Insurance 'Options'

"[F]rom state single-payer initiatives, to Medicaid buy-in, or opening up state plans to private individuals, each [proposal] demonstrates a desire on the part of state politicians to try and find a solution to rising health care costs.... [If] these programs (or some form of them) are enacted, enrollment in them may reduce the amount of uncompensated care from health care providers, which may result in a decrease in the cost of private insurance."
HUB International

Senate Finance Committee Hearing: Drug Pricing in America: A Prescription for Change, Part 2

Feb. 26 hearing; page includes video and statements by Committee members Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), along with written testimony by witnesses: [1] Richard A. Gonzalez, AbbVie Inc.; [2] Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca; [3] Giovanni Caforio, M.D., Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.; [4] Jennifer Taubert, Johnson & Johnson; [5] Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.; [6] Albert Bourla, D.V.M. Ph.D., Pfizer; [7] Olivier Brandicourt, M.D., Sanofi.
Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate

Key Takeaways from Pharma Testimony at Senate Drug Pricing Hearing

"Pharmaceutical executives were questioned by lawmakers about why they have not effectively reduced list prices for prescription drugs. While acknowledging room for improvement, the executives also blamed PBMs and insurers for the high prices consumers face. Industry watchers said that while substantive change is unlikely in the short-term, the public impression of Tuesday's hearing will linger negatively on drugmakers."
HealthLeaders Media

House Democrats Introduce Sweeping 'Medicare for All' Bill

"The bill ... would transition the U.S. healthcare system to a single-payer 'Medicare for All' program funded by the government in two years. The legislation is the party's most high-profile and ambitious single-payer proposal in the new Congress and has more than 100 co-sponsors ... [It] remains unclear whether Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring the legislation up for a vote."
Reuters

The Perks and Pitfalls of Unlimited Paid Time Off

"Employers are obligated to adjust certain production and performance expectations when employees take protected leave under, for example, the Family and Medical Leave Act ... Employers may think putting time off into the proper 'bucket' no longer matters if you have an unlimited leave policy, but it does[.]"
HR Dive

Editor's Pick Access to Paid and Unpaid Family Leave in 2018

"In March 2018, 17 percent of all civilian workers had access to paid family leave, and 89 percent had access to unpaid family leave.... Sixteen percent of private industry workers had access to paid family leave, and 88 percent had access to unpaid family leave. Eleven percent of workers in the smallest establishments (1 to 49 workers) had access to paid family leave, and 80 percent had access to unpaid family leave. Twenty-five percent of workers in the largest establishments (500 workers or more) had access to paid family leave, and 94 percent had access to unpaid family leave."
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics [BLS]

Benefits in General

[Official Guidance]

ERISA Advisory Council to Meet April 10

"[T]he 195th open meeting of the Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans (also known as the ERISA Advisory Council) will be held on April 10, 2019. The meeting will take place ... from 9:00 a .m. to noon and from 1:00 p.m. to approximately 3:30 p.m. The purpose of the open meeting is to set the topics to be addressed by the Council in 2019. Also, the Council members will receive an update from leadership of [EBSA]."
Employee Benefits Security Administration [EBSA], U.S. Department of Labor [DOL]

California Appellate Court Affirms Broad Scope of ERISA Preemption in State Law Privacy Case

"[T]he California Court of Appeal held that ERISA Section 514 preempts state law causes of action premised on wrongful disclosure of protected private health information. Although not-binding as precedent, the decision is noteworthy to Plan sponsors and administrators because it demonstrates the expansive preclusive effect of federal law over state privacy and consumer protection statutes that impact ERISA benefit claims." [Weaver v. Healthcomp, Inc., No. F075072 (Cal 5th Ct. App. Jan. 10, 2019; unpub.)]
Seyfarth Shaw LLP

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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 2019 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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