Employers that have had their group health plans audited by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA, the arm of the U.S. Department of Labor that enforces Title I of ERISA) are aware of the broad nature of the document requests and compliance reviews carried out under these audits. The EBSA has updated its audit protocols to include a review of plans’ compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and wellness programs, in addition to the laundry list of other federal benefits laws pertaining to group health plans. An uptick in PPACA enforcement appears to be underway, resulting in many plan sponsors receiving EBSA audit notices. Click here to see an example of an EBSA audit letter which provides insight into the kinds of information EBSA is requesting in these audits.

EBSA audits examine compliance with a range of federal statutes and regulations, such as ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA, and the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act. However, as employers begin to ramp up in earnest concerning the PPACA’s employer shared responsibility requirement and other provisions of the health care reform law going into effect in 2014, many will be facing audits on the full range of PPACA mandates. The DOL’s audit letters are looking for information and documentation concerning aspects of the PPACA, such as the plan’s grandfather status, coverage for adult children, lifetime and annual limits, and claims and appeals procedures. See questions 18-20 in the letter at the link above.

The DOL also is beginning to look at the design of wellness programs offered in connection with group health plans, and the required notices that have to be provided in connection with outcome-based programs. See question 17 in the letter at the link above. These inquiries will allow the DOL to begin looking at how employers have complied with the HIPAA nondiscrimination regulations concerning wellness programs, as well as Title I of GINA. Of course, the rules for wellness programs will be changing beginning in 2014.

Employers need to take a serious look at their group health plans not only for compliance with the PPACA, but also with the long standing mandates for group health plans – ERISA, HIPAA, COBRA and others laws.
 

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Photo of Joseph J. Lazzarotti Joseph J. Lazzarotti

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with…

Joseph J. Lazzarotti is a Principal in the Morristown, New Jersey, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He founded and currently leads the firm’s Privacy, e-Communication and Data Security Practice, edits the firm’s Privacy Blog, and is a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Trained as an employee benefits lawyer, focused on compliance, Mr. Lazzarotti also is a member of the firm’s Employee Benefits Practice Group.

In short, his practice focuses on the matrix of laws governing the privacy, security, and management of data, as well as the impact and regulation of social media. He also counsels companies on compliance, fiduciary, taxation, and administrative matters with respect to employee benefit plans.

Privacy and cybersecurity experience – Mr. Lazzarotti counsels multinational, national and regional companies in all industries on the broad array of laws, regulations, best practices, and preventive safeguards. The following are examples of areas of focus in his practice:

  • Advising health care providers, business associates, and group health plan sponsors concerning HIPAA/HITECH compliance, including risk assessments, policies and procedures, incident response plan development, vendor assessment and management programs, and training.
  • Coached hundreds of companies through the investigation, remediation, notification, and overall response to data breaches of all kinds – PHI, PII, payment card, etc.
  • Helping organizations address questions about the application, implementation, and overall compliance with European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and, in particular, its implications in the U.S., together with preparing for the California Consumer Privacy Act.
  • Working with organizations to develop and implement video, audio, and data-driven monitoring and surveillance programs. For instance, in the transportation and related industries, Joe has worked with numerous clients on fleet management programs involving the use of telematics, dash-cams, event data recorders (EDR), and related technologies. He also has advised many clients in the use of biometrics including with regard to consent, data security, and retention issues under BIPA and other laws.
  • Assisting clients with growing state data security mandates to safeguard personal information, including steering clients through detailed risk assessments and converting those assessments into practical “best practice” risk management solutions, including written information security programs (WISPs). Related work includes compliance advice concerning FTC Act, Regulation S-P, GLBA, and New York Reg. 500.
  • Advising clients about best practices for electronic communications, including in social media, as well as when communicating under a “bring your own device” (BYOD) or “company owned personally enabled device” (COPE) environment.
  • Conducting various levels of privacy and data security training for executives and employees
  • Supports organizations through mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations with regard to the handling of employee and customer data, and the safeguarding of that data during the transaction.
  • Representing organizations in matters involving inquiries into privacy and data security compliance before federal and state agencies including the HHS Office of Civil Rights, Federal Trade Commission, and various state Attorneys General.

Benefits counseling experience – Mr. Lazzarotti’s work in the benefits counseling area covers many areas of employee benefits law. Below are some examples of that work:

  • As part of the Firm’s Health Care Reform Team, he advises employers and plan sponsors regarding the establishment, administration and operation of fully insured and self-funded health and welfare plans to comply with ERISA, IRC, ACA/PPACA, HIPAA, COBRA, ADA, GINA, and other related laws.
  • Guiding clients through the selection of plan service providers, along with negotiating service agreements with vendors to address plan compliance and operations, while leveraging data security experience to ensure plan data is safeguarded.
  • Counsels plan sponsors on day-to-day compliance and administrative issues affecting plans.
  • Assists in the design and drafting of benefit plan documents, including severance and fringe benefit plans.
  • Advises plan sponsors concerning employee benefit plan operation, administration and correcting errors in operation.

Mr. Lazzarotti speaks and writes regularly on current employee benefits and data privacy and cybersecurity topics and his work has been published in leading business and legal journals and media outlets, such as The Washington Post, Inside Counsel, Bloomberg, The National Law Journal, Financial Times, Business Insurance, HR Magazine and NPR, as well as the ABA Journal, The American Lawyer, Law360, Bender’s Labor and Employment Bulletin, the Australian Privacy Law Bulletin and the Privacy, and Data Security Law Journal.

Mr. Lazzarotti served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Laura Denvir Stith on the Missouri Court of Appeals.