As employers consider implementing a vaccine mandate to encourage employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, we have recently discussed the merits of imposing a “vaccine surcharge” on monthly health insurance premiums for those employees who remain unvaccinated. There were unanswered questions about specific legal issues, but now the Department of Labor (DOL), Health and Human
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2021 Plan Amendment Deadlines and Other Looming Fourth Quarter Considerations
As the year draws to a close, it is helpful for employers to pause to evaluate employee benefit plan amendment deadlines and other crucial fourth-quarter considerations, including: More…
Money Money Money: How Much can the Health Plan Surcharge on Unvaccinated Employees Be?
In light of the lingering COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on employee productivity and health care expenses, employers are considering imposing a premium surcharge on employees participating in the company’s health plan who are not vaccinated against COVID-19.
As we have discussed here, several federal laws must be taken into consideration when designing such…
Health Plan Premium Surcharges For Those Not Vaccinated for COVID-19?
According to Forbes.com, more employers are considering imposing a premium surcharge on employees participating in the company’s health plan who are not vaccinated for COVID-19. Whether positioned as rewards or penalties, wellness program incentives have become vehicles of choice for encouraging behaviors believed to be healthy and reducing health plan costs. For years, tobacco…
LGBTQ+ Protections Under the ACA are in Effect …Again!
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday it now interprets—and will enforce—Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, effective immediately. Section 1557 generally prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, and disability in any health program or activity…
Mental Health Parity Compliance Returns to Forefront for Group Health Plan Sponsors
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA) amended the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) to include substantial new compliance requirements. The Department of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (collectively, the Departments) have released much-anticipated guidance for group health plans necessitating action from plan sponsors. More…
Lawmakers Seek Clarity on EEOC Regulations Concerning Incentives for COVID-19 Vaccinations
Providing incentives for employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine continues to be on the minds of organizations as vaccinations pick up speed. However, concerns about privacy and the shifting positions on wellness program regulation has left many employers wary about implementing more robust incentives. According to Bloomberg, two GOP members of Congress are urging…
Wellness Programs and Water Bottles, the EEOC Proposes New Rules under the ADA and GINA
Since 1996, when Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), employers have been struggling with whether and to what extent they could offer incentives to employees to participate in certain “wellness programs.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) position on these programs has been a significant driver of those struggles, primarily due to concerns about whether such programs are “voluntary.”
On January 7, the EEOC proposed a new approach that may provide employers some certainty, particularly as many employers are wondering about incentives to encourage employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The agency proposed regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) which, for those interested, provides a brief history of wellness programs, and EEOC’s evolving position concerning same.
A (Very) Brief History
In short, the EEOC stated its position on voluntariness in 2000, in its Enforcement Guidance on Disability-Related Inquiries and Medical Examinations of Employees Under the Americans with Disabilities Act: a wellness program is “voluntary” as long as an employer “neither requires participation nor penalizes employees who do not participate.” See Q/A 22.
During that time and moving forward, however, other federal agencies which regulated group health plans (Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and Internal Revenue Service) provided a regulatory path for employers to incentivize employees to participate in certain wellness programs. A version of those rules were codified in the Affordable Care Act (referred to herein as the “ACA/HIPAA rules”), evidencing Congress’ intent to permit such incentives, albeit subject to other federal laws, such as ADA and GINA. The EEOC’s initial attempt to harmonize by regulation its position on wellness programs with the ACA/HIPAA rules failed when its regulations addressing incentives were judicially vacated. These new proposed regulations take a different approach.
The Proposed Regulations.
The EEOC proposed two sets of regulations – one under the ADA and one under GINA:
Under the ADA proposed rule, a wellness program is a program of health promotion or disease prevention that includes disability-related inquiries or medical examinations. Disability-related inquiries, such as health risk assessments and biometric screenings, generally include a series of questions “likely to elicit information about a disability,” while medical examinations are procedures or tests that seek information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health. Programs that do not include disability-related inquiries or medical examinations (e.g., rewarding employees for attending a smoking cessation class) would not be subject to the ADA proposed rule. The rule also would incorporate essentially the same subcategories of wellness programs as under the ACA/HIPAA rules – participatory and health contingent.
Continue Reading Wellness Programs and Water Bottles, the EEOC Proposes New Rules under the ADA and GINA
U.S. Supreme Court: State Law Regulating Pharmacy Benefit Managers is Not Preempted by ERISA
An Arkansas law regulating pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBMs) generic drug reimbursement rates, and affecting the cost of prescription drugs provided under ERISA-governed benefit plans and the administration of those plans, is not preempted by ERISA, the U.S. Supreme Court has held unanimously. Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, No. 18-540, 2020 U.S. LEXIS 5988…
U.S. Supreme Court to Take on Affordable Care Act … Again
This term, the U.S. Supreme Court returns to a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In the consolidated cases of California v. Texas (No. 19-840) and Texas v. California (No. 19-1019), the Court will consider whether a group of states and private individuals have standing to challenge the ACA. If that procedural hurdle is…