Employee Health & Welfare Plans

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) is the latest federal COVID-19 relief bill, which the President signed into law on Thursday, March 11, 2021. ARPA includes new COBRA continuation coverage election, notice, and subsidy requirements; pension plan funding relief; and some cost-saving benefit opportunities employees may be able to leverage.  Some of these

We recently provided an update on the looming end date for COBRA and other deadline extensions and the uncertainty that continues to add to the administrative burdens without more clarity from the DOL and IRS.  Message received, apparently.

On behalf of the IRS, the DOL has now released Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 that attempts to

In May of 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released joint-agency guidance that extended several important deadlines for employees, including COBRA election and payment deadlines, HIPAA Special Enrollment deadlines, and claims submission and appeal deadlines.  Under the guidance, plan administrators were required to extend the deadlines that would otherwise apply

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:

ADA.

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

The Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal regulators released updates and clarifications related to employee benefits, including updates to model COBRA notices and an extension of certain statutory deadlines intended to minimize the possibility of participants and beneficiaries losing benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. This article highlights the DOL’s recent changes and updates relating

The Internal Revenue Service has broadened the filing and payment relief provided under prior guidance. IRS Notice 2020-23 postpones, among other relief, the due date for employee benefit plans required to make the Form 5500 series filings due on or after April 1, 2020, and before July 15, 2020.  Plans with original due dates or

Employers that sponsor group health plans (medical, dental, vision, HFSA) are used to negotiating detailed administrative services agreements with vendors that provide services to those plans. Many also are familiar with “business associate agreements” required under HIPAA that must be in place with certain vendors, such as third-party claims administrators (TPAs), wellness program vendors, benefits