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In January, we posted about the Department of Labor’s (DOL or the “Department”) proposed rule to allow more Association Health Plans (AHPs) to be regulated as large group health plans.  The proposed rule garnered national attention and the Department received over 900 stakeholder comments from consumer groups, individual employers, employer associations, health insurance issuers, business groups, and state regulators.  Supporters of the rule emphasized the need for more affordable health care options while detractors raised concerns about the rule’s potential effects on the existing health care markets and the scope of coverage that will be available to individuals who enroll in AHPs.

On June 19, 2018, the Department finalized the rule, 83 Fed. Reg. 28912 (June 19, 2018) (codified at 29 C.F.R. 2510), with relatively few changes to the proposed rule.

Continue Reading DOL Finalizes Highly Anticipated Rule Aimed at Expanding Access to Association Health Plans

On February 20, 2018, the Supreme Court decided CNH Industrial N.V. v. Reese, 574 U.S. ___ (2018), which raised, for the second time in three years, the question of how courts should interpret collective-bargaining agreements (“CBAs”).  Reese involved a dispute between retirees and their former employer, CNH, about whether an expired 1998 CBA created a vested right to lifetime health benefits.  In a per curiam opinion, the Court found that a straightforward reading of the CBA compelled the conclusion that retiree health benefits expired when the CBA expired in 2004.  The Court’s opinion emphasized the significance of CBA expiration dates for retiree health benefits and forcefully reiterated its decision in M&G Polymers USA, LLC v. Tackett, 574 U.S. ___ (2015), that collective-bargaining agreements must be interpreted according to “ordinary principles of contract law.”

Continue Reading Supreme Court Deals Another Blow to Sixth Circuit’s “Yard-Man Inferences”

On January 5, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL or the “Department”) published a proposed rule to allow more Association Health Plans (AHPs) to be regulated as large group health plans. 83 Fed. Reg. 614 (Jan. 5, 2018) (to be codified at 29 C.F.R. pt. 2510). The proposed regulation was developed in response to President Trump’s October 12, 2017 Executive Order 13813, directing the executive branch to facilitate the purchase of insurance across state lines and, specifically, directing the DOL to “consider proposing regulations or revising guidance . . . to expand access to health coverage by allowing more employers to form AHPs.” The proposed regulation fulfills this charge by relaxing the Department’s existing interpretation of the conditions under which an association is considered the employer sponsor of a single multiple employer welfare arrangement under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). 83 Fed. Reg. at 626. An AHP that is a single multiple employer arrangement more easily qualifies as a plan offered in the large group market because it may aggregate employees of all employer members to determine the plan’s market. In some cases under the proposed rules, an AHP may be offered to employers in more than one State, even if the AHP is insured.

Continue Reading DOL Proposes to Relax Regulations Governing Association Health Plans