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

The IRS has provided interim guidance in Notice 2015-43 on the application of certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act to expatriate health insurance issuers, expatriate health plans, and employers in their capacity as sponsors of expatriate health plans.  The interim guidance is effective for policies that are issued or renewed on or after July 1, 2015, and for plan years that start on or after July 1, 2015.  We discussed ACA issues for U.S. expatriates and expatriate health plans in an earlier post.

Background

As background, the regulatory agencies issued temporary relief in FAQs XIII and FAQs XVIII  that exempted certain expatriate health plans from some of ACA’s market reforms if they complied with a number of pre-ACA mandates.  The FAQs applied only to insured plans with enrollment limited to primary insureds who live outside their home country or outside the U.S. for at least 6 months during a 12-month period and their dependents.  The FAQs provided no relief for self-insured plans.
Continue Reading Interim Guidance for Expatriate Health Plans

For the second time in three years, the U. S. Supreme Court has upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court ruled last week in King v. Burwell that premium tax credits are available to lower-income individuals who buy health insurance on a federal exchange, as well as to those who buy insurance on a state exchange. The ruling means that the Affordable Care Act will persist in its current form, at least for now, and employers must continue to grapple with its restrictions, mandates, and reporting requirements.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Saves Affordable Care Act Again

A few weeks ago we posted about a new out-of-pocket limit for group health plans that provide family coverage. HHS announced that the ACA cost-sharing limit for self-only coverage applies to each individual who has family coverage. This embedded individual limit is in addition to the existing limit for family coverage, which applies to the aggregate costs of the covered individuals.
Continue Reading More Guidance on New Cost-Sharing Limit

After years of confusing and sometimes contradictory signals (described in previous posts here and here), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has finally proposed a regulation explaining how employment-based wellness programs can satisfy the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Continue Reading EEOC Proposes New Restrictions for Health Awareness Programs

In case you missed this development—which was buried in the preamble of a 129-page Federal Register notice dealing mainly with rules for the individual and small group markets—HHS has created a new out-of-pocket limit for group health plans that provide family coverage. HHS says that the limit for self-only coverage applies to each individual who has family coverage. This new individual limit is in addition to the existing limit for family coverage, which applies to the aggregate costs of the covered individuals.
Continue Reading HHS Creates A New Out-of-Pocket Limit For Health Plans

A recent Supreme Court decision, Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Ass’n, highlights two important points about the authority of the U.S. Department of Labor, IRS, and other administrative agencies to interpret rules:

  1. U.S. courts will generally follow administrative interpretations of statutes and an agency’s regulations, except in rare circumstances. This deference extends to “sub-regulatory” guidance, like opinion letters, rulings, notices, amicus briefs, and probably even FAQs posted on a website; and
  2. Agencies have wide latitude to change their minds on interpretive guidance, without any obligation to consult with the public.

The decision illustrates the practical importance of getting involved in the regulatory process, and advocating for important clarifications before regulations are finalized. Although agencies may change interpretive guidance unilaterally, unambiguous regulations generally cannot be changed without advance notice and an opportunity to comment.

Background.  This case involved whether mortgage-loan officers are eligible for overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Ruling on Agency Flip-Flopping Affects Rules for Benefit Plans

By now most employers are beginning to come to terms with the Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and reporting requirements that apply to the group health coverage of their U.S. workforce. For global businesses, though, the problems do not stop at the U.S. border. These companies must also determine how ACA affects U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents working abroad.

Most companies face four major questions concerning health coverage for U.S. expatriates:

  • Must they provide group health coverage to employees working abroad in order to satisfy the employer mandate?
  • Must their employees working abroad maintain a minimum level of health coverage in order to satisfy the individual mandate?
  • If an individual is covered by a foreign group health plan or insurance policy, does that coverage qualify as minimum essential coverage that satisfies the employer and individual mandates?
  • If an employer provides group health coverage to U.S. citizens or residents working abroad, is that coverage subject to the same requirements that apply to employer health coverage in the U.S.?


Continue Reading Affordable Care Act Issues for U.S. Expatriates