Spencer’s Benefits NetNews – August 11, 2017


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New Reports




August 11, 2017


Religious exemption to contraceptive mandate not extended to nonreligious employers

“After careful review, but without any hesitation,” the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals determined that the religious exemption to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive mandate does not apply to a secular anti-abortion group with no religious affiliation and affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the federal government. It also found that an employee’s religious beliefs are not substantially burdened by the mandate….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Dispute over injured employee’s ‘resignation’ advances his FMLA claims

Reasoning that it was clearly disputed whether an employee voluntarily resigned while he was restricted from working due to an injured knee, a federal district court in Michigan refused to dismiss his FMLA interference and retaliation claims on summary judgment. The employee’s request for time off work, coupled with a doctor’s note from an occupational health physician to whom he was sent, he claimed, by his employer were enough to create an issue of fact as to adequate notice of his request for FMLA leave. However, his disability discrimination claims were dismissed because even under the more lenient ADAAA standard, his nine-day work restrictions due to a knee injury, without more, did not qualify as a disability….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

August 10, 2017


CMS issues Part D premiums for 2018

The average premium for a basic Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2018 will be $33.50 per month, which is a decrease from $34.70 in 2017, according to a projection from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Substantial compliance did not save beneficiary designation that did not comply with plan terms

An employee’s failure to change her beneficiary in strict accordance with plan requirements made her attempted change invalid, according to a federal trial court in Florida. The employee manifested a clear intent to change her beneficiary and complied with oral instructions from a company representative. However substantial compliance with the beneficiary designation requirements was not sufficient to satisfy clear plan language requiring the submission of signed and dated beneficiary designation cards….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

August 9, 2017


Two-day proximity between FMLA request and firing suggests interference and retaliation

The temporal proximity of two days between a nursing home employee’s request for FMLA leave and his termination was “key” in a federal court in Pennsylvania’s conclusion that there were triable issues on his FMLA retaliation claim. The court also denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment on the FMLA interference claim, noting that applicable Third Circuit precedent was unclear on whether an interference claim was duplicative of the FMLA reprisal claims. Summary judgment was granted against his ADEA claim, though, because failed to show the reasons for his termination (performance problems and inappropriate behavior) were pretext for age discrimination….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Tax credits might be the solution to the problem of unaffordable health insurance

According to a Commonwealth Fund issue brief, an extension of the marketplace tax credits could cause premiums to reduce, thereby resulting in more affordable health care. The extension of this credit to individuals whose income is more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) would cause more individuals to enroll in federal or state market place plans. The brief suggested that this increase in enrollment would improve the risk pool, thereby making insurance premiums more affordable….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

August 8, 2017


Exclude health savings accounts from fiduciary rule, ECFC says

Health savings accounts (HSA) are primarily used to fund health care expenses and should not be subject to the fiduciary rule like individual retirement arrangements (IRA). That’s according to a letter from the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) to the Department of Labor (DOL) in response to a request for information in connection with its examination of the final rule defining who is a “fiduciary” of an employee benefit plan as a result of giving investment advice for a fee or other compensation with respect to assets of a plan or IRA (fiduciary rule)….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Benefits costs increased 0.6 percent in second quarter 2017

Benefits costs for civilian workers increased 0.6 percent for the three-month period ending June 2017, according to the most recent Employment Cost Index from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In the second quarter 2017, benefits costs rose slightly more than salaries, which increased 0.5 percent….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

ERISA Advisory Council to meet August 22-24

The Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, also known as the ERISA Advisory Council, will hold a meeting on August 22 to 24 in Washington, D.C., in Room N3437-C, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

August 7, 2017


Practical method offered for compliance with the OCR HIPAA Audit Protocol

A quick, easy to apply, and practical method to approach each element within the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) HIPPA Audit Protocol was recently demonstrated at a Health Care Compliance Association (HCCA) web conference by compliance professional Frank Ruelas of Dignity Health….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Dudenhoeffer prevents mining company employees from digging out of cratered employer stock fund

The failure of plan fiduciaries to independently verify the accuracy of the market price for company stock did not constitute a “special circumstance” sufficient to sustain a claim for imprudent retention of employer stock, according to the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Applying the Dudenhoeffer pleading standards, the court further rejected suggested “alternative actions” (disclosing inside information and discontinuing additional ESOP contributions) that the fiduciaries could have taken, based on inside information that would not have harmed plan participants….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »