Spencer’s Benefits NetNews – December 1, 2017

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Featured This Week

New Reports

  • Court cases: VEBAs failed to meet Sec. 501(c)(9) tests, 11/17 (343.3.-1)

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  • Analysis: Simplified Employee Pensions, 11/17 (105.2.-1)

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  • Analysis: IRAs, 11/17 (105.1.-1)

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  • Analysis: Important facts and figures: Social Security, 11/17 (100.-5)

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  • News

    December 1, 2017

    AHA, community organizations react to CMS’ “Benefit and Payment Parameter” proposed rule

    The American Hospital Association (AHA) and I Am Essential, an organization representing 138 patient and community organizations, have expressed their concerns that many of CMS’ proposed changes to the rules for the health insurance marketplace included in its Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2019 (proposed rule, 82 FR 51052, November 2, 2017) will diminish patient care and increase beneficiary out of pocket costs. In addition, AHA noted that several proposals would drive up the costs of coverage and reduce patient access to care, while other proposals could result in health plans that cover fewer benefits. I Am Essential focused some of its comments on patient protections included in Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) and the need to enforce those current regulations and guidelines to ensure beneficiaries’ access to quality health care….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Look to common themes to predict the future of health reform

    Health reform experts provided an overview of the current health reform battle, opined as to next steps, and reassured the audience in a presentation titled “Health Care Reform, Round 2: Practical Considerations for Insurers” at the American Health Lawyers Association (AHLA) Institute for Health Plan Counsel conference in Chicago in November 2017. The expert speakers were Ethan Baumfeld, Divisional Senior Vice President & Chief Regulatory Officer at Health Care Service Corporation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas, and Lisa Campbell, Principal at The Groom Law Group, who focused their advice toward the attorney (largely counsel for health insurance plans) audience and the practical business considerations for in-house counsel. Regarding the uncertain future of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), “take a deep breath and collaborate,” Campbell said. Baumfeld explained that attorneys in the audience were practicing when the last round of health reform legislation happened and “can lend a guiding hand” to others in their organizations….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    November 30, 2017

    Employee fired days after intermittent leave approved advances FMLA claims

    An employee who requested intermittent FMLA leave so he could take his wife, who had suffered a stroke, to physical therapy, and who was fired just four days after his leave was approved, sufficiently pleaded FMLA interference and retaliation claims, a federal court in Louisiana ruled, denying in part his employer’s motion to dismiss. His claim for compensatory damages for his alleged emotional distress or pain and suffering was dismissed, however, as the FMLA does not authorize recovery of damages for emotional distress….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Fiduciary rule’s implementation again delayed

    The Department of Labor is extending from January 1, 2018, to July 1, 2019, the special Transition Period for the Fiduciary Rule’s Best Interest Contract Exemption and the Principal Transactions Exemption, and the applicability of certain amendments to Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24 (PTEs). This 18-month extension follows public comment on a proposed extension published August 31, 2017. Application of the rule has been previously delayed….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    November 29, 2017

    Treasury and DOL extend deadlines for employee benefits plans affected by Hurricane Maria

    The Departments of Labor (DOL) and the Treasury have extended certain time frames under the IRC and ERISA for group health plans, disability and other welfare plans, pension plans, participants and beneficiaries of these plans, and group health insurance issuers directly affected by Hurricane Maria….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    DOL releases advance copies of 2017 Form 5500

    The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration, the IRS, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have released advance informational copies of the 2017 Form 5500 annual return/report and related instructions. The “Changes to Note” section of the 2017 instructions highlight important modifications to the Form 5500 and Form 5500-SF and their schedules and instructions….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    November 28, 2017

    DOL postpones final rules on disability benefit claims procedures

    The Department of Labor (DOL) has announced a ninety-day delay — until April 1, 2018 — of the applicability date for ERISA plans to comply with a final rule amending the claims procedure requirements applicable to disability benefits. The final rule, which was published in the Federal Register on December 19, 2016, adopted certain procedural protections and safeguards for disability benefit claims that were already applicable to claims for group health benefits under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    CMS sets rates for Medicare Part A and Part B

    Beginning January 1, 2018, Medicare enrollees age 65 and over who are not otherwise eligible for benefits under Medicare Part A—the uninsured aged—will pay a $422 monthly premium. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may participate in Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate—$232 in calendar year (CY) 2018, according to a notice from CMS. The $422 premium is 2 percent higher than the CY 2017 premium of $413….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Jury will say if city disclosed basis for FMLA leave and was liable for resulting harassment

    Disposing of cross motions for summary judgment by a city and its former firefighter/paramedic who claimed FMLA retaliation based on the city’s alleged release of personal information about his leave, adverse work assignments, and constructive discharge, as well as failure to rehire him, a federal district court in Florida denied summary judgment in part, allowing some of his FMLA retaliation claims to proceed. But his failure to rehire claims based both on his FMLA leave and alleged associational discrimination due to the disability of his infant son could not survive, given evidence that the former employee failed to timely apply for the position he sought, making only two phone calls to the city in a five-month period….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    November 27, 2017

    Annual survey reveals highest rate of employers offering health care benefits since 2013 despite concerns about looming changes

    Nearly two in three employers (66 percent) say their company is extremely/very aware of the potential changes to health care policy coming out of Washington D.C., and more than a quarter (26 percent) of employers report that the most common fear among their employees is losing health care due to a preexisting condition, according to the 2017 employer health care survey, Employers Hold Steady in Time of Uncertainty, from the national Transamerica Center for Health Studies (TCHS)….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    IRS issues December 2017 AFRs

    The December 2017 short-term, mid-term, and long-term applicable federal interest rates (AFRs) have been issued by the IRS. The December mid-term 175 percent AFR (Annual) rate, used to calculate interest charged to the funding standard account for underpayments of quarterly contributions under Code Sec. 412(m), is 3.71 percent….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Workers have limited understanding of retirement plan fees

    Roughly two-thirds of workers with retirement plans surveyed in 2016 had not read any investment fee disclosures in the previous year, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts, which conducted a nationally representative online survey of nearly 3,000 private sector workers. Even among those who said they were very familiar with their fees, 33 percent hadn’t read any fee disclosures in the past year….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »