Spencer’s Benefits NetNews – May 26, 2017


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May 26, 2017


Dairy consortium members with genuine organizational relationship can have MEWA, says DOL

A health plan that is to be established by a consortium of dairy farm employers in order to provide benefits for their employees would be an employee welfare benefit plan as defined by ERISA, according to an advisory opinion letter recently issued by the Labor Department’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). The EBSA explained that the plan fits ERISA’s requirement that it be maintained by a group or association of employers, because the consortium’s structure appears to match the necessary definition. The EBSA added that the plan would be a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA)….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Fiduciary rule moving forward with temporary enforcement relief

On May 22, 2017, the Department of Labor, headed by its new Secretary Alexander Acosta, confirmed that its controversial “fiduciary rule” will move forward, with partial compliance with its conflicts of interest provisions taking effect on June 9, 2017. At that time, investment advice providers to retirement savers will become fiduciaries, and the “impartial conduct standards” will become requirements of the exemptions. Other exemption conditions originally scheduled to become applicable on April 10, 2017, will be delayed to January 1, 2018, while the DOL conducts an ongoing examination of the rule as required under a presidential directive….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

May 25, 2017

ERIC urges Senate to expand HSAs, repeal Cadillac tax

The ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC) has submitted a letter to the Senate Finance Committee urging it to use health care reform as a vehicle to improve consumer-driven options, reduce health care taxes, and improve public sector programs to focus on value….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Just over one-third of organizations offer employees a separate paid parental leave benefit

Thirty-eight percent of employers offer a defined paid parental leave benefit for use by new-parent employees to recover from the birth of a child and/or to care for or bond with a new child, according to WorldatWork’s Paid Parental Leave Survey. This leave is distinct from all other paid leave programs and employees do not need to use or exhaust other paid time or earnings to use this benefit. The average time of paid parental leave allotted to eligible, full-time new-parent employees is 4.1 weeks….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

May 24, 2017

On rehearing, panel reaffirms finding that retiree benefits were not vested

Finding once again that the plain language of the applicable collective bargaining agreements and summary plan descriptions indicated there was no intent to vest retiree health benefits, a Fourth Circuit panel held on rehearing that a district court properly granted summary judgment to an employer in a suit brought by retirees and their union challenging the company’s right to unilaterally alter those benefits….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Both employers and employees interested in using wearable activity tracking devices to enhance wellness programs

Both employers and employees have a strong and growing interest in using wearable activity tracking devices (wearables) to enhance workplace wellness programs, according to recent research from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO). The report, Wearables in Wellness: Employer Case Studies on Use of Wearable Tracking Devices in Wellness Programs, found that the majority of companies currently offering wearables intend to continue doing so, and many additional companies plan on beginning to offer the devices in the future….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

May 23, 2017


Employee placed in different job upon return from leave, laid off weeks later is denied FMLA claims

Observing that the plain language of the FMLA does not require an employer to restore an employee returning from leave to his previous position no matter what, the Fourth Circuit, in agreement with the court below, rejected the contention of an employee—who was restored to a different position after leave and then laid off several weeks later—that his employer interfered with his FMLA rights by not restoring him to his pre-leave job. Nor could a reasonable factfinder conclude that the company failed to place him in an equivalent position or that the differences between the two jobs were more than merely de minimis. The employer was also entitled to summary judgment on the employee’s claim that it interfered with his FMLA rights by reinstating him to a sham position and then firing him at the first opportunity. Finally, the court affirmed summary judgment against his FMLA retaliation claim….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

IRS issues June 2017 AFRs

The June 2017 short-term, mid-term, and long-term applicable federal interest rates (AFRs) have been issued by the IRS. The June 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 3.44 percent….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Automotive Industries Pension Fund’s proposed pension rescue plan rejected

The Treasury Department has denied the rescue plan proposed by the Automotive Industries Pension Fund. In a May 9, 2017 letter, the Treasury Department said that the denial is based on the rescue plan’s failure to meet the requirements in the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA) for the suspension of benefits. The Department explained that the proposed benefit suspensions were not “reasonably estimated to achieve, but not materially exceed, the level that is necessary to avoid insolvency….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

May 22, 2017


Fiduciary rule would restrict access to affordable advice, says subcommittee

The Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, chaired by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI), recently held a hearing to examine regulatory barriers facing workers and families saving for retirement. Members discussed the need to protect workers and small businesses from what was described as a “flawed” fiduciary rule, saying that it would restrict access to affordable retirement advice. Members also discussed bipartisan solutions to make it easier for small businesses to provide retirement benefits to their employees….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Tiered provider networks have potential to reduce overall health spending

Employers and health plans are increasingly using tiered provider networks to steer patients to doctors and hospitals that provide higher-quality care at a lower cost. According to a Commonwealth Fund analysis of plans in Massachusetts, tiered networks were associated with a 5 percent decrease in spending—$43.36 less per member per quarter compared with per-member spending in similar plans not offering tiered networks….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

ERISA Advisory Council to meet June 6-8

The Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans, also known as the ERISA Advisory Council, will hold a meeting on June 6 to 8 in Washington, D.C., in C5320 Room 6, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue NW….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »