Spencer’s Benefits Reports NetNews – February 10, 2017

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February 10, 2017


Policy analysts ask Congressional committee for leniency for large employers during healthcare overhaul

Any replacement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) should both strengthen ERISA preemption and maintain the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored insurance, said Dr. Tevi Troy, CEO of the American Health Policy Institute (AHPI), testifying recently before the U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee during a hearing entitled “Rescuing Americans from the Failed Health Care Law and Advancing Patient-Centered Solutions.” Troy pointed to the ACA’s substantial regulatory requirements for employer-based healthcare, characterizing them as significant and often unnecessary, adding, “Too little attention has been focused on this important aspect of the law….”

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Senate lawmakers currently drafting their own tax reform, ACA replacement bills, SFC Chairman says

“No one should expect the Senate to simply take up and pass a House tax reform bill,” Senate Finance Committee (SFC) Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said at a February 1 event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Until now, House Republicans have spearheaded the recent uptick in tax reform discussions with their “Better Way” Tax Reform Blueprint. Democrats have remained critical of the Blueprint’s tax treatment of high-income taxpayers….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Needed health savings in retirement increases due to drug costs

Projected savings targets needed to cover health care in retirement went up last year after several years of decline, but are still generally lower than they were five years ago, according to recent research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI)….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

February 9, 2017


Majority of employers feel overwhelmed with increasing complexity of managing employee benefits

Six in 10 employers feel overwhelmed with the increasing complexity of managing their employee benefits programs, according to recent research from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America. Larger firms (100 or more employees) are struggling the most (69 percent) especially with installing new coverages, changing carriers, and employee communication and enrollment. The study,
Benefits Balancing Act, highlights the increasing challenges employers face in managing benefits costs, improving administrative efficiency, and maintaining plan compliance, all while trying to improve workforce health and productivity….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

ACA has been a success in the individual market, survey says

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) led to “dramatic improvements” in individuals’ ability to purchase health care insurance on their own, according to the Commonwealth Fund Biennial Health Insurance Survey for 2016. Most dramatically, adults with family incomes lower than $48,500 have experienced a 17 percentage point drop in uninsurance compared to the rates of uninsurance for those same individuals in 2010. The increase in coverage has also manifested as better care. The estimated number of adults, who reported difficulty accessing health care or filling needed prescriptions, fell by 17 million between 2012 and 2016….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

February 8, 2017

Evidence employee was discouraged from taking intermittent leave, fired after doing so, support revival of FMLA claims

An employer’s email to an employee who had just returned from a four-day absence—while she had a pending FMLA leave request and prior not-yet-approved requests—stating that her “continued unpaid time away from the workplace” compromised the quality of care it could provide was “the clearest example” of discouraging her from taking FMLA leave, the Eleventh Circuit ruled in an unpublished opinion, vacating summary judgment on her FMLA interference claim. Her FMLA retaliation claim was also revived….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Trump orders review of ‘fiduciary’ rule, DOL considers delay

The White House has released a directive on the controversial “fiduciary” rule. The memorandum to the Secretary of Labor calls for a review of the rule. Notably absent is any language setting a time frame for the review or a delay in application of the rule. However, the DOL has said that it will consider “legal” options for a delay….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Program of administrative services provided to employers is not employee welfare benefit plan or MEWA

A program of administrative services created and provided by a member-operated cooperative is not an “employee welfare benefit plan” under ERISA Sec. 3(1) because neither the cooperative nor its services for employer-members have employee participants, and the services provided to the employer-members do not involve the provision of benefits to employees or their dependents under ERISA Sec. 3(1), according to an Employee Benefits Security Administration advisory opinion. Also, the program was not a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA) within the meaning of ERISA Sec. 3(40)….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

February 7, 2017


Honest belief employee was abusing FMLA leave defeats retaliation claim

Reince Priebus, the President’s chief of staff, has directed the heads of executive departments and agencies to institute a regulatory freeze to allow new appointees and designees to review any new or pending regulations. The directive provides exceptions for emergencies or other circumstances that affect health, safety, financial, or national security matters. The law firm Davis Polk notes, however, that in a departure from precedent, the memo freezes any guidance issued by executive agencies, in addition to rulemaking….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Hospital tech unable to show he was fired because of medical leave request

A hospital technologist was unable to show he was fired because of his request for medical leave to have knee surgery, held the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, affirming summary judgment against his FMLA claims in an unpublished decision. His only evidence of a causal connection between his leave request and his firing was close timing, and the timing was not “unduly suggestive,” so without further evidence his retaliation claim failed. He had no more success with his novel interference argument that the hospital “withheld his right to reinstatement to his position by firing him before he took leave….”

(Read Intelliconnect) »

February 6, 2017


Republicans narrow aim to specific provisions in health reform battle

House Republicans introduced four bills as part of a new piecemeal strategy to repeal and redefine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed legislation—which will be considered at a February 2, 2017, hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee—concerns: (1) special enrollment period (SEP) eligibility verifications; (2) premium rate ratios; (3) grace periods for missed premium payments; and (4) a political promise to continue the ban on preexisting condition exclusions….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

Health experts analyze ACA repeal and the future of health reform

The Trump Administration has committed to repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). WalletHub asked health care, health reform, and health insurance experts about areas of the existing law that would be politically difficult to repeal, the potential role of health savings accounts (HSAs) in new legislation, the impact of possible market-based reforms, and the future role of employers in the provision of health insurance coverage. An overview of their responses follows….

(Read Intelliconnect) »

IRA contributions are inconsistent, but more owners are maxing out

Most owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) do not contribute to them every year—but more than half of those who contribute put in the maximum amount allowed by law, according to a recent analysis of the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s IRA Database. EBRI found considerable differences by IRA type in whether IRA owners who have maintained their IRA for five years (consistent account owners) are likely to contribute, as well as the number of years they contribute….

(Read Intelliconnect) »