Benefits Update – January 2015

From the editors of Wolters Kluwer’s benefits products, here are hot topics from recent Employee Benefits Management Directions newsletters as well as recent explanatory updates in Employee Benefits Management. Also included are recent explanatory updates to the Benefits Answers Now product and Spencer’s Research Reports.

If you have any comments/suggestions concerning the information provided or the format used, we’d like to hear from you. Please contact me at Tulay.Turan@wolterskluwer.com.

Hot Topics in Employee Benefits Management:

IRS releases guidance on hardship exemptions from ACA individual shared responsibility payment and minimum essential coverage, Employee Benefits Management Directions, Issue No. 577, December 9, 2014 — The IRS has released final regulations relating to the requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage enacted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

HHS proposes standards for insurance issuers and Marketplaces in 2016, Employee Benefits Management Directions, Issue No. 577, December 9, 2014 — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule establishing standards for insurance issuers and Marketplaces for 2016. The proposed rule sets forth payment parameters and information related to the risk adjustment, reinsurance, and risk corridors programs; the cost sharing parameters and cost sharing reductions; as well as user fees for the Federally-facilitated Exchange (FFE).

Orthodontists who braced for mandate can’t challenge delays, Employee Benefits Management Directions, Issue No. 578, December 23, 2014 — An employer that expended time and money in 2013 to determine how to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) employer mandate does not have standing to challenge the Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) decision to delay the mandate, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

DOL requests comments on revisions to procedures for contraceptive coverage requirements, Employee Benefits Management Directions, Issue No. 578, December 23, 2014 — The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has published a request for public comment on a proposed extension of the revision of a currently-approved collection of information regarding notification to the government of an entity’s religious objection to providing coverage of certain preventive services otherwise mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 

What’s New in Employee Benefits Management:

Coverage for domestic partners — The list of states that now allow same-sex marriage or civil unions has been updated at ¶10,110.

Proposed benefit and payment parameters for 2016 — The proposed rules for issuers and Marketplaces for 2016 (see story above) are discussed at ¶10,140 and ¶10,505.

Reference-based pricing — FAQs on ACA’s requirements regarding reference-based pricing are discussed at ¶10,140.

2015 mileage amounts — The IRS has released the 2015 optional standard mileage rates that employees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers can use to compute deductible costs of operating automobiles (including vans, pickups, and panel trucks) for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes. For the amounts, see ¶150,565 and ¶150,595.

 

What’s New in Benefits Answers Now (BAN):

IRS clarifies application of once-a-year limit on IRA rollovers. The IRS has issued follow-up guidance that clarifies the application of the one-per-year limit on individual retirement account (IRA) rollovers. An individual is permitted to make only one rollover from an IRA in any one-year period. In Bobrow v. Commissioner, the Tax Court held that this limit applies on an aggregate basis, meaning that an individual could not make an IRA-to-IRA rollover if he or she had made such a rollover involving any of the individual’s IRAs in the preceding one-year period. The IRS previously announced that it intended to follow the Tax Court’s holding and provided transition relief to IRA owners. In that Announcement, the IRS stated that it would not apply the Bobrow interpretation to any rollover that involved an IRA distribution occurring before January 1, 2015. The IRS has issued follow-up guidance that is intended to address certain concerns that have arisen since the release of Announcement 2014-15. More information about IRA rollovers can be found at ¶14,950.

HHS proposes standards for insurance issuers and Marketplaces in 2016. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a proposed rule establishing standards for insurance issuers and Marketplaces for 2016. To find out more about the proposed rules, see ¶20,052.

IRS issues guidance on transportation fringe benefits. The IRS has provided guidance for employers who wish to provide transit pass benefits to employees through the use of a smartcard (a plastic card with an imbedded memory chip). The guidance modifies and supersedes previously released guidance regarding the use of transit cards and debit cards, and when an employer may use a bona fide cash reimbursement arrangement to provide a qualified transportation fringe benefit. See the discussion at ¶81,320 for more information about the guidance.

Hardship exemptions from the individual shared responsibility payment clarified. Notice 2014-76 identifies the hardship exemptions from the individual shared responsibility payment of the ACA that a taxpayer may claim on a federal income tax return without obtaining a hardship exemption certification from the Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace). Individuals seeking a hardship exemption that is not on this list can apply for an exemption through the Marketplace. Find out more about these types of hardship exemptions at ¶20,045.

 

What’s New in Spencer’s Benefits Reports:

Retirement Limits. This report provides a basic overview of the Sec. 415 limits on the amount of benefits under defined benefit plans and the limits on the amount of contributions under a defined contribution plan (Report 109.-1).

Transportation Benefits. This report reviews the provisions of Sec. 132, regarding fringe benefits such as transportation subsidies (Report 355.-1).

QLACs. The IRS has issued final regulations that modify the required minimum distribution rules to allow for the purchase of “qualifying longevity annuity contracts” (QLACs). This report reviews the regulations (Report 185.-41).

Annual Limits. The IRC contains a number of figures that are indexed annually. This report describes these figures and provides the updated figures for 2015 (Report 101.3.-1).

Dental Benefits. After providing health care benefits, employers often look to dental coverage as a valuable employee benefit. This report provides an overview of dental benefits programs (Report 325.4.-1).