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CFPB prepaid accounts rules are final

Tue, 02/06/2018 - 17:25

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has finalized the proposed regulations on prepaid accounts. Specifically, the (CFPB) is amending Regulation E, which implements the Electronic Fund Transfer Act, and Regulation Z, which implements the Truth in Lending Act, and the official interpretations to those regulations. The CFPB is finalizing modifications to several aspects of that rule, including with respect to error resolution and limitations on liability for prepaid accounts where the financial institution has not successfully completed its consumer identification and verification process; application of the rule’s credit related provisions to digital wallets that are capable of storing funds; certain other clarifications and minor adjustments; technical corrections; and an extension of the overall effective date to April 1, 2019.

The CFPB is:

  • Revising the error resolution and limited liability provisions of the Prepaid Accounts Rule in Regulation E to provide that financial institutions are not required to resolve errors or limit consumers’ liability on unverified prepaid accounts. For accounts where the consumer’s identity is later verified, financial institutions are not required to limit liability and resolve errors with regard to disputed transactions that occurred prior to verification.
  • Creating a limited exception to the credit-related provisions of the Prepaid Accounts Rule in Regulation Z for certain business arrangements between prepaid account issuers and credit card issuers that offer traditional credit card products. This exception is designed to address certain complications in applying the credit provisions of the Prepaid Accounts Rule to credit card accounts linked to digital wallets that can store funds where the credit card accounts are already subject to Regulation Z’s open-end credit card rules in circumstances that appear to pose lower risks to consumers. This final rule also expands the situations in which prepaid account issuers are permitted to run negative balances on prepaid accounts, provided certain conditions are met.
  • Extending the overall effective date of the Prepaid Accounts Rule to April 1, 2019.
  • Making clarifications or minor adjustments to provisions of the Prepaid Accounts Rule in Regulation E related to an exclusion from the definition of prepaid account, unsolicited issuance of access devices, several aspects of the rule’s pre-acquisition disclosure requirements, and submission of prepaid account agreements to the Bureau.
  • Making technical corrections to certain provisions of the Prepaid Accounts Rule in both Regulations E and Z. (CFPB RIN 3170-AA72, January 9, 2018.)

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Rising prices drive pace of health spending increase

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 18:34

Americans used the same amount or less health care in 2016 compared to 2015, but rising prices caused overall spending in 2016 to grow faster than any time in the last five years, according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). The report, Health Care Cost and Utilization Report, analyzed health care spending and utilization from 2012 to 2016.

“It is time to have a national conversation on the role of price increases in the growth of health care spending,” said Niall Brennan, MPP, president of HCCI. “Despite the progress made in recent years on value-based care, the reality is that working Americans are using less care but paying more for it every year. Rising prices, especially for prescription drugs, surgery, and emergency department visits, have been primary drivers of faster growth in recent years.”

Over the five-year study period, prescription drug spending had cumulative growth of 27 percent, despite a flat or decreasing trend in generic drug prices and despite a decline in utilization of brand prescription drugs. The increased spending was driven by double-digit price increases from 2012 to 2016 for brand prescription drugs.

While the number of emergency room visits rose just slightly, the average price for an emergency room visit grew steadily over the five-year study for a 31.5 percent cumulative increase, driving the increase in outpatient spending.

The average price of surgery went up as well, pushing up spending for both inpatient and outpatient care. The average price for surgical admissions increased by nearly $10,000 or 30 percent over the five-year study period, despite a -16 percent cumulative decline in utilization, and the price for outpatient surgery rose more than 19 percent.

Other findings from the study:

  • Total spending on primary care office visits fell by almost 6 percent over five years due to a decline in the number of visits. This was offset by a 31 percent spending increase on office visits to specialists and a 23 percent increase in visits for preventive care, changes that could be partly attributable to changes in billing practices or in the way people seek care.
  • Direct out-of-pocket spending by patients increased every year, but at a slower rate than total health care spending, due to a decline in the amount consumers paid out-of-pocket for prescriptions.
  • Prices for professional services, fees paid to doctors, surgeons, and other clinicians, saw the lowest growth and generally the lowest prices overall. This held true across primary and specialty care, except for surgery.

“While consumers, especially those with employer-sponsored insurance, may not feel the direct impact of these charges via out of pocket payments, they ultimately pay through increased premiums and decreased benefits,” said Brennan.

SOURCE: http://www.healthcostinstitute.org/report/2016-health-care-cost-utilization-report/
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IRS focuses on VCP user fee changes for 2018

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 18:20

The IRS has provided information concerning the 2018 changes to the user fees charged for submissions under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System’s (EPCRS’s) Voluntary Correction Program (VCP). Effective January 2, 2018, the IRS has simplified the user fees charged for most submissions made under the VCP by requiring that the applicable user fee be determined by the total amount of net plan assets (Rev. Proc. 2018-4. As noted in Rev. Proc. 2018-4, the new fee schedule does not apply to group VCP submissions or submission for orphan or 457(b) plans.
According to the IRS, the user fees should be determined based on the end of year net assets of a plan as reported on the most recently filed Form 5500 series return. If the plan sponsor is not required to file a Form 5500 for the plan, the amount of net assets will generally be the amount as of the last day of the most recently completed plan year preceding the date of the VCP submission.
The IRS notes that it is revising Form 8951 (Compliance Fee for Application for Voluntary Correction Program (VCP)). Until the revised form is available, the IRS advises submitters to continue to use the September 2016 version of Form 8951. However, submitters should ignore the information on the form that suggests that VCP fees are determined based on the number of plan participants, should not check boxes on lines 8(a) through 8(c) (because they no longer apply), and should attach a check for the fee amount specified in Rev. proc. 2018-4, Appendix A .09.
The IRS will not apply the new fee structure to VCP submissions made prior to January 2, 2018 or issue refunds for pre-January 2, 2018 VCP submissions that are withdrawn and then resubmitted under the new fee schedule.

Source: IRS Employee Plans News.
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Annual wellness visits increase for adolescents

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 18:31

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been moderately successful in getting more adolescents to see doctors for annual wellness visits, but more needs to be done, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study compared with adolescent frequency of annual wellness visits before and after the ACA went into effect in 2010. The results show that rates of preventive wellness visits for adolescents ages 10 to 17 increased from 41 percent pre-ACA to 48 percent post-ACA.

The ACA allows patients to receive preventive services without a copayment. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommends preventive care services up to age 21, including an annual visit.

The study also found that minority and low-income groups showed significant improvement in making annual visits. Hispanic adolescents’ wellness visits increased by 20 percent and African-American adolescent wellness visits by 10 percent. However, the study notes that while annual preventive check-ups increased post-ACA, less than 50 percent of the populations of adolescents were provided with preventive care.

“Despite modest to moderate increases, with greatest gains for underserved youth, adolescent preventive care rates remain low, highlighting the need for increased efforts to bring adolescents into well care and improve clinician delivery of preventive care within their practices,” the study concluded.

The study includes information from 25,695 adolescents ages 10 to 17 for the years pre-dating the ACA (2007-2009) and following its 2010 enactment (2012-2014).

SOURCE: https://jamanetwork.com
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PBGC final regs increase civil penalties for failure to provide certain notices for 2018

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 18:21

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has issued final regulations that adjust the civil monetary penalties provided in ERISA Secs. 4071 and 4302 for inflation. The maximum daily penalty for failing to provide notices or other material information under ERISA Sec. 4071 has increased from $2,097 to $2,140, and the maximum penalty for failure to provide certain multiemployer plan notices under ERISA Sec. 4302 has risen from $279 to $285. The final regulations are effective January 12, 2018, and the increases apply to penalties assessed after January 12, 2018.
The PBGC is adjusting the penalties in accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 and the Office of Management and Budget Memorandum M-18-03. The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which amends the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, requires agencies to adjust civil monetary penalties for inflation and publish the adjustments in the Federal Register by January 15 of each year after 2016. The adjustments must be based on changes in the Consumer Price Index.
The PBGC notes that, although the maximum penalties are increasing, it is uncommon for the PBGC to assess information penalties. The PBGC’s goal is to encourage compliance, not to penalize plans that inadvertently forget to file information. Generally, when the PBGC does assess an information penalty, the amount is significantly less than the maximum allowed.

Source: 83 FR 1555.
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Spencer’s Benefits NetNews – February 2, 2018

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 18:15
  About this Newsletter

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News

February 2, 2018

 

Report shows continued shift toward consumer-directed health care

The third annual “State of Employee Benefits” report published by Benefitfocus, Inc., shows a continued shift toward consumer-directed health care, with the rate of employers offering at least one high-deductible health plan (HDHP) increasing more than 20 percent since 2016. This growth primarily stems from employers offering HDHPs alongside traditional health plans, reflecting the increased commitment among employers to offer more choice to employees. With respect to enrollment, the data indicates that employees’ health plan preference and benefits needs differ by demographic criteria, making plan diversity critical. The report is derived from the analysis of anonymous employee benefit election data of more than 1.3 million consumers from 540 large employers….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

One-third of employers plan to put corporate income tax savings toward employee rewards

Despite recent announcements by some large well-known organizations delivering one-time bonuses and increases to minimum wage rates, the recent cuts in corporate taxes are triggering some employers to use tax savings for a broader range of employee investments. According to Mercer’s Impact of US Corporate Tax Reform on Employee Rewards poll, nearly one-third (32 percent) of employers expect to redirect some portion of corporate income tax savings into their employee reward programs….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

February 1, 2018

 

Workers’ confidence about the future of the health care system is low

Workers’ confidence about specific aspects of the health care system overall is mixed, and falls the further out into the future one looks, according to recent research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). The 2017 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey found that while 45 percent of workers are extremely or very confident about their ability to get the treatments the need today, only 34 percent are confident about their ability to get needed treatments during the next 10 years, and just 26 percent are confident about this once they are eligible for Medicare….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Court won’t reconsider denial of summary judgment to employer who arguably fired worker based on FMLA-qualifying absences

An employer who fired a worker after he received three disciplinary notices, two of which may have been issued based on FMLA-qualifying absences, failed to persuade a Kentucky federal court to reconsider its prior decision denying summary judgment on the employee’s FMLA interference and retaliation claims. The court rejected the employee’s assertion that the employer had access to medical records of his “chronic” back condition through the third-party benefits administrator, but found that triable issues still existed as to whether the employer had notice of his potential need for FMLA leave based on the fact that he called in sick every day, provided other medical records, and was instructed by a manager to return to the doctor to obtain further documentation….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

January 31, 2018

 

Retiring employees had vested right to benefits, but required scope of benefits is jury question

Retired county workers who alleged their former employer breached its promise of cost-free retiree health coverage for life at the same level the employee enjoyed on his last day of employment will present their contract claims to a jury, a federal district court in Georgia decided. The court found the employees had a vested right to receive the same level of healthcare benefits in retirement as they received on their last day of work. However, it concluded that a jury would have to determine precisely what that level of benefits was supposed to be. Therefore, the parties’ summary judgment motions were denied….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

IRS focuses on VCP user fee changes for 2018

The IRS has provided information concerning the 2018 changes to the user fees charged for submissions under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System’s (EPCRS’s) Voluntary Correction Program (VCP). Effective January 2, 2018, the IRS has simplified the user fees charged for most submissions made under the VCP by requiring that the applicable user fee be determined by the total amount of net plan assets. As noted in Rev. Proc. 2018-4, the new fee schedule does not apply to group VCP submissions or submission for orphan or 457(b) plans….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

January 30, 2018

 

Tax law fueling changes to employer benefits and compensation programs, survey finds

The new tax reform law is fueling changes to corporate America’s employee benefits, compensation, total rewards and executive pay programs, according to a survey by Willis Towers Watson. The survey of 333 large and midsize employers reveals nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents are considering making a change to at least one of these programs this year or next….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Rising prices drive pace of health spending increase

Americans used the same amount or less health care in 2016 compared to 2015, but rising prices caused overall spending in 2016 to grow faster than any time in the last five years, according to a report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). The report, Health Care Cost and Utilization Report, analyzed health care spending and utilization from 2012 to 2016….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

January 29, 2018

 

Two-thirds of employers expect to offer fertility benefits by 2019

The percentage of employers offering fertility benefits to employees is expected to grow from 55 percent in 2017 to 66 percent by 2019, according to the 2017 Maternity, Family and Fertility Benefits Survey from Willis Towers Watson. Of the employers currently offering fertility benefits, 65 percent offer coverage for fertility services to same-sex couples — a percentage expected to increase to 81 percent by 2019….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Owner of Chicago-based business must restore $128K to retirement plan and trust

In the aftermath of a Department of Labor Investigation, a federal court in Illinois has entered a consent order and judgment requiring the former president of Acme Orthotics and Prosthetic Laboratories Inc. to restore $128,536 in losses owed to the company’s Profit Sharing 401(k) Plan and Trust. The company is headquartered in Chicago….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

FMLA retaliation against HR director at state university individually not dismissed

Refusing to dismiss the FMLA claims of a long-term HR employee of a state university health center against a senior director of HR who allegedly directed her not to take FMLA leave to care for her husband, a federal district court in Texas found her allegations sufficient that the senior director was acting as an employer, that her claims were not actually against the state as real party in interest, and that the senior director could be individually liable. And for purposes of a motion to dismiss on qualified immunity grounds, the employee adequately alleged the senior director had “fair warning” that firing the employee for availing herself of FMLA leave would violate her clearly-established rights….

        (Read Intelliconnect) »

Nearly 25 percent of full-time employees do not receive benefits

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 18:14

Nearly 25 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. do not receive benefits, such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, or paid vacation, from their employer, according to research from Clutch, a B2B research firm. The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey found that by not offering a benefits package, companies risk losing out on the top talent during the hiring process.
Health care, not surprisingly, tops employees’ list of most valuable benefits. Fifty-five percent of respondents cited health coverage as the greatest driver of job satisfaction, followed by paid vacation time (18 percent), overtime pay (11 percent), and retirement plans (10 percent). The survey also found that 25 percent of the respondents lack health coverage.
However, Clutch found that not all employees who receive benefits are happy with them. One-third (32 percent) of employees who receive benefits are not satisfied. The most common reason for employee dissatisfaction, at 52 percent of respondents, is they want more of a benefit they already have. Another 14 percent said they want different benefits than the ones they currently receive.

SOURCE: https://clutch.co/hr/resources/employers-should-offer-health-insurance-employee-benefits
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General procedures for issuing letter rulings and determination letters are updated

Thu, 02/01/2018 - 18:02

The IRS has updated the general procedures for the issuance of written guidance in the form of letter rulings, closing agreements, determination letters and information letters, and orally on issues under the jurisdiction of the Associate Chief Counsel (Corporate), Associate Chief Counsel (Financial Institutions and Products), Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax and Accounting), Associate Chief Counsel (International), Associate Chief Counsel (Passthroughs and Special Industries), Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration), and Associate Chief Counsel (Tax Exempt and Government Entities).
In addition to minor revisions, notable changes include:

  • Section 11.04 is amended to clarify that a ruling can be revoked even if the subject of the ruling is a matter that the Service no longer rules on.
  • Sections 15.08 and 15.09 are amended to reflect that pay.gov is now the exclusive means for making payments for user fees under this revenue procedure.
  • Section 15.09 was amended, and Appendix A, paragraph (B)(6) was added, to clarify the applicable user fee when a taxpayer’s gross income amount and eligibility for a reduced user fee under Appendix A, paragraph (A)(4), depends on receiving a favorable ruling.
  • Section 15.10 was amended to clarify the rules regarding refunds of fees paid under this revenue procedure.

The procedures are effective January 2, 2018.
Source: Rev. Proc. 2018-1.
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D.C. District Court backs off a little on wellness rulemaking order

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 18:31

The Washington, D.C., federal district court that ordered the EEOC to file, by August 13, 2018, any new rulemaking that would incorporate the court’s opinion invalidating the agency’s wellness regulations under the ADA and GINA has backed off that deadline directive following the EEOC’s January 16, 2018, unopposed motion asking the court to do so. However, the court was unpersuaded by the EEOC’s argument that it should not retain jurisdiction of the case, AARP v. EEOC, following vacatur of the regulations and remand to the agency.

Wellness rules unlawful.

In August 2017, the court granted AARP’s motion for summary judgment on its Administrative Procedure Act challenge to the regulations, concluding that the regulations are arbitrary and capricious. The EEOC had failed to adequately explain its decision to construe the term “voluntary” in the ADA and GINA to permit a 30 percent incentive level, the court said. The court initially remanded the rules to the EEOC without vacatur, but on reconsideration at AARP’s urging, on December 20, amended its decision to make the remand with vactur. The court, however, delayed the effective date of the vacatur until January 1, 2019, ostensibly giving the EEOC time to promulgate new rules.

Rulemaking deadline.

In an order accompanying the December opinion, the court required that “if EEOC proceeds with any notice of proposed rulemaking consistent with the opinions issued on August 22, 2017 … it shall issue such notice by not later than August 31, 2018.” The order also required the EEOC to file a status report by March 30, 2018, on the schedule for the EEOC’s review of the rules, including any further administrative proceedings.

EEOC seeks reconsideration.

The EEOC sought reconsideration of the December 20 order arguing that it was inappropriate, except in the most unusual circumstances not present in this case, for a reviewing court to retain jurisdiction pending remand to an agency. The agency asserted that the court should not require it “to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking by a particular date or otherwise limit its future policy discretion.” Among other things, the EEOC asserted that “whether to issue regulations providing that certain levels of incentives for participation in wellness programs comport with the ADA and GINA is left to the EEOC’s policy judgment.”

Amended order.

Persuaded only in part by the EEOC’s assertions, the district on January 18 amended its December 20 order by vacating it to the extent it requires the EEOC “to issue any notice of proposed rulemaking on a set schedule or file such notice with the Court. Consistent with its earlier order, the vacatur of the agency’s wellness regulations remains stayed until January 1, 2019.”

The court, however, denied the EEOC’s request that it clarify that that the court is not retaining jurisdiction of the case. The court will retain jurisdiction of the case until January 1, 2019, and the case will be deemed closed as of the following day.

The court also stuck with its original directive that the EEOC file a status report by not later than March 30, 2018.

SOURCE: AARP v. EEOC (D.D.C.), No. 1:16-cv-02113 (JDB), January 18, 2018.
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TE/GE procedures for issuing rulings updated

Wed, 01/31/2018 - 18:15

The IRS has updated its procedures for employee plans to obtain guidance on issues under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TE/GE) Employee Plans Rulings and Agreements Office. The procedure also details the types of advice available to taxpayers, and the manner in which such advice is requested and provided.
Changes are made throughout the updated procedure to reflect the restructure of the pre-approved plan program previously announced in Rev. Proc. 2017-41, including provisions relating to opinion letter applications with respect to a plan’s third and subsequent six-year remedial amendment cycles. Certain opinion and advisory letter applications for defined contribution and defined benefit master and prototype (M&S) plans and volume submission (VS) plans that may still be submitted pursuant to Rev. Proc. 2015-36 with respect to cycles prior to the third six-year remedial amendment cycle are retained.
The updated procedures reflect the following additional changes relating to the pre-approved plan program:

  • An adopting employer of a pre-approved M&S plan may file a Form 5307 for the second six-year remedial amendment cycle if the employer has modified the plan to add overriding language to reflect Code Secs. 415 and 416.
  • A controlling member that makes non-extensive modifications to a VS multiple employer plan may apply for a determination letter on Form 5300 in the two-year window, regardless of whether a prior favorable determination letter has been issued.
  • An adopting employer of a pre-approved plan must be eligible to submit a determination letter application in order to request a determination with respect to Code Sec. 414(n).
  • The appropriate unit to refer to in a request for reconsideration of a user fee with respect to opinion letter requests submitted under Rev. Proc. 2017-41 is added.
  • User fees for submissions pursuant to Rev. Proc. 2017-41 are added to the user fees schedule.
Determination letters not issued for requests for minimum funding waivers

The alternative of requesting a determination letter in conjunction with a waiver of the minimum funding standard as described in section 3.04 of Rev. Proc. 2004-15 is no longer available. A request for a letter ruling on a waiver of the minimum funding standard is submitted to the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (TE/GE) and may no longer be submitted to Employee Plans Rulings and Agreements.

User fees

The user fee structure for voluntary compliance program (VCP) submissions has been modified. The changes to the user fees include the following: $1,500 for plans with assets of $500,000 or less; $3,000 for plans with assets of over $500,000 to $10,000,000; and $3,500 for plans with assets of over $10,000,000. The IRS notes that the user fee for group submissions and the special fee waiver for terminating orphan plans are unchanged.
As to other fees, the user fee for opinion letters on prototype individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and/or annuities, SEPs, SIMPLE IRAs, SIMPLE IRA Plans, Roth IRAs and dual-purpose IRAs, is changed from $1,000 to $2,500. The user fee for Form 5310 (Application for Determination for Terminating Plan), is changed from $2,300 to $3,000.

Additional Changes

In addition to minor non-substantive changes, including changes to dates, cross references, and citations to other revenue procedures, the following items are among the changes that have been made:

  • A status conference is requested from, and is held with, the Director, Employee Plans Rulings and Agreements.
  • Individually designed plans submitted for determination letters during 2018 must be restated for compliance with the 2016 Required Amendments List (as well as any applicable prior cumulative list).
  • A determination letter applicant for a multiple employer plan must request a letter for the plan in the name of the controlling member.
  • A petitioner’s request for Code Sec. 7805(b) relief must be submitted to the agent or specialist assigned to the case, in order to have exhausted administrative remedies. In addition, other procedures formerly contained in Rev. Proc. 2017-4 relating to Code Sec. 7805(b) requests are deleted.
  • A request for Code Sec. 7805(b) relief, via a letter ruling, to limit the retroactive effect of a revocation or modification should be submitted to the agent or specialist assigned to the case.
  • The Director, Employee Plans, is given the authority to revoke or modify a determination letter.
  • The scope of a letter ruling involving requests by the plan sponsor of a multiemployer plan for approval of an extension of an amortization period is modified.
  • Employee Plans has the authority to decline to issue a letter ruling due to resource constraints.

Rev. Proc. 2018-4 is effective January 2, 2018.

Source: Rev. Proc. 2018-4.
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One-third of employers offer incentives to encourage alternative forms of transportation, IFEBP says

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 18:04

One-third of employers offer incentives to employees who bike, walk, use mass transportation or carpool to work, according to results from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Transportation Benefits and Incentives: 2017 Survey Results. Survey responses were received from 289 U.S. members of the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS). Employers reported the most common ways their employees travel to the workplace, and when asked to choose the top three from a list of options, organizations selected:

  • Car with single occupant — 90%
  • Rapid transit — 44%
  • City bus — 41%
  • Carpool — 22%
  • Bicycle — 15%
  • Walk — 10%
  • Motorcycle/moped — 10%
  • Ride share (Uber, Lyft, etc.) — 5%

With the majority of employees driving their own vehicle to work, parking benefits and incentives are a major perk. More than four in five (83%) organizations offer some type of on-site parking. Forty-three percent of organizations provide free parking to employees.
Among employers offering mass transportation incentives, nearly one-third of their employees use mass transit incentives when offered. More than one-half of employers that offer transportation incentives have a pretax benefit program in place, enabling their workers to exclude mass transit and/or carpool costs from their gross taxable income.
Of employers offering biking/walking transportation incentives, 44% provide on-site bicycle storage, 39% provide locker rooms and showers, and 19% offer bike-to-work subsidies, allowances or reimbursements.
Attracting and retaining talented workers is the main reason organizations offer transportation incentives. The second most common reason is response to worker requests. Organizations said their workers choose their specific mode of transportation based on convenience, commute length and cost.

SOURCE: IFEBP press release, www.ifebp.org.
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Exclude excepted benefits from group health plan definition for QSEHRAs, benefits association urges IRS

Mon, 01/29/2018 - 18:25

Employers offering plans that provide only excepted benefits should be eligible to establish Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or QSEHRAs, according to the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC). The ECFC recently sent a letter to the IRS that included comments on IRS Notice 2017-67, which contained guidance on QSEHRAs, and which advised that a group health plan includes a plan providing only excepted benefits described in Code Sec. 9831(c).
In order to establish a QSEHRA, an employer must not be an applicable large employer and must not offer a group health plan to any of its employees, as per Code Sec. 9831(d)(3)(B). The ECFC believes that existing rules proposed in Notice 2017-67 that would make an employer ineligible to offer a QSEHRA by virtue of the fact that it provides certain types of health coverage are needlessly broad and potentially harmful to small employers.

Excepted benefits.

The ECFC states that the IRS has the authority to interpret Code Sec. 9831(d)(3)(B) as stating that an employer offering a plan consisting only of excepted benefits is eligible to offer a QSEHRA. The ECFC theorizes that strict application of the broad definition of “group health plan” in Code Sec. 5000(b) would lead to perverse results, that were not intended by Congress. According to the ECFC, the prohibition on employer-provided health coverage was meant to be a way to ensure that an employer did not offer major medical coverage to some employees via a group plan, while at the same time letting high-risk employees purchase their coverage on the individual market, which would drive up market costs. Coverage for excepted benefits presents no such risk, says the ECFC.

HSA and FSA carryover amounts.

Counterproductive to policies behind consumer-directed health accounts, the ECFC contends, is an IRS provision in Notice 2017-67 that states employers would not be eligible to offer QSEHRAs if they provide current employees with access to amounts accumulated in a health reimbursement arrangement (HRAs) in a previous year or carryover amounts in flexible spending arrangements (FSAs). HRAs and FSAs are intended to make individuals better consumers of health care dollars, the ECFC points out, and the above provision in Notice 2017-67 would instead encourage employees to engage in unnecessary health care spending before a suspension occurs. A small employer who offers an FSA or HRA before a QSEHRA provision was available should not have employees lose access to accumulated health care funds, the ECFC recommends.

Proof of MEC.

ECFC also states in its letter that it is concerned about the administrative burden of providing proof of minimum essential coverage (MEC) under Code Sec. 9831(d)(2)(B)(ii), the details of which are provided in Notice 2017-56. According the Notice, proof must consist of either (1) a document from a third party showing that an employee has coverage, plus attestation by that employee that the coverage is MEC, or (2) attestation by the employee that they have coverage that is MEC, along with the date coverage began and the name of the coverage provider. Furthermore, the employee must attest, at each request for reimbursement, that the individual whose expense is being reimbursed continues to have coverage that is MEC. The ECFC is suggesting that attestation alone should be sufficient for QSEHRA reimbursements.

SOURCE: ECFC letter to IRS, January 15, 2018.
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Spencer’s Benefits NetNews – January 26, 2018

Fri, 01/26/2018 - 19:00
About this Newsletter

The Spencer’s Benefits Reports is a summary of the week’s news items posted
in the WHAT’S NEW pages of Spencer’s Benefits Reports
Online
.
For questions regarding this email service, contact Customer Service at (800)449-9525.

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  • Analysis: HIPAA privacy rule, 1/18 (502.-37)

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  • Analysis: Archer MSAs, 1/18 (358.-1)

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  • Analysis: Health reimbursement arrangements, 1/18 (357.-1)

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  • Analysis: Claims procedures for disability benefits, 1/18 (323.-9)

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  • News

    January 26, 2018

    Healthcare savings is predicted to be a bigger priority for consumers in 2018

    Although progress is slow, consumers are becoming more disciplined and value-conscious in healthcare spending and saving decisions, according to results from the 2017 Alegeus Healthcare Consumerism Index. The following five healthcare benefits industry trends have been highlighted by Alegeus as likely to be prevalent in 2018….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Annual wellness visits increase for adolescents

    The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been moderately successful in getting more adolescents to see doctors for annual wellness visits, but more needs to be done, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The study compared with adolescent frequency of annual wellness visits before and after the ACA went into effect in 2010. The results show that rates of preventive wellness visits for adolescents ages 10 to 17 increased from 41 percent pre-ACA to 48 percent post-ACA….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    January 25, 2018

    D.C. District Court backs off a little on wellness rulemaking order

    The Washington, D.C., federal district court that ordered the EEOC to file, by August 13, 2018, any new rulemaking that would incorporate the court’s opinion invalidating the agency’s wellness regulations under the ADA and GINA has backed off that deadline directive following the EEOC’s January 16, 2018, unopposed motion asking the court to do so. However, the court was unpersuaded by the EEOC’s argument that it should not retain jurisdiction of the case, AARP v. EEOC, following vacatur of the regulations and remand to the agency….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Nearly 25 percent of full-time employees do not receive benefits

    Nearly 25 percent of full-time employees in the U.S. do not receive benefits, such as health insurance, retirement savings plans, or paid vacation, from their employer, according to research from Clutch, a B2B research firm. The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey found that by not offering a benefits package, companies risk losing out on the top talent during the hiring process….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    January 24, 2018

    Congress moves to delay three ACA taxes

    The Senate voted on January 22 to delay three Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes: the medical device excise tax; the health insurance provider fee; and the excise tax on high-dollar health plans. The House followed suit and approved the measure, sending it to President Trump for his signature. The bill also restores funding to the IRS and the federal government, which lapsed after January 19. However, funding is temporary….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    EEOC adjusts Title VII, ADA, GINA notice-posting penalties from $534 to $545

    The EEOC has issued a final rule that adjusts from $534 to $545 the monetary penalty for violation of the notice-posting requirements in Title VII, the ADA, and GINA. The adjustment was made in accordance with the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015, which further amended the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment (FCPIA) Act of 1990….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    January 23, 2018

    Agency asks court to butt out of wellness incentive rulemaking

    The EEOC has filed an unopposed motion asking a federal district court in Washington, D.C., to reconsider in part its December 2017 ruling that sent the agency’s ADA and GINA wellness regulations back to the drawing board. The problem, according to the motion, is that the court went beyond its authority when, among other things, it retained jurisdiction after remand and vacatur of the regulations, and gave the EEOC a deadline for filing a proposed rulemaking that would revamp them….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    DB plan’s return to overfunded status dooms fiduciary breach claims

    Retirees who filed suit alleging fiduciary breach when their defined benefit plan became underfunded could not continue their claims under ERISA Secs. 502(a) (2) and 502(a) (3) after the plan subsequently became overfunded because they could not show they had suffered an injury, the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled. In addition, the court rejected the retirees’ attempts to recover attorney’s fees and costs, concluding the retirees failed to produce evidence that their lawsuit was a material contributing factor in the plan sponsor’s decision to make a voluntary contribution to the plan….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    January 22, 2018

    One-third of employers offer incentives to encourage alternative forms of transportation, IFEBP says

    One-third of employers offer incentives to employees who bike, walk, use mass transportation or carpool to work, according to results from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ Transportation Benefits and Incentives: 2017 Survey Results. Survey responses were received from 289 U.S. members of the International Foundation and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS)….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    PBGC final regs increase civil penalties for failure to provide certain notices for 2018

    The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) has issued final regulations that adjust the civil monetary penalties provided in ERISA Secs. 4071 and 4302 for inflation. The maximum daily penalty for failing to provide notices or other material information under ERISA Sec. 4071 has increased from $2,097 to $2,140, and the maximum penalty for failure to provide certain multiemployer plan notices under ERISA Sec. 4302 has risen from $279 to $285. The final regulations are effective January 12, 2018, and the increases apply to penalties assessed after January 12, 2018….

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Longtime Dow employee replaced after leave gets trial on FMLA retaliation claim

    Fri, 01/26/2018 - 19:00

    A marketing employee with decades of documented good performance and promotions at Dow, who was removed from her position for purported performance problems and replaced by a male employee (at a higher salary despite his lesser qualifications) after she took medical leave for an eye injury suffered while on business travel, raised triable issues on her FMLA retaliation and state-law disability and gender discrimination claims. Denying summary judgment, the federal district court in Michigan pointed to evidence of animosity by a manager with respect to the employee’s medical leave as well as to the timing of her “redeployment” to another position.

    Decades of positive reviews and promotions.

    Since May 1986, the employee worked in various positions with Dow, receiving promotions and positive reviews. By 2008, she was responsible for more than $1 billion in sales of various products to customers in aviation, electronics, and other markets in “Industrial Assembly and Maintenance” (IAM). She developed marketing plans and built business relationships, among other duties. In 2009, she was promoted to a new position as “business center analyst.”

    Pressured to return to IAM.

    In December 2013, a Dow manager asked the employee to take an IAM regional marketing role because she would be “perfect” and had “done this job for 10 years.” The employee was not interested but the manager persisted, lying that the employee’s job was being eliminated. The employee was reluctant in part because during her absence from the IAM, there was significant turnover with “inconsistent” leadership and customer complaints. She felt she was “starting over” but accepted the role. By January 2014, she completed a marketing plan and received “kudos.” Her review was generally positive but the manager included some criticisms that the employee found inconsistent with comments “telling me I’m her rock star.”

    Medical leave.

    Things went downhill after the employee was struck in the forehead by another airline customer’s bag while on a business trip. She was diagnosed with a detached retina and needed emergency surgery, scheduled for September 18, 2014. She informed the manager, who reacted angrily, said she should “postpone the surgery,” and expressed disbelief over the potential for blindness. The employee had surgery and worked from home while recovering. She logged 10 “sick days,” though FMLA leave was not mentioned.

    The employee returned to work on October 6 and testified that her return was “seamless.” She told the manager, when asked, that she could “absolutely” do her job, but the manager no longer met with her monthly as usual and she was no longer included in social events with the manager and other colleagues. She was also moved from a large office to a small cubicle, had her work frequently questioned, and was selected for a drug test. She requested a large computer monitor to see but the manager refused. In addition, in an October 10 group meeting while sitting across from the employee, the manager said “Do you see me here? Here I am. Sharon, I’m over here.”

    “Redeployment” and termination.

    Unbeknownst to the employee, within a couple of months after she returned, discussions were underway to replace her with a male employee from another Dow subsidiary. It was undisputed that he assumed all the employee’s former IAM duties and was given her same job title, though at a higher salary. None of the Dow supervisors wanted to claim responsibility for the decision, but November 2014 emails showed the employee’s direct manager and the manager’s superiors were involved.

    Emails also showed disagreement on when the employee should be told of her “redeployment.” A letter penned in mid-December, stated that her “skills are not currently aligned with the needs” of the regional position. In a December 30 email to HR, the employee’s manager stated that she had informed the employee, who responded that “she was confused because last December (’13) we offered her the role because she knew the job and the market the best. Now, just one year later, we are telling her that her skills do not align.” The employee testified that the manager also said that her “job had been eliminated” but the manager would do her a “favor” and let her be redeployed. The employee was put in a temporary position in another unit and allegedly “forced to retire.” Meanwhile, the employee challenged the negative comments on her review, complaining to HR in January 2015 that she had previously always received “raving reviews,” but HR found no evidence of discrimination and indicated she had been “bumped” from her position by an entirely different individual than the one who actually replaced her.

    FMLA retaliation.

    Denying Dow’s motion for summary judgment on the FMLA retaliation claim, the court found “abundant evidence” supporting her prima facie case. She took FMLA-qualifying leave for surgery to repair a detached retina, which if left untreated could cause blindness, and the evidence suggested that her leave triggered poor treatment at the hands of the manager who supervised her, among others. Dow’s contention that the eye injury was not “serious” and did not impair her ability to do her job was “groundless and unsupported by the record,” concluded the court, noting that she had no vision in one eye for weeks after surgery, could not drive effectively, and was on a travel restriction while recovering.

    Moreover, evidence of causation included that she was given her first-ever poor performance review after she returned from leave and her manager’s campaign to oust the employee was well underway within six weeks of her return. Also, the decision to replace her less than two and a half months after her return was based on a single poor review from the manager and none of the other purported decisionmakers did an independent review to verify the supposed abrupt decline in the employee’s performance, which supported a cat’s paw theory of liability. In sum, a jury could find the manager fabricated evidence of poor performance in retaliation for the employee’s medical leave, thereby violating the FMLA.

    On the other hand, the court concluded that the employee did not plead and had not established an FMLA interference claim. She asserted that Dow failed to offer her any FMLA leave but she failed to allege that she was denied any leave or otherwise harmed by the alleged notice failure.

    Workers’ comp retaliation.

    The court denied summary judgment on the employee’s workers’ comp retaliation claim, finding sufficient evidence that her manager instigated her redeployment because the manager resented the employee’s exercise of her right to seek necessary medical treatment for a work-related injury.

    Disability discrimination.

    The employee’s state-law disability discrimination claim would also advance to trial. Her testimony that she had no vision in her left eye for weeks after surgery, and that it took more than six months for her vision to return to near normal, adequately established that she suffered from a condition that substantially limited the major life activities of seeing and working, among others. And she also offered sufficient proof that her manager perceived her to have an impairment and mocked her limited vision. Further, her redeployment was an adverse employment action and she offered evidence of a causal connection to her disability for the same reasons discussed with respect to the FMLA retaliation claim.

    Sex discrimination.

    Summary judgment was also denied on the employee’s state-law gender discrimination claim based on evidence that her manager’s superior expedited the employee’s redeployment and favored the male candidate, who was paid over $40,000 more than the employee to do the same job, despite the admitted fact that he had no experience in IAM marketing before 2015 as compared to the employee’s more than a decade of experience. This, combined with evidence that the performance-based reasons for redeploying the employee were pretextual, was enough to raise triable issues.

    SOURCE: Schram v. Dow Corning Corp. (E.D. Mich), No. 16-14312, January 8, 2018.
    Visit our News Library to read more news stories.

    Large employers rank user experience over cost when choosing benefits administration platforms

    Thu, 01/25/2018 - 18:35

    Cost is not the primary driver for large employers that are assessing strategic health and welfare benefits administration platforms, according to a survey of Fortune 100 companies from brokerage Pacific Resources. In 2017, only 23.9 percent of employers cited cost as the most important factor when selecting a benefits administration platform (down from 64.4 percent in 2016). Instead, large employers prefer a “best-in-class” employee user experience (49 percent) and the ability to integrate benefits technology with human resource functions (37 percent).

    The survey also found the following:

    • Replacing cost as driving factors in benefits administration platform selection are administrative ease at 61.4 percent (up from 38 percent in 2016), and empowering employees to make informed benefits decisions at 51.5 percent (up from 24.4 percent in 2016).
    • Just over 83 percent of employers indicated that communication, employee education, and engagement are integral to their overall health and welfare benefits delivery strategy. In addition, most employers (88.8 percent) felt that guided decision support, cost calculators, and plan comparison tools were at least somewhat effective.
    • Outsourcing of employee eligibility and enrollment processes grew sharply in 2017, up 22 percentage points from 36 percent to 58 percent.
    • Employers are confident in and rely upon technology to deliver benefits, but less than half (45.5 percent) say they are likely to remain with their current benefits administration platform vendor, while 29.5 percent are unsure and 25 percent are likely to go out to bid to test the market. This may indicate a need for better technology and/or execution.

    “This year’s survey shows that employers want a more holistic approach to strategic benefits delivery. They want to integrate the right products, user-friendly technology, and clear communications so they can offer the right benefits to employees and their families,” said Sean Clem, Vice President of Technology, Marketplace and Engagement Solutions at Pacific Resources.

    SOURCE: www.pacresbenefits.com
    Visit our News Library to read more news stories.

    Notice sent to employee’s old address satisfied COBRA requirements

    Wed, 01/24/2018 - 18:44

    A COBRA notice sent to a former employee’s old address satisfied the requirements of ERISA Sec. 606 because the old address was the only one, at the time, that the former employer had on file, according to the U.S. District Court for the District of Ohio (DC-OH). The former employee’s COBRA claim was dismissed by the court, along with his claims for Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.

    Car accident.

    While David Foruria (Foruria) worked for Centerline Drivers, LLC (Centerline) as a commercial truck driver he was placed on assignment with BCT, Inc. (BCT), as a Class A truck driver. During his employment, both he and his wife had health coverage through a plan provided by Centerline. On August 14, 2015, Foruria was in a car accident unrelated to his employment, and, at his November 5, 2015 hearing, he admitted guilt, paid a fine, and planned to attend a class to remove points against his driving record. He notified BCT’s safety director of this development on the same day.

    Eye injury.

    On November 10, 2015, when Foruria strained to loosen a strap from a load of lumber he was delivering, his left eye bulged out of its socket. After seeing a retina specialist, he informed both his supervisor at BCT and Centerline’s senor operations manager that he intended to take FMLA leave for surgery, and to apply for worker’s compensation benefits, starting December 3, 2015.
    While Foruria was on leave, on December 10, 2015, both BCT and Centerline terminated his employment. Foruria and his wife lost their health coverage on December 31, 2015.

    Vehicle report.

    According to Centerline, it ran a Motor Vehicle Report on Foruria, in response to a prompt in its software, and Foruria’s traffic conviction from November 2015 showed up, along with a speeding citation. Because his record showed a major violation, Centerline determined that Foruria was no longer qualified to be a driver. Similarly, BCT decided that Foruria no longer met its safe driver standards because he now had 11 points for violations on his driving record.
    Foruria filed suit in district court, and Centerline, BCT, and the plan administrator filed motions for summary judgment, with Centerline arguing, among other things, that there had been no failure to notify Foruria of his COBRA rights, because it had sent notices to him and to his wife twice. The Forurias responded that, because Centerline had sent the notices to their physical address instead of to their P.O. box, it had failed to timely notify them of their COBRA benefits.

    Change of address.

    Foruria stated that he had filled out a change of address form changing his mailing address from his physical address to a P.O. box, and e-mailed it to Centerline on February 6, 2016. However, the court pointed out that Centerline had sent the first COBRA notice, via CONEXIS, on January 13, 2016, so that the physical address was the one the Centerline had on file at the time.
    The fact that Centerline had mailed the COBRA notices to Foruria’s last known address was sufficient for Centerline to be deemed to have complied with COBRA’s notice requirements, according to the court. There was apparently no obligation on Centerline’s part to re-send the notices once it received Foruria’s e-mail with the change of address. The court also advised that whether or not the Foruria’s received any of the notices was immaterial because the law only requires that an employer make a “good faith” effort to provide notification.
    The court observed that Centerline had sent a second set of COBRA notices via Fed-Ex in September 2016, upon commencement of Foruria’s lawsuit, to his physical address, to his P.O. box, and to his e-mail address, all of which Mrs. Foruria acknowledged receipt of during her deposition. The court added, however, that, because the first COBRA notices satisfied COBRA’s requirements, it did not need to address the second set of notices. The court then granted Centerline’s and the plan administrator’s motion for summary judgment on Foruria’s COBRA claim.
    The court dismissed Foruria’s claims in their entirety, finding that he was terminated for legitimate reasons and that his termination alone was not sufficient to establish infliction of emotional distress. The court also held that there had been no FMLA interference because Foruria had been terminated based on his loss of eligibility as a driver for both Centerline and BCT and that there had been no FMLA retaliation because Foruria had not claimed that he had opposed any practice made unlawful under the FMLA.

    SOURCE: Foruria v. Centerline Drivers, LLC, (DC ID), No. 1:16-cv-00328-EJL-REB, November 6, 2017.
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    Pension & Benefits NetNews – January 23, 2018

    Tue, 01/23/2018 - 19:11
     

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    Featured This Week

     

    Employee Benefits Management News

     

    • DOL issues annual adjustments to penalties for 2018
    • DOL proposed regulation would allow association health plans
    • ERISA final rule on new disability benefits claims procedures will apply April 1
    • Exclude excepted benefits from group health plan definition for QSEHRAs, benefits association urges IRS

    Pension Plan Guide News

     

    • IRS releases 2018 TE/GE employee plan procedures for issuing determination letters and letter rulings, and 2018 schedule of employee plan user fees
    • DOL adjusts ERISA civil monetary penalties for 2018 in final regs
    • IRS issues revised procedures for letter rulings, information letters, and determination letters

     

    Employee Benefits Management News

     

    DOL issues annual adjustments to penalties for 2018

    The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule to adjust the amounts of civil penalties assessed or enforced under its regulations. Those adjustment amounts pertain to regulations enforced by the DOL’s EBSA, Wage and Hour Division, OSHA, and other agencies. For the penalties, see ¶2112F.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    DOL proposed regulation would allow association health plans

    The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a proposed rule that would allow employers to join together as a single group to purchase insurance in the large group health insurance market. Employers could offer this employment-based health insurance via small business health plans, also known as association health plans (AHP). For more information, see ¶2112J.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    ERISA final rule on new disability benefits claims procedures will apply April 1

    The Department of Labor has announced that April 1, 2018, will be the applicability date for employee benefit plans to comply with a final rule under ERISA that will provide new procedural protections for workers dealing with plan fiduciaries and insurance providers who have denied their disability benefits claims. For more information, see ¶2112K.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Exclude excepted benefits from group health plan definition for QSEHRAs, benefits association urges IRS

    Employers offering plans that provide only excepted benefits should be eligible to establish Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements, or QSEHRAs, according to the Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC). The ECFC recently sent a letter to the IRS that included comments on IRS Notice 2017-67, which contained guidance on QSEHRAs, and which advised that a group health plan includes a plan providing only excepted benefits described in Code Sec. 9831(c). For more information see ¶2112Q.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    Pension Plan Guide News

     

    IRS releases 2018 TE/GE employee plan procedures for issuing determination letters and letter rulings, and 2018 schedule of employee plan user fees

    The IRS has updated its procedures for employee plans to obtain guidance on issues under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TE/GE) Employee Plans Rulings and Agreements Office. The procedure also details the types of advice available to taxpayers, and the manner in which such advice is requested and provided. Changes are made throughout the updated procedure to reflect the restructure of the pre-approved plan program previously announced in Rev. Proc. 2017-41 including provisions relating to opinion letter applications with respect to a plan’s third and subsequent six-year remedial amendment cycles. Certain opinion and advisory letter applications for defined contribution and defined benefit master and prototype (M&S) plans and volume submission (VS) plans that may still be submitted pursuant to Rev. Proc. 2015-36 with respect to cycles prior to the third six-year remedial amendment cycle are retained. For more information, see ¶17299v64.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    DOL adjusts ERISA civil monetary penalties for 2018 in final regs

    The Labor Department has issued final regulations to adjust the amounts of ERISA civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced under its regulations for inflation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) for 2018. The adjustments are pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015. The 2015 Act requires the DOL to annually adjust its civil money penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. The adjustments must be based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers. Accordingly, these final regulations set forth the Department’s 2018 annual adjustments for inflation to its civil monetary penalties (including ERISA civil monetary penalties), effective January 2, 2018. The increased penalty levels apply to any penalties assessed after January 2, 2018 for violations occurring after November 2, 2015. All of the penalty amounts currently in ERISA Reg. Sec. 2575.2 have increased. For more information, see ¶155E.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

    IRS issues revised procedures for letter rulings, information letters, and determination letters

    The IRS has updated the general procedures for the issuance of written guidance in the form of letter rulings, closing agreements, determination letters and information letters, and orally on issues under the jurisdiction of the Associate Chief Counsel (Corporate), Associate Chief Counsel (Financial Institutions and Products), Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax and Accounting), Associate Chief Counsel (International), Associate Chief Counsel (Passthroughs and Special Industries), Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration), and Associate Chief Counsel (Tax Exempt and Government Entities). In addition to minor revisions, notable changes include a clarification that a ruling can be revoked even if the subject of the ruling is a matter that the IRS no longer rules on and that pay.gov is now the exclusive means for making payments for user fees under this revenue procedure. For more information, see ¶17299v61.

            (Read Intelliconnect) »

     

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    Legislation would offer 12 weeks’ paid parental leave to Delaware state workers

    Tue, 01/23/2018 - 17:51

    Delaware Governor John Carney joined members of the General Assembly on January 9 to call for passage of legislation that would offer 12 weeks of paid parental leave to Delaware state workers. The legislation, House Bill 3, would permit state workers to care for their families without losing wages. The Governor announced his support of the measure as lawmakers returned to Dover for the second half of the 149th General Assembly.
    Under the legislation, full-time state employees, including teachers, would be eligible for 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave after one year of employment. New parents would be eligible for leave for up to one year after the birth of a child, or the adoption of a child under the age of six.
    Passage of House Bill 3 would make Delaware the sixth state to offer paid parental leave for state workers, according to the Governor’s office. Delaware would join Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia, and Washington D.C. in extending the benefit to public workers.
    “Delaware can and should lead on this issue,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation is about supporting our state workers-and creating a workplace that values family. Workers deserve time to spend with their families when their children are born, and this benefit will help us attract and keep good employees. Thank you to the state workers, members of the General Assembly, and advocates who are leading on this issue. I urge lawmakers to offer their full support for this legislation.”

    SOURCE: https://news.delaware.gov/2018/01/09/paid-parental-leave/
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    Survey shows 66 percent of companies offering more health and wellness programs than 5 years ago

    Mon, 01/22/2018 - 18:54

    In a recent survey from staffing firm OfficeTeam, two-thirds of HR managers (66 percent) reported their organization has expanded their health and wellness offerings in the past five years. And these efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: 89 percent of workers said their company is supportive of their wellness goals.
    HR managers were also asked to name the most innovative thing they’ve heard of a company doing to support employee health and wellness. Here are some of their responses:

    • Paying employees extra money if they don’t check work email while on vacation;
    • Offering onsite exercise, meditation, yoga and healthy cooking classes;
    • Providing free massages;
    • Having a nurse’s department in the office;
    • Giving workers fitness tracking devices; and
    • Offering onsite personal trainers.

    “Since professionals spend so much of their time at work, health and wellness programs aren’t just a nice to have — they are becoming a key factor in employee job satisfaction and well-being,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “Not offering these benefits can put a company at a disadvantage when it comes to staff recruitment and retention.”
    Additional findings include:

    • Employees cited food at office celebrations (30 percent) and snacks brought in by colleagues (22 percent) as the biggest obstacles to meeting health and wellness goals.
    • More than two in five professionals (44 percent) said they eat healthier when they work from home. Of all respondent groups, male employees (53 percent) and those ages 18 to 34 (55 percent) reported this most often.
    • Three in five professionals (60 percent) bring their lunch to the office. Women (73 percent) and workers ages 55 and older (75 percent) are most likely to pack their meals.
    • While more than half of employees (54 percent) are fans of the office candy jar, one-third (33 percent) have a love-hate relationship with it. Men (61 percent) and workers ages 18 to 34 (62 percent) are especially enthusiastic about this supply of sweets.

    SOURCE: OfficeTeam.
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    DOL adjusts ERISA civil monetary penalties for 2018 in final regs

    Mon, 01/22/2018 - 18:44

    The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued final regulations to adjust the amounts of ERISA civil monetary penalties assessed or enforced under its regulations for inflation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) for 2018. The adjustments are pursuant to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended by the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015.
    The 2015 Act requires the DOL to annually adjust its civil money penalty levels for inflation no later than January 15 of each year. The adjustments must be based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for all Urban Consumers. Accordingly, these final regulations set forth the Department’s 2018 annual adjustments for inflation to its civil monetary penalties (including ERISA civil monetary penalties), effective January 2, 2018. The increased penalty levels apply to any penalties assessed after January 2, 2018 for violations occurring after November 2, 2015.
    For 2018, the adjustments for ERISA civil monetary penalties are in the final regulations’ Appendix, which will not appear in the Code of Federal Regulations.
    All of the penalty amounts currently in ERISA Reg. Sec. 2575.2 have increased. For example, the failure or refusal to file Form 5500s as required by ERISA Sec. 104 and the failure of a multiemployer plan to certify endangered or critical status under ERISA Sec. 305(b)(3)(C) that is treated as a failure to file an annual report will increase from up to $2,097 per day to up to $2,140 per day.

    Source: 83 FR 7.
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