Adding Value to Your Organization: Benefits Best Practices to Avoid Common Mistakes

In a recent webinar, Jake Mattinson and Sarah Raaii discussed the practices that benefits professionals can adopt to add value to their organizations and avoid common mistakes.  Jake and Sarah discussed recommended practices for ERISA benefit claims and inquiries, how to review plan compensation definitions and payroll codes, best practices for corrections using the Voluntary Fiduciary Correction Program (VFCP), and the importance of document retention. The webinar is part of the larger Benefits Emerging Leaders Working Group, a group that meets to discuss key benefit issues and trends and provides networking opportunities aimed at connecting tomorrow’s benefit leaders with a broad network of professionals.

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OIG Reports More than $731 Million in Inappropriate Medicare Meaningful Use Payments

Amanda Enyeart and Lisa Schmitz Mazur wrote this bylined article explaining how the HHS Office of Inspector General used a survey by the Electronic Health Records (EHR) Incentive Program run by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to conclude that CMS made $729 million in inappropriate EHR incentive payments to physicians out of some $6 billion in such payments during the review period.

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M&A Webinar Series Part II: The Due Diligence Process

There are many different types of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) transactions, making it very important to understand the overall deal structure and process. Andrew C. Liazos presented “Mergers and Acquisitions Webinar Series Part 2: The Due Diligence Process” for the CLE Program as part of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits and the American College of Employee Benefits Counsel. He discussed the overall architecture of a deal, including the parties involved, what drives the deal structure, where to get data, price negotiations and more. The presentation focused on specific M&A areas including pension, other retirement and executive benefits.

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Last but Not Least, Texas Takes the Final Steps to Embrace Telemedicine

As one of the last states to retain highly restrictive (and arguably anti-competitive) telemedicine practice standards, health care providers, regulatory boards, technology companies, payors and other stakeholders have been actively monitoring Texas’ approach to telemedicine regulation and the related Teladoc case. Senate Bill 1107, a bill that significantly eases the delivery of care via telemedicine in the state of Texas, was passed on May 18 and signed into law by Governor Abbott on May 30.

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ESOPs and Artisan Distilling

Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs) are becoming a popular—and tax effective—way for companies to manage succession planning. When structured properly an ESOP can provide huge financial benefits to companies and their employees alike. There have been several craft brewers who have taken advantage of the ESOP structure in the past year, and we expect this trend to pique the interest of craft distilleries. In this article, originally published in Artisan Spirit, Marc E. Sorini and Emily Rickard explore at a very high level some of the issues involved with starting and maintaining a craft distillery ESOP.

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PCORI Fee Due by July 31, 2017

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to advance comparative clinical effectiveness research. The PCORI fee is assessed on issuers of health insurance policies and sponsors of self-insured health plans. The fees are calculated using the average number of lives covered under the policy or plan, and the applicable dollar amount for that policy or plan year. Although there is recent discussion in the press about the repeal and replacement of the ACA, the PCORI fee has not currently been repealed. The fee is indexed for future years, and is scheduled to end in 2019.

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Senate Republicans Unveil ACA Repeal Bill

Last week, Senate Republicans unveiled draft legislation to move toward repealing portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The draft health care bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, was hatched behind closed doors without public committee hearings or debate, in response to concerns raised by the House’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed by the slimmest of margins on May 4, 2017. The bill faces an uphill battle as several Republican senators have already come out in opposition to the draft bill, conservatives have criticized the bill not going far enough to repeal the ACA and moderates are uneasy about the impact severe cutbacks to the Medicaid system will have on their constituents. Senator Mitch McConnell has vowed to bring the draft bill to a vote this week before Congress recesses for the Fourth of July holiday.

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Proposed Changes to § 409a Regulations: Greater Clarity and Better Planning Alternatives

Andrew Liazos and Allison Wilkerson wrote this bylined article on Tax Code Section 409A’s deferral and payment requirements for nonqualified deferred com­pensation plans. Recent IRS Section 409A guidance makes “several helpful changes that employers will want to consider and take advantage of,” the authors wrote, and they warned employers that they ignore final IRS “at their peril…in light of the more limited ability to correct errors.”

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Originally published in The Practical Tax Lawyer, Spring 2017

The Quandary of Publicly-Traded Employer Stock in a 401(k) Plan

Offering employer stock in a 401(k) plan investment lineup can seem like a win-win situation. It can enable employees to become company owners—real, skin-in-the-game, participants in their employer’s economic future—through a simple deferral election. The U.S. Supreme Court has even recognized the value of employer stock funds, confirming that Congress sought to encourage their creation through provisions and standards contained in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”).

However, in the wake of a series of high-profile employee lawsuits seeking recovery against Enron, Lehman Brothers, and other employers for losses from 401(k) investments in employer stock, such funds can—almost as easily—seem a recipe for disaster. This article examines the quandary that employer stock funds pose for plan sponsors, who must navigate ERISA’s careful balance of (1) ensuring fair and prompt enforcement of employee rights under employer-provided retirement plans while (2) encouraging employer creation of these plans.

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Originally published in Bloomberg Law, May 25, 2017

Legally Mandated Benefit Plan Changes Still Require Bargaining

A unanimous panel of the NLRB, including Chairman Philip A. Miscimarra, held that ACA mandates do not relieve an employer of its duty to bargain with a union representing its employees regarding certain health insurance benefit plan changes.

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