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Megan Mardy advises companies on a wide variety of health and welfare and retirement benefits issues. She has extensive experience with the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Internal Revenue Code and other federal laws affecting group health and retirement plans. Read Megan Mardy's full bio.

The US Department of Labor published a final rule that makes it easier for a group or association of employers to act as a single “employer” sponsor of an Association Health Plan under ERISA. By creating an opportunity for small employers and self-employed individuals to take advantage of the economies of scale that are usually enjoyed by large employers, the final rule is intended to expand access to affordable health care.

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Beginning April 1, 2018, new disability claim regulations may apply to some executive compensation arrangements. Given this pending regulatory deadline, employers need to analyze which of their executive compensation arrangements may be subject to the enhanced requirements for disability claims review.

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After some speculation about a delay in implementation of the final rules on claims adjudication of disability claims under welfare and retirement plans (the Final Rule), the US Department of Labor (DOL) confirmed that the Final Rule will be applicable beginning April 1, 2018. McDermott’s article detailing the new requirements in the Final Rule can be found here. A disability welfare or retirement benefit claim, as well as claims under certain executive compensation arrangements, severance plans and other payment plans subject to ERISA’s claims procedures, will be subject to the Final Rule if the benefit is conditioned upon a claimant’s disability, and the claims adjudicator must make a determination of disability in order to decide the claim. However, if a plan links the finding of disability to a determination made by a party other than the plan (e.g., a finding made under the employer’s long-term disability plan or a determination of disability made by the Social Security Administration), then the special rules for disability claims are not applicable to a claim for benefits under such plan.

Plan sponsors and administrators should review retirement, welfare, executive compensation and severance plans to determine whether such benefits are subject to the Final Rule’s additional requirements. Any language detailing claim procedures in plan documents and summary plan descriptions should be updated, and disability claim and appeal administrative practices and procedures, as well as disability claim and appeal notices should be revised to comply with the Final Rule.

The IRS has taken actions indicating that employer mandate penalties under the ACA are about to be enforced. The recently updated Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act includes the section, “Making an Employer Shared Responsibility Payment,” which expands specifically upon the soon-to-be-issued Letter 226J and what that will include. Continue Reading.

In October 2016, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sued the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia seeking an injunction against the latest iteration of wellness program regulations. The final EEOC regulations issued last year offer employers a roadmap for offering employee wellness programs that pass muster as “voluntary” examinations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). In response, AARP argued that the EEOC failed to adequately justify the new rules and abused its regulatory power by reversing course on its long-standing position against wellness programs.

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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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The US Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Security Administration recently released final rules on the adjudication of disability claims under welfare and retirement plans (the Final Rule). The purpose of the Final Rule is to add procedural protections and safeguards that are aimed at providing a full and fair claims review process for disability benefit claims, similar to those applicable to group health plans under the Affordable Care Act. The Final Rule also contains helpful guidance for claims and appeals procedures under all types of ERISA plans.

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