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Workplace Speech Policies Limit Legal and PR Risks

The rules and regulations on workplace and employee speech, interpretation and enforcement are rapidly changing. Companies must carefully factor legal and business implications into their strategy to reach the desired outcomes for their customers, workforce and brand.

In this Law360 article, Michael Sheehan, Michelle Strowhiro and Alexander Randolph examine important considerations for companies as they navigate the complexities of workplace and employee speech.

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New Proposed Rules Aim to Enhance Healthcare Accessibility for People With Disabilities

The US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Justice recently published new proposed rules that update and create various requirements under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. What are some of the biggest changes?

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The MHPAEA Proposed Rule: ‘Meaningful Benefits’ and the ‘Scope of Services’

This post continues our consideration of comments submitted in response to proposed regulations under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). Our previous MHPAEA content is available here.

Under current law, if a plan provides any mental health or substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits in any classification of benefits, benefits for that condition or use disorder must be provided in every classification in which medical/surgical (M/S) benefits are provided. Classifications for this purpose include inpatient, in-network; inpatient, out-of-network; outpatient, in-network; outpatient, out-of-network; emergency care; and prescription drugs. The proposed regulations modify this standard by providing that a plan does not provide benefits for MH/SUD benefits in every classification in which M/S benefits are provided unless the plan provides meaningful benefits for treatment for the condition or disorder in each such classification “as determined in comparison to the benefits provided for medical/surgical conditions in the classification.”

The term “meaningful benefits” is nowhere defined. The regulators nevertheless “recognize that the proposal to require meaningful benefits [ ] is related to scope of services.” “Scope of services” for this purpose generally refers to the types of treatments and treatment settings that are covered by a group health plan or health insurance issuer. The preamble to the proposed regulation invites comments on how the meaningful benefits requirement “would interact with the approach related to scope of services adopted under the 2013 final regulations.” The preamble of the 2013 final regulations addressed an issue characterized as ‘‘scope of services’’ or ‘‘continuum of care’’ but otherwise failed to provide any substance. Two examples from the proposed regulations do, however, give us a sense of what the regulators have in mind.

  • A plan that generally covers treatment for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a mental health condition, and covers outpatient, out-of-network developmental evaluations for ASD but excludes all other benefits for outpatient treatment for ASD, including applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, when provided on an out-of-network basis. (ABA therapy is one of the primary treatments for ASD in children.) The plan generally covers the full range of outpatient treatments and treatment settings for M/S conditions and procedures when provided on an out-of-network basis. The plan in this example violates the applicable parity standards.
  • In another example, a plan generally covers diagnosis and treatment for eating disorders, a mental health condition, but specifically excludes coverage for nutrition counseling to treat eating disorders, including in the outpatient, in-network classification. Nutrition counseling is one of the primary treatments for eating disorders. The plan generally provides benefits for the primary treatments for medical conditions and surgical procedures in the outpatient, in-network classification. The exclusion of coverage for nutrition counseling for eating disorders results in the plan failing to provide meaningful benefits for the treatment of eating disorders in the outpatient, in-network classification, as determined in comparison to the benefits provided for M/S conditions in the classification. Therefore, the plan violates the proposed rules.

Notably, the newly proposed meaningful benefits requirement is separate from, [...]

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New Rules Make Tracking Long-Term, Part-Time Employee Service a Full-Time Job

Under the SECURE Act and the SECURE 2.0 Act, employers must provide so-called long-term, part-time employees – i.e., those who complete at least 500 hours of service in three consecutive years (reduced to two years in 2025) and are at least 21 years old – the opportunity to make elective deferrals under their 401(k) plans and, beginning in 2025, their 403(b) plans.

Most employers with impacted plans reviewed their eligibility-tracking processes some time ago in anticipation of the initial effective date of the new rule. However, with that new rule now effective – and last-minute guidance now available – it is important for employers to review those processes to determine if further changes are needed or desired.

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This Is Not a Test! IRS Confirms Long-Term, Part-Time Employees Excludible From Certain Nondiscrimination Testing

Under the SECURE Act and the SECURE 2.0 Act, employers must provide long-term, part-time employees the opportunity to make elective deferrals under their 401(k) plans and, beginning in 2025, their 403(b) plans. When this occurs, certain special rules apply to such employees that impact whether they must be included in annual nondiscrimination testing or receive required top-heavy vesting and benefits. As a result, it is important for employers to understand these requirements, as they may impact how annual testing is performed and the results.

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When It Comes to Vesting, IRS Says Once a Long-Term, Part-Time Employee, Always a Long-Term, Part-Time Employee

Under the SECURE Act and the SECURE 2.0 Act, employers must provide long-term, part-time employees – i.e., employees who complete at least 500 hours of service in three consecutive years (reduced to two years in 2025) and are at least 21 years old – the opportunity to make elective deferrals under their 401(k) plans and, beginning in 2025, their 403(b) plans. However, long-term, part-time employees are not required to be eligible for employer matching or profit-sharing contributions until they satisfy the regular plan rules. Despite this fact, one of the most salient issues surrounding the implementation of the new rule is how it impacts – and complicates – tracking when employees become vested in such contributions.

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IRS Confirms Same Hours-Counting Rules Still Add Up for Long-Term, Part-Time Employees

Following the SECURE Act and the SECURE 2.0 Act, employers must now offer employees who work at least 500 hours within three (reduced to two beginning January 1, 2025) consecutive 12-month periods an opportunity to make elective deferrals to their 401(k) plans and, beginning in 2025, their 403(b) plans. This new long-term, part-time employee rule modifies rules that previously allowed employers to exclude employees from plan participation until the employees completed 1,000 hours of service in a single 12-month measurement period.

In doing so, the new rule has generated questions about whether all employers will now be required to track the actual hours all employees work to ensure compliance with this rule. The recently proposed regulations released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) confirm, in what should be a relief to many employers, that the answer is no. Employers do not need to change how they count periods of service toward plan eligibility. However, employers should revisit how such service is currently counted under their plans and consider the impact that may have on if and how the long-term, part-time employee rules apply.

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2024: The Year of the Telehealth Cliff

What does December 31, 2024, mean to you? New Year’s Eve? Post-2024 election? Too far away to know?

Our answer: December 31, 2024, is when we will go over a “telehealth cliff” if Congress fails to act before that date, directly impacting care and access for Medicare beneficiaries. What is this telehealth cliff?

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