In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published December 2, 2022 (the Proposed Rule), the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed long-awaited changes to the regulations protecting the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records under Part 2 of Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations (42 CFR Part 2, or Part 2). Specifically, the Proposed Rule would implement provisions of Section 3221 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which required HHS to align Part 2 with certain provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and to make certain changes to the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices, the form given to patients and plan members that describes patient privacy rights, covered entity duties, and the covered entity’s uses and disclosures of protected health information (PHI).
On September 26, 2022, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) extended the amendment deadline for non-governmental qualified retirement plans, plans covered under Section 403(b) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code) and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). The extensions included many of the amendment deadlines under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act), the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 (Miners Act), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). See our prior On the Subject about this earlier extension. Missing from this earlier IRS extension was a postponement of deadlines relating to certain CARES Act provisions, in particular those related to COVID-related distributions and loan relief, as well as deadlines relating to disaster-related loans or distributions under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Disaster Act).
NEW IRS EXTENSION
IRS Notice 2022-45 provides a new extension to December 31, 2025, of the special amendment deadlines included in Section 302 of the Disaster Act and in Section 2022 of the CARES Act.
- Section 2022 of the CARES Act provided for COVID-related distributions, increased loan amounts and delayed loan repayments.
- Section 302 of the Disaster Act provided favorable tax treatment for certain disaster-related loans or distributions.
Previously, amendments for these CARES Act and Disaster Act provisions would have been required by the end of the 2022 plan year. The Notice also clarifies that CARES Act and Disaster Act amendments adopted before the new December 31, 2025, deadline will not cause the plan to fail to satisfy the anti-cutback requirements of Code Section 411(d)(6) or of Section 204(g) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
The extension applies to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), to qualified plans that are not governmental plans and to Code Section 403(b) plans that are not maintained by a public school. The amendment deadlines for Code Section 403(b) plans maintained by a public school, and for governmental plans (including plans covered by Code Section 457(b)), remain slightly different.
Most tax-qualified retirement plans and Code Section 403(b) plans that elected to offer COVID-related distributions and loan relief can now wait to adopt changes required under the CARES Act, SECURE Act, MINERS Act or Disaster Act in a single amendment no later than December 31, 2025.
Save It for a Rainy Day: Recent Amendment Extensions for Qualified Retirement Plans, 403(b) Plans and Individual Retirement Accounts
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued needed relief to extend some amendment deadlines for non-governmental qualified retirement plans and 403(b) plans, and for individual retirement accounts (IRAs) under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act), the Bipartisan American Miners Act of 2019 (Miners Act), and certain provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) until December 31, 2025. However, the IRS did not provide relief for all required amendments for the 2022 plan year. Plan sponsors that elected to offer COVID-related distributions or loan relief (or utilized disaster-related relief for loans or distributions under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020) still need to amend their plans by the end of 2022 plan year.
Are Out-of-Pocket Costs on Their Way Out? At-Home COVID-19 Testing and Expanded Preventative Healthcare for Women and Children
In response to a directive from the White House, based on provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that eliminated cost sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, three federal government departments—the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the US Department of Labor (Labor) and the US Department of the Treasury (Treasury)—issued guidance in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that states group health plans and insurers must also cover over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic testing. This guidance is effective beginning January 15, 2022.
In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) updated the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) comprehensive preventive care and screening guidelines for women and children to cover additional services and supplies without a copay or deductible, effective 2023.
COVID-19 AT-HOME TESTING COVERAGE
On January 10, 2022, HHS, Labor and the Treasury together issued FAQs that elaborated on prior guidance and indicated that group health plans and insurers are required to cover OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests without cost sharing. Because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases resulting from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the guidance will continue for the duration of the public emergency.
Most consumers with private health coverage will be able to buy OTC COVID-19 tests and either have the cost covered upfront or be reimbursed later by submitting a claim to their health plan. The new requirement only applies to “diagnostic” OTC COVID-19 testing. It does not include the treatment of COVID-19 or testing that is for employment purposes.
The guidance provides that health plans and insurers must cover at least eight OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests per covered individual per a 30-day period. Insurers will be able to set up networks of preferred suppliers to provide OTC COVID-19 tests directly to participants without upfront costs. Insurers must still reimburse OTC COVID-19 tests purchased outside the direct coverage program, however, the reimbursable amount is limited to $12 per test if the health plan also provides tests through its preferred pharmacy network and through a direct-to-consumer shipping program without upfront costs.
Besides the risk of increasing the average cost of OTC COVID-19 tests, the new initiative raises concerns over fraud and abuse. For health plans and insurers to protect themselves, the FAQs provide several examples of permissible activities to prevent fraud and abuse, like requiring proof of purchase or an attestation that the test was purchased for proper purposes (i.e., is being used by the covered individual, is not being reimbursed by another source, is not being resold and is not for employment purposes).
HRSA UPDATES ACA PREVENTIVE HEALTHCARE GUIDELINES
On January 11, 2022, HRSA announced that it updated the preventive health and screening guidelines for women, infants, children and adolescents. Under the ACA, certain group health plans and insurers must provide coverage with no out-of-pocket costs for preventive health services within these HRSA-endorsed comprehensive guidelines.
HRSA accepted the updates recommended by the Women’s Preventative [...]
Employment law continues to evolve, and it can be a challenge amid an ever-changing landscape of local employment laws for human resources executives and employment counsel at multinational businesses to maintain a consistent global corporate culture.
McDermott’s Global Employment Law Update brings you the key highlights from across Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin and North America. Developed in collaboration with peer firms operating in more than 50 countries, this resource guide contains summaries of the laws and significant court decisions that impacted employers and employees all over the world. It includes:
- COVID-19 legislative updates
- Remote work and telecommuting policies
- Data privacy protections
- Minimum wage and salary compensation updates
- Changes to labor protection laws
- Sexual harassment modifications
Last month, McDermott partner Jeffrey M. Holdvogt was a speaker at the ERIC March Financial Wellness Huddle on the topic of Recent Developments in Employer Student Loan Repayment Benefits. His presentation covered:
- Student loan repayment benefits
- Employer options for student loan benefits
- CARES Act Educational Assistance Program
- Converting unused PTO funds to student loan debt relief
- Retirement plan options
On February 18, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued clarifying guidance on the temporary special rules for health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs) and dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs). This provides welcome guidance regarding the application of cafeteria plan relief provided by the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA).
On March 10, 2021, US Congress finalized and passed the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARPA), the latest COVID-19 relief package that largely tracks President Joe Biden’s initial $1.9 trillion proposal. The ARPA extends unemployment insurance benefits and provides direct $1,400 stimulus payments to qualifying Americans, but it also makes several important health policy-related changes. These include providing funding for vaccine distribution and testing to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, making policy adjustments to the Medicaid program, facilitating health insurance coverage and providing more money for healthcare providers. The final bill also makes two narrowly focused technical Medicare payment changes.
This summary highlights notable health policy provisions of the final bill.
US President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) on March 11, 2021. ARPA follows from weeks of negotiations in Congress and attempts to facilitate the country’s recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Included in ARPA are several provisions that impact employers, including provisions on paid leave, reduced hours and employee retention credits. Employers should be mindful of the employment-specific changes put into effect by ARPA and accordingly update their policies and practices to comply with these changes.
The seismic, virtually overnight transformation of healthcare delivery as a result of the pandemic has flung open doors to innovation, as a diverse cross-section of digital health and life sciences stakeholders mobilize crisis resources; adjust operations for enhanced screening, sanitization and social distancing measures; harness telehealth capabilities to deliver healthcare remotely; and identify opportunities for smarter, better healthcare going forward.
Writing for The US-Israel Legal Review, partners from McDermott’s Health practice highlight the challenges and opportunities that digital health and life sciences operators and investors should consider as the industry charts a course through the post-pandemic changed healthcare landscape.