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Employers on Hook for Mental Health Parity Despite New Target

The US Department of Labor (DOL) is casting a skeptical guy on health insurance companies’ inconsistent coverage of mental health and substance use disorder benefits. The DOL recently commenced litigation against an insurer to require mental health and substance use disorder coverage be on par with regular physical care.

In an article in Bloomberg Law, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall said employers are usually unaware about these violations. Self-funded employers typically simply accept whatever their third-party administrator (TPA) is offering.

“Sometimes a TPA does things behind the scenes that might violate mental health parity and an employer might not even know it,” Wethall said.

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Judge Kills the Last Trump H-1B Visa Rule Left Standing

International students will have an easier time obtaining H-1B status after a federal judge ended a Trump administration regulation that made the process more difficult.

According to this Forbes article, Trump administration officials increased H-1B denial rates via memos and policies that were later ruled unlawful. McDermott Partner Paul Hughes—who represented plaintiffs in an complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief—said a Trump administration move to end H-1B via lottery violated the law.

Read more here.




$4 Billion in Pension Payments Returned

Even though it is the employer’s responsibility to track down former employees and let them know of leftover retirement benefits, it doesn’t always work out that way. In recent years, the US Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration has demanded companies improve their methods for finding former workers.

In this article published by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, McDermott Partner Jeffrey M. Holdvogt said regulators “put a lot of pressure, in a good sense, on plan administrators to really up their games.” Holdvogt shared his comments in a May webinar hosted by the Pension Action Center at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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Business Groups Want to Have a Say in Biden’s Vaccine Requirement

While many of the United States’ largest corporations don’t oppose the Biden administration’s vaccine requirements for many employers, those companies say many of their questions about the administration’s rule have gone unanswered. The new rule requires employers with more than 100 employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or require weekly testing of employees.

In an article published in The Hill, McDermott Partner Michelle Strowhiro said some employers may decide to scrap the testing alternative altogether.

“Administratively, it’s going to be quite burdensome for employers, especially large employers with hundreds or thousands of employees, to track weekly the testing results for employees,” Strowhiro said.

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Current Trends in DOL and IRS Investigations

What can employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) managers due to prepare an effective record in advance of a potential US Department of Labor or Internal Revenue Service investigation? McDermott Partner Allison Wilkerson presented on this topic during The ESOP Association‘s TEA National 2021 Conference.

Access the slides.




Red Tape, Legal Risk Douse Fervor for Surcharges on Unvaccinated

Companies curious about a major airline’s unvaccinated healthcare premium surcharge are discovering that it may be too complex to copy. The airline recently announced that unvaccinated employees enrolled in the company’s health plan would see a $200 monthly surcharge. In this Bloomberg Law article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall said the compliance hurdles are “tricky and kind of dilute the message.”

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Requirements Related to Surprise Billing: Policy Update

The US Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management issued an Interim Final Rule with comment implementing portions of the No Surprises Act, legislation enacted in December 2020 that bars surprise billing beginning January 1, 2022. Under the law, payers and providers (including hospitals, facilities, individual practitioners and air ambulance providers) are prohibited from billing patients more than in-network cost-sharing amounts in emergency and non-emergency circumstances. This IFR establishes regulations defining the payment methodology. The regulation proposes the methodology payers must use to determine cost sharing; the information payers must share with out-of-network providers; the process for submitting and receiving consumer complaints; and the format and details of the notice and consent requirements.

Read more here.




COVID-19 Laws and Regulations: A Midyear Update

As employers navigate evolving COVID-19 state and federal rules, workplaces will have to stay vigilant about changes throughout the second half of 2021. These include changes to mask mandates, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard and the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act.

Recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, for example, confirmed what employment lawyers had already been counseling businesses to do, according to McDermott partner Carole A. Spink in a recent Law360 article.

“The guidance was important because it did clarify that employers can provide incentives for voluntary programs. [There] was a big open question about, ‘Am I going to get into trouble because I’m trying to incentivize people to be vaccinated?'”

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