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Departments Issue Final Rule Implementing Certain No Surprises Act Provisions

On August 19, 2022, the US Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and Treasury posted a final rule revising portions of the federal No Surprises Act (NSA). Generally, the rule finalizes three aspects of the two-part interim final rule that the Departments published along with the Office of Personnel Management in 2021. First, the final rule expands the information about the qualifying payment amount (QPA) that plans and issuers (collectively, payers) must disclose to providers and facilities (collectively, providers). Second, it reinterprets the provisions of the NSA that govern the determination of the appropriate out-of-network rate through the federal independent dispute resolution (IDR) process, and prescribes how certified IDR entities are to weigh the QPA and other considerations when selecting one of the parties’ offers. The certified IDR entity must now consider the QPA first, and then give weight to other considerations only if those other considerations are not accounted for in the QPA. Third, the final rule expands the information that a certified IDR entity must provide in its written payment determination to include a statement explaining why the QPA did not already account for other considerations weighed by the IDR entity.

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Responsible Financial Innovation Act: Proposed Tax and Reporting for Digital Assets

On June 7, 2022, Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the highly anticipated Responsible Financial Innovation Act (the bill), which sets out to create the first complete regulatory and bipartisan framework for digital assets. The bill is intended to establish some legal clarity for regulators and the industry and to protect consumers by providing a range of disclosures and clarifying settlement conditions and rights over digital ownership. The bill would also treat all digital assets that are not treated as securities as commodities regulated by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. This article discusses key tax considerations raised by the bill concerning taxation and reporting requirements for participants in the digital asset industry.

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Safe Harbor Issued for Reporting Healthcare Prices Under Transparency Rules

The US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury recently released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding the implementation of certain reporting provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The FAQs were released to provide clarity on the required drug price disclosures identified in the Transparency in Coverage final rule (the Rule) issued on October 29, 2020. As described in this SHRM article, employers are responsible for making sure that these disclosures are ready and available.

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

US employers have grown increasingly interested in identifying incentives that increase COVID-19 vaccination among employees. The US Departments of Labor, Treasury and Human and Human Services recently issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs. In this Employee Benefit Plan Review article, McDermott Partner Judith Wethall and McDermott Associate Sarah G. Raaii outline what this HIPPA guidance means for employers.

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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 [...]

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Agencies Clarify How Employers Can Charge COVID-19 Vaccine Premium Incentives

On October 4, 2021, the US Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services issued guidance regarding the application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) wellness rules to vaccine-related premium surcharges and discounts, clarifying that employers may charge vaccine premium incentives if they adhere to the requirements of activity-only health-contingent programs.

Employers have grown more interested in exploring incentives designed to increase COVID-19 vaccination rates among employees. Some employers have announced plans to charge unvaccinated employees higher contributions for health coverage than vaccinated employees, while some have been considering other options, such as excluding coverage for COVID-related illnesses, charging higher cost-sharing for COVID-19-related illnesses and offering more generous plan options to employees who are vaccinated.

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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.

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Treasury/IRS Release Proposed Regulations on Section 4960 Excise Tax

The US Department of the Treasury has released long-expected proposed regulations regarding the section 4960 excise tax on certain remuneration or separation amounts paid to the five highest paid employees of a tax-exempt organization. The new proposed regulations continue the tough approach previously taken on section 4960 issues, while also providing some new exceptions and important clarifications.

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DOL Issues Final Electronic Disclosure Rule for Retirement Plans

Under the recently published final rule issued by the US Department of Labor, retirement plan administrators can choose to deliver required disclosures electronically by complying with the conditions of a new safe harbor. The final rule represents an opportunity for retirement plans to save costs and enhance participant access to disclosure documents.

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