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New Federal Spending Bill Includes Extensive Pension Related Provisions

Both houses of Congress recently passed and President Obama recently signed comprehensive spending legislation that includes an amendment with the provisions of the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA) along with a number of other pension related provisions. Much attention has been given to a controversial provision in the MPRA that allows multiemployer pension fund trustees to reduce vested benefits for active workers as well as benefits being paid to current retirees. But the broader spending bill also includes a number of other important changes that will impact both multiemployer and single employer pension plans. Some of the changes that that Congress included in the legislation are detailed below.

ACA Outlook: What Will 2015 Hold for the Affordable Care Act and Employers?

For many employers, the effective date of the Affordable Care Act's "play-or-pay" mandate is only weeks away. The impending deadline comes amid questions about the future—and perhaps viability—of the law itself. Entering 2015, the ACA faces challenges both in a new Republican-controlled Congress and in the Supreme Court. Yet, the political and legal uncertainty surrounding the ACA should not deter employers from ensuring they are prepared for the "play-or-pay" mandate and other upcoming requirements.

"CRomnibus" Spending Bill Makes Significant Changes to Law Governing Multiemployer Pension Plans

The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014, part of the trillion-dollar government funding legislation (the so-called "CRomnibus" bill) approved by the House of Representatives on December 11, the Senate on December 13, and signed by President Obama on December 16, makes significant changes to the law governing multiemployer pension plans. Some of the most important changes are summarized below.

IRS Increases Standard Mileage Reimbursement Rate to $0.575

Please see the Chamber's post on the increase to the standard mileage rate. (Here). Most employers are concerned with the business reimbursement rate, which goes up to $0.575 per mile effective January 1, 2015.

Monthly Benefits Update - November 2014

The Supreme Court granted review in King v. Burwell, a Fourth Circuit case that upheld an IRS interpretation of statutory language in the Affordable Care Act that involves whether premium subsidies to purchase coverage should be available on federally facilitated ACA exchanges. Challengers argue that the IRS interpreted the ACA’s premium subsidy language too broadly; the IRS’s interpretation of the statute would limit the subsidy scheme only to exchanges established by a state. Many states have not established their own exchanges, which makes this a very significant issue.

Ninth Circuit Rules Assignee Health Care Providers May Sue Health Plans Under ERISA for Payment of Benefits

In an opinion with mixed implications for both insurers and health care providers, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that when plan beneficiaries assign their claims for payment of benefits to their health care provider, the provider has standing to sue the health plan under ERISA. Importantly, however, the court also held in Spinedex Physical Therapy v. United Healthcare of Arizona, Inc. No. 12-17604, 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 21132 (9th Cir. Nov. 5, 2014) that anti-assignment provisions in health plans are enforceable. Additionally, the court held that, as written, the assignments only encompassed claims for benefits, not for breach of fiduciary duty.

Ebola Outbreak Prompts HHS Bulletin on Application of HIPAA During Emergencies.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes nationwide standards “to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.” HIPAA also provides to patients the right to examine and obtain a copy of health records and to request corrections.

Ebola outbreak prompts HHS Bulletin on application of HIPAA during emergencies.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes nation-wide standards “to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically.” HIPAA also provides to patients the right to examine and obtain a copy of health records, and to request corrections.

New ACA Guidance Permits Employer-Initiated Measurement Period Changes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently released Affordable Care Act (ACA) guidance addressing how to determine full-time status when an employee’s measurement period changes. The guidance, IRS Notice 2014-49, introduces a proposed method for applying the look-back measurement period in two scenarios. The first one involves a transfer of employment within the same applicable large employer (ALE) between two positions with different look-back measurement periods. In the second scenario, the employer changes the applicable look-back measurement period for an entire employee classification group. The final regulations previously released addressed movement from a look-back measurement period method to the monthly measurement method (and vice versa), but did not clarify how to apply the look-back measurement period methodology in either of these two cases.

ACA Fees, and Forms, and Delays, Oh My!

In the latest round of delays under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Employee Benefits Security Administration recently announced that the deadline for health plans to provide enrollment information to the transitional reinsurance program has been extended to December 5, 2014.