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HATFA Extends MAP-21 Pension Funding Stabilization

President Obama recently signed into law the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2014 (“HATFA”), which extends the pension smoothing provisions included in the 2012 Moving Ahead for Progress Act for the 21st Century (“MAP-21”). MAP-21 amended Section 430 of the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) to set interest rates for pension plan funding valuations at a range around the 25-year average of historical interest rates. Under MAP-21, the range was between 90% and 110% of the 25-year average for 2012, and would gradually expand to be between 70% and 130% in 2016. Under HATFA, the 90% and 110% range is extended for five years through 2017, after which the range expands to be between 70% and 130% in 2021.

Identify Yourself! Deadline for Health Plan Identifiers is Fast Approaching

One of the lesser-known health plan requirements adopted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has an initial deadline that is fast approaching, and most employers will need to take action to ensure that their group health plans remain in compliance. As discussed below, the ACA built upon an earlier directive in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to require unique identifiers for health plans and health care providers, among others. The unique identifiers, along with data formatting standards previously adopted under HIPAA, are intended to facilitate transactions between participants in the health care delivery and payment system. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) finalized regulations relating to the health plan identifier (HPID) requirement, and that requirement will soon become effective.

Identify Yourself! Deadline for Health Plan Identifiers is Fast Approaching

One of the lesser-known health plan requirements adopted by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) has an initial deadline that is fast approaching, and most employers will need to take action to ensure that their group health plans remain in compliance. As discussed below, the ACA built upon an earlier directive in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to require unique identifiers for health plans and health care providers, among others.

Business Associate Agreements May Require Amendment

The Omnibus Final Rule (the "Omnibus Rule") under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 ("HIPAA"), was issued in January, 2013 effective March 26, 2013, but with a general compliance deadline of September 23, 2013. Compliance with the Omnibus Rule required changes to many HIPAA compliance practices and related documents, including business associate agreements, the HIPAA notice of privacy practices and breach assessment policies and procedures.

IRS Releases Draft ACA Reporting Form Instructions

On August 28, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released draft instructions for completing health insurance reporting forms required under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The release of the instructions comes a month after the IRS released the draft forms employers and insurers must use to report information regarding health care coverage.

Happy 40th Birthday, ERISA!

Today, ERISA turns 40! It is hard to believe that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the law that ignited pension reform in the United States, has been around for four decades. To celebrate the law’s long, lively journey since its birth on Labor Day 1974, we have compiled some employee benefits trivia that may surprise even the most ardent ERISA-watchers (and you know who you are!).

Monthly Benefits Update - August 2014

On August 8, President Obama signed legislation that extends certain “pension smoothing” provisions in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act that was signed in 2012. This pension funding relief will continue to allow plan sponsors to make lower contributions to their single-employer defined benefit plans in upcoming years by delaying the phase out of MAP-21 until 2017.

Agencies Issue New Regulations Governing ACAs Contraception Mandate

On August 27, 2014, new interim final regulations were published by several administrative agencies entitled "Coverage of Certain Preventive Services Under the Affordable Care Act." On the same day, the agencies released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking with the same title. As we have previously written, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes insurance coverage obligations on both non-profit and for-profit religious organizations. These coverage mandates have been the subject of extensive litigation.

DOJ Demonstrates Continued Focus on FCA Claims against Healthcare Entities

In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder and Former U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius created an interagency task force, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), to increase coordination and optimize criminal and civil enforcement. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the task force yielded historic results resulting in the recovery of $12.1 billion from January 2009 through September 2013. Of that amount, the DOJ claims it recovered more than $2 billion each year for healthcare fraud, reaching $2.6 billion in 2013. In 2014, this trend has continued with two Florida hospitals settling FCA claims with the DOJ last spring for $85 million and $7 million and another two healthcare entities recently settling with the DOJ for $2.2 million and $35 million.

Resistance WAS Futile—California Conforms to ACA Waiting Period Requirement

After wandering in the wilderness for a year, California has now come in from the cold and conformed its requirements for eligibility waiting periods to the federal standard adopted in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Effective January 1, 2015, SB 1034 imposes a 90-day limit on eligibility waiting periods for insured health benefits issued by insurers subject to regulation by the California Department of Insurance and/or the California Department of Managed Health Care.