As the business community continues waiting for practical guidance on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the IRS has recently proposed regulations illustrating how it believes companies should qualify as “large employers” falling within the ACA’s mandates and what type of coverage it feels those employers must provide to avoid penalties. Not surprisingly, the IRS approach not only overwhelmingly favors employer coverage, it also makes providing qualifying health benefits a potentially expensive proposition. Continue reading this entry
We have previously reported on the changes that the health care reform bill — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) — will have on your workplace. See “What Should Human Resources Be Doing to Prepare for Health Care Reform?” and “Benefits of Grandfather Status Likely to Be Short-Lived”.
In addition to those changes, the PPACA also provides for a grant program to assist smaller employers to provide workplace wellness programs. The Act stipulates that wellness programs can include initiatives such as health education, preventative screenings, counseling or programs to change unhealthy behaviors/lifestyle choices, and programs to encourage employee engagement/participation.
The PPACA provides that workplace wellness grants will be made available to employers who employ fewer than 100 employees working 25 hours or more per week and who did not have a workplace wellness program as of the date of PPACA’s enactment (i.e., March 23, 2010). Approximately $200 million has been appropriated for the grant program, which is scheduled to begin in 2011.
A recent report released by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) advises that employer-provided wellness programs set up under the PPACA would be subject to compliance with anti-discrimination laws and would be considered a mandatory subject of bargaining in unionized workplaces. That is, employers should take steps to ensure that their wellness programs comply with acts such as Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (which prevents discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin), ADEA, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and ADA. For example, the CRS report advises that, if the wellness program collects genetic information, it must be voluntary, conditioned on written authorization, and must have strict privacy protections in order to comply with GINA. Additionally, the ADA would require that the wellness program be voluntary.
The Secretary of Health & Human Services is in the process of developing an application process, so stay tuned if you believe that your company may be eligible for these grants.
It’s now mid-June 2010. Health care reform passed in March 2010. Feeling a bit panicky about how it will affect your workplace? You’re not alone.
In the coming months, we plan to provide you details about what you should be doing now to prepare for required changes needed to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Here are a few reminders of issues we have reported to you, and some things you should already be putting (or have) in place:
- In April, we wrote to you about changes that the health care reform law made to the federal wage/hour law. Remember that employers are now required to give nursing mothers a break “each time such employee has the need to express the milk” for one year after a child’s birth. For more details, read our article: Nursing Mothers Get Break(s) Under New Federal Law .
- The PPACA expanded the definition of “dependent child” by requiring coverage for adult children until age 26. We reported on IRS guidance that has been released on this issue in our Tax & Employee Benefits Legal News Alert in May. For more details, read our article: PPACA Early Retiree Reinsurance Program
- Within six months after enactment of the PPACA, all existing health insurance plans must prohibit lifetime limits, prohibit rescissions, restrict annual limits, and include limitations on excessive waiting periods.
- Employers with more than 200 employees must automatically enroll employees in health insurance plans offered by the employer, allowing for an employee opt-out. Effective date on this provision is not yet known.
Here are a few reminders of issues that will affect you in the future:
- Businesses with fewer than 100 employees will have access to state health insurance exchanges starting in 2014. These exchanges are designed to help smaller businesses enroll their employees in small group qualified health benefits plans. For more information on how the exchanges will work, read our article Will Proposed Health Insurance Exchanges Work and Be Affordable?
- Beginning in 2011, employers must report the value of employees’ health benefits on W-2 Forms.
- Beginning in 2014, group health plans must prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions and prohibit annual limits.
- Beginning in 2014, employers with more than 50 full-time employees (FTE) that do not offer health insurance will need to pay a penalty of $2,000 per FTE.
Stay tuned as we update you on these and other requirements — and help you maintain the health of your HR compliance.