The COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency officially ended on April 10 and May 11, 2023, respectively. (As a practical matter, the Biden administration is effectively treating both emergencies as ending on May 11, 2023, however.) The end of the emergencies offers sponsors of group health plans the opportunity to modify certain COVID-19-related benefits that were offered in the past several years because of national emergency and public health emergency-related legislation and regulations.
In early 2020, following passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and the release of guidance from the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Labor, and Department of Health and Human Services (collectively, the Agencies), group health plan sponsors and administrators worked quickly to implement new mandates and incorporate plan operational flexibility relating to the coverage and provision of COVID testing, vaccines, and telehealth. (In addition, the Agencies also adopted various extensions to employee benefit plan deadlines that are coming to an end with the end of the national emergency, as discussed in a previous Spotlight on Benefits post.)
Continue reading “Health Plan Coverage and Documentation Following the End of the COVID-19 Emergencies”
The IRS recently issued Notice 2022-27, providing a six-month extension of the temporary relief from the physical presence requirement for certain plan elections (including spousal consents) required to be witnessed by a plan representative or notary public. Issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS provided initial relief from the physical presence requirement for the period January 1through December 1, 2020, provided initial extended relief through June 30, 2021, and extended relief for a second time through June 30, 2022. Most recently, Notice 2022-27 extends the relief through December 31, 2022.
The temporary relief from the physical presence requirement applies to any participant election witnessed by a notary public of a state that permits remote electronic notarization or by a plan representative, if certain requirements are satisfied. We discussed those requirements in a prior blog post on this topic.
Continue reading “IRS Extends Temporary Relief from “Physical Presence” Requirement Through December 31, 2022”
The Consolidated Appropriations Act 2022 (“CAA 2022”), signed by President Biden on March 15, 2022, reinstated temporary relief for high deductible health plans (“HDHPs”) to provide pre-deductible coverage of telehealth services from April 1 through December 31, 2022, without impacting HDHP participants’ eligibility to contribute to their health savings accounts (“HSAs”).
In general, HDHP coverage of telehealth services at no or low cost before the participant satisfies the minimum HDHP deductible (in 2022, $1,400 for single-only coverage and $2,800 for family coverage) would cause HDHP participants to become ineligible to make HSA contributions.
Continue reading “Temporary Reinstatement of Relief for Telemedicine Coverage in HDHPs”
As 2022 begins, retirement plan sponsors and service providers should keep in mind deadlines for required plan changes in 2022. In particular, retirement plan changes under the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) and Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) must be adopted by amendment by December 31, 2022, for calendar year plans. In addition, retirement plans must comply with new SECURE Act disclosure requirements beginning later this year.
Continue reading “Preview of 2022 Required Changes for Retirement Plans”
On January 10, 2022, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury issued guidance addressing a group health plan’s obligation to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests starting January 15, 2022. The new coverage requirement means that enrolled individuals can go online or to a pharmacy and buy an over-the-counter FDA-approved COVID-19 diagnostic test and either have it paid for up front by their health plan or be reimbursed by submitting a claim without any cost-sharing requirements (such as deductibles, co-payments or co-insurance). The guidance provides that beginning January 15, 2022 through the end of the declared public health emergency, plans must cover at least eight (8) over-the-counter at-home tests per enrolled individual per 30-day (or calendar-month) period without an assessment or provider involvement. This does not affect the obligation to provide coverage for COVID-19 tests with a provider’s involvement or prescription.
Continue reading “New COVID-19 Guidance: Government Requires Health Plans to Cover At-Home COVID-19 Tests”
If employees are required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a timely negative COVID-19 test, and/or wear a mask as a condition of employment (COVID-19 Policies), and an employee is terminated for violating a COVID-19 Policy, will that employee be entitled to severance benefits?
The answer depends on what the employer intends and the terms of the applicable severance arrangement which, for example, can be in the form of a severance plan, a severance agreement, or an employment agreement.
Continue reading “Employers – Check Your Severance Arrangements Now!”
The IRS recently issued Notice 2021-40, providing a one-year extension through June 30, 2022, of the temporary relief from the physical presence requirement for certain plan elections (including spousal consents) required to be witnessed by a plan representative or notary public. Issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS provided initial relief from the physical presence requirement for the period beginning January 1, 2020 and ending December 1, 2020, and then provided initial extended relief through June 30, 2021.
Continue reading “Internal Revenue Service Extends Temporary Relief from the Physical Presence Requirement by One Year”
The $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package recently signed into law by President Biden includes significant assistance for pension plans. The financial assistance provisions will have a large bearing on shoring up the ongoing multiemployer pension crisis. The pension assistance has not received as much press as have other provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) but it is no less impactful. The stimulus package provides direct financial support for certain underfunded multiemployer pension plans and relief from several minimum funding rules for both multiemployer and single-employer plans.
The pension provisions of ARPA are a modified version of the Butch Lewis Act, a pension rescue bill that has passed in the House but never in the Senate in years past. ARPA should allow over 100 severely underfunded multiemployer pension plans to return to relative financial health; however, ARPA does not provide for any long-term funding reform that would prevent another pension crisis. It also will have little or no effect for contributing employers.
Continue reading “$1.9 Trillion American Rescue Package Includes Major Relief for Single and Multiemployer Pension Plans”
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (“SECURE”) Act made a number of changes designed to increase the availability of lifetime income options in defined contribution retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans. Among those changes was a new fiduciary safe harbor for choosing an annuity provider, including an “in-plan” annuity-type product. Although this provision may not have received as much attention due to the COVID-19 pandemic, plan sponsors and committees should be aware of the new safe harbor option, particularly in light of the upcoming requirement to provide lifetime income disclosures to participants, which is set to become effective later this year (discussed here).
Continue reading “Reminder: The SECURE Act’s Safe Harbor for Lifetime Annuity Options Opens New Possibilities for Defined Contribution Plan Sponsors”
On February 26, 2021, the Departments of Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury collectively issued new frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and other health coverage issues related to COVID-19. Previous blogs posts reviewed the FAQs on COVID-19 group health plan coverage implementation and preventative care mandates. The FAQs expand upon prior guidance related to the requirement under the FFCRA that group health plans and health insurance issuers (health plans) cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing and vaccinations, and certain related issues.
Continue reading “New Guidance Requires Free COVID-19 Testing and Vaccines”