Summer is fast approaching and we find ourselves answering a number of questions regarding the coverage of seasonal workers in employee benefit plans. For employers planning to ramp up hiring for the summer season we offer this brief review of the treatment of seasonal employees for purposes of your employee benefit plans, with emphasis on issues under the Affordable Care Act.
Entries in Plan Administration (46)
It’s no secret that the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services has been expanding its enforcement activity under the privacy and security standards of HIPAA. And it’s not surprising that enforcement activity is in the offing under the Affordable Care Act as well, and at more than one federal agency. But be advised that the Department of Labor appears to be pursuing its own robust approach to group health plan examinations, covering the HIPAA portability requirements, wellness programs, and Affordable Care Act compliance.
Here is a copy of the document request that one of our clients recently received to kick off a DOL examination that will include an on-site visit. Note that the HIPAA-related items focus on the portability and discrimination aspects of HIPAA, with questions about special enrollment rights, Certificates of Creditable Coverage, the provision of required notices, and the like. The DOL has also requested materials regarding wellness programs to assess compliance with the wellness program requirements of the HIPAA regulations (particularly as they relate to standards-based programs). The Affordable Care Act questions focus on documents that would be relevant to establish and support grandfathered status, the provision of certain mandated benefits, and related notices and disclosures. Although not specified in the document request, the time frame under review generally is 2010 through 2012 (except as otherwise noted).
In the audit context, an employer that adheres to sound documentation and recordkeeping practices will be rewarded, and a timely and comprehensive response to the pre-examination document request is the best way to start an audit going in the right direction. In this case, the documents requested by the DOL should be relatively easy to produce from internal records or obtain from third party administrators (or other consultants). For that reason, a failure to provide any of these documents (to the extent applicable to the subject plan) could be taken by a DOL investigator as an indication of an employer’s poor compliance status.
On the theory that to be forewarned is to be forearmed, we commend the attached list to your attention.
Nearly 20 years after the IRS first established a limited program for the correction of 403(b) plan administrative errors, 403(b) plans have finally been placed on equal footing with qualified plans with respect to the correction of operational, documentary, and demographic failures under the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS). The expanded scope of 403(b) plan corrections made possible by Revenue Procedure 2013-12 comes as welcome news for tax-exempt and governmental employers and their advisors. The updated version of EPCRS officially takes effect April 1, 2013, but the guidance permits employers to rely on the 403(b) correction provisions beginning January 1, 2013.
Maine has now officially joined nine other states in allowing same-sex marriage. The new Maine law (“An Act to Allow Marriage Licenses for Same-sex Couples and Protect Religious Freedom”) was approved by a referendum election on November 6, 2012, and it became effective December 29, 2012. Some municipal offices around the state have already issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and many of those couples will have been wed by January 1, 2013. That leaves many of our clients asking: what does this mean for our employee benefit plans?
By comparison to past years, the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 seem not to bring all that much in the way of new legal compliance burdens regarding retirement plans, health plans, and deferred compensation plans. For the most part employers face the continued implementation of changes in law enacted in prior years, most notably the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, along with the assorted notice and disclosure requirements that have become (or are quickly becoming) routine. Nevertheless, no year can end or begin in the world of employee benefits and executive compensation without a review of some of the key obligations that employers must fulfill in order to prudently administer their benefits and compensation programs. In that spirit, we offer the following list of some of the more significant requirements employers should keep in mind as they close out 2012 and begin 2013.