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December 3, 2011

USERRA Expanded to Recognize Hostile Work Environments

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) was enacted to ensure continuation of benefits, including health insurance and pension, as well as reemployment and reinstatement rights to individuals called to military duty.  The law applies to all public and private employers, regardless of size.  On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act (Public Law 112-56).  Similar to current Title VII protections, this law amends USERRA to provide further employment protection against hostile work environments by prohibiting discrimination with respect to any of the terms, conditions or privileges of employment. 

December 2, 2011

New DOL Consumer Assistance Website

The DOL’s Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) has unveiled a new Consumer Assistance segment on their website.  This section provides resources, tools, finding devices, FAQs, fact sheets and publications relating to health and retirement plans.  It also allows one to submit questions, complaints or problems about benefits directly to an EBSA benefit advisor.

December 2, 2011

Extension of Premium Assistance for Certain TAA Individuals

Since 2002, premium assistance toward COBRA or other health coverage has been available to certain individuals whose jobs were lost due to foreign trade-related agreements.  The assistance has been in the form of a refundable Health Care Tax Credit (HCTC), equaling 65% of health premium. This provision has been extended several times since first enacted in 2002, and had expired as of February 14, 2011. The law has been extended again, retroactive to February 14, 2011, by way of the Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Extension Act of 2011, signed by President Obama on October 21, 2011. Following are highlights of this law:

December 2, 2011

IRS releases 2011 Forms for HSA Reporting

The Form 8889 is used by HSA account holders to report contributions, including contributions made by the HSA account holder’s employer, as well as distributions from the HSA that occur during the tax year.  This form is also used to calculate HSA deductions and any reportable income or tax that could be owed if the account holder becomes HSA-ineligible during the tax year. The IRS released the 2011 edition of the Form 8889, together with Instructions for completing the Form.  The 2011 form reflects the changes made by the health care reform law; specifically relating to the increase in penalty from 10% to 20% for nonqualified distributions, and the prescription requirement applicable to over-the counter medications.

December 2, 2011

Mental Health Parity: DOL issues Clarifying Guidance

While the government agencies (DOL/IRS/CMS) have been busy implementing the health care reform law, a recent set of FAQs reminds us that they have not forgotten about other laws under their jurisdiction, specifically the mental health parity laws.   

December 2, 2011

An MSP Reminder: Loud and Clear

In a recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision (Bio-Medical Applications of Tennessee, Inc. v. Central States Southeast and Southwest Areas Health and Welfare Fund), we are reminded of how important it is to comply with the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) Rules. 

November 28, 2011

HRB 41 - More ACA Updates

November 28, 2011 -- 

Supreme Court to Ponder Health Care Reform Law

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided to review four questions of law deriving from the health care reform law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, referenced as the Affordable Care Act or "ACA"). The questions that the Supreme Court will consider are as follows:

November 21, 2011

Congress Repeals 3% Withholding, Provides Tax Incentives for Hiring Veterans

On November 16, 2011, Congress passed the Three Percent Withholding Repeal and Job Creation Act (H.R. 674). This legislation repeals a controversial law that would have required federal, state and local government entities with total annual expenditures of $100 million or more to withhold 3 percent of certain payments for goods and services to government contractors and vendors. President Obama has said he will sign the bill into law as soon as it reaches the White House.

November 14, 2011

Reminder: Expiration of Permissible Rollovers from FSA or HRA to HSA

When the concept for health savings accounts was enacted in 2004, the law allowed, for a limited period of time, the ability to roll over account balances from flexible medical spending accounts or health reimbursement arrangements into health savings accounts, as long as certain conditions are met.  The ability to roll from these types of accounts expires December 31, 2011. 

November 14, 2011

2012 Pension and Retirement Plan Limits

The 2012 plan limits, applicable to defined benefit and defined contribution plans, have been issued by the IRS (highlights below; also see IRS COLA table).

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