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October 12, 2008
San Francisco’s Health Care Ordinance Stands
On September 30, 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rendered its Opinion relating to ERISA preemption of the City of San Francisco’s Health Care Security Ordinance (Golden Gate Restaurant Assn. vs. City and County of San Francisco; Case No: 07-17370, 9/30/08). The 9th Circuit Court has upheld the Ordinance, which went into effect 1/9/08 for employers with 50+ employees; 4/1/08 for employers with 20+ employees.
HEART Act FSA Cash-out Explained
In June, 2008, a law was passed (Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008, “Heroes Act” or “HEART Act”, Public Law 110-245; see the June 2008 edition of Benefit Beat), addressing several employment and benefit-related matters specifically applicable to employees called to active service. One of these provisions allow a distribution for non-medical reasons from a health flexible spending account (health FSA). The IRS has issued Notice 2008-82 flushing out this provision.
Health Coverage Rights for Students on Medical Leave: “Michelle’s Law”
On October 9, 2008, President Bush signed a law (H.R. 2851) that requires individual and group health plans to extend health coverage to dependent college students who take a medically-necessary leave of absence due to a serious illness or injury. This law was enacted as a result of the death of a seriously-ill college student forced to retain full-time student status in order to maintain much needed health coverage.
Mental Health Benefits Expanded
As part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (H.R. 1424), a new mental health parity provision becomes law. The existing federal mental health parity law requires that annual and lifetime limits for mental health services be comparable to those for medical and surgical services. Under the new law, mental health services must be treated in a substantially similar manner to medical and surgical services. This would include:
On September 25, 2008, President Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008 into law. This law amends certain aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1990, which prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals on the basis of disability. Specifically, the ADA Amendments Act, which becomes effective January 1, 2009, modifies the definition of “disability”, as well as broadens the classifications and categories of “major life activities” for purposes of determining the effects of a disability.
Massachusetts Fair Share Requirement Relaxed?
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has issued new regulations relating to the fair share contribution requirement. While the Massachusetts health care reform experiment does not require employers to provide, or make a contribution toward, health coverage for their employees, it does impose an annual financial fee assessment ($295 per employee) upon employers who do not.
September 4, 2008
New CMS Website for Medicare Payer Reporting
As described in the January, 2008 Benefit Beat, a new reporting requirement will be imposed upon insurers, third party administrators (TPAs), and plan administrators of self-funded, self-administered health plans. The reporting requirement relates to the Medicare Secondary Payer (MSP) rules. These rules require that a group health plan pay primary to Medicare in three instances:
San Francisco: New Commuter Benefit Mandate
The City of San Francisco is at it again:
Proposed Rules: Investment Advice Exemption for 401(K) Plans and IRAS
The DOL’s Employee Benefits Security Administration has been busy issuing investment advice guidance provided under 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRA).
August 5, 2008
New HSA Proposed Rules - Employer Contributions and Excise Tax
The IRS and Treasury have been busy again, espousing their positions on health savings accounts (HSAs). This time, the guidance comes in the form of proposed regulations. These regulations relate to the HSA comparability (discrimination) rules. The regulations also address the excise (penalty) tax that can be assessed for several types of plan violations.