Illinois passed the Consumer Coverage Disclosure Act (CCDA) in 2021. In a nutshell, the CCDA requires all employers to send employees a notice comparing their health benefits to a list of the state of Illinois’ Essential Health Benefits (EHBs). Depending on the size of the employer and how the law is interpreted, the civil penalties for non-compliance could run anywhere from a nuisance fee to astronomically high.
There are both single-employer pension plans and multiple employer plans (MEPs). In a single-employer plan, only employees within the same “controlled group” of businesses are allowed to participate. Put very simply (because the rules are complicated), the controlled group consists of different entities that share enough common ownership that they are treated as a single employer for employee benefits purposes. And all of those employers’ employees are able to participate in one plan.
At the beginning of this year, we wrote about changing standards applicable to audits of financial statements of employee benefit plans subject to ERISA. Specifically, we explained that the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) issued new standards for what are currently known as “limited-scope audits.” Initially, the changed audit standards were effective for plan years ending on or after December 15, 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the AICPA delayed the implementation of the standards to audits of plan years ending on or after December 15, 2021. We want to remind plan sponsors of employee benefit plans required to include an auditor’s report as part an annual Form 5500 filing that the changed audit standards create new responsibilities for plan sponsors in 2022.
As the number of people receiving a COVID-19 vaccine has decreased, employers have tried to find ways to incentivize their employees to get vaccinated. While some employers have imposed COVID-19 vaccine requirements, others have searched for alternative methods to motivate employees to receive the vaccines. One method some employers have considered is imposing a surcharge on health insurance premiums for employees and their dependents who are unvaccinated. The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury issued guidance this week that addresses COVID-19 vaccine premium surcharges.
In 2018, the Auditing Standards Board (ASB) of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) changed the audit standards applicable to audits of financial statements of employee benefit plans subject to ERISA. These standards impact what is currently known as “limited-scope audits.” Initially, the new standards were to apply to audits of plan years ending on or after December 15, 2020, which means they would apply to 2020 plan year audits performed in 2021. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AICPA changed the effective date of the standards to plan years ending after December 15, 2021, extending the implementation of the standards for one year. Plan sponsors of plans subject to ERISA should be aware of the new responsibilities the standards impose on auditors, as these changes also indirectly create new responsibilities for plan sponsors.
On November 10, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court held oral arguments in California, et. al. v. Texas, et. al., the most recent challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When the CARES Act was enacted, we wrote about its provisions that impact retirement plans and provide relief to plan sponsors and plan participants. Recently, pursuant to Section 2202 of the CARES Act, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2020-50 on coronavirus-related distributions and plan loans from eligible retirement plans. Notice 2020-50 provides guidance to employers on several subjects associated with coronavirus-related distributions and plan loans, including the following:
Greensfelder Officer Amy Blaisdell recently co-authored an article in For the Defense, a publication of the Defense Research Institute (DRI), about lessons employers should keep in mind when defending against disability benefits claims that lack objective medical evidence. The article, titled “Objective Versus Subjective Evidence in the ERISA Claims-Handling Process,” was published in the August 2020 edition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant burdens for employers and employees alike. While some businesses struggle to survive, others are fortunate enough to be in a position to help employees as they face hardships created by the crisis. Many employers in the latter category are looking for ways to best help employees who are facing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic.
One possible approach for these employers is a disaster relief fund under Section 139 of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 139 disaster relief funds allow employers to make qualified disaster relief payments to employees to help with certain expenses they incur as a result of a qualified disaster.
On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. The CARES Act includes the following provisions that impact retirement plans and provide relief to plan sponsors and plan participants.
- Participants may take “coronavirus-related distributions” from qualified retirement plans.
- A coronavirus-related distribution is exempt from the 10 percent penalty that otherwise applies to early distributions from qualified retirement plans.