A project of the George Washington University's Hirsh Health Law and Policy Program and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Department of Labor

DOL issues final rule on excepted benefits

Posted on September 30, 2014

The Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule regarding excepted benefits and stand-alone dental and vision plans. In the original proposed rule if the wraparound coverage met a number of requirements, it would have been considered an excepted benefit that would not disqualify the employee from getting subsidized coverage on the exchanges. However, this language is excluded from the final rule issued. The DOL said it intends to publish regulations on the topic of wraparound coverage in the future, taking into account the extensive comments received on the topic.

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Rule finalizes 90-day waiting limit

Posted on June 20, 2014

Today, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) released a final rule concerning the 90-day waiting period limitation. The final rule states that group health insurance plans cannot apply a waiting period that exceeds 90 days after the employee has been approved for coverage. The rule further states that small group plan orientation periods, the time it takes from hire to when the plan deems the employee is eligible for coverage, cannot exceed one month.

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Administration releases more ACA guidance

Posted on May 5, 2014

Last Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) posted a new bulletin on special enrollment periods and hardship exemptions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bulletin provides information on how federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFM) should address coverage for individuals that fall into the following four categories: hardship exemptions for individuals that obtained coverage effective May 1st, special enrollment periods for individuals eligible for or enrolled in COBRA, special enrollment periods for individuals whose plans are renewing outside of open enrollment, and special enrollment periods for AmeriCorps/VISTA/National Civilian Community Corps Members. The bulletin suggests that state-based Marketplaces (SBM) use these guidelines to help individuals that fall into these categories.

The administration also released a new FAQ set regarding ACA implementation. This FAQ, prepared jointly by the US Department of Treasury, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the US Department of Labor, addresses questions concerning a myriad of health reform topics. Several of the issues addressed include updated Department of Labor Model Notices for COBRA, out-of-network and out-of-pocket charges, and Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBC).

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Tri-agency rules address 90-day waiting period limit

Posted on February 20, 2014

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) released several rules today concerning the 90-day waiting period limitation before insurance coverage can become effective. The final rule states that group health insurance plans cannot apply a waiting period that exceeds 90 days beginning January 2015. The proposed rule clarifies the 90-day limitation in terms of the length of employment-based orientation periods, stating that one month is the reasonable limit for employment-based orientation periods.

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Administration issues mental health final rule

Posted on November 8, 2013

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Labor (DoL), and the Department of the Treasury (DoT) released the joint final rule implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008. Under this law, insurers that offer coverage for mental health services are expected to treat mental health equitably, meaning cost-sharing and limits for mental health services should be comparable to that of physical health services. Several other specific provisions addressed in this rule include:

  • Parity for intermediate care offered in residential or outpatient settings and all plan standards (i.e. network adequacy and geographic limits);
  • Clarifying transparency expectations for insurers to remain compliant with the law; and
  • Eliminating provisions that enabled insurers to make exceptions for parity requirements for certain benefits offered.

The law was passed in 2008, and an interim final rule was issued in January 2010. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) also published an FAQ on today’s rule.

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Agencies issue another round of ACA FAQ

Posted on September 5, 2013

On September 4th, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Treasury jointly issued the sixteenth installment of their FAQs about implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This particular set addressed employer notice of coverage and the 90-day waiting period limitation before employer-sponsored benefits are required to kick-in. As specifically stated in the FAQ, an employer will be considered to have satisfied the notice of coverage obligation if another entity “provides a timely and complete notice.” The FAQ also stated that employers can refer to the proposed rule issued in March 2013 on compliance expectations for the 90-day waiting period limitation. A final rule will be released before January 2015.

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Administration releases contraceptive coverage final rule

Posted on June 28, 2013

In a joint rule released by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the US Department of the Treasury (DoT), and the US Department of Labor (DoL), the administration finalized the requirement for employers to offer contraception coverage through their workplace health insurance policies. The rule defines a “religious employer” to include predominantly churches and houses of worship. For religiously-affiliated institutions, such as universities, the rule provides a simplified process by which insurance companies can cover contraceptives for employees. Religiously-affiliated entities using self-insured plans can use the same streamlined approach for a third-party administrator to provide contraceptives. In addition to the rule, the administration extended the safe harbor for religiously-affiliated hospitals and universities, which prevented those institutions from fines associated with non-compliance to the contraception mandate, through January.

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Interview of Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary of Labor of the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), United States Department of Labor

Posted on June 11, 2013

Recently, Sara Rosenbaum, the Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy at the GW Department of Health Policy, had an opportunity to interview Phyllis Borzi, the federal official in charge of overseeing the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), for Health Reform GPS. EBSA is an agency of the United States Department of Labor responsible for administering, regulating and enforcing the provisions of Title I of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and the agency is playing an important role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act….

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Administration released final rule on employee-sponsored wellness programs

Posted on May 29, 2013

A joint rule released by the US Department of Labor (DoL), the US Department of the Treasury (DoT), and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) addresses new provisions regarding participatory wellness programs in the workplace. Workplace wellness programs are designed to reduce the prevalence of chronic disease, stifle growing health care costs, and improve overall health by rewarding employees for participating in certain activities, such as educational classes or obtaining memberships to fitness centers. The final rule sets the maximum reword for completion of a nondiscriminatory health-contingent wellness program to 30% of coverage costs, up from the original 20%. Employees that successfully complete tobacco-related wellness programs are eligible for up to 50% of cost of coverage.

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EBSA preliminary guidance requires employers to notify employees about insurance options

Posted on May 10, 2013

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), a division of the Department of Labor, published guidance concerning employer notification of insurance options in the health insurance marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including model language for employers to notify their employees on marketplaces and employer-sponsored coverage. Technical Release Number 2013-02 states that employers must begin to inform their employees about available insurance options beginning October 1st, and the guidance contains a model notice for employers to utilize. EBSA released this guidance in advance of the proposed rule so that employers are equipped with the appropriate knowledge so they may begin to notify employees as soon as they desire.

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