Making Wellness Work On A Shoestring Budget

May 28, 2012
With tight budgets preventing many businesses from investing in wellness consulting resources, a tight budget doesn’t mean your company, church, or other group can’t have a thriving wellness program.  Wellness is a culture.   While the resources and advice of consultants and bells and whistles can be helpful sometimes, the inability to afford them doesn’t mean that your organization or group can’t have a healthy and effective wellness program. 
 
The key to promoting wellness in your workplace, organization or community is to promote a culture of healthy eating, movement and lifestyles.  Establish the culture by leading the way.  Make healthy food choices available at meetings.  Require or urge your leadership to model good eating behavior.  Have a healthy pot luck and challenge employees to bring and share their tastiest, healthy dish.   
 
Encourage leaders and others to incorporate movement into the day.  Walking meetings and other inexpensive activities can help promote health with very little cost.  Encourage employees to walk in walk-a-thons, participate in running groups, walk or skip to lunch, take the stairs,  participate in sports leagues or other similar activities. 
 
Don’t overlook the wealth of available free resources.  Project COPE”s Play For Life Program relies upon a host of free often government provided resources.   Many great wellness tools are available from NIH and other government sources at little or no cost including the newly released NIH and the Weight of the Nation resources just made available by NIH here.
 
Project COPE: Coalition On Patient Empowerment & Coalition For Responsible Health Care Quality

Project COPE: Coalition on Patient Empowerment & the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Quality  are coalitions of individuals and organizations that share the belief that every American and American organization has a stake, and something to contribute to our ability to find and implement the best options for ensuring that the U.S. health care system provides quality, affordable health care.

Health care impacts every individual and every organization in America.  Consequently, every American citizen and organization including but not limited to health care providers, employers, insurer, and community organizations should take part.    The government, health care providers, insurers and community organizations can help by providing education and resources to make understanding and dealing with the realities of illness, disability or aging easier for a patient and their family, the affected employers and others. At the end of the day, however, caring for people requires the human touch.  Americans can best improve health care by not waiting for someone else to step up or speak up. 

Project COPE urges and invites each individual and organization speak up to help communicate and act to make health care work for themselves, their families and others when you can and share your input to help preserve and continue to develop real meaningful improvements to our health care system by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here by sharing ideas, tools and other solutions and other resources. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here . 

Wellness is a culture.   While the resources and advice of consultants and bells and whistles can be helpful sometimes, the inability to afford them doesn’t mean that your organization or group can’t have a healthy and effective wellness program. 
 
The key to promoting wellness in your workplace, organization or community is to promote a culture of healthy eating, movement and lifestyles.  Establish the culture by leading the way.  Make healthy food choices available at meetings.  Require or encourage your leadership to model good eating behavior.  Have a healthy pot luck and challenge employees to bring and share their tastiest, healthy dish.   
 
Encourage leaders and employees and others to incorporate movement into the day.  Walking meetings and other inexpensive activities can help promote health with very little expense.  Encourage employees to walk in walk-a-thons, participate in running groups, participate in sports leagues or other similar activities.
 
Don’t overlook the wealth of available free resources.  Project COPE”s Play For Life Program relies upon a host of free often government provided resources.   Many great wellness tools are available from NIH and other government sources at little or no cost including the newly released NIH and the Weight of the Nation resources just made available by NIH here.
 
The key to wellness is getting started and keeping going.   Making healthy living part of your culture can pay big benefits in health and absentee savings, increased productivity and workforce retention.  What are you waiting for?  Get moving!
Other Helpful Resources & Other Information
 
We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform electronic publication available here, our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here, or our HR & Benefits Update electronic publication available here . 

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Tighten Defensibility of Criminal & Other Background Check Practices In Light of Labor Department Non-Discrimination Regulation & Enforcement Emphasis

May 25, 2012

Employers, job banks, recruiters and other parties that conduct and rely upon criminal background checks for purposes of screening applicants or making other employment decisions should check and update their practices in response to the announced plans of the U.S. Department of Labor to expand and enforce limitations on employment discrimination against individuals with criminal records as well as the criminal background check requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other applicable laws.

While criminal or other background checks often are mandated or otherwise business justified, employers and others conducting or using background check information need to understand and comply with legal requirements about the use and administration of criminal or other background checks.

Potential Employment Discrimination Exposures From Criminal Background Checks

Over the past several months, Labor Department officials have identified protection of individuals with criminal backgrounds against employment discrimination as a policy and enforcement priority.

In keeping with this goal, the Labor Department Employment and Training Administration (ETA), with the Civil Rights Center (CRC). on May 25, 2012 published updated training guidance for about exclusions based on criminal records, and how they are relevant to the existing nondiscrimination obligations for the public workforce system and certain other entities that receive federal financial assistance to operate Job Banks, to provide assistance to job seekers in locating and obtaining employment, and to assist employers by screening and referring qualified applicants in Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 31-11 (TEGL) along with the following accompanying guidance documents:

Meet FCRA Criminal & Other Background Check Requirements

When conducting such a criminal or other background check using a third-party or the internet, care should be taken to comply with the applicable purpose, notice and consent requirements for conducting third-party conducted background checks under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and otherwise applicable law. 

Since criminal and other background investigations generally qualify as a credit check for purposes of the FCRA, employers, recruiters, job banks and other parties conducting background checks for employment related purposes risk significant liability for conducting these activities without providing the proper notifications and obtaining necessary consents.  Additional requirements often also may apply under applicable state laws, labor-management contracts, government contracting requirements or other similar requirements.  Consequently, before doing any credit or other background check, employers or others should ensure that they have the policies, disclosures, data security and written consents required to comply with the FCRA and other laws.

With these procedures in place, employers or others planning to use criminal or other background checks then should work to manage discrimination and other potential risks associated with potential challenges to their use of the information.

Among other things, businesses should carefully document the business justification for their use of the background check and restrict the data they request and receive to information relevant to that purpose.  The collection and receipt of this information should be structured and managed in such a way to mitigate employment discrimination, privacy and other legal risks and to promote defensibility.  For instance, proper procedures should be used to lower the risk of a pattern of prohibited discrimination on race, national origin, disability or other similar employment discrimination laws.  Likewise, collection or receipt of information such as bankruptcy history or other liability sensitive information should be avoided unless a legally defensible need and appropriate procedures governing use can be demonstrated in operation.  Care also should be taken to apply the criteria uniformly. Given ADA, GINA, FACTA and other privacy concerns, employers also should specifically check their data collection and protection procedures for adequacy.

To help with these and other concerns, consider defining and documenting in advance the relevant criteria for the position and why it is relevant.  Where possible, try to avoid getting information beyond that defined as relevant which could raise sensitivities.  Since the FCRA requires notice if adverse hiring decisions are made, employers also should carefully evaluate and document the basis of their decisions when deciding not to hire or promote individuals based on this information and appropriately safeguard this information against improper use or disclosure. 

For Help Or Additional Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your background check or other employee benefits, human resources, health care or insurance matters, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on human resources, recruitment, employee benefits, compensation, credentialing, promotion and discipline and related workforce and risk management matters. 

Widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend employment and other services arrangements and assocaited employee benefit,  compensation, reductions in force and other severance and other human resources, employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s r management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Review & Update Health Plan Mental Health Coverage As DOL Supplements Guidance On Health Plan Mental Health Parity Rules

May 23, 2012

Group health plans and health insurers subject to the mental health parity requirements of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) have extra guidance about the effect of these requirements on utilization management and copayment requirements.  As the Labor Department and other federal agencies celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, plan sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries should review and update their plans to comply with the current requirements and tighten administration and other documentation to position decisions for defensibility against growing scrutiny.

In conjunction with its marking of Mental Health Awareness month in May, the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) recently updated its guidance and resources about the MHPAEA.  The updated resources include:

  • New Mental Health Parity webpage, available here; and
  • Understanding (and Common Misunderstandings Related to) Implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, available here.

This new guidance supplements a growing list of guidance concerning the interpretation and enforcement of the MHPAEA by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury (the Departments).  On November 17, 2011, the Departments jointly published more FAQs that share insights on how the MHPAEA requirements impact certain common copayments and utilization review arrangements historically used by plans and insurers.  The new FAQ guidance here provides more clarification about the meaning of the interim final rules implementing MHPAEA the Departments jointly issued on February 2, 2010, and earlier FAQ guidance published on June 30, 2010 and December 22, 2010 as applied to these practices.

For group health insurers and group health plans subject to its provisions, MHPAEA generally requires that insurer or plan:

  • Cannot impose financial requirements and treatment limitations on mental health and substance use disorder benefits that are more restrictive than the predominant financial requirements and treatment limitations that apply to substantially all medical and surgical benefits; and
  • Cannot impose separate financial requirements or treatment limitations that are applicable only to mental health or substance use disorder benefits.

Insurers, plan sponsors, fiduciaries and administrators also should consider the potential implications of various other federal requirements on the design and administration of mental health and substance abuse coverage and benefits under their programs.   For example, the express reference to mental health and substance abuse benefits as included within the definition of “essential benefits” for purposes of the Affordable Care Act requires additional consideration of the effect of the Affordable Care Act’s annual and lifetime limit and other mandates relating to essential benefit coverage be evaluated and addressed.  In addition, specific attention should be devoted to the potential effects of the Affordable Care Act’s independent review and other rules concerning the processing and payment of health benefit claims by non-grandfathered health plans.

Along with considering the potential implications of these emerging requirements, health insurers, group health plans and those involved in their design and administration also should verify that their eligibility and other program terms or practices do not inappropriately violate the nondiscrimination rules of laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act or other laws and that their plan and those involved in its administration are properly safeguarding the confidentiality of sensitive information about mental health , substance abuse or other health information about covered persons or their family.   Learn more here.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Western Mixers & Officers Ordered To Pay $1.2M+ For Improperly Using Benefit Plan Funds For Company Operations, Other ERISA Violations

May 23, 2012

Businesses owners and managers should treat last week’s judgment against a California fruit and nut supplier Western Mixers Inc. and its officers as a wake-up call to meet employee benefit funding obligations, not to use plan monies for company operations and to take other required steps to make sure that retirement, health and other employee benefit plans moneys and other responsibilities are properly handled.

Under a judgment entered in Solis v. Frank L. Rudy et. al. and Western Mixers Inc. Money Purchase Pension Plan, Western Mixers Inc., its owners and officers will pay a total of $1,287,901 to the company’s pension plan, plus a 20 percent penalty to the Department of Labor.

Following an investigation by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), the Department of Labor sued Western Mixers Inc. and two officers who served as trustees of the plan for failing to make approximately $952,511 in mandatory employer contributions for the benefit of participants and beneficiaries and improperly using plan monies in the company’s business operations. Investigators also found that the same two officers as well as the company’s chief financial officer made $565,000 in unauthorized withdrawals from the plan accounts, commingling those funds in the company’s general accounts and using them for the benefit of the business. 

Labor Department officials sued the company, and the officers for violation of the fiduciary responsibility rules of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).  ERISA generally requires that plan trustees and other plan fiduciaries carry out duties with respect to an employee benefit plan assets prudently for the exclusive benefit of participants. 

Pursuant to the consent judgment, the company and its officers admitted to violation of ERISA.  During the course of the investigation leading up to the lawsuit, the company previously repaid to the plan $485,000 of the total funds identified as missing by the Labor Department.  According to an announcement of the U.S. Department of Labor on May 14, 2012, Midwest Mixers Inc.’s officers agreed to repay $802,901 to participants’ accounts within 10 day of the judgment.

In addition to repaying the missing funds with interest, defendants also must pay a penalty equal to 20 percent of the recovered amount.  The court also has appointed an independent fiduciary to terminate the plan and to collect, marshal, pay out and administer plan assets. Frank L. Rudy and David H. Bolstad, owners of the company, are removed as plan trustees and fiduciaries. Together with Robert J. Fischer, Western Mixers, Inc.’s chief financial officer, they are permanently enjoined and restrained from violating ERISA and from serving as fiduciary or service providers to any ERISA-covered plan in the future.

The Western Mixer’s judgement demonstrates that owners, operators and managers of businesses that exercise discretion and control over the funding, investment or administration of employee benefit plans or their assets face significant liability for failing to properly fulfill their responsibilities with respect to their employee benefit plans.  Businesses, their owners, board members, officers, and other members of management making decisions about the maintenance, funding, administration, termination, hiring or appointment of fiduciaries or service providers or other matters impacting the employee benefit plan should ensure that they understand the potential implications and responsibilities associated with these activities for themselves and their companies.  individuals who have authority or responsibility for employee benefit plans who also perform or take part in the performance of other company management functions also should pre-educate themselves about when ERISA may require that their plan responsibilities be put before otherwise applicable responsibilities to their company, appropriate processes for documenting decisions and activities and other procedures that can help position activities to mitigate exposures and promote defensibility.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices or with other employee benefits, human resources, health care or insurance matters, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on leading health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Plan Administrator Faces Civil & Criminal Prosecution For Allegedly Making Prohibited $3.2 Million Real Estate Investment

May 22, 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho against Matthew D. Hutcheson alleging that he violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) by imprudently investing retirement plan assets in a now-failed real estate venture.  Hutcheson also faces a separate criminal indictment, which was filed in the same court on April 10, in connection with the same transaction.

 The Labor Department civil complaint alleges that, toward the end of 2010, Hutcheson used more than $3.2 million representing the retirement plan savings of workers from multiple employers for his own personal expenses and in an attempt to buy an interest in the Tamarack Resort – a failed ski and golf resort in Idaho.

 Labor Department officials charge this imprudent prohibited transaction has left affected retirement plans without sufficient funds to pay participants all the benefits owed to them.

The Labor Department also has filed an application for a temporary restraining order seeks to remove Hutcheson and other named defendants as fiduciaries of the affected plans, and seeks to appoint an independent fiduciary to administer the plans. In addition to Hutcheson, defendants include Hutcheson Walker Advisors LLC; Green Valley Holdings LLC; and the Retirement Security Plan and Trust, formerly known as the Pension Liquidity Plan and Trust.

Appropriate management of retirement and other employee benefit plan assets is a key obiligation of employee benefit plan investment advisors and other fiduciaries that have authority over plan assets.  Plan fiduciaries generally are required by ERISA 404 to invest prudently and for the exclusive benefit of plan participants and beneficiaries.  Additionally, ERISA generally prohibits plan fiduciaries from investing in or involving the plan or its assets in certain prohibited transactions or dealing with plan assets for the benefit of themselves or other third parties. 

Because violations of ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility rules can create personal liability, employer and other plan sponsors, plan fiduciaries and others participating in decisions or administration of a rebate exercise care in dealing with any rebate.  Many plan sponsors also may want to consider reviewing and tightening as warranted existing plan, trust, insurance policy, plan communications and other documentation to lower risks and promote desired characterization of rebates and other amounts paid into or with respect to their plans. 

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices or with other employee benefits, human resources, health care or insurance matters, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on leading health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Employee Plan Fee Disclosure Rules Clarified

May 22, 2012

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has made a technical correction to recently released participant-level fee disclosure regulation  (29 CFR § 2550.404a-5) contained in Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2012-02 (Fab 2012-02) as initially released on May 7, 2012. 

Fab 2012-02 contains frequently asked questions and answers about the Department’s participant-level fee disclosure regulation.  As originally released a sentence in the answer to Question 19 concerning quarterly Web site updates to “average annual total return” information inadvertently referred to the most recently completed calendar “year” rather than the most recently completed calendar “quarter.”

In its technical correction of this provision on May 17, 2012, EBSA revised the Faq to  track the regulation of the regulation amd re,pved the word “calendar”from the phrase “… 10-calendar year periods …” in the same sentence. See Q-19, n.2. The Fab as revised is available at: here.

For Help or More Information

If you need help reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices or with other employee benefits, human resources, health care or insurance matters, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on leading health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials about regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at ww.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


OIG: “Extremely High” Prescription Drug Retail Pharmacy Billings Warrant Tighter Medicare Part D Oversight & Controls

May 18, 2012

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is recommending a “strong response” to improve Medicare Part D oversight of retail pharmacy prescriptions by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) based on findings of a recent study.  See hereOIG says that  “extremely high” prescription drug billings by many retail pharmacies merit scrutiny under medical necessity or other grounds.    In anticipation of tighter controls, retail pharmacies, as well as the physician and other providers prescribing medications for Medicare Part D participants should review and tighten prescribing and billing practices to position their actions to withstand anticipated challenge in response to the OIG recommendations.

Under the Medicare Part D program, CMS contracts with private insurance companies, known as sponsors, to provide prescription drug coverage to beneficiaries who choose to enroll.  According to OIG, OIG has issued several reports that OIG has found that Part D had limited safeguards in place in the 6 years since Part D began.

In response to these concerns, OIG recently conducted a study based on an analysis of prescription drug event records.  Sponsors submit these records to CMS for each drug dispensed to beneficiaries enrolled in their plans.  Each record contains information about the pharmacy, prescriber, beneficiary, and drug.  OIG analyzed all of the records for drugs billed by retail pharmacies in 2009 and developed eight measures to describe Part D billing and to identify pharmacies with questionable billing.

Based on this study, OIG reports that retail pharmacies each billed Part D an average of nearly $1 million for prescriptions in 2009. According to OIG, the study revealed “questionable billing” by more than 2,600 of these pharmacies.  OIG reports that these pharmacies had ‘extremely high billing” for at least one of the eight measures developed and applied by OIG   For example, many pharmacies billed what OIG characterized as “extremely high” dollar amounts or numbers of prescriptions per beneficiary or per prescriber.  The Miami, Los Angeles, and Detroit areas were the most likely to have pharmacies with questionable billing.

Although OIG concedes that some of this billing may be legitimate, OIG believes that pharmacies that bill for extremely high amounts warrant further scrutiny The OIG report expresses concern that these high dollar prescription drug billings could mean that a pharmacy is billing for drugs that are not medically necessary or were never provided to the beneficiary.

Accordingly, OIG is recommending that CMS:  (1) strengthen the Medicare Drug Integrity Contractor’s monitoring of pharmacies and ability to find pharmacies for further review, (2) provide additional guidance to sponsors on monitoring pharmacy billing, (3) require sponsors to refer potential fraud and abuse incidents that may warrant further investigation, (4) develop risk scores for pharmacies, (5) further strengthen its compliance plan audits, and (6) follow up on the pharmacies identified as having questionable billing.  CMS concurred with four of the recommendations and partially concurred with the other two.

Private health plans and other payers are likely to check the study to decide whether it provides justification for closer scrutiny of prescription drug claims made to private payers. 

Whether or not private health plans follow suit, retail pharmacies and other providers should expect that CMS will increase scrutiny and challenges of prescription drug charges submitted to Medicare Part D.  Accordingly, retail pharmacies and the physician and other providers prescribing medications likely to be billed should tighten documentation and other procedures to defend against possible medical necessity and other challenges. 

For Help or More Information

If you need help these or other concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern Health Care and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TOU.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  All rights reserved.


[*] See 26 CFR 54.9815-2715, 29 CFR 2590.715-2715, and 45 CFR 147.200, published February 14, 2012 at 77 FR 8668.

[†] See FAQS About Affordable Care Act

Implementation (Part VIII) at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/faq-aca8.pdf.


HHS OIG Finds The New York Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of New York City, Inc., Health Benefits Fund Reported Unallowable Costs on 2009 Medicare Cost Report

May 18, 2012

Health Plans taking in Medicare funds beware.  The  Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) is watching.

OIG says its audit of the New York Hotel Trades Council and Hotel Association of New York City, Inc., Health Benefits Fund (the Fund) found that the Fund  improperly reported $237,000 in Medicare Part B costs that were not reasonable and allowable.  According to OIG, the Fund reported that the Fund paid a total of $8.2 million for services provided to 3,180 plan members on its final 2009 cost report.  Of this amount, the Fund included Medicare Part B costs totaling $237,000  Specifically, the OIG says the Fund reported costs for services to plan members that were not Medicare-eligible, costs for services that were billed to both the Fund and Medicare by contracted providers, and costs for services not eligible for Medicare reimbursement.

While the disallowed costs made up a relatively small percentage of the total costs paid by the Fund, the audit report is notable in that it shows the need for health plans to be prepared to defend costs submitted to Medicare against potential challenge by OIG or other federal oversight officials.

In a separate compliance review, OIG also recently reported that Indiana University Health generally complied with Medicare billing requirements for selected inpatient and outpatient claims.  According to OIG, of 198 sampled claims, 35 selected inpatient and outpatient claims had errors, resulting in overpayments totaling $280,000 from October 2008 through September 2010.  See here.

Health plans and their fiduciaries and sponsors need to keep in mind that Federal health care oversight and enforcement is not just about detecting provider misconduct.  Federal officials also are watching the health plans.  While both audits found substantial compliance, the occurrence of the audits itself merits mention.   While OIG and other federal health program fraud and integrity oversight and enforcement activities against health care providers receive widespread attention, the conduct and results of these activities with regard to health plan often goes largely unremarked.  The OIG reports show that federal officials also are scrutinizing health plans to make sure that Medicare, Medicaid or other program funds are not being improperly expended to or accessed by health plans.  Accordingly, health plans receiving early retiree or other program subsidies, participating as Medicare Advantage plans, receiving subsidies or other federal funds, or coordinating benefits with these and other federal programs should prepare for possible federal review and, if applicable enforcement.

For Help or More Information

If you need help preparing to comply with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern Health Care and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TOU.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  All rights reserved.


[*] See 26 CFR 54.9815-2715, 29 CFR 2590.715-2715, and 45 CFR 147.200, published February 14, 2012 at 77 FR 8668.

[†] See FAQS About Affordable Care Act

Implementation (Part VIII) at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/faq-aca8.pdf.


New Mental Health Parity Resources Released In Celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month

May 9, 2012

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration is celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month this May by adding a new Mental Health Parity webpage to its website resources, which is available here.

EBSA also has released a new resource titled “Understanding (and Common Misunderstandings Related to Implementation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008”(Publication) available here.

The new Publication highlights information about the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA).

The MHPAEA generally requires employment-based group health plans and health insurance issuers that provide group health coverage for mental health/substance use disorders to maintain parity between such benefits and their medical/surgical benefits.

Specifically, MHPAEA and its implementing regulations generally:

  • Provide that financial requirements (such as copays and deductibles), and quantitative treatment limitations (such as visit limits), applicable to mental health or substance use disorder benefits can generally be no more restrictive than the requirements or limitations applied to medical/surgical benefits;
  • Include requirements to provide for parity for nonquantitative treatment limitations (such as medical management standards);
  • Expand the parity requirements of an earlier law, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996, such that plans and issuers may not impose a lifetime or annual dollar limit on mental health or substance use disorder benefits that is lower than the lifetime or annual dollar limit imposed on medical/surgical benefits.

The new Publication addresses various questions about the MHPAEA such as:

  • If a health plan may define mental health coverage as consisting solely of inpatient care benefits;
  • Whether the MHPAEA prohibits health plans from using separate managed behavioral health organizations to provide utilization review and other services with respect to mental health and/or substance abuse benefits (sometimes called a carve-out arrangements);
  • How quantitative and nonquantitative treatment limitations on mental health benefits are analyzed under the MHPAEA;
  • How the MHPAEA interacts with State mandates;
  • What plans are exempt from MHPAEA;
  • What participants and beneficiaries can do if they believe their group health plan is violating MHPEA; and
  • What the Departments of Treasury, Health & Human Services and Labor are doing to promote compliance.

In addition to the federal mental health  parity mandates under the MHPAEA, group health plans also are subject to mental health coverage mandates as part of the “essential benefits” requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  Health plans, their sponsors, adminstrators and fiduciaries should review their health plan provisions to confirm compliance with these current mental health mandates.

For Help or More Information

If you need help preparing to comply with the mental health parity requirements or other help with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern Health Care and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

 

 

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TOU.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  All rights reserved.


[*] See 26 CFR 54.9815-2715, 29 CFR 2590.715-2715, and 45 CFR 147.200, published February 14, 2012 at 77 FR 8668.

[†] See FAQS About Affordable Care Act

Implementation (Part VIII) at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/faq-aca8.pdf.


ERISA Advisory Opinion Addresses If Connecticut Group Health Plan Plan Is “Government Plan”

May 4, 2012
The Labor Department Employee Benefit Security Administration has released an Advisory Opinion discussing whether the Group Health Plan for Employees of the State of Connecticut would lose its status as a “governmental plan” within the meaning of section 3(32) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act if the State permitted participation by certain private nonprofit employers who perform public service functions under contract with the State or receive substantial funding from governmental sources.
 
Interested persons can review Advisory Opinion 2012-01 here.

For Help or More Information

If you need help preparing to comply with the SBC requirements or other help with reviewing and updating, administering or defending your group health or other employee benefit, human resources, insurance, health care matters or related documents or practices, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Council, immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and current Co-Chair of its Welfare Benefit Committee, Vice-Chair of the ABA TIPS Employee Benefits Committee, a council member of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer is recognized, internationally, nationally and locally for her more than 24 years of work, advocacy, education and publications on cutting edge health and managed care, employee benefit, human resources and related workforce, insurance and financial services, and health care matters. 

A board certified labor and employment attorney widely known for her extensive and creative knowledge and experienced with these and other employment, employee benefit and compensation matters, Ms. Stamer continuously advises and assists employers, employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators, service providers, insurers and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend medical and other welfare benefit, qualified and non-qualified deferred compensation and retirement, severance and other employee benefit, compensation, and human resources, management and other programs and practices tailored to the client’s human resources, employee benefits or other management goals.  A primary drafter of the Bolivian Social Security pension privatization law, Ms. Stamer also works extensively with management, service provider and other clients to monitor legislative and regulatory developments and to deal with Congressional and state legislators, regulators, and enforcement officials concerning regulatory, investigatory or enforcement concerns. 

Recognized in Who’s Who In American Professionals and both an American Bar Association (ABA) and a State Bar of Texas Fellow, Ms. Stamer serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of Employee Benefits News, the editor and publisher of Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update and other Solutions Law Press Publications, and active in a multitude of other employee benefits, human resources and other professional and civic organizations.   She also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, Modern Health Care and many other national and local publications.   You can learn more about Ms. Stamer and her experience, review some of her other training, speaking, publications and other resources, and register to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns from Ms. Stamer here.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

For important information concerning this communication click here. THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TOU.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2012 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  All rights reserved.


[*] See 26 CFR 54.9815-2715, 29 CFR 2590.715-2715, and 45 CFR 147.200, published February 14, 2012 at 77 FR 8668.

[†] See FAQS About Affordable Care Act

Implementation (Part VIII) at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/pdf/faq-aca8.pdf.


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