New EEOC Lawsuit Challenges Orion Energy Systems Employee Benefit Program Under ADA

September 19, 2014

Employers using or considering using health risk assessments or other wellness programs should carefully monitor a new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems, Civil Action 1:14-cv-01019 (E.D.Wis.), which is the first time the EEOC has sued an employer under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) based on the employer’s wellness program.

Although the alleged facts in Orion reflect its practices might be much more aggressive than in common use by most employers, the principles argued by the EEOC in  Orion raise potential concerns for the growing number of employers relying on health risk assessment and other wellness programs to help manage health benefit costs, employee disabilities, and other concerns.

According the Kaiser Family Foundation, health risk assessments and other wellness program use is increasingly common.  The majority of employers reportedly now offer some sort of wellness program — 94 percent of employers with over 200 workers, and 63 percent of smaller ones.

Employers that use these arrangements generally believe their health risk assessment or other wellness benefit passes legal muster as long as it complies with standards established in final regulations amending the nondiscrimination requirements of the Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPAA). The sponsors of these arrangements often are unaware of or discount the likelihood that the EEOC might view these and other wellness benefit arrangements as violating the ADA prohibitions against medical inquiries that are not both job related and necessary to the job or other ADA disability discrimination prohibitions.

In Orion, the EEOC contends that Orion instituted a wellness program that required medical examinations and made disability-related inquiries.  When employee Wendy Schobert declined to participate in the program, Orion shifted responsibility for payment of the entire premium for her employee health benefits from Orion to Schobert. Shortly thereafter, Orion fired Schobert.

The EEOC charges Orion violated federal law by requiring an employee to submit to medical exams and inquiries that were not job-related and consistent with business necessity as part of a so-called “wellness program,” which the EEOC charges was not voluntary, and then by firing the employee when she objected to the program.

The EEOC maintains that Orion’s wellness program violated the ADA as applied to Schobert.  Additionally, EEOC also charges Orion wrongfully retaliated against Schobert because of her good-faith objections to the wellness program. The EEOC further asserts that Orion interfered with Schobert’s exercise of her federally protected right to not be subjected to unlawful medical exams and disability-related inquiries.

“Employers certainly may have voluntary wellness programs — there’s no dispute about that — and many see such programs as a positive development,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC Chicago district. “But they have to actually be voluntary. They can’t compel participation by imposing enormous penalties such as shifting 100 percent of the premium cost for health benefits onto the back of the employee or by just firing the employee who chooses not to participate. Having to choose between responding to medical exams and inquiries — which are not job-related — in a wellness program, on the one hand, or being fired, on the other hand, is no choice at all.”

The Orion litigation reminds businesses of the advisability or properly designing and managing wellness programs to comply with applicable legal requirements.

Financial or other incentive and reward programs of course must be designed to comply with HIPAA’s nondiscrimination rules, the ADA and privacy rules.   Privacy requirements also can be a challenge under these laws unless information collected from screening and other wellness and disease management activities is carefully collected, routed and handled to comply with HIPAA, GINA and other privacy rules.  See, e.g,   EBSA Issues Guidance on Health PLan Wellness & Disease Management Programs Subject to HIPAA Nondiscrimination RulesADAAA Amendment Broader “Disability Definition Not Retroactive, Employer Action Needed To Manage Post 1/1/2009 RisksBusinesses Face Rising Disability Discrimination Enforcement Risks; EEOC Finalizes Updates To Disability Regulations In Response to ADA Amendments Act.

Employers and health plans also should review the existing preventive care coverage provided in their health plans to ensure compliance with expanded federal mandates enacted as part of the sweeping new federal health care reform law. See e.g., Affordable Care To Require Health Plans Cover Contraception & Other Women’s Health Procedures.

If you need assistance addressing the legal requirements of your wellness program or other workforce, employee benefit, compensation or risk management concern, contact the author of this update.  We also encourage you and others to help develop real meaningful improvements by joining Project COPE: Coalition for Patient Empowerment here by sharing ideas, tools and other solutions and other resources. TheCoalition For Responsible Health Care Policy provides a resource that concerned Americans can use to share, monitor and discuss the Health Care Reform law and other health care, insurance and related laws, regulations, policies and practices and options for promoting access to quality, affordable healthcare through the design, administration and enforcement of these regulations.You also can access information about how you can arrange for training on “Building Your Family’s Health Care Toolkit,”  using the “PlayForLife” resources to organize low cost wellness programs in your workplace, school, church or other communities, and other process improvement, compliance and other training and other resources for health care providers, employers, health plans, community leaders and others here.

About Author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance with ACA or other laws or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A 2011 inductee to the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration.

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have been published by the HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see www.CynthiaStamer.com.

About Project COPE: The Coalition On Patient Empowerment & Its  Coalition on Responsible Health Policy

Sharing and promoting the use of practical practices, tools, information and ideas that patients and their families, health care providers, employers, health plans, communities and policymakers can share and offer to help patients, their families and others in their care communities to understand and work together to better help the patients, their family and their professional and private care community plan for and manage these  needs is the purpose of Project COPE.

The best opportunity to improve access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans is for every American, and every employer, insurer, and community organization to seize the opportunity to be good Samaritans.  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:  Speak up, step up and help bridge the gap when you or your organization can do so by extending yourself a little bit.  Speak up to help communicate and facilitate when you can.  Building health care neighborhoods filled with good neighbors throughout the community is the key.

The outcome of this latest health care reform push is only a small part of a continuing process.  Whether or not the Affordable Care Act makes financing care better or worse, the same challenges exist.  The real meaning of the enacted reforms will be determined largely by the shaping and implementation of regulations and enforcement actions which generally are conducted outside the public eye.  Americans individually and collectively clearly should monitor and continue to provide input through this critical time to help shape constructive rather than obstructive policy. Regardless of how the policy ultimately evolves, however, Americans, American businesses, and American communities still will need to roll up their sleeves and work to deal with the realities of dealing with ill, aging and disabled people and their families.  While the reimbursement and coverage map will change and new government mandates will confine providers, payers and patients, the practical needs and challenges of patients and families will be the same and confusion about the new configuration will create new challenges as patients, providers and payers work through the changes.

For Added Information and 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 Help Or More Information

If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping employers and other management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; and others design, administer and defend innovative workforce, compensation, employee benefit  and management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions.  The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training 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, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see hereor contact Ms. Stamer directly.

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, data security and privacy, insurance, health care and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources at www.solutionslawpress.com.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information here.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Catch Up On Health Reform & Other Key Employee Benefits & Insurance Issues Emerging Issues and Litigation Relating to Life, Health, Disability and ERISA Symposium In Ft. Lauderdale

December 7, 2012

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will be one of the featured panelists discussing “Implications of PPACA” on January 18, 2013 at the American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section’s (TIPS) 39th Annual TIPS Midwinter Symposium on Insurance and Employee Benefits “Emerging Issues and Litigation Relating to Life, Health, Disability and ERISA” in Fort Lauderdale.

The “Implications on PPACA” program scheduled at 3:30 p.m. on January 18, 2012 is one of many content-rich series of programs on employee benefit and insurance issues that leading practitioners will lead during the Symposium W Hotel Fort Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale, FL on January 17-19, 2013.  To register, review the full agenda or get additional information about the Symposium, see here.

About Ms. Stamer

Managing Editor of Solutions Law Press, Inc. and a noted Texas-based employee benefits and employment lawyer with extensive involvement in the leadership of the ABA and other professional organizations involved in employee benefits, health care and workforce matters, is nationally and internationally known for her knowledgeable and creative leadership and work as an attorney, consultant, policy advocate, speaker and author helping businesses, governments, and communities on health and other insurance and employee benefits, patient education and empowerment, wellness and disease management, and other programs, policies, and processes.  For more than 24 years, Ms. Stamer’s legal practice has focused on advising and representing employers, insurers, health care providers, community leaders and governments about health care and employee benefits policy and process improvement, quality, performance management, education, compliance, communications, risk management, reimbursement and finance, and other related matters.  In addition to her legal practice, Stamer also extensively consults and provides leadership to a broad range of clients, professional and civic organizations, and others on strategies for improving the health care system and the ability of health care providers, payers, employers, community organizations, government agencies to promote the ability of patients and their families to access cost-effective, quality, affordable health care and other resource needs.  She also has worked extensively with a broad range of business and government clients on health care, pension, social security, workforce, insurance and many other related policy matters.

In addition to her service with TIPS, Ms. Stamer also is active in the leadership of a broad range of other professional and civil organizations. For instance, Ms. Stamer presently serves as Executive Director of Project COPE, the Coalition on Patient Empowerment and the Coalition for Responsible Healthcare Policy; Vice President of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Professionals Association; Immediate Past Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee and its representative to the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits and Vice Chair of its Welfare Benefits Committee; Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and a current member of its Healthcare Coordinating Council; and as the Gulf Coast TEGE Council TE Committee Coordinator.  She previously served as a founding Board Member and President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence, as a Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; the Board President of the early retirement intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children; Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee; a member of the Board of Directors of the Southwest Benefits Association; on many seminar faculties and in many other professional and civic leadership and volunteer roles. 

Author of the hundreds of publications and workshops these and other employment, employee benefits, health care, insurance, workforce and other management matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights on employee benefits, insurance, health care and workforce matters in Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs, HealthLeaders, Modern Healthcare, Business Insurance, Employee Benefits News, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other publications. Nationally known for her work on health care reform and related matters, Ms. Stamer also regularly conducts training and speaks on these and other  management, compliance and public policy concerns.  For more information about Ms. Stamer, upcoming training, publications or other materials or events, see here  or contact Ms. Stamer directly via email here or (469) 767-8872.

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    If you do not wish to receive these updates in the future, send an e-mail with the word “Remove” in the Subject to here.

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


Small Employers Should Evaluate Eligibility For Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

March 14, 2012

Small employers that provide health insurance coverage to their employees should consider whether they qualify for and should claim the small business health care tax credit authorized by Congress as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).

The small business health care tax credit enacted two years ago may provide a tax credit for certain small employers that pay at least half of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage under a qualifying arrangement may be eligible for this credit. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations provide health insurance for their employees.

Depending upon how they are structured, eligible small employers are likely subject to one of the following three tax-filing deadlines, which fall in coming weeks:

  • March 15: Corporations that file on a calendar year basis can figure the credit on Form 8941 and claim it as part of the general business credit on Form 3800, both of which are attached to their corporate income tax return.
  • April 17: Individuals have until April 17 to complete and file their returns on Form 1040. This includes Sole proprietors, as well as people who have business income reported to them on Schedules K-1—partners in partnerships, S corporation shareholders and beneficiaries of estates and trusts. They also attach Forms 8941 and 3800 to their return. The resulting credit is entered on Form 1040 Line 53.
  • May 15: Tax-exempt organizations that file on a calendar year basis can use Form 8941 and then claim the credit on Form 990-T, Line 44f.

Taxpayers needing more time to determine eligibility might consider obtaining an automatic tax-filing extension, usually for six months. See Form 4868 for individuals, Form 7004 and its instructions for businesses and Form 8868 for tax-exempt organizations.

Businesses that have already filed and later find that they qualified in 2010 or 2011 can still claim the credit by filing an amended return for one or both years. Corporations use Form 1120X, individuals use Form 1040X and tax-exempt organizations use Form 990-T.

Some businesses and tax-exempt organizations that already locked into health insurance plan structures and contributions may not have had the opportunity to make any needed adjustments to qualify for the credit for 2010 or 2011. These employers can still make the necessary changes to their health insurance plans so they qualify to claim the credit on 2012 returns or in years beyond. Eligible small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014.

The recently-revamped Small Business Health Care Tax Credit page on IRS.gov provides additional information and resources designed to help small employers see if they qualify for the credit and then figure the amount of the credit, if any, that the employer qualifies to claim. These include a step-by-step guide for determining eligibility, examples of typical tax savings under various scenarios, answers to frequently-asked questions, a YouTube video and a webinar.

 For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance with ACA or other laws or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A 2011 inductee to the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration. 

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have appeared in HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see www.CynthiaStamer.com.


HHS Chides Trustmark Life Insurance Company For “Excessive” Health Premium Increases After Affordable Care Act Rate Audit

January 12, 2012
 Trustmark Life Insurance Company is the latest health insurance issuer coming under fire from the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) for making what HHS views as “unreasonable” health insurance premium increases under its new “rate review” powers created by the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act).

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced today (January 12, 2012) HHS considers to be unreasonable premium rate increases proposed by Trustmark Life Insurance Company in five states—Alabama, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wyoming.  According to HHS, the allegedly excessive rate hikes would affect nearly 10,000 residents across these five states.

According to HHS, a review of the health insurance premium disclosures filed by Trustmark Life Insurance Company here found that Trustmark has raised rates by 13 percent in these five states.  For small businesses in Alabama and Arizona, when combined with other rate hikes made over the last 12 months, HHS claims rates have increased by 27.2 percent and 18.1 percent, respectively.   According to HHS, HHS says that an independent review engaged by HHS found that the rate increases were unreasonable because the insurer “would be spending a low percent of premium dollars on actual medical care and quality improvements, and because the justifications were based on unreasonable assumptions.”  HHS is calling upon Trustmark Health Insurance Company to rescind the rates and issue rebates to consumers or publically explain its refusal to do so.  The new rate review procedures allow Trustmark Health Insurance Company and other carriers accused by HHS of making unreasonable rate increases various options to dispute the charges

The rate review and reduction demand by HHS reflects its efforts to use its “rate review” authority from the Affordable Care Act to discourage health insurers from raising health insurance premiums by more than 10 percent.  HHS requires health insurers to notify HHS of rate increases over 10 percent and justify these increases. HHS generally views health insurance premium increases of more than 10 percent as unreasonable.  Under these new rate review powers,

Under the new rate review rules, HHS has the power to review proposed rate reviews and to report its findings but does not have the direct authority to force health insurers to limit premium increases to less than 10 percent or to impose legal or administrative sanctions directly against insurers for making what HHS views as unreasonable premium increases. However, as many as 37 states have the authority to regulate or reject unreasonable premium increases.  In the absence of direct authority to regulate insurer rates, HHS uses its ability to publicize its rate review determinations to invite state regulators and the public to apply pressure to insurers to keep down rate increases. 

In today’s announcement, HHS credits its new rate review powers with helping to prevent health insurance premium increases,  According to HHS, states with the power to regulate insurer premiums increasingly are using this authority.  Examples of how states have used this authority include:

  • In New Mexico, the state insurance division denied a request from Presbyterian Healthcare for a 9.7 percent rate hike, lowering it to 4.7 percent;
  • In Connecticut, the state stopped Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer, from hiking rates by a proposed 12.9 percent, instead limiting it to a 3.9 percent increase;
  • In Oregon, the state denied a proposed 22.1 percent rate hike by Regence, limiting it to 12.8 percent.
  • In New York, the state denied rate increases from Emblem, Oxford, and Aetna that averaged 12.7 percent, instead holding them to an 8.2 percent increase.
  • In Rhode Island, the state denied rate hikes from United Healthcare of New England ranging from 18 to 20.1 percent, instead seeing them cut to 9.6 to 10.6 percent.
  • In Pennsylvania, the state held Highmark to rate hikes ranging from 4.9 to 8.3 percent, down from 9.9 percent.

 Targeting health insurers proposing rate increases of 10 or more percent is likely to result in a significant number of reviews.  A Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2011 Annual Survey found average premiums increased 8% for single coverage and 9% for family coverage through May, 2011.

Companies that HHS finds have made excessive rate increases can either reduce their rate hikes or post a justification on their website within 10 days of the rate review determination.

 For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance with ACA or other laws or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A 2011 inductee to the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration. 

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have appeared in HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see www.CynthiaStamer.com.


Group Health Plans & Insurer To Get More Time To Meet Affordable Care Act Summary of Benefits and Coverage Requirements

December 7, 2011

Delayed Deadline Allows Much Needed Time To Continue Preparations

Group health plans and insurers, their sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators and other services providers are getting more time to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s new Summary of Benefits and Coverage (“SBC”) mandate beyond the March 23, 2012 deadline originally set forth in the Proposed Regulations jointly published by  the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury (the Departments). Plans, their insurers and administrators should make good use of this time to continue the time consuming planning and preparations expected to be required to comply with the final rules.

As amended by the Affordable Care Act, Public Health Service Act (“PHS Act”) § 2715 PHS requires group health plans and health insurance issuers to provide a “Summary of Benefits and Coverage” and “Uniform Glossary” meeting standards developed by the Departments.

In August, 2011, the Departments jointly published proposed regulations and accompanying templates detailing the content, format, supplements and other requirements that they proposed requiring health plans and health insurers to meet to satisfy the SBC requirements. 

If implemented in final form as proposed, group health plans and insurers, their sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries can expect that significant work will be required to evaluate and prepare the SBC and associated adjustments to plan documents, summary plan descriptions and other materials and practices that are likely to be required in response to the new requirements.  Since health plan documents and insurance contracts are unlikely to already use the same definitions as the SBC regulations require be used in the Glossary,  group health insurers and self-insured group health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries and other administrators generally will want to review and adjust definitions and other plan document and insurance cotnract provisions to eliminate inconsistencies and address other concerns.  Likewise, adjustments to summary plan descriptions, certificates of benefits and other communication materials also likely will be needed.  Furthermore, most health insurers and group health plan may want to reevaluate claims and other cost and reserve projections and consider other adjustments in response to potential implications of these adjustments.  

As originally proposed by the Departments, health plans and issuers faced a March 23, 2012 deadline to begin complying with the SBC rules.  Since August, 2011, we and various other attorneys from the American Bar Association RPTE and Tax leadership, as well as others have shared concerns with representatives of the Departments about the compliance deadlines and other aspects of the Proposed Rules.  New guidance released by the Departments in November reflects that the Departments are taking this input to heart.

According to joint guidance issued by the Departments in November, the health plans and insurers will not be expected to comply by March 23.  Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) guidance jointly issued by the Departments indicates that health plans and health insurers will not be required to comply with the SBC mandate until after the Departments issue finalize regulations.

According to the FAQ, the Departments’ final regulations, once issued, will include an applicability date that allows group health plans and health insurance issuers “sufficient time to comply.”  The FAQ does not indicate when the Departments expect to publish final regulations or the length of the period following this publication that the Departments anticipate health plans and issuers will have to come into compliance.

This news provides welcome relief for group health plans and insurers, and the employers, administrators and others working to update and administer group health plans in response to the Affordable Care Act.  Health plans, insurers, their sponsors, administrators and service providers are cautioned to make good use of this added time to begin preparing to respond quickly when regulations are finalized.  While the Departments are expected to make various refinements when finalizing the regulations beyond adjusting the compliance deadline, plans and insurers are expected to be required to engage in significant planning and other preparations to meet the revised rules.  In light of this, health insurers and group health plans, their sponsors, administrators and fiduciaries generally are advised to continue these preparations based upoln the guidance set forth in the proposed regulations so that they can be prepared to respond in a timely fashion to the final regulations.

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:

For important information concerning this communication click here. 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.

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 www.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.

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CMS Final Medicare Rule Imposes Many Conditions On Access To Medicare Claims Data To Evaluate Providers & Suppliers

December 6, 2011

Final Rules Make Direct Access To Data By All But Most Sophisticated Impossible

The Centers For Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) says disclosures of certain Medicare provider and supplier claims performance data scheduled to begin in January will empower employers, health plans and consumers to better evaluate the quality of these health care providers and suppliers.

CMS plans to begin sharing certain Medicare parts A, B and D provider claims data with “qualifying entities” that can demonstrate the necessary experience and qualifications for use in assisting employers, health plans and others to evaluate the performance of providers and suppliers.  CMS also will generate public reports about this performance data for purposes of aiding employers, consumers and others in evaluating the quality for provider or suppliers.

The disclosures will be made in response to Section 10332 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (collectively the “Affordable Care Act”).  Section 10332 generally requires CMS make available this Medicare data to “qualifying entities” for use in conjunction with other claims data to evaluate provider performance effective January 1, 2012.

The new Final Rule on Availability of Medicare Data for Performance Measurement (“Final Rule”) available for review here establishes detailed requirements about who, when and under what conditions that Medicare will allow qualifying entities to obtain and use certain standardized extracts of Medicare Parts A, B, and D provider and supplier performance data in conjunction with other claims data to evaluate provider and supplier performance pursuant to Section 10332. The Final Rule also discusses privacy requirements that qualifying entities must meet when handling this data. scheduled for official publication in the December 7, 2011 Federal Register

The disclosure of provider performance data is intended to provide greater transparency to employers, health plans, consumers and other parties in evaluating health care provider and supplier quality.  To access this information, however, entities will have to comply with detailed requirements.  Complicated restrictions included in the Final Rules make it likely that only sophisticated health plans and service providers will be able to directly access and use the provider and supplier data intended to be made available under the Final Rule, however.  

As implemented under the Final Rule, entities wishing to access the provider or supplier claims data will be required to meet detailed qualification and other requirements.  For instance, among other things, the Final Rule generally only allows an entity to access and use the provider data if it is an entity or business contractor to an entity that:

  • CMS determines is an entity eligible to obtain the provider data under the eligibility criteria set forth in the Final Rule;
  • Apply to obtain the provider data under the Final Rule for an allowed purpose in accordance with a demonstrated plan as required by the Final Rules;
  • Meet a detailed list of requirements demonstrating that it has the experience, governance, policies, procedures and other required qualifications specified in the Final Rules to qualify to obtain and use the provider data;
  • Pays the required fee;
  • Comply with annual reporting and other reporting and monitoring requirements;
  • Comply with the specific requirements of the Final Rules concerning the protection of the privacy of accessed data;
  • Agree to meet the requirements described in the Final Rules; and
  • Otherwise comply with all other applicable requirements of the Final Rule.

Entities accessing the information also will be monitored and subject to sanction for failing to comply with the Final Rule in using or handling the provider performance data once it is received.  Once an entity is allowed to access the provider claims data, the Final Rules specify that CMS will monitor and assess the performance of qualified entities and their contractors through audits, review of data source documentation and data as requested by CMS; site visits; review of data reported by the qualified entity as part of required annual reporting and other reporting requirements set forth in the Final Rule; analysis of complaints from beneficiaries and/or providers or suppliers.  If CMS determines that a qualified entity has breached any of these requirements, it may warn; require a corrective action plan (“CAP”); place the qualified entity on a special monitoring plan; or terminate the qualified entity from participation in the program in accordance with the Final Rules.

Health plans, employers, and other entities desiring to access or use this information will need to exercise care when applying to obtain and handling the data to ensure that all requirements are met.  To ensure that these requirements are met, parties interested in obtaining these rules should seek assistance from competent counsel and other qualified advisors concerning their proposed application and use of this data.

In light of these and other conditions for accessing and using this information, only a very limited of very sophisticated health plans, employers or other entities or their advisors are likely to apply to or qualify to access and use the provider and supplier claims data as contemplated by the rule. Individual consumers, and most employers generally will only benefit from the new access allowed to this data indirectly, by accessing the analysis of these entities.

For Help or More Information

If you need help responding to this new guidance or otherwise to deal with other health plan or insurance, employee benefit, human resources, compensation, health care matters or related 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 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 health and managed care, insurance  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 insured and self-insured 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.  She also has worked extensively with Medicare and Medicaid Advantage, association, employer and other group insurance arrangements, MEWAs, fraternal benefit and mutual aid programs, government programs, and a broad range of other specialized health and other programs and insurers to design and administer arrangements in response to their unique regulatory and operational needs. 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:

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. For important information concerning this communication click here.

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 www.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.


EBSA Releases Collection of New M-1 and Other Guidance Impacting Multiple Employer Welfare Plans

December 5, 2011

Multiple and multi-employer health and other welfare plans are subject to special Form M-1 and other reporting and disclosure and other requirements under Federal law  as amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Affordable Care Act”).

The Department of Labor’s Employee Benefits Security Administration (“EBSA”) updated its website with the following new  guidance under the Affordable Care Act today:

For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing or updating your health benefit program for compliance with ACA or other laws or with any other employment, employee benefit, compensation or internal controls matter, please contact the author of this article, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A 2011 inductee to the American College of Employee Benefits Council, immediate past-Chair and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, the ABA TIPS Employee Benefit Plan Committee Vice Chair, former ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Chair, past Southwest Benefits Association Board Member, Employee Benefit News Editorial Advisory Board Member, and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers. plan administrators and other services providers,  and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.   Nationally and internationally known for her creative and highly pragmatic knowledge and work on health benefit and insurance programs, Ms. Stamer’s  experience includes extensive involvement in advising and representing these and other clients on ACA and other health care legislation, regulation, enforcement and administration. 

Widely published on health benefit and other related matters, Ms. Stamer’s insights and articles have been published by the HealthLeaders, Modern Health Care, Managed Care Executive, the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen Publishers, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News, the Wall Street Journal, the American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see www.CynthiaStamer.com.


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