Employers Sponsoring Health Plans Should Audit Compliance Now To Avoid Excise Tax, Other Liability

January 11, 2021

Employers with more than 49 employees sponsoring health coverage should audit their 2020 health plan administration to confirm compliance with 40 federal requirements that if violated trigger an employer duty to pay excise taxes under Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”) Section 6939D if not caught and corrected before the original due date of the employer’s tax return along with other liabilities arising from those violations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”).

IRC Section 6039D requires an employer with 50 employees that sponsors a health plan to self report, self assess and pay excise tax penalties for those violations not caught and corrected before the original due date of businesses’ 2020 business tax return in addition to any benefit, fiduciary and other liabilities triggered for the plan and its fiduciaries under ERISA. The excise tax triggering violations include most Patient Protection and Affordable Care (“Obama Care”) adverse benefit determination and coverage requirements, the eligibility and nondiscrimination requirements of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), mental health parity, Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (“COBRA”) medical coverage continuation and others.

Employers should take well documented actions to audit compliance rather than presume the proper administration of their programs now to allow sufficient time to take corrective action before their original 2020 business tax filing deadline. While employers often are temped to presume or rely upon unaudited assurance from their insurer or third party administrator, sanctions imposed against major insurers by various regulatory agencies, complaints filed with the Department of Labor and state insurance departments and other audits reveal errors in administration frequently happen. Special COVID-19 rules and relief issued in response to the COVID-19 health care emergency enhance the likelihood of administrative errors during 2020. Given sensitive time deadlines and the information, employers ideally will want to complete this audit within the scope of attorney-client privilege sufficiently in advance of the earlier of the original due date of their business tax return or for self-insured health plans, the end of the stop loss run out period to allow sufficient time for necessary correction or other response. Paragraph

For more information about these or other employee benefit, heath and managed care, insurance or workforce issues, register and participate in the January Solutions Law Press, Inc. briefing on the 40 federal health plan rules covered by IRC Section 6039D  e-mail the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is nationally recognized for her work and thought leadership on health and other health and employee benefit issues. 

An attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, Ms. Stamer has worked as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with health and other employee benefit plans, their sponsors, insurers, administrators, providers and others and others has published and spoken extensively on these concerns. 

A former lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its pension  project, Ms. Stamer also has worked internationally and domestically as an advisor and advocate for employer and other plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrators, insurers, technology and other service providers, managed care organizations, direct primary care and other health care providers and others  on these and other legislative, regulatory and other legislative and regulatory design, drafting, interpretation and enforcement, as well as regularly advises and represents organizations on the design, administration and defense of workforce, employee benefit and compensation, safety, discipline, reengineering, regulatory and operational compliance and other management practices and actions.

Ms. Stamer also serves in leadership of a broad range of professional and civic organizations and provides insights and thought leadership through her extensive publications, public speaking and volunteer service with a diverse range of organizations including as Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Intellectual Property Section Law Practice Management Committee, Vice Chair of the International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group Chair and Council Representative and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, past Region IV Chair and national Society of Human Resources Management Consultant Forum Board Member,  past Texas Association of Business BACPAC Chair, Regional Chair and Dallas Chapter Chair, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation and many others.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, 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, Inc.™ resources available here such as:

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 your profile here.  ©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Religious Organizations May Enjoy New Flexibility Under OFCCP Final Religious Exemption Regulation

January 11, 2021

Federal contractors or subcontractors (“government contractors”) that consider themselves religious organizations may wish to reevaluate their status as religious organizations and other implications of the new U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) Final Rule  “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption” (“Final Rule”) that took effect January 8, 2020 while keeping a close eye out for further modifications or refinement to the rules by the incoming Biden Administration and the courts. 

Executive Order 11246, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974, as amended, generally prohibit federal contractors to discriminate in employment because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran. In addition, contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees because they have inquired about, discussed, or disclosed their compensation or the compensation of others subject to certain limitations, and may not retaliate against applicants or employees for engaging in protected activities. These laws also require that federal contractors provide equal employment opportunity through affirmative action and report data about their employment practices.

While generally prohibiting religious discrimination in employment, Executive Order 11246, also acknowledges Constitutional religious freedom protections by providing religious organizations may prefer in employment “individuals of a particular religion,” to maintain their religious identity and integrity. The Final Rule announced by the Trump Administration on December 7, 2020 does not change the vast majority of federal contractors’ responsibilities to comply with their equal employment opportunity and affirmative action obligations under Executive Order 11246. However, it does seek to clarify and maximize the legal protection of religious exercise permitted by the Constitution and law taking into account the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by adding a rule of construction, definitions of key terms and several examples within the definition of “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” to better illustrate which organizations may qualify for the religious exemption.

Federal contractors that believe they qualify for coverage by the new Final Rule should document their qualification, keeping in mind that its applicability turns on a highly fact specific, evidence based test.  Those relying on the rules should work with experienced legal counsel to evaluate and preserve evidence demonstrating the basis of qualification and other risk management strategies, while simultaneously watching for potential refinements to the rules by the incoming Biden Administration, the courts or both.

For more information about the Final Rule or other federal employment discrimination and affirmative action rules, e-mail the author of this update, Texas Board of Legal Specialization Board Certified Labor and Employment Lawyer, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

More Information

We hope this update is helpful. For more information about the these or other health or other legal, management or public policy developments, please contact the author Cynthia Marcotte Stamer via e-mail or via telephone at (214) 452 -8297.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. invites you receive future updates by registering on our Solutions Law Press, Inc. Website and participating and contributing to the discussions in our Solutions Law Press, Inc. LinkedIn SLP Health Care Risk Management & Operations GroupHR & Benefits Update Compliance Group, and/or Coalition for Responsible Health Care Policy.

About the Author

Recognized by her peers as a Martindale-Hubble “AV-Preeminent” (Top 1%) and “Top Rated Lawyer” with special recognition LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® as “LEGAL LEADER™ Texas Top Rated Lawyer” in Health Care Law and Labor and Employment Law; as among the “Best Lawyers In Dallas” for her work in the fields of “Labor & Employment,” “Tax: ERISA & Employee Benefits,” “Health Care” and “Business and Commercial Law” by D Magazine, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a practicing attorney board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and management consultant, author, public policy advocate and lecturer widely known for 30+ years working as an on demand, special project, consulting, general counsel or other basis with domestic and international business, charitable, community and government organizations of all types, sizes and industries and their leaders on labor and employment and other workforce compliance, performance management, internal controls and governance, compensation and benefits, regulatory compliance, investigations and audits, change management and restructuring, disaster preparedness and response and other operational, risk management and tactical concerns. 

Most widely recognized for her work with health care, life sciences, insurance and data and technology organizations, she also has worked extensively with health plan and insurance, employee benefits, financial, transportation, manufacturing, energy, real estate, accounting and other services, public and private academic and other education, hospitality, charitable, civic and other business, government and community organizations. and their leaders.

Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising, representing, defending and training domestic and international public and private business, charitable, community and governmental organizations and their leaders, employee benefit plans, their fiduciaries and service providers, insurers, and others has published and spoken extensively on these concerns. As part of these involvements, she has worked, published and spoken extensively on these and federal and state discrimination, affirmative action and accommodation and other related human resources, employee benefits and other workforce and services; insurance; workers’ compensation and occupational disease; business reengineering, disaster and distress;  and many other risk management and compliance concerns.

A former lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its pension  project, Ms. Stamer also has worked internationally and domestically as an advisor to business, community and government leaders on these and other legislative, regulatory and other legislative and regulatory design, drafting, interpretation and enforcement, as well as regularly advises and represents organizations on the design, administration and defense of workforce, employee benefit and compensation, safety, discipline, reengineering, regulatory and operational compliance and other management practices and actions.

Ms. Stamer also serves in leadership of a broad range of professional and civic organizations and provides insights and thought leadership through her extensive publications, public speaking and volunteer service with a diverse range of organizations including as Chair of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Intellectual Property Section Law Practice Management Committee, Vice Chair of the International Section Life Sciences and Health Committee, Past ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group Chair and Council Representative and current Welfare Benefit Committee Co-Chair, Past Chair of the ABA Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, past Region IV Chair and national Society of Human Resources Management Consultant Forum Board Member,  past Texas Association of Business BACPAC Chair, Regional Chair and Dallas Chapter Chair, former Vice President and Executive Director of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, past Board President of Richardson Development Center (now Warren Center) for Children Early Childhood Intervention Agency, past North Texas United Way Long Range Planning Committee Member, past Board Member and Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, a Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation and many others.

For more information about these concerns or Ms. Stamer’s work, experience, involvements, other publications, or programs, see www.cynthiastamer.com or contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press, Inc.™

Solutions Law Press, Inc.™ provides human resources and employee benefit and other business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other coaching, tools and other resources, training and education on leadership, governance, 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, Inc.™ resources available here such as:

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 your profile here.  ©2021 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions Law Press, Inc.™


Guard Against COVID-19 Fraud Scams

January 8, 2021

Businesses should raise their guard and warn employees and other business connections about avoiding potentially fraudulent COVID-19 related scams.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General is alerting the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Scammers are using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams. 

Fraudsters are offering COVID-19 tests, HHS grants, and Medicare prescription cards in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, these services are unapproved and illegitimate.

These scammers use the coronavirus pandemic to benefit themselves, and beneficiaries face potential harm. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft. 

Examples of some of these scams include:

  • Scammers are using social media to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams. In one major scheme, fraudsters hack social media accounts and send direct messages to beneficiaries while posing as a friend or government employee. The impersonator claims the person is eligible for government grants (citing various reasons like COVID-19, disability, etc.) and urges them to call a phone number to collect the funds. Upon calling, the beneficiary is asked to pay a “processing fee” (using bank account information, gift cards, bitcoin) to receive the grant money. In return, targets of this scam never receive any money, but often large sums of their money are stolen from them. These alleged grants are entirely illegitimate. 
  • Fraudsters are also continuing to offer COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate. 
  • In another fraud scheme, some medical labs are targeting retirement communities claiming to offer COVID-19 tests, but they are actually drawing blood and billing federal health care programs for medically unnecessary services. 
  • Also, fraudsters are offering people a $200 Medicare prescription card when no such cards currently exist.
  • The scams are not merely theoretical. Federal officials already are prosecuting a number of COVID-19 related fraud claims. For instance, on December 21, 2020, the owners of over a dozen New York-area pharmacies were charged in an indictment unsealed today for their roles in a $30 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme, in which they exploited emergency codes and edits in the Medicare system that went into effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic in order to submit fraudulent claims for expensive cancer drugs that were never provided, ordered, or authorized by medical professionals. 
  • Peter Khaim, 40, and Arkadiy Khaimov, 37, both of Forest Hills, New York, each were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Khaim was separately charged with two counts of concealment money laundering and one count of aggravated identity theft.  Khaimov was separately charged with two counts of concealment money laundering.

    “These defendants allegedly lined their own pockets by exploiting Medicare flexibilities that were designed to ensure that patients obtained access to needed medications during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Together with our law enforcement partners, the Criminal Division is working to aggressively identify, investigate, and prosecute scammers who seek to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to defraud our public health care programs.”

    “As alleged in the indictment, the defendants manipulated information in over a dozen pharmacies to defraud the Medicare program, including by taking advantage of systems that were intended to assist patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then went to great lengths to hide their ill-gotten gains through a network of sham companies,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Set D. DuCharme of the Eastern District of New York.  “This office and our law enforcement partners are committed to holding accountable those who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of vital taxpayer-funded health care programs upon which so many rely.”

    “We allege Mr. Khaim and Khaimov used the COVID-19 pandemic as cover to exploit changes in the Medicare system,” said Acting Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr of the FBI’s New York Field Office.  “The changes to this program, funded by taxpayers, were put in place to help fellow citizens obtain needed medications during the pandemic, not line the pockets of fraudsters.  Those who attempt to illegally profit from our public funded healthcare programs should remember taxpayers also fund courts and jails, and behavior like the type announced today will be met with swift action from the FBI and our law enforcement partners.  If you are aware of frauds like the one announced today, please contact us at 1-800-CALL-FBI.”

    “Fraudsters who target the Federal health care system attempt to undermine the integrity of programs that serve millions of individuals.  When they leverage a public health emergency to perpetrate schemes, their wanton disregard for the programs and beneficiaries is glaringly clear,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG).  “We are responding aggressively with our law enforcement partners to pursue bad actors and to warn the public about these ongoing scams.”

    “The defendants allegedly carried out a $30 million health care fraud and money laundering scheme, siphoning funds meant for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen of IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). “While Americans across the country are in dire need of medical and financial assistance, the defendants allegedly used the stolen proceeds to purchase real estate and luxury items. IRS-CI and our law enforcement partners will continue to work tirelessly to expose COVID-19 schemes and bring those responsible to justice.”

    “This indictment describes allegations of crimes that are especially egregious and caused significant harm to the programs designed to protect the most medically vulnerable, jeopardizing the health of our Medicare system and then using our nation’s financial system to launder proceeds of the fraud,” said Special Agent in Charge Patricia Tarasca of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG).  “We appreciate the cooperation of our fellow law enforcement partners as we work to identify and investigate fraud of this type.”

    According to the indictment, the defendants used COVID-19 emergency override billing codes in order to submit fraudulent claims to Medicare, for which they were allegedly paid over $30 million for expensive cancer medication Targretin Gel 1% that, in fact, never was purchased by the pharmacies, prescribed by physicians, or dispensed to patients, often during periods when pharmacies were non-operational, and using doctors’ names on prescriptions without their permission. 

    The indictment alleges that the defendants acquired control over dozens of New York pharmacies by paying others to pose as the owners of the pharmacies and hiring pharmacists to pretend to be supervising pharmacists at the pharmacies, for the purpose of obtaining pharmacy licenses and insurance plan credentialing.  As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic began to be felt in the United States, the defendants used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to capitalize on a national emergency for their own financial gain by using the COVID-19 “emergency override” billing codes to submit fraudulent claims for Targretin Gel 1%, which has an average wholesale price of approximately $34,000 for each 60 gram tube. 

    The indictment also alleges that, with the proceeds of the fraud, the defendants engaged in a complex money laundering conspiracy where they created sham pharmacy wholesale companies, which they named after pre-existing pharmacy wholesalers, and fabricated invoices to make it appear that funds transferred from the pharmacies to the sham pharmacy wholesale companies  were for legitimate pharmaceutical drug purchases. 

    In the first phase of the money laundering conspiracy, the defendants conspired with an international money launderer who arranged for funds to be wired from the sham pharmacy wholesale companies to companies in China for distribution to individuals in Uzbekistan.  In exchange, the defendants received cash provided by members of the Uzbekistani immigrant community to an unlicensed money transfer business for remittance to their relatives in Uzbekistan, minus a commission that was deducted by the money launderer. 

    In the second phase of the money laundering conspiracy, when the amount of fraudulent proceeds exceeded the amount of cash available in the Uzbekistani immigrant community, the defendants directed the international money launderer to transfer funds back from the sham wholesale companies to the defendants, their relatives, or their designess, in the form of certified cashier’s checks and bags of cash that were dropped at their house in the middle of the night.  The defendants used the proceeds of the scheme to purchase real estate and other luxury items.

  • https://go.usa.gov/xATze
  • Protect Yourself

    Businesses should protect themselves and warn their employees to guard against these and other scams. Recommended steps include:

    • Be vigilant and protect yourself from potential fraud concerning COVID-19 vaccines. You will not be asked for money to enhance your ranking for vaccine eligibility. Government and State officials will not call you to obtain personal information in order to receive the vaccine, and you will not be solicited door to door to receive the vaccine.
    • Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their personal, medical, and financial information. Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.
    • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately. 
    • Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.
    • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.
    • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer HHS grants related to COVID-19.
    • Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test.
  • Anyone suspecting or experiencing COVID-19 health care fraud, should report it immediately online or call 800-HHS-TIPS (800-447-8477).