EBSA Plans To Include Health Care Reform Compliance In Health Plan Audits Beginning In FY 2012; Disputes OIG Criticism Of ACA Enforcement Efforts

October 30, 2011

Insurance companies administering certain self-insurance arrangements for employers or certain other entities may qualify as exempt from the information reporting obligations imposed under Internal Revenue Code section 6050W. 

Notice 2011-78 provides relief to insurance companies administering certain self-insurance arrangements on behalf of an employer or other entity from any information reporting obligations under section 6050W of the Internal Revenue Code.  Insurance companies may rely on the notice until the regulations under section 6050W are amended.  The IRS published Notice 2011-78 in the Internal Revenue Bulletin 2011-41 on October 11, 2011.

 For More Information Or Assistance

If you need help reviewing,  updating, administering or defending your health benefit or other benefit or insurance program for compliance with ACA or other federal or state employee benefit, insurance, health care or other laws or regulations, 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.


EBSA Plans To Include Health Care Reform Compliance In Health Plan Audits Beginning In FY 2012; Disputes OIG Criticism Of ACA Enforcement Efforts

October 7, 2011

Look for the Department of Labor Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA) to begin looking at compliance with the group health plan reform mandates of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA)(collectively “ACA”)  requirements as part of health plan audits in its Fiscal Year 2012. 

Assistant Secretary of Labor Phyllis Borzi  announced EBSA’s plan to begin examining ACA compliance as part of broader health plan compliance audits that the EBSA intends to conduct in Fiscal Year 2012 in her response to a critique of EBSA’s ACA inplementation and enforcement efforts contained in a September 30, 2011 audit report issued by the Departmentof Labor’s Office of Inspector General.   According to that response, EBSA has developed a comprehensive checklist for auditing ACA compliance by health plans that it plans to use as part of health plan audits and has conducted significant staff training as part of its ACA implementation activities.  In light of EBSA plans to add ACA compliance to its health plan audits in 2012, employer and union health plans, their sponsors, insurers and administrators should take appropriate steps to ensure that their programs terms and practices are up to date with these requirements.

Ms. Borzi shared the plans for audit as part of a broader rebuttle  on behalf of EBSA to criticisms contained in a September 30, 2011 report by the  U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector (OIG) critical of the effectiveness and speed of EBSA’s efforts to implement certain health care reform provisions of ACA. 

Enacted on March 23, 2010, ACA makes EBSA, along with the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health & Human Services, a key player in the implementation and enforcement of the health benefit targeted reforms enacted as part of its sweeping health care reforms.  The September 30, 2011 OIG report identified various areas of improvement that OIG indicated EBSA should make to its implementation efforts based on OIG’s review of efforts by the EBSA to carry out its responsibilities to interpret, implement and enforce these reforms.

OIG Concerns

While its September 30, 2011 report titled “Further Action By EBSA Could Help Ensure PPACA Implementation And Compliance,” (OIG Report) acknowledged the significant actions taken by EBSA toward implementing ACA, the OIG Report still found that EBSA should take additional action to help ensure the timely and effective implementation and enforcement of ACA’s reforms. 

The most significant criticism expressed in the OIG report related to the adequacy of work and data reported by EBSA to HHS for HHS to use to define the benefits to be considered “essential benefits” under ACA.  Under ACA, EBSA was required to provide HHS with the results of a survey of benefits typically covered by employers that is sufficiently broad to enable HHS to determine benefits provided under a typical employer plan.   The OIG Report expresses several concerns about the breadth and validity of the information that EBSA provided to HHS.  According to the OIG, EBSA was unable to state that the report it provided HHS was broad enough to encompass all benefits EBSA considered to be typically covered by employers. Moreover, EBSA did not address all benefits HHS requested.  As a result, OIG expressed concern that HHS may not be able to ensure that State Insurance Exchanges offer the appropriate essential health benefits required by ACA.

In addition to its critique of EBSA’s essential benefits survey, the OIG also concluded:

  • EBSA could work with Treasury and HHS to establish a public timeline for addressing the public comments received on interim-final PPACA regulations and issuing final regulations;
  •  EBSA should have included the ACA requirements in its health plan investigations to better leverage its enforcement resources to assist plans in complying with the new regulations; and
  • EBSA should develop a regulation concerning MEWAs under PPACA Section 6604, regarding the applicability of State law as a means to combat fraud and abuse.

In light of these findings, the OIG recommended that EBSA take the following actions to strengthen its ACA implementation and enforcement actions:

  • Work with the Departments of HHS, Treasury, and the Office of Management and Budget to establish specific timetables to respond to public comments and issue final regulations;
  • Incorporate the ACA requirements immediately into the enforcement program to assist plans in complying with ACA;
  • Provide HHS with the results of a survey of benefits typically covered by employers that is sufficiently broad to enable HHS to determine benefits provided under a typical employer plan; and
  • Proceed with rulemaking relative to MEWAs under ACA section 6604.

EBSA Says Will Start Checking ACA Compliance in FY 2012 But Response Disputes Certain OIG Findings

While agreeing with the first and last recommendations, Ms. Borzi defended EBSA’s decision to delay auditing of health plan compliance with ACA and the adequacy of the survey data it reported to HHS for use in establishing essential benefits under ACA.

Concerning the auditing, Ms. Borzi said that EBSA has developed a comprehensive checklist to promote consistent investigations of ACA compliance, which EBSA plans to begin using when it conducts compliance assessments as part of its Fiscal Year 2012 Health Benefits Security Project as part of a broad range of implementation activities that EBSA has performed.  Ms. Borzi’s response to the OIG recommendations indicated that EBSA disagrees with OIG’s assessment that EBSA should be auditing compliance with ACA as part of its current year audits.  Rather, Ms. Borzi indicated that EBSA’s assessment and experience leads it to believe it more suitable for EBSA to use a phased implementation approach under which EBSA which delayed ACA compliance audits pending the development of regulations and after plans and insurers have had the opportunity to proccss the implementing regulations and related guidance and benefit from EBSA’s extensive outreach.

Ms. Borzi also took exception to the OIG’s criticism of EBSA’s survey.  In her response, she states that the report EBSA made to HHS “fully satisfies” the requirements of ACA.  She pointed out that ACA “clearly requires the Secretary of HHS, rather than the Secretary of Labor, to determine the scope of benefits offered by a typical employer plan. Thc stated purpose of the Secretary of Labor’s survey is to inform this determination.”  According to Ms. Borzi, the survey is based on the National Compensation Survey conducted regularly by the Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a large, nationally representative sample of employers to collect detailed information on whether particular benefits are included in employer health plans. Ms. Borzi concluded that this survey “will al1ow the Secretary of HHS to determine which are offered by a typical employer plan.

Likewise, Ms. Borzi disagreed with the OIG’s criticism that the report provided to HHS does not expressly tate which benefits are “typical” as unfounded.  According to Ms. Borzi, the statute docs not require the DOL to determine a specified threshold of incidence above which (and only above which) the benefit should be considered “typical.”  As a result, Ms. Borzi concluded that the EBSA report, by providing detailed data on the incidence of different benefits, fulfills the statutory purpose and requirements without taking on the function of the Secretary of HHS. 

Ms. Borzi’s response also reported the EBSA’s disagreement with the OIG’s assertion that EBSA’s approach to the report could impair the public comment process.   She stated that the report and associated supporting materials are easily available to the public and that commcntcrs are free to provide their views on the survey and on what benefits arc offered by a typical employer plan. Furthermore,Ms. Borzi pointed to planned opportunities for public input announced by the Secretary of HHS as offering additional opportunities for public input.

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.


ONC Hires APP Design, Inc. To Run Patient E-Consent Trial Project

October 3, 2011

 ONC’s Office of the Chief Privacy Officer recently awarded a contract to APP Design, Inc. to find an efficient, effective, and creative way to help patients better understand their choices about whether and when their health care provider can share their health information electronically, including sharing it with a health information exchange organization. The project team will design, develop, and pilot innovative ways to electronically carry out existing patient choice policies, while improving business processes for health care providers. To learn more about the E-Consent Trial project, please see the Statement of Work. ONC’s formal launch of the E-Consent Trial Project will be in October.

 For Assistance or Additional Information

Nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming 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, Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy and related employment, insurance and health care matters.    Her experience includes extensive experience  advising insured and self-insured ERISA group medical and other plans,  Medicare and Medicaid Advantage plans, mini-med, high-deductible and other consumer driven medical, long-term care, occupational injury, ex-pat, association, fraternal benefit and other managed care and medical benefit plans and insurers, their service providers,  insurers,  sponsors, fiduciaries, technology providers and others.   A primary drafter of the Bolivian pension law, Ms. Stamer also has more than 30 years experience working on legislative and regulatory health care, pension, workforce, education and immigration reform matters including extensive work on the Pension Protection & Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, COBRA, state managed care and other  insurance and other laws.  In addition to her experience advising governments and others internationally about these matters, she  regularly advises and represents employers, employee benefit plans, insurers, health care and managed care providers and others about evolving laws and regulations and assists them in dealing with Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, Immigration and Customs, OCR, OIG, CMS and other HHS agenices, the FTC, the Justice  Department, state insruance and health departments, and others.

 A widely published author and popular speaker, Ms. also regularly publishes and speaks for a broad range of organizations  including American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.  She  currently or previously has served on the editorial advisory board of Employee Benefits News,  BNA Employee Benefits CDRolm and a wide range of other highly regarded publications.  Her insights on these and other matters have appeared in Managed Care Executive, Health Leaders, Private Payers News, the Wall Street Journal, various publications of  the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen, Atlantic Information Serices, the Wall Street Journal, and many other industry and news publications.   In recognition of this extensive record of employee benefit experience and involvement, Ms. Stamer recently was selected to be inducted as a Fellow in the American  College of Employee Benefits Counsel.

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.


HHS Projects Medicare Advantage Enrollment Will Rise As Premiums Decline In 2012; Plans Face Increased Regulation & Enforcement

September 25, 2011

Medicare Advantage enrollment will rise and premiums will decline in 2012.   While plans can expect increased enrollment, they also face increasing  challenges in managing the demands of increased government regulation under Health Care Reform and other new regulations, as well as rising governmental scrutiny of premiums and compliance.  Consequently, while more individuals than ever are expected to sign up for Medicare Advantage Plan coverage, the plans still face significant compliance and operational challenges.

According to the Department of  Health  & Human Services (HHS) , Medicare Advantage premiums on average will be 4% lower in 2012 than in 2011.  Meanwhile HHS  reports that Medicare Advantage plans project enrollment to increase by 10%. This follows an earlier HHS  announcement that average prescription drug plan premiums will remain virtually unchanged in 2012.

Of people with Medicare, HHS reports 99.7% continue to enjoy access to a Medicare Advantage plan, and benefits will remain consistent with those offered in 2011.  To offset declining premiums and other costs, however, many industry experts expect that plans will make greater use of technology in place of human staffing, cut back on broker compensation and utilization and implement other  operational changes to help control operations costs.

While many Medicare Adtange and Medicaid Advantage Plans will benefit from increased enrollment, producing promised benefits and avoiding regulatory sanctions amid tightening  budgets remains a  challenge for many of these plans.  Medicare and Medicaid  Advantage plans are tightly regulated by federal and state law.  Over the past few years, the compliance, premiums, profits and other activities of these  and other  health plans have been heavily scruitinzed by Congress and federal and state regulators.  As part of the stepped up health care fraud and other  cost containment  efforts, federal regulators have stepped up audit and enforcement against these programs.  Several plans have suffered administrative sanctions or other discipline under these laws.  Most commentatorys anticipate this scrutiny to expand in 2012.

Learn more  here.

For Assistance or Additional Information

Nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming 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, Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law and a widely published speaker and author,  Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising businesses, plans, fiduciaries, insurers and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy and related employment, insurance and health care matters.    Her experience includes extensive experience  advising insured and self-insured ERISA group medical and other plans,  Medicare and Medicaid Advantage plans, mini-med, high-deductible and other consumer driven medical, long-term care, occupational injury, ex-pat, association, fraternal benefit and other managed care and medical benefit plans and insurers, their service providers,  insurers,  sponsors, fiduciaries, technology providers and others.   A primary drafter of the Bolivian pension law, Ms. Stamer also has more than 30 years experience working on legislative and regulatory health care, pension, workforce, education and immigration reform matters including extensive work on the Pension Protection & Affordable Care Act, HIPAA, COBRA, state managed care and other  insurance and other laws.  In addition to her experience advising governments and others internationally about these matters, she  regularly advises and represents employers, employee benefit plans, insurers, health care and managed care providers and others about evolving laws and regulations and assists them in dealing with Congress, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, Immigration and Customs, OCR, OIG, CMS and other HHS agenices, the FTC, the Justice  Department, state insruance and health departments, and others.

 A widely published author and popular speaker, Ms. also regularly publishes and speaks for a broad range of organizations  including American Bar Association, Aspen Publishers, World At Work, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Spencer Publications, SHRM, the International Foundation, Solutions Law Press and many others.  She  currently or previously has served on the editorial advisory board of Employee Benefits News,  BNA Employee Benefits CDRolm and a wide range of other highly regarded publications.  Her insights on these and other matters have appeared in Managed Care Executive, Health Leaders, Private Payers News, the Wall Street Journal, various publications of  the Bureau of National Affairs, Aspen, Atlantic Information Serices, the Wall Street Journal, and many other industry and news publications.   In recognition of this extensive record of employee benefit experience and involvement, Ms. Stamer recently was selected to be inducted as a Fellow in the American  College of Employee Benefits Counsel.

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.


4th Circuit Rejects Two Challenges To Affordable Care Act Constitutionality

September 8, 2011

The Fourth Circuit this morning (September 8, 2011) published decisions ruled rejecting two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on jurisdictional grounds in Liberty University v. Geithner and Commonwealth of Virgina v. Sebelius.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will discuss this new development and other health care reform issues when she speaks to the Houston Chapter of WEB at 11:30 a.m on September 14, 2011 on “Coping With Health Care Reform: What’s New, What Lies Ahead & What To Do.”  The program will cover newly proposed rules that will require health plans and health plan issuers to provide a new summary of benefits and coverage beginning in 2012 and other emerging rules imposed under recently engaged health care reform laws.  The program is approved for 1 hour of general continuing education credit by the Texas Department of Insurance. Get details and register online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

As the debate over the validity and future of the sweeping  health care reforms enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) rages in Congress and the federal courts, employer and other health plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators face the daunting challenge of keeping their health plans compliant, affordable and relevant in the face of the steady rollout of the deluge of new mandates imposed by the Affordable Care Act and other evolving health plan mandates and planning for changes yet to come.

 A former national WEB member nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming 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 and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.  Her 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 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.

Ms. Stamer’s presentation will focus on key health care reform information that can help employers and other plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and advisors understand and cope with the effects and responsibilities of health care reform including:

  • Recently proposed and finalized regulations;
  • Updating you on the status of litigation challenging the ACA health care reforms in the courts;
  • Updating you on the key developments affecting health care regulatory reforms likely to impact your health plan;
  • Sharing an updated roadmap of the currently scheduled implementation of key future health benefit reforms enacted under ACA;
  • Sharing selected tips and strategies for managing compliance and other risks and deal with uncertainties arising as health care reform continues to evolve; and
  • Audience questions and discussion of questions and ideas.

Register and get additional retails online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

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


Stamer Speaks 9/14 On Coping With Health Care Reform: What’s New, What Lies Ahead & What To Do

September 3, 2011

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will speak to the Houston Chapter of WEB at 11:30 a.m on September 14, 2011 on “Coping With Health Care Reform: What’s New, What Lies Ahead & What To Do.”  The program will cover newly proposed rules that will require health plans and health plan issuers to provide a new summary of benefits and coverage beginning in 2012 and other emerging rules imposed under recently engaged health care reform laws.  The program is approved for 1 hour of general continuing education credit by the Texas Department of Insurance. Get details and register online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

As the debate over the validity and future of the sweeping  health care reforms enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) rages in Congress and the federal courts, employer and other health plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators face the daunting challenge of keeping their health plans compliant, affordable and relevant in the face of the steady rollout of the deluge of new mandates imposed by the Affordable Care Act and other evolving health plan mandates and planning for changes yet to come.

 A former national WEB member nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming 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 and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.  Her 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 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.

Ms. Stamer’s presentation will focus on key health care reform information that can help employers and other plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and advisors understand and cope with the effects and responsibilities of health care reform including:

  • Recently proposed and finalized regulations;
  • Updating you on the status of litigation challenging the ACA health care reforms in the courts;
  • Updating you on the key developments affecting health care regulatory reforms likely to impact your health plan;
  • Sharing an updated roadmap of the currently scheduled implementation of key future health benefit reforms enacted under ACA;
  • Sharing selected tips and strategies for managing compliance and other risks and deal with uncertainties arising as health care reform continues to evolve; and
  • Audience questions and discussion of questions and ideas.

Register and get additional retails online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

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


ABA TIPS Section Appoints Cynthia Marcotte Stamer Vice Chair of Employee Benefits General Committee

August 16, 2011

The American Bar Association Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section recently appointed Solutions Law Press Managing Editor Cynthia Marcotte Stamer to serve as Vice-Chair Appointment of the Employee Benefits General Committee for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The TIPS Employee Benefits Committee concentrates on helping attorneys and others keep on top of and respond to developments in the constantly evolving practice area of employee benefits, with particular emphasis on litigation and regulatory compliance issues through programs, meetings, publications and other projects and activities.  Additional information about involvement in the Employee Benefits Committee and its programs, publications and activities is available here.

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 pioneering 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 help 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. She also regularly conducts training and speaks on these and other  management, compliance and public policy concerns.  Some recent publications and programs that may be of interest include:

For additional 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.

IIf 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.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. All rights reserved.

 

 


Stamer Speaks 9/14 On Coping With Health Care Reform: What’s New, What Lies Ahead & What To Do

July 29, 2011

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will speak to the Houston Chapter of WEB at 11:30 a.m on September 14, 2011 on “Coping With Health Care Reform: What’s New, What Lies Ahead & What To Do.”  Get details and register online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

As the debate over the validity and future of the sweeping  health care reforms enacted under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) rages in Congress and the federal courts, employer and other health plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries and administrators face the daunting challenge of keeping their health plans compliant, affordable and relevant in the face of the steady rollout of the deluge of new mandates imposed by the Affordable Care Act and other evolving health plan mandates and planning for changes yet to come.

 A former national WEB member nationally and internationally known for her knowledge and work on health and other employee benefit matters and engaging and informative presentations, attorney, author and policy advocate Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will help you prepare your plan and organization to cope with these and other challenges of understanding and coping with health care reform. 

Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPPT Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Arrangements, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, incoming 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 and governments on health care, retirement, employment, insurance, :and tax program design, administration, defense and policy.  Her 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 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.

Ms. Stamer’s presentation will focus on key health care reform information that can help employers and other plan sponsors, insurers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and advisors understand and cope with the effects and responsibilities of health care reform including:

  • Updating you on the status of litigation challenging the ACA health care reforms in the courts;
  • Updating you on the key developments affecting health care regulatory reforms likely to impact your health plan;
  • Sharing an updated roadmap of the currently scheduled implementation of key future health benefit reforms enacted under ACA;
  • Sharing selected tips and strategies for managing compliance and other risks and deal with uncertainties arising as health care reform continues to evolve; and
  • Audience questions and discussion of questions and ideas.

Register and get additional retails online at www.webnetwork.org/houston.

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


Spectrum Healthcare NLRB Charge Settlement Highlights Need To Defend Against Possible Unfair Labor Practices & Other Union Exposures

May 20, 2011

The National Labor Regulations Board (NLRB)’s announcement of a settlement against a Connecticut nursing home operator this week in conjunction with a series of other enforcement actions highlight the need for businesses to tighten defenses and exercise other caution to minimize their organization’s exposure to potential NLRB charges or investigation.    As reflected by many of these enforcement acts, the exposures arise both from active efforts by businesses to suppress union organizing or contracting activities, as well as the failure to identify and manage hidden labor law exposures in the design and administration of more ordinary human resources, compliance, business operations and other policies and practices.

On May 17, 2011, the NLRB announced here  that Connecticut nursing home operator Spectrum Healthcare has agreed to settle a NLRB case involving multiple allegations of unlawful suspensions, discharges and unilateral changes in violation of the National Labor Relations Act and other federal labor laws by offering reinstatement and back pay to all discharged and striking workers and signing a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with its employees’ union, New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199, SEIU.

Along with the contract and reinstatement of all employees, the company agreed to pay $545,000 in back pay and pension benefits to employees who were harmed by the unfair labor practices, and to expunge any disciplinary records related to the case. As a result, all NLRB charges against the company have been withdrawn. Spectrum admits to no wrongdoing in the settlement.

The settlement, reached midway through a hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge in Connecticut and approved by the judge yesterday, ends a long-running dispute which grew into a strike by almost 400 employees at four nursing homes in Connecticut operated by Spectrum Healthcare, LLC.  Complaints issued by the NLRB Regional Office in Hartford alleged that, beginning in the fall of 2009, several months after the prior collective bargaining agreement expired, Spectrum discharged seven employees and suspended three others to retaliate against their union activities and to discourage other employees from supporting the union. In addition, one employee was discharged and seven others were suspended after the employer unilaterally changed its tardiness discipline policy without first bargaining with the union.

The complaints further alleged that in April 2010, employees at the four nursing homes — in Derby, Ansonia, Winsted, and Hartford — went on strike to protest the unfair labor practices. When the strikers offered unconditionally to return to work in late August, the employer refused to take them back. Under federal labor law, if a strike is called because of an unfair labor practice, employees are entitled to reinstatement after an unconditional offer to return to work.

The reinstated employees are due to return to the facilities this week.

The Spectrum Healthcare settlement is reflective of the growing number of NLRB enforcement orders against employers generally and health care providers specifically under the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration has close ties and has expressed its strong and open support for union and union organizing activities.  The adoption of a series of union friendly labor law reforms was one of the key campaign promises of President Obama during his election campaign.  While other legislative priorities and the change in the leadership of the House of Representatives appears to have slowed efforts to push through this agenda, it has not slowed the Administration’s efforts to support unions with strong enforcement activities.  Empowered by a difficult economic and job situation and an awareness of the Obama Administration’s strong support for union organizing and other activities, unions are stepping up organizing efforts and more aggressively challenging employers actions.

Over the past few months, public awareness of the Obama Administration’s aggressive enforcement agenda on behalf of unions has drawn new attention as a result of the widespread media coverage of NLRB actions challenging Boeings planned relocation of certain manufacturing jobs intervention in a planned relocation of certain manufacturing operations.  See, e.g., Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon releases statement on Boeing complaint; National Labor Relations Board issues complaint against Boeing Company for unlawfully transferring work to a non-union facilityHowever, the Boeing and Spectrum Healthcare actions represent only the tip of the iceberg of the rising number of NLRB enforcement activities, most of which take place with little media or public attention.

Along side the Spectrum Healthcare and Boeing actions, in recent weeks, the NLRB also has been busy with several other enforcement activities.  For instance:

  • On May 9 2011, the NLRB issued a complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo (HUB), a nonprofit that provides social services to low-income clients, that alleges that HUB unlawfully discharged five employees after they took to Facebook to criticize working conditions, including work load and staffing issues. The case involves an employee who, in advance of a meeting with management about working conditions, posted to her Facebook ; and
  • On May 17, the NLRB secured a temporary injunction from a U.S. District Court in San Jose California against San Jose area waste hauling company OS Transport LLC,   charged with engaging in unfair labor practices including the termination of a lead organizer and another Union supporter, retaliation against Union efforts in the form of unfavorable assignments, threats to Union supporters, and promises of improved treatment of employees who disavow the Union for the alleged purpose of defeating a union. o offer reinstatement to two drivers and restore full assignments to other drivers who had expressed support for a union during an organizing campaign. More Details here.,

In addition, in recent weeks, the NLRB also has:

 Amid this difficult enforcement environment, business leaders should exercise special care to prepare to defend their actions against both potential organizing efforts, to understand the types of actions and activities that may help fuel charges, and take steps to manage these and other union organization and other labor risks.  

For Help With Labor & Employment, Employee Benefits Or Other Risk Management and Defense

If you need assistance in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your labor and employment, employee benefits, 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 23 years of work helping employers; 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 wage and hour 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 wage and hour, worker classification and other human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls 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 here or 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 including:

 

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 .

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


Avoiding Liability For Another’s Health Plan Fraud

February 25, 2011

TPA’s Embezzlement Guilty Plea Reminds Plan Sponsors, Fiduciaries & Service Providers To Ensure Fiduciaries, Administrators & Staff Prudently Selected, Monitored & Bonded

The guilty plea of an Ohio-based third-party administrator to embezzlement of $1 million in plan assets reminds employers and other employee benefit plan sponsors and members of their management participating in plan related activities, plan administrators and other plan fiduciaries and plan service providers (“plan decision-makers”) of the importance of ensuring appropriate, well-documented credentialing and selection, oversight, auditing and bonding the individuals and companies acting as fiduciaries and others participating in administration of plans or their assets (“plan workforce members”) to minimize their potential exposure to potential personal liability as a result of the fraud under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Cox Prosecution Reflective DOL Readiness To Prosecute Parties For Misuse of Plan Monies & Other Plan Fraud

According to a February 23, 2011 U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announcement, Rhonda Sue Irvin Cox, owner of Irvin Administrative Solutions LLC (IAS), pleaded guilty to the embezzlement of $1 million of retirement plan assets from client plans administered  by IAS.   The DOL reports that between January 2003 and April 2007, Cox plead guilty to using used her position with ISC to embezzle the funds from 12 of 59 plans for which IAS served as a third party administrator. Cox also pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements in documents required under ERISA to be kept and certified by the plans’ administrator.  Scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, 2011, Cox faces a maximum of five years in prison on each criminal count, a $250,000 fine and a special assessment. Cox is scheduled to be sentenced on June 1, 2011.

The DOL and Justice Department have a long-standing record of aggressive investigation and prosecution of embezzlement or other fraud impacting health and other employee benefit plans.  Their criminal and civil enforcement and prosecution record makes clear this commitment remains strong. 

Plan Sponsors, Fiduciaries & Service Providers May Face Civil Liability From When Others Defraud Their Plans

While plan decision-makers generally are aware that individuals defrauding health or other employee benefit plans risk criminal and civil prosecution, many fail to recognize their own potential civil liability exposures that may arise out of the fraudulent acts or other misconduct of another plan workforce member. 

Embezzlement of plan assets is one of many acts of misconduct that can create potential fiduciary liability exposure for plan decision-makers under ERISA.  Until confronted with potential fraud, misconduct or other misfeasance by a plan fiduciary, service provider or other plan workforce member, many plan decision-makers lack an adequate appreciation of the personal liability they may incur if they cannot demonstrate appropriate steps were taken to protect their health plan from this misconduct.

Under ERISA’s fiduciary responsibility rules, embezzlement or other misuse of employee contributions or other plan assets as well as certain other misconduct or misfeasance by a plan fiduciary, service provider or other plan workforce member can create personal liability exposures for plan decision-makers with responsibility or discretionary authority over the selection, retention, or management of plan workforce members if the plan decision-maker cannot demonstrate appropriate steps were taken to select, monitor and bond the plan workforce and other prudent action was taken to prevent and redress the fraud.  Accordingly, health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, service providers, their management, and others serving as, or selecting, managing or retaining companies or individuals that participate in the handling of health plan assets or administration should act to strengthen their health plans and themselves against these exposures.

Risk Management Strategies & Tips

When embezzlement or other concern affecting their health plan arises, plan decision-makers concerned about protecting their health plans and themselves must act promptly in a carefully documented, prudent manner to investigate and respond to the concern. They should be prepared to present well-documented evidence of the scope and limits of their responsibility, authority, awareness, and potential for the selection, monitoring and oversight of the plan workforce member or others responsible for the performance of those actions, the adequacy of the bonding arrangements for the plan, and other efforts to prudently protect the plan before, during and after the discovery of the concern.  While these and other steps can help strengthen the ability of a plan decision-maker to liability exposures that can result from the other plan workforce member’s embezzlement of plan assets or other misconduct, plan sponsors and plan decision-makers also should acquire suitable fiduciary and other liability insurance coverage and make other arrangements to help provide for the potential financial costs and other demands that are likely to arise in the event that it becomes necessary to investigate or redress fraud or other misconduct.   Learn more here.

For Help With Investigations, Policy Review & Updates Or Other Needs

If you need help investigating or responding to fraud or other misconduct affection a health or other employee benefit plan, dealing with an employee benefit plan investigation or enforcement action by the Labor Department, private plaintiffs or another public or private party, reviewing current or proposed health plan processes or procedures, or responding to other employee benefit, labor and employment or other related controls and practices, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

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 HIPAA and other privacy and data security, health plan, health care and other human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and related matters.

For more than 23 years, Ms. Stamer has counseled, represented and trained employers and other employee benefit plan sponsors, plan administrators and fiduciaries, insurers and financial services providers, third party administrators, human resources and employee benefit information technology vendors and others privacy and data security, fiduciary responsibility, plan design and administration and other compliance, risk management and operations matters.  In connection with this work, Ms. Stamer regularly counsels and helps clients to defend a broad range of clients about employee benefit plan fraud and other fiduciary responsibility concerns.  Throughout her career, she has represented and served as special counsel to health and other employee benefit plans, plan sponsors, plan service providers, officers, directors and other management officials, bankruptcy trustees, debtors and creditors, and others in connection with health and other employee benefit plan fraud and other fiduciary responsibility and related investigations, prosecutions and other actions involving the Labor Department, IRS, HHS, Justice Department, state insurance and attorneys general, bankruptcy actions, and participant, beneficiary and vendor disputes.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other employee benefits, insurance and 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 here or 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 health care, human resources, employee benefits, data security and privacy, 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 including:

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. To unsubscribe, e-mail here.

 

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