Read Trump Health Care Executive Order

October 12, 2017

President Trump today (October 12, 2017) issued the following that he promised to be the first in a series of executive orders and other administrative actions that his administration will roll out to provide Obamacare relief  for consumers, employers and others by promoting healthcare choice and competition given the continued difficulty by the Republican-led Congress to pass legislation repealing or replacing the health care law.

What actually will result remains to be seen.  Like the January 20, 2017 Executive Order Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal that President Trump signed as his first executive order, the new Executive Order doesn’t actually change anything; it merely directs the agencies to review and propose for implementation changes to regulations and other guidance allowed by law.

On the heels of his announcement of the Executive Order, President Trump moved forward on his promise to take other action on Obamacare by announcing that the Administration will not continue funding for individual subsidies that currently are continued under an Obama Administration action in the absence of Congressional action funding those subsidies.

Concerned parties should monitor and inform themselves about proposed changes in the Executive Order and other actions as they are proposed and develop, and provide timely comments and other input to help influence the shape and content of any changes proposed or adopted in response to the Executive Order.  Solutions Law Press, Inc. will be monitoring developments.   Stay tuned for updates.

Language of Executive Order

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy.

(a) It shall be the policy of the executive branch, to the extent consistent with law, to facilitate the purchase of insurance across State lines and the development and operation of a healthcare system that provides high-quality care at affordable prices for the American people. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), however, has severely limited the choice of healthcare options available to many Americans and has produced large premium increases in many State individual markets for health insurance. The average exchange premium in the 39 States that are using http://www.healthcare.gov in 2017 is more than double the average overall individual market premium recorded in 2013. The PPACA has also largely failed to provide meaningful choice or competition between insurers, resulting in one-third of America’s counties having only one insurer offering coverage on their applicable government-run exchange in 2017.

(b) Among the myriad areas where current regulations limit choice and competition, my Administration will prioritize three areas for improvement in the near term: association health plans (AHPs), short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

(i) Large employers often are able to obtain better terms on health insurance for their employees than small employers because of their larger pools of insurable individuals across which they can spread risk and administrative costs. Expanding access to AHPs can help small businesses overcome this competitive disadvantage by allowing them to group together to self-insure or purchase large group health insurance. Expanding access to AHPs will also allow more small businesses to avoid many of the PPACA’s costly requirements. Expanding access to AHPs would provide more affordable health insurance options to many Americans, including hourly wage earners, farmers, and the employees of small businesses and entrepreneurs that fuel economic growth.

(ii) STLDI is exempt from the onerous and expensive insurance mandates and regulations included in title I of the PPACA. This can make it an appealing and affordable alternative to government-run exchanges for many people without coverage available to them through their workplaces. The previous administration took steps to restrict access to this market by reducing the allowable coverage period from less than 12 months to less than 3 months and by preventing any extensions selected by the policyholder beyond 3 months of total coverage.

(iii) HRAs are tax-advantaged, account-based arrangements that employers can establish for employees to give employees more flexibility and choices regarding their healthcare. Expanding the flexibility and use of HRAs would provide many Americans, including employees who work at small businesses, with more options for financing their healthcare.

(c) My Administration will also continue to focus on promoting competition in healthcare markets and limiting excessive consolidation throughout the healthcare system. To the extent consistent with law, government rules and guidelines affecting the United States healthcare system should:

(i) expand the availability of and access to alternatives to expensive, mandate-laden PPACA insurance, including AHPs, STLDI, and HRAs;

(ii) re-inject competition into healthcare markets by lowering barriers to entry, limiting excessive consolidation, and preventing abuses of market power; and

(iii) improve access to and the quality of information that Americans need to make informed healthcare decisions, including data about healthcare prices and outcomes, while minimizing reporting burdens on affected plans, providers, or payers.

Sec. 2. Expanded Access to Association Health Plans.

Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Labor shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand access to health coverage by allowing more employers to form AHPs. To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, the Secretary should consider expanding the conditions that satisfy the commonality‑of-interest requirements under current Department of Labor advisory opinions interpreting the definition of an “employer” under section 3(5) of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The Secretary of Labor should also consider ways to promote AHP formation on the basis of common geography or industry.

Sec. 3. Expanded Availability of Short-Term, Limited‑Duration Insurance.

Within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, consistent with law, to expand the availability of STLDI. To the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, the Secretaries should consider allowing such insurance to cover longer periods and be renewed by the consumer.

Sec. 4. Expanded Availability and Permitted Use of Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Within 120 days of the date of this order, the Secretaries of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services shall consider proposing regulations or revising guidance, to the extent permitted by law and supported by sound policy, to increase the usability of HRAs, to expand employers’ ability to offer HRAs to their employees, and to allow HRAs to be used in conjunction with nongroup coverage.

Sec. 5. Public Comment.

The Secretaries shall consider and evaluate public comments on any regulations proposed under sections 2 through 4 of this order.

Within 180 days of the date of this order, and every 2 years thereafter, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor and the Federal Trade Commission, shall provide a report to the President that:

(a) details the extent to which existing State and Federal laws, regulations, guidance, requirements, and policies fail to conform to the policies set forth in section 1 of this order; and

(b) identifies actions that States or the Federal Government could take in furtherance of the policies set forth in section 1 of this order.

Sec. 7. General Provisions.

(a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

DONALD J. TRUMP

THE WHITE HOUSE,

October 12, 2017

Implications & Actions

The impact of this and other Executive Orders and other Presidential actions depend upon what actions, if any, the agencies determine they are allowed by law to take and how those changes are implemented.  Concerned persons and organizations should begin preparing input to the agencies and monitoring and commenting on proposals and other guidance to help shape the outcome.

Solutions Law Press, Inc. is preparing initial analysis of this Executive Order and will be closely monitoring and updating this analysis.  Follow up to learn more and stay abreast of new developments.

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 management work, coaching, teachings, and publications.

Ms. Stamer works with businesses and their management, employee benefit plans, governments and other organizations deal with all aspects of human resources and workforce, internal controls and regulatory compliance, change management and other performance and operations management and compliance. Her day-to-day work encompasses both labor and employment issues, as well as independent contractor, outsourcing, employee leasing, management services and other nontraditional service relationships. She supports her clients both on a real-time, “on demand” basis and with longer term basis to deal with all aspects for workforce and human resources management, including, recruitment, hiring, firing, compensation and benefits, promotion, discipline, compliance, trade secret and confidentiality, noncompetition, privacy and data security, safety, daily performance and operations management, emerging crises, strategic planning, process improvement and change management, investigations, defending litigation, audits, investigations or other enforcement challenges, government affairs and public policy.

Well-known for her extensive work with health, insurance, financial services, technology, energy, manufacturing, retail, hospitality, governmental and other highly regulated employers, her nearly 30 years’ of experience encompasses domestic and international businesses of all types and sizes. Author of numerous works on privacy and data security, Ms. Stamer‘s experience includes involvement in cyber security and other data privacy and security matters for more than 20 years.

A Fellow in the American College of Employee Benefit Counsel, the American Bar Foundation and the Texas Bar Foundation, Ms. Stamer also shares her thought leadership, experience and advocacy on these and other concerns by her service as a management consultant,  business coach and consultant and policy strategist as well through her leadership participation in professional and civic organizations such her involvement as the Vice Chair of the North Texas Healthcare Compliance Association; Executive Director of the Coalition on Responsible Health Policy and its PROJECT COPE: Coalition on Patient Empowerment; former Board President of the early childhood development intervention agency, The Richardson Development Center for Children; former Gulf Coast TEGE Council Exempt Organization Coordinator; a founding Board Member and past President of the Alliance for Healthcare Excellence; former board member and Vice President of the Managed Care Association; past Board Member and Board Compliance Committee Chair for the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas; a member and policy adviser to the National Physicians’ Council for Healthcare Policy; current Vice Chair of the ABA Tort & Insurance Practice Section Employee Benefits Committee; current Vice Chair of Policy for the Life Sciences Committee of the ABA International Section; Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section; ABA Real Property Probate and Trust (RPTE) Section former Employee Benefits Group Chair, immediate past RPTE Representative to ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, and Defined Contribution Committee Co-Chair, past Welfare Benefit Committee Chair and current Employee Benefits Group Fiduciary Responsibility Committee Co-Chair, Substantive and Group Committee member, Membership Committee member and RPTE Representative to the ABA Health Law Coordinating Council; past Chair of the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Committee; a former member of the Board of Directors, Treasurer, Member and Continuing Education Chair of the Southwest Benefits Association and others.

Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author, highly popular lecturer, and serial symposia chair, who publishes and speaks extensively on human resources, labor and employment, employee benefits, compensation, occupational safety and health, and other leadership, performance, regulatory and operational risk management, public policy and community service concerns for the American Bar Association, ALI-ABA, American Health Lawyers, Society of Human Resources Professionals, the Southwest Benefits Association, the Society of Employee Benefits Administrators, the American Law Institute, Lexis-Nexis, Atlantic Information Services, The Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), InsuranceThoughtLeaders.com, Benefits Magazine, Employee Benefit News, Texas CEO Magazine, HealthLeaders, the HCCA, ISSA, HIMSS, Modern Healthcare, Managed Healthcare, Institute of Internal Auditors, Society of CPAs, 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 symposia and publications. She also has served as an Editorial Advisory Board Member for human resources, employee benefit and other management focused publications of BNA, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com and many other prominent publications and speaks and conducts training for a broad range of professional organizations and for clients on the Advisory Boards of InsuranceThoughtLeadership.com, HR.com, Employee Benefit News, and many other publications.

Want to know more? See here for details about the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, e-mail her here or telephone Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872.

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 at SolutionsLawPress.com such as the following:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please provide your current contact information and preferences including your preferred e-mail by creating or updating your profile here.

NOTICE: These statements and materials are for general informational and purposes only. They do not establish an attorney-client relationship, are not legal advice, and do not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Readers are urged to engage competent legal counsel for consultation and representation in light of the specific facts and circumstances presented in their unique circumstance at any particular time. No comment or statement in this publication is to be construed as an admission. The author reserves the right to qualify or retract any of these statements at any time. Likewise, the content is not tailored to any particular situation and does not necessarily address all relevant issues. Because the law is rapidly evolving and rapidly evolving rules makes it highly likely that subsequent developments could impact the currency and completeness of this discussion. The presenter and the program sponsor disclaim, and have no responsibility to provide any update or otherwise notify any participant of any such change, limitation, or other condition that might affect the suitability of reliance upon these materials or information otherwise conveyed in connection with this program. Readers may not rely upon, are solely responsible for, and assume the risk and all liabilities resulting from their use of this publication.

Circular 230 Compliance. The following disclaimer is included to ensure that we comply with U.S. Treasury Department 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.

©2017 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. Non-exclusive right to republish granted to Solutions  Law Press, Inc.™   For information about republication, please contact the author directly.  All other rights reserved.


Stamer To Discuss “Health Care Reform’s Implications For Employers, Health Plans & Employee Benefits Practitioners” At May 5 Dallas Bar Association Meeting

March 22, 2010

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will discuss “Health Care Reform:  Implications for Employers, Health Plans and Employee Benefits Practitioners” at the May 5, 2010 meeting of Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits/Executive Compensation Section to be held from 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. in the Haynes & Boone Ballroom of Dallas Bar Association Belo Mansion located at 2101 Ross Avenue in Dallas, Texas.

Narrowly passed by Congress in March after a year of contentious debate, the comprehensive health care reform legislation imposes a complex array of reforms impacting employment based health plans, employers, and the insurers and other vendors and administrators of these programs.  Ms. Stamer will explore key elements of these reforms impacting employers and employment based health coverage and their implications for employers, employment based health plans, and employee benefits and other attorneys providing advice about these arrangements.

Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member, Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits Practice and former Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the Dallas Bar Association Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Section, Ms. Stamer is nationally recognized for more than 22 years of work with employer and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, administrative and other service providers, insurers, and other clients on health benefit program and product design, documentation, administration, compliance, risk management, and public policy matters.  The publisher of Solutions Law Press, Ms. Stamer also publishes, conducts training and speaks extensively on these and related concerns for the ABA, the Bureau of National Affairs and many other organizations.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

If you need assistance with evaluating or responding to this new legislation or other employee benefits, employment, compensation or other management concerns, wish to inquire about compliance, risk management or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402; or your other preferred Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney.

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing other updates and publications by Ms. Stamer including:

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here and learn more about  other Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. 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 or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press distributions here. For important information concerning this communication click here.    

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Stamer To Present “2010 Health Plan Checkup” At Annual DFW ISCEBS Employee Benefits Fundamentals Workshop

February 22, 2010

 

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will discuss the latest changes and requirements affecting employer sponsored group health plans, their sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and vendors during her presentation titled “2010 Health Plan Checkup” at the Dallas/Fort Worth ISCEBS Annual Fundamentals Workshop currently scheduled for May 13, 2010 in Dallas. 

With Congress and federal regulators turning up the heat on health care, keeping up to date with the latest developments is both critical and increasingly challenging for employers, their employee benefits and human resources staff, and the fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and others dealing with health plan design and administration. Coming as U.S. employers continue to struggle to provide health benefits in the face of skyrocketing health benefit costs, tighter health plan medical privacy, nondiscrimination, mental health and other benefit mandates, and a host of other tighter new federal regulations impacting employment-based health plans and their sponsoring businesses, fiduciaries and administrators increasingly are forcing U.S. business leaders to make appropriate health plan cost and compliance management a key management priority. Ms. Stamer will discuss key developments, highlight new developments on the horizon, and provide tips to participants for monitoring and responding to these and other developments.  To register or for additional information, contact the Dallas/Fort Worth ISCEBS here.

Nationally recognized for her more than 22 years of work on managed care and other health and other employee benefits, human resources, insurance, and health care matters, Ms. Stamer assists employee benefit plans, their sponsoring employers, fiduciaries, insurers, administrators and others to monitor and respond to evolving legal and operational requirements and to design, administer, document and defend managed care and other medical benefit programs and practices. She also regularly advises and assists these and other clients to monitor and respond to evolving legislation, regulations, enforcement activities by federal and state regulators, evolving product and market changes, and private litigation and other disputes.  Past Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and the Current Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member, Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits Practice and Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law, Ms. Stamer also is a widely published author and highly regarded speaker on these and other employee benefit and human resources matters.  Some other recent updates on these topics recently published by Ms. Stamer include :

For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about federal or state regulatory compliance audits, risk management or training, assistance investigating or responding to a known or suspected compliance or risk management concern, or need legal representation on other matters please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Labor & Employment Practice Chair at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402; or your other preferred Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney.

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here and learn more about  other Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. 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 or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press distributions 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.

©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Health Plans & Business Associates Face 2/17 Deadline To Update Policies, Contracts & Procedures For HIPAA Privacy Rule Changes

February 15, 2010

Connecticut AG Lawsuit Highlights Expanding Civil Damage Exposure Risks Of Noncompliance 

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

By Wednesday, February 17, 2010, employer and other health plans and health insurers (“covered entities”) and service providers performing functions on behalf of these entities (“business associates”) must begin complying  with tighter federal requirements for the use, access, protection and disclosure of protected health information under Privacy & Security Standards of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act). The changes scheduled to take effect February 17, 2010 are likely to require that health plans and their business associates update their written policies, operational procedures, privacy notices and business associate agreements in several respects.

While the HITECH Act gave covered entities and business associates a year to complete the necessary arrangements to comply with these impending HITECH Act changes, many health plans and business associates have not completed the necessary arrangements despite expanding liability exposures that can result from noncompliance. To mitigate these exposures, covered entities and their business associates should act quickly both to update their services agreements, plans and policies, practices, and procedures, and to implement the training, oversight, and other management procedures necessary to comply with the HITECH Act changes and to mitigate other HIPAA risks.

2/17/10 Deadline To Comply With HITECH Act HIPAA Amendments

On February 17, 2010, health plans and other covered entities and their business associates will become subject to the latest to take effect in a series of amendments to the HIPAA enacted under the HITEC Act.  The new rules are part of a broader series of changes to HIPAA made by the HITECH Act that collectively both significantly expand the obligations of covered entities and their business associates to regarding the use, protection and disclosure of protected health information and the liability exposures that can result when covered entities or business associates violate these requirements.

The changes scheduled to take effect February 17, 2010 are likely to require that health plans and their business associates update their written policies, operational procedures, privacy notices and business associate agreements in several respects. For instance, effective February 17, 2010, the HITECH Act generally requires that covered entities and their business associates revise their written privacy policies, privacy notices and operating procedures:

  • To meet expanded requirements to honor individual’s requests for special restrictions on uses and disclosures of protected health information to health plans for payment purposes
  • To restrict protected health information disclosures to the minimum necessary required to accomplish otherwise allowable purpose;
  • To comply with new rules that require that the covered entity and its business associates treat any use, access or disclosure of any protected health information made for purposes of making communications about products or services as made for marketing, rather than operational, purposes which are prohibited by HIPAA except where HIPAA’s requirements are met;
  • To comply with new restrictions on certain fundraising communications made for operational purposes including expanded obligations to allow recipients to opt out of further fundraising communications;
  • To prohibit covered entities or business associates from selling protected health information without meeting the amended requirements of HIPAA that a valid HIPAA authorization from the subject of the information and specific reassurances from the purchaser concerning its subsequent use of the protected health information except as otherwise permitted by HIPAA;
  • To take into account these tightened restrictions on the use, access or disclosure of protected health information for purposes of complying with new HITECH Act breach notification requirements that took effect in September, 2009, which apply when a covered entity or its business associate knows or should know a breach of “unsecured protected health information” has occurred and for purposes of making the necessary changes in written policies and business associate agreements, training and operational procedures necessary to comply with these rules;
  • To directly require business associates comply with HIPAA’s requirements in the same manner as other covered entities and make it necessary or advisable that that service provider agreements between health plans and business associates be updated to reflect these and other changes to HIPAA; and
  • To implement the necessary written policy changes, notification updates, business associate agreement amendments, training, management oversight and other procedural changes necessary to demonstrate fulfillment with these requirements.

Noncompliance with these and other HIPAA requirements subjects covered entities and business associates to civil penalties, criminal prosecution, civil damage awards under lawsuits brought by state attorneys general, and other legal remedies.  In addition, timely update written policies, procedures, business associate agreements, training and documentation is imperative in order for covered entities and their business associates to fulfill their breach notification obligations under new rules enacted as part of the HITECH Act. 

Under the HITECH Act, health plans and other covered entities and their business associates have been obligated since September 23, 2009 to notify individuals who are the subject of protected health information, the Department of Health & Human Services and in some cases the media if and when a breach of “unsecured protected health information occurs. Failing to timely update written policies, procedures and training increases the likelihood that health plans, other covered entities or business associates will be obligated to provide breach notifications under these new rules, in addition to their otherwise applicable exposures under HIPAA.

HIPAA Enforcement & Liability Exposures Real and Rising

Health plans and other covered entities, their business associates and others involved in health plan design and operations generally should resist the temptation to underestimate their potential HIPAA exposure based on the limited enforcement of HIPAA by the Office of Civil Rights between 2003 and 2009 for a variety of reasons.

First, the changes taking effect on February 17, 2010 follow the implementation changes to HIPAA’s civil and criminal sanctions that took effect on February 17, 2009, when President Obama signed the HITECH Act into law and the new breach notification requirements added by the HITECH Act that took effect on September 23, 2009. The HITECH Act amendments to HIPAA’s remedies significantly increase the risk that health plans and other covered entities and their business associates will face civil lawsuits, civil or criminal penalties or other consequences for violating HIPAA. 

The expanded risks stem in part from the HITECH Act’s amendments to HIPAA’s remedy provisions.  Among other things, the HITECH Act amended HIPAA to:

  • Allow a State Attorney General to sue health plans or other covered entities, business associates or both that harm state citizens by committing HIPAA violations after February 16, 2009;
  • Expand the mandate by the Office of Civil Rights to investigate violations and audit compliance with HIPAA;
  • Require Office of Civil Rights to impose civil sanctions against health plans and other covered entities and their business associates involved in violations of HIPAA in accordance with tightened standards added to HIPAA by the HITECH Act;
  • Revise the criminal sanctions that the Department of Justice can seek against health plans and other covered entities, their business associates and others for violations of HIPAA;
  • Amend HIPAA to make clear that HIPAA’s criminal sanctions also can imposed on business associates, workforce members and other persons that improperly use, access and disclose protected health information in violation of HIPAA.

A HIPAA civil lawsuit filed on January 13, 2010 demonstrates the willingness of at least some states to exercise the new authority created by the HITECH Act on February 17, 2009 to sue covered entities and business associates that violate HIPAA for civil damages.

The HITECH Act empowers a state attorney general to sue covered entities or business associates engaging in HIPAA violations that harms citizens of the state for statutory damages equal to the sum of the number of violations multiplied by 100 up to a maximum of $25,000 per calendar year plus attorneys fees and costs

On January 13, 2010 Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued Health Net of Connecticut, Inc. (Health Net) for failing to secure private patient medical records and financial information involving 446,000 Connecticut enrollees and promptly notify consumers endangered by the security breach.   The suit also names UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Oxford Health Plans LLC, who have acquired Health Net.  The first attorney general enforcement action brought based on amendments made to HIPAA under the HITECH Act, Connecticut charges that Health Net violated HIPAA by failing to safeguard protected medical records and financial information on almost a half million Health Net enrollees in Connecticut then allowing this information to remain exposed for at least six months before notifying authorities and consumers.

Even before the HITECH Act amendments, however, the Office of Civil Rights and Department of Justice already were stepping up HIPAA investigation and enforcement.  The Department of Justice has obtained a variety of criminal convictions against violators of HIPAA.  See, e.g., 2 New HIPAA Criminal Actions Highlight Risks From Wrongful Use/Access of Health InformationMeanwhile, the Office of Civil Rights in February, 2009 announced that CVS Pharmacies, Inc. would pay $2.25 million to resolve HIPAA charges.  This announcement followed the Office of Civil Rights announcement in July, 2008 that Providence Health Care would pay $100,000 to resolve HIPAA violation charges.  While not resulting in the significant payments involved in CVS or Providence, the Office of Civil Rights also taken HIPAA enforcement actions against a broad range of other covered entities to redress HIPAA violations or other compliance concerns.  To review examples of these other actions, see here

Along side these governmental actions, state courts also increasingly are willing to allow individual plaintiffs to rely on violations of HIPAA as the basis for bringing state privacy, retaliation or other actions.  While prior to the recent HITECH Act amendments, federal courts had ruled that private plaintiffs could not sue under HIPAA for damages they incurred from a covered entity’s violation of HIPAA, state courts have allowed private plaintiff’s to use the obligations imposed by HIPAA as the basis of a covered entity’s duty for purposes of certain state law lawsuits.  In  Sorensen v. Barbuto, 143 P.3d 295 (Utah Ct. App. 2006), for example, a Utah appeals court ruled a private plaintiff could use HIPAA standards to establish that a physician owed a duty of confidentiality to his patients for purposes of maintaining a state law damages claim.  Similarly, the Court in Acosta v. Byrum, 638 S.E. 2d 246 (N.C. Ct. App. 2006) ruled that a plaintiff could use HIPAA to establish the “standard of care” in a negligence lawsuit.  Meanwhile, private plaintiffs employed by covered entities also are increasingly pointing to HIPAA as the basis for their retaliation claims. See, e.g.,  Retaliation For Filing HIPAA Complaint Recognized As Basis For State Retaliatory Discharge Claim.  Coupled with the HITECH Act changes, these and other enforcement actions signal growing potential hazards for covered entities and their business associates that  fail to properly manage their HIPAA compliance obligations and risks.

Health Plans & Business Associates Should Take Timely Action To Comply & Manage Risks

As a consequence of these collective HITECH Act changes and growing HIPAA-related exposures, both health plans and business associates generally will find it necessary or advisable among other things to:

  • Conduct well-documented due diligence on each other’s practices and procedures to improve their ability to demonstrate both their commitment to compliance and their realistic efforts to ensure that these commitments are operationalized in performance;
  • Renegotiate their service provider agreements to detail the specific compliance obligations of each party relating to for auditing compliance, investigating potential breaches; providing required breach notifications; specify leadership and required cooperation in the event of a breach, charge, or other concern; indemnification and other liability allocations; and other related matters; and
  • Pursue appropriate liability and other protection as appropriate.

As part of these compliance and risk management efforts, most covered entities and their business associates will find it advisable to devote significant attention to the business associate relationship and its associated business associate agreements. 

Proper management of the expanded compliance obligations and liability exposures created by the HITECH Act generally will necessitate that health plans and other covered entities and their business associates focus significant attention on the reworking of their operating and contractual relationships. 

Even before the impending HIPAA changes scheduled to take effect on February 17, 2010, a strong need for more detailed contracting and planning of these relationships already existed. Since the enactment of HIPAA, the practice of many covered entities and their business associates of appending generic “business associate” representations onto existing services contracts without specific tailoring and planning has created undesirable ambiguities in these agreements.

Further updating and tailoring of these and other provisions of services agreements has become even more important over the past year in light of the new breach notification mandates that took effect under the HITECH Act in September, 2009, changes to HIPAA’s civil and criminal sanctions that took effect on February 17, 2009, and the impending extension by the HITECH Act to business associates of direct liability for compliance with HIPAA scheduled to occur on February 17, 2010.

Given these changes and the associated obligations and risks, both health plans and other covered entities and their business associates generally should act quickly to manage their own compliance and to minimize exposures that may result from the other’s compliance deficiencies.  As part of these efforts, both covered entities and their business associates generally should review and tighten business associate and other service agreement provisions to provide for more specific and comprehensive HIPAA-related contractual assurances, as well as improved cooperation, coordination, management and oversight.

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Can Help

If your organization need advice or assistance in reviewing, updating, administering or defending its HIPAA or other privacy policies, practices, business associate or other agreements, notices or other related activities, consider contacting Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.

A widely published author and speaker on HIPAA and other related matter, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising health plans, their employer and other sponsors, health insurers, TPAs and other business associates and others about HIPAA and other health plan and privacy matters. Currently serving as both Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and as an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council representative and Former Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience assisting employers, insurers, plan administrators and fiduciaries and others to design, implement, draft and administer health and other employee benefit plans and to defend audits, litigation or other disputes by private parties, the IRS, Department of Labor, Office of Civil Rights, Medicare, state insurance regulators and other federal and state regulators.  As part of this work, she regularly assists clients to review and update policies, practices, contracts, notices and procedures to comply with HIPAA and other requirements.  A nationally recognized author and lecturer, Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates that may be of interest include:

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 here.

 ©2010 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


New Mental Health Parity Regulations Require Health Plan Review & Updates

January 31, 2010

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

Employer and union-sponsored group health plans and insurers generally must update their group health plans to comply with expanded federal “mental health parity” regulations (MHP Regulations) published on Friday, January 29, 2010 will require changes to most covered group health plans to comply with the new rules and to make adjustments to broader benefit provisions as appropriate to mitigate potential cost implications no later than the first plan year beginning after June 30, 2010.

Jointly published by the Treasury, Health & Human Services and Labor Departments and available for review here , the MHP Regulations interpret and implement federal rules prohibiting group health plans and their insurers from imposing certain special limits on benefits provided for mental health and substance abuse treatments not applicable to general medical or surgical benefits. 

The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addition Equity Act of 2008, Public Law 110-343 (MHPAEA) expands the scope of prohibited restrictions on mental health benefits beginning after June 30, 2010.   Under the MHPAEA amendments, any covered group health plan that includes mental health and substance use disorder benefits along with standard medical and surgical benefits generally cannot apply more limited benefit limits, out-of-pocket cost limitations, prior authorization and utilization review or other benefit restrictions than apply to medical or surgical benefits.  In addition, group health plan utilization review, medical necessity and appropriateness and other rules and procedures used to decide mental health and substance abuse benefits generally must be based on the same level of scientific evidence used by the group health plan or insurer to determine medical and surgical benefits.

Before the MHPAEA amendments took effect, the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 (MHPA) generally only prohibited group health plans from applying more restrictive aggregate lifetime and annual dollar limits on mental health benefits than applied to general medical or surgical benefits and did not extend these restrictions to substance use disorder benefits.

The MHP Regulations generally apply to group health plans of employers with 50 or more workers that offer mental health or substance use disorder benefits for plan years beginning on or after July 1, 2010.  Until then, covered group health plans and their insurers generally must continue to comply with the more limited mental health parity requirements imposed under the MHPA, as well as other federal group health plan mandates.

Federal law increasingly is curtailing the significant latitude that employers and unions once enjoyed in deciding the benefits, eligibility and other terms and conditions of their group health plans, including many significant changes that took effect or will take effect during 2009 and 2010.   You can learn more about some of these developments by reviewing the 2009 Health Plan Update presentation posted here.  In light of the liabilities and costs arising under these and other rules, plan sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries and executives with responsibility over these plans, their establishment, funding or administration should take prompt and prudent steps to verify that their plan documents, communications, agreements and practices are updated to minimize risks and avoid unanticipated expense.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, managing or defending these or other health or other employee benefit, labor and employment, or compensation practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with health and other employee benefit, labor and employment laws, safety, compensation, insurance, and other laws.  She also advises and defends employers and other plan sponsors, fiduciaries, employee benefit plans and others about litigation and other disputes relating to these matters, as well as charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates that may be of interest include:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


3 Articles On Employee Benefit Risk Management Published In ABA RPTE E-Report

December 23, 2009

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer  the author of three articles in the December  2009 Issue of the American Bar Association Real Property Probate & Trust Section E-Report:

Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits  Council member, and Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits Practice, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is  nationally and internationally recognized for her work assisting businesses, employee benefit plan fiduciaries and vendors, insurers, administrative services providers, governments, and other entities to develop administer and defend cost-effective employee benefit other human resources programs, policies and procedures to meet their budgetary, risk management and compliance and other objectives.  Board certified in Labor & Employment law, Ms. Stamer applies her extensive experience regarding employment, employee benefit, and other related laws to assists clients in a wide range of business and litigation contexts.   The co-founder of the Solutions Law Consortium, Ms. Stamer, also is the publisher of Solutions Law HR & Benefits Update. She speaks and writes extensively about employee benefits and other human resources, compensation and internal controls matters.

If your organization or employee benefit plan needs assistance with employee benefits, labor and employment or other internal controls and risk management matters, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or another Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney of your choice.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

Other Helpful Resources & Information

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 or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our CTT HR & Employee Benefits Update distributions in blog form via RSS feed here.  You also may be interested in staying abreast of emerging internal controls and compliance challenges by reviewing and registering for our Corporate Compliance, Risk Management & Internal Controls distributions.  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 support@cttlegal.com.

©2009 Curran Tomko Tarski LLP.  All rights reserved.

If you have questions about or need assistance evaluating, commenting on or responding to the  Proposed Regulations, the Q&As, or other employment, compensation, employee benefit, workplace health and safety, corporate ethics and compliance practices, concerns or claims, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation and employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on these and other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 20 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Some other recent updates that may be of interested include the following, which you can access by clicking on the article title:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


President Signs Law Extending & Expanding Temporary AARA COBRA Subsidy Requirements For Group Health Plans

December 22, 2009

By Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

Employer and union sponsored group health plans, their sponsors and administrators must act quickly to comply with the extension and expansion of temporary “COBRA Subsidy Rules” for “assistance eligible individuals” originally added to the group health plan medical coverage continuation requirements of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended (“COBRA”) by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“AARA”) last February.

The Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3326) signed into law by President Obama on December 19, 2009 extended the period that employer and union-sponsored group health plans must allow employees and members of their family that lose group health plan coverage due to an involuntary employment loss to continue their group medical coverage under the reduced premium and other temporary ARRA COBRA Subsidy Rules and lengthened the period during which an involuntary employment loss can qualify an otherwise COBRA-eligible employee or dependent as an assistance eligible individual.

Original COBRA Subsidy Rules

As originally enacted, the ARRA COBRA Subsidy Rules limited the COBRA premium that a COBRA-covered group health plan could charge a COBRA-eligible employee or dependent whose group health plan eligibility ended due to an involuntary employment loss between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 (“assistance eligible individual”) to 35% of the otherwise applicable COBRA premium (the “Reduced ARRA Premium”) for a period of up to 9 months (the “Subsidy Period”).  ARRA dictated that employers sponsoring these group health plans must pay the remaining 65% of the COBRA premium (the “COBRA Subsidy”) for the assistance eligible individual during the Subsidy Period, but allowed employers to seek reimbursement by claiming a payroll tax credit for these COBRA Subsidy payments by complying with applicable IRS procedures.  AARA also mandated that group health plans offering a choice of coverage options offer assistance eligible individuals the option to switch coverage options and required group health plans to notify assistance eligible individuals of the special COBRA Subsidy Rules.

H.R. 3326 COBRA Subsidy Rules Extension

As signed into law on December 19, 2009, H.R. 3326:

  • Extends the period during which an involuntary employment loss can qualify an otherwise COBRA-eligible employee or dependent as an assistance eligible individual for an additional two months (from December 31, 2009 to February 28, 2010);
  • Adds an additional six months (from 9 to 15 months) the Subsidy Period during which an assistance eligible individual experiencing an involuntary loss of employment between September 1, 2008 and February 28, 2010 is entitled to pay the Reduced AARA Premium;
  • Requires group health plans to notify assistance eligible individuals of the extension; and
  • Requires group health plans to allow additional time for assistance eligible individuals who had exhausted their original 9-month Subsidy Period before H.R. 3326 extended the Subsidy Period to 15 months to pay the Reduced AARA Premium related to the extension.

Group health plans, their employer or union sponsors, administrators, insurers and service providers will need to act quickly to prepare and provider required updated notifications to assistance eligible individuals of these extended eligibility periods and their resulting rights,  and otherwise update their plan documents, procedures, and COBRA notifications in light of these new rules. 

If you have questions about or need assistance evaluating, commenting on or responding to these or other employment, health or other employee benefit, workplace health and safety, corporate ethics and compliance or other concerns or claims, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  The author of the “Health Plan Eligibility Toolkit,” Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers, insurers, administrators, and others to design and administer group health plans cost-effectively in accordance with COBRA and other applicable federal regulations as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators.. Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group, a representative to the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council, past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group and Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Ms. Stamer has advised and represented employers on these and other labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Some other recent updates that may be of interested include the following, which you can access by clicking on the article title:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved. 


DOL Shares 2010 Regulatory Plans Monday, December 7; Get A Sneak Peek on Its Plans

December 5, 2009

Get a peek at the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) regulatory plans for 2010 on Monday, December 10, 2009.

On Monday, Dec. 7, the DOL will release its annual regulatory agenda for the upcoming year.  The same day, it also will video cast remarks by Secretary Hilda L. Solis outlining the department’s regulatory agenda beginning at 10 a.m. EST.  From 2 to 3 p.m. EST Ssecretary Solis alsowill host a live Web chat open to the public to discuss the contents of the agenda. Questions may be submitted in advance of the chat following the video presentation. Register to join the chat on Monday here.

If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney of your choice.  Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and Chair of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Group and a nationally recognized author and speaker, Ms. Stamer is experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, risk management  and internal controls matters. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation, health and other employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment laws, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. She has counseled and represented employers on these and other workforce matters for more than 22 years. Ms. Stamer also speaks and writes extensively on these and other related matters. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.   For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Examples of other recent updates you may have missed include:

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Senate Finance Chairman Baucus Introduces New Health Care Reform Bill

November 19, 2009

S.1796, America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 Reflects Chairman’s Response To House’s Passage of HR 3962 & Other Feedback

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) today (November 19, 2009) introduced his latest health care reform proposal, the America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 (S.1796).  Chairman Baucus’ introduction of S. 1796 follows the November 7, 2009 passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of the massive health care reform proposal sponsored by Representative John Dingell (D-MI) and supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Affordable Health Care for America Act (HR. 3962).

Totaling 1504 pages in length, S.1796 proposes a lengthy and complex array of reforms to the U.S. health care coverage and delivery system, which would affect virtually each U.S. employer, health care provider, payer, and resident. As with the provisions of HR. 3962 and other versions of health care reform, the reforms outlined in the provisions of S.1796 include complexities and nuances which may not be apparent in partisan or non-partisan discussions or summaries of its goals or purposes. Consequently, individuals or businesses concerned about the proposed reforms are encouraged to begin and base their review and analysis on the actual text of S.1796, a copy of which as introduced is available for review here.  

The continuing emphasis of President Obama and other members of the Democratic Party Leadership in Congress on the passage of health care reform means that Senator Baucus and other Democratic Leaders in Congress are likely to continue to make passage of health care reform a priority.  U.S. businesses and individuals concerned about the proposed reforms should carefully review both the Senate and House bills and act quickly to provide their input on any matters of special interest and concern.

Selected Health Coverage Reform Highlights

Among other things, S.1796, as introduced, would enact sweeping health insurance coverage reforms that would create new obligations for employers, insurers, and individual workers.  In this respect, S.1796, among other things would:

  • Amend the Social Security Act (SSA) to add a new title XXII (Health Insurance Coverage) to ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and essential health benefits coverage.
  • Require all health benefits plans offered to individuals and employers in the individual and small group market to be qualified health benefits plans (QHBPs).
  • Amend the Internal Revenue Code to: (1) allow tax credits related to the purchase of health insurance through the state exchanges; and (2) impose an excise tax on individuals without essential health benefits coverage and on employers who fail to meet health insurance coverage requirements with respect to their full-time employees.
  • Prohibit QHBP from excluding coverage for preexisting conditions, or otherwise limiting or conditioning coverage based on any health status-related factors.
  • Require QHBPs to offer coverage in the individual and small group markets on a guaranteed issue and guaranteed renewal basis.
  • Amend the cafeteria plan rules of Internal Revenue Code § 125 to, among other things, require that in order for a health flexible spending arrangement (HFSA) to qualify as a qualified benefit eligible to be offered under a cafeteria plan, the cafeteria plan must limit the maximum salary reduction contribution per employee per taxable year to $2,500 beginning in 2011.
  • Increase the threshold for the itemized income tax deduction for medical expenses.
  • Require states to: (1) establish rating areas; (2) adopt a specified risk adjustment model; and (3) establish transitional reinsurance programs for individual markets.
  • Require QHBP offerors in the individual and small group markets to consider all enrollees in a plan to be members of a single risk pool.
  • Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish: (1) risk corridors for certain plan years; (2) high risk pools for individuals with preexisting conditions; (3) a temporary reinsurance program for retirees covered by employer-based plans; and (4) a program under which a state establishes one or more QHBPs to provide at least an essential benefits package to eligible individuals in lieu of offering coverage through an exchange.
  • Entitle a qualified individual to the choice to enroll or not to enroll in a QHBP offered through an exchange covering the individual’s state as well as QHBPs in the individual market while at the same time requiring that such individuals to be U.S. citizens or lawful residents.
  • Require each state to establish: (1) an exchange designed to facilitate enrollment in QHBPs in the individual market; and (2) a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) exchange designed to assist qualified small employers in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in QHBPs in either the individual or the small group market.
  • Direct the Secretary to: (1) establish a system allowing state residents to participate in state health subsidy programs; and (2) study methods exchange QHBPs can employ to encourage health care providers to make increased meaningful use of electronic health records.
  • Dictate the mandated contents of an essential health benefit benefits package, including little or no cost-sharing, no annual or lifetime limits on coverage, and preventive services.
  • Amend the Internal Revenue Code to codify and revise the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) wellness program regulations.
  • Amend the Internal Revenue Code to codify and revise the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) wellness program regulations.
  • With regard to abortions: (1) declare that the Act does not require health care benefits plans to provide coverage for abortions; prohibit QHBPs from discriminating against any individual health care provider or health care facility because of its willingness or unwillingness to provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions; (3) continues application of state and federal laws regarding abortion; (4) prohibit the use of premium credits and cost-sharing subsidies for QHBPs covering abortion services for which federal funding is prohibited; (5) require the plan offeror to determine whether or not the plan provides coverage of abortion services for which federal funding is prohibited or is allowed; and  (6) require the Secretary to assure that at least one QHBP covers abortion services for which federal funding is prohibited or allowed; and at least one QHBP that does not cover abortion services for which federal funding is allowed.

Other Selected Health Care System, Reimbursement & Other Reform Highlights

S.1796 also would expand and modify existing Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and other federal health care programs and enact a host of other new rules and requirements affecting health care providers, drug companies and other participants in the U.S. health care system.  Other proposed reforms include provisions that would:

  • Require the President to: (1) certify annually in the President’s Budget whether or not the provisions in this Act will increase the budget deficit in the coming fiscal year; and (2) instruct the HHS Secretary and the Secretary of the Treasury to make required reductions in exchange credits and subsidies.
  • Establish a new mandatory eligibility category under SSA title XIX (Medicaid) for all non-elderly, nonpregnant individuals who are otherwise ineligible for Medicaid.
  • Revise Medicaid benefits.
  • Rescind funds available in the Medicaid Improvement Fund for FY2014-2018.
  • Make appropriations for Aging and Disability Resource Center initiatives.
  • Increase the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for states to offer home and community-based services as a long-term care (LTC) alternative to nursing homes.
  • Create a Community First Choice Option.
  • Add a new optional categorically needy eligibility group to Medicaid for individuals: (1) with income that exceeds 133% of the poverty line; and (2) certain other individuals, but only for benefits limited to family planning services and supplies.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a grants program to support school-based health centers.
  • Remove smoking cessation drugs, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines from Medicaid’s excluded drug list.
  • Revise requirements for Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a Federal Coordinated Health Care Office within the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMMS).
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a Medicaid Quality Measurement Program.
  • Revise requirements for the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) under SSA title XXI, Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • Set forth special rules relating to American Indians and Alaska Indians.
  • Require the Secretary to establish procedures for sharing data collected under a federal health care program on race, ethnicity, sex, primary language, type of disability, and related measures and data analyses.
  • Amend SSA title V with respect to the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) block grant program.
  • Provide funding for abstinence education.
  • Incorporate reforms originally proposed under the Elder Justice Act of 2009 pursuant to which amendments would be made to the provisions of SSA title XX relating to Block Grants to States for Social Services with respect to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation and their prevention.
  • Establish within the Office of the Secretary an Elder Justice Coordinating Council.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a hospital value-based purchasing program under Medicare.
  • Extend the Medicare Physician Quality Reporting Initiative program (PQRI) incentive payments beyond 2010.
  • Modify the Physician Feedback Program.
  • Require the Secretary to develop a plan to implement a Medicare value-based purchasing program for home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs).
  • Amend SSA title XVIII (Medicare) to direct the Secretary to establish a national strategy to improve the delivery of health care services, patient health outcomes, and population health.
  • Direct the President to convene an Interagency Working Group on Health Care Quality.
  • Amend the General Provisions of SSA title XI to provide for the establishment of a Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation within CMMS.
  • Amend SSA title XVIII to direct the Secretary to establish a shared savings program that promotes accountability for a patient population and coordinates items and services under Medicare parts A (Hospital Insurance) and B (Supplementary Medical Insurance).
  • Create a Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a Community-Based Care Transitions Program.
  • Revise requirements with respect to residents in teaching hospitals.
  • Increase the Medicare physician payment update.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a Working Group on Access to Emergency Medical Care.
  • Extend the Medicare-Dependent Hospital Program.
  • Amend the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 with respect to the hospital wage index.
  • Establish a Medicare prescription drug discount program for brand-name drugs for beneficiaries who enroll in Medicare part D (Voluntary Prescription Drug Benefit Program) and have drug spending that falls into the coverage gap.
  • Establish an independent Medicare Commission to reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending.
  • Amend SSA title XI to add a new part D, Comparative Effectiveness Research, under which would be established a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.
  • Establish in the Department of Treasury the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund.
  • Establish a nationwide program for national and state background checks on direct patient access employees of long term care facilities and providers.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish new procedures for screening providers of medical or other items or services and suppliers under the Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP programs.
  • Direct the Secretary to establish a self-referral disclosure protocol to enable health care service providers and suppliers to disclose violations.
  • Requires the Secretary to expand the number of areas included in Round Two of the durable medical equipment (DME) competitive bidding program.
  • Extend the period for collection of overpayments due to fraud.
  • Amend the Internal Revenue Code with respect to: (1) an excise tax on the excess benefit of high cost employer-sponsored health coverage; (2) distributions from health savings accounts for drugs and insulin that are prescribed drugs and insulin only; (3) a limitation on salary reduction contributions by employers to a health flexible spending arrangement; (4) expanded information reporting requirements; (5) additional qualifying requirements for charitable hospital organizations; and (6) a qualifying therapeutic discovery project tax credit.
  • Impose annual fees on: (1) manufacturers and importers of branded prescription pharmaceuticals or of medical devices; and (2) health insurance providers.
  • Prescribe a special rule to limit excessive remuneration by certain health insurance providers.
  • Exclude from an individual’s gross income the value of any qualified Indian health care benefit.

Monitoring & Responding To Health Care Reform Proposals

As was the case with HR. 3962, members of the Senate are likely to debate and weigh a variety of amendments and refinements to the provisions of S.1796 as it deliberates its enactment.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about health care reform proposals and other related legislative, regulatory, and enforcement developments, please:

  • Register for this resource at the link above;
  • Join the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy group at linkedin.com to share information and input and join in other dialogue with others concerned about health care reform;
  • Share your input by communicating with key members of Congress on committees responsible for this legislation and your elected officials directly and by actively participating in and contributing to other like-minded groups; and
  • Be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here

If you have questions about or need assistance evaluating, commenting on or responding to health care or other legislative or regulatory reforms, or any other employment, compensation, employee benefit, workplace health and safety, corporate ethics and compliance practices, concerns or claims, please contact the author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment/Employee Benefits  Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. 

Ms. Stamer has more than 22 years of experience advising and assisting business, government and other clients to evaluate and respond to health care, pension reform, workforce and other proposed or adopted changes in federal or state health care, employee benefit, employment, tax and other federal and state laws.  A member of the leadership council of the American Bar Association Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group Ms. Stamer is highly regarded legal advisor, policy advocate, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her more than 20 years of work assisting U.S. public and private employers, health care providers, health insurers, and a broad range of other clients to respond to these and other health care, employee benefit and workforce public policy, regulatory and compliance and risk management concerns within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Her work includes extensive involvement providing input and assistance about health care, workforce, pensions and social security and other reforms domestically and internationally.  In addition to her continuous involvement in U.S. health care, pensions and savings, and workforce policy matters, Ms. Stamer has served as an advisor on these matters internationally.  As part of this work, she served as a lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its social security reform as well as has provided input on ethics, medical tourism, workforce and other reforms internationally.

In addition to her extensive work on health and other employee benefit matters, Ms. Stamer also is Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has continuously has advised and represented employers and others on labor and employment, compensation, employee benefit and other personnel and staffing matters throughout her career. Ms. Stamer is experienced with assisting employers and others about compliance with federal and state equal employment opportunity, compensation and employee benefit, workplace safety, and other labor and employment, as well as advising and defending employers and others against tax, employment discrimination and other labor and employment, and other related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations by the IRS, Department of Labor and other federal and state regulators. Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker on health plan and other human resources, employee benefits and internal controls issues.   Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association.  Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, or responding to these or other health care, employee benefit or human resources reforms,  please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here. For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi LLP team, see here.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. 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 or e-mailing this information here or registering to participate in the distribution of our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions here.  Some other recent updates that may be of interested include the following, which you can access by clicking on the article title:

Proposed Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Bill Would Obligate Chemical Facilities To New Background Check, HR & Other Safety & Security Safeguards

IRS Rules For Employer Reporting Of Wages Paid to Nonresident Alien Employees Performing Services In U.S. Change

House Passes Affordable Health Care For America, Health Care Reform Debate Focus Now Moves To The Senate

SHRM Tells Members Say “NO!” To Pelosi-Backed Health Care Reform

IRS Updates Procedures Qualifying Small Employers Can Use To Qualify To Report Employment Taxes Annually Rather Than Quarterly

OSHA Proposes To Change Hazard Communication Standard

IRS Proposes Changes In Actuarial Enrollment Standards For Performance of Actuarial Services Under the Employee Retirement

EEOC Prepares To Broaden “Disability” Definition Under ADA Regulations

IRS Proposes To Update Regulations On Exclusion of Damages Received on Account of Personal Physical Injuries or Physical Sickness To Eliminate Tort Test

OSHA Final Rule Updates OSHA Personal Protective Equipment Standards

DOL Proposes Changes To H-2A Temporary & Seasonal Agricultural Nonimmigrant Worker Certification Procedures & Related Rules

ADAAA Amendment Broader ADA “Disability” Definition Not Retroactive, Employer Action Needed To Manage Post 1/1/2009 Risks

New Study Shares Data On Migrant Health Care Challenges Along The Border

Employer & Other Health Plans & Other HIPAA-Covered Entities & Their Business Associates Must Comply With New HHS Health Information Data Breach Rules By September 23

HHS Reassignment Of HIPAA Enforcement Duties Signals Rising Seriousness of Enforcement Commitment

Speak Up America: Where & How To Read & Share Your Feedback About The Health Care Reform Legislation

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 here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved. 


Register Now For HITECH Act Health Data Security & Breach Update: Learn What You Must Do This Month To Comply With New Health Data Breach Regulations

September 2, 2009

September 10, 2009 – Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time       Participate In Person or Via Remote!

Health care providers, health plans, health clearinghouses and their business associates (Covered Entities) must comply with the new “Breach Notification For Unsecured Protected Health Information” regulation (Breach Regulation) by September 23, 2009. 

Catch up on what the Breach Rule means for your organization and how it must respond by participating in the “HITECH Act Health Data Security & Breach Update” on Thursday, September 10, 2009 from Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time for a registration fee of $45.00. Registrants will have the option to participate via teleconference or in person at the offices of Curran Tomko Tarski LLP, 2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2050, Dallas Texas 75201.  For information about registering for this program or other questions here,

The Breach Rule requires Covered Entities to notify affected individuals following a “breach” of “unsecured” protected health information. Just published August 24th, the Breach Regulation is part of a series of guidance that HHS is issuing to implement new and stricter personal health information privacy and data security requirements for Covered Entities added to HIPAA under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act signed into law on February 17, 2009 as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  The briefing will cover:

  • Who must comply, health plans, employers, others?
  • What your organization must do
  • How to qualify protected health information as exempt from the breach regulations as “secure” protected health information
  • What is considered a breach of unsecured protected health information
  • What steps must a covered entity take if a breach of unsecured protected information happens
  • What liabilities do covered entities face for non-compliance
  • What new contractual requirements, policies and procedures Covered Entities and Business Associates will need
  • How the Breach Regulation, the Privacy Regulation, impending FTC red flag rules and state data breach and privacy rules interrelate
  • Other recent developments
  • Practical tips for assessing, planning, moving to and defending compliance
  • Participant questions
  • More

About The Presenter

The program will be presented by Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care & Employee Benefits Practice Leader and Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Ms. Stamer is nationally known for her work, publications and presentations on privacy and security of health and other sensitive information in health and managed care, employment, employee benefits, financial services, education and other contexts.  Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council Representative, Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 20 years experience advising clients about health and other privacy and security matters.  A popular lecturer and widely published author on privacy and data security and other related health care and health plan matters, Ms. Stamer is the Editor in Chief of the forthcoming 2010 edition of the Information Security Guide to be published by the American Bar Association Information Security Committee in 2010, as well as the author of “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA,” and a host of other highly regarded publications. She has continuously advises employers, health care providers, health insurers and administrators, health plan sponsors, employee benefit plan fiduciaries, schools, financial services providers, governments and others about privacy and data security, health care, insurance, human resources, technology, and other legal and operational concerns. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management matters.  Her insights on health care, health insurance, human resources and related matters appear in the Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner of your choice.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information 

If you find this of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Curran Tomko Tarski LLP publications available for review here. 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. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials 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 support@cttlegal.net.

©2009 Solutions Law Press.   All rights reserved.


Employer & Other Health Plans & Other HIPAA-Covered Entities & Their Business Associates Must Comply With New HHS Health Information Data Breach Rules By September 23

August 24, 2009

Employer and other health plans, health care providers, health clearinghouses and their business associates must start complying with new federal data breach notification rules on September 23, 2009.   

The new “Breach Notification For Unsecured Protected Health Information” regulation (Breach Regulation) published here  in today’s Federal Register requires health plans, health care providers, health care clearinghouses and their business associates (Covered Entities) covered under the personal health information privacy and security rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) to notify affected individuals following a “breach” of “unsecured” protected health information.The Breach Regulation is part of a series of guidance that HHS is issuing to implement new and stricter personal health information privacy and data security requirements for Covered Entities added to HIPAA under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act signed into law on February 17, 2009 as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). 

You are invited to catch up on what these new rules mean for your organization and how it must respond by participating in the “HITECH Act Health Data Security & Breach Update” on Wednesday, September 9 2009 from Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time.  

HITECH Act Data Breach and Unsecured PHI Rules 

Published in the August 24, 2009 Federal Register, the new Breach Regulation implements the HITECH Act requirement that Covered Entities and their business associates notify affected individuals, the Secretary of HHS, and in some cases, the media, when a breach of “unsecured protected health information” happens and the form, manner, and timing of that notification. Covered Entities must begin complying with the new Breach Regulation on September 23, 2009.

Part of a series of new HHS rules implementing recent changes to HIPAA enacted under the HITECH Act to strengthen existing federally mandates requiring Covered Entities to safeguard protected health information, the Breach Regulation will obligate Covered Entities and business associates to provide certain notifications following a breach of “protected health information” that not secured at the time of the breach through the use of a technology or methodology meeting minimum standards issued by HHS pursuant to other provisions of the HITECH Act.

Under the HITECH Act, the breach notification obligations contained in the Breach Notification only apply to a breach of “unsecured protected health information.” The Breach Regulation exempts breaches of protected health information that qualify as “secured” under separately issued HHS and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) standards for encryption and destruction of protected health information from its breach notification requirements.  

 For purposes of the HITECH Act, electronic protected health information is considered “unsecured” unless the Covered Entity has satisfied certain minimum standards for the protection of that data established pursuant to the HITECH Act.  Earlier this year, HHS and the FTC issued interim rules defining the minimum encryption and destruction technologies and methodologies that Covered Entities must use to render protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals for purposes of determining when protected health information is “unsecured” for purposes of the HITECH Act.  Concurrent with its publication of the Breach Regulation, HHS also released guidance updating and clarifying this previously issued guidance. 

Read the Breach Regulation here .  To review the HITECH Act Breach Notification Guidance and Request for Information, see here .

Register For September 9, 2009  “HITECH Act Health Data Security & Breach Update”

Interested persons are invited to register here now  to learn what these new rules mean for your organization and how it must respond by participating in the “HITECH Act Health Data Security & Breach Update” on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 from Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time. For a registration fee of $45.00, registrants will have the option to participate via teleconference or in person at the offices of Curran Tomko Tarski LLP, 2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2050, Dallas Texas 75201.  For questions or other information about this program, e-mail here.

Conducted by Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, the briefing will cover: 

  • Who must comply
  • What your organization must do
  • How to qualify protected health information as exempt from the breach regulations as “secure” protected health information
  • What is considered a breach of unsecured protected health information
  • What steps must a covered entity take if a breach of unsecured protected information happens
  • What liabilities do covered entities face for non-compliance
  • What new contractual requirements, policies and procedures Covered Entities and Business Associates will need
  • How the Breach Regulation, the Privacy Regulation, impending FTC red flag rules and state data breach and privacy rules interrelate
  •  Other recent developments
  • Practical tips for assessing, planning, moving to and defending compliance
  • Participant questions
  • More

About The Presenter

The program will be presented by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Ms. Stamer is nationally known for her work, publications and presentations on privacy and security of health and other sensitive information in health and managed care, employment, employee benefits, financial services, education and other contexts. 

 Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and currently the Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Section and a Council Representative of the ABA Joint Committee On Employee Benefits, Ms. Stamer has more than 20 years experience advising clients about health and other privacy and security matters.  A popular lecturer and widely published author on privacy and data security and other related health care and health plan matters, Ms. Stamer is the Editor in Chief of the forthcoming 2010 edition of the Information Security Guide to be published by the American Bar Association Information Security Committee in 2010, as well as the author of “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA,” and a host of other highly regarded publications. She has continuously advises employers, health care providers, health insurers and administrators, health plan sponsors, employee benefit plan fiduciaries, schools, financial services providers, governments and others about privacy and data security, health care, insurance, human resources, technology, and other legal and operational concerns. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management matters.  Her insights on health care, health insurance, human resources and related matters appear in the Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or another Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner of your choice.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Curran Tomko Tarski LLP publications available for review here. 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. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials 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 support@cttlegal.com.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.   All rights reserved. 


Health Plans Must Comply with New HHS Interim Final Data Breach Rules Beginning September 24; Register to Participate In September 10th Briefing on New Rules In Person or Via Telephone

August 20, 2009

Employers and other health plan sponsors, fiduciaries, insurers and service providers need to move quickly to prepare to comply with  “breach notification” regulations issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday (August 19, 2009).  The new data breach regulations will require health plans, as well as  health care providers, business associates and other covered entities (Covered Entities) under the personal health information privacy and security rules of the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability  (HIPAA) to notify affected individuals following a “breach” of “unsecured” protected health information. Scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on August 24, 2009, the new breach notification regulations are part of a series of new rules that implement new electronic personal health information data security and data breach notification requirements for Covered Entities added to HIPAA under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act signed into law on February 17, 2009 as part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).  Covered entities must begin complying with the new rules no later than September 24, 2009.

Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP Health Practice leader Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will conduct a briefing on these new protected health information data security and data breach rules on Thursday, September 10, 2009 from Noon to 1:30 P.M. Central Time. For a registration fee of $45.00, registrants will have the option to participate via teleconference or in person at the offices of Curran Tomko Tarski LLP, 2001 Bryan Street, Suite 2050, Dallas Texas 75201.  For more information, e-mail here.

 HITECH Act Data Breach and Unsecured PHI Rules

The new data breach notification rules are part of a series of recent HIPAA enacted under the HITECH Act to strengthen the federal rules requiring HIPAA covered entities to safeguard electronic and certain other protected health information. Enhanced data security and data breach rules added as part of these HITECH Act amendments obligate  covered entities and business associates to provide certain notifications following a breach of “unsecured”  “protected health information” within the meaning of HIPAA, as amended.  “Unsecured protected health information” is defined as protected health information that is not secured through the use of a technology or methodology specified by the HHS Secretary.

The new data breach regulations implement the HITECH Act requirement that Covered Entities and their business associates notify affected individuals, the Secretary of HHS, and in some cases, the media, of a breach and the form, manner, and timing of that notification.  For purposes of the HITECH Act, electronic protected health information is considered “unsecured” unless the covered entity has satisfied certain minimum standards for the protection of that data established pursuant to the HITECH Act.  HHS and the Federal Trade Commission previously issued certain initial guidance concerning the HITECH Act standards for determining when electronic personal health information qualifies as secure.  To help further define when electronic health information is treated as “unsecured” and therefore subject to the breach notification requirements, the data breach rules also update and clarify the previously issued existing HHS guidance specifying encryption and destruction as the technologies and methodologies that render protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals published earlier this year by HHS to for purposes of determining when protected health information will be considered “unsecured” for purposes of the HITECH Act data breach rules.  Entities subject to the HHS and FTC regulations that secure health information as specified by the guidance through encryption or destruction are relieved from having to notify in the event of a breach of such information.  

The HHS interim final regulations are effective September 24, 2009, which is the date 30 days after the date they will be published on the Federal Register and include a 60-day public comment period. To review the interim final data breach regulations, see here.  To review the HITECH Act Breach Notification Guidance and Request for Information, see here.

For More Information

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Labor and Employment and Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting employer and other health plan sponsors, insurers, managed care providers and other health and insurance industry clients about HIPAA and other privacy and data security matters, as well as a diverse range of health care, employment, and emplyee benefit policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns. 

Current Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Real Property, Trusts & Estates Employee Benefit & Other Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits Council member, past chair of the American Bar Association Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section, Martindale Hubble AV-rated and recognized in International Who’s Who of Professionals, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health care providers, health care payers and administrators, employers, governments and others about health care, insurance, human resources, privacy and data security, technology, and other legal and operational concerns.  A popular lecturer and widely published author on privacy and data security and other related health care and health plan matters, Ms. Stamer also writes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry privacy, data security and other technology, regulatory and operational risk management matters.  She currently serves as the Editor in Chief of the forthcoming 2010 edition of the Information Security Guide to be published by the American Bar Association Information Security Committee in 2010.  Examples of her other works include “Protecting & Using Patient Data In Disease Management: Opportunities, Liabilities And Prescriptions,” “Privacy Invasions of Medical Care-An Emerging Perspective,” “Cybercrime and Identity Theft: Health Information Security Beyond HIPAA,” and a host of others.  Her insights on health care, health insurance, human resources and related matters appear in the Atlantic Information Service Privacy Report, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a various other national and local publications.  For additional information about Ms. Stamer, her experience, involvements, programs or publications, see here.  

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other proposed health care or other regulatory reforms or with other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here.

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials 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 support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved. 


House Democratic Majority Hopes To Iron Out Differences In Key Health Care Reform Legislation During August Recess

August 4, 2009

Democratic Leaders in the House of Representatives plan to hammer out differences three versions of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200) as separately passed by three key House Committees in July before House members return from their August recess in hopes of bringing the agreed to version of H.R. 3200 to the full house in September.   Each version of H.R. 3200 would impose significant new obligations, regulations and costs on employers, health insurers and health plans, and employees.

After negotiating a last minute pre-August recess deal with certain Blue Dog Democrat Committee members, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 31, 2009 passed its version of H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200). The version of H.R. 3200 passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee incorporates a series of amendments to the language of H.R. 3200 as originally introduced.  For instance, this version of H.R. 3200 provides incentives for states to adopt certain tort reforms, provides for a public plan option that would reimburse physicians based on negotiated rates rather Medicare rates, and would allow states to offer both state-based heath insurance exchanges and health insurance co-ops. To review H.R. 3200 as amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, see here.

The approval by the Energy and Commerce Committee of its version of H.R. 3200 follows the July 17, 2009 approval by the House Ways and Means Committee and Education and Labor Committee of their own versions of H.R. 3200.  For details on the version of H.R. 3200 approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, see here.  For details on the version of H.R. 3200 approved by the House Education and Labor Committee, see here

Leading House Democrats have announced their intention to work to resolve differences between these three versions of H.R. 3200 as passed by these Committees during August recess in hopes of  bringing the agreed to version of H.R. 3200 to a vote  of the full House of Representatives in September.

Meanwhile, House members from both parties also generally are using the August recess as an opportunity to reconnect with local constituents on health care reform and other core issues.

For More Information

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Partner  Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting employers and other health plan sponsors, insurers and others about health benefit and other benefits, human resources and health care matters.  The current Chair of the American Bar Association Real Propoerty, Probate & Trust Section Employee Benefit Plans and Other Compensation Committee and former Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Group, she regularly advises these and other clients about the design, administration, defense  and regulation of health benefit, wellness and disease management, managed care, onsight wellness, and other benefit and insurance regulations, legislative and regulatory reforms impacting these and other arrangements, and related matters.  

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance monitoring, evaluating or responding to these or other proposed health care or other regulatory reforms or with other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270-2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Partner.

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, registering to receive these updates here.

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 to cstamer@cttlegal.com.  If you prefer not to receive these updates via e-mail in the future, e-mail your request with “remove” in the subject to support@solutionslawyer.net.


HHS Reassignment Of HIPAA Enforcement Duties Signals Rising Seriousness of Enforcement Commitment

August 3, 2009

The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) today (August 3, 2009) transferred authority for the administration and enforcement of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Security Rule to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).  Prior to this announcement, responsibility for interpretation and enforcement of the Security Rule rested with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).  The change reflects the growing seriousness of HHS and others about enforcing federal privacy and data security mandates for health information.  HHS anticipates the transfer of authority will eliminate duplication and increase efficiencies in how the department ensures that Americans’ health information privacy is protected.

HHS has the authority for administration and enforcement of the federal standards for health information privacy called for in HIPAA. The Privacy Rule provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. OCR has been responsible for enforcement of the Privacy Rule since 2003. The Security Rule specifies a series of administrative, technical, and physical security procedures for covered entities to use to assure the confidentiality of electronic protected health information. The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), mandated improved enforcement of the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule.

Through a separate delegation, CMS continues to have authority for administration and enforcement of the HIPAA Administrative Simplification regulations, other than privacy and security of health information.

The transfer of Security Rule enforcement authority comes as guidance about new data breach rules for electronic protected health information is impending.  This impending guidance relates to  the implementation of new breach notification rules for covered entities and their business associates concerning their obligation to use of technologies and methodologies that render protected health information unusable, unreadable, or indecipherable to unauthorized individuals, as required by amendments to HIPAA enacted under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act passed as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) last February.  OCR officials have stated that they are working to publish the next set of regulations regarding these new breach notifications before the end of August, 2009. 

In addition to adding the breach notification requirements, the HITECH Act also tightened the HIPAA mandates in several other respects.  Among other things, it amended HIPAA to:

  • Broaden the applicability of the HIPAA’s Privacy Rules and penalties to include business associates;
  • Clarify that HIPAA’s criminal sanctions apply to employees or other individuals that wrongfully use or access PHI held by a covered entity;
  • Increase criminal and civil penalties for HIPAA Privacy Rules violators;
  • Allow State Attorneys General to bring civil damages actions on behalf of certain state citizens who are victims of HIPAA Privacy and Security Rule violations;
  • Modify certain HIPAA use and disclosure and accounting requirements and risks;
  • Prohibits sales of PHI without prior consent;
  • Tighten certain other HIPAA restrictions on uses or disclosures;
  • Tighten certain HIPAA accounting for disclosure requirements;
  • Clarify the definition of health care operations to excludes certain promotional communications; and
  • Expand the Business Associates Agreement Requirements.

These and other developments make it imperative HIPAA covered entities and their business associates take prompt action to immediately review and update their data security and privacy practices to guard against growing liability exposures under HIPAA and other federal and state laws. Covered entities must update policies and practices to avoid these growing liabilities. Business associates that have not already done so also must appoint privacy officers and adopt and implement privacy and data security policies and procedures fully compliant with HIPAA and other applicable federal and state rules, including amendments enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law on February 17, 2009.

For more information about today’s announcement, see here.  See here for the initial guidance and request for comments issued by HHS regarding these new security standards.

Chair Elect of the American Bar Association RPTE Employee Benefits & Compensation Committee, an ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits  Council member, and Chair of the Curran Tomko Tarski Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits Practice, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is  nationally and internationally recognized for her work assisting businesses, employee benefit plan fiduciaries and vendors, governments, and other entities to develop administer and defend cost-effective employee benefit other human resources programs, policies and procedures to meet their budgetary, risk management and compliance and other objectives.  Board certified in Labor & Employment law, Ms. Stamer applies her extensive experience regarding employment, employee benefit, tax, privacy and data security and other related laws to assists clients in a wide range of business and litigation contexts.   The co-founder of the Solutions Law Consortium, Ms. Stamer also makes extensive use of cloud computing and other technology in her own practice and provides input to human resources and other clients others about the use of these and other technology tools to manage employee benefit, human resources, internal controls and other operations.  In connection with this work, Ms. Stamer has works, writes and consults extensively with a diverse range of clients about  the development, use technology and other processes to streamline health and other benefit, payroll and other human resources, employee benefits, tax, compliance and other business processes and the management and protection of sensitive personal and other information and data.

If your organization or employee benefit plan needs assistance managing or evaluating options or responsibilities associated with the use of technology and data in connection with its health care, employee benefits, tax or other operation or other human resources, employee benefits or and compliance concerns, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

More Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. 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 or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions 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 support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Speak Up America: Where & How To Read & Share Your Feedback About The Health Care Reform Legislation

August 1, 2009

As the health care reform policy debate continues, Americans increasingly are asking where to read the text of the health care reform legislation that members of Congress are debating and how to share their input. 

 While numerous alternatives presently are pending before Congress, much of recent discussion and debate has focused around one of the following bills:

  • H.R. 3200: America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009,  introduced in the House by Rep Dingell, John D. on July 14, 2009  the text of which as originally introduced may be reviewed  here.  It has been the focus of significant mark up negotiation through out July before the following House Energy and Commerce, House Ways & Means, and House Education & Labor Committees; and
  • S. __, the Affordable Health Choices Act approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the text of which as approved may be reviewed here.

When reviewing these bills, Americans should keep in mind that members of Congress are engaged in ongoing negotiations about the specific provisions and language of these bills, as well as other legislation.  Official developments generally may be monitored here.

Many American businesses and individuals also are asking about how and where to share their views, how to organize others to do the same and other questions about getting the word out. Here a some quick ideas. We encourage others to share. 

  • The Coalition For Patient Empowerment and the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform linkedin group are two one of many resources where individuals are sharing information about these matters. 
  • Concerned individuals should share their views both by faxing, e-mailing or telephoning key decisionmakers in Congress, as well as joining and participating in activities of other individuals and groups that share their concerns.  Contact and get involved with this and other groups that share your concerns.
  • Contact the offices of your Congressional representatives in the House and Senate as well as other members of Congress that support your views and ask them about other groups and ways that you can share your views. They will welcome your input and involvement.
  •  If you are aware of or involved in a group that shares your views, we encourage you to share it on the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform linkedin group.  If you or others are planning a town hall or other health care reform meeting, use this or other linked in groups to spread the word.
  • If you are interested in volunteering to plan events in your region, let us know.   

We also encourage you and others to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin, and registering to receive these updates here.

When communicating, consider targeting your messages to members of Congress whose votes are likely to be impacted by your communications. 

For instance, with both the House and Senate in the majority in Congress, Democrats generally have greater control over what legislation moves forward.  The Democratic Leadership of the House and Sentate generally can get legislation passed by their members as long as they can maintain consensus among the members of their parties.  In connection with the health care reform proposals, however, cost and other considerations have made maintaining a consensus more difficult than on other legislation.  Certain fiscally moderate members of the Democratic Party have expressed concern about the expense and other aspects of their Leadership proposed health care reform proposals.  These Democrats in Congress generally the members of Congress whose votes are most likely to be impacted by public input and feedback generally and from voters in their districts and contributors specifically. 

In the House of Representatives, these members likely are the “Blue Dog Democrats.”  Read about Blue Dog Democrats here.    

The fiscal conservatism of Blue Dog Democrats makes them more likely to listen to concerns about the cost and other concerns relating to the health care reform bills touted by the Democrat Leadership in the House and Senate.  In fact, many Blue Dog Democrats already are speaking out about their concerns about the cost and other aspects of the Bill. 

Contact from voters and contributors in their districts and others could make a major difference in the ability that the House Democrat Leadership needs to pass their Bill.  Immediately contacting these members and getting others – particularly voters and contributors in the districts that elect these members – is one of the most important steps that concerned Americans can do to position their concerns to be heard.   

For most concerned voters, telephone or fax contact is the best means to convey these messages.  To minimize spam, most members only accept e-mail submitted through their website links.  Security concerns can delay receipt of written correspondence for weeks.

For persons interested in making their voices heard and sharing information with others who wish to do the same, the following contact information may be of interest:

The number of the Capital Switchboard is 202-224-3121.

The Blue Dog Leadership Team and there telephone and fax numbers are:

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Administration, Telephone: 202.225.2801 , Fax: 202.225.5823

Rep. Baron Hill (IN-09), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Policy,Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-6866

Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA-03), Blue Dog Co-Chair for Communications, Telephone: 202-225-4031, Fax: (202) 226-3944

Rep. Heath Shuler (NC-11), Blue Dog Whip, Telephone:  202-225-6401, Fax: (202) 226-6422

The Blue Dog Members and their telephone numbers are :

  • Altmire, Jason (PA-04),(202)225-2565
  • Arcuri, Mike (NY-24), (202)225-3665
  • Baca, Joe (CA-43),(202)225-6161
  • Barrow, John (GA-12), (202) 225-2823
  • Berry, Marion (AR-01), (202) 225-4076
  • Bishop, Sanford (GA-02), (202) 225-3631
  • Boren, Dan (OK-02), (202) 225-2701
  • Boswell, Leonard (IA-03), (202) 225-3806
  • Boyd, Allen (FL-02), (202) 225-5235
  • Bright, Bobby (AL-02), (202) 225-2901
  • Cardoza, Dennis (CA-18), (202) 225-6131
  • Carney, Christopher (PA-10), (202) 225-3731
  • Chandler, Ben (KY-06), (202) 225-4706
  • Childers, Travis (MS-01), (202) 225-4306
  • Cooper, Jim  (TN 5th), (202) 225-4311
  • Costa, Jim  (CA 20th), (202) 225-3341
  • Cuellar, Henry  (TX 28th), (202)  225-1640
  • Dahlkemper, Kathleen A. (PA 3rd), (202) 225-5406
  • Davis, Lincoln (TN 4th),(202) 225-6831
  • Donnelly, Joe  (IN 2nd), (202) 225-3915
  • Ellsworth, Brad  (IN 8th), (202) 225-4636
  • Giffords, Gabrielle  (AZ 8th), (202) 225-2542
  • Gordon, Bart  (TN 6th), (202) 225-4231
  • Griffith, Parker  (AL 5th), (202) 225-4801
  • Harman, Jane  (CA 36th), (202) 225-8220
  • Herseth Sandlin, Stephanie  (SD At Large), (202) 225-2801
  • Hill, Baron P.  (IN 9th), (202) 225-5315
  • Holden, Tim  (PA 17th), (202) 225-5546
  • Kratovil, Frank Jr. (MD 1st), (202) 225-5311
  • McIntyre, Mike  (NC 7th), (202) 225-2731
  • Marshall, Jim  (GA 8th), (202) 225-6531
  • Matheson, Jim  (UT 2nd), (202) 225-3011
  • Melancon, Charlie  (LA 3rd), (202) 225-4031
  • Michaud, Michael H. (ME 2nd), (202) 225-6306
  • Minnick, Walt  (ID 1st), (202) 225-6611
  • Mitchell, Harry E.  (AZ 5th), (202) 225-2190
  • Moore, Dennis  (KS 3rd), (202) 225-2865
  • Murphy, Patrick J.  (PA 8th), (202) 225-4276
  • Nye, Glenn C.  (VA 2nd), (202) 225-4215
  • Peterson, Collin C.  (MN 7th), (202) 225-2165
  • Pomeroy, Earl  (ND At Large), (202) 225-2611
  • Ross, Mike  (AR 4th), (202)  225-3772
  • Salazar, John T.  (CO 3rd), (202) 225-4761
  • Sanchez, Loretta  (CA 47th), (202) 225-2965
  • Schiff, Adam B.  (CA 29th), (202) 225-4176
  • Scott, David  (GA 13th), (202) 225-2939
  • Shuler, Heath  (NC 11th), (202) 225-6401
  • Space, Zachary T. (OH 18th), (202) 225-6265
  • Tanner, John S.  (TN 8th), (202) 225-4714
  • Taylor, Gene  (MS 4th), (202) 225-5772
  • Thompson, Mike  (CA 1st), (202) 225-3311
  • Wilson, Charles (OH-06), (202) 225-5705

You and others also are invited to join the discussion about these and other health care reform proposals and concerns by:

  • Joining the Coalition for Responsible Health Care Reform Group on Linkedin and registering to receive these updates here; and
  • E-mailing Cstamer@cttlegal.com to participate in the Coalition for Patient Empowerment.

Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Can Help

If your business needs assistance monitoring or providing input on health care reform or other human resources, employee benefit or compensation legislation or regulations, or auditing, updating or defending its health or other employee benefit, human resources, or compensation arrangements, or responding to employee benefits, employment or compensation related charges or suits, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see here.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with assisting employer and employee benefit plan sponsors, administrators and others about labor and employment, compensation and employee benefit compliance and risk management concerns, as well as advising and defending these and other clients in labor and employment, compensation, and employee benefit related audits, investigations and litigation, charges, audits, claims and investigations.  

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Chair of the ABA RPTE Employee Benefit Plans and Other Compensation Group, a 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 has extensive experience with health and retirement, work force and other employee benefit and employment matters.  She is nationally and internationally known for her innovative work with employers, associations, churches, insurers and others to develop health benefit, onsight medical, wellness and other employee benefit and employment arrangements, as well as her involvement in health care, pension and other public policy advocacy.

More Information & Resources

You can review other recent human resources, employee benefits and internal controls publications and resources and additional information about the employment, employee benefits and other experience of Ms. Stamer here /the Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys here. 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 or e-mailing this information to Cstamer@CTTLegal.com or registering to participate in the distribution of these and other updates on our Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update distributions 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 support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


House Democrats Introduce Their Version of Health Care Reform, the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009”

July 15, 2009

House Democrats introduced their proposal for health care reform this afternoon (July 14, 2009), the “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (the “House Bill”).  Introduced under the sponsorship of three key House committees -Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means, and Education and Labor — the 1018 page House Bill details the sweeping and comprehensive health care reforms that Democrat Leaders in the House are touting.  A copy of the House Bill as introduced may be reviewed here.

The House Bill proposes sweeping reforms built around the establishment of a public plan option while technically continuing to permit private plans to operate but in a federally regulated form allowing for little meaningful plan design control to private payers, health care providers or the individuals choosing among the plan options.   The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the coverage side of the bill will cost $1 trillion and cover 97 percent of the legal population within 10 years.

The following is a brief overview of certain key provisions of the House Bill drawn mostly from a series of high level summaries released by House Democrats along with the House Bill.  Long on politically comforting phrasing and short on details, you can read these summaries here.

Public Plan Option.  The House Bill proposes the establishment of a public health insurance option that would compete with allowable private plans, both of which would be subject to sweeping federal controls.  Democrat House co-sponsors represent the House Bill:

  • Provides a public health insurance option that would compete with private insurers within the Health Insurance Exchange.
  • The public health insurance option would be made available in the new Health Insurance Exchange (Exchange) along with private health insurance plans that comply with the design dictates established in the House Bill.
  • The public health insurance option and private plan options meet the same benefit requirements and comply with the same insurance market reforms
  • The public option’s premiums would be established for the local market areas designated by the Exchange.
  • Individuals with affordability credits could choose among the private carriers and the public option.
  • Require that the public health plan and private health plan options and private options each must be financially self-sustaining
  • Promote primary care, encourage coordinated care and shared accountability, and improve quality.
  • Institute new payment structures and incentives to promote these critical reforms.
  • Specify health care provider participation in the plans will be voluntary; Medicare providers are presumed to be participating unless they opt out.
  • Provides for provider reimbursements for services from the plans initially will be established using “rates similar to those used in Medicare with greater flexibility to vary payments.
  • Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has announced plans to proceed immediately on mark up on the House Bill with the intention to of scheduling a vote on the House Bill by the end of July. Assuming that House leaders adhere to this schedule, the planned timetable leaves little opportunity for critical evaluation and input by members of Congress or the public who may have questions or concerns about the proposed legislation. Prompt and coordinated action is required for individuals with concerns about any of the proposed reforms.

Federal Mandates Health Plan Benefits.  In order to achieve affordable, quality health care for all, the House Bill would impose federal standards regulating the benefits that the public health plan and private health plans would be required and permitted to offer.  Under these provisions, the House Bill would:

  • Establish a standardized benefit package that covers essential health services.
  • Vest the power in the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the coverage that would be included in this mandated standardize benefit package.
  • Eliminate cost-sharing for preventive care (including well baby and well child care)
  • Impose caps annual out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families.
  • Create a new independent Benefits Advisory to recommend to the Secretary and update the core package of benefits.
  • Provide for the public health plan option to offer four tiers of benefit packages from which consumers can choose to best meet their health care needs. Each allowable plan would be required to provide the dictated core benefits.
    • The Basic Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits and cost sharing protections;
    • The Enhanced Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Basic plan;
    • The Premium Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits with more generous cost sharing protections than the Enhanced plan; and
    • The Premium Plus Plan would include the federally mandated core set of covered benefits, the more generous cost sharing protections of the Premium plan, and additional covered benefits (e.g., oral health coverage for adults, gym membership, etc.) that will vary per plan. In this category, insurers must disclose the separate cost of the additional benefits so consumers know what they’re paying for and can choose among plans accordingly.

The House Bill empowers the Secretary of Health & Human Services to decide the federally dictated, required core set of benefits provides coverage with input from a newly created Benefits Advisory Commission.  These core benefits are intended to include inpatient hospital services, outpatient hospital services, physician services, equipment and supplies incident to physician services, preventive services, maternity services, prescription drugs, rehabilitative and habilitative services, well baby and well child visits and oral health, vision, and hearing services for children and mental health and substance abuse services.  However, the particular, terms and scope of these benefits is left to HHS to define.

Health Insurance Exchange.  The House Bill also calls for the establishment of a “Health Insurance Exchange” meeting federal mandates through which low income individuals initially, and certain small businesses would be offered the option to purchase health care coverage through federally mandated purchasing groups.  In the first year, the House Bill provides for the Health Insurance Exchange to accept those without health insurance, those who are buying health insurance on their own, and small businesses with fewer than 10 people. In the second year, the Health Insurance Exchange could accept small businesses with fewer than 20 people. After that, “larger employers as permitted by the Commissioner.” In other words, expansion is discretionary, not mandated.

Affordability & Subsidies.  The House Bill provides sliding-scale affordability credits for individuals and families with incomes above the Medicaid thresholds but below 400% of poverty and imposes a cap on total out-of-pocket spending for individuals and families covered under the plans regardless of income.  In addition, the House Bill would broaden Medicaid coverage to include individuals and families with incomes below 133% of poverty.

Effective 2013, sliding scale affordability credits would be provided provided to individuals and families between 133% to 400% of poverty. That means the credits phase out completely for an individual with $43,320 in income and a family of four with $88,200 in income (2009).

The sliding scale credits limit individual family spending on premiums for the essential benefit package to no more than 1.5% of income for those with the lowest income and phasing up to no more than 11% of income for those at 400% of poverty.

The affordability credits also subsidize cost sharing on a sliding scale basis, phasing out at 400% of poverty, ensuring that covered benefits are accessible.

The Health Insurance Exchange would administer the affordability credits in relationship with other federal and state entities, such as local Social Security offices and Medicaid agencies.

The essential benefit package, and all other benefit options, limit exposure to catastrophic costs with a cap on total out of pocket spending for covered benefits. Special provisions would apply to Medicaid. 

Effective 2013, individuals with family income at or below 133% of poverty ($14,400 for an individual in 2009) are eligible for Medicaid. State Medicaid programs would continue to cover those individuals with incomes above 133% of poverty, using the eligibility rules states now have in place.

Paying The Tab.  House Democrats propose to finance approximately half of the estimated $1 trillion bill for their proposed reforms through projected $500 billion or so in savings from Medicare and Medicaid achieved by a variety of reimbursement and benefit cutbacks and other reforms. The rest of the financing would come from a combination of revenue expections from employer and individual mandates (an estimated $200 billion over 10 years) and a surtax on the richest 1.5 percent of Americans. The surtax is 1 percent on income between $350,000 and $500,000; 1.5 percent on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000; and 5.4 percent in income above $1,000,000. The House Bill permits the amount of this surtax to vary if the bill is less or more expensive than initially anticipated.

The author of this article, Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP Health Care Practice Chair Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health industry clients and others about a diverse range of health care policy, regulatory, compliance, risk management and operational concerns.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here.  

If you need assistance evaluating or formulating comments on the proposed reforms contained in the House Bill or on other health industry matters please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, CTT Health Care Practice Group Chair, at cstamer@cttlegal.com, 214.270.2402 or your other favorite Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorney. 

Other Helpful Resources & Other Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.   If you found these updates of interest, you also be interested in one or more of the following other recent articles published on our electronic Solutions Law Press Health Care Update publication available here. If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please register to receive this Solutions Law Press Health Care Update here and be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here. You can access other recent updates and other informative publications and resources provided by Curran Tomko Tarski LLP attorneys and get information about its attorneys’ experience, briefings, speeches and other credentials 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 support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.


Democrats Introduce Health Care Reform Legislation, Work To Fast Track Enactment

June 11, 2009

Coalition For Responsible Health Care Reform Founded To Help Concerned Americans Respond

Americans concerned about plans of President Obama and Congressional Democrats to enact comprehensive health care reform this year must speak up now.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy yesterday (June 9, 2009) circulated a 625 page proposal to radically reform the U.S. health care system.  The latest draft of the “Affordable Health Choices Act” (the “Act”) details the comprehensive health care reforms that President Obama and Democrats in Congress propose to enact before year end. 

President Obama and key Congressional Democrats are moving quickly to enact their vision for “comprehensive health reform” this year.   The Act circulated yesterday by Senator Kennedy would radically change the U.S. health care system in enacted as currently proposed. 

Consistent with announced plans by President Obama and key Congressional Democrats to enact “comprehensive health care reform” this year, Democratic leaders in Congress are rushing to enact this legislation well before year end.  In furtherance of plans to fast track enactment of the Act, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) chaired by Senator Kennedy will hold a hearing on the Act this week in anticipation of meetings to mark up of the Act on Tuesday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Russell 325. 

The Act, as proposed, would make sweeping changes to the U.S. health care system and radically expand the involvement of government in the delivery and financing of health care.  Among other things, the Act as proposed would:

  • Establish government provided “Gateway” health care coverage programs to provide coverage for Americans not insured under qualifying employer or other privately run “qualified health plan” to be financed in part through surcharges on private health plans and health insurers and other taxes and assessments and in part through premiums on enrolled individuals
  • Require that Americans participating in the Gateway health care coverage programs be offered the opportunity to enroll in at least one “public health insurance option”  
  • Require Americans to chose either to enroll in a government run Gateway health program or enroll in qualifying coverage under a privately run qualified health plan
  • Impose sweeping new mandates on employer and union-sponsored group health plans and insurers
  • Impose newly created taxes on individuals that fail to maintain enrollment in health coverage under either a Gateway health program or a private qualified health plan
  • Tax and/or eliminate the deductibility of health coverage premiums and certain other amounts paid by certain employers and employees
  • Impose new federal mandates for health care providers, health plans and health insurers relating to the quality standards, the use of health care technology and other matters
  • Grant federal regulators sweeping authority to define what qualifies as appropriate health care and health care coverage, the health care services that qualify for health care coverage and the payment and delivery of health care services.

You can review a copy of currently proposed provisions of the 615 page Act here

Individuals concerned about these and other proposed health care reforms must act immediately to become familiar and share their input on the proposals.

Assistance Monitoring & Responding To Health Care Reform Proposals

If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about health care reform proposals and other related legislative, regulatory, and enforcement developments, please:

  • Register for this resource at the link above;
  • Join the Coalition for Responsible Health Policy group at linkedin.com to share information and input;
  • Share your input by communicating with key members of Congress on committees responsible for this legislation and your elected officials directly and by actively participating in and contributing to other like-minded groups; and
  • Be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here

You can register to receive future updates on legislative and regulatory health care reform proposals and other related information by registering for this resource or access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.

Long-time health policy advocate and advisor Cynthia Marcotte Stamer has more than 22 years of experience advising and assisting clients to evaluate and respond to health care reform proposals and other proposed or adopted changes in federal or state health care, employee benefit, employment, tax and other federal and state laws.  Former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Ms. Stamer is highly regarded legal advisor, policy advocate, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her more than 20 years of work assisting U.S. public and private employers, health care providers, health insurers, and a broad range of other clients to respond to these and other health care, employee benefit and workforce public policy, regulatory and compliance and risk management concerns within the U.S. as well as internationally.  Her work includes extensive involvement providing input and assistance about health care, workforce, pensions and social security and other reforms domestically and internationally.  In addition to her continuous involvement in U.S. health care, pensions and savings, and workforce policy matters, Ms. Stamer has served as an advisor on these matters internationally.  As part of this work, she served as a lead advisor to the Government of Bolivia on its social security reform as well as has provided input on ethics, medical tourism, workforce and other reforms internationally.

Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker on health plan and other human resources, employee benefits and internal controls issues.   Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association.  Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

If your organization needs assistance with monitoring, assessing, or responding to these or other health care, employee benefit or human resources reforms,  please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here

Additional Resources & Information

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here.  

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Stamer Moderates June 25 ABA Teleconference On When Benefits Lawyers and Other Service Providers Be Sued for Malpractice for Services to ERISA Plans

June 9, 2009

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will moderate a June 25, 2009 teleconference on “Can Benefits Lawyers and Other Service Providers Be Sued for Malpractice for Services to ERISA Plans?”

The telephone conference hosted by the American Bar Association (ABA) Joint Committee on Employee Benefits (JCEB) is scheduled for Thursday, June 25, 2009 from 1:00-2:00 pm Eastern Time, 12:00-1:00 pm Central Time, 11:00 am-12:00 pm Mountain Time, and 10:00 am-11:00 am Pacific Time.

The teleconference will feature a discussion by Hogan & Hartson LLP attorney Kurt Lawson and AARP Foundation Litigation attorney Mary Ellen Signorille about how the federal precedent governing when and how ERISA preemption affects state malpractice and misfeasance claims against accountants, lawyers, health care providers, actuaries and others has evolved during the five year period since the United State’s Aetna v. Davila decision reframed when ERISA preempts state law malpractice claims and the implications of this precedent on the viability and litigation of these state law malpractice claims.

To register or for additional information, go to here.

About Cynthia Marcotte Stamer

The immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a highly regarded legal advisor, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her expertise in the areas of health benefits and other human resource compliance matters. Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, “Cindy” recently joined Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP as the Chair of its Labor & Employment and Health Care Practices April 1, 2009.

The Managing Editor of Solutions Law Press and an Editorial Advisory Board Member and author for Employee Benefit News and other publications, Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker. In addition to hundreds of publications on health plan and other human resources, employee benefit and internal controls issues, Ms. Stamer is the author of the “Health Plan Eligibility Toolkit.” Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association. Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other health plan and other employee benefit,  labor and employment, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here,   For more information and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website.

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here,   For more information and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website.

 

You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog here.

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Registration Open For June 23 Dallas HR 2009 Health Plan Eligibility Update Program

June 9, 2009

Amid soaring health care costs and tightening corporate budgets, employers and other group health plan sponsors, fiduciaries and administrations now also must update their group health plan eligibility and enrollment practices to comply with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Stimulus Bill”), COBRA subsidy mandates, HIPAA special enrollment rule amendments and a host of other changes to federal eligibility mandates that already have or will take effect this year.  Meanwhile, employers must keep a careful watch on Congress as it considers enacting sweeping health care reforms that are likely to place more obligations on employers.

Health plan eligibility design and administration plays a critical role in controlling health benefit costs and is a leading and growing source of health plan legal risk for employers, fiduciaries and administrators.  Understanding and properly managing these concerns is imperative for employers and others sponsoring or administering these programs.

Stamer Discusses Health Plan Eligibility Rules June 23

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer will explain newly effective COBRA Subsidy Rules, genetic information nondiscrimination rules and other recent and impending changes to federal health plan eligibility mandates will be explained on June 23, 2009 during a 2009 Health Plan Eligibility Update briefing hosted by the Dallas Human Resources Management Association including:

Cynthia Stamer will explain to attendees what they need to know and do about:

  • New Stimulus Bill COBRA Subsidy Rules and other special COBRA rules that took effect on February 17
  • New GINA group health plan information scheduled to take place in 2009
  • Changes to HIPAA special enrollment and nondiscrimination rules
  • Implications for group health plans based on recent changes to FMLA and USERRA regulations
  • Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP nondiscrimination rules
  • Impending college student continuation mandates
  • And more….

Get  details or register on line here or by telephoning Dallas Human Resources Management Association at 214-631-8775.

Stamer’s Health Plan Experience Extensive

The immediate past Chair of the American Bar Association’s Managed Care & Insurance Section, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is a highly regarded legal advisor, author and speaker recognized both nationally and internationally for her expertise in the areas of health benefits and other human resource compliance matters. Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, “Cindy” recently joined Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP as the Chair of its Labor & Employment and Health Care Practices April 1, 2009.

The Managing Editor of Solutions Law Press and an Editorial Advisory Board Member and author for Employee Benefit News and other publications, Ms. Stamer is a widely published author and popular speaker. In addition to hundreds of publications on health plan and other human resources, employee benefit and internal controls issues, Ms. Stamer is the author of the “Health Plan Eligibility Toolkit.” Her work has been featured and published by the American Bar Association, BNA, SHRM, World At Work, Employee Benefit News and the American Health Lawyers Association. Her insights on human resources risk management matters have been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, Managed Care Executive, HealthLeaders, Business Insurance, Employee Benefit News and the Dallas Morning News.

Ms. Stamer also serves in a number of professional leadership roles including the leadership council of the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Vice Chair of the ABA Real Property, Probate & Trust Section and Employee Benefits & Compensation Group.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other health plan and other employee benefit,  labor and employment, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer via e-mail here, or by calling (214) 270-2402.  For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here,   For more information and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website.

We hope that this information is useful to you. For additional information about the experience, services, publications and involvements of Ms. Stamer specifically or to access some of her many publications, see here,   For more information and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website.

You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog here.

 ©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Legislation To Exempt Health Benefits For Domestic Partners and Other Beneficiaries Introduced In House & Senate.

June 3, 2009

June 3, 2009

Domestic partner benefits provided under employer or union sponsored health plans no longer would be taxable to enrolling employees if Congress adopts legislation recently proposed in the House and Senate.

HR 2625, the Tax Equity for Health Plan Beneficiaries Act and a companion bill, S 1153 S 1153 would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the exclusion from gross income for employer-provided health coverage for employees’ spouses and dependent children to coverage provided to other eligible designated beneficiaries of employees, including domestic partners. According to a press release from Rep. McDermott, the bill would eliminate federal income and payroll taxes on health benefits provided to domestic partners. 

Currently, the value of health benefits provided to domestic partners of employees under an employer’s group health plan typically are taxable income to the employee for purpose of the Internal Revenue Code.  Valuing and reporting taxable payments on domestic partner benefits can be a headache for employers that provide those benefits.

If you need help responding to these proposals or with other questions relating to compliance or risk management under other federal or state employment, employee benefits, compensation, or internal controls laws or regulations, please contact Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270.2402 or via e-mail here.   Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, “Cindy” works with businesses, speaks and publishes extensively on these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, internal controls and compensation matters.  For additional information about Curran Tomko Tarski LLP see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website.

Other Information & Resources

We hope that this information is useful to you. You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources here. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly. If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at here.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog here.

 ©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


Labor Department Gears Up To Enforce COBRA Premium Subsidy Rules

May 29, 2009

Pressure is mounting for group health plans and their employer and other sponsors and administrators to complete the details required to comply with special medical coverage continuation rules (COBRA Subsidy Rules) added to the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985, as amended (COBRA) by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Stimulus Bill). 

The U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) recently (May 21, 2009) announced its appeal process for assistance eligible individuals to use to complain to the EBSA when they believe they wrongfully have been denied a premium subsidy for their group health plan continuation coverage in violation of the temporary modifications (COBRA Subsidy Rules) to the group health plan medical coverage continuation requirements of the COBRA Stimulus Rules.  These are the expedited complaint and appeals procedures mandated under the Stimulus Bill.

The COBRA Subsidy Rules, new genetic information nondiscrimination rules and other recent and impending changes to federal health plan eligibility mandates will be explained on June 23, 2009 during a 2009 Health Plan Eligibility Update briefing hosted by the Dallas Human Resources Management Association.  Get  details or register here.

The Stimulus Bill allows individuals denied the premium subsidy to get expedited review by the EBSA. Under the appeals procedures announced May 21, individuals begin this review process by completing an appeals application available on line at http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/COBRA/main.

Employers and group health plans and their plan administrators and plan insurers have been required to provide notifications and COBRA premium subsidies for certain former employees and their dependents that qualify as assistance eligible individuals and take other actions to comply with the COBRA Subsidy Rules since the COBRA Subsidy Rules took effective on February 17, 2009.  While many employers and plan administrators undertaken some efforts to comply with these new COBRA mandates,  many still have not fully completed all of the compliance arrangements.

With procedures to receive and administer appeals, the EBSA now is prepared to investigate possible violations of the Stimulus Bill COBRA rules.  Accordingly, employers, plan administrators and insurers sponsoring or administering group health plan should prepare to respond to investigations that may be initiated by the filing of a request for EBSA review.

You can read details about the COBRA Subsidy Rules here.

 

Stimulus COBRA Rules In A Nutshell

Congress enacted the COBRA Subsidy Rules that took effect February 17, 2009 to help certain involuntarily terminated former employees and their dependents maintain COBRA coverage by requiring COBRA-covered group health plans temporarily to extend certain special COBRA treatment for “assistance eligible individuals.”

The Stimulus Bill temporarily limits the COBRA premium that a COBRA-covered group health plan can require an “assistance eligible individual” to pay for COBRA Coverage to 35% of the otherwise applicable COBRA premium (the “Reduced Premium”) for a period of up to 9 months (the “Subsidy Period”) beginning with the individual’s first period of COBRA Coverage beginning after February 17, 2009.  The employer or insurer that collects this Reduced Premium must pay the remaining 65% of the COBRA premium (the “COBRA Subsidy”) for the assistance eligible individual during the Subsidy Period.  However, the Stimulus Bill provides for that employer or insurer to claim a payroll tax credit equal to the amount of these COBRA Subsidy payments by complying with applicable IRS procedures. 

The Stimulus COBRA Rules also requires group health plans to offer a second COBRA enrollment period to each assistance eligible individual not enrolled in COBRA Coverage on February 17, 2009.  These second electors must be allowed to elect prospectively to enroll in COBRA coverage until the date that their COBRA Coverage eligibility otherwise would have ended if they had maintained COBRA Coverage since their termination.

Additionally, COBRA-covered group health plans that offer employees different plan options allow assistance eligible individuals the option to change their coverage choice from a higher cost option to a lesser cost option.  Group health plan administrators also must provide certain notifications to assistance eligible individuals concerning these changes.

 

“Assistance Eligible Individuals”

The Stimulus COBRA Rules only apply to qualified beneficiaries whose loss of coverage resulted from the “involuntary termination of employment” of a covered employee. The Stimulus Bill definition of “assistance eligible individual” generally includes any COBRA “qualified beneficiary” who meets all of the following requirements:

ü       Has a loss of coverage within the meaning of COBRA (“qualifying event”) as a result of the “involuntary termination of employment” of a covered employee from September 1, 2008 to December 31, 2009;

ü       Is eligible for COBRA Coverage at any time during the period beginning September 1, 2008 and ending December 31, 2009; and

ü       Elects COBRA coverage when first offered or as during the additional second election period required for assistance eligible individuals not enrolled in COBRA Coverage on February 17, 2009.

IRS Notice 2009-27 defines an “involuntary termination” as “a severance from employment due to the independent exercise of the unilateral authority of the employer to terminate the employment, other than due to the employee’s implicit or explicit request, where the employee was willing and able to continue performing services” based on all the facts and circumstances. 

For COBRA Premium Assistance purposes, the facts and circumstances determine whether a termination is involuntary. Thus, IRS Notice 2009-27 states that a termination designated as voluntary or as a resignation nevertheless will be considered involuntary where the facts and circumstances indicate that the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and that the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated.

Notice 2009-27 identifies as examples of terminations that fall within this definition of “involuntary termination” as including the following facts and circumstances:

ü       The employer’s failure to renew a contract at the time the contract expires, if the employee was willing and able to execute a new contract providing terms and conditions similar to those in the expiring contract and to continue providing the services;

ü       An employee-initiated termination from employment if the termination from employment constitutes a termination for good reason due to employer action that causes a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee;

ü       An involuntary reduction of hours of employment to zero hours, such as a lay-off, furlough, or other suspension of employment, resulting in a loss of health coverage;

ü       An employee’s voluntary termination of employment in response to an employer imposed reduction of hours of employment where the reduction in hours is a material negative change in the employment relationship for the employee;

ü       An employer’s action to end an individual’s employment while the individual is absent from work due to illness or disability (but not mere absence from work due to illness or disability before the employer has taken action to end the individual’s employment);

ü       A termination designated on account of “retirement” if the facts and circumstances indicate that, absent retirement, the employer would have terminated the employee’s services, and the employee had knowledge that the employee would be terminated;

ü       The covered employee resigned as the result of a material change in the geographic location of employment for the employee;

ü       A lockout initiated by an employer but not a work stoppage as the result of a strike initiated by employees or their representatives; and

ü       A termination elected by the employee in return for a severance package (a “buy-out”) where the employer indicates that after the offer period for the severance package, a certain number of remaining employees in the employee’s group will be terminated

Notice 2009-27 also clarifies that the termination of employment giving rise to the loss of group health plan coverage and the loss of the group health plan coverage both must occur between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 in order for an individual to qualify as an assistance eligible individual. Consequently, if the involuntary termination occurs before September 1, 2008, but the loss of coverage resulting in eligibility for COBRA Coverage occurs after September 1, 2008 (but no later than December 31, 2009), Notice 2009-28 states that the individual will not qualify as an assistance eligible individual.  Likewise, where an individual’s involuntary termination occurs by December 31, 2009, but the loss of coverage resulting in eligibility for COBRA Coverage occurs after December 31, 2009, the qualified beneficiary will not qualify as an assistance eligible individual for purposes of the Subsidy COBRA Rules.  According to Notice 2009-27, where the involuntary termination of employment and loss of coverage as a covered employee or dependent occur between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, the election of COBRA Coverage need not occur by December 31, 2009.

Many group health plans are drafted to provide that the date that employee or dependent coverage ends or changes as a result of an employment loss is the last day of the month or some other date after the actual date of the employment termination.  Under group health plans where the loss of coverage due to the qualifying event is delayed, Notice 2009-27 also reminds employers and plan administrators of the need to focus on how group health plan provisions, separation agreements and other related documents define when the loss of coverage occurs under a group health plan when applying these rules.

For purposes of COBRA, Notice 2009-27 states that when a loss of coverage under a group health plan occurs under these circumstances depends on how the group health plan treats the provision of health coverage between the date of the employment loss and the date of the resulting loss of employee and/or dependent coverage. If the plan treats the provision of health coverage as deferring the loss of coverage, Notice 2009-27 indicates the loss of coverage generally occurs when the individual ceases to be entitled to employee or dependent coverage on the same terms and conditions as would have applied had he not experienced the qualifying event.  However, if the plan treats the continued provision of health coverage from the termination date until employee or dependent coverage later ends as a result as reducing the period of required COBRA Coverage, then the loss of coverage occurs on the termination date or other later date.  Appropriate drafting is important to support the desired characterization.

 

Calculation of 35% of COBRA Premium

Based on the guidance in Notice 2009-27, many employers will want to terminate severance or other arrangements under which former employees are allowed to pay less than the maximum COBRA premium for some period of time.  According to Notice 2009-29,.the premium used to determine the 35% share that must be paid by (or on behalf of) an assistance eligible individual is the cost that would be charged to the assistance eligible individual for COBRA Coverage if the individual were not an assistance eligible individual. If absent the Stimulus COBRA Rules, the group health plan would require the assistance eligible individual to pay 102% of the “applicable premium” for continuation coverage, i.e., generally the maximum permitted, the Reduced Premium equals 35% of the 102% of the applicable premium. As no good deed goes unpunished, however, if the premium the group health plan would charge the assistance eligible individual is less than the maximum allowable COBRA premium, the Reduced Premium will be 35% of that lesser amount.  In determining whether an assistance eligible individual has paid 35% of the premium, payments on behalf of the individual by another person (other than the employer with respect to which the involuntary termination occurred) are taken into account.

 

Coverage Eligible For Premium Reduction

Notice 2009-27 also provides guidance about what types of group health plan coverage qualifies for premium reduction.  According to the Notice, the premium reduction is available for COBRA Coverage of any group health plan, except a health flexible spending arrangement (FSA) under section 106(c) offered under a section 125 cafeteria plan. This includes vision-only or dental-only plans, “mini-med plans” and certain health reimbursement accounts (HRAs). 

The Notice 2009-27 distinguishes exempted FSAs from covered health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) for purposes of these rules.  According to Notice 2009-27, while an HRA may qualify as an FSA under section 106(c), the exclusion of FSAs from the premium reduction is limited to FSAs provided through a section 125 cafeteria plan, which would not include an HRA. 

Notice 2009-27 also indicates that retiree coverage can qualify for the premium reduction where the retiree coverage does not differ from the coverage made available to similarly situated active employees.

 

Premium Reduction Period Duration

Notice 2009-27 also provides guidance about when periods of coverage and the Premium Reduction Period begin and end.  Under the Stimulus COBRA Rules, the premium reduction applies as of the first period of coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009 (February 17, 2009)  for which the assistance eligible individual is eligible to pay only 35% of the premium  and be treated as having made full payment.   For this purpose, a period of coverage is a monthly or shorter period with respect to which premiums are charged by the plan with respect to such coverage.  

According to Notice 2009-27, when the Premium Reduction Period begins for an assistance eligible individual depends on the period the plan charges COBRA premiums.  Where a group health plan requires an individual who loses coverage other than on the last day of the month who wishes to enroll in COBRA Coverage to pay a pro-rata portion of the monthly premium, Notice 2009-27 states the first period of coverage to which the premium reduction applies for an assistance eligible individual who loses coverage after February 17, 2009 generally is the individual’s first partial month of coverage.  A different rule applies when the assistance eligible individual elects COBRA Coverage under the second election period required by the Stimulus Bill Rules, however.  Whether a plan requires COBRA Coverage be paid for based on a calendar month or pro rata basis, March 1, 2009 is the beginning of the first period of coverage within the Premium Reduction Period for any assistance eligible individual enrolling during the second enrollment period and the Reduced Premium only applies to that individual for COBRA Coverage from March 1, 2009 through the end of his otherwise applicable Premium Reduction Period.

 

End Of Premium Reduction Period

An assistance eligible individual ceases to qualify for the premium reduction on the earliest of:

ü       The first date the assistance eligible individual becomes eligible for other group health plan coverage (with certain exceptions) or Medicare coverage,

ü       The date that is nine months after the first day of the first month for which the Stimulus Bill premium reduction provisions apply to the individual, or

ü       The date the individual ceases to be eligible for COBRA Coverage.

Notice 2009-27 confirms that the Premium Reduction Period of an assistance eligible individual ends on the first date he becomes eligible for other group health plan coverage or Medicare effect even if the assistance eligible individual does not enroll in the other group health plan coverage.  

According to Notice 2009-27, whether an offer of retiree coverage that is not COBRA Coverage simultaneously with the offering of COBRA Coverage ends the Premium Reduction Period depends on whether the retiree coverage is offered under the same group health plan as the COBRA Coverage or under a different group health plan.  If offered under the same group health plan, the offer of the retiree coverage has no effect on the Premium Reduction Period.  If offered under a different group health plan, the offer of retiree coverage that is not COBRA coverage ends the Premium Reduction Period.  However Notice 2009-27, however, If offered to someone whose eligibility for COBRA coverage arose between September 1, 2008 and February 17, 2009, the offer render the individual ineligible for the premium reduction only if the period the individual is given for enrolling in the retiree coverage extends to at least February 17, 2009.

Notice 2009-27 also addresses when eligibility for coverage under an HRA ends eligibility for the premium reduction.  It states that becoming eligible for HRA coverage ends the Premium Reduction Period unless the HRA qualifies as an FSA under section 106(c).   Under section 106(c), an FSA is health coverage under which the maximum amount of reimbursement which is reasonably available to a participant of the coverage is less than 500% of the value of the coverage. For this purpose, the maximum amount of reimbursement which is reasonably available is generally the balance of the HRA and the value of the HRA coverage would generally be the applicable premium for COBRA continuation of the HRA coverage.

Notice 2009-27 also clarifies that the Premium Reduction Period of an eligible individual may extend beyond December 31, 2009 for individuals who qualify as assistance eligible individuals on or before December 31, 2009.  For example, the Premium Reduction Period of an assistance eligible individual whose Premium Reduction Period begins on December 1, 2009 could extent until August 31, 2010, assuming the individual does not become eligible for other group health plan coverage or Medicare or lose eligibility for COBRA Coverage before that date.

With regard to the effect of Medicare eligibility on an assistance eligible individual’s Premium reduction Period, Notice 2009-27 indicates that an individual currently enrolled in Medicare when the involuntary termination of employment occurs is ineligible for premium reduction, even though they may be eligible to elect COBRA continuation coverage by paying the otherwise applicable unreduced COBRA premium.

 

Dealing With Assistance Eligible Individuals Not Eligible For Premium Subsidy Based On Eligibility For Other Group Coverage

Under the Stimulus Bill, assistance eligible individuals are required to provide notification and resume paying the unreduced usual COBRA premium when they become eligible for Medicare or other group health coverage.  Where an assistance eligible individual fails to provide the required notice and continues to take advantage of the premium reduction after his Premium Reduction Period terminates due to his becoming eligible for other coverage or Medicare, Notice 2009-27 states the employer is not responsible for recovering the additional premium or otherwise recouping the COBRA premium. 

 

Dealing With Assistance Eligible Individuals Subject to Phase Out of Premium Subsidy Eligibility Based On Income

The Stimulus COBRA Rules include tax provisions designed phase out the COBRA Subsidy for certain highly compensated employees by taxing a portion of those amounts.  Notice 2009-7 discusses the mechanics through which highly compensated employees can avoid this tax liability by electing to waive the Premium Reduction and Premium Subsidy. 

An assistance eligible individual who wants to make a permanent election to waive the right to the premium reduction makes the election by providing a signed and dated notification (including a reference to “permanent waiver”) to the employer or other person who is reimbursed for the premium reduction under the COBRA Premium Subsidy provisions of Code § 6432. No separate additional notification to any government agency. If an assistance eligible individual makes the permanent election to waive the right to the premium reduction, the individual may not later reverse the election and may not receive the premium reduction for any future period of COBRA Coverage in 2009 or 2010, regardless of modified adjusted gross income in those years.

Notice 2009-27 makes clear that these rules don’t allow employers to deny the Reduced Premium to these assistance eligible individuals.  According to Notice 2009-27, “Even if an assistance eligible individual’s income is high enough that the recapture of the premium reduction would apply, COBRA Coverage must be provided upon payment of 35% of the premium unless the individual has notified the plan that the individual has elected the permanent waiver of the premium reduction (or the period for the premium reduction has ended).

 

Second COBRA Election Period

The Stimulus Bill also requires group health plans to offer a second election period to assistance eligible individuals not enrolled in COBRA Coverage on February 17, 2009 whose employment terminated between September 1, 2008 and February 16, 2009.  Notice 2009-27 confirms that any individual (including a dependent) who did not have an election of COBRA Coverage in effect on February 17, 2009, but who would have been an assistance eligible individual if the election were in effect must be offered this second election period. For those electing COBRA Coverage during this second election period, the resulting coverage begins with the first period of COBRA continuation coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009.   Notice 2009-27 confirms that this extended election period is available for all individuals who are qualified beneficiaries as the result of an involuntary termination during the period from September 1, 2008, through February 17, 2009, even if they still have an open COBRA election period as of February 17, 2009. If these individuals elect COBRA under their original COBRA election period, COBRA coverage is retroactive to their loss of coverage and the premium reduction does not apply to the periods of coverage prior to the first period of coverage beginning on or after February 17, 2009 (generally, periods of coverage before March 2009 for plans with monthly coverage periods).

If, as a result of the extended election period, an assistance eligible individual becomes eligible for COBRA Coverage under a group health plan that requires payment of COBRA premiums on a calendar month basis, the individual’s first period of coverage will begin on March 1 and the Reduced Premium only applies prospectively from that date. According to Notice 2009-27, this does not change even if the plan otherwise requires individuals who lose coverage before the last day of the month and who wish to enroll in COBRA continuation coverage to pay a pro-rata portion of the monthly premium for the first partial month of coverage.

In contrast, where a group health plan determines the required COBRA premiums based on the loss of coverage, Notice 2009-27 states that the first period of coverage begins on the first day after the loss of coverage and ends on the day of the following month corresponding to the day of the loss of coverage. For example, if the last day of coverage was October 3, 2008, the period of coverage runs from the fourth of the month to the third of the following month, and thus the first period of coverage on or after February 17, 2009, is the period March 4, 2009, through April 3, 2009.

Notice 2009-27 also discusses the operation of these rules as applied to certain HRAs

 

Who Pays The Premium Subsidy & Claims The Payroll Tax Credit

In previously issued guidance, the IRS indicated that between the sponsoring employer or union and a group insurer, the party that collects the Reduced Premium bears responsibility to pay the 65% Premium Subsidy then claiming the payroll tax credit under the Stimulus COBRA Rules.  According to Notice 2009-27, if the insurer and the employer of insured, single employer group health plan have agreed that the insurer will collect the premiums directly from the qualified beneficiaries, the insurer must treat an assistance eligible individual paying 35 of the premium as having paid the full premium, even before the employer pays the insurer the remaining 65%. If the insurer fails to treat a 35% payment by an assistance eligible individual as a payment of the full premium, the insurer may be liable for the excise tax under Code § 4980B(e)(1)(B), which applies to persons responsible for administering or providing benefits under the plan and whose act or failure to act caused (in whole or in part) the failure, if the person assumed responsibility for the performance of the act to which the failure relates.

 

For More Information or Assistance

If your organization needs help responding to the COBRA Subsidy Rules or other group health plan or other employee benefit or human resources matters, please contact Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Ms. Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at e-mail, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website or Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Website.

We hope that this information is useful to you. You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources at CynthiaStamer.com For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly. If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your Currant contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at CynthiaStamer.com.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog here.  For important information concerning this communication click here.


Tell Senate Committee Today Not To Mess Up Health Benefits

May 27, 2009

Today is the last day that individuals and businesses concerned about health care can provide feedback to Congress on health care reform proposals on the fast track for adoption by Congress and have their opinion included in the official hearing record of the  May 12, 2009 Senate Finance Committee Hearing on  “Financing Comprehensive Health Care Reform.”  Start speaking up today and keep speaking out until you are heard.

Senate health care reform leaders have announced their intention to have the Senate vote and pass health care reform legislation that would drastically change the U.S. health care and health insurance system during June. Individuals and businesses concerned about Congressional proposals to private health benefits with federal government benefits, to tax individuals and businesses on health benefits, and to make other radical changes in our health care programs should e-mail their concerns to Congress today.  Recent statements by Congressional leaders and President Obama indicate that the intend to act quickly to pass major health care reforms within the next few months, beginning with action by the Senate in June.

The Senate Finance Committee discussed the proposed changes during a “Roundtable Discussion” hearing on May 12, 2009.  Among the changes that this hearing reflects to be under serious consideration by Congress are proposals:

  • To tax individuals on health benefits and/or coverage
  • Reduce or eliminate employer tax benefits for providing health coverage
  • Mandate individuals and/or employees pay government mandated health insurance premiums
  • Replace existing employer and private health insurance programs with government run or mandated benefit programs
  • Involve the federal government  in deciding who and when Americans get care
  • Establish other burdensome federal requirements and regulations on health benefits and health care providers.

 You can review or listen to the testimony and learn more about what Congress plans to do to your and your employees’ health benefits here.

If you or others that you know are concerned about all or any of these proposals, we urge you to share your feedback TODAY as follows and staying involved as Congress moves to act: 

  • E-mail the Health Care Reform Leadership of the Senate Finance Committee at Health_reform@finance_dem.senate.gov
  • E-mail each member of the Senate Finance Committee at http://finance.senate.gov/sitepages/committee.htm
  • Call (202) 224-4515 and share your views with Congressional Staffers Erin Shields (Baucus) and Jill Gerber (Grassley), Committee on Finance, 219 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510-6200
  • Tell your Senators and Representatives you oppose Congressional plans to fast track health care reform the way Congress enacted the Stimulus Bill
  • Tell your Senators and Representatives you will support members of Congress who vote responsibly on health care reform
  • Tell your Senators and Representatives in Congress and political party leaders you will work to defeat members and candidates that advocate these and other irresponsible health care reform legisltation
  • Carry through on your promises
  • Keep speaking out until you are heard and Congress gets the message.    

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is an attorney, author and health care advocate known for her work and writings nationally and internationally on health care and coverage policy and legal matters . If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or communicating its concerns about this legislation or other health care and insurance, employment or employee benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the http://www.cttlegal.com.

Other Information & Resources

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at e-mail, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website or Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Website.

We hope that this information is useful to you. You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources at CynthiaStamer.com For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly. If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your Currant contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at CynthiaStamer.com.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog 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 support@SolutionsLawyer.net.

 

©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  Permission to forward with attribution granted to concerned parties.  All other rights reserved.


New GINA Health Plan Nondiscrimination Rules Effective For Plan Years Beginning On or After Today

May 21, 2009

New restrictions on the collection, use and disclosure of genetic information applicable to employer and union-sponsored group health plans enacted under Title I of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Public Law No. 110-233 (GINA) for group health plan years that begin on or after today (May 21, 2009). For non-calendar year plans with plan years beginning between June 1 and December 1, the effective date occurs on first day of their 2009 plan year. For example, the effective date will be June 1, 2009 for a plan with a 2009 plan year that begins June 1.  For calendar year plans, the compliance deadline is January 1, 2010.   All employer-sponsored group health plans are required to comply with GINA.  There are no small group exceptions.

GINA In A Nutshell

GINA amended federal law to include specific prohibitions against certain discrimination based on genetic information by group health plans and health insurers (Title I) and to prohibit discrimination based on genetic information by employers of 15 or more employees (Title II).

Effective for all group health plan years beginning on or after May 21, 2009, GINA’s new restrictions on the collection and use of genetic information by group health plans added under Title I of GINA are accomplished through the expansion of a series of already existing group health plan nondiscrimination and privacy rules.  GINA’s group health plan provisions amend and expand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Public Health Service Act, the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and Title XVIII (Medicare) of the Social Security Act to implement sweeping new federal restrictions on the collection, use, and disclosure of information that falls within its broad definition of “genetic information” by  group health plans.  For individual health insurers, GINA’s restrictions take effect May 22, 2009.  The broad definition of the term “genetic information” in GINA will require group health plan sponsors and insurers to carefully review and update their group health plan documents, communications, policies and practices to comply with forthcoming implementing regulations to avoid liability under new GINA’s rules governing genetic information collection, use, protection and disclosure in a series of areas. 

Meanwhile, employers, unions and others face their own new prohibitions against genetic information based employment discrimination added by Title II of GINA, which take effect November 21, 2009. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published proposed regulations interpreting Title II of GINA in March, 2009.

Broad Definition of “Genetic Information”

The broad range of information included within GINA’s broad definition of “genetic information” means its new restrictions have a sweeping reach when applied to most group health plans.  GINA defines “genetic information to include with respect to any individual, information about:

  • Such individual’s genetic tests;
  • The genetic tests of family members of such individual; and
  • The manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members of such individual.

GINA also specifies that any reference to genetic information concerning an individual or family member includes genetic information of a fetus carried by a pregnant woman and an embryo legally held by an individual or family member utilizing an assisted reproductive technology.

Pending issuance of regulatory guidance, GINA’s inclusion of information about the “manifestation of a disease or disorder in family members” raises potential challenges for a broad range of group health plan health assessment and other wellness and disease management programs which provide financial incentives or condition eligibility on the provision of family health histories or other information that could be construed as genetic information. 

Group Health Plan Genetic Testing Collection and Nondiscrimination Rules

Under GINA’s nondiscrimination rules, group health plans and health insurers may not:

  • Request, require or purchase genetic information for underwriting purposes or in advance of an individual’s enrollment;
  • Adjust premiums or contribution amounts of the group based on genetic information;
  • Request or require an individual or family member to undergo a genetic test except in limited situations specifically allowed by GINA;
  • Impose a preexisting condition exclusion based solely on genetic information, in the absence of a diagnosis of a condition;
  • Discriminate against individuals in eligibility and continued eligibility for benefits based on genetic information; or
  • Discriminate against individuals in premium or contribution rates under the plan or coverage based on genetic information, although such a plan or issuer may adjust premium rates for an employer based on the manifestation of a disease or disorder of an individual enrolled in the plan.

GINA also prohibits insurers providing individual health insurance from establishing rules for eligibility, adjusting premiums or contribution amounts for an individual, imposing preexisting condition exclusions based on, requesting or requiring individuals or family members to undergo genetic testing.

Of particular concern to many plan sponsors and fiduciaries are the potential implications of these new rules on existing wellness and disease management features group health plans. Of particular concern is how regulators will treat the collection of family medical history and certain other information as part of health risk assessments used in connection with these programs. Although official guidance is still pending, many are concerned that regulators will construe certain commonly used practices of requiring covered persons to provide family medical histories or other genetic information through health risk assessments (HRAs) to qualify for certain financial incentives as a prohibited underwriting practice under GINA.  Even where health risk assessments are not used, however, most group health plan sponsors should anticipate that GINA will require specific amendments to their plan documents, communications and processes.

Taking timely action to comply with these nondiscrimination and collection prohibitions is important.  Under amendments to ERISA made by GINA, group health plan noncompliance can create significant liability for both the plan and its sponsor.  Participants or beneficiaries will be able to sue noncompliant group health plans for damages and equitable relief.  If the participant or beneficiary can show an alleged violation would result in irreparable harm to the individual’s health, the participant or beneficiary may not have to exhaust certain otherwise applicable Department of Labor administrative remedies before bringing suit.  In addition to these private remedies, GINA also authorizes the imposition of penalties against employers and other sponsors of group health plans that violate applicable requirements of GINA of up to $500,000. The minimum penalties generally are set at the greater of $100 per day or a minimum penalty amount ranging from $2,500 for de minimus violations corrected before the health plan received notice of noncompliance to $15,000 in cases in which the violations are more than de minimus.  GINA also includes language allowing the Secretary of Labor to reduce otherwise applicable penalties for violations that could not have been identified through the exercise of due diligence or when the plan corrects the violation quickly.

GINA Amendments To Health Plan Privacy Rules Under HIPAA

In addition to its nondiscrimination rules, GINA also amends HIPAA to make clear that “genetic information” as defined by HIPAA is protected health information protected by HIPAA’s Privacy & Security Standards of HIPAA. This means that it will require that all genetic information be treated as protected health information subject to the Privacy and Security Standards applicable to group health plans covered by HIPAA. Although the statutory provisions that accomplish these changes are deceptively simple, compliance with these requirements likely will require group health plans and their business associates to amend existing privacy policies, notices and practices to appropriately restrict disclosures for underwriting, operations and certain other uses to withstand scrutiny under the GINA privacy rule amendments. 

The HITECH Act amended and increased civil penalties for HIPAA privacy violations in many circumstances effective February 17, 2009.   

Regulatory Guidance Status

 As the the deadline for compliance for post May 20, 2009 plan years is rapidly approaching, however, many group health plans and their sponsors will need forward with their compliance arrangements in the absence of regulatory guidance interpreting these requirements. 

GINA’s fractured assignment of responsibility and authority to develop, implement and enforce regulatory guidance of its genetic information rules can create confusion for parties involved in compliance efforts. Because the group health plan requirements of Title I of GINA are refinements to the group health plan privacy and nondiscrimination rules previously enacted as part of HIPAA, GINA specifically assigned authority to construe and enforce its group health plan requirements to the agencies responsible for the interpretation and enforcement of those original rules:

  • The Department of Labor Employee Benefit Security Administration (EBSA);
  • The Internal Revenue Services (IRS), and
  • The Department of Health & Human Services. 

While these three agencies previously published a request for public comments about issues under Title I’s provisions, see http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/pdf/E8-24194.pdf, none of these three agencies as of May 20, 2009 has published interim or other regulations interpreting the GINA provisions within their scope of responsibility since the formal comments period ended December 9, 2009.  Although the EBSA Spring 2009 regulatory agenda reflected it intended to publish interim regulations by today and agency officials continue to indicate they intend to publish guidance “soon,” no guidance had been published as of May 20, 2009.

Even if the agencies issue guidance by the end of May plan sponsors and administrators of group health plans with new plan years beginning in the next 60 to 90 days are expressing concern that they will have inadequate time to complete compliance arrangements.  As a result, in addition to guidance about GINA’s requirements generally, some are hopeful that the guidance with include transition rules or other relief to allow more time to comply with the regulations when finally issued.  Regulators as of May 20, 2009 had not given any indication that they plan or perceive that they are authorized to provide such relief.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the http://www.cttlegal.com.

Other Information & Resources

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer and other members of Curran Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its wage and hour or other labor and employment, compensation or benefit practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at e-mail, (214) 270-2402; or your favorite Curran Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney.  For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curran Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the Curran Tomko Tarski Website or Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C. Website.

We hope that this information is useful to you. You can register to receive future updates and information about upcoming programs, access other publications by Ms. Stamer and access other helpful resources at CynthiaStamer.com For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience, see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly. If you or someone else you know would like to receive updates about developments on these and other human resources and employee benefits concerns, please be sure that we have your Currant contact information – including your preferred e-mail- by creating or updating your profile at CynthiaStamer.com.  If you would prefer not to receive these updates, please send a reply e-mail with “Remove” in the subject line to support@SolutionsLawyer.net. You also can register to participate in the distribution of these updates by registering to participate in the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update Blog here.

 ©Cynthia Marcotte Stamer. All rights reserved.


COBRA Premium Reduction and Extended Eligibility Provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

May 2, 2009

The U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) today (May 1, 2009) continued its efforts to increase awareness of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (“ARRA”) by sharing information with state agencies and asking their assistance in helping dislocated workers, businesses, and partners in understanding the new law.

Under ARRA, employees involuntarily terminated between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 and their dependents may be able to qualify for a 65% discount in the required premium they must pay to maintain COBRA coverage under their former employer’s group health plan for up to 9 months.  Special rules also apply to former employees who qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance or affected by certain Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation insurance programs.

Employers must pay the remaining amount of the otherwise required COBRA premium, but can request reimbursement from the Internal Revenue Service by filing for a payroll tax credit under the provisions of ARRA. 

Group health plans were required to begin complying with the new ARRA rules beginning February 17, 2009 and to notify workers of the new rules no later than April 18, 2009.  Many employers and their group health plan sponsors are still working to complete the necessary arrangements to comply with these new requirements.

The communication of information about the new provisions by the DOL, group health plans, employers and the media have prompted an outpouring of questions from many employees and their dependents, confused about their eligibility for the ARRA COBRA Subsidy and its workings.

In Training And Employment Notice No. 42-08, which is addressed to state workforce agencies, labor commissioners and other state workforce regulators, the Employment and Training Administration (“ETA”):

  •  Shared certain basic information about ARRA’s COBRA, Trade Adjustment Assistance and other workforce assistance relief;
  • Detailed some of the training and other resources provided by the DOL to help States and their citizens understand these new provisions and the procedures for their use; and
  • Asked the regulators to assist in communicating and disseminating the information to individuals who might qualify for benefits and other interested parties.

Interested persons can review the announcement at http://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/TEN/ten2008/TEN42-08acc.pdf.

Cynthia Marcotte Stamer is nationally known for her knowledge and experience on COBRA and other health benefit and employee benefit matters,.  You will find several of these previous publications on the new ARRA COBRA provisions on prior editions of the Solutions Law Press HR & Benefits Update.  You also can access some of the many practical updates that she has prepared on these and other COBRA matters by e-mailing or contacting her.  She and other members of Curren Tomko and Tarski LLP are experienced with advising and assisting employers with these and other labor and employment, employee benefit, compensation, and internal controls matters. If your organization needs assistance with assessing, managing or defending its COBRA or other employee benefit or human resources practices, please contact Ms. Stamer at cstamer@cttlegal.com, (214) 270-2402 or your favorite Curren Tomko Tarski, LLP attorney. 

For additional information about the experience and services of Ms. Stamer and other members of the Curren Tomko Tarksi, LLP team, see the http://www.cttlegal.com.


Subrogation Soup: The Law & Practicalities

April 7, 2009

Register Now

April 21, 2009 ABA JCEB Teleconference

1:00-2:30 pm ET / 12:00-1:30 pm CT / 11:00 am-12:30 pm MT / 10:00 am-11:30 am PT

 

Moderator:
Cynthia Marcotte Stamer
, Curren Tomko Tarski LLP, Dallas, TX

Speakers:
James McKown, Recovery Data Connect, L.L.C., Leawood, KS
Scott Douglas Marquardt, Total Plan Services, Inc, Dallas, TX

 

Properly designed and administered subrogation provisions in ERISA-covered group health plans and group insurance contracts can provide invaluable tools for managing costs. Unfortunately, various legal and practical problems often prevent ERISA-covered group health plans and insurers from realizing many of these benefits. With health care costs continuing to rise, many health plan administrators, insurers and fiduciaries are placing renewed emphasis on the design and enforcement of their plan’s subrogation provisions. Listen and learn as a distinguished and experienced panel discusses the legal and practical ins and outs of the design, administration, and defense of effective group health plan policies and practices in ERISA-governed group health plans including:

 

ü       Legal Basis of Subrogation Under ERISA

ü       Why, When & When Not To Subrogate

ü       The Law

ü       The Process From Drafting, to Adjudication, to Recovery

ü       Who Gets Hired To Do What, Why & When

ü       Sticking Points & Plan Problems

ü       Practical Dos & Don’t

For more information or to register, go to http://meetings.abanet.org/meeting/jceb/JCEB042109.

 

If you have questions or concerns about the matters discussed in this publication or other human resources, employee benefits or compensation matters, wish to obtain information about arranging for training or presentations by Ms. Stamer, wish to suggest a topic for a future program or publication, or wish to request other information or materials, please contact Ms. Stamer via telephone at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail to Cstamer@Solutionslawyer.net.