SAS 136: The New Audit Standard for Employee Benefit Plans and Its Impact on Plan Sponsors

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) issued a new audit standard for employee benefit plans in July 2019. The new standard is commonly referred to as SAS 136, but its official name is “Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 136, Forming an Opinion and Reporting on Financial Statements of Employee Benefit Plans Subject to ERISA.”  Although SAS 136 imposes new duties on auditors, plan sponsors also have increased responsibilities under this new standard.

Agencies Issue FAQs on Required Comparative Analysis of Nonquantitative Treatment Limitations

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021 had far-reaching effects on employee benefit plans. One of the more onerous changes introduced by the CAA relates to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA). MHPAEA requires that group health plans offering mental health and substance use disorder benefits (MH/SUD benefits) provide those benefits on no less generous terms than medical and surgical benefits.

DOL Guidance Clarifies Expiration of COVID-19 Deadline Extension for Employee Benefit Plans

The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) published EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 in the nick of time on February 26, 2021. EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2021-01 was released just two days before the date that certain benefit plan deadline extensions were potentially expiring. The DOL and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued joint guidance on May 4, 2020, which provided that certain employee benefit plan deadlines for participants would be tolled or suspended during the COVID-19 “Outbreak Period,” which began on March 1, 2020, and which ends 60 days after the end of the COVID-19 national emergency. Certain deadlines applying to plan administrators were also tolled last year as set forth in EBSA Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01.

Consolidated Appropriations Act Underscores Mental Health Parity Compliance

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), 2021, enacted late in 2020, imposes a new requirement on group health plans to ensure compliance with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). Unlike many of the other provisions of the CAA that affect group health plans, the MHPAEA requirement under CAA section 203 goes into effect very soon—on February 10, 2021.

Use It, but Don’t Lose It: New Stimulus Law Extends Time to Spend Down 2020 Health FSA and Dependent Care Balances

Employers will now have additional options to address participants’ unspent contributions to dependent care or health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (H.R. 133, P.L. 116-260), signed into law on December 27, 2020, provides temporary relief for employees that were unable to spend down their dependent care and health FSAs by the end of the plan year and may otherwise forfeit these contributions.

Traps for the Unwary: Code Section 410(b) Coverage Testing Concerns in Transactions

With a recent uptick in mergers and transactions, we thought it would be worthwhile to provide a refresher on some coverage testing issues related to retirement plans. Although a seemingly mundane topic, coverage testing should be kept in mind in corporate transactions where the buyer is acquiring an entity that sponsors a 401(k) plan and the fate of that plan is not resolved prior to the closing of the transaction. Failure to consider coverage testing concerns in the years following an acquisition can lead to qualification failures in retirement plans, which potentially can require millions of dollars to correct.

DOL Proposes More Permissive Association Health Plan Rule

Small businesses and self-employed individuals may soon have more options for obtaining affordable group health coverage. As directed by Executive Order 13813, on January 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released proposed regulations (83 Fed. Reg. 614) intended to increase the availability of association health plans (AHPs).

Well, I Know a Little About Wellness Programs: Court Finds EEOC’s Incentive Limit Unsupported, Remands to Agency

On August 22, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued its decision in the American Association of Retired Persons, Inc.’s (AARP) challenge to the wellness program regulations issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016 relating to the incentives allowable for participation in an employee health program under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).

A Win for Wellness Programs: Federal Judge Rules No ADA Violation (No Matter What the EEOC Says)

The question of whether a wellness program violates the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has been unclear for some time.  The Chicago District Office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased employers’ anxieties by filing suit against several companies in late 2014, asserting that their wellness programs violated the ADA because they were not “voluntary” medical exams (or employee health programs).

Getting with the (Wellness) Program: EEOC Proposes New ADA Regulations for Wellness Programs

For some time, employers have faced uncertainty about the status of their wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have allowed employers to provide financial incentives for employee participation in wellness programs for several years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) increased employer anxieties over otherwise-compliant wellness programs in 2013 and 2014 by suing several large companies over alleged ADA-related defects in the design of their wellness programs.

New Standards for Breaches of Health Plan PHI

Federal law will soon require employers to provide notice to their health plan participants, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and potentially even the media, following breaches of participant unsecured protected health information (PHI), under interim final HHS regulations set to be published in the August 24, 2009, Federal Register.

Called Up, Cashed Out?

HEART Act Guidance Clarifies Health FSA Distributions For ReservistsUnder new guidance issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), employers will more easily be able to allow workers who have been called up to active military duty to take full advantage of “qualified reservist distributions” from their health flexible spending accounts (FSAs). Allowed under the HEART