The Department of Labor says it will be stepping up enforcement efforts and employer audits, which should prompt brokers, who formerly worried little about such regulatory efforts, to prepare to serve as a trusted adviser to clients concerned about such efforts, says Julie Hulsey, president and CEO of Amarillo, Texas-based Zynia Business Solutions.
Speaking at an industry conference in Hollywood, Fla. this week, Hulsey said employers are feeling pressured by the weight of increased DOL and health care reform regulations and brokers need to stay up to date on regulations, including those related to the Affordable Care Act and ERISA.
The ACA reporting requirements have brought increased scrutiny of employer-sponsored health care plans and the government is largely expected to respond to anomalies or red flags with an employer audit. But industry experts agree the government won’t limit its inquiries to ACA-related information only, and employers should be prepared for full-blown audits of health care plans.
Quoting from a DOL presentation in Austin, Texas, Hulsey says the Department said, “leniency is over; the EBSA has staffed up and is focusing its resources on health and welfare plan ERISA compliance.”
Additionally, in her small Texas town alone, she says she’s heard that the DOL has added 10-12 auditors, who are conducting random audits of employers, mostly on the smaller employee size.
Increased compliance needs can be a strain for small employers, some of which may not even have a designated Human Resources department or manager.
“Depending on (company size), chances are they do not have a specific HR director. It may be the owner, the owner’s wife, a manager or even the manager’s wife,” Hulsey says.
When a DOL audit is announced, an employer’s first phone call will be their broker or an attorney, she adds.
“If we want to stay in business and be professionals to our clients,” she explained to a room of brokers, “this is the stuff we need to know.”
Quote“If we want to stay in business and be professionals to our clients, this is the stuff we need to know.”
Among the topics that brokers should be aware, Hulsey said, are:
- Variable Employee Testing: Based on employee classifications, an employer can group employees into different groups, such as part-time and seasonal.
- HR 3236-The Transportation and Veteran Health care Choice Improvement Act of 2016: This Act regulates that employees covered by Tricare can be excluded from counting employee numbers.
- Cadillac Tax: Although delayed until 2020, it is important to start planning now.
- Waivers: If employers offer a minimum-essential coverage plan that meets affordable and minimum value test and an employee declines coverage, it is important the employer have a signed waiver. “That waiver is gold,” Hulsey said.
- Individual Mandate: The period will run from Nov. 1, 2016 to Jan. 31, 2016.
- Special Enrollment Period: Presenting a sales opportunity to brokers, these enrollment periods take affect when an employee experiences any change that affects income or household size, such as becoming pregnant. Other special enrollments include marriage/divorce, changing place of residence and having a change in disability.
The DOL has the authority to audit for compliance with several laws, including the ACA, HIPAA and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. They also have the authority to audit for minimum loss ratio rebates and PECORI fees.
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