Updated: Jan 25
COVID Relief, No Surprises Act, FSA and DCAP Extensions, Transparency, and HIPAA Privacy Updates
Features of the Consolidated Appropriations Act
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (The Act) was signed into law on December 28th by President Trump. On top of a $600 Stimulus check that has gone out to Americans, there are many other parts of the law that may affect Employers. It combines the omnibus spending bill to prevent the government shut down, along with COVID Relief and other changes:
· Omnibus spending bill to prevent a government shutdown,
· COVID-19 Relief
· No Surprises Act (Balance billing for Out-of-Network in healthcare)
· Temporary Health FSA and DCAP Relief
· Compensation Transparency
· Tax Provisions
· Education finances
· Human Rights provisions
· Energy Provisions
Employers should consider the follow parts of The Act that will affect you and your employees! Some of the changes are effective now, and some will become effective in 2022 and 2023. According to Wikipedia, this $2.3 Trillion Act is one of the largest spending measures ever enacted and is one of the longest bills ever passed by Congress. Part of that is due to the budget and variety of bills that were combined.
COVID-19 continues to be a burden on most of America. This 2nd round of Coronavirus Relief has impact to Americans, Business, as well as the Healthcare Industry.
EPSL Extension - Now Voluntary
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed early in 2020 enacted a temporary Paid Leave Act (EPSL) as an extension of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It provided up to two weeks paid leave to an employee, or dependent that needed to be cared for by employee, that was experiencing symptoms of or diagnosed with COVID-19. The company receives a Tax Credit on their Quarterly Taxes to help pay for this leave. The required leave ended on December 31, 2020. The Act allows companies to voluntarily continue with the EPSL, through March of 2021. You can still receive the Tax Credit as it applies, but it remains with only two weeks of paid leave through both years. If the employee took paid leave in 2020, the amount would be reduced going forward. (No new hours available to employee, only an extension of the same period)
PPP Loans Re-opened
$284 billion in additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are now available through the Small Business Association. Originally offered in March of 2020 for COVID-19, this second round of funds will be available to employers with less than 300 employees who continued to have a loss of receipts for one quarter of 2020 compared to the same quarter in 2019.
$600 Economic Impact Payments
Many Americans may have already received the 2nd round of Payments to help with COVID-19 costs for their families. It will probably show up in the same fashion that you received your 1st payment. The $600 payment will go out to Americans that made less than $75,000, plus another $600 per child.
In the last 15 years, I have seen countless cases where members end up out of network in an emergency or of no choice of their own, only to received very large bills from those providers that were out-of-network. It may be one of the most common issues that I have seen, repeated many times. The No-Surprises Act helps to prevent surprise medical bills, due to “Balance Billing”. Here are some examples that are targeted:
· Emergency Services
· Services Furnished by an Out-of-Network provider at an In-Network facility
· Surprise Air Ambulance Bills
The Act will also oversee an audit process, resolution process, help determine rates, require a price comparison tool, and increase transparency for deductibles and out of pocket limitations on your plan. Many new features that this Act requires will start showing up on health insurance plans starting in January 2022.
Health FSA & DCAP Relief
One of the best tools an employer can offer employees to help them reduce medical, dental, vision and daycare expense is a Flexible Spending Account (Section 125 Plan). During COVID many Americans were not able to spend their account down due to provider restrictions, cancellations in treatment, or lack of available care. As provider and daycare facilities experience closures and decrease ability to treat and care for members, your employees may have money left in their account that they had expected to spend. The Act allows employer to change their FSA and DCAP (Dependent Care) accounts to allow greater flexibility, so they do not lose access to their money.
You can amend your policy for some of these provisions:
· Carryover of Unused Amounts
· Extended Grace Period
· DCAP Carry Forward
· Midyear Election Changes
· Amendment Deadline
Please contact your FSA Administrator today if you want to make some of these changes to your plan. There may be costs involved with a plan change, but your employees may really need it!
Brokers like me get paid through commissions from insurance companies on the policies that we sell to members. At Fringe Benefit Analysts our focus is on matching the right policy to our clients. We are independent and sell a variety of insurance plans with many insurance carriers. We pride ourselves on providing you and your employees (or families) with the best policy at the best price. Proactive Customer Service and Education about the plan, and how it works, is a key to our success. Due to the complexity of offers out there it can take time and effort your part and ours. Here at Fringe Benefit Analysts, we are up for the challenge! ERISA imposes restrictions and penalties on compensation to ensure that the “parties of interest” remain most beneficial to the employers “Plan”. The Consolidated Appropriations Act increased the level of transparency for broker commissions to be provided to members. These disclosures will apply beginning December 27, 2021, which is one year after The Appropriations Act was passed.
Here at Fringe, we are dedicated to transparency with our clients. We are not quite sure yet how these changes will impact what we do, but we will strive to provide an environment of transparency and will make changes to our processes and communications as required and necessary to always keep our clients in the know.
HIPAA Privacy Revisions
Recently there were some changes to HIPAA Privacy in a proposed rule issued by Health and Human Services (HHS). These changes were not included in The Appropriations Act. The Opioid Crisis and COVID-19 Pandemic have forced HHS to revise several provisions making coordinated care easier for the health care industry.
HIPAA Privacy is intended to control Protected Health Information (PHI) or Personally Identifiable Information (PII) in respect to a member’s health and private information. This specific list of information must be held securely and given only in certain situations. Healthcare Providers, Health Insurance Companies, Employers, Brokers and other third parties that help with data surrounding patient care and health insurance must protect this information. HIPAA has been in place since 1996.
Here are the areas that are affected:
· Individuals Access to PHI
· Minimum Necessary Standard
· Clarification of ability to disclose to third parties
· Amendment to Privacy Practices
· Telecommunications Relay Services
· And more…
Click below for more helpful information for employers:
“Quiet isn’t always Peace” Amanda Gorman