Washington Governor Jay Inslee, on March 30, 2022, signed into law amendments to the state’s Equal Pay and Opportunity Act (EPOA Amendments), which soon will require most Washington employers to include pay ranges and benefits information in their job postings. The EPOA Amendments become effective on January 1, 2023. Because the EPOA Amendments only define high-level requirements, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) will likely issue further guidance. Read the full article.

In our January 2022 update, we discussed new federal requirements that group health plans should pay close attention to in 2022.  The sponsor of a self-funded plan will need to work closely with its legal counsel, benefits consultant, and administrative services only (ASO) provider or other third-party administrator (collectively, TPA) to modify its plan design and administration as needed—particularly, with respect to medical surprise billing and related requirements under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA).  This update outlines contractual and procurement considerations that we are seeing clients confront as they respond to compliance and implementation challenges from these new requirements.  Read the full article.

On February 4, the tri-agencies (DOL, HHS and Treasury) issued new FAQs on the requirement for group health plans and issuers to cover over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests without cost-sharing, prior authorization, or other medical management requirements. We discussed the tri-agencies’ initial FAQs in our prior blog post.

The coverage requirement is still in place, but these new FAQs provide clarifications in response to the tri-agencies’ receipt of stakeholder questions—primarily about the “safe harbor” permitting the limit of reimbursements to $12 per test (or actual cost, if less) if the test is purchased outside a direct coverage program. Continue Reading New FAQs Clarify Prior Agency Guidance on Requirement to Cover OTC COVID-19 Tests

On January 27, 2002, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed House Bills 1732 and 1733 into law, officially delaying the assessment of WA Cares Fund premiums until July 1, 2023.  As a result, WA Cares Fund benefits will not be available until July 1, 2026.  These delays give state lawmakers additional time to resolve key issues with the original legislation, such as those highlighted in our earlier blog entry on this topic, available here.

Under this new legislation, Washington employers should not deduct premiums from employee wages before July 1, 2023.  If an employer began deducting WA Cares Fund premiums after the start of 2022, such deductions must cease and any amounts previously deducted must be refunded to employees within 120 days of collection.

The new legislation also made significant program modifications, including the following highlights:

  • Employees born before January 1, 1968, who do not meet the original vesting requirement but who pay into the WA Cares Fund for at least one year, can receive partial benefits based on the number of years they do pay into the Fund.
  • Employees who fall into one of the following new categories can claim an exemption from the WA Cares Fund premium assessment:
    • U.S. military veterans rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as having a service-connected disability of 70% or greater;
    • Spouses or registered domestic partners of active duty service members in the U.S. Armed Forces, whether or not deployed or stationed within or outside of Washington;
    • Employees who hold a nonimmigrant visa for temporary workers recognized by federal law; and
    • Employees who are employed by an employer in Washington but who maintain an out-of-state permanent address as their primary residence.

Clients have asked about an extension of the exemption for other qualifying long-term care coverage that was purchased by November 1, 2021 (with exemption applications due by December 31, 2022).  The new legislation does not appear to extend those deadlines, recognizing that the Washington Employment Security Department is evaluating appropriate regulatory responses to this newly-enacted WA Cares Fund legislation.

New cybersecurity developments and observations, including those relating to U.S. Department of Labor review of cybersecurity issues, warrant prompt consideration by plan fiduciaries, including those plans covered by HIPAA.  The following update includes recommendations to help ERISA retirement and health and welfare plan sponsors and responsible fiduciaries protect benefit plans and participants against cybersecurity risks and to fulfill fiduciary obligations with respect to such plans and participants.  Read the full article.

There are many new and expanding legal requirements for group health plans and issuers of group health plan coverage to pay attention to this year. Many of these requirements were enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which passed in December 2020. This update describes the key legal requirements that we are seeing the most questions or movement on from clients. This is not an exhaustive list, and we encourage plan sponsors to reach out to their advisors, carriers, and other vendors supporting plan administration and design that could be affected by these new requirements.

Read the full article.

This week, the Department of Labor, Health and Human Services and the Treasury issued a new set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) confirming that group health plans and issuers must provide 100% coverage of over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic tests beginning January 15, 2022.

The FAQs are further interpretation of the coverage mandate required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as amended by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). Under this new guidance, 100% of the cost for COVID-19 tests purchased by an individual for diagnostic purposes on or after January 15, 2022, must be covered without cost-sharing or medical management requirements—even if the test was purchased OTC without a provider prescription or clinical assessment. This requirement continues for the duration of the national public health emergency. Read the full article on our sister blog Coronavirus (COVID-19): Guidance for Businesses.

Today, Washington Governor Jay Inslee released a statement clarifying his earlier statement about delaying the assessment of WA Cares Fund premiums.  (Our earlier blog entry is here.)  In today’s clarification, the Governor appears to be saying that employers still have a choice to make about whether to collect and remit WA Cares Fund premiums, noting that the State of Washington will begin collecting premiums from its employees as of January 1, 2022.  This follows his earlier statement that “employers will not be subject to penalties and interest for not withholding fees from employees’ wages during this transition” and statements from Senate Majority Leader Billig and House Speaker Jinkins that “we also support employers pausing premium collections from employees in Washington so lawmakers can take necessary action.”  We are not sure what to make of the Governor’s “clarifying” statement today, although it raises additional questions for employers, regardless of whether they choose to withhold premiums starting January 1, 2022.  Employers should consult with a Perkins Coie employee benefits attorney for additional information about this developing story.

See our December 23, 2021 update to this alert here: Washington Governor Attempts to Clarify WA Cares Fund Premium Collection | Employee Benefits (perkinscoiebenefitsblog.com)

On December 17, Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, and House Speaker Laurie Jinkins issued a joint statement that included the Governor’s intention to direct the State’s Employment Security Department not to collect WA Cares Fund premiums that employers were to start withholding on January 1, 2022 and clear recognition by state lawmakers of a “pause” on premium collections by employers.

WA Cares Fund premiums, in the form of a 0.58% tax on employees’ wages, are intended to fund a trust that will pay long-term care benefits for Washington employees who paid into the program, starting in 2025. Per the joint statement, the Legislature intends to revise the WA Cares Fund during its 2022 session, which will convene on January 10, 2022. Targeted revisions apparently include the program’s long-term funding, what to do for Washington residents who pay into the trust but move out of state, and whether people who have opted out of the WA Cares Fund by buying private long-term care insurance must maintain those policies. At least seven bills addressing the WA Cares Fund have already been pre-filed in the Legislature, including two bills that would create new exemptions to premium assessments, one bill that would create a study of private options to replace the program, and one bill that would repeal the program.

Based on the joint statement, the pause on premium collection should last until the Legislature “sorts through these issues.” Employers that do not withhold and remit premiums to the Employment Security Department will not be subject to penalties or interest for wage withholding failures during this period. For these reasons, companies with affected Washington employees should pause WA Cares Fund premium withholding, pending further action by the Legislature and the Governor.

The IRS has issued Notice 2021-61 and Revenue Procedure 2021-45 setting forth its annual employee benefit plan limitations for 2022. Key changes, placed in bold in the chart below, include the following:

  • Code Section 402(g) limitation on elective deferrals increased from $19,500 to $20,500.
  • Code Section 408(p) limitation on elective deferrals for SIMPLE retirement account plans increased from $13,500 to $14,000.
  • Code Section 415(c) maximum annual additions increased from $58,000 to $61,000.
  • Compensation limit under Code Section 401(a)(17) increased from $290,00 to $305,000.
  • HDHP Out of Pocket Maximum increased from $7,000 to $7,050 for self-only coverage and from $14,000 to $14,100 for family coverage.
  • HSA Maximum Contribution Limit increased from $6,000 to $3,650 for self-only coverage and from $7,200 to $7,300 for family coverage.
  • All adoption assistance limits and thresholds have increased.
  • All QSEHRA and Archer MSA limits increased.
  • Parking and transit fringe benefit contribution limits increased from $270 to $280 per month.

Continue Reading 2022 IRS Annual Employee Benefit Plan Limit Updates