Exchange Notice Requirements Delayed

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide all new hires and current employees with a written notice about ACA’s health insurance exchanges (Exchanges), effective March 1, 2013.

On Jan. 24, 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced that employers will not be held to the March 1, 2013, deadline. They will not have to comply until final regulations are issued and a final effective date is specified.

This Associated Community Brokers, Inc. Legislative Brief details the expected timeline for the exchange notice requirements.

Exchange Notice Requirements

In general, the notice must:

  • Inform employees about the existence of the Exchange and give a description of the services provided by the Exchange;
  • Explain how employees may be eligible for a premium tax credit or a cost-sharing reduction if the employer’s plan does not meet certain requirements;
  • Inform employees that if they purchase coverage through the Exchange, they may lose any employer contribution toward the cost of employer-provided coverage, and that all or a portion of this employer contribution may be excludable for federal income tax purposes; and
  • Include contact information for the Exchange and an explanation of appeal rights.

This requirement is found in Section 18B of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which was created by the ACA. The DOL has not yet issued a model notice or regulations about the employer notice requirement.

When do Employers have to Comply with the Exchange Notice Requirements?

Section 18B provides that employer compliance with the notice requirements must be carried out “[i]n accordance with regulations promulgated by the Secretary [of Labor].” Accordingly, the DOL has announced that, until regulations are issued and become applicable, employers are not required to comply with the exchange notice requirements.

The DOL has concluded that the notice requirement will not take effect on March 1, 2013, for several reasons. First, this notice should be coordinated with HHS’s educational efforts and IRS guidance on minimum value. Second, the DOL is committed to a smooth implementation process, including:

  • Providing employers with sufficient time to comply; and
  • Selecting an applicability date that ensures that employees receive the information at a meaningful time.

The DOL expects that the timing for distribution of notices will be the late summer or fall of 2013, which will coordinate with the open enrollment period for Exchanges.

 

The DOL is considering providing model, generic language that could be used to satisfy the notice requirement. As a compliance alternative, the DOL is also considering allowing employers to satisfy the notice requirement by providing employees with information using the employer coverage template as discussed in the preamble to the Proposed Rule on Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Programs and Exchanges.

Future guidance on complying with the notice requirement under FLSA section 18B is expected to provide flexibility and adequate time to comply.

If you have any questions about health care reform or your current benefits program, call ACBI at 203-259-7580.

Identity Theft and Children: Unique Threats

Social Media and Identity Theft: What Parents Should Worry About

Social networking sites can present risks to children, but parents can help them make the right choices and protect their identity by following these five tips:

1. Keep the computer in plain sight. Make sure the family computer is placed in a public area, like the kitchen or family room, so children can’t hide what they’re doing. Parents should make it known to their children that they can check a child’s screen anytime, for any reason.
2. Children’s accounts should be an open book. Parents should make it known that a child needs parental permission to join social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. They should then make it clear that as a requirement their children must hand over their login information and passwords. If parents think their children have set up “parent-friendly” accounts and are secretly using secondary accounts, parents can check a computer’s browser history to pinpoint what pages and profiles are getting the most use.
3. Instill the use of proper online etiquette. Parents should make it clear to their children that what a child posts online is visible to many people—including parents, relatives, friends, teachers, coaches, strangers, and people who have bad intentions. So children should be counseled not to post anything that’s inappropriate or damaging to their (or the family’s) reputation.
4. Enable social networking privacy settings. Privacy settings don’t guarantee that a child won’t post inappropriate things or that he or she is entirely protected, but they can limit the damage if an unfortunate comment or photo is posted.
5. Children should never post their locations or anything that can give away the family address. Parents should always make sure to disable geolocation settings on their children’s phones, as many phones and apps are factory-set to enable others to view locations. Parents also need to make sure their children know to never offer personal information to anyone online.

“Familiar Fraud”: An Identity Threat Unique to College Students (continued)

Here are five safety tips parents can share with their college-age children:

  1. Challenge Authority. Parents should encourage children to say “no” to requests for personal information, except when absolutely necessary.
  2. Monitor Your Credit Like Your Grades. As soon as students establish credit by getting student loans or credit cards, for example, they should start monitoring their credit. Students can go to annualcreditreport.com annually for a free report.
  3. Avoid Sharing Technology. Students should be encouraged to update their computer security software and use strong alphanumeric passwords with combinations of special characters and capitalization for all of their online accounts and devices. If they really want to let someone else use their computer, have them set up a “guest” account.
  4. Use a Crosscut Shredder. Students should use it for all those preapproved credit offers. Dumpster-diving is epidemic on campus because thieves know most kids just throw them away unopened.
  5. Invest In a Document Safe. Students should lock up important papers such as student loan and enrollment documents, so they won’t be left lying around where anyone could nose through them.

If you have any questions or would like to be sure you have the proper coverage for Identity Theft, please contact ACBI at 203-259-7580. 

 

Feds warn of counterfeit airbags being installed as replacements

Car owners who have replaced a vehicle’s airbag in the past three years, take note: That new airbag could be an unsafe fake.

Federal officials on Wednesday warned motorists and auto shops that counterfeit airbags pose a danger to consumers, saying the bags could fail to deploy or even hurt people in car wrecks.

Concerns over counterfeit airbags heightened last month when authorities tested 10 fake airbags seized as part of a criminal investigation. All 10 failed, authorities said. Some failed to inflate, others partially inflated and one exploded, showering the crash test dummy with metal shrapnel.

To date, there are no known injuries or deaths resulting from the counterfeits, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said. But officials said they fear the counterfeits could hurt motorists and passengers if they go undetected.

“These seemingly genuine airbags are in fact shoddy fakes,” said John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which seized 2,500 counterfeit airbags during fiscal 2012. “These airbags don’t work. They’re not going to save you in an accident. They are a fraud and a danger from start to finish, and you don’t want them in your car, period.”

Officials cautioned that only a small fraction of all cars — estimated at 0.1% — have the counterfeit airbags.

“They are good fakes. They look like the real thing,” said David Strickland, administrator of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “And frankly, a consumer is not going to be in a position to figure out whether they have a fake or a real airbag.”

The agency said the following people may be most at risk:

— Those who have had airbags replaced in the past three years at a repair shop that is not part of a new car dealership.

— Those who have purchased a used car but are not familiar with its history.

— Those who own a car with a title branded salvage, rebuilt or reconstructed.

— Those who have purchased replacement airbags over the Internet, especially at unusually low prices, such as less than $400.

If motorists suspect they may have a counterfeit airbag, they should contact call centers established by car manufacturers to have their vehicles inspected. A list of call centers is available at www.SaferCar.gov.

Government and industry officials noted that consumers will bear the cost of inspections. “The bad actors here are the counterfeiters,” said A. Bailey Wood Jr., a spokesman for the National Automobile Dealers Association.

Wood estimated the cost of inspecting airbags at between $100 and $200, and the cost of replacing a steering wheel airbag at between $750 and $1,000. “And some cars have eight airbags,” he said.

Strickland said his agency is working with automakers to develop a system to verify authentic replacement parts and to raise awareness of the potential risks of counterfeit parts.

Morton said earlier this year that customs agents arrested a Chinese broker selling nine brands of counterfeit airbags in the United States. That broker has been convicted and is in prison, Morton said, and multiple investigations into other brokers are continuing.

Reprinted from CNN

Only 15 States Plan to Operate Own Health Insurance Exchanges

Only 15 U.S. states plan to operate health insurance exchanges under President Barack Obama’s reform law, leaving Washington with the daunting prospect of creating and operating the new online marketplaces in at least two-thirds of the country.

On the eve of a federal deadline for states to say whether they will run their own exchanges, 11 other states have informed the administration that it should plan to be heavily involved in setting up private health insurance markets within their borders, said Gary Cohen, director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, on Thursday.

Experts say the number of states planning to operate their own exchanges could reach 18 and the District of Columbia by the time the deadline expires on Friday. But the administration would still be left to set up exchanges in at least 30 states, a challenge that is raising questions about how successfully U.S. officials can implement a key provision of the health care reform law known to advocates and opponents alike as “Obamacare”.

But the Obama administration insists that exchanges will be operating in all 50 states and the District of Columbia as required by the law.

“All exchanges will be open for enrollment in October 2013,” Cohen, who is overseeing implementation of the exchanges, said in written testimony to a health oversight panel in the U.S. House of Representatives.

States that don’t run their own exchanges would opt for one of two alternatives: a federally facilitated exchange that requires minimal state participation, and a federal partnership exchange in which states help by performing certain duties.

States have until Feb. 15 to say whether they intend to seek a federal partnership exchange. Four have done so already, Cohen said.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Obama signed into law more than 2-1/2 years ago, is expected to extend health coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans after it comes fully into force on Jan. 1, 2014.

About half of those newly insured would purchase private coverage from online exchanges at federally subsidized rates. Ultimately, the number of people expected to find coverage through exchanges is expected to reach 26 million, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The remainder would be covered by expanding the Medicaid program for the poor to cover all adults earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for individuals and $30,600 for a family of four.

To provide exchange coverage in multiple states, the administration will have to erect an information technology system capable of processing marketplace operations in a manner customized to meet the needs of healthcare consumers in different states.

Experts say the biggest challenge will likely be providing adequate customer service to handle enrollment and fielding a technology system capable of interfacing seamlessly with the system of each state government.

Cohen told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health that the administration is building a website with interactive capabilities and a call center and has begun testing a data services hub designed to determine eligibility.

If you need advice about the changing landscape of health insurance and how to tailor your benefits program, contact Sean Rabinowitz at ACBI. 

Reprinted from Reuters, via Insurance Journal.