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IRS Clarifies Prior Guidance on Premium Reimbursement Arrangements; Provides Limited Relief

Continuing its focus on so-called “premium reimbursement” or “employer payment plans,” the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released IRS Notice 2015-17 on February 18, 2015. In this Notice, which was previewed and approved by both the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Health and Human Services (collectively with the IRS, the “Agencies”) clarifies the Agencies’ perspective on the limits of certain employer payment plans and offers some limited relief for small employers. Read more.

Treasury Delays Enforcement of Standalone HRA Ban

The Treasury Department will delay enforcement of an Affordable Care Act prohibition relating to standalone health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) until July 1. A standalone HRA is an employer-provided benefit that offers participants a spending account to reimburse them for qualified medical expenses. However, in light of the ACA’s ban against health plans with an annual dollar limit on essential benefits, standalone HRAs have been deemed impermissible. Read more.

Federal Job-protected FMLA Rights Extended to Eligible Workers in Same-sex Marriages

Workers in legal, same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live, will now have the same rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to federal job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a spouse with a serious health condition. The U.S. Labor Department announced a rule change to the FMLA today in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Windsor. Read more.

Co-Payments: Out of Pocket, Out of Control

Copays have to be just large enough to influence people's decisions, and not so big as to keep people from getting the care they need. Yet in the past five years, the average price to see a primary care doctor has risen 20 percent. Read more.

Why do we continue to Tolerate Price Secrecy?

Section 2718(e) of the Affordable Care Act requires every hospital to establish and make public a list of its standard charges for items and services. Following the release of the CMS rule, many hospitals have posted on their websites a page explaining hospital charges and offering information about how patients can obtain price estimates—but not publishing any charges. Read more.

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