Latest ACA Repeal Bill Withdrawn

ACA REPEAL BILL WITHDRAWAL DETAILS

By GBS Team

The Graham-Cassidy bill, the most recent Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was withdrawn from a vote on Sept. 26 due to lack of support in the Senate,
effectively dooming the legislation. Earlier that week, key Republican senators voiced opposition to the bill, which forced Senate leadership to shelf the vote until further notice. Given the
vocal opposition from influential health organizations and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the proposed bill would need a variety of amendments before plausibly moving forward.

This means the ACA will almost certainly remain unopposed until 2018. Republicans are using the remainder of the year to focus on a tax overhaul and do not have the bandwidth to continue the repeal and replace effort that has consumed most of this year.

With this latest repeal failure, more and more lawmakers are pushing for bipartisan negotiations to fix the flaws in the current health system. Democrats hope this most recent repeal failure will
increase their bargaining position, since they were largely ignored during all the health bill drafting sessions this year. If Republicans cannot secure enough of their members’ votes, they will be forced to negotiate with their counterparts.

What This Means for Employers

The IRS confirmed recently that employers should continue to comply with any ACA mandates, including the individual mandate and the employer shared responsibility rules. The IRS clarified this after the uncertainty created by President Donald Trump’s initial executive order directing federal agencies to provide relief from the burdens of the ACA.

Health FSA Limit

HEALTH FSA LIMIT WILL
INCREASE FOR 2018

By GBS Team

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a dollar limit on employees’ salary reduction contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) offered under cafeteria plans. This dollar limit is indexed for cost-of-living adjustments and may be increased each year.

On Oct. 19, 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2017-58 (Rev. Proc. 17-58), which increased the FSA dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to $2,650 for taxable years beginning in 2018. It also includes annual inflation numbers for 2018 for a number of other tax provisions.

ACTION STEPS

Employers should ensure that their health FSA will not allow employees to make pre-tax contributions in excess of $2,650 for 2018, and they should communicate the 2018 limit to their
employees as part of the open enrollment process. An employer may continue to impose its own health FSA limit, as long as it does not exceed the ACA’s maximum limit for the plan year. This means that an employer may continue to use the 2017 maximum limit for its 2018 plan year.

The ACA initially set the health FSA contribution limit at $2,500. For years after 2013, the dollar limit is indexed for cost-of-living adjustments.

• 2014: For taxable years beginning in 2014, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs remained unchanged at $2,500.

• 2015: For taxable years beginning in 2015, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs increased by $50, for a total of $2,550.

• 2016: For taxable years beginning in 2015, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs remained unchanged at $2,550.

• 2017: For taxable years beginning in 2017, the dollar limit on employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs increased by $50, for a total of $2,600.

• 2018: For taxable years beginning in 2018, Rev. Proc. 17-58 further increased the dollar limit on
employee salary reduction contributions to health FSAs by an additional $50, to $2,650.

The health FSA limit will potentially be increased further for cost-of-living adjustments in later years.

Employer Limits

An employer may continue to impose its own dollar limit on employees’ salary reduction contributions to health FSAs, as long as the employer’s limit does not exceed the ACA’s maximum limit in effect for the plan year. For example, an employer may decide to continue limiting employee health FSA contributions for the 2018 plan year to $2,500.

Per Employee Limit

The health FSA limit applies on an employee-by-employee basis. Each employee may only elect up to $2,650 in salary reductions in 2018, regardless of whether he or she also has family members who benefit from the funds in that FSA. However, each family member who is eligible to participate in his or her own health FSA will have a separate limit. For example, a husband and wife who have their own health FSAs can both make salary reductions of up to $2,650 per year, subject to any lower employer limits.

If an employee participates in multiple cafeteria plans that are maintained by employers under common control, the employee’s total health FSA salary reduction contributions under all of the cafeteria plans are limited to $2,650. However, if an individual has health FSAs through two or more unrelated employers, he or she can make salary reductions of up to $2,650 under each employer’s health FSA.

Salary Reduction Contributions

The ACA imposes the $2,650 limit on health FSA salary reduction contributions. Non-elective employer contributions to health FSAs (for example, matching contributions or flex credits) generally do not count toward the ACA’s dollar limit. However, if employees are allowed to elect to receive the employer contributions in cash or as a taxable benefit, then the contributions will be treated as salary reductions and will count toward the ACA’s dollar limit.

In addition, the limit does not impact contributions under other employer-provided coverage. For example, employee salary reduction contributions to an FSA for dependent care assistance or adoption care assistance are not affected by the health FSA limit. The limit also does not apply to salary reduction contributions to a cafeteria plan that are used to pay for an employee’s share of health coverage premiums, to contributions to a health savings account (HSA) or to amounts made available by an employer under a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).

Grace Period/Carry-over Feature

A cafeteria plan may include a grace period of up to two months and 15 days immediately following the end of a plan year. If a plan includes a grace period, an employee may use amounts remaining from the previous plan year, including any amounts remaining in a health FSA, to pay for expenses incurred for certain qualified benefits during the grace period. If a health FSA is subject to a grace period, unused salary reduction contributions that are carried over into the grace period do not count against the $2,650 limit applicable to the following plan year.

Also, if a health FSA does not include a grace period, it may allow participants to carry over up to $500 of unused funds into the next plan year. This is an exception to the “use-it-or-lose-it” rule that generally prohibits any contributions or benefits under a health FSA from being used in a following plan year or period of coverage. A health FSA carryover does not affect the limit on salary reduction contributions. This means the plan may allow the individual to elect up to $2,650 in salary reductions in addition to the $500 that may be carried over.

Plan Amendments

Plan documents that specify the health FSA dollar limit must be amended if the higher limit will be used in 2018.

GBS and Homes For Our Troops

Homes For Our Troops

By Kate Sharry

Kate Sharry is the owner and president of Group Benefits Strategies.

She is on the Executive Board of Directors for the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, Worcester Business Development Corporation Board of Directors, Worcester Homeless Youth Task Force, Planting the Seed Foundation, and serves on various committees in the Central Mass area.

GBS is proud to support Homes for Our Troops/Worcester Fitness Running Team Marine Corps Marathon.

The mission of the Marine Corps Marathon is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps. Annually ranked as one of the largest marathons in the US and the world, the MCM has been recognized as “Best Marathon in the Mid-Atlantic,” “Best for Families” and “Best for Beginners.” Runners from all 50 states and more than 50 countries participate in the MCM and an annual calendar of events including the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg, VA in May and the MCM Event Series conducted aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico. Organized by the men and women of the United States Marine Corps, the MCM is the largest marathon in the world that doesn’t offer prize money, instead celebrating the honor, courage and commitment of all finishers.*

Worcester Fitness’ own official running team, led by Director of Fitness and Wellness Andy Sharry, has been training and fundraising for the Marine Corp Marathon for nearly a year and has generated over $31,000 for Homes For Our Troops. The entire team will travel to Arlington, Virginia and compete on Sunday October 22, 2017.

GBS is a proud sponsor of the Worcester Fitness Running Teams Homes For Our Troops/Marine Corp Marathon Team. We encourage you to support this dedicated and hard working team and help Homes For Our Troops beat their 2016 fundraising total of $500,000!

*Courtesy of Homes For Our Troops

Newly Adopted Wage Equity Laws

Newly Adopted Wage Equity Laws

By GBS Team

In an effort to close the wage gap that exists between male and female employees, a number of states and major cities have recently adopted wage equity and salary history laws. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2016, the average female employee earned 80 cents for every dollar a man received during the same period. Statistics suggest the gap may be even greater for ethnic or racial minority employees.

When applicable, employers must comply with their state and local laws in addition to the Federal Equal Pay Act. When both federal and local laws differ, the law that provides the greater protection or benefit to the employee applies.

Action Steps for Employers

Affected employers should:

  • Eliminate prohibited salary history inquiries.
  • Update job applications and other employment forms to comply with pay equity laws.
  • Train recruiters and hiring managers regarding applicable pay equity laws.

Applicable Federal Laws

In addition to the state and local laws mentioned above, employers should be aware of the following federal laws that regulate employment discrimination and other aspects of the hiring and employment processes.

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) requires that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.

Covered Employers and Employees: Virtually all employers and employees.

Requirements: Employers are required to pay equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. Men and woman in substantially equal jobs, those requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar conditions at the same workplace, must be paid equally.

Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibit compensation discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. There is no requirement that the jobs be substantially equal.

Covered Employers and Employees: Title VII and ADA, all employers with 15 or more employees. ADEA, all employers with 20 or more employees.

Executive Order 11246 prohibits discrimination in employment decisions based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.

Covered Employers and Employees: Federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in government business in one year.

Hidden Dangers at Your Child’s Bedtime

Hidden Dangers at Your Child’s Bedtime

By GBS Team

Babies should always be put to sleep on their backs, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Yet, only 44 percent of U.S. mothers report they always use this method, according to a new study.

Sleeping on the back reduces a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other sleep-related dangers like suffocation. Because of this, the NIH has campaigned for over 20 years to promote this sleeping method. Mothers who do not always put their babies to sleep on their backs cited baby comfort and family members’ advice as reasons against the safer sleep method.

However, pediatricians stress that sleeping on the back is the safest position for babies, despite misinformation.

You can further protect against SIDS by sleeping in the same room (but not the same bed) as your baby. Ensure your baby sleeps on his or her back on a firm surface with a tight-fitted sheet. Do not give the baby pillows, blankets or anything that can cause suffocation.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be exhaustive, nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. Readers should contact a health professional for appropriate advice.