Former Obama Press Secretary Predicts End of Employer Mandate

Former Press Secretary to President Obama Robert Gibbs has pronounced the Obamacare employer mandate dead on arrival. Delayed twice already, the Employer Shared Responsibility provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is already on life support. Gibbs thinks it will be put out of its misery soon.

“I don’t think the employer mandate will go into effect. It’s a small part of the law. I think it will be one of the first things to go,” he told the audience at last week's Benefits Selling Expo in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Gibbs also broke with PPACA orthodoxy by calling for a cheaper level of health policies, saying, "Health care has to add an additional layer of coverage cheaper than the plans already offered."

Gibbs, however, is still a staunch supporter of health care reform: “Status quo isn’t worth going back to,” he said. “The better path forward is the path to better care.”

Shortly after Gibbs' remarks, current Obama Press Secretary Jay Carney announced at a media gathering: "We're going to continue to implement the law."

"This requirement ensures that larger employers either offer quality, affordable coverage to their employees or help offset the cost to taxpayers of these uncovered employees getting tax credits through the health insurance marketplace," Carney said at the White House. He also noted that the individual mandate — requiring all Americans to purchase health insurance or else pay a fine — starts this year.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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OSHA Seeks Commentary on Proposed CFPA Whistleblowers Protection Rule

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued an interim final rule establishing procedures and time frames for handling retaliation complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act (CFPA). OSHA invites the public to submit comments on the interim final rule.

CFPA, enacted July 21, 2010, protects employees against retaliation by entities that offer or provide consumer financial products or services, such as residential mortgages, mortgage loan modification and foreclosure relief services, private education loans, payday loans, consumer credit and debt relief services.

This interim final rule establishes procedures, burdens of proof, remedies and statutes of limitations similar to other whistleblower protection statutes that OSHA administers.

Individuals may submit comments electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal, via mail or facsimile. See the Federal Register notice for details. Comments must be submitted by June 2, 2014.

OSHA has also developed a new fact sheet, Filing Whistleblower Complaints under the Consumer Financial Protection Act*. The fact sheet explains who is covered under the act, protected activity, types of retaliation and the process of filing a complaint.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Medicaid Enrollments Reach 3 Million on Marketplaces

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday announced that 3 million poor Americans had signed up for Medicaid during the first enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which ended March 31. HHS did not say how many of the 3 million were former recipients just resigning up.

The current data includes people who qualify for Medicaid programs that have existed for decades.

"The increase in Medicaid enrollments across the country is encouraging," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a government blog posting.

The ACA offered expanded Medicaid funding to states that chose to participate, but only about half the states (26, to be exact) actually accepted the offer once the Supreme Court ruled the feds couldn't force them to expand the program.

Medicaid has traditionally been funded largely by the federal government but administered by the states.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Final Deadline for Obamacare Sign-Ups Finally Finalized

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Wednesday announced that those who started their health insurance sign-ups on HealthCare.gov but had difficulties could still enroll — but they must do so by Tax Day, April 15, or face a non-compliance tax penalty at the end of the year.

"For those in line on the 31st [of March], we encourage consumers to finish the process as soon as possible. They must complete their enrollment by no later than the 15th [of April] for coverage this year," said Aaron Albright, CMS spokesperson.

Several state-operated Marketplaces have already announced similar grace-period deadlines.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Employer Violates ADA with Pre-Offer Drug Test

In a recent court case, an employer was found in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for requiring applicants to take drug tests before making a job offer.  

The EEOC successfully argued that the pre-offer drug tests violated the ADA because the tests constituted a “medical examination” that gathered medical information about the applicants, even if the tests were intended only to detect evidence of illegal drug use.  

The outcome of this case serves to remind employers that all pre-employment drug tests should be conducted post-offer.  It also serves as an example of how a formal interviewing and hiring policy can help to avoid this type of litigation altogether.  

The Department of Labor estimates that it costs employers up to 30 percent of an employee’s salary to replace a wrong hire. Additionally, violating anti-discrimination laws during the new hire process can result in significant penalties. According to the EEOC, discrimination charges and monetary remedies for victims of discrimination (including job applicants) have reached an all-time high over the past three years.

To help employers ensure that their hiring practices are effective and legally compliant, Personnel Concepts has introduced a comprehensive Interviewing and Hiring Program for Small Businesses.  This exclusive solution includes a guidebook featuring recommendations from three attorneys, two sets of documentation forms to avoid common legal issues relating to interview questions, and best practices in recruiting employees. 


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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HealthCare.gov Site Goes Down on Last Day of Sign-Ups

On the last official day to sign up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces, the main federal site — HealthCare.gov — went down for four hours, directing visitors to a virtual waiting room or just alerting them that the site was offline for "maintenance."

Normally, maintenance on the site is done by 5 a.m. EDT, but today a "software bug," according to a Health and Human Services (HHS) statement, kept it inoperable for an extended period. HHS denied the site had been hacked or that it crashed because of a heavy load.

HealthCare.gov averaged 1.5 million visits a day last week, but that number jumped to 2 million over the weekend.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Connecticut Minimum Wage to Rise to $10.10 an Hour in 2017

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has signed into law a bill raising the state's minimum wage to the highest for any state in the nation, $10.10 an hour.

The new rate will phase in, rising from the current $8.70 an hour to $9.15 on Jan. 1, 2015, then to $9.60 on Jan. 1, 2016, and finally to $10.10 in January 2017.

Gov. Malloy called the signing one of his "proudest days as a governor," adding, "It's time to get people out of poverty."


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Obama Claims Obamacare Sign-Ups Have Reached 6 Million

In a transatlantic conference call with supporters, health care navigators and volunteers, President Obama today claimed sign-ups under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) have already reached 6 million even before the official deadline of March 31. (Navigators are paid to help people enroll in Health Insurance Marketplace policies.)

During the call, President Obama "thanked the group for all their hard work to date and discussed the importance of building on this progress over the last four days of open enrollment," according to the White House press office.

The congratulatory call follows an announcement earlier this week that those who have encountered difficulty signing up online can now check a box while on HealthCare.gov to seek an extension. So long as they then officially ask for an extension by April 15, they will be able to continue the sign-up process for an undisclosed period of time.

Before the launch of the marketplaces in October, the administration said the goal was 7 million enrollees by March 31, but that has since been reduced to 6 million due to troubles with the federal website and, though unstated, to conform with public-relations and election-year realities.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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NLRB Chicago Office Issues Landscape-Changing College Player Decision

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in a regional decision springing from efforts of student athletes at Northwestern University, has ruled that amateur college players have the right to unionize.

Peter Sung Ohr, regional NLRB director in Chicago, wrote: "I find that players receiving scholarships from the Employer [Northwestern University] are 'employees' under Section 2(3) of the Act. Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that an election be conducted under the direction of the Regional Director for Region 13…." 

Thus the Northwestern players who petitioned the NLRB regional office are free to organize and bargain over wages and other issues covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

"While we respect the NLRB process and the regional director's opinion, we disagree with it," responded Northwestern Vice President Richard Cubbage. "Northwestern believes strongly that our student-athletes are not employees, but students. Unionization and collective bargaining are not the appropriate methods to address the concerns raised by student-athletes."

The 123 schools in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision turned a $1.3 billion profit on $3.2 billion in revenue in the fiscal year ending June 2013, according to the data submitted to the Department of Education.

The NLRB governs the rights of private-sector employees, meaning that the ruling affects only athletes who compete at private schools. Public-school players seeking to unionize would have to gain approval from state-run labor boards.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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Check a Box and Get an Obamacare Sign-Up Extension

As the Washington Post first reported, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is creating a checkbox on the HealthCare.gov website to allow persons to indicate they tried to enroll before the March 31 sign-up deadline but were unable to finish, thus gaining an extension of unannounced length if they ask for one by mid-April.

HHS officials said they would not be seeking reasons for the extension requests, just verifying that the checkbox was highlighted on the individual's account.

"We are experiencing a surge in demand and are making sure that we will be ready to help consumers who may be in line by the deadline to complete enrollment — either online or over the phone," Health and Human Services Department spokeswoman Joanne Peters told Fox News.


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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