Obamacare Enrollment Deadline Extended for Many to Feb. 22

Open enrollment during the second year of Obamacare closed on Sunday, Feb. 15, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) subsequently released its latest statistical “snapshot” showing that 11.4 million persons signed up or renewed their health insurance policies.

Meanwhile, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced today that those in process of enrollment who didn’t complete the process, totaling some 150,000 individuals, will have until Feb. 22 to complete their enrollment. She said she is also considering a special enrollment period for those who realize when they file their taxes that they’d better obtain health insurance.

According to the snapshot:

Of the 11.4 million, 8.6 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically re-enrolled in the 37 states that use the HealthCare.gov platform. In addition, preliminary analyses of data provided by State-Based Marketplaces show that about 2.8 million consumers selected plans or were automatically re-enrolled between November 15 and February 15 in those states. Further details about plan selections from State-Based Marketplaces may be announced by the states and will be included within the upcoming monthly enrollment report.


For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.



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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Federal Judge Orders Halt to President’s Immigration Plan

Two days before the first wave of President Obama’s immigration reform was to take effect, a federal judge in Texas has issued a 123-page order halting federal immigration officials from implementing the plan.

U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen in Brownsville issued the order on Monday barring implementation of “any and all aspects” of President Obama’s executive order issued in November 2014. His action came in response to a lawsuit against the executive action filed by 26 states.

On Feb. 18, United States Immigration and Citizenship (USCIS) officials were to begin accepting requests under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows young people who entered the country as children to defer any deportation action and even obtain work permits.

Another program called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) was set to launch in May for some 4 million people who have been here at least five years and are parents of U.S. citizens (by virtue of being born here) or of legal permanent residents.

“The district court’s decision wrongly prevents these lawful, common-sense policies from taking effect and the Department of Justice has indicated that it will appeal that decision,” a White House statement said. The administration might seek an emergency stay of the ruling while it appeals to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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Obamacare Enrollment Closes

On Sunday, Feb. 15, open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare) is closing.

Thus far, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that at least 10 million people have enrolled or been automatically re-enrolled in Obamacare policies. More than 80 percent of these enrollees are eligible for premium subsidies averaging about $268 a month.

The last weekend didn’t go altogether smoothly, however. On Saturday, those who tried to enroll for the first time were unable to verify their incomes as the HealthCare.gov site’s connection to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) database faltered. Full service was restored by Sunday.

Beginning Monday, anyone wishing to enroll in an ACA policy must show a triggering event, such as loss of insurance through an adverse employment action (such as a layoff).


For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.



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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HIPAA Breach Reports Due by March 1

Covered entities bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and its breach notification rule must submit reports of breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals by March 1, or 60 days after the calendar year in which the breaches occurred. Here’s the language explaining the report:

If a breach of unsecured protected health information affects fewer than 500 individuals, a covered entity must notify the Secretary of the breach within 60 days of the end of the calendar year in which the breach was discovered. (A covered entity is not required to wait until the end of the calendar year to report breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals; a covered entity may report such breaches at the time they are discovered.) The covered entity may report all of its breaches affecting fewer than 500 individuals on one date, but the covered entity must complete a separate notice for each breach incident. The covered entity must submit the notice electronically by clicking on the link below and completing all of the fields of the breach.

Breaches must be reported to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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HHS Pegs Average HealthCare.Gov Tax Subsidy at $268 a Month

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released a report outlining the impact of advanced premium tax credits on premiums in the Health Insurance Marketplaces. Almost 6.5 million individuals in the 37 states using the HealthCare.gov platform are estimated to qualify for an average of $268 per person/month in advanced premium tax credits, HHS calculates.

Among consumers who are signed up for 2015 coverage to date in the 37 HealthCare.gov states, 8 in 10 could choose a plan with a premium of $100 or less after tax credits, based on available options, according to the report.

“With just six days left before the February 15 deadline and the end of this year’s Open Enrollment, millions of Americans already are counting on the financial assistance the Affordable Care Act provides to put quality, affordable health insurance coverage within reach,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said.

“Consumers who sign up in states using HealthCare.gov are saving $268 a month on their premiums on average, and nearly 8 in 10 could select a plan with a premium of $100 or less with tax credits. This is further proof that the Affordable Care Act is working for the middle class.”


For the full story on how the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) affects your business, no matter how large or small, please obtain a copy of our comprehensive yet easy-to-follow Affordable Care Act Compliance Kit.



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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Overexertion Leads Index of Workplace Safety Issues

The Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety has released its 2014 Workplace Safety Index, which ranks the 10 leading causes of workplace injuries and their associated direct workers’ compensation costs.

Overexertion ranked first as the leading cause of disabling injury. The category, which includes injuries related to lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, carrying or throwing, cost U.S. businesses $15.1 billion and accounted for more than one quarter of the top 10 disabling injury causes in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. All told, the listed injury causes amounted to nearly $60 billion in total U.S. workers’ compensation costs or more than $1 billion dollars a week spent by businesses on disabling injuries.

The Workplace Safety Index is developed annually by Liberty Mutual researchers based on information from the company’s workers’ compensation claims, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the National Academy of Social Insurance. Using BLS injury event coding, researchers determined which injuries caused an employee to miss six or more days of work and then ranked those events by total workers’ compensation costs.

10 Leading Causes and Direct Costs of Workplace Injuries in 2012

1. Overexertion $15.1B 25.3%
2. Falls on same level $9.19B 15.4%
3. Struck by object or equipment $5.3B 8.9%
4. Falls to lower level $5.12B 8.6%
5. Other exertions or bodily reactions $4.27B 7.2%
6. Roadway incidents involving motorized land vehicle $3.18B 5.3%
7. Slip or trip without fall $2.17B 3.6%
8. Caught in/compressed by equipment or objects $2.1B 3.5%
9. Repetitive motions involving micro-tasks $1.84B 3.1%
10. Struck against object or equipment $1.76B 2.9%

The top five injury causes accounted for 65.4 percent of the total 2012 workplace injury cost burden, based on Liberty Mutual data. The leading “overexertion” category and the two “falls” categories among the top five combined to generate more than 50 percent of the leading causes of disabling workplace injuries.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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EEOC to Update Federal Sector Complaint Process

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) on the equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint process in the federal sector, the agency announced.  The ANPRM, which has been coordinated with other federal agencies, is published in the Federal Register.

The ANPRM signals the first public comprehensive review of the federal sector EEO complaint process undertaken by the EEOC in several decades.  The ANPRM contains a series of questions intended to encourage new thinking about the federal sector process, according to the announcement.

The EEOC became responsible for the federal sector EEO complaint process in 1979 when it inherited a complaint process from the Civil Service Commission.  Through rulemaking over the past decades, the EEOC has sought to enhance the process it inherited.  The EEOC is interested in hearing from the public whether the current process can be improved, and if so, whether far-reaching reforms are necessary or whether the process requires only a modest fine-tuning, the agency said in announcing the ANPRM.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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Anthem Data Breach Shows Flaw in HIPAA Privacy Standards

The theft of the personally identifiable data of 80 million policyholders of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield from the company’s database pinpoints a flaw in federal privacy standards, which do not require data encryption but merely encourage it.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), all personal health information (PHI) of a policyholder must be secured and held private, but the law and its two standards — the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule — do not mandate encryption of data. Encryption is encouraged but not required.

Breaches of more than 500 records have to be made public. The Anthem breach of 80 million persons’ insurance records doubles the number of previously reported individual breaches.


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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With Short Notice, DOL Seeks Your Input on ‘Regulatory Flexibility’

On Tuesday, the Department of Labor (DOL) posted a notice in the Federal Register seeking public commentary on “improving regulation and regulatory review” and set the deadline for receipt of the comments on Feb. 25 — a window of a scant three weeks.

The invitation for comments follows on the heels of President Obama’s Executive Order 13563 of 2011 mandating the DOL to find and use only “the best, most innovative, and least burdensome tools to achieve regulatory ends” for “public health, welfare, safety and our environment while promoting economic growth.”

The next year Executive Order 13610 ordered “retrospective analyses of existing rules to examine whether they remain justified and whether they should be modified or streamlined.”

The public is now invited to identify rules, regulations and reporting requirements that can be modified or streamlined.

(Funny, but the notice never mentions “eliminated” or “ended.”)

Comments should be submitted via the web at http://www.dol.gov/regulations/regreview/


If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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EEOC Releases Enforcement Data for Fiscal Year 2014

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a comprehensive set of fiscal year 2014 private sector data tables providing detailed breakdowns for the 88,778 charges of workplace discrimination the agency received. The fiscal year ran from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014.

The number of charges filed decreased compared with recent fiscal years, due in part to the government shutdown during the reporting period. While charge filings were down overall compared to the previous fiscal year, first quarter charge filings–which included the period of the shutdown–were 3,000 to 5,000 less than the other quarters.

Among the charges the EEOC received, the percentage of charges alleging retaliation reached its highest amount ever: 42.8 percent. The percentage of charges alleging race discrimination, the second most common allegation, has remained steady at approximately 35 percent. In fiscal year 2014, the EEOC obtained $296.1 million in total monetary relief through its enforcement program prior to the filing of litigation.

The number of lawsuits on the merits filed by the EEOC’s Office of General Counsel throughout the nation was 133, up slightly from the previous two fiscal years. A lawsuit on the merits involves an allegation of discrimination, compared with procedural lawsuits, which are filed mostly to enforce subpoenas or for preliminary relief. Monetary relief from cases litigated, including settlements, totaled $22.5 million.

“Behind these numbers are individuals who turned to the EEOC because they believe that they have suffered unlawful discrimination,” said EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang. “The EEOC remains committed to meaningful resolution of charges and strategic enforcement to eliminate barriers to equal employment opportunity.”

The updated data include the popular tables of Statutes by Issue and Bases by Issue. “Bases” refers to the protected characteristics giving rise to the discrimination, such as sex or age. In contrast “issue” is the discriminatory action, such as discharge or failure to promote.

More specifically, the charge numbers show the following breakdowns by bases alleged in descending order.

  • Retaliation under all statutes: 37,955 (42.8 percent of all charges filed)
  • Race (including racial harassment): 31,073 (35 percent)
  • Sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment): 26,027 (29.3 percent)
  • Disability: 25,369 (28.6 percent)
  • Age: 20,588 (23.2 percent)
  • National Origin: 9,579 (10.8 percent)
  • Religion: 3,549 (4.0 percent)
  • Color: 2,756 (3.1 percent)
  • Equal Pay Act: 938 (1.1 percent) but note that sex-based wage discrimination can also be charged under Title VII’s sex discrimination provision
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: 333 (0.4 percent)

If you own or operate a small to medium-sized business, managing all your employees plus meeting federal labor laws and regulations can be daunting, especially with new rules being issued all the time. To help you understand your rights and responsibilities in every facet of running a business, please order a copy of Personnel Concepts’ All-On-One HR Compliance Program for Small Businesses.



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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