Percentage of Uninsured Rises in First Two Quarters

The percentage of uninsured adults has risen in the first two quarters of 2017, according to a new Gallup poll. Standing at 10.9 percent in the third and fourth quarters of 2016, the percent of adults without health insurance rose to 11.3 in the first quarter and to 11.9 in the second quarter of this year.

The biggest jump in uninsured, according to the survey, was found in the young adult population. The uninsured rate for young adults 18-25 rose 1.9 percent this year and for those 26-34 1.5 percent. Many found it cheaper and more practical to pay the tax penalty than buy insurance, Gallup speculated.

Factors influencing the drop include rising premiums, insurers dropping out of the Obamacare marketplace, and uncertainly over the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Republicans have vowed to “repeal and replace.”


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 Reports Largest Health Care Fraud in History

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG), along with state and federal law enforcement partners, participated in the largest health care fraud takedown in history in July 2017.

More than 400 defendants in 41 federal districts were charged with participating in fraud schemes involving about $1.3 billion in false billings to Medicare and Medicaid. OIG also issued exclusion notices to 295 doctors, nurses, and other providers based on conduct related to opioid diversion and abuse.

Takedowns protect Medicare and Medicaid and deter fraud — sending a strong signal that theft from these taxpayer-funded programs will not be tolerated, according to the OIG. The money taxpayers spend fighting fraud is an excellent investment: For every $1 spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, more than $5 has been recovered,the office claims.


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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Poll Shows Most Workers Aren’t Worried About Obamacare Repeal

A Harris poll has found that 61 percent of employees aren’t concerned about a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or commonly Obamacare), but there are provisions of the law they want to see preserved.

Coverage for pre-existing conditions (80 percent), free preventative care (78 percent) and coverage for adult children until age 26 (67 percent) are benefits they want to keep.

By political affiliation, 68 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 55 percent of Democrats say they see the demise of the ACA as personally not affecting them.

The poll was commissioned by Jellyvision, an employee communication platform provider.

 


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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Alaska Obtains Obamacare Waiver to Create Reinsurance Pool

Alaska has obtained a Section 1332 State Innovation Waiver from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to create the Alaska Reinsurance Program (ARP), which will be used to drive down costs to consumers while also providing coverage to those who lack insurance.

“The approval will temporarily stabilize Alaska’s individual insurance market, which only has one carrier and has experienced a 203 percent increase in insurance premiums since the Affordable Care Act began,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The ARP is expected to lower premiums by 20 percent while providing new coverage for close to 1500 individuals.  Under the ARP, the second-lowest-cost silver plan premium will be reduced, resulting in the federal government’s spending less in premium tax credits.

CMS is actively urging other states to apply for a 1332 Waiver to help stabilize their markets and save the federal government some money.


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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USCIS Releases Details of July 17 Revised I-9 Form

USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17. Employers will be able to use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through Sept. 17. On Sept. 18, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N. Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions, according to the agency:

  • We will change the name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices to its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • We will remove “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • We will add the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • We will combine all the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) into selection C#2 in List C.
  • We will renumber all List C documents except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.

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 Policy Issuers Decrease by 38 Percent from 2016-17

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced that 141 individual market qualified health plan (QHP) issuers had submitted initial applications to offer coverage using the federally-facilitated exchange eligibility and enrollment platform (healthcare.gov) in 2018. At the initial filing deadline last year, 227 issuers submitted an application compared to 141 this year, a 38 percent drop in filings.

“This is further proof that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is failing,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Insurers continue to flee the exchanges, causing Americans to lose their choice for health insurance or lose their coverage all together. These numbers are clear: the status quo is not working. The American people deserve healthcare choices and access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage.”

At the beginning of the open enrollment period for 2017 coverage, issuer participation had fallen from 227 initial applicants to only 167 issuers actually participating, a drop of 26 percent. Each participating issuer is required to sign a final QHP contract by the end of September in order participate in the exchange in 2018.

Submissions were made by issuers in the 39 states that use the federal exchange eligibility and enrollment platform. CMS expects this number to fluctuate over the next several months as it has in past years. Rates will be finalized by mid-August.


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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New Director for CDC Named

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, M.D., has named Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., as the 17th director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR).

“Today, I am extremely proud and excited to announce Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald as the new director of the CDC,” said Secretary Price. “Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership—all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America’s health 24/7. We look forward to working with Dr. Fitzgerald to achieve President Trump’s goal of strengthening public health surveillance and ensuring global health security at home and abroad. Congratulations to Dr. Fitzgerald and her family.”

Dr. Fitzgerald has been the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and state health officer for the past six years. She replaces Dr. Anne Schuchat, who has been the acting CDC director and acting ATSDR administrator since Jan. 20. Dr. Schuchat is returning to her role as CDC’s principal deputy director.


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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Request for Information on Fiduciary Rule Published

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) of the Department of Labor (DOL) has published a Request for Information (RFI) in connection with its examination of the final rule defining who is a “fiduciary” of an employee benefit plan for purposes of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 and the Internal Revenue Code, as a result of giving investment advice for a fee or other compensation with respect to assets of a plan or IRA (Fiduciary Rule or Rule).

The examination also includes the new and amended administrative class exemptions from the prohibited transaction provisions of ERISA and the code that were published in conjunction with the rule (collectively, the Prohibited Transaction Exemptions or PTEs). This Request for Information specifically seeks public input that could form the basis of new exemptions or changes/revisions to the rule and PTEs, and input regarding the advisability of extending the Jan. 1, 2018, applicability date of certain provisions in the Best Interest Contract Exemption, the Class Exemption for Principal Transactions in Certain Assets Between Investment Advice Fiduciaries and Employee Benefit Plans and IRAs, and Prohibited Transaction Exemption 84-24.

SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS


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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A Second Circuit Court Declares DOL’s Tip Pool Rule Invalid

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has joined the 4th in deciding the 2011 tip pool rule by the Department of Labor (DOL) is invalid. The rule prohibits employers from sharing tips received by tipped employees such as servers with non-tipped employees such as dishwashers.

The restaurants have fought back, arguing in court that this goes against the language of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). So far, two circuit courts have agreed with the restaurant lawsuits, and one — the 9th Circuit — has sided with the DOL.

Complicating the issue is the fact that federal law permits restaurateurs to take a “tip credit,” essentially paying their employees as little as $2.13 an hour if tips bring them to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Some states also allow this; others forbid it.

The DOL tip pool rule ostensibly was meant to protect tipped employees from falling below the minimum wage. Restaurant owners who paid the minimum wage argued that they should be able to pool tips among employees. The 2011 rule put the kibosh on that idea. No tip pools, period, basically.

The National Restaurant Association has asked the Supreme Court to review the 9th Circuit’s decision, but the DOL — despite four extensions — has so far failed to present a brief in the case. The Supreme Court now has given the DOL until Sept. 8 to respond.


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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Trump Nominates Business-Friendly Attorney to NLRB

President Trump has nominated William J. Emanuel to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to fill the expiring post of Vice Chair Kent Yoshiho Hirozawa. If confirmed by the Senate, Emanuel would serve a term of five years, expiring on Aug. 21, 2021.

Emanuel has argued cases before the NLRB for many years on issues such as employee class and collective action waivers. Multiple cases he was involved in have made their way before the Supreme Court. Emanuel has been described as a management-side labor attorney.


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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