U.S. to Spend $685 Billion on Health Care Coverage for Those Under 65 in 2018

The federal government subsidizes health insurance for most Americans through a variety of programs and tax provisions. In 2018, net subsidies for non-institutionalized people under age 65 will total $685 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate.

That amount includes the cost of preferential tax treatment for work-related insurance coverage, the cost of Medicaid and Medicare coverage for people under age 65, and government payments for other kinds of health insurance coverage—such as plans purchased through the marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Their published report describes the basis for the CBO’s baseline projections of the federal costs for those subsidies under current law for the 2018–2028 period. Those projections of costs are built upon estimates of the number of people with health insurance of various kinds. During the coming year, the CBO and JCT will use their projections as the benchmark for assessing proposed legislation’s effects on the subsidies.

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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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Preview of Starbucks’ May 29 Racial Sensitivity Training

A preview of the May 29 curriculum for Starbucks partners | Starbucks Newsroom

FROM OUR APRIL 17 POST

After the manager at a Starbucks in Philadelphia had two black men arrested for trespassing when they asked to use the restroom without purchasing anything, the company announced it will close all 8,000 of its corporate locations on May 29 for a racial bias training session. Starbucks employs some 175,000 people at these locations.


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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Sweeping EU Data Protection Regulation Takes Effect Today

BREAKING NEWS: The GDPR has forced some U.S. companies to shut down their websites, or to convert them to plain text versions. Tronc, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other publications, has blocked EU access to its sites, fearing fines for non-compliance with the new regulation. Other sites have redone their privacy policies and/or placed easy opt-out features on their home pages, including the Wall Street Journal.

If your company’s website can be accessed by people living within the European Union, there’s a good chance you may have to update your terms of service and privacy policy and make other modifications, especially if you sell goods or collect any kind of data in the affected countries. Please note: your business does not have to be located in the EU for your web presence to fall under the regulation’s purview.

gdpr-takes-effect-today-may-25Approved in April 2016, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) becomes enforceable today after a ramp-up compliance period.

The GDPR is big on personal data and includes a revolutionary new principle that allows users of your website to request that you remove all data stored about them. This provision is known as the right to be forgotten, or the right of erasure. Requests for personal data removal can be made in writing or orally (by phone or in person).

For those firms that re-use, re-purpose or sell the data they collect, the GDPR places new restrictions: “Personal data should not be used for purposes outside of the original intended and specified purpose, except with the consent of the data subject or the authority of the law.” (more…)


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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5th Circuit Court Denies Appeal of Its Decision on the DOL Fiduciary Rule

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which in March ruled the Department of Labor (DOL) had overstepped its authority in issuing its Fiduciary Rule, has now rebuffed a second appeal of that decision filed by the attorneys general of California, New York and Oregon. The three-judge panel hearing the appeal also refused to refer the matter to a hearing by the full court, a process known as en banc review.

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West Courtroom

The DOL Fiduciary Rule would require all retirement advisers to put the interests of their clients first, ahead of their own compensation for the products they recommend, and thus it’s also known as the Best Interest Rule.

Though the 5th Circuit Court ruled against the Fiduciary Rule, it has not yet issued an injunction against it, so it technically remains on the books. After the court’s ruling on March 15, however, the DOL basically said it would not enforce the new standard, and the agency recently issued guidance affirming that it would largely remain on the sidelines.

This latest filing, which was actually an appeal of a May 2 adverse decision by the same circuit court panel, exhausted the appeals process at the circuit level, and now it is up to the DOL or Department of Justice (DOJ) to file an appeal with the Supreme Court, which appears unlikely. Those agencies have until June 13 to file an appeal.

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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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DOL Announces Theme for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

In keeping with the agency’s  commitment to ensuring an American workforce for Americans of all abilities, the Department of Labor (DOL) today announced this year’s official National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) theme: “America’s Workforce: Empowering All.”

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Labor Secretary Acosta

“President Trump’s administration is committed to ensuring that all Americans can access good, family-sustaining jobs. A workforce that empowers everyone is good for job seekers as well as job creators,” said Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

“Over the past year, the unemployment rate for individuals with disabilities has significantly declined. Continued steady job creation will provide even more opportunities for all Americans to get hired and provide for their families.”

Observed each October, NDEAM is a nationwide campaign that celebrates the contributions of workers with disabilities throughout American history, and emphasizes the importance of ensuring that all Americans have access to the services and supports to enable them to work.

Although led at the national level by the department’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), the true spirit of NDEAM lies in the many observances held across the nation every year. The department announces the annual theme early to facilitate planning of events, according to its press release.

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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 Look at Trump’s Deregulatory Success Rate

Early in his administration, President Trump issued an executive order mandating that, for every new regulation, two existing regulations had to be eliminated. How is that mandate succeeding?

The Competitive Enterprise Institute recently ran some calculations and determined that the actual ratio of deregulation to regulation stands at 5-to-1, not 2-1; in other words, the effort is exceeding expectations.

According to the institute’s “Ten Thousand Commandments,” which tracks all things regulatory, Congress drew back 16 late-term Obama regulations through use of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). On top of that, federal agencies themselves (except for independent agencies not subject to the executive order, such as the Federal Communications Commission) achieved another 142 deregulations, while issuing only 29 new regulations.

In the recently released “Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions,” the pace quickens a bit to 6-to-1, according to institute reckoning.

To make matters easier to follow, the Trump Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has done what it calls a “system update,” so that now regulators must identify all new rules and regulations as “net regulatory” or “net deregulatory.”


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 Court Rules Banning Salary History Inquiries Unconstitutional

A Philadelphia statute that bans employers from inquiring about applicants’ salary histories is unconstitutional, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled. At the same time, it let stand that portion of the law that forbids employers from basing new hires’ salaries on their wage history.

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Independence Hall in Philadelphia

Philadelphia was the first city to pass salary legislation when, in January 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney signed the Philadelphia Wage Equity Ordinance with an effective date of May 23 that year. Almost immediately, the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia filed suit to block it. This April 30 came the answer, with the ruling that the law’s “Income Provision” was unconstitutional while its “Reliance Provision” was fine as written.

As a result, employers may now inquire about job applicants’ salary histories but cannot base their new salaries on past wages.

The chamber’s case rested on violations of First Amendment “commercial free speech” rights. The court concurred that, as written, the language for the Inquiry Provision failed to justify curtailment of First Amendment rights, writing that “more is needed” in the way of justification. On the Reliance Provision, the court agreed with the city that the provision affected only conduct, not free speech.

The case was The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia v. The City of Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.


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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SCOTUS Sides with Employers in the Use of Forced Arbitration Agreements

Voting along ideological lines, the Supreme Court today ruled 5-4 that employers can enforce signed binding arbitration agreements with their work forces, thus legally barring class action lawsuits.

supreme-court-upholds-class-waiversThe ruling allows employers to require employees to sign not only binding arbitration agreements that include class action waivers, but also non-disclosure agreements.

“The policy may be debatable but the law is clear: Congress has instructed that arbitration agreements like those before us must be enforced as written,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority. Justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas concurred.

The legislation in question dates to 1925 with the passage of the Federal Arbitration Act, which states that arbitration agreements “shall be valid, irrevocable and enforceable.” Arbitration is done outside a courtroom and is quicker and cheaper and generally viewed as more employer-friendly than courtroom litigation.

The conservative majority rejected the argument that the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which encourages collective actions, overrides the earlier arbitration law.

“This Court has never read a right to class actions into the NLRA — and for three quarters of a century neither did the National Labor Relations Board [NLRB],” wrote Justice Gorsuch. The NLRB argued before the court in favor of employee class actions.

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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 Disapproves Ohio’s Request to Eliminate ACA Individual Mandate in State

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has rejected a waiver request from the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual shared responsibility mandate in the state.

As originally written, that provision of the ACA requires all Americans to have health insurance or pay a fine, but as part of the GOP’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the penalty part of the individual mandate, by which it is widely known, will be eliminated in 2019.

In rejecting the request, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the wing of HHS that administers the ACA, stated  that the “application does not include a description of the reason that the state is seeking to waive IRC $50004(a),” the individual mandate provision. In addition, the rejection letter noted that each state, even when requesting a waiver, must ensure that it  provides a state plan for health insurance that is “at least as comprehensive and affordable as that provided under” the ACA.

Though the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress have tried to void the ACA, falling one vote short in the Senate, CMS has staunchly defended the provisions of the legislation. It recently rejected a request by Kansas to put a cap on enrollment in Medicaid, which was expanded as part of the ACA.

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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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IRS Resumes Sending Out ACA Penalty Notices for 2015

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has begun issuing new Affordable Care Act (ACA) penalty notices for calendar year 2015.

IRS-sends-out-Obamacare-tax-penalty-noticesThe notices are officially called Employer Shared Responsibility Payment (ESRP) notices, or what the IRS refers to as Letter 226-J.

Under the ACA, Applicable Large Employers (ALEs), generally those companies with 50 or more full-time employees (or their equivalence with part-timers factored in) must provide health insurance coverage that is “affordable” and provides “minimum value” or face a fine, now known as the ESRP.

Any company receiving an ESRP notification has 30 days to dispute it, and in some — if not many — cases the IRS has in the past incorrectly identified “guilty” employers.

The IRS audits company compliance from data submitted on two forms:  ALEs are required to send health coverage information to the IRS on Form 1094-C, Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns, and Form 1095-C, Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage. ALEs are also required to send the Form 1095-C to each employee.

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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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