Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country has been under both national emergency and public health emergency orders (the “Emergency Orders”). Pursuant to these orders, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury (the “Departments”) issued guidance in May 2020 that postponed various deadlines that apply to benefit plans and made other COVID-related changes to health plans while the Emergency Orders are in force (the “Emergency Period”). After three years, the end has finally come: on January 30, 2023, President Biden announced his intent to end the COVID-19 national emergency and public health emergency effective May 11, 2023, and on Monday, April 10, President Biden signed a congressional resolution immediately ending the national emergency. The ending of the national emergency marks the beginning of the end to several temporary changes to employee benefit plans.Continue Reading The End of the National Emergency Spells Big Changes for Employers
The IRS has issued proposed regulations on the treatment of forfeitures under defined benefit and defined contribution plans. The proposed guidance, which would amend Treasury Regulation 1.401-7, synthesizes (and updates the existing regulation to reflect) guidance previously found in Revenue Rulings, an IRS newsletter, and certain changes to the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), made during the last 35 years or so. The proposed regulation would also generally clarify and extend what had been previously understood to be the deadline for “zeroing out” forfeiture accounts under defined contribution plans.Continue Reading IRS Issues Proposed Forfeiture Regulations
With more and more retirement plan services moving online, a recent case arising in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Giannini v. Transamerica Retirement Solutions, LLC (“Giannini”), highlights the importance of cybersecurity and anti-fraud considerations for plan fiduciaries and service providers alike.
In Giannini, the plaintiff was a retirement plan participant who filed suit in a proposed class action against Transamerica Retirement Solutions, a third party administrator/recordkeeper, after the company notified him of a data breach exposing the plaintiff’s personally identifiable information (“PII”). The plaintiff alleged that the breach occurred because unauthorized parties were able to access PII due to a Transamerica system configuration change, which left sensitive information such as social security numbers and retirement fund contribution amounts exposed. The plaintiff also alleged this data breach affected over 11,000 retirement plan beneficiaries and caused spam emails, spam calls, fraudulent credit card and bank account inquiries, and fraudulent purchases made in his name.Continue Reading A Cautionary Tale for Plan Fiduciaries and Service Providers: Cybertheft, Fraud, and Potential Liability
Among the many changes to laws governing retirement plans in SECURE 2.0—the long-awaited follow-up to the 2019 SECURE Act that passed as part of the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act—is a provision that may benefit sponsors of over-funded pension plans. Under Section 420 of the Internal Revenue Code (“Code”), as amended by SECURE 2.0, and subject to certain conditions, pension plans that are at least 110% funded may transfer a portion of their assets to cover costs for their retiree medical or life insurance plan.Continue Reading SECURE 2.0 Facilitates Funding Retiree Medical and Life Insurance Accounts
With just days to go before the new year, President Biden signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, into law on December 29, 2022, which includes the SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 (“SECURE 2.0”). SECURE 2.0 expands on and, in some cases, modifies changes to the laws governing retirement plans brought about by the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Act of 2019 (the “2019 SECURE Act”). Key provisions of SECURE 2.0 that amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) and Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”) include a mandatory automatic enrollment and escalation feature for new Section 401(k) and 403(b) plans starting in 2025, updated required beginning dates for taking required minimum distributions, an expansion of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (“EPCRS”), and more “Rothification” of savings opportunities for retirement plan participants. Plan amendments under SECURE 2.0 are generally required by the last day of the first plan year beginning on or after January 1, 2025 for single-employer plans. SECURE 2.0 also directs the Department of Labor (“DOL”) and IRS to issue various new regulations in accordance with its provisions. This blog post summarizes some of the key features of SECURE 2.0.Continue Reading SECURE 2.0 – Changes for Retirement Plans
As summarized in our prior post, on November 23, 2021, the Personnel Management Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the Employee Benefits Security Administration, and the Health and Human Services Department issued interim final rules setting forth directives for implementing a new prescription drug reporting mandate under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 116-260). On June 29, 2022, updated submission instructions describing the reporting process were released. The first deadline to comply with the new rules was December 27, 2022. Under that guidance, it was still unclear whether the relevant departments intended to provide general relief for plans and issuers that made good-faith efforts to comply with the new law.
Continue Reading A Sigh of Relief: FAQs Confirm Relief for “Good Faith” Effort to Comply with New Prescription Drug Reporting Mandate
On December 23, 2022, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury issued FAQs addressing this question directly.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released its annual cost-of-living adjustments applicable to employee benefit plans for 2023. A year-to-year comparison of limitations can be found here: 2023 Annual Limitations Chart
Continue Reading IRS Releases 2023 Cost of Living Adjustments for Benefit Plans
These contribution limits are generally adjusted for inflation and, consistent with prior years, the IRS has increased the limits based on a cost-of-living index. For 2023, the adjustments to qualified retirement plan limitations include an increase in the contribution limit (section 415 limitation) for defined contribution plans from $61,000 to $66,000, and an increase to the annual compensation limit for purposes of Internal Revenue Code Section 401(a)(17) from $305,000 to $330,000 (from $450,000 to $490,000 for certain governmental plans).
In response to the ever-increasing cost of prescription drugs, the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (Public Law 116-260) introduced a new prescription drug reporting mandate intended to make prescription drug pricing more transparent and to assist the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services with preparing a biannual, publicly available report on prescription drug pricing. The first of these extensive reports is due on December 27, 2022.Continue Reading The Time has Come for New Prescription Drug Reporting Mandate
On November 22, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (the “DOL”) published a regulation entitled “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights” (the “Final Rule”). The Final Rule follows proposed rules regarding ESG investing and proxy voting by plan fiduciaries, issued on October 14, 2021 (the “Proposed Rule”) and amends prior regulations on the same topic issued by the DOL under President Trump in 2020 (the “2020 Rule”).
In the Final Rule, the DOL repeatedly emphasized that the regulation was primarily aimed at removing and remedying the chilling effect on ESG investing by plan fiduciaries created by the 2020 Rule. While the Final Rule takes a more permissive stance on the consideration of climate change and other ESG factors in investment decisions by plan fiduciaries than the 2020 Rule, the DOL cautioned that a plan fiduciary should not subordinate the interests of plan participants and beneficiaries to any collateral benefits (i.e., ESG objectives).
Continue Reading DOL Finalizes Rule Regarding ESG Investing and Proxy Voting by Plan Fiduciaries
The Final Rule largely tracks the Proposed Rule, with a few notable exceptions summarized below.
The Affordable Care Act contains broad provisions requiring health insurers and group health plans to make substantial amounts of information available to the public to facilitate transparency in health care pricing, and several recent Executive Orders have also focused on the availability of health pricing information. In 2020, under the authority of the Affordable Care Act, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued transparency in coverage regulations (often referred to as the “TiC Rules”), which require most health plans and health insurance issuers in the group and individual markets (“Plans and Issuers”) to publicly disclose health plan pricing and cost sharing information. The first deadline under the TiC Rules was originally set for January 1, 2022, but was delayed to July 1, 2022 in part due to the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriation Act (which contained additional, and somewhat overlapping, transparency in coverage rules).
Continue Reading Transparency in Coverage Deadline Looms – Are You Ready?
Specifically, by July 1, 2022, the TiC rules require that each Plan and Issuer make two “machine readable files” (or “MRFs”) of pricing information available on its public website. Generally speaking, the MRFs that must be available must include (1) the payment rates negotiated between plans or issuers and providers for all covered items and services (the “In-Network File”), and (2) the unique amounts a plan or issuer allowed, as well as the associated billed charged for covered items or services furnished by out-of-network providers during a specified time period (the “Out-of-Network File”). (The deadline for a third file, which must contain pricing information for prescription drugs, was originally January 1, 2022, and has been extended indefinitely pending coordination with similar requirements under the Consolidated Appropriations Act.) Plans and Issuers are not required to disclose information that would violate health privacy laws. The MRFs must be updated monthly and clearly note the date they were last updated. The MRFs must be in a non-proprietary, open-standards format that is “platform independent” and available to the public without restrictions that would impede re-use, such as a JSON file. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and PDF files are not acceptable because they are proprietary formats.