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Susie Bilbro advises clients on all aspects of employee benefit plan design and administration including compliance with ERISA, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (healthcare reform), COBRA and the Internal Revenue Code. She has counseled public and private clients on employee welfare and pension benefits issues, both in connection with corporate transactions and on day-to-day administration. In addition, Susie has prepared submissions to the IRS and Department of Labor for qualified retirement and welfare benefit plans. Susie also has experience advising clients on executive compensation arrangements.

Public companies maintaining deferred compensation arrangements for their executive officers should consider how recent changes to the regulations under Section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) may impact the timing of payments to be made to participants and their beneficiaries under such plans – if action is required, the affected plans must be amended before December 31, 2020 to avoid complications or penalties.

Continue Reading Changes to Section 162(m) Affecting Deferred Compensation Arrangements

As part of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) have recently provided relief to benefit plan sponsors by moving back certain upcoming plan compliance deadlines. See further below for a detailed list of the specific relief. IRS Notice 2020-23 provides that if any deadline would occur between April 1 and July 14, that deadline is automatically moved back until July 15, 2020, and this extension applies to a list of 44 employee benefit plan-related deadlines. The IRS notice triggered the PBGC’s disaster relief policy, which automatically extends certain PBGC deadlines that occur in the same April 1 to July 14 time period to July 15, 2020.

Additional relief was announced on April 28, in the form of a joint notice ( Joint Notice) issued by EBSA, IRS and the Treasury Department, which extended a number of deadlines for benefit plans and participants in accordance with CARES Act changes to ERISA Section 518. The Joint Notice’s relief applies to the “Outbreak Period,” the length of time beginning on March 1, 2020, and ending 60 days after the announcement that the COVID-19 National Emergency is over. On the same day, EBSA issued Disaster Relief Notice 2020-01 (Disaster Relief Notice). The Disaster Relief Notice clarified EBSA’s enforcement stance on certain fiduciary duties that plan sponsors have by extending deadlines. The Disaster Relief Notice also stated that the Outbreak Period extension, described in the Joint Notice, also applies to the distribution timelines for notices, disclosures, and other documents that Title I of ERISA requires plans to distribute to participants and beneficiaries. EBSA also released an FAQ which explains some of the relief provided by the Joint Notice and Disaster Relief Notice.

Continue Reading IRS, EBSA and PBGC Provide Further COVID-19 Relief for Benefit Plans

On November 29, we participated in a webinar sponsored by Bright Horizons about employer-sponsored student loan repayment benefits. In order to help employees faced with mounting student debt, employers are offering creative solutions that help attract and retain workers. Earlier this year, healthcare company Abbott announced a program in which the company will contribute 5%

In January 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that final regulations affecting how some ERISA plans process claims and appeals will apply beginning April 1, 2018.  As explained below, the final regulations require that plans, plan fiduciaries, and insurance providers comply with additional procedural requirements when deciding claims involving disability determinations, which can impact a variety of different types of plans, including pension and non-qualified plans. The final regulations were initially released in December 2016, but had been delayed several times.

Continue Reading Action Needed by Certain ERISA Plans – New Disability Claims Procedures Apply Beginning April 2018

Susie Bilbro | Employee Benefits Attorney | Bass Berry & SimsBass, Berry & Sims attorney Susie Bilbro authored an article for BenefitsPRO discussing the future of genetic testing in employee wellness programs following the latest updates from the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, introduced in the House of Representatives (H.R. 1313) in March 2017. The bill would allow employers to ask employee’s family medical history and request genetic information as part of wellness programs. While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) do not typically allow employers to obtain employee information regarding health conditions or those of family members, both laws allow employers to inquire about this information and conduct medical examinations if providing health or genetic services through a voluntary wellness program.

Continue Reading Is Genetic Testing the Future of Employee Wellness Programs?

Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) prohibits any health program or activity that receives federal funding (currently limited to federal funding from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)) from discriminating against an individual on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability.  Notably, HHS has described Section 1557 as the first civil rights law banning discrimination on the basis of sex in the provision of healthcare services, which includes discrimination based on gender identity, gender expression and transgender status.

While Section 1557 has technically been in effect since the passage of the ACA in 2010, HHS’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) released final regulations in May of this year, finalizing some key compliance requirements.  Many of the new procedural requirements introduced by the final regulations went into effect on July 18, 2016.  However, perhaps the most significant requirement – the requirement to provide and post nondiscrimination notices – becomes effective on October 16, 2016 (a Sunday).1

Continue Reading ACA Section 1557 – October Nondiscrimination Notices Loom Near