On December 2, the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation released advance informational copies of the 2020 Form 5500 Annual Return/Report and related instructions. (Note that these forms are for information purposes only and should not be used for filing.)
On December 4, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its proposed Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2022, which included proposed out-of-pocket (OOP) maximums for non-grandfathered plans in 2022. The proposed amounts are $9,100 for self-only coverage and $18,200 for other than self-only (i.e., family) coverage. These amounts represent an approximate 6.4% increase over the 2021 limits.
In June, we reported that proposed regulations had been issued to implemented provisions in the 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act that eliminated the employer deduction for expenses related to qualified transportation and commuting fringe benefits. (Our original compliance alert on the law’s provisions can be viewed here.) On December 9, the IRS and Treasury finalized these regulations with minor changes.
On December 10, HHS issued a proposed rules that would change the requirements for group health plans with respect to uses and disclosures of PHI. The proposed rule would also modify the required content of the HIPAA Notice of Privacy Practices. Comments on the proposed rule are due by mid-February. Benefit Comply will be issuing a detailed summary of the proposed changes in early January.
In mid-December, OCR released a summary of its findings from the HIPAA compliance audits it conducted in 2016-2017. Among the findings was that, while covered entities and business associates complied with notification requirements after a breach occurred, most entities failed to conduct appropriate security risk analyses and implement necessary safeguards to adequately protect their PHI in the first place.
On December 18, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided guidance on how covered entities and business associates are permitted under the health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA) to release protected health information (PHI) to health information exchanges (HIEs) for the purpose of public health activities. At a high level, this guidance clarifies that PHI may be shared with a HIE when the disclosure is required by law; when the HIE is a business associate that wishes to share PHI with a public health authority for public health purposes; and when the HIE is acting under contract with a public health authority for a public health activity. More details may be found in the guidance here.
On December 27, President Trump signed into law H.R. 133, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (the “Covid-19 Relief Bill”). The bill contains several important employee benefit-related provisions, including restrictions on “surprise medical bills,” new plan and health cost reporting rules, and additional flexibility for participants of health flexible spending accounts (HFSAs) and dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs). For more details, see our issue briefs on its provisions here and here.