Are HSA Contribution Programs Ever Subject to ERISA?

Are HSA Contribution Programs Ever Subject to ERISA?

QUESTION: We are planning to add an HDHP and to make company contributions to employees’ HSAs. We have been told that an HSA contribution program—unlike the HDHP coverage—would not be subject to ERISA. Is that always true, or are there circumstances in which ERISA might apply?

ANSWER: Employer-facilitated HSA contribution programs generally are not subject to ERISA. Even though HSA funds may be intended to provide medical care, HSAs are viewed as personal accounts that are not ERISA-covered welfare benefit plans, so long as employee participation is completely voluntary and the employer’s involvement is limited. However, there are ways in which an HSA contribution program could become subject to ERISA. Those ERISA triggers should be avoided because ERISA’s compliance obligations were not crafted with HSAs in mind, and it is not clear how and whether all of ERISA’s requirements could be satisfied by an HSA program.

The DOL has established two safe harbors from ERISA coverage that may apply to workplace HSA programs. One, the voluntary plan safe harbor for group or group-type insurance programs, does not allow employer contributions, so for your purposes, we will focus instead on the HSA-specific safe harbor, which allows employer contributions. Under that safe harbor, employer contributions will not result in ERISA’s application if all of the following requirements are met:

  • Voluntary Employee Contributions. An employer using the safe harbor can unilaterally establish HSAs for employees and deposit employer funds into those accounts. But any contributions made by employees, including salary reduction contributions, must be voluntary.
  • Portable Funds. An employer’s program may limit forwarding of HSA contributions to a single HSA provider without triggering ERISA. But the employer cannot limit what happens after that initial deposit; employees must be able to move funds to another HSA if they desire.
  • Unrestricted Use of Funds. Some employers may wish to impose conditions on how HSA funds are used, such as a requirement that funds be used only for qualified medical expenses. Any such restrictions, however, will cause the arrangement to fall outside the safe harbor.
  • No Employer Influence. When selecting an HSA provider, employers may choose trustees or custodians that offer only a limited selection of investment options or options replicating those available under the employer’s 401(k) plan. Generally, however, the employer cannot make or attempt to influence employees’ investment decisions.
  • Not Represented as an ERISA Plan. This requirement seems simple, but it is also easily violated. Participant communications must not represent the HSA program as part of an ERISA plan, or as an ERISA plan of its own, and should include appropriate disclaimers indicating that the HSA is not part of an ERISA plan. From a drafting perspective, the HSA provisions should not be included in an ERISA plan document. While bundling non-ERISA and ERISA benefits will normally not make the non-ERISA benefits subject to ERISA, careful drafting and communications are required to ensure that the HSA satisfies the safe harbor.
  • No Employer Compensation. The employer cannot receive any direct or indirect payment or compensation in connection with its employees’ HSAs. This rule precludes discounts on other products that the employer may purchase from the HSA vendor, and may raise questions in other situations (e.g., bundled arrangements). This prohibition does not preclude making HSA contributions through a cafeteria plan; the employment tax savings realized by the employer is not considered compensation for this purpose.

Failure to meet any one of these elements will cause the program to fall outside the safe harbor. Although a program involving employer actions or program rules not specifically authorized by the safe harbor might still avoid ERISA, any variations should be discussed in advance with counsel.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Are HSA Contribution Programs Ever Subject to ERISA?

Is the HSA Contribution Limit an Annual or Monthly Limit?

QUESTION: How does the general contribution limit for HSAs work? It is often stated as an annual limit, but isn’t it really monthly? Our company is thinking about changing to HDHP coverage that would allow our employees to make HSA contributions. If we decide to facilitate those HSA contributions or to make employer contributions, would we need to limit the amount of contributions made each month, or only annually?

ANSWER: The general contribution limit for HSAs is an annual limit determined by the number of months of HSA eligibility. The HSA of an individual who is HSA-eligible for the entire year can receive contributions (from any source) up to the full annual limit. If an individual is only HSA-eligible for a portion of the year, the annual limit is prorated based on the number of months of HSA eligibility. A special rule that can change this outcome is noted below.

For example, if Ana, a 40-year-old calendar-year taxpayer, is HSA-eligible for all of 2023 and has self-only HDHP coverage, her HSA can receive contributions of up to the maximum of $3,850 for 2023. (For coverage other than self-only coverage, the maximum for 2023 is $7,750.) If Ana were only HSA-eligible for April through September, however, her annual limit would be 6/12ths of the full annual limit, or $1,925. That $1,925 could be contributed in one month, or in any number of payments made on or after January 1, 2023, and on or before the filing due date (without extensions) for Ana’s 2023 federal tax return. Some or all of the permitted amount could be contributed during a month in which Ana is not HSA-eligible, based on her prior or anticipated months of HSA eligibility. (Of course, contributions could not be made until Ana’s HSA is established, if it wasn’t established by January 1st.) A similar proration rule applies to HSA catch-up contributions, which increase the general contribution limit for HSA-eligible individuals who have attained age 55 by the end of the taxable year. Thus, if Ana were at least age 55 by the end of 2023, and she were HSA-eligible for the entire year, her limit would be increased by $1,000. But if she were HSA-eligible for only 6 months of 2023, her catch-up contribution limit would be only $500.

Employers that facilitate employee contributions or make their own contributions to employees’ HSAs need not limit the amount actually contributed in each month, but they do have to track their employees’ HSA eligibility on a monthly basis so they can determine any prorated limit amount. Employers are only responsible for knowing how their own benefit programs affect HSA eligibility and whether an employee is eligible for catch-up contributions. They need not determine whether employees have disqualifying coverage from other sources or how much has been contributed to employees’ HSAs by other means.

As noted above, special contribution rules can apply when determining a particular employee’s limit. One of these is the “full contribution rule,” which allows calendar-year taxpayers to be treated as HSA-eligible for the entire year if they are HSA-eligible on December 1st, subject to certain conditions that include remaining HSA-eligible for at least a 13-month testing period. There is also a special rule for married individuals if either spouse has family HDHP coverage.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Are HSA Contribution Programs Ever Subject to ERISA?

EBenefitsHub Announces NueSynergy as Exclusive National Core Partner

ORLANDO, Florida – EBenefitsHub is pleased to announce its addition of NueSynergy as an Exclusive National Core Partner. “We are excited to include the fully integrated suite of administration services assembled by Josh Collins, President, and the rest of the NueSynergy team over the past 27 years,” said EBenefitsHub Founder and CEO, Nick Gregory, ChWE. “NueSynergy has earned respect for its industry-leading service, innovative technology, and excellence in providing full-service administration of consumer-driven and traditional account-based plans among other solutions.”:

Flexible Spending Accounts, Health Reimbursement Arrangements, Health Savings Accounts, Lifestyle Spending Accounts, SpouseSaver Incentive Accounts, COBRAcare+ Administration, Premium Only Plans, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Private Label Solutions.

“NueSynergy continues to expand its national presence by offering a wide variety of forward-thinking, employer-centric products and services,” said Josh Collins, president of NueSynergy. “It’s important for us to work alongside an elite and diverse group of reputable companies to build solutions and long-term relationships for our mutual clients.”

With this announcement, NueSynergy joins a collection of exclusive, best-of-breed CorePartner organizations to provide services and products to BenefitsPros across the country. The result is the fusion of advanced knowledge, experience, services, technology, and products to create a synchronized hub for BenefitsPros and their business clients.

“We have engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for employee benefits providers to prevail within today’s competitively complex employee benefits landscape,” said Nick Gregory. “BenefitsPros can design and build their digital benefits hub . . . as they wish.

“With the help of NueSynergy and our other CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution, bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes . . . their way. They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients, and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position, and differentiate to create an unfair advantage.”

About NueSynergy

NueSynergy, Inc., a privately held company, is one of the nation’s fastest growing employee benefits and billing administrators in the country. Headquartered in Leawood, Kansas, NueSynergy also has locations in Arizona, Florida, Idaho, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington, and Rzeszów, Poland.

NueSynergy offers a fully integrated suite of administration services, which include Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Lifestyle Savings Account (LSA), and COBRAcare+ administration as well as SpouseSaver Incentive Account, Combined Billing, Direct Billing, and Specialty Solutions. For more information, visit www.NueSynergy.com.

About EBenefitsHub

EBenefitsHub has engineered a modernized suite of snap-on digital solutions synchronized within its holistic EBHub Dashboard and “white label” All-In-One MobileFirst App. The EBHub “ecosystem” is coupled with an arsenal of resources necessary for benefits professionals to prevail within today’s competitively complex benefits landscape. BenefitsPros can design/build their digital benefits hubs . . . on their terms. With the help of EBHub CorePartners, BenefitsPros can embrace the digital revolution; bridging the gaps while cutting away the bad plumbing of detached digital and manual processes.

They can neutralize competitors, expand client offerings, harvest more clients and future-proof success. In a sea of sameness, BenefitsPros can brand, position and differentiate to create an unfair advantage. The result is seamlessly harmonized employee benefits, engagement and communications, merged into a powerfully holistic platform for BenefitsPros and their clients:

Design • Quote • Present • Enroll • Engage • Communicate • Enhance Renew • Manage

Learn more: MyEBenefitshub.com Grow@MyEBenefitshub.com 407-878-3520

Are HSA Contribution Programs Ever Subject to ERISA?

IRS Modifies Guidance on COVID-19 Expenses for HDHPs, Provides Preventive Care Clarifications

In response to the end of the COVID-19 emergency, the IRS has issued a notice modifying its 2020 guidance regarding the COVID-19 testing and treatment benefits that can be provided by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). Under the 2020 guidance, HDHPs can provide those benefits without a deductible or with a deductible below the applicable HDHP minimum deductible (self-only or family), thereby allowing individuals to receive coverage under HDHPs that provide such benefits on a no- or low-deductible basis without any adverse effect on HSA eligibility. Agency FAQs issued earlier this year indicated that the 2020 guidance would apply until further guidance was issued. This latest notice provides that, due to the end of the COVID-19 emergency, the relief described in the 2020 guidance is no longer needed and will apply only for plan years ending on or before December 31, 2024.

The notice also addresses the status of certain items and services as preventive care under the Code’s HSA eligibility rules. According to the notice, the preventive care safe harbor under those rules does not include COVID-19 screening (i.e., testing), effective as of the notice’s publication date. The notice acknowledges that the preventive care safe harbor includes screening services for certain infectious diseases but also observes that screenings for “common and episodic illnesses, such as the flu” are not included and concludes that COVID-19 differs from the types of diseases on the list. The notice further provides that—consistent with recent agency FAQs regarding the impact of the trial court’s decision in the Braidwood case—items and services recommended with an “A” or “B” rating by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) on or after March 23, 2010, are treated as preventive care under the HSA eligibility rules, whether or not they must be covered without cost sharing under the preventive services mandate. Thus, if the USPSTF were to recommend COVID-19 testing with an “A” or “B” rating, then that testing would be treated as preventive care under the HSA eligibility rules, regardless of whether coverage without cost-sharing is required under the preventive services mandate.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Is a Telehealth Benefit Subject to ERISA?

Is a Telehealth Benefit Subject to ERISA?

QUESTION: We are considering offering a telehealth benefit to our employees that would be separate from our major medical plan. Will this arrangement be an ERISA plan? 

ANSWER: Telehealth benefits (also referred to as telemedicine benefits) are often offered under an employer’s group health plan, which is governed by ERISA if sponsored by a private sector employer. Even if telehealth benefits are offered separately from the employer’s group health plan, the benefits are likely subject to ERISA. 

In general, an arrangement is an ERISA welfare benefit plan if it is a plan, fund, or program established or maintained by an employer to provide its employees with ERISA-listed benefits. Here is a summary of each element of the definition: 

Plan, fund, or program. An arrangement that provides “one-off” benefits and thus does not require an “ongoing administrative scheme” might not be considered a plan, fund, or program subject to ERISA. It is difficult to imagine a telehealth benefit that would not involve ongoing administration, so this element will likely be met. 

Established or maintained by an employer for its employees. You have indicated that this benefit would be offered by the company, so this element will be met. 

Providing ERISA-listed benefits. Medical benefits are among the benefits listed in ERISA, and telehealth is clearly medical care, so this element will be met. 

Under a DOL regulatory safe harbor, certain group insurance arrangements with minimal employer involvement may be exempt from ERISA even if they provide ERISA-listed benefits. If your arrangement is a voluntary employee-pay-all telehealth benefit offered by a third party, with employer involvement limited as set forth in the safe harbor, it would not be an ERISA plan. If it does not meet all the requirements of the safe harbor, it will be an ERISA plan and must comply with the generally applicable rules, such as having a plan administrator, claim and appeal procedures, and a summary plan description. 

As a group health plan, a telehealth plan raises legal issues aside from ERISA’s applicability, including considerations under COBRA, HIPAA, and coverage mandates such as first-dollar coverage of preventive services, not imposing annual or lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits, and parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits. Note that telehealth-only plans meeting specified criteria have been temporarily exempt from certain of these mandates for certain plan years beginning before the end of the COVID-19 emergency. 

Moreover, telehealth coverage may affect an individual’s ability to contribute to a health savings account (HSA), although temporary relief provides that telehealth and other remote care services provided on or after January 1, 2020, will not cause a loss of HSA eligibility for plan years beginning on or before December 31, 2021; for months beginning after March 31, 2022, and before January 1, 2023; and for plan years beginning after December 31, 2022, and before January 1, 2025 

Source: Thomson Reuters

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When Are Disability Benefit Programs Exempt From ERISA?

When Are Disability Benefit Programs Exempt From ERISA?

QUESTION: I am reviewing our company’s employee benefit programs and confirming that they are treated appropriately for ERISA compliance purposes ...

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