On October 29, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), and Department of Treasury (“DOT”) collaborated to issue a final “transparency rule” aimed at providing greater information to consumers, thereby allowing them to explore different healthcare options and avoid surprise billing for services rendered.  Additionally, the rule requires the public disclosure of negotiated rates for in-network providers and amounts allowed for out-of-network providers.

Disclosure of Provider Rates

Under the rule, non-grandfathered health plans and insurers must publish their negotiated rates and allowable out-of-network charges on a public website, which is to be updated monthly through three machine-readable files.  The website must be publicly available, accessible without charge, and cannot require a user account, password, or other credentials, or submission of personally identifiable information to access the files.  Specifically, the files will reflect negotiated rates for in-network services, historical payments to and billed charges from out-of-network providers, and in-network negotiated rates.  The files must also show historical net prices for covered prescription drugs at the pharmacy level.

We are proud to announce 11 of our attorneys have been named to the 2021 Best Lawyers® list, two of which were named “Lawyer of the Year.” This recognition in The Best Lawyers in America© 2021, identifies each for their leading legal talent in their corresponding practice areas.

The following Lindabury attorneys were named as Best Lawyers honorees:

On June 19, 2020, the IRS released Notice 2020-50, which provides additional guidance and relief for retirement plan participants taking coronavirus-related distributions and loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”).  Under the CARES Act, “qualified individuals” may take coronavirus-related distributions of up to $100,000 from their eligible retirement plans without being subject to the 10% additional tax on early distributions.  In addition, a coronavirus-related distribution can be included in income ratably over the three-year period commencing with the year of distribution and the individual taking the distribution has three years to repay the distribution to the plan, or roll it over to an Individual Retirement Account (“IRA”) or other qualified retirement plan, with the effect of reversing the income tax consequences of the distribution.  In addition, the CARES Act allows plans to suspend loan repayments due from March 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020 and further allows for an increase in the dollar amount on loans made between March 27, 2020 and September 22, 2020 from $50,000 to $100,000.  Notice 2020-50 expands the definition of qualified individuals under the Act and provides additional, clarifying guidance regarding coronavirus-related distributions and loans.

Expansion of the Definition of “Qualified Individual”

Under the original language of the CARES Act, a qualified individual included the following persons:

On June 5, 2020, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act of 2020 (“PPPFA”) was signed into law.  The PPPFA is aimed at providing borrowers with additional flexibility to maximize forgiveness of loans received under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) established as part of the CARES Act.  The following provisions of the PPPFA are highlighted below for your consideration:

  • Extension of Application Period:  The PPPFA extends the final date by which PPP loans can be made from June 30, 2020 to December 31, 2020.  However, a congressional letter clarifies that June 30, 2020 remains the last day for accepting and approving PPP loans.  Although additional guidance may be issued on whether applications will be accepted until December 31, 2020, employers should err on the side of caution and apply for loans prior to June 30, 2020.
  • Repayment Term is Extended:  For those PPP loans originated on or after the date of enactment of the PPPFA, the repayment term for the unforgiven portion of the loan is extended from two to not less than five years.  However, borrowers and lenders may mutually agree to expand the repayment period under existing loans (entered into prior to enactment of the PPPFA).

On May 21, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a final rule allowing employers to post retirement plan disclosures online or furnish them to workers via email.  The rule is aimed at reducing administrative expenses for employers and making information more readily available to workers.

ERISA-covered retirement plans must furnish multiple disclosures each year to participants and beneficiaries. The exact number of disclosures per year depends on the specific type of retirement plan, its features, and in some cases the plan’s funding status.  To deliver these disclosures electronically, plan administrators were previously required to comply with the regulatory safe harbor established in 2002 under 29 CFR 2520.104b-1(c), which required that disclosures be reasonably calculated to ensure that workers actually received the information, including confirmation that the transmitted information was actually received (e.g., using return-receipt or notice of undelivered electronic mail features, conducting periodic reviews or surveys to confirm receipt of the transmitted information).

On August 31, 2018, Executive Order 13847, entitled Strengthening Retirement Security in America, was issued. The Order directed the DOL to review whether regulatory or other actions could be taken to make retirement plan disclosures more understandable for participants and beneficiaries and to focus on reducing the production and distribution costs that retirement plan disclosures impose on employers.  In October 2019, the Department published a proposed regulation with a solicitation for public comment.  In response to the commentary received, a final rule creating a new voluntary safe harbor was established.  The new safe harbor permits the following two optional methods for electronic delivery:

Will your assets pass to family if you die without a Will in New Jersey? Not necessarily. In some cases, a decedent’s property can actually escheat, or revert, to the State of New Jersey when the decedent has living relatives. The only way to ensure that your property is distributed according to your wishes is to execute a Will. While it may be tempting to let estate planning take a back burner to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, having a Will and other necessary estate planning documents helps your loved ones avoid additional hassles at the time of your passing.

Intestacy laws govern what happens to a person’s assets when he or she dies without a Will. Intestacy laws, however, do not interfere with assets that are jointly owned–those go to the survivor; or assets that are subject to a separate designation of beneficiary–those go to the designated beneficiary. In New Jersey, heirs must survive the decedent by at least 120 hours to inherit. New Jersey has adopted an intestacy system that only considers those relatives in the third branch and closer as “heirs” for the purposes of intestate succession. This is known as a parentelic system. The first branch includes the decedent, his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The second branch includes decedent’s parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews down the line to great-grandnieces and great-grandnephews. The third and final branch of heirs for purposes of the New Jersey intestacy laws consists of the decedent’s grandparents and descendants of grandparents including aunts, uncles, and first cousins.

It is important to note that if a decedent dies without a Will and has a spouse or domestic partner, that spouse or partner may not inherit the full estate. This debunks the common misconception that if you pass without a Will, your spouse will automatically receive everything. The surviving spouse or partner’s share depends on many things including but not limited to whether the couple had children together, whether there are children from a prior marriage, and whether the decedent has parents who are still living.

The Department of Labor (“DOL”) and other federal agencies released updated model COBRA notices and expanded COBRA deadlines in an effort to reduce the risk of participants and beneficiaries losing benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated Model COBRA Notices

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (“COBRA”), an individual who was covered by a group health plan on the day before the occurrence of a qualification event, i.e. termination of employment or a reduction in hours that results in loss of coverage under the plan, may be able to elect COBRA continuation coverage upon that qualifying event. Under COBRA, group health plans must provide covered employees and their families certain notices explaining their COBRA rights. The first is a written notice of COBRA rights, called a “general notice,” which is given to an employee and spouse at the time of commencement of coverage. A group health plan must also provide an employee and spouse with an “election notice” upon a qualifying event, which outlines how to make an election under COBRA continuation coverage. The DOL has created model notices, which plans can use to satisfy these requirements under COBRA.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), signed into law on Friday March 27, 2020, introduced the Paycheck Protection Program (the “PPP”) with the intended goal of preventing job loss and small businesses failure due to losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The PPP was designed to support small business and employees by providing forgivable loans to employers if they maintained their employees and payroll. It was initially funded with $349 billion on a first come, first serve basis. Initial applications from small businesses and sole proprietorships opened on April 3, 2020 and all of this initial funding was exhausted within 13 days, or by April 15, 2020.

On Tuesday, April 21, 2020, the Senate passed an “interim” coronavirus relief Bill, titled the “Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act” (the Senate Bill). The Senate Bill amends the CARES Act to (i) increase the amounts authorized for the PPP in accordance with Section 7(a) of the Small Business Act, increase the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL loans), and increase emergency grants under the CARES Act, and (ii) authorize additional funding for hospital and provider recovery and

coronavirus testing.

On April 1, 2020 James Estabrook and Kathleen Connelly of the firm’s Labor & Employment group hosted a webinar discussion for members of the Northern New Jersey and Southern New Jersey chapters of the National Electrical Contractors Association.

The webinar addressed questions regarding employee leave rights and benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

You can watch and listen to a recording of the webinar on our firm’s YouTube channel here.

 

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