Michelle Capezza Quoted in “Biggest Benefits Policy Developments in 2018: Midyear Report”


Michelle Capezza, Member of the Firm in the Employee Benefits and Health Care & Life Sciences practices, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Law360, in “Biggest Benefits Policy Developments in 2018: Midyear Report,” by Emily Brill. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

So far this year, the U.S. Department of Labor has clarified how companies can include socially conscious investments in 401(k) plan lineups, test whether health care plans comply with mental health parity laws and ensure retirement advisers aren’t placing the company in legal hot water.

Here’s a look back at the major benefits policy developments for the first half of 2018. …

Mental Health Parity Guidance

Buried in the massive 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 was a section directing the DOL, the U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help companies boost their compliance with mental health parity laws.

The agencies issued several pieces of guidance this year with that goal in mind — among them, a Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act self-compliance tool, a disclosure template and a proposed set of frequently asked questions about interpreting the MHPAEA.

The tool helps companies determine whether limits on their plans’ mental health benefits mirror limits on medical and surgical benefits, as the MHPAEA requires. It also answers other questions employers might have about how to comply with the MHPAEA, which attorneys say is simple in theory but complicated in practice. …

The tool appeared on the DOL’s website on April 23 alongside the frequently asked questions and disclosure template, which plan participants can use to request information about a plan’s non-quantitative treatment limitations, or NQTLs. If a plan’s mental health NQTLs aren’t sufficiently comparable to its medical and surgical NQTLs, that plan is out of compliance with the MHPAEA.

“The Department of Labor has it as an enforcement priority to ensure there is compliance with the MHPAEA,” said Michelle Capezza, a member of Epstein Becker Green. “Plan sponsors are going to have to meet those disclosure obligations … so they’ll want to make sure they have a process in place to respond to any [request for information].” …

Association Health Plan Rule

The DOL rounded out the first half of 2018 with a blockbuster new rule that Congress estimates will impact four million Americans by 2023.

The rule loosened the requirements for small businesses and the self-employed to band together and form health plans, known as association health plans. …

Capezza said the association health plan rule appears to be part of a move to respond to the needs of a changing workforce. She placed another recent development in the benefits space — states creating auto-individual retirement account programs — in that category as well.

“I think a lot of these mechanisms which are emerging … are trying to lay a framework for people to be able to obtain health insurance and access to retirement savings programs regardless of whether they had a traditional employer,” Capezza said.