The ACA and International Assignees
The Affordable Care Act and its related implementation and reporting requirements make 2015 particularly challenging for employers with international assignees.
Some companies are still in the process of designing a health care plan that complies with the ACA; others are evaluating programs they already offer. Wherever your plan is along that continuum, large employers — with at least 50 full-time-equivalent employees as defined by the ACA — need to bear in mind the implications of international assignees and take steps to address compliance for their globally mobile employee base.
To start, note that the hours of service by employees performed within the United States determine whether an employer meets the 50 full-time-equivalent employee threshold.
A company that passes that threshold is a large employer that must offer the required health care coverage to actual full-time employees (those who work on average 30 or more hours a week, also within the United States) and their dependents in order to satisfy the law’s mandate.
The determination of a large employer must consider the employees of all the trades and businesses under common control — including foreign entities — under the U.S. controlled group rules of Internal Revenue Code section 414 (which apply to U.S. qualified plans and certain other benefits).
A foreign company with no U.S. entities or affiliates in its controlled group can still be considered a large employer based on the number of employees providing services within the United States.
Individual Mandate for International Assignees
The individual mandate under the ACA obliges individuals to obtain their own health insurance or incur their own penalties. Failure by an individual and members of the individual’s household to have health coverage — whether provided by an employer or obtained privately — may subject the individual taxpayer to penalties.
If any employer (large or not) pays for or reimburses employees for insurance purchased individually on a health exchange or from a private insurer, this coverage may satisfy the employee’s individual mandate requirement but may force the employer to pay a different IRS penalty.
Covering the employee’s cost for such coverage on a pre-tax basis may expose the employer to penalties of $100 per day per impacted employee.
Separate from this penalty, purchases of private coverage by employees on a health exchange or otherwise are not employer-sponsored coverage that satisfies the employer mandate.
Coverage That Satisfies the Employer Mandate
Eligible employer-sponsored coverage includes group health coverage under insured and self-insured employer plans typically offered by U.S. employers.
However, when an international assignee is covered under a non-U.S. plan, or a plan designated as an expatriate plan, only certain types of coverage qualify as minimum essential coverage (MEC) mandated by the ACA, including:
• Certain self-insured group health plans;
• Certain insured expatriate health plans (with plan years ending on or before Dec. 31, 2015); and
• Certain insured plans regulated by a foreign government.
Additionally, coverage offered for all full-time employees, including international assignees, must be minimum value and affordable to comply with the requirements of the employer mandate.
Failure to meet any of the above criteria may subject employers of international assignees to the employer shared responsibility penalty if any full-time employee obtains a credit or subsidy for coverage on a health care exchange.
Minimum value generally means the employer must pay at least 60 percent of the cost of the health coverage for the employee based on actuarial values — the equivalent of the “bronze” level of coverage available on health care exchanges.
To be affordable, the employee’s portion of the premium for single coverage generally must not cost more than 9.5 percent of the employee’s household income.
Because an employer cannot determine an employee’s household income, the regulations offer three methods to determine whether the cost is affordable for an employee.
Generally, the three safe harbors provide that the employee’s portion of the premium for single coverage cannot cost more than 9.5 percent (an indexed percentage) of:
• The employee’s Form W-2, box 1 wages;
• The Federal Poverty Limit based on the annual poverty rate for a family size of one; and
• 130 hours multiplied by the employee’s rate of pay at the beginning of the year.
Whichever method an employer chooses to use must be applied uniformly and consistently among a reasonable category of employees.
Understanding the Reporting Process
Effective Jan. 1, 2015, the IRS added new reporting responsibilities under the ACA and requires employers to submit new forms in early 2016. Company IT systems need to be in place to capture this information as required.Bottom of Form
Draft versions of Form 1095-C, and the 1094-C Transmittal Form require large employers to demonstrate that the health care coverage they offer is MEC that meets the minimum value and affordability requirements.
This reporting is required of large employers, regardless of whether they offer health coverage or not, and is different than the requirement to report health care costs on employees’ Forms W-2 (which has been required since 2012).
The new forms require details of health coverage offered to each employee, including months of coverage offered, cost of coverage, whether coverage meets minimum-value rules and “affordability rules,” and whether the coverage was offered to almost all full-time employees and their dependents.
In addition, if any employer (large or not) self-insures health coverage, separate information is required on a separate part of Form 1095-C for large employers, and on Form 1095-B and the 1094-B Transmittal Form for non-large employers.
This information must include not just the employee, but all family members who are covered under the plan.
Foreign insurers and employers are also accountable for these reporting requirements; this may mean an employer identification number is required for a foreign entity (including those within a large employer’s controlled group).
Communication is Key
Organizations need to ensure that the lines of communications are open between HR, finance and IT, among other departments, to ensure that the right information is available to meet reporting requirements.
Employers should consider communicating with international assignees their obligations under the ACA, particularly if there are concerns that their foreign coverage does not meet the individual mandate and may subject the assignee to the individual penalty.
Employers may also want to consider whether the individual penalty should be part of their tax equalization policy.
Even if the foreign coverage is MEC for purposes of the individual requirement, employers need to consider whether it meets the employer shared responsibility requirements.
When evaluating or designing health care plans, organizations need to assess what systems are already in place that can be utilized for reporting purposes. Chances are large organizations are already collecting the information needed by the IRS.
As with other business challenges, globalization adds more pressure when it comes to efficient and accurate reporting.
This may mean communicating with foreign employers offering the coverage to the assignee, or foreign insurance companies if the plan is an insured plan.
Although these forms are not due until Jan. 31, 2016, they rely on data collected and compiled starting Jan. 1, 2015. If the information is not reported accurately or retained properly, even if the plan is compliant, the time spent resolving those gaps can translate into wasted resources and added expenses.
Top 6 Risks of U.S. Companies Working Globally
Diversifying Top Management in Workers’ Comp
The panel at the inaugural Women in Workers’ Compensation (WiWC) Forum. From left to right: Eileen Ramallo, Elaine Vega, Nina Smith-Garmon, Nancy Hamlet, Michelle Weatherson, Nanette de la Torre, Danielle Lisenbey.
Across the country, the business community is engaged in a robust conversation about women being under-represented among c-level positions.
Why aren’t more women breaking into upper management roles? Does gender bias still exist? And, perhaps more importantly, what can women and men do to add more diversity to top leadership ranks?
Elaine Vega and Nancy Hamlet, of Healthcare Solutions, the Duluth, Ga.-based health services provider to the workers’ compensation and auto liability/PIP markets, have discussed the issue between themselves many times over the years.
The duo agreed that starting an industry-wide conversation would be an effective start to addressing the challenge. After three years of internal discussions, the inaugural Women in Workers’ Compensation (WiWC) Forum became reality. Judging by the attendance, content and feedback, it was an auspicious, very successful, debut.
Specifically, Healthcare Solutions and LRP Publications teamed up at the National Workers’ compensation and Disability Conference (NWCDC), held Nov. 18-21, 2014 in Las Vegas, to present the first WiWC event focused on the development of women as leaders within the industry. The WiWC debut featured a keynote speaker, a panel discussion and a networking cocktail hour.
“We believe this is just the beginning for the WiWC organization,” said Hamlet, senior vice president of marketing, adding that the event’s main theme was the conversation regarding challenges that still exist for women in the workplace is “current, real … and relevant.”
Originally the forum was allocated a room to hold 150 people. Vega and Hamlet worried about the room being too large, so they asked LRP what the contingency would be to make the room smaller if they couldn’t fill it. They needn’t have worried, as more than 400 women, and some men as well, registered and attended, requiring an even larger room.
“Clearly, the topic is relevant and there was plenty to discuss,” said Vega, senior vice president of account management.
Hamlet explained that WiWC was formed to create an open forum to promote a strong sense of community and support for current and future female leaders in the workers’ compensation industry. Going forward, the WiWC forum will provide insight and ideas with opportunities for members to:
- Engage … with accomplished industry professionals and build lasting relationships.
- Enrich … their knowledge base with tactical insights from speakers and panelists.
- Explore … opportunities and challenges facing women leaders today.
- Encounter … senior executives’ perspectives on leadership.
- Examine … leadership strategies and how to effectively apply the strategies.
- Empower … themselves and others to achieve success and groundbreaking results.
At the inaugural event, keynote speaker Peggy Holtman, co-author of “Leading at the Edge: Leadership Lessons from the Extraordinary Saga of Shackleton’s Antarctic Expedition,” discussed how a seemingly unconnected historical event can offer critical lessons on leadership in the workplace, especially for women looking to move into top executive spots.
After Holtman’s talk, a panel discussion, moderated by Vega, offered the perspectives of five workers’ compensation industry executives on ways in which women can navigate past the glass ceiling. Panelists included Eileen Ramallo , EVP Healthcare Solutions; Danielle Lisenbey, CEO Broadspire; Nanette de la Torre, VP Zenith; Nina Smith-Garmon, EVP Mitchell International; and Michelle Weatherson, Director, Claims Medical and Regulatory Division, State Fund of Calif.
The panelists discussed a wide range of topics related to women in workers’ compensation. For example, one topic focused on the need to take the big risks when it comes to moving past workplace barriers. Other topics included the importance of women in higher positions serving as sponsors and advocates for younger, less experienced women; and the impact of industry consolidation on women’s careers and how to best manage that change. Another topic was how women could best master conflict and emotions in the workplace.
“What’s clear is conflict has to be managed; it will not go away. It will only get worse,” said Healthcare Solutions’ Ramallo. “It then can create other rifts that won’t necessarily be visible immediately, but can have a very large impact. You have to be able to understand what it is early on from another’s perspective, why the situation exists, and then encourage and try to resolve a conflict situation, whatever may be driving it.”
In the wake of the first WiWC Forum, Hamlet noted that while there are countless general reports showing that women have not yet achieved equal representation in top leadership positions in the workplace, studies deal with averages rather than individual stories. And while women must continue to look at the data and work toward closing the gap, hearing from accomplished women in the workers’ compensation industry at NWCDC drove home critical messages on a person level.
Today, Vega and Hamlet are looking to expand WiWC to make it “truly owned” by the industry. For example, they expect to recruit companies interested in becoming sponsors, forming an advisory council, creating a charter and discussing future possibilities for the organization on both the national and regional levels.
“Much remains to be done, but I have confidence that we will come together and make the organization stronger so that it prospers for years to come,” Hamlet said. “After all, it’s clear that our industry is filled with talented women who can make things happen!”
Vega added that WiWC has already received requests to live stream the event in the future, so it will examine the feasibility of that option in an effort to be even more inclusive.
“We have a shared vision for improving opportunities for current and future women leaders in workers’ compensation,” Vega said. “It doesn’t matter our gender or our title, it’s all about supporting the greater vision. As was said several times at the event, this is just the beginning. We hope more women and men will join us in this continued dialogue.”
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Healthcare Solutions. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.