Month: December 2014

New Updates to Cobra Notices Include Affordable Care Act Information

Authored by attorney Jay Rixey

The U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration recently announced updates to its model notices informing employees of their eligibility to continue health care coverage at the end of their employment through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).  The purpose of the changes is to include information related to the Affordable Care Act and to inform employees who are eligible for COBRA continuation coverage of their option to instead purchase coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace.

In general, employees and their families who are eligible for employer-sponsored coverage must be informed of their right to COBRA continuation coverage at the beginning of their employment, and must also be informed of their right to purchase COBRA coverage at the end of their employment.  The new changes, announced by the U.S. Employee Benefits Security Administration on May 2, 2014, offer additional information to employees that more affordable options may be available through the Health Insurance Marketplace, where employees and their families may be eligible for financial assistance that is not otherwise available for COBRA continuation coverage.  In addition to informing employees about the availability and advantages of coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, the changes also point out several factors that employees should consider in deciding between coverage options.

“In many cases, workers eligible for COBRA continuation coverage can save significant sums of money by instead purchasing health insurance through the Marketplace,” according to Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employee Benefits Security, Phyllis C. Borzi.  Coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace may be less expensive than COBRA continuation coverage, and is also available indefinitely (unlike COBRA coverage which has a limited duration). In the majority of cases, employees and their families who are eligible for, but not enrolled in, COBRA continuation coverage will instead be able to obtain coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace outside of the normal open enrollment period.

The updated model notices are available on the U.S. Department of Labor website,
or by Clicking Here.

New OSHA Reporting Requirements Effective January 1, 2015

Authored by attorney Megan Caramore

On September 11, 2014, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced a final rule with respect to new reporting requirements for fatalities and severe injuries.  Previously, the rule required only that employers report fatalities or hospitalizations of three or more workers.  The new rule, which takes effect on January 1, 2015, requires that employers report any fatality, in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.

A fatality must be reported within eight hours after the employer learns of it, while any in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye must be reported within 24 hours after the employer has notice.  Only fatalities occurring within 30 days of the work-related incident must be reported.  For an in-patient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye, the incident must be reported to OSHA only if it occurs within 24 hours of the work-related incident.

An in-patient hospitalization is defined as a formal admission to the in-patient service of a hospital or clinic for care or treatment.  Employers are not required to report an in-patient hospitalization for diagnostic testing or observation only.  In-patient hospitalization due to heart attack must be reported if the heart attack was the result of a work-related incident.  Reporting is not required where the event resulted from a motor vehicle accident on a public highway or street, except where the event occurred in a construction work zone.  Further, reporting is not required where the event occurred on a commercial or public transportation system.

To facilitate reporting, OSHA is in the process of developing a new web portal here to allow employers to comply with the reporting requirements electronically.  Of course, until and after the web portal goes live, employers may continue to use conventional reporting options including calling the reporting hotline at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), or by calling or visiting the closest area OSHA office during normal business hours.

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