Compliance and Regulatory
Governor Signs Adoption Promotion Act into Law
Recently, Gov. Ivey signed Senate Bill 31, the 'Adoption Promotion Act,' into law. The act, which takes effect July 1, 2022, allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to care for and bond with a newborn or newly placed adopted child.
The act applies to covered employers and eligible employees under the FMLA. Accordingly, employers who employ 50 or more employees within 75 miles must comply. Employees are eligible after having been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and having worked 1250 hours in the 12 consecutive months prior to using the leave.
The leave must be taken within the first 12 months of the birth or placement of the child. Employees are expected to provide at least 30 days advance notice prior to taking the leave unless the leave is unforeseeable (in which case, notice should be provided as soon as practicable). Intermittent leave is permitted if agreed upon by the employer and employee.
Additionally, if the employer provides paid leave for birth and care of a child, the employer must provide equivalent paid leave for adoption for a period of two weeks or the duration of the employer's paid leave, whichever is less. If both adoptive parents work for the same employer, the employer is only required to provide paid leave to one employee.
Employers must consider requests for additional family leave due to the adoption of an ill or disabled child on the same basis as they would for the birth of a biological child to an employee. However, employers are not required to provide leave beyond the employee's FMLA entitlement.
Employers and their human resources staff should be aware of the new law and update their leave policies and procedures accordingly.
Adoption Promotion Act »
Bulletin Reminds of HIV PrEP Coverage Requirements
On September 1, 2021, the Department of Insurance issued Bulletin No. 2021-09 to alert carriers to recent federal guidance regarding coverage requirements for HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) without cost-sharing. The bulletin was directed at carriers writing insurance in the state.
The US Preventive Services Task Force made recommendations regarding coverage of PrEP as preventive services to decrease the risk of HIV transmission for persons who are at high risk of HIV infection. The recommendation encompasses not only the drug itself, but also the ancillary tests and services to begin and maintain a PrEP prescription. These baseline and monitoring services include HIV testing, hepatitis B and C testing, creatinine testing and calculated estimated creatine clearance or glomerular filtration rate, pregnancy testing, sexually transmitted infection screening and counseling and adherence counseling.
Accordingly, the bulletin recommends that carriers update their websites to reflect the scope of the PrEP coverage provided as preventive services without cost-sharing. Carriers are also advised to provide enrollees with information clarifying the coverage and to provide a copy of the communication to the department.
The bulletin notes that federal regulators have given insurers until September 19, 2021 to provide this coverage and that the department will adhere to this implementation date.
Although the guidance is directed at insurers, employers that sponsor group health plans may also want to be aware of these preventive service coverage requirements.
Bulletin No. 2021-09 »
Tax Relief Announced for Hurricane Sally Victims
On September 21, 2020, the IRS announced that state residents who were victims of Hurricane Sally are eligible for certain tax relief. Under AL-2020-02, affected taxpayers will have until January 15, 2021, to file various individual and business tax returns and make tax payments.
The announcement followed the recent disaster declaration for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Taxpayers who reside or have a business in Baldwin, Escambia, and Mobile counties, as well as any other counties added later to the disaster area, qualify for the relief.
Accordingly, certain deadlines falling on or after September 14, 2020, and before January 15, 2021, are postponed through January 15, 2021. This includes individual and business tax filers that had a valid extension to file their 2019 return due to run out on October 15, 2020. However, because tax payments related to these 2019 returns were due on July 15, 2020, those payments are not eligible for this relief.
The January 15, 2021, deadline applies to the third quarter estimated tax payment due on September 15. It also applies to the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on November 2. Additionally, the relief extends to the filing of Form 5500 series returns that were due on or after September 14, 2020, and before January 15, 2021.
Affected taxpayers should refer to Revenue Procedure 2018-58, which specifies the scope of the available relief, for further information. The postponement of time to file and pay does not apply to information returns in the W-2, 1094, 1095, 1097, 1098 or 1099 series; to Forms 1042-S, 3921, 3922 or 8027; or to employment and excise tax deposits. However, penalties on deposits due on or after September 14 and before September 29 will be abated as long as the deposits are made by September 29, 2020.
Impacted employers should be aware of the potential relief and may want to consult with their tax advisors for further information.
IRS Announcement »
Rev. Proc. 2018-58 »
Transitional Relief Extended for Grandmothered Plans
On June 15, 2020, Insurance Commissioner Ridling issued Bulletin Number 2020-14 to announce a one-year extension of transitional relief for certain nongrandfathered individual and small group policies known as 'grandmothered' policies. The bulletin follows the CMS extension of the federal nonenforcement policy with respect to specific ACA compliance requirements for these plans through December 31, 2021.
As background, on November 14, 2013, CMS issued a letter outlining a transitional policy with respect to the healthcare reform mandates for coverage in the individual and small group markets. This nonenforcement policy provided relief from specific market reforms, including requirements to cover essential health benefits and limit annual out-of-pocket spending and prohibitions of coverage exclusions based on pre-existing conditions.
Under the policy, state authorities could choose to allow health insurance issuers to continue coverage that would otherwise have been cancelled for failure to comply with the ACA requirements. The commissioner had previously announced the state's intent to allow insurers the option to continue such coverage. Bulletin 2020-14 represents the most recent extension of this policy.
Accordingly, small employers who are currently covered by such grandmothered policies issued in Alabama should be aware of the bulletin. These employers should work with their advisors and insurers regarding possible renewal of the coverage.
Bulletin Number 2020-14 »
Health Insurance Flexibility Encouraged
On April 17, 2020, the Commissioner Ridling issued Bulletin No. 2020-07 regarding the need for flexibility in health insurance coverage in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The bulletin is directed at all insurers writing health insurance in the state.
The bulletin follows the declaration of a public emergency in the state and the issuance of local 'shelter-in-place' orders. The duration of the emergency declaration is unknown at this time.
As a result, the commissioner urges health insurers to consider exercising flexibility with respect to maintaining employee health plan coverage. Specifically, insurers are encouraged to permit employers to continue covering employees under group policies even if the employees would otherwise become ineligible due to a reduction in hours, an 'actively-at work' provision, or other eligibility requirements. Insurers are also encouraged not to increase premiums. The commissioner will not take enforcement action with respect to filed forms and rates against insurers that adjust policies and procedures to conform to these suggestions. The bulletin further reminds insurers of their COBRA obligations.
Employers with group policies issued in the state should be aware of these developments, particularly if seeking to continue coverage for employees with reduced hours due to the pandemic. However, it is important to keep in mind that most group health plans are governed by ERISA, which generally requires an amendment to update eligibility requirements. Additionally, notice must be provided to affected individuals. Accordingly, interested employers may want to discuss potential plan eligibility requirement changes with their insurer and document provider.
Bulletin No. 2020-07 »
Coronavirus Cancellation Policy Recommendations
On March 30, 2020, the Department of Insurance issued Bulletin No. 2020-05 in relation to policy cancellations or nonrenewals due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The bulletin applies to all commercial and personal lines of insurance, including property, casualty, disability, accident and health, and life insurance policies.
The bulletin follows Gov. Ivey's declaration of a public health emergency in the state and 'shelter in place' orders issued by local government entities. These mitigation efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus have resulted in worker displacement and business disruption.
As a result, affected individuals and entities may be unable to timely pay insurance premium payments. Accordingly, the Commissioner of Insurance recommends insurers consider certain actions for policies in force as of March 13, 2020. These measures include relaxing premium payment due dates, extending grace periods, waiving late fees and penalties, and allowing premium payment plans to avoid a lapse in coverage. Insurers are asked to consider policy cancellation only after expending all efforts to work with policyholders to maintain coverage.
Insurers and producers are also requested to provide alternative payment options, such as online or electronic transfers, to avoid the need for in-person transactions.
The bulletin is primarily directed at insurers. However, employers should also be aware of these developments and the possibility of premium payment flexibility, as necessary.
Bulletin No. 2020-05 »
Department of Insurance Issues Coronavirus Coverage Bulletin
On March 13, 2020, the Department of Insurance issued Bulletin No. 2020-02 regarding coronavirus (COVID-19) coverage and preparedness. The directive is issued to all insurance carriers authorized to transact health insurance in the state.
The Bulletin is released as part of the state's proactive planning effort to address COVID-19. The outlined steps are designed to assist individuals and regulated entities in combating the urgent health challenge.
Accordingly, the Bulletin requests that health insurance carriers waive any cost sharing for COVID-19 lab tests so that cost does not hinder Alabamians from receiving testing. Carriers are also asked to waive cost sharing for in-network provider office visits and urgent care center visits, as well as for emergency room visits when testing for the coronavirus. If an insurance carrier doesn't have an in-network provider with appropriate training and experience to meet the needs of someone needing treatment, the department requests that carriers provide an out-of-network option at the cost available for those in network.
The department asks that insurance carriers review their telehealth programs to ensure they're equipped to meet demand amid any increased need for services. Additionally, the department requests that insurers immediately cover the cost of a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost sharing for covered members once the vaccine is developed and available to the public.
The memo is directed at insurers, but employer should also be aware of these developments.
Bulletin No. 2020-02 »